Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Flee to Mars if America commits worst error since 1931

President Obama has categorically ruled out a constitutional challenge to the US debt ceiling since I wrote yesterday’s blog.

Spokesman Jay Carney said the White House cannot invoke the 14th Amendment, which stipulates that US federal debt “shall not be questioned”.

“It’s not available. The Constitution makes clear that Congress has the authority, not the president, to borrow money and only Congress can increase the statutory debt ceiling. That is just a reality,” he said.

That is questionable, but let us move on.

Obama had previously been vague about this, saying White House lawyers were “not persuaded that is a winning argument”. It is a revealing turn of phrase. This is indeed about winning arguments, not abiding by constitutional law.

It is understandable why he should wish to avoid to an end-run around Congress in this violently polarized atmosphere, though it would not have stopped have FDR. (He went much further by stacking the Supreme Court).

However, the 14th Amendment still binds the nation. The US cannot miss a coupon payment on past debt without breaching the nation’s highest law, and without defiling the honour of the United States.

So this shifts the balance of probabilities a little further towards a brutal fiscal shock as spending is cut to meet the debt ceiling, if Congressional leaders fail to marshal their troops in any semblance of order over coming days. (more)

US fails to halt slide towards debt default

A day of volatile trading saw gold touch a new high of $1,630, the FTSE 100 fall more than 1pc and US government bonds sold off as the world's eyes again focused on a deeply divided Washington.

President Barack Obama, as well as the Republican House of Representatives and the Democratic Senate, are running out of time to agree to lift the country's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. The US Treasury has said that it won't be able to pay all its bills by next Tuesday, raising the spectre of the country's first major default in its history.

While there was no sign of panic selling in any market, the breezy confidence that investors once had over a deal being struck is fading with each passing day. Leaders in Washington have been engaged in fruitless talks for weeks, and yesterday offered markets little hope the impasse will be resolved before the weekend.

"The uncertainty that is out there is obviously troubling for people - the thing with the debt ceiling and just our own fiscal structure in the country is you have this overhang, this cloud," said Jason Clark, a fund manager at AFAM.

The White House and top Congressional leaders have been working on an ambitious plan to cut the country's deficit by up to $4 trillion as a condition of raising the debt ceiling. Since the collapse of talks between President Obama and John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the US's top Republican, late last week, politicians from both sides have instead worked on competing plans to raise the country's borrowing limit. Public comments from each side suggested the divisions between them are hardening as the deadline approaches. (more)

Third Norway terror attack goes unreported? Masked men in military uniforms shoot another men in head, and are on the loose

As translated from Norwegian to English by Google translate:

27-year-old from Sandnes, who was shot in his home on Sunday evening died later of his injuries.

Police said the shooting victim is a 27-year-old man. He was transported to Stavanger University Hospital after being shot in the head and later died of his injuries.

Two masked men in military clothing should be taken into 27-year-old home of Lura, Sandnes, Norway. It should have been fired one shot at about 19.50 on Sunday night.

- People who saw the deceased was allegedly driving a dark station wagon, says operations manager at Rogaland Police District, Kjetil Føyen, to VG Nett.

Rogaland Police District has launched a full murder investigation and are interested in information from the public.

- He was shot by the police unknown persons, said Føyen. (more)

Historic rains kill at least 35 in South Korea as 75% of season's rain falls in just 24 hours -- World weather caushing chaos



Massive downpours in South Korea -- the heaviest rains in a century -- are blamed for 35 deaths, according to the country's Central Disaster Relief Agency.

The most recent numbers released by the agency indicate that much of the death toll comes from landslides triggered by the heavy rain. In Chuncheon, 13 people were killed by landslides, while 15 were killed by the same phenomenon in Seoul. Five people are still missing, the agency says.

Five neighborhoods on the outskirts of Seoul are under evacuation orders.

But officials have been able to restore electricity to many thousands of homes that had lost power. Earlier, there were 116,000 homes without power, said the agency. Now, that number stands at 1,190.

Earlier, the agency warned that hundreds of families had lost their homes.

The weather has caused major traffic disruptions across portions of the country as well.

The Korea Meteorological Agency issued a special heavy rainfall alert for cities in the center of the country. The forecast calls for the downpour to continue at a rate of 60 millimeters (2.4 inches) per hour over the next day. (more)

Norway security forces on high alert -- not all explosives yet found, enough to make a bomb

South Korean scientists seem to have produced a glowing dog (and only cost $3 million)

South Korean scientists said on Wednesday they have created a glowing dog using a cloning technique that could help find cures for human diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, Yonhap news agency reported.

A research team from Seoul National University (SNU) said the genetically modified female beagle, named Tegon and born in 2009, has been found to glow fluorescent green under ultraviolet light if given a doxycycline antibiotic, the report said.

The researchers, who completed a two-year test, said the ability to glow can be turned on or off by adding a drug to the dog’s food.

“The creation of Tegon opens new horizons since the gene injected to make the dog glow can be substituted with genes that trigger fatal human diseases,” the news agency quoted lead researcher Lee Byeong-chun as saying.

He said the dog was created using the somatic cell nuclear transfer technology that the university team used to make the world’s first cloned dog, Snuppy, in 2005.

The scientist said that because there are 268 illnesses that humans and dogs have in common, creating dogs that artificially show such symptoms could aid treatment methods for diseases that afflict humans.

The latest discovery published in ‘Genesis’, an international journal, took four years of research with roughly US$3-million spent to make the dog and conduct the necessary verification tests, Yonhap said. (more)

China tells US to halt spy plane flights: report

China has demanded that the United States stop spy plane flights near the Chinese coast, saying they have "severely harmed" trust between the two countries, state-run media reported Wednesday.

The comments came after Taiwanese media reported two Chinese fighter jets attempted to scare off an American U2 reconnaissance plane that was collecting intelligence on China while flying along the Taiwan strait in late June.

Beijing's defence ministry said the US must discontinue such flights, calling them a "major obstacle" as the two Pacific powers try to put a series of military disputes behind them, China's Global Times reported.

The flights "severely harmed" mutual trust, the paper quoted the ministry as saying.

"We demand that the US respects China's sovereignty and security interests, and take concrete measures to boost a healthy and stable development of military relations," it added.

The ministry declined immediate comment when contacted by AFP.

Washington has said in the past that its reconnaissance flights are conducted in international airspace and will continue.

Sino-US military relations have been plagued in recent years by periodic tensions stemming from US plans for arms sales to Taiwan and naval standoffs in the disputed South China Sea.

Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory and refuses to abandon the possibility of taking the self-ruled island by force. The two sides split at the end of a civil war. (more)

Man robs Gigi's Cupcakes stores with "AIDS-infected syringe", on loose



Denver police are searching for a man they say robbed a cupcake store armed with a syringe.

The robbery happened at Gigi’s Cupcakes at 550 Grant Street. The thief got away with a small amount of cash.

