Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Egan-Jones Rating Agency downgrades US Debt -- will other agencies follow?

Democrats Oppose Obama-U.N. Gun Control Treaty

Twelve Democratic senators have joined 45 Republicans in a fast growing movement to halt progress on an Obama-backed United Nations effort that could bring international gun control into the United States and slap America's gun owners with severe restrictions.

Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester's office today provided Whispers with their letter, signed by 11 other Democrats, urging the president to press for significant changes in the treaty. Their major concern: that domestic manufacture, possession, and sales of firearms and ammo will be included, thereby giving an international authority the right to regulate arms sales already protected by the Second Amendment. They also said any move for an international gun registry would be a non-starter.

A Republican letter circulated by Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran has 45 signatures.

Ratification requires two-thirds of the Senate. So far 57 senators have said they would vote against the treaty, expected to be wrapped up next year.

In his letter, Moran wrote, "Our country's sovereignty and the Second Amendment rights of American citizens must not be infringed upon by the United Nations," Moran wrote in the letter. "Today, the Senate sends a powerful message to the Obama Administration: an Arms Trade Treaty that does not protect ownership of civilian firearms will fail in the Senate. Our firearm freedoms are not negotiable." (more)

Steven Spielberg and Gwyneth Paltrow fall foul of Italian beach laws: The Rich continue to flaunt laws and rules

Steven Spielberg's summer cruise around the coast of Sardinia in the company of his god-daughter Gwyneth Paltrow and friends has entered choppy waters after he fell foul of watchful Italian beachgoers, a vigilant coastguard and Italy's strict rules on having fun.

The Oscar-winning director anchored his 85 metre (280ft) motor yacht off the Italian island this month before loading his guests on to a 10 metre dinghy and heading for Porto Liscia beach, a stunning stretch of sand north of the billionaires' hangout of Porto Cervo.

But sunbathers on the beach were quick to call the coastguard after noticing the glamorous landing party and accompanying bodyguards had ignored one of the many Italian beach rules that trip up the super rich each summer.

"We were called to the scene after being told that a dinghy had come within 300 metres of the shore with its engine on, which is a fineable offence," said Commander Vincenzo Petrella. "We have a special hotline and get a lot of calls like this every summer, particularly after a swimmer was killed by a propeller recently at Porto Cervo." Last month, the coastguard ejected a British TV crew who were setting up sofas for a shoot on a Sardinian beach in a nature reserve without a permit, an offence which prompted Italy's junior culture minister to complain to David Cameron.

Even rank and file beachgoers face an onslaught of bylaws every summer covering what to wear, where to kiss and even how to build their sand castles.

Petrella said that while Italians on Sardinia might like to see celebrities descending from huge yachts, they are quick to report infringements and can even take the law into their own hands. (more)

Jefferson, Alabama readies for possible record bankruptcy

Alabama's largest county is laying the groundwork for filing what would be the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, over a more than $3 billion debt for its sewer system.

The Jefferson County Commission approved resolutions Tuesday to hire prominent bankruptcy lawyers and to sell bonds later in case money is needed to emerge from bankruptcy.

Jefferson is Alabama's most populous county and seat of Birmingham. It's been trying for three years to avoid filing bankruptcy over debt payments it can no longer afford.

Two of the five commissioners say there's an 80 percent chance the county will file bankruptcy. The vote could come at a meeting scheduled for Thursday in Birmingham.

The commission president, David Carrington, says other possibilities include extending talks with creditors or accepting a settlement offer. (source)

US: Debt-related stress is up 17 percent from November

Just last fall, Americans were feeling better about their personal finances. Now they're starting to worry more about how they'll pay off debts as they feel the nation's economic recovery wobbling.

With Congress deadlocked over how to deal with the national debt, household debt is causing stress for nearly half the country, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. One in five adults worries about debt most or all of the time. If they bought something on a credit card in the past month, more than a third say they won't pay it off when the bill comes.

The increased stress represents a reversal from last fall's AP-GfK poll, which found increasing confidence about personal finances. Debt-related stress is up 17 percent from that November survey, bumping such worries back up to levels seen in 2009 and in the spring of last year.

"It's not that our debt is huge. It's just hard to make it, month to month," said Theresa Telford, 45, a teacher's aide raising four kids with her husband, a sheriff's deputy. "It seems like everything is going up, but wages aren't going up."

Telford is also nervous because she's watched so many people lose their jobs in her small town of Davenport, Wash., and some of her friends still can't find work. Although the recession officially ended in June 2009, Americans display little faith in a recovery hobbled by grinding unemployment, slow economic growth, volatile gasoline and food prices and political feuding over how to stem the skyrocketing national debt. Consumer confidence fell to a seven-month low in June in the Conference Board's survey. (more)

The 'filthy forensics that taint the case against Foxy Knoxy': Incompetent police 'wore dirty gloves and dropped Meredith's bloodied bra on the floor'

Police scientists involved in the Amanda Knox murder case made a series of glaring errors, an appeal court heard yesterday.

Knox, 24, is serving 26 years for the sex murder of student Meredith Kercher, 21, who was found semi-naked with her throat cut in the house the two shared in Italy.

The American and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 26, were convicted on two key pieces of evidence, a 12in kitchen knife and a clasp from Meredith’s blood-stained bra.

Their trial heard how DNA from Meredith was found on the knife blade and that of Knox was found on the handle, while DNA from Sollecito was said to be on the clasp.

But their appeal in Perugia heard from two independent court-appointed experts who were severely critical of the methods used by police forensic teams.

Professor Stefano Conti showed the court a video clip of two officers collecting the bra clasp, pointing out that it had been found six weeks after the murder and in a different place. (more)

Thieves use Facebook and Twitter to co-ordinate 'flashrob' raid of Victoria's Secret store

A group of men and women robbed a Victoria's Secret lingerie store after organising a 'flashmob' style robbery using Facebook and Twitter, police have revealed.

The group entered the high-end lingerie store in Georgetown, Washington, on Monday afternoon and made off with products 'within seconds' after co-ordinating the raid online.