The shop owner describes the robbery as “creepy” because the syringe that was used to threaten the clerk was said to be filled with “AIDS-infected” blood.

According to clerk Kendra Jackson, the suspect pulled out the syringe and threatened to stick a patron if another clerk didn’t comply with his demands.

“He had a syringe that he said was filled with blood that had been infected with AIDS and he said he was going to stick her if he didn’t open up the cash registers,” Jackson said. (more)

Pole Dancing Class For 7-Year-Olds Slammed

Family campaigners have blasted a British fitness group for teaching pole dancing to girls aged seven -- and putting pictures of them on the internet.

The photos show youngsters upside down on poles dressed in shorts, crop tops and vests.

Parents must agree before the images, taken at JLN Pole Fitness in Bolton, northern England, are posted on Facebook.

But a spokesman for Christian charity the Mothers' Union told The Sun , "Children are being targeted with an activity that's part of a male club culture which objectifies women."

He added, "We hope parents would consider the negative impact it could have on their child's perception of their own body and sexuality."

Local councilor Nick Peel, who is responsible for children's services in the area, warned, "It's a dangerous world on the internet. People need to be aware of the situation they can be putting children into."

But Jess Leanne Norris, 18, who teaches the youngsters, insisted that "nothing rude is going on."

She said, "What I teach is pole fitness -- nothing else. I've never received any complaints." (more)

Tampa General Hospital files $9.2 million claim for treatment... to dead woman (Tameka Jaqway Campbell)

ampa General Hospital has filed a $9.2 million claim against the estate of a woman who died after spending five years in the hospital, according to Hillsborough County court documents.

In court documents, that's how much the hospital says it is owed for the care of Tameka Jaqway Campbell. She died at age 29 two years ago of progressive demyelinating neuropathy, which occurs when the immune cells attack the body's nerves.

It's unclear whether the $9.2 million in hospital charges is a record. Health News Florida checked with the American Hospital Association, the Health Care Financial Management Association, and numerous others. No one knew anyone who keeps track.

"That would have to be the biggest bill I've heard of," said Alan Levine, a division president at the Naples-based hospital chain Health Management Associates.

"I've seen more than $1 million," he said. "But not 9 million." (more)

NSA Lawyer Questioned Over Cellphone Location Tracking of Americans

Is the government using cellular data to track Americans as they move around the U.S.?

According to the general counsel of the National Security Agency, it may have that authority. Matthew Olsen, who is currently at the NSA and has been nominated to lead the National Counterterrorism Center, discussed the possibility at a confirmation hearing Tuesday morning in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

“There are certain circumstances where that authority may exist,” he said. His comments came after Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) asked him several times whether the government has the authority to “use cell site data to track the location of Americans inside the country.”

Although Olsen acknowledged the possibility, he also said “it is a very complicated question” and that the intelligence community is working on a memo that will provide a better answer for the committee.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who chairs the committee, asked that such a memo be prepared in time for the committee’s first hearing in September, after the August recess.

The questions come after Sens. Ron Wyden and Mark Udall (D., Colo.) wrote a letter to the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper asking whether the agencies he leads, including the NSA and the CIA, “have the authority to collect the geolocation information of American citizens for intelligence purposes.” (more)

Teacher Jack Turley and Principal Keith Phipps caught smoking meth... at school... which shuts the school down



A West Virginia public vocational school has been shut down indefinitely after traces of methamphetamine were found throughout the building during an investigation of the principal and a teacher.

State Police Sgt. Andy Perdue said Monday that traces of the drug were found in the ducts, principal's office, hallways and bathrooms of the Boone County Career and Technical Center. Perdue says the teacher admitted he smoked meth with the principal in the principal's office.

He says police do not have evidence the school was used as a meth lab.

Teacher Jack Turley faces charges of manufacturing meth and procuring Sudafed for making meth. Principal Keith Phipps faces charges of purchasing over the legal limit of Sudafed. (more)

Somali refugees face grim prospects in Kenyan camp

ens of thousands of people have likely died as a result of the ongoing famine in Somalia, and more than 11 million in the wider Horn of Africa region are in need of food assistance as a result of what the United Nations is calling the worst hunger emergency in a generation.

Many of those seeking assistance have ended up in Dadaab, a sprawling network of refugee camps in northeast Kenya near the border with Somalia. The compound is made up three separate camps — Hagadera, Dagahely and Ifo — and was set up in 1991 to house Somalis fleeing the civil war that erupted after the overthrow of President Siad Barre.

Today, more than 380,000 people live in the camps, originally built to hold 90,000. About 1,300 new refugees arrive each day. Most of them are fleeing either the drought, which has afflicted the whole of the Horn of Africa but hit southern Somalia the hardest, or the ongoing conflict between the Islamist rebels who control much of the south and Somalia's Western-backed transitional government.

As malnutrition rates climb and resources become scarce, humanitarian organizations struggle to accommodate new arrivals. (more)

Libyan diplomats ordered out of Britain -- But how can there be a "transitional council" when the rebels clearly aren't in control?

Britain is expelling all Libyan diplomats and unfreezing assets to help fund the National Transitional Council, the group now officially recognized by Britain as the legitimate governing authority in Libya.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague held a news conference Wednesday in London where he called the NTC "the sole governmental authority in Libya" and said it would be invited to appoint a diplomatic envoy to replace expelled embassy officials.

He said the NTC has steadily increased its legitimacy and has been successful in reaching out to Libyans. It stands in "dark contrast" to ruler Moammar Gadhafi's brutal and illegitimate regime, he added.

"Through its actions, the National Transitional Council has shown its commitment to a more open and democratic Libya, something that it is working to achieve through an inclusive political process," said Hague.

"The NTC is a focal point for all people throughout Libya who want a better future for their country. Our decision also reflects the responsibility that the NTC has taken on in areas under its control," he said.

He also said that the British government is exploring measures to unfreeze millions of dollars in assets to help fund the National Transitional Council. (more)

Hackers call for PayPal boycott over refusal to handle Wikileaks donations

Two high profile hacker groups have called on their followers to boycott PayPal over its continued refusal to handle donations to Wikileaks.

Anonymous and Lulz Security issued a joint statement asking supporters to withdraw funds and close their accounts.

PayPal froze Wikileaks' assets after it released stolen US diplomatic cables.

The company declined to comment on the boycott because of ongoing legal action over attempts to hack its website.

Launching the campaign, LulzSec and Anonymous wrote in an online posting: "PayPal continues to withhold funds from WikiLeaks, a beacon of truth in these dark times.

"By simply standing up for ourselves and uniting the people, PayPal still sees it fit to wash its hands of any blame, and instead encourages and assists law enforcement to hunt down participants in the AntiSec movement [the campaign to highlight weak IT security]." (more)

Quiet digital revolution under way in North Korea -- will it be used for good, or as a weapon?

As his right hand grips the mouse, the physics major's eyes are fixed on a flat-screen monitor labeled with a red sticker reminding him the computer was a gift from Kim Jong Il.

Kim Nam Il says he prefers learning online to studying from books, and in that sense, the 21-year-old is just like other university students the world over.

North Korea is undergoing its own digital revolution, even as it grapples with chronic shortages of food and fuel. It is still among the most isolated of nations, with cyberspace policies considered among the most restrictive in the world. Yet inside Pyongyang, there's a small but growing digital world, and a whole new vocabulary to go with it: CNC, e-libraries, IT, an operating system called Red Star and a Web portal called Naenara.

In a world ever-wary of the unpredictable nation's motives, some see in North Korea's bid to train a generation of computer experts the specter of hackers launching attacks on the defense systems of rival governments. Others see the push to computerize factories and develop IT expertise as a political campaign designed to promote Kim Jong Un, the reputedly tech-savvy, Swiss-educated son being groomed to succeed his father as North Korea's next leader.

The country remains one of the hardest to penetrate — by email, by phone, by Internet. But there are signs of curiosity about the wired world outside. (more)

Atheist group wants to stop World Trade Center cross

A group of atheists has filed a lawsuit to stop the display of the World Trade Center cross at a memorial of the 9/11 terror attacks.

The "government enshrinement of the cross was an impermissible mingling of church and state," the American Atheists say in a press statement.

The group says it filed the lawsuit this week in state court in New York and posted a copy of the lawsuit on its website.

The lawsuit names many defendants, including the state of New Jersey, the city of New York , New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

The World Trade Center cross, two intersecting steel beams that held up when the twin towers collapsed on September 11, 2001, is seen as iconic to some.

The cross was moved Saturday from near a church to its new home at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. There was also ceremonial blessing of the cross in a service led by Father Brian Jordan, a Franciscan monk who ministered to workers clearing the area after the 9/11 attacks.

Joe Daniels, 9/11 Memorial president, said Saturday that the cross is "an important part of our commitment to bring back the authentic physical reminders that tell the history of 9/11 in a way nothing else could.

"Its return is a symbol of the progress on the Memorial & Museum that we feel rather than see, reminding us that commemoration is at the heart of our mission."

But the atheist group says the cross sends a symbol of something different.

"The WTC cross has become a Christian icon," said Dave Silverman, president of the atheist group. "It has been blessed by so-called holy men and presented as a reminder that their god, who couldn't be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists or prevent 3,000 people from being killed in his name, cared only enough to bestow upon us some rubble that resembles a cross. It's a truly ridiculous assertion." (source)

Unanswered questions in Norway tragedy

Four days after the twin terror attacks in Norway, the popular response has been restrained. It has been a display of grief rather than anger.

The lives lost sparked a massive response, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets in the capital, Oslo, and across the country last night.

But it is only a matter of time before the people, politicians and the media start taking a more analytical look at what happened last Friday.

As part of such a process, difficult questions will be put to the security and emergency services.

In particular, the response by the police to the massacre at the Norwegian Labour youth camp on Utoeya island appears to have been slow.

On Tuesday, Justice Minister Knut Storberget praised police for "fantastic" work after the attacks that killed at least 76 people, despite the criticisms over their apparent slow response.

"It is very important that we have an open and critical approach... but there is a time for everything," he said after talks with Oslo's police chief. (more)

English Defense League denies links to Norwegian gunman Anders Breivik

The English Defence League (EDL) has defended claims that Anders Breivik, who has admitted carrying out Friday's shooting and bomb attacks in Norway, had links to the organisation.

Mr Breivik posted supportive messages about the organisation online and claims to have had contact in the past with members of the EDL, but had distanced himself from them in his manifesto.

The leader of the EDL, Stephen Lennon - who also goes by the name of Tommy Robinson - denied that he had ever met Mr Breivik.

Speaking on Newsnight, he said he didn't believe the Norwegian had been on any of their demonstrations. (more)

The great teddy bear shipwreck mystery

n 1903, 3,000 teddy bears were sent by ship from Germany to America only for them to disappear. Some claim the bears were the first ever made and would now be the most valuable in the world. So what happened to them?

In the Steiff museum, in the German town of Giengin, the mystery of the missing bears is explained to the visiting children with a tale that they were lost at sea.

The idea of shipwrecked teddy bears captures the imagination, but is it true?

The company was established by seamstress Margarete Steiff in the 19th Century. In 1880, needing a present for a nephew, she found a pattern for a toy elephant and made it from soft felt. Drawn to how soft and cuddly they were, children in the neighbourhood were soon asking for elephants too.

She started to make the elephants alongside her dressmaking business but it was her nephew Richard Steiff who came up with the idea of a toy bear.

As a student at art college in Stuttgart he used to visit the zoo and sketch the bears. At the zoo they had cross-bred brown bears with polar bears and these became the inspiration for his first life-like toy bear.

"Before the bear, children were playing with porcelain dolls, soldiers, tin toys. They were hard and cold and Richard wanted to give children a companion that they could hold," explains Leyla Maniera, a former bear expert at Christie's and consultant for Steiff.

Steiff's first bear was called 55 PB. The 55 stood for its height, P stood for plush and B for beweglich, German for moveable. (more)

John of "Truthtellerradio" lives! *the people cheer uproariously*

To all those who have been concerned with the sudden disappearance of JohnJdeHart68 / Truthtellerradio, he's contacted us at The Coming Crisis and has given the following details:

1) He's fine. His family is fine.

2) Threats serious enough to make him pull his Youtube channels (including something going on by his home) is the reason for his sudden disappearance. It wasn't fear of what he was posting, but for the safety of his family that he did so, and he wanted everyone to know that.

3) He's creating a new, more secure Youtube channel and will protect his identity, and will resume his tireless work in researching and spreading the truth. He says he will never stop spreading the message of justice and truth, regardless of those arrayed against him (Hear, hear!). He will reveal the new channel to The Coming Crisis (hopefully by this weekend) and we'll post it.

4) He loves you all, and asks God to bless you all (as those who have watched his videos before surely know), and promises to be back out in "full force" soon.

We're all looking forward to your return, John! We need every soldier we can get.

-- Matt & Lynsey

Stinky Mystery Waste Washes Up On Virginia Beaches

Virginia Beach has a stinky mystery.

Over the weekend, a smelly waste washed up on beaches just west of the Lynnhaven Fishing Pier. A city health department inspector determined the waste wasn't feces.

But the source isn't known.

City environmental health manager Erin Sutton tells The Virginian-Pilot that weekly water testing will be conducted Tuesday near the site to determine whether there's anything that might make swimming or wading a risk.

Sutton says the waste could have been dead or decaying sponges that fell off the bottom of a vessel. Or it could have been garbage from a passing ship. With the amount of vessel traffic in the area, Sutton says it's difficult to determine the source of debris. (more)

New High: 46% Think Most in Congress Are Corrupt

Voters are more convinced than ever that most congressmen are crooks.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 46% of Likely U.S. Voters now view most members of Congress as corrupt. That’s up seven points from June and the highest finding yet recorded. Just 29% think most members are not corrupt, and another 25% are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Similarly, a whopping 85% of voters think most members of Congress are more interested in helping their own careers than in helping other people. That’s a record high for surveys stretching back to early November 2006. Only seven percent (7%) believe most of the legislators are more interested in helping others.