The incident is the latest in a worrying trend of thefts through 'flashmobs' which until now were used merely to organise large-scale public dances or protests.

Police believe the 'flashrobs' are planned on Facebook and Twitter, with raiders entering stores filled with stunned customers before brazenly stealing goods directly in front of store security cameras.

Officers in Georgetown, Washington, have reported similar incidents where robbers enter stores after apparently planning the raids using social network sites. (more)

Detroit gives extra cash to city workers in hopes they'll live downtown... must be a great place to make a home

Employees of five downtown-based companies are being given financial incentives to live where they work.

DTE Energy’s Paul Hillegonds says the trend is already there, with a number of young professionals and creative types hanging their hat in downtown Detroit lofts and apartments.

Now, the plan is to create greater density in surrounding neighborhoods, but not just for the younger set.

“We have a number of probably empty-nesters, but also a number of retirements ahead with younger people who will be coming to work in Detroit at DTE headquarters,” Hillegonds told WWJ Newsradio 950′s Ron Dewey.

“And I think we’re going to see growing interest in living in Detroit,” he said.

Blue cross Blue Shield President CEO Dan Leopp thinks the program will work.

“Our first application came in via email at 10 a.m., and we’ve already gotten about a half-a-dozen phone calls. So, I think clearly I believe the demand is there,” Leopp said. (more)

Wisconsin Capitol Balloon Fight Leads To Bloodshed

Police are investigating an apparent fight over a balloon that left the state Capitol floor splattered with blood.

Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs says a female citizen and a male state employee got into some kind of argument over the woman’s balloon near the end of the noon hour in front of the state Supreme Court hearing room.

Tubbs had no other details, saying investigators are still gathering information about what happened next. Asked whose blood was splattered on the floor, he said only that the woman apparently wasn’t hurt and investigators were still assessing whether the worker had been injured and whether a weapon was involved.

Protesters still seething over Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining law have been bringing balloons into the Capitol during their daily lunch hour sing-alongs. (source)

Guns from U.S. sting at Mexican crime scenes: report

At least 122 firearms from a botched U.S. undercover operation have been found at crime scenes in Mexico or intercepted en route to drug cartels there, according to a Republican congressional report being issued on Tuesday.

Mexican authorities found AK-47 assault rifles, powerful .50 caliber rifles and other weapons in late 2009 that were later linked to the U.S. sting operation to trace weapons going across the border to Mexico, the report said.

Guns from the program, dubbed "Operation Fast and Furious," also were found at the scene of the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in the border state Arizona last December. It is not clear if they were the weapons responsible for his death.

The sting has become an embarrassment for the Obama administration and its Justice Department, rather than a victory in cracking down on the illegal flow of drugs and weapons to and from Mexico.

It has also hurt ties with Mexico, which has been battling the violent cartels in a war in which thousands have died. (more)

Thailand unrest: Yala bombing targets teachers

Five teachers and two security volunteers were injured by a roadside bomb that exploded in Yala's Muang district on Monday morning, police said.

A homemade bomb, weighing two to three kilogrammes, was placed under a road sign and was detonated by remote control as a group of teachers and their security escort passed the spot, police said.

The explosion caused a hole about 80cm deep and scattered debris around the area.

The seven injured victims were admitted to Yala hospital.

Over 4,500 people have been killed and about 9,000 hurt in the southern border provinces since separatist militants started violence afresh in January 2004. (source)

Crop circles at east Kennett, Wiltshire, UK -- Another look at these beautiful creations


~ Crop circle ~ east Kennett Wiltshire - analyse ☼ by sansoni

Kaeng Krachan National Park: Three deadly chopper crashes in 8 days sparks superstitions about forest

With three army helicopters crashing in just eight days, questions are being asked as to whether the tragedies were the result of accidents, a conspiracy... or supernatural powers.

A number of soldiers, officers and civilians working or living in Kaeng Krachan National Park, the site of the initial stranding of a group of officers, journalists and encroachment suspects which prompted the disastrous chain of fatal rescue and retrieval operations, believe bad omens are to blame.

"The guardian spirits here are very fierce," said one resident of Ban Panern Thung village in Phetchaburi's Kaeng Krachan district.

An army pilot who was not connected with the three fatal helicopter missions said a colleague had told of a fortune teller who predicted the third crash. (more)

"Norway-style New Zealand terror attack unlikely" (But isn't that what they said about Norway?)

A murderous attack by a right wing extremist such as the one in Norway at the weekend could happen in New Zealand, although it is unlikely, a psychology professor says.

Anders Behring Breivik, the suspect in Saturday's attacks on Norway's government headquarters in Oslo and on an island retreat for young people, which killed at least 93 people, has said he was motivated by a desire to bring about a revolution in Norwegian society.

A manifesto he published online raged against Muslim immigration to Europe and vowed revenge on "indigenous Europeans'', whom he accused of betraying their heritage.

Victoria University associate professor of psychology Marc Wilson said, like Norway, New Zealand had a reputation for being relatively peaceful.

"One of the reasons the Norway event is so powerful is that they are also a fairly egalitarian society,'' Dr Wilson told NZPA.

The two countries were both relatively secular and had similar population sizes, so it might be expected that they had similar proportions of the population that might adopt these kinds of extremist positions.

However, there were also some important differences, including that extreme right wing politics in New Zealand was not as high-profile as in Norway and other parts of Europe. (more)

Thailand: Motorbike muggers prowl city's streets

City police have captured a mob of snatch-and-grab robbers called "Gang Sua" (tiger gang) who travel in motorcycle packs and target lone pedestrians. It was their daring early-evening attack on a well-known musician and former university lecturer on a crowded main street last month that tipped them off to the gang's existence.

Until this incident, officers conceded they had never heard of the gang, although the word sua itself was a popular nom-de-plume used by notorious criminals in the past. "Gang Sua" began to take on a sinister meaning after the arrest of two men identified as the alleged robbers of a pedestrian in Khlong Tan area two weeks ago.