These findings come at a time when voter approval of the job Congress is doing has fallen to a new low. Just six percent (6%) of voters now rate Congress' performance as good or excellent. Sixty-one percent (61%) think the national legislators are doing a poor job.

Rasmussen Reports has asked these questions monthly since June 2008 and sporadically before that.

While some believe that people hate Congress in general but love their own representative, just 31% believe their own representative is the best person for the job. Most think it’s at least somewhat likely that their own representative trades votes for cash. (more)

Congressional members net worth up 3669 percent

Italian, Spanish Bonds Slump on Concern European Aid May Not Be Sufficient

Italian and Spanish government bonds slumped, increasing the yield relative to benchmark German bunds, on speculation Europe’s aid package may not be sufficient to prevent contagion.

German bonds rose for a fourth day and European bank stocks slid as Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the government is against a “blank check” for the European Financial Stability Facility to buy bonds of troubled euro members in the secondary market. The yield on bunds fell to a one-week low as U.S. lawmakers struggled to reach an agreement over the nation’s debt ceiling, boosting demand for the safest European assets.

“If you look into the details of the EU summit decision, it doesn’t take you long to get to where the weak points are,” said Marius Daheim, a senior fixed-income strategist at Bayerische Landesbank in Munich. “You still have two countries that are too big to save and are not effectively protected from negative market sentiment. The U.S. debt crisis is also a factor that supports German bunds.”

Italian 10-year bonds yields rose 13 basis points to 5.76 percent as of 12:30 p.m. in London. The 4.75 percent security due September 2021 fell 0.945, or 9.45 euros per 1,000-euro ($1,449) face amount, to 92.92. Equivalent-maturity Spanish yields were eight basis points higher at 6.04 percent. (more)

Ashleymadison.com Founder Promises Sex or Money Back

A controversial adultery website is now providing a money-back guarantee if its customers do not have an affair, the Herald Sun reported Tuesday.

Ashleymadison.com founder Noel Biderman -- in Australia to renew his own wedding vows -- said he would personally reimburse cheats who could not find a fling by following the website's guidelines.

But Toronto-based Biderman said Ashleymadison.com, which claims to have around eight million members worldwide and has been widely criticized by family groups, was not "just an online brothel." Affairs had to be worked on, he said.

"If you want to find the right level of success, we think there is the commitment level you need to make, and if it doesn't work out for you then we'll give you your money back."

The dating site's Australian arm has more than 400,000 members. It claims to protect love rats from leaving a trail of "digital lipstick" by deleting personal communication between users and keeping identities secret.

The website has drawn international condemnation since its launch in 2001, with family groups accusing Biderman of making money from others' grief. In Australia, Family Council of Victoria president Peter Stokes said the website's success was a sad reflection on society.

"The sheer fact that he thinks there's a market out there shows how degraded we've become in terms what we think relationships are," Stokes said. (more)

Consequences Of No US Debt Deal Spelt Out

The United States remains on course to default on its debt for the first time in history in six days time, as politicians continue to squabble over the answer.

There are signs the American public is growing increasingly frustrated that the White House and Congress cannot strike a deal.

And stock markets around the world are watching closely, with credit ratings agencies threatening to downgrade America's AAA-rating unless a significant solution to the debt and deficit crisis is found.

Officials from two of those agencies, Moody's and Standard and Poor's, are due to address a congressional hearing later today.

So far, all attempts at compromise among the Republican-controlled House, the Democratic-run Senate and President Barack Obama have failed.

The President and Speaker of the House John Boehner have repeatedly clashed, with Mr Obama refusing to accept a plan that would effectively put off the debate for six months, saying that would fail to provide stability to the US economy. (more)

Bachmann reaffirms ‘no’ vote on debt ceiling increase

In the wake of President Barack Obama‘s Monday night national address about the debt ceiling, GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann called the president out on his voting record, saying “you (voted against raising the debt ceiling) too, while you were in the Senate.”

Bachmann met voters in the Des Moines suburb of Ankeny, Iowa, Tuesday to reiterate her position on the debt ceiling. The congresswoman has vehemently refused to vote in favor of raising it from $14.3 trillion to $16.7 trillion, and said she will continue to do so, amid talk of conditions under which the debt would be raised, as opposed to if it will actually happen or not.

“We need to change the premise here,” she said. “We need a fundamental restructuring of the economy.”

Monday, Obama encouraged Americans to call their congressional leaders about the debt ceiling crisis, which faces a deadline of a week from today.

“We can’t allow the American people to become collateral damage to Washington’s political warfare,” Obama said during his prime-time address. “The American people may have voted for divided government, but they didn’t vote for a dysfunctional government. So I’m asking you all to make your voice heard.”

For his part, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has offered a “two-step” plan, which would cut spending by roughly $1.2 trillion, albeit, raising the debt ceiling by $1 trillion at the same time, something Bachmann said she would remain adamantly against.

“This Republican will not vote to raise the debt ceiling,” she said of herself, and while she urged her colleagues to listen to constituents, she also said other Republicans would have to “make their own decision.” (more)

The New York Times Bemoans the Lost Opportunity to Cut Social Security and Raise the Age of Medicare Eligibility to 67

That's right, you can read about the "unique opportunity" that was lost right here. The complains that the likely deficit deals to be produced in the days ahead will not feature:

"significant future savings from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — the entitlement programs whose growth as the population ages is driving long-term projections of unsustainable debt."

As every budget analyst knows, Social Security is not a major driver of the deficit. Under the law, it cannot contribute to the deficit. It can only spend money that was raised from its designated tax or from interest earned on the Treasury bonds bought with this revenue. If the trust fund lacks the money to pay benefits then full benefits will not be paid. Furthermore, the projected increase in Social Security benefits over the decades ahead is relatively modest.

The projected increase in the cost of the Medicare and Medicaid is much larger but this is attributable to the projected explosion in private sector health care costs. If the United States faced the same per person health care costs as any other wealth country we would be facing long-term budget surpluses, not deficits. (more)

U.S. Credit Rating Rests On S&P’s London View of Washington

David Beers may be the most influential political commentator in the U.S. right now, even though he’s hardly a household name, that isn’t technically his job and he’s only visiting.

As the London-based managing director of sovereign credit ratings at Standard & Poor’s, Beers will help determine whether the U.S. government’s credit rating will be downgraded as a result of the battle over raising the debt limit.

His company has gone beyond competing credit rating agencies to say that it isn’t enough for lawmakers to agree to lift the government’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. Congress and the White House also must agree to a deficit-reduction package to avoid a downgrade in the government’s AAA credit rating.