The two suspects immediately denied they were part of "Gang Sua", giving the gang a shape and form for the police. Evidence quickly pointed to the group as the robbers of Fong Nam founder Bruce Gaston under Phra Khanong BTS station last month.

Mr Gaston, 65, who is a former special lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, was assaulted and robbed around 7.30pm on June 27 by teenagers riding motorcycles. The robbers snatched his bag, containing 800 baht cash and an iPhone. (more)

How Digital Detectives Deciphered Stuxnet, the Most Menacing Malware in History

It was January 2010, and investigators with the International Atomic Energy Agency had just completed an inspection at the uranium enrichment plant outside Natanz in central Iran, when they realized that something was off within the cascade rooms where thousands of centrifuges were enriching uranium.

Natanz technicians in white lab coats, gloves and blue booties were scurrying in and out of the “clean” cascade rooms, hauling out unwieldy centrifuges one by one, each sheathed in shiny silver cylindrical casings.

Any time workers at the plant decommissioned damaged or otherwise unusable centrifuges, they were required to line them up for IAEA inspection to verify that no radioactive material was being smuggled out in the devices before they were removed. The technicians had been doing so now for more than a month.

Normally Iran replaced up to 10 percent of its centrifuges a year, due to material defects and other issues. With about 8,700 centrifuges installed at Natanz at the time, it would have been normal to decommission about 800 over the course of the year.

But when the IAEA later reviewed footage from surveillance cameras installed outside the cascade rooms to monitor Iran’s enrichment program, they were stunned as they counted the numbers. The workers had been replacing the units at an incredible rate — later estimates would indicate between 1,000 and 2,000 centrifuges were swapped out over a few months.

The question was, why? (more)

Stuxnet: Anatomy of a Computer Virus

Stuxnet: Anatomy of a Computer Virus from Patrick Clair on Vimeo.

Asian brides for sale: The mail order bride industry is flourishing in Asia, but is it also leading to sex trafficking and domestic violence?

The scourge of 'peak oil': When demand for oil consistently surpasses supply, experts warn that our lives will look "very differently"

Energy derived from oil reaches, quite literally, every aspect of our lives.

From the clothes we wear, to the food we eat, to how we move ourselves around, without oil, our lives would look very differently.

Yet oil is a finite resource. While there is no argument that it won't last forever, there is debate about how much oil is left and how long it might last.

Tom Whipple, an energy scholar, was a CIA analyst for 30 years - and believes we are likely at, or very near, a point in history when the maximum production capacity for oil is reached, a phenomenon often referred to as "peak oil".

"Peak oil is the time when the world's production reaches the highest point, then starts back down again," Whipple told Al Jazeera. "Oil is a finite resource, and [it] someday will go down, and that is what the peak oil discussion is all about."

There are signs that peak oil may have already arrived.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently increased its forecast for average global oil consumption in 2011 to 89.5 million barrels per day (bpd), an increase of 1.2 million bpd over last year.

For 2012, the IEA is expecting another increase of 1.5 million bpd for a total global oil consumption of 91million bpd, leaving analysts such as Whipple to question how production will be able to keep up with increasing consumption. Whipple's analysis matches IEA data which shows world oil production levels have been relatively flat for six years.

"This is getting very close to the figure that some observers believe is the highest the world will ever produce," Whipple wrote of the IEA estimate in the July 14 issue of Peak Oil Review. He told Al Jazeera that peak oil could be reached at some point in the next month, or at the latest, within "a few years". (more)

Are We Alone In the Universe? New Analysis Says Maybe

Scientists engaged in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) work under the assumption that there is, in fact, intelligent life out there to be found. A new analysis may crush their optimism.

To calculate the likelihood that they'll make radio contact with extraterrestrials, SETI scientists use what's known as the Drake Equation. Formulated in the 1960s by Frank Drake of the SETI Institute in California, it approximates the number of radio-transmitting civilizations in our galaxy at any one time by multiplying a string of factors: the number of stars, the fraction that have planets, the fraction of those that are habitable, the probability of life arising on such planets, its likelihood of becoming intelligent and so on. [10 Alien Encounters Debunked]

The values of almost all these factors are highly speculative. Nonetheless, Drake and others have plugged in their best guesses, and estimate that there are about 10,000 tech-savvy civilizations in the galaxy currently sending signals our way — a number that has led some scientists to predict that we'll detect alien signals within two decades.

Their optimism relies on one factor in particular: In the equation, the probability of life arising on suitably habitable planets (ones with water, rocky surfaces and atmospheres) is almost always taken to be 100 percent. As the reasoning goes, the same fundamental laws apply to the entire universe, and because those laws engendered the genesis of life on Earth — and relatively early in its history at that — they must readily spawn life elsewhere, too. As the Russian astrobiologist Andrei Finkelstein put it at a recent SETI press conference, "the genesis of life is as inevitable as the formation of atoms."

But in a new paper published on arXiv.org, astrophysicist David Spiegel at Princeton University and physicist Edwin Turner at the University of Tokyo argue that this thinking is dead wrong. Using a statistical method called Bayesian reasoning, they argue that the life here on Earth could be common, or it could be extremely rare — there's no reason to prefer one conclusion over the other. With their new analysis, Spiegel and Turner say they have erased the one Drake factor scientists felt confident about and replaced it with a question mark. (more)

John of "Truthtellerradio" -- Where did you go?

You disappeared from Youtube and we're concerned as to why; if you're able, send us an email at thecomingcrisis@gmail.com and let us know what's up. Thanks!

White House's Pfeiffer: Not Raising Debt Ceiling "Could Potentially Put Us Towards A Depression"

WH Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer: "We are seven days away from an unprecedented financial event in this country's history. One that could potentially put us towards a depression because the House Republicans, led by Speaker Boehner, are unwilling to compromise one inch."(click here to watch video)

Slasher strikes at mall in Fairfax, Virginia -- Be watchful

A woman was slashed and cut in a Fairfax County shopping mall Monday evening in what may be the latest of a series of similar incidents, Fairfax County police said.

The woman, whose wound was not considered life-threatening, was cut about 5:30 p.m. in a store that caters to young women in the Fair Oaks Mall, said police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell.

The woman was attacked after her attention was drawn to the sound of a package dropped behind her, Caldwell said. The woman felt a sudden pain and turned to see someone walking away.

She had been cut on the buttocks through her jean shorts with a box cutter or razor, Caldwell said.

According to Caldwell, investigators have recently recognized a pattern of about four or five incidents similar to Monday’s that occurred in retail stores in the county in the last six months.

No description of the assailant was available in Monday’s incident, Caldwell said. But in previous incidents, the assailant was described as a Hispanic man about five feet six, in his late 20s to early 30s. Victims have all been in their late teens to early 20s, Caldwell said. (source)

Soros to Stop Managing Money for Outside Investors (Because it's now Regulated, and Regulations are Yucky)

Hedge-fund titan George Soros's firm plans to stop managing money for outside investors and is returning less than $1 billion to clients, according to a letter his firm sent to shareholders and a person familiar with the matter. The fund currently manages more than $25 billion, the person said.

The firm also said that Keith Anderson, the chief investment officer of Soros Fund Management LLC since 2008, is leaving the firm in connection with its closing to outside investors. (more)

California signs in law to give money to illegal aliens: DREAM act in effect

Following through on a campaign promise, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law Monday easing access to privately funded financial aid for undocumented college students. He also signaled that he was likely to back a more controversial measure allowing those students to seek state-funded tuition aid in the future.

Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), author of the private financial aid measure, described it as an important but incremental step toward expanding opportunities for deserving students who were brought to the U.S. illegally through no choice of their own. Cedillo is pressing ahead with a more expansive measure that would make certain undocumented students eligible for the state's Cal Grants and other forms of state tuition aid.

Brown said he was "positively inclined" to back that bill but would not make a decision until it crosses his desk.

"I'm committed to expanding opportunity wherever I can find it, and certainly these kinds of bills promote a goal of a more inclusive California and a more educated California," Brown told reporters after the bill-signing ceremony Monday. (more)

Dollar Drops to Record Versus Franc as U.S. Struggles With Debt Deadlock

The dollar fell against all of its major counterparts as politicians struggled to agree on raising the U.S. debt limit and reducing its deficit.

The greenback slid below 78 yen for the first time since March and fell to a record versus the Swiss franc on concern America may default and face a reduction in its credit rating. The pound rallied to a one-month high against the dollar after the U.K.’s economic growth matched the forecasts of analysts. Sweden’s currency gained as producer prices increased.

“The uncertainty is weighing on the dollar,” said Aroop Chatterjee, a currency strategist at Barclays Plc in New York. “The smaller the package and the more short-term the measures that are put in place, the more concerned the market will get. The rating agencies have weighed in on the need for a long-term plan to rein in the fiscal deficit.”

The dollar fell 0.3 percent to 78.07 yen at 11 a.m. in New York, from 78.29 yesterday, after sliding to 77.90, the lowest level since March 17. The greenback dropped 0.5 percent to 80.24 Swiss centimes after touching the all-time low of 79.98. The dollar slid 0.8 percent to $1.4497 versus the euro after reaching $1.4522, the weakest since July 5.

Sterling climbed 0.7 percent to $1.6388 after touching $1.6422, the highest level since June 14. The U.K.’s economy grew 0.2 percent in the second quarter, matching the median forecast of 32 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. (more)

Warring politicians are playing with fire in US debt crisis

NEVER before has a US president felt compelled to give a nationally televised speech on a matter usually so routine or esoteric.

But these are desperate times: the US government is at grave risk of defaulting on debt for the first time next week because Republicans and Democrats in congress cannot reach an agreement.

The insanity of this situation is that it is totally unnecessary -- and like playing with fire. A default, if it occurs, could trigger a global financial crisis that bears no relation to the economic health of the US government.

This debt crisis has been entirely manufactured by two warring parties putting their government's good credit in jeopardy because of ideological differences over the size and content of federal budgets in future years.

Raising the debt limit is essential to pay for money already spent, not for future spending.

Barack Obama sounded very much like a lecturer yesterday as he sought to woo US voters to support his efforts to break the deadlock. The President is partisan, of course -- he supports the more moderate position of his Democratic Party, which seeks an increase in the debt level in exchange for long-term deficit reduction from both sides of the government ledger: spending and revenue. (more)

Market Scenarios After the Debt Ceiling Debate is Over

All eyes remain on the debt ceiling debate. While glacial like progress continues to be made, the probability still remains high that an agreement will be reached by the final hour. With this in mind, it is worthwhile to increasingly focus on how investment markets including stocks, bonds and gold are likely to respond once the debt ceiling issue is finally behind us. While the immediate response is likely more straightforward, the market may then find itself on several different challenging paths in the months ahead depending on how the legislation finally comes down.

The initial reaction upon a final debt ceiling deal is likely to be a euphoric sigh of relief. Stocks will likely seize the opportunity to take off on another rally. And assuming stocks follow the pattern shown during our most recent brushes with crisis, we’ll most likely see this rally begin to take off anywhere between 24 to 48 hours before we have the all clear that a deal is done. This initial response in stocks is understandable, as the resolution of the debt ceiling debate eliminates a major risk that is currently overhanging the market. The next steps for stocks after this expected initial burst may not be so positive, however, but more on that in a minute.

As for bonds and Treasuries in particular, they may catch an initial bid once a deal is done, but yields are already so low that it’s equally probable that they may trade flat or perhaps even sell off as investors take off the safety trade and venture back out into risk assets like stocks.

Finally, gold is likely to sell off in the midst of any debt ceiling deal. Gold has performed exceedingly well in recent days supported in part by investors seeking a hard asset safe haven from all of the uncertainty brewed up in U.S. and global investment markets by the ongoing debate. The fact that gold is lingering near overbought levels on a technical basis further supports the idea that a short-term breather may soon be in store.