In an interview this week at Union Station, just blocks from the U.S. Capitol, Beers said he views the debt limit fight as a test of lawmakers’ willingness to tackle the deficit.

“For us, the issue is not the debt limit -- it’s the underlying fiscal dynamics,” said Beers, who has been rating governments for the company for 20 years. “It’s not obvious to us that this political divide that is proving so difficult to bridge is going to be any more bridgeable three months from now or six months from now or a year from now.” (more)

Gold hits new high of $1624

Gold hit a new high of $1,624 an ounce on Wednesday as investors worried the U.S. would default on its debts piled money into the perceived safe haven of bullion.

U.S. lawmakers are embroiled in a crisis over the U.S. debt ceiling. Unless a compromise can be reached, the world's largest economy is on track to default on its obligations by Aug. 2.

In times of uncertainty, investors tend to flock to gold. The precious metal has gained almost 15 per cent this year adding to even stronger gains in 2010.

The loonie slipped back below the $1.06 US level to 105.97 cents US in early morning trading. Canada's currency has likewise benefited from U.S. dollar weakness in the past week, gaining almost a cent over the period.

While the loonie moved slightly lower against its U.S. counterpart, the greenback was still lower against a slew of other major currencies on Tuesday, including the Japanese yen and the Swiss franc.

"Investors [want] the safety of fiscally responsible, resource-based economies," Scotia Capital's Camilla Sutton said in a note Wednesday.

Oil prices fell below $99 US a barrel after a report showed U.S. crude supplies unexpectedly jumped by four million barrels last week, suggesting demand may be weakening. Analysts had expected a drop of 2.3 million barrels.

Copper prices also weakened, giving back a chunk of Tuesday's seven cent gain. The September contract in New York gave back four cents to $4.44 US a pound. (more)

China fruit seller death sparks riot in Guizhou

Chinese police have quelled a mass riot sparked by rumours that a disabled fruit seller had been beaten to death by local officials.

State media reported that hundreds of people threw stones and clashed with police on the streets of Anshun, in the southern Guizhou province.

The authorities said they would carry out an autopsy on the fruit seller to determine how he died.

Similar rumours sparked days of rioting in Guangdong province in June.

The Guangdong riot snowballed into a wider protest about official corruption and discrimination against migrant workers.

In Anshun, the unrest appears to have been limited to anger over the street trader's death.

The state-run China Daily quoted a statement from Anshun's local government confirming the hawker had died.

The statement did not comment on the cause of his death, but said "before the incident occurred, chengguan [urban management officers] were working in the area".

Local police had earlier told the Xinhua news agency that the trader had been involved in an argument with the officials. (source)

Wall Street waits as Washington debates debt limit

Today on the New York Stock exchange I hear snatches of random political gossip amid the market tips.

"Taiwan is looking good."

"They can afford to pay more in taxes: they should pay it."

What's going on in Washington is of consuming interest.

The traders on the New York Stock Exchange are used to making snap decisions, making millions in an instant, on a hunch and good intelligence. From here the inability of politicians in Washington to close a deal looks crazy.

One trader, Ben Willis, told me: "We are very upset our elected officials are behaving like children, continually drawing lines in the sand and jumping over them.

"It's an embarrassment to the world. Today the Philippines told us that we had to take care of the dollar! I don't know what is left after that... the Ethiopians telling us how to grow crops? It's an embarrassment."

While there is a lot of shaking of heads, frustration and irritation, there is nothing like fear, let alone panic.

Always with an eye to the main chance, some think that even if the politicians drive off the cliff it will create new opportunities. However bad it gets someone will find a way to make money.

But the main point is that few think that is going to happen. (more)

Connecticut mountain lion 'crossed US' before death

A mountain lion killed on a road in the US state of Connecticut had walked halfway across the US before it died in June, scientists have said.

DNA tests showed the cat was native to the Black Hills of South Dakota, 1,800 miles (2,896km) away, scientists said.

And its DNA matched that of an animal collected by chance in 2009 and 2010 in the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The evidence suggests the cat had made the longest-ever recorded journey of a land mammal, scientists say.

The mountain lion, also known as a cougar or a puma, is a type of big cat native to the Americas.

The species once ranged widely, from British Columbia in Canada to Argentina and Chile, and from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, but its habitat in North America is now mostly limited to the western US and Canada, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, a government agency dedicated to the management of fish, wildlife and habitats. (more)

Syria forces kill eight in Kanaker raid: rights groups

Syrian security forces have killed at least eight people in a raid on the town of Kanaker near the capital, Damascus, rights groups say.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said locals tried to block roads with burning tyres and threw stones to stop troops and tanks advancing.

Several others were reportedly wounded while dozens were arrested, it said.

President Bashar al-Assad has been using the army to suppress a popular revolt which first broke out in March.

Human rights groups say that about 1,400 civilians and 350 security forces personnel have died in the four months of protest.

The government of Mr Assad - who has rejected calls to step down - blames the unrest on terrorists and foreign extremists. (more)

Mexico prison shooting: 17 dead in Ciudad Juarez clash (Wait, wasn't the situation secure?)

Mexican officials say at least 17 people have been killed and another four injured in an armed clash in a prison in the city of Ciudad Juarez.

A spokesman for the city's authorities told the BBC that one group of inmates attacked rivals from another drug gang on Monday night.

He said they used weapons they had seized from prison guards.

The spokesman denied press reports that the prisoners had attempted to break out of the jail.

It took security forces several hours to regain control.

Anxious relatives gathered outside the jail, known locally as the "Cereso", a shortened form of its full Spanish name - the Social Rehabilitation Centre for Adults.

At least one woman was among those killed. The prison holds about 2,500 inmates.

Ciudad Juarez, on the Mexico-US border, is one of the world's most violent cities. (more)

Chernobyl's Przewalski's horses are poached for meat

A herd of Critically Endangered wild Przewalski's horses in the Chernobyl exclusion zone is under threat from poachers, say scientists.

Researchers in Ukraine say that the population may be in decline because poachers have been removing the animals faster than they are breeding.

Thirty-one horses were taken from a Przewalski's horse reserve and from a local zoo.

They were released into the zone in 1998 and 1999.

Scientists from the state-run SSSIE Ecocentre in Chernobyl say the horses were introduced to "enrich the biodiversity" of the exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl nuclear power station's damaged nuclear reactor.

The zone was evacuated in 1986 after reactor number four exploded.

Professor Tim Mousseau, a biologist from the University of South Carolina who visits the zone to work at least twice a year, says that the herd he has spotted has been "getting smaller" in recent years.

Professor Tim Mousseau University of South Carolina

"Many people in this part of Ukraine are very poor," he told BBC Nature on a recent trip to the exclusion zone.

"So access to a readily available supply of horsemeat is tempting for people." (more)

'Tell the police to hurry. People are dying here!': A SMS text account of events on Utoeya island

Julie Bremnes, 16, was one of the youths caught on Utoeya island during Anders Behring Breivik's killing spree on Friday.