But the initial response is far from the prolonged market reaction once we begin to move beyond the current debt ceiling debate. And a key to this more extended response is what is decided upon in the final deal. (more)

U.S. debt limit stalemate continues

With global markets on edge, congressional Democrats and Republicans struggled through another day of difficult talks but failed to agree on cutting U.S. spending and raising the debt limit.

That has to happen to prevent an unprecedented Aug. 2 default.

Political leaders had hoped to strike a deal Sunday to reassure investors around the world that the nasty partisan fight in Washington was nearing an end, lifting fears that the United States would be unable to cover its debts when the current borrowing limit expires a week from Tuesday.

The stakes are high. Major global credit ratings agencies have threatened to downgrade the U.S. government's triple-A credit rating unless there are assurances that the United States will not go into default for the first time in its history. A default could mean that the U.S. government could not pay all its bills starting next month, including interest and principal on Treasury bonds, Social Security cheques to retirees, and payments to government contractors.

Lowering the U.S. credit standing likely would raise the cost of U.S. government borrowing. Americans seeking home mortgage or car loans would see interest rates climb, as would people with outstanding credit card balances.

President Barack Obama says that effectively amounts to a tax increase on Americans. Many economists think default could push the U.S. economy back into recession or worse, while causing chaos in the global economy.

Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress and Obama have sought to position themselves to avoid possible blame. (more)

Norway attacks: Anders Behring Breivik is insane -- Lawyer

The lawyer defending Anders Behring Breivik, who admits carrying out Friday's mass killings in Norway, says his client is probably insane.

However he added it was too early to say if Mr Breivik would plead insanity.

The bombing in Oslo and shooting spree on a nearby island killed 76 people. Mr Breivik is facing terrorism charges.

Police are considering also charging him with crimes against humanity, which carry a possible 30-year sentence, a prosecutor has said.

Mr Breivik's lawyer, Geir Lippestad, told reporters: "This whole case indicated that he is insane."

He said his client believed that he was in a war and that he would be vindicated in 60 years' time.

A medical evaluation would be carried out to establish his psychiatric condition, Mr Lippestad added.

He said Mr Breivik had told him he was part of an anti-Islam network that had two cells in Norway and several more abroad.

Norwegian police and researchers have cast doubt on such claims, but said they were investigating them.

Mr Lippestad also said that his client had used "some kind of drugs" before the crime. (more)

Afghan Nato forces 'kill 35 Pakistan Taliban militants'

At least 35 Taliban militants from Pakistan have been killed and several wounded by Nato-led forces inside Afghanistan, officials say.

The militants are said to have crossed over into the Afghan province of Paktia to target coalition forces when they came under attack last week.

Sources in Pakistan's Waziristan tribal region told the BBC that many of those wounded had now been brought back.

Some are said to be receiving medical treatment in the town of Miranshah.

Pakistan has been under severe pressure from the US in recent months to prevent militants based in its tribal regions from crossing into Afghanistan to fight Nato troops based there.

Earlier this month Washington said that it was cutting $800m (£500m) in military aid to Islamabad because of "difficulties" in its relationship with Pakistan. (more)

MF head Lagarde warns 'clock ticking' on US debt deal

The new head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, has warned the "clock is ticking" on a deal to tackle the US deficit and raise its debt ceiling.

Unless politicians agree a package by 2 August the US may be unable to pay its bills, triggering an economic crisis.

On Tuesday the dollar fell against the euro whilst US shares opened down.

But Ms Lagarde warned against drastic cuts in spending, saying these could create a "jobless recovery".

She also called on the EU to implement its plan to tackle sovereign debt.

Ms Lagarde took over the leadership of the IMF following the arrest of former head Dominique Strauss-Kahn in New York on charges of sexual assault.

The former French finance minister said the world economy still faced significant "downside" risks as it emerged from recession. (more)

Time travel isn't possible: Light speed results cast fresh doubts

Physicists have confirmed the ultimate speed limit for the packets of light called photons - making time travel even less likely than thought.

The speed of light in vacuum is the Universe's ultimate speed limit, but experiments in recent years suggested that single photons might beat it.

If they could, theory allows for the prospect of time travel.

Now, a paper in Physical Review Letters shows that individual photons too are limited to the vacuum speed limit.

That means that photons maintain the principle of causality laid out in Einstein's theory of special relativity - that is, an event's effect cannot precede its cause by traveling faster than light. It is violation of this causality that would, in principle, permit time travel.

While the limit in vacuum is a fixed number - some 300,000km per second - the speed of light can vary widely in different materials.

These differences explain everything from why a straw looks bent in a glass of water to experiments in cold gases of atoms in which light's speed is actively manipulated.

Some of those experiments showed "superluminal" behaviour, in which photons travelled faster than the speed of light in a given medium.

It remained, however, to determine whether or not individual photons could exceed the vacuum limit. (more)

78 dead in Moroccan plane crash: official

Seventy-eight people were killed and three injured Tuesday when a Moroccan military plane slammed into a mountainside in bad weather in the country’s south, the Moroccan military said.

The Hercules C-130 aircraft crashed into a mountain 10 kilometres (six miles) northeast of Guelmim, located about 830 kilometres (215 miles) south of Rabat, an army statement said.

“There are 78 dead and three seriously injured”, it said.

The plane was flying from the southern city of Agadir to Laayoune in the Western Sahara with “six crew, 60 soldiers and 12 civilians”, it added.

The statement blamed the accident on “bad weather conditions”.

“This is a military plane that is used for the transport of troops, but also of their families. It is widely used in the Sahara,” an interior ministry official added.

“Above all, it was the fog and bad weather conditions that are believed to be behind this accident. But for the moment, we don’t have enough information,” the source said. (more)

Group: Syrian government crackdown causes more deaths (But no one cares)

Clashes in Syria's streets have led to the deaths of 11 civilians since Friday, according to Local Coordination Committees of Syria, a dissident group.

The organization said the deaths came during the violent government crackdown on protests that have sprung up in various cities including Aleppo, Deir Azzor, Daeel and Douma.