She first called her mother, Marianne, at 1710 to tell her there was "a crazy man who is shooting here" on the island. She asked her mother to call the police, and Marianne asked Julie to send her updates by text message to let her know she was still alive.

Julie eventually escaped unscathed after hiding behind rocks on the shore. Below is the SMS exchange between mother and daughter published in Norwegian newspaper VG. (more)

Gunman Conspired With “Business and Political Leaders” Before Massacre?

Anders Behring Breivik said he conspired with “business and political leaders” in London years before he set about planning last week’s massacre, an intruiging connection given the fact that the gunman’s manifesto is datelined “London 2011, suggesting a clear connection to the capital as evidence emerges of a wider plot.

“In the manuscript Breivik describes his “mentor” as an Englishman he identifies as “Richard”, and says his journey into violent extremism began at a small meeting in London in 2002 where a group of like-minded extremists met to “reform” the Knights Templar Europe, a military group whose purpose was “to seize political and military control of western European countries and implement a cultural conservative political agenda,” reports the Guardian.

“In his manifesto Breivik said the gathering in London was “not a stereotypical ‘rightwing’ meeting full of underprivileged, racist skinheads with a short temper”. Instead, he claimed those present were successful entrepreneurs, “business or political leaders, some with families, most Christian conservatives, but also some agnostics and even atheists”.

The gunman said that the participants of the meeting came from all over Europe and that he was first put into contact with them by a “Serbian crusader commander”.

Breivik’s conenctions with London – he lived there as a child when his father was working at the Norwegian embassy – are clearly a cornerstone of his plot. Indeed, as Mark Steyn writes for the National Review Online, the gunman’s manifesto is largely concerned with Britain and America. “The entire document is strangely anglocentric – in among the citations of NR and The Washington Times, there’s not a lot about Norway.”

The manifesto, signed by the killer as “Andrew Berwick” (an anglicised version of his name), is datelined “London, 2011,” clearly indicating Breivik was in the English capital before his rampage, although the media have asserted otherwise without expalining why Breivik would deliberately place such an error in his own screed. (more)

Hackers hit Italian cyber-police, release gigabytes of secret documents stolen from an Italian cybercrime unit

Hackers have started to release gigabytes of secret documents stolen from an Italian cybercrime unit.

The 8GB of files has allegedly been taken from the network of the Italian CNAIPIC which oversees the country's critical IT infrastructure.

In a message announcing the release, the Anonymous hacker group said it received the files from a "source".

The attack on CNAIPIC is thought to be in retaliation for arrests of Italian members of Anonymous.

Links to the first few confidential files purportedly stolen from CNAIPIC were placed on the Pastebin website. Anonymous claims the files were taken from the evidence servers of CNAIPIC (National Computer Crime Centre for Critical Infrastructure Protection).

The documents include information about government offices such as Australia's Ministry of Defence and the US Department of Agriculture as well as data about private firms Gazprom, Exxon Mobil and many others.

Preview images also shared by Anonymous reveal the management structure of CNAIPIC, pictures of staff and a long list of all the documents that have been taken. (more)

5.0 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTHEAST OF THE LOYALTY ISLANDS - 27th July 2011

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck near the Southeast of the Loyalty Islands at a depth of 49.6 km ( 30.8 miles), the quake hit at 20:03:26 UTC Wednesday 27th July 2011.
The epicenter was 217 km (134 miles) ESE of Tadine, Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia
No Tsunami Warning issued - No damage or injuries reported at this time

33 Mexican soldiers accidentally invade Texas AGAIN - 27th July 2011

Reader Contribution:

More than two dozen Mexican soldiers accidentally invaded Texas in Humvees on Tuesday after allegedly losing sight of the border line between the two countries,
The Monitor reports.

The 33 soldiers were quickly processed by U.S. authorities and allowed to return to Mexico, the paper says.

The McAllen, Texas, newspaper says U.S. officials who interviewed the soldiers after they had crossed the Donna-Rio Bravo bridge at Donna, Texas, could not divulge the reason, other than to say it was inadvertent.

The newspaper says a source described as "outside of law enforcement and with knowledge of border activity" says the soldiers were chasing a South Texas resident who had crossed into Mexico.

The Mexican military, in a statement, confirmed the incident, saying the "involuntary incursion" occurred because the turnaround is on the U.S. side of the bridge. Source

8.0 + Magnitude Earthquake could hit south of Vancouver Island Next a New Study Shows - 27th July 2011

A new study says the next major earthquake to hit the Pacific Northwest could strike below Washington state's Olympic Peninsula, south of Vancouver Island.

Professor Andy Calvert of Simon Fraser University, the lead author of the study, says it shows the fault line between two tectonic plates in the Pacific Northwest is seven kilometres deeper than originally believed.

He says the fault line underneath Washington state is actually 27 to 42 kilometres, not 25 to 35 kilometres as previously believed.

Calvert and his team came to the conclusion by looking at how long it took seismic waves to spread throughout the Earth.

The findings were published recently in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Questions about the possibility of an earthquake on the West Coast have been on the rise since early March, when a magnitude-9 earthquake and a subsequent tsunami killed thousands of people in Japan and resulted in a tsunami alert along the B.C. coast. Source

British holidaymakers warned as 'killer seaweed' strikes Brittany beaches and KILLS 31 Wild Boars - 27th July 2011

British holidaymakers have been warned to be on their guard against a thick blanket of slimy 'killer seaweed' suffocating the beaches of northern France.

The alert comes after the carcasses of 31 wild boars were found on one beach on the Brittany coast.

All are thought to have been killed by toxic gas – as dangerous as cyanide – released by the seaweed as it rots.

Beaches around the Morieux river estuary, where the dead boars were found, are popular with tens of thousands of British holidaymakers every summer.

The warning was issued by Brittany’s Cote d’Armor regional government which said the potentially deadly seaweed was ‘above a health alert level, but below severe danger level’.

Seaweed – which is a form of algae - is normally found on most northern French beaches. However, it releases hydrogen sulphide when it comes into contact with nitrogen waste flowing to the sea from intensive pig farms. Read More

Joshua Davies who murdered his ex-girlfriend over a bet for a free Breakfast shows no emotion when Found GUILTY

A babyfaced schoolboy is facing a life sentence after being found guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend - over a bet for a free breakfast.

Joshua Davies, 16, was promised a full cooked breakfast if he carried out his threat to murder Rebecca Aylward.

Davies and Rebecca, 15, had split up but she went to meet him hoping they would get back together.

Rebecca even bought new clothes for the 'date' unaware Davies had been boasting to his friends how easy it would be to kill her.

The obsessed schoolboy had plotted to give her deadly foxgloves, drown her in a river or throw her off a cliff.

But instead Davies lured happy and fun-loving Rebecca into woods where he battered her to death with a rock.