CNN cannot independently verify the claim, and a government response was not immediately available.

Government officials blamed the some of the violence on "terrorists," according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA). SANA reported Tuesday that the "terrorists" killed three security officials and two civilians.

The dissident group said there have been mass arrests by the government in an attempt to quell protests.

But protests have continued, according to videos posted on YouTube, which purports to show large crowds of women gathering in various cities Monday night calling for the release of detained family members. Another video shows a funeral Tuesday of a person allegedly killed by security forces. (more)

BP profits hit $5.3 billion, year on from Gulf spill -- How is this even possible?



Oil giant BP is back in the black, announcing profits of $5.3 billion just a year after the Deepwater Horizon disaster left it facing heavy losses.

The company said rising oil prices had helped it record a second quarter replacement cost profit of $5.309 billion -- despite an 11% slump in production.

In the same quarter last year, BP made a loss of $16.973 billion, because of costs related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

BP has paid out $6.8 billion to repair environmental and economic damage in the region.

The company's CEO, Bob Dudley, told CNN that BP had come a long way in the past 12 months.

"It was only a year ago -- just -- that oil was still flowing into the Gulf... We've re-stabilized the company, re-strengthened the balance sheet.

"We've announced new exploration deals across the globe, our credit ratings have increased, and we're back heading in the directions we need to."

An explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20, 2010, killed 11 workers and left 205 million gallons of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico.

Several efforts to contain the spill failed, and the well was not sealed until August, leading to widespread criticism of BP. (more)

Comet Elenin: Strange behavior by NASA and the media raises eyebrows -- is there something we don't know?

An interesting video on crop circles: Fact or fiction?

Palestinian Authority leadership rallying support for UN bid: Will becoming a nation spur war with Israel?

Erekat says he doesn't know when the PA request will be submitted to the UN, there is no deadline for filing such a request.

The Palestinian Authority leadership is scheduled to meet in Ramallah on August 4 to lay the final touches for its plan to ask the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines, PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Sunday.

Erekat said he didn’t know when the PA request would be submitted to the UN, adding that there was no deadline for filing such a request.

“President Abbas will announce the exact date for submitting the request [to the UN],” Erekat said. “We will ask for membership in the UN. This does not contradict with the peace process.”

Erekat said that Abbas’s recent tour of EU countries and Turkey was successful in rallying support for the PA statehood bid.

Regarding the severe financial crisis facing the PA, Erekat said that some Arab countries have promised to help solve the problem. (more)

Floods rupture Pakistani feudal ties

Bakhsh Ali Lashari has spent the last year living in a tent since floods devastated a third of Pakistan. His home is no longer under water, but death threats mean he’s never going back.

The monsoon-triggered floods — the worst in Pakistani history – affected up to 21 million people, killed another 1,750 and ran up losses of $10 billion; a year later a shattered economy has barely recovered.

Lashari’s part of southern Pakistan was one of the worst hit areas, submerged in gushing waters that took months to recede.

But the disaster gave him a chance to break free from centuries of oppression. He is one of thousands who prefer life in rotting camps to returning to feudal estates where debts and marriages can end in death.

Lashari had a steady income as a labourer in Jacobabad, 375 kilometres north of Karachi, but said life became unbearable when an influential tribe took against one of their women marrying one of his relatives.

“The couple suddenly disappeared and the influential tribe threatened all of us with death,” said Lashari, wearing just baggy shalwar trousers and standing in a tent city on the fringes of Sukkur city. (more)

5.2 Magnitude Earthquake PERU-ECUADOR BORDER REGION - 26th July 2011

A magnitude 5.2 earthquake has struck the Peru-Ecuador Border Region at a depth of 124.2 km ( 77.2 miles), the quake hit at 20:58:29 UTC Tuesday 26th July 2011.
The epicenter was 266 km (166 miles) East from Cuenca, Ecuador
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No damage or injuries reported at this time

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake KURIL ISLANDS - 26th July 2011

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck the Kuril Islands at a depth of 91.3 km ( 56.7 miles), the quake hit at 19:17:08 UTC Tuesday 26th July 2011.
The epicenter was 317 km (196 miles) Southwest of Severo-Kuril'sk, Kuril Islands
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No damage or injuries reported at this time

5.0 Magnitude Earthquake GULF OF CALIFORNIA - 26th July 2011

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck the Gulf of California at a depth of 12.5 km ( 7.8 miles), the quake hit at 19:40:28 UTC Tuesday 26th July 2011.
The epicenter was 100 km (62 miles) Southwest from Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No damage or injuries reported at this time

4.3 Magnitude Earthquake GULF OF CALIFORNIA - 26th July 2011

A magnitude 4.3 earthquake has struck the Gulf of California at a depth of 11.5 km ( 7.1 miles), the quake hit at 18:57:11 UTC Tuesday 26th July 2011.
The epicenter was 105 km (65 miles) Northeast from La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No damage or injuries reported at this time

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake MOLUCCA SEA - 26th July 2011

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck Molucca Sea at a depth of 85.2 km ( 52.9 miles), the quake hit at 18:24:38 UTC Tuesday 26th July 2011.
The epicenter was 133 km (82 miles) WNW of Ternate, Moluccas, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No damage or injuries reported at this time

Obama team threatens to veto Boehner debt plan - 26th July 2011

While waiting for Congress to make its next move, the Obama administration today threatened to veto the two-step debt reduction plan put up by House Speaker John Boehner -- though they're pretty sure it won't come to that.

"The speaker's proposal cannot pass the Senate, will not pass the Senate, will not reach the president's desk," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

Carney had nicer things to say about a plan put forth by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., but acknowledged it might not pass the Republican House.

Hence the need for compromise, Carney said, echoing the theme of Obama's speech Monday night.

In those remark, Obama said, "I've told leaders of both parties that they must come up with a fair compromise in the next few days that can pass both houses of Congress -รข€“ and a compromise that I can sign."

Carney said today, "We have a divided government. We have a two-party system. No party controls every branch of government. Compromise is the only option."

Boehner's two-step plan would first increase the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by $1 billion, along with $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over the next 10 years. The debt ceiling increase would be good for about six months Read More

5.9 Magnitude Earthquake GULF OF CALIFORNIA - 26th July 2011

A magnitude 5.9 earthquake has struck the Gulf of California at a depth of 10.2 km ( 6.3 miles), the quake hit at 17:44:21 UTC Tuesday 26th July 2011.
The epicenter was 87 km (54 miles) Southwest from Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No damage or injuries reported at this time

Military transport aircraft crashes in Morocco killing 78 - 26th July 2011

A military transport plane flying in bad weather has crashed into a mountain in Morocco killing 78 people.

It is the country's worst ever air disaster.

The C-130 aircraft had been carrying 60 members of the military, 12 civilians and nine crew when it crashed in mountains north-east of Guelmim this morning.

Officials say the crash in the disputed Western Sahara region of the country was the deadliest in years.

Information Minister Khaled Naciri said the military believes 78 were killed but that searches are ongoing for all the bodies.

The MAP news agency said all three survivors were seriously injured.

MAP said the plane crashed around 9am local time, seven miles north-east of Guelmim in southern Morocco, as it prepared to land at the Guelmim military air base.

MAP said the crash was 'due to bad weather conditions,' without elaborating further.

Naciri said the plane was en route from Dakhla, in the disputed Western Sahara, to Kinitra in northern Morocco, and making a stop in Guelmim.

Officials at the military hospital in Guelmim could not be reached.

Guelmim is more than 360 miles south-west of the capital Rabat, just north of the Western Sahara and a few dozen miles from the Atlantic Coast. Read More

Waterspout touches down on Lake Erie and towers over Pennsylvania coast - 26th July

These incredible images show a waterspout touching down on Lake Erie on Monday morning, before thunderstorms ripped through the area.

The nonsupercell tornado, which appears as a funnel-shaped cloud that occurs over a body of water, swirled off the coast of Geneva, Pennsylvania.

There was no reported damage from this natural phenomena, although waterspouts have been known to be a serious danger.

Pat Douglass was right off the coast, near Geneva, when he took the incredible moving images, published by CBS News.

Observers at Erie International Airport reported seeing two waterspouts touching down by noon. Read More


College student kidnapped and raped in broad daylight... and the suspect remains on the loose - 26th July 2011

A 19-year-old college student was kidnapped and raped in broad daylight in Moses Lake, Washington, say authorities.

The victim told police that she had been walking to her car at approximately 10am when she was confronted by a man armed with a knife.

The man allegedly forced the teen into her car and drove to a bank, where he attempted to withdraw money using her debit card. He then drove to a recreation area, where he raped her.

The vehicle became stuck in the sand, and the suspect fled the scene. Authorities say he may have received a lift from an unsuspecting motorist.

The victim went to the Washington State Patrol office, where she was assisted by authorities and taken to a hospital for treatment.

The suspect is a white male with possible Hispanic ethnicity, brown hair, medium build, with a dark moustache and goatee, according to police. He has tattoos on each forearm, but the victim was not certain what the tattoos were.

The suspect is considered armed and dangerous, according to authorities. Source

Desperate Obama asks public to email congressmen over debt crisis - but deluge crashes their websites - 26th July 2011

The U.S. has been given an ultimatum by the International Monetary Fund that politicians simply must find a solution to the country's debt crisis for the sake of the global economy.

Pressing for tax increases and spending cuts in health care, the IMF says America risks a sudden interest rate rise and humiliating drop in its top-notch credit rating if the deadlock is not broken.

The warning came as the two most important men in the battle to save the U.S. from a first-ever debt default traded blows and the public pleaded with Congress to sort out the country's economic mess.

Websites of several congressmen crashed after President Obama asked the public to write to their leaders and insist on a compromise to the debt crisis talks with Speaker John Boehner and others.

Meanwhile the IMF said an ‘excessively large upfront fiscal adjustment’ - overly savage spending cuts - should be avoided, because this would further dampen domestic demand and slow growth. Read More


Over 4.400 Infected, 50 dead Germany declares end to E. coli outbreak but NO answers to what, where or how the MUTANT Strain appeared - 26th July 2011

Germany's federal disease control institute declared on Tuesday that an E. coli outbreak which killed more than 50 people is now over and no cases have been reported in the past three weeks.

More than 4,400 people in Europe and North America were infected in two outbreaks of E. coli infection -- A large one centered in northern Germany and a smaller cluster focused around the French city of Bordeaux.

The outbreaks prompted Russia to ban imports of fresh fruit and vegetables from the European Union, and also caused western European consumers to shy away from fresh produce.

"The biggest E. coli outbreak in Germany is now over," said Reinhard Burger, president of the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's national disease control agency.

The agency said it was shutting down its operations center for monitoring the outbreak, but that it would continue with intensified surveillance in case the pathogen resurfaced.

Fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt are believed to have been the likeliest source of the outbreak. Source

'We could have another Timothy McVeigh': U.S. authorities warned against anti-Islamic terrorism - 26th July 2011

Terrorism experts have called on U.S. authorities to refocus their attention on domestic right wing terrorism after it emerged the man behind the atrocities in Norway last week took inspiration from American extremists.

It has emerged that Anders Behring Breivik lifted words from 'Unabomber' Ted Kaczynski and took inspiration from a range of other American right wing and anti-Islamic groups in his rambling 1,500 page manifesto discovered after Friday's attacks.

Police and Breivik's lawyer says he confessed to, but denied criminal responsibility for Friday's bombing at government headquarters in Oslo and the mass shooting later that day at an island summer camp organised by the youth wing of the ruling Labor Party.

At least 93 people were killed in the attacks.

Speaking to NBC news, security expert Daryl Johnson said: 'This attack in Norway should be a wake up for our decision makers.

'We could have a similar attack here, and that’s my greatest fear.

'We could have a Timothy McVeigh-type carry out a mass shooting event or a vehicle bomb attack that resulted in mass casualties.'