A five-week murder trial heard that two days before the murder Davies texted his friend to say: 'Don't say anything but you may just owe me a breakfast.'

Judge Mr Justice Lloyd Jones today lifted an order preventing the boy from being named and photographed.

He said it was 'in the public interest' that he should be identified.

He said: 'This is a crime in a small and closely-knit community and it's right that the public should know there has been a conviction and who has been convicted.

'I accept that the weight given to the welfare of the boy changes now he has been convicted of a very serious offence.'

There was clapping, cheering and then tears from Rebecca's family in the public gallery at Swansea Crown Court as the jury found him guilty on a majority verdict of 10-2 after 20 hours deliberations.

Rebecca's mother Sonia Aylward, 39, gave a quiet smile as the verdict was announced.

Davies, wearing a pale open-necked shirt and dark trousers, showed no emotion as the jury returned their verdict but was in tears when the judge addressed him.

But his family, sitting away from the Aylwards in the lower public gallery, gasped at the verdict.

Until now there was a ban on Davies being publicly named - but the court yesterday lifted an order. Read More

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 27th July 2011

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck near the East coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 48.9 km ( 30.4 miles), the quake hit at 14:50:00 UTC Wednesday 27th July 2011.
The epicenter was 114 km (70 miles) ESE of Hachinohe, Honshu, Japan
No Tsunami Warning issued - No damage or injuries reported at this time

Countdown to US debt disaster?

Partial FAA shutdown drags into fourth day

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued additional "stop work orders" to construction and technology contractors after Congress failed to reauthorize funding for the federal agency.

Tuesday marked the fourth day of the partial FAA shutdown, which has forced thousands of employees from their jobs and halted dozens of major projects around the country.

Nearly 4,000 employees in 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have been furloughed, according to the FAA. Air traffic controllers will remain on the job.

"I am making a simple and straightforward request to Congress: Pass a clean FAA bill and immediately put thousands of FAA employees, construction workers, planners and engineers across America to work. In these tough economic times, we can ill afford to lay off hard-working Americans whose families depend on them," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Efforts to continue funding hit a stumbling block over House Republican efforts to make it harder for airline and rail workers to unionize and over a move to cut subsidies for air service to rural airports.

Congress adjourned Friday without passing legislation, causing funding to end at midnight that night. (more)

Hamas executes father and son for Israeli collaboration

Gaza's ruling Hamas government said Tuesday it executed two Palestinian men for collaborating with Israel.

The father and son, ages 58 and 29, were convicted by a Gaza court in 2004 of assisting the enemy and providing information used to assassinate Palestinians.

"The issue of collaborators is highly dangerous in the Palestinian society," Ihab Elghosen, a spokesman for Hamas' Interior Ministry, told CNN. "We must act forcefully because there is a war underneath the surface between us and the Israeli intelligence and we must win it."

Palestinian law requires death sentences to be ratified by the president. Elghosen said the move was authorized by the Hamas government, but officials in Ramallah called the decision "illegal."

Palestinian Deputy Interior Minister Hassan Alawi told CNN "any decision of this kind has to be signed by the president. Of course, because of the situation between Fatah and Hamas, there was no ratification and it is therefore illegal. To my regret, in the current situation there are many wrongdoings. We would expect our brothers in Gaza to be more tolerant, especially when it comes to human lives because they are irreversible. You cannot revive the dead if there is a mistake." (more)

Juarez mayor: Federal police to pull out... after firing upon local police and then calling the security situation "resolved"

Mexico's federal police will begin pulling out of Ciudad Juarez in September, the embattled border city's mayor said Tuesday.

The announcement comes after an assessment by the federal police that the city's security situation is under control, Mayor Hector Murguia said. Federal police have determined that local police are in a position to inherit full control of security, he said.

"We have made important advances in the coordination between levels of government and we continue advancing in public safety matters," he said.

Hours after the mayor's proclamation, the city's police chief made his own announcement, accusing more than a dozen federal police of opening fire on his vehicle during a prison riot the night before.

"I asked why they fired at me. ... They never gave me an answer," Juarez Police Chief Julian Leyzaola told reporters. "Fortunately, the vehicle was armored. If not, I wouldn't be here."

A spokesman for the federal police could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday, and the agency had not released an official statement about its presence in Juarez or the alleged shooting. (more)

Slow-moving tropical storm kills 27 in Philippines

A tropical storm moving through the Philippines on Wednesday has killed 27 people and left more than 60 injured or missing, according to a government disaster response agency.

Hours after Tropical Storm Juaning made landfall along northern Aurora province, the country's National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council began rescuing stranded people and searching for fishermen swept away by powerful waves.

The slow-moving storm continues to drag through northern parts of the island nation at about 10 mph (16 kph). It is expected to cross into parts of the Northern Luzon island Wednesday night, the agency said.

Though winds have decreased slightly, the agency warned against gusts of up to 60 mph. The government has been tracking the storm since it intensified from a depression Monday.

Several barangays, or villages, have been flooded, and rescue efforts are under way to find missing people, the agency said. (more)

Libya: Gridlock, fighting continue at strategic base of Goualich

South of Tripoli, in the hamlet of Goualich, Libyan rebels fought off a Sunday counter-offensive from the Libyan army. FRANCE 24 special envoys reported from the ground.

After several days of calm near the hamlet of Goualich, roughly one-hundred kilometers south of Tripoli, the fighting started again Sunday between rebels and forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi. This time, the soldiers backing the Libyan regime struck first.

The casualty toll after a day of clashes speaks to the inability of each side to get a leg up on the other: two minor injuries for the rebels and no ground gained by anyone.

On Saturday, the rebels had already managed to fight off a counter-offensive from pro-regime forces, thus maintaining the status quo. (more)

Mexico says 2 Acapulco beaches severely contaminated, Zihuatanejo beach polluted

Mexican health authorities say two beaches in Acapulco are severely contaminated and one in Zihuatanejo registered pollution slightly above permitted levels.

The Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks says both Suave and Hornos beaches in Acapulco register over 3,000 units of fecal Enterococcus bacteria per 100 milliliters of tested water. That is well above the accepted 200 units.

The commission said Zihuatanejo’s Principal Beach has bacteria levels of 233 units, slightly above accepted levels. The Zihuatanejo beach is among the most crowded at the resort spot favored by both Mexican and U.S. tourists.

Gastrointestinal illnesses as well as eye, ear and skin infections could result from exposure to the bacteria. (source)

Hong Kong's poorest living in 'coffin homes'

Hidden amid the multi-million dollar high-rise apartments and chic shopping malls of Hong Kong's urban centers are scores of tiny, unseen tenements -- some no bigger than coffins -- that many people call home.

Mak, 72, has lived in his four-walled "coffin home" overlooking the city's Wan Chai neighborhood for the past decade. His entire living space is no bigger than a twin-sized bed, and has just enough room for him to sit up.

"No one wants to live here, but we need to survive," said Mak, who works as a janitor at the nearby Times Square. "It's a step up from being on the streets."