Part of Breivik's manifesto was taken almost word for word from the first few pages of the anti-technology manifesto written by Kaczynski, who is in federal prison for mail bombs that killed three people and injured 23 others across the U.S. from the 1970s to the 1990s.

In the writings, the Norwegian terrorist wrote of 'brutal and breathtaking operations' in order to stop 'the ongoing Islamic Colonisation of Europe.' Read More

Jerry Ramrattan a Obsessed CSI fan frames ex-lover in most elaborate revenge plot ever - 26th July 2011

It sounds like the plot from the TV series CSI - a jilted ex-boyfriend builds a 'master plot' of fake crimes which he pins on his ex-girlfriend and gets her jailed for seven months.

But rather than being a work of fiction, this was the reality that happened to Seemona Sumasar.

Her ex-boyfriend, Jerry Ramrattan, who was obsessed with police dramas, allegedly built a web of lies and deceit so convincing it fooled prosecutors and police into arresting her.

He persuaded two witnesses to lie, coaxed another to frame Ms Sumasar and covered his tracks so well he was never a suspect, it is said.

Whilst in jail her life fell apart - her restaurant went out of business and she was separated from her 12-year-old daughter.

And incredibly the plot only unravelled a few weeks before she was due to go on trial when an informant told police Ramrattan was behind the whole thing.

Ms Sumasar is now planning lawsuits against police in New York and Long Island over the case which has left seasoned investigators stunned at how easily they were manipulated. Read More

Robert Ettinger 'Father of Cryonics' entombed at -321F after dying aged 92 - 26th July 2011

A pioneer of the cryonics movement which advocates freezing the dead in the hope that medical technology will enable them to live again in the future has died at the age of 92.

Robert Ettinger, from Clinton Township, Detroit, became the 106th person to be stored at the Cryonics Institute which he founded in 1976.

The World War Two veteran, who taught physics at Wayne State University, was seriously wounded during the Battle of the Bulge and spent years in hospitals.

Bone graft surgery that saved his legs inspired his optimism about the future prospects of preserving life through technology, a statement from the Cryonics Institute said.

His son David Ettinger said he had been inspired by science fiction writings about deep-freezing the dead and expected researchers to make serious progress toward developing the idea.

But when nothing seemed to be happening, he wrote a book in 1964 entitled 'The Prospect Of Immortality', introducing the concept of cryonics.

He wrote: 'If civilisation endures, medical science should eventually be able to repair almost any damage to the human body, including freezing damage and senile debility or other cause of death.' Read More

Volcanoes found on far side of the moon offer tantalising clues to its thermal history - 26th July 2011

New images have revealed a curious 'hot spot' on the far side of the moon to be a small volcanic province created by the upwelling of silicic magma, according to scientists.

The unusual location of the province, and the surprising composition of the lava that formed it, offer tantalising clues to the moon’s thermal history, they said.

The hot spot is a concentration of a radioactive element thorium sitting between the very large and ancient impact craters Compton and Belkovich that was first detected by Lunar Prospector’s gamma-ray spectrometer in 1998.

The Compton-Belkovich Thorium Anomaly, as it is called, appears as a bullseye when the spectrometer data are projected onto a map, with the highest thorium concentration at its centre.

Recent observations, made with the powerful Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) optical cameras, have allowed scientists to distinguish volcanic features in terrain at the centre of the bullseye.

High-resolution 3D models of the terrain and information from the LRO Diviner instrument have revealed geological features diagnostic not just of volcanism but also of much rarer silicic volcanism. Read More

‘Holiday camp’ youth prison spends more than £16,000 on computer games to ‘reward’ inmates - 26th July 2011

A prison for Britain's most dangerous young criminals, including teen murderers, is being turned into a 'holiday camp' with more than £16,000 being splashed out on video games.

Inmates at the notorious Warren Hill juvenile jail at Hollesley, near Woodbridge, Suffolk, are allowed to play them as a reward for good behaviour.

Bosses at the prison, which holds male offenders aged 15 to 17, have approved thousands of pounds of spending on devices such as the Microsoft XBox, Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation.

The cash has been forked out over the last four years, a Freedom of Information Act request has revealed.

The latest revelation comes after the controversial jail was branded a 'holiday camp' by an outraged former guard in 2009.

Between April 2008 and March 2009, more than £7,000 was spent on new consoles while a further £2,185 was paid out on video games.

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey said the public would be 'shocked' to discover the level of spending and said games consoles should only be provided 'extremely sparingly'. Read More

Marcus Garwood Pictured doing a mid-air stunt: The extreme kite-flyer who died after being caught by freak gust of wind - 26th July 2011

A kite flyer who died after being swept 50ft into the air by his power kite and plunged to the ground has been named as Marcus Garwood.

The 27-year-old died on Sunday after a freak gust of wind at Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire caught the kite, which had a 20ft wingspan, and carried him away in front of his friends and family.

He plunged 50ft onto the hillside and sustained multiple fractures including a broken leg and pelvis, before dying at the scene of a suspected heart attack.

Tributes posted on Kite Crowd web forum told how Mr Garwood 'loved what he did so very much' and revealed his passion for power kiting, snowboarding and car racing.

Mr Garwood, from Dunstable, Bedfordshire, who attended Northfields Upper School and Dunstable College, is believed to have begun power kiting four years ago.

The HSS tool hire worker had posted videos online displaying his talent for performing aerial tricks at heights of 20ft in winds of up to 40mph.

A tribute on Kite Crowd forum by Newbiejumper, aged 32, who claims to be a friend of Marcus from Bedfordshire, said he witnessed the accident.

He said: 'He launched got lofted held it out had it was looking like it was under control was coming down nice and steady he got to about 20ft off the floor the kite just dropped caught the wind and supermaned him the winds were comin up the hill and on the website just before the accident it was reading 11mph as far as i remeberand (sic) and bex your right he loved what he did so very much.'

They continued: ‘It really was just a freak accident.

‘RIP Markos. Hope the winds are better where you are now.’ Read More