Nicknamed coffin homes for their physical similarities, the 15-square-foot enclosure is just one incarnation of the city's distinctive low-income housing alternatives. Others include the city's cage homes, which resemble livestock coops.

Twenty tenants in Mak's building share a communal bathroom that doubles as a shower. Hallways are clad with slapdash wiring and bad ventilation -- and bedspaces are stacked atop one another like kitchen cupboards.

"There's a stigma about those living in these places. People think that it's because they are lazy, but that couldn't be further from the truth," said Sze Lai San, a social worker based in Hong Kong. "Sometimes their jobs just pay very little despite their long hours and hard work, or they just fall on hard times." (more)

America to lose AAA credit rating even if a debt ceiling deal *is* reached?

With America now perilously close to default, here's where I sense we stand. My observations may be off as I have only had a brief time in Washington to take measure, but let me give it my best shot.

First off, the good news: The next several days are likely to be tortuous, but odds are shifting now in favor of a resolution that will prevent default. Behind the scenes, congressional leaders on both sides are talking to each other about ways out of this mess -- talks that are quiet, frequent and urgent.

Importantly, the two key plans now on the table -- one from House Speaker John Boehner, the other from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid -- bear important similarities. Both are based squarely on spending cuts, and the Democrats aren't now pushing for tax increases. That makes it easier to find common ground.

Finally, there are hints that if a bipartisan deal is shaping up, President Barack Obama may be willing to accept an extension of the debt ceiling for a couple of weeks, give or take a bit. Default is still a serious threat, but there may be enough will and enough time to hammer out a compromise that both sides can swallow.

Now the bad news: Even if they reach a compromise and we avoid a default, prospects are growing that we will get hit by a second bullet: a downgrading of our AAA credit rating. (more)

Killer Economy Prolonged by Domestic Violence, Debt Consolidation, and Bankruptcy

A new Spanish radio program warns of domestic violence and other unconscious acts influenced by the bad economy. It also exposes the dangers of debt consolidation and bankruptcy, helping consumers and businesses to recognize a better path to debt elimination.

Debt Free League subsidiary, Libre de Deudas exposes dangers over the alarming tension on financial hardships. Their message to Christian families, How to Become Debt Free without Bankruptcy, on Radio Nueva Vida, helps to prevent mental and financial collapse.

It responds to a series of extreme acts and tragedies including homicides, suicides, and intentional fires, exposed in the San Diego local news.

Recently, where Libre de Deudas is located in Chula Vista, financial desperation pushed a father to murder his two children at gunshot, burn down his house, and murder himself. In the same city, another man shot and killed his live-in partner and her two daughters, also killing himself. In City Heights, a father drowned his two daughters and his wife before also drowning himself. And in Santee, a victim of unemployment, who applied for bankruptcy on June 30, shot his wife to death, burned his home, and later killed himself. (more)

Obama considers becoming slumlord for foreclosed homes

One proposal winning support among some federal officials would sell thousands of foreclosed federal properties to private investors who agree to rent them. Investors would rehab homes, run the leasing process, and contract with national property management firms to handle day-to-day tenant demands.

The housing market has been struck by a troubling phenomenon. As distressed borrowers lose their homes, they must rent. But all those Americans hitting the rental market are causing rent prices to rise. In the meantime, as the population of homeowners shrinks, more houses are hitting the market and prices are declining. The solution here seems obvious: convert all of those foreclosed homes into rental properties. That way, rent and home prices should both stabilize. The government is reportedly considering alternatives to encourage this outcome.

An easier option might just be for the government to provide a simpler incentive to buy distressed properties outright. One thing you could do is to exempt rental income from taxes until the end of 2017 on properties was purchased after, say, August 1, 2011. That would make investing in a rental property even more lucrative and allow the market some time to heal before the investors might want to get out of the landlord business and sell the houses they own. Source: (1) The Atlantic

The real story not be discussed in the mainstream media is the monetization of debt being carried out by the US Treasury and the Feds. There must be a plan, but one has to wonder what it is: do they plan to declare bankruptcy or do they hope to inflate away their debt?

In the ’70s, Nixon basically reneged to the French on paying their debt in gold and the US government proceeded to inflate their debt away. It caused a whole world of pain to everybody and forced the world to cover America’s reckless spending. (more)

Drought Withers Smallest Hay Crop in Century to Boost Beef Costs

The smallest U.S. hay crop in more than a century is withering under a record Texas drought, boosting the cost of livestock feed for dairy farmers and beef producers from California to Maryland.

The price of alfalfa, the most common hay variety, surged 51 percent in the past year, reaching a record $186 a short ton in May, government data show. Hay and grass make up about half of what cattle eat over their lifetimes, so parched pastures are forcing ranchers to find alternative sources of feed, pushing some spot-market corn to the highest ever.

Farmers in Oklahoma and in Texas, the biggest producer of hay and cattle, may harvest only one crop from alfalfa and Bermuda grass this year, compared with three normally, said Larry Redmon, a state forage specialist at Texas A&M University. Cattle that usually graze on fields through September or October are instead being sold to feedlots, where they are confined in pens and eat mostly corn.

“We’re just running out of grass,” Bo Kizziar, the feedlot manager at Hansford County Feeders, said by telephone from Spearman, Texas. With pastures disappearing, Hansford is moving cattle into its 50,000-head feedlot three months earlier than normal, boosting costs as the company buys more corn, he said.

The drought, which is the worst ever in Texas, is compounding a hay shortage caused by farmers shifting this year to more profitable crops, including corn. The U.S. may harvest 57.605 million acres of hay in 2011, the least on records going back to 1909, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show. Corn was sown on 92.282 million acres, the second-most since 1944. (more)

Analysis: Europe's "Marshall Plan" for Greece may disappoint

Europe is promising to help kick-start economic growth in Greece as a way of dragging the country out of its debt crisis, but the scheme looks likely to move too slowly to have much impact in the next couple of years.

At last week's summit announcing a second international bailout of Greece, leaders of the 17-nation euro zone pledged "a comprehensive strategy for growth and investment in Greece" that would "relaunch the Greek economy."

The emphasis on growth is an important shift in Europe's approach to the crisis; the first bailout of Athens, launched in May last year, focused instead on slashing the Greek budget deficit, and the reduction in spending hit the economy hard.

Greece's recession was a key reason that it missed targets for cutting its debt under the first bailout. So ending its economic slump quickly would increase its chances of bringing its debt down to manageable levels over the next several years.

Details of Europe's plan so far, however, suggest it will be a limited scheme that concentrates on channeling funds for infrastructure development to Greece and has little impact over the next two years, which will be a key period in determining whether Athens forces more losses on private creditors.

"Greece will get the money, but most will reach the economy in 2014 and 2015. Too many projects have yet to be set in motion," said Nikos Diakoulakis, a former Greek development ministry official who advises the government on European Union funds. (more)