Thursday, July 28, 2011

Divorce: it's a way of life in Los Angeles

Divorce: it’s all people want to talk about in Los Angeles. Not so much their own, you understand, as how you plan to deal with yours once the inevitable happens and Dewey, Cheatham and Howe start divvying up the crockery.

“Will you be starting a family?” I remember a businessman with a double divorce under his belt asking me at a party this time last year. “Then a word of advice: make sure you have the kid here in LA. It makes a big difference when it comes to the settlement.” When I explained that my husband and I had only been married 10 days – that we were, in fact, on extended honeymoon – he looked bemused, failing to see the relevance.

Last week, a new milestone was reached when I was invited along to a giant “divorcée party”. The idea was about as appealing as getting a nostril wax (yes, people really do that out here) – until I found out that it involved the wealthy housewives of Newport Beach hawking off their wardrobes.

“Her Past. Your Future” is the mantra of the organiser, Jill Alexander. But as you rifle through racks of discarded Dior jumpsuits and Chanel handbags, it’s more a case of “her past, my glorious future wardrobe”. And there’s certainly no pretence of the breadline: these women aren’t flogging off their YSL platforms to pay school fees, especially since Californian law dictates that the husband has to pay for both sides of the divorce battle.

As one divorcée who donated a box of cast-offs to the event explains, “It’s about moving forward. And it’s for charity, too, so there’s really no downside.” Not from where I’m standing: when you can pick up a pair of Alexander McQueen pumps for $100 and every woman is given a goody bag at the end containing a tiny bottle of prosecco and a thong (apparently the universal motif for any female embarking on a new life), I’m all for giving these sisters the metaphorical high five. (more)

UK: NHS delays operations 'as it waits for patients to die or go private'

NHS managers are deliberately delaying operations as they wait for patients either to die or go private in order to save money, according to an official report.

Health service trusts are “imposing pain and inconvenience” by making patients wait longer than necessary, in some cases as long as four months, the study found.

Executives believe the delays mean some people will remove themselves from lists “either by dying or by paying for their own treatment” claims the report, by an independent watchdog that advises the NHS.

The Co-operation and Competition Panel says the tactic is one of a number used by managers that “excessively constrain” patients’ rights to choose where to be operated upon, and damage hospitals’ ability to compete for planned surgery.

It claims unfair practices are “endemic” in some areas of England and pose a “serious risk” to the Government’s drive to open up the health service to competition.

But managers, who are already rationing surgery for cataracts, hips, knees and tonsils, say they must restrict treatment as the NHS is under orders to make £20 billion of efficiency savings by 2015. (more)

Global slump warnings if US triggers 'insane' default

A chorus of global banks has warned that Washington risks triggering a global slump and may suffer permanent loss of credibility by flirting with default on America's $14.3 trillion (£8.8 trillion) federal debt.

The dangers are almost as great if the US fails to lift the debt ceiling and avoids default by enacting the most drastic fiscal squeeze in modern history.

"Default would be an act of collective insanity," said Willem Buiter, Cititgroup's chief economist. "Even if a default were cured promptly, it would severely dent the credibility of the US as a global financial player and the provider of the world's leading reserve currency. There would be an immediate repricing of the dollar and an increase in medium and long-term nominal and real interest rates. Asset, credit, and funding markets in the US and the world as a whole would likely suffer and a global recession would likely result, centred in the US, but not restricted to it."

Mr Buiter said brinkmanship on the US debt ceiling had reached a point where tail risk had "morphed" into a serious possibility, with a 5pc likelihood that Washington will pull the trigger on a technical default.

Stephen Roach, head of Morgan Stanley in Asia, said Chinese officials are disgusted by the "astonishing recklessness" of Washington as default looms. "Coming so shortly on the heels of the sub-prime crisis, the debate over the debt ceiling and the budget deficit and is the last straw," he said.

Andrew Garthwaite from Credit Suisse said a default would be catastrophic, causing 5pc contraction in the US economy and a 30pc drop on Wall Street, with "massive" ramifications for the world. (more)

Derivatives could seriously destabilise the Eurozone government bond market

China's economic miracle may be about to come off the rails

Largely invisible on a radar screen dominated by concerns over the US and eurozone debt crises, the Chinese economic miracle, one of the few apparent bright spots that remains in a world beset by trouble, has in recent weeks also been showing unnerving signs of strain. Indeed, it may even be about to come off the rails entirely – quite literally.

Last weekend, one of China's new bullet trains, a showcase of the country's growing economic prowess, rammed into the back of another, killing 39 passengers and injuring nearly 200 more.

The accident has raised questions, not just about the safety of China's vaunting ambition in high-speed rail, but about the sustainability of the country's break-neck pace of economic development in the round.

As Shen Minggao, chief China economist at Citi, has observed: "High-speed rail in some sense represents China's fast growth. When you care so much about speed, you sometimes pay less attention to the quality of the growth."

China's political leadership has long dreamt of an entirely new rail network, from the prosperous eastern seaboard to remotest inland China, and over the past four years they've set about building it with a determination which no other country would seem remotely capable of.

But in so doing, they appear to have put speed before safety, and economic ambition before commercial viability. It is not just the quality of the bastardised foreign designs, copied and botched together to feed China's insatiable appetite for growth, which is now being questioned. (more)

Happy Ending For 'Happy Feet' The Penguin -- He'll return to the Antarctic soon

A lost penguin that was fighting for its life after it turned up on a beach some 2,500 miles from its Antarctic home is on the road to recovery.

The Emperor penguin, nicknamed "Happy Feet" by locals, splashed about happily as he took his first swim in a pool at Wellington Zoo in New Zealand on Monday.

The bird has been receiving treatment at the zoo since being spotted by a dog walker washed up on Peka Peka beach in the north of the country over a month ago.

New Zealand's Department of Conservation plans to return him to the Antarctic at the end of August.
Zoo vet Lisa Argilla said: "We are giving him the best chance possible.

"He is going to be fit and healthy and he will, in my opinion anyway, have the same chance as any another Emperor penguin."

Happy Feet became the focus of international attention after he became the second emperor penguin ever to appear in New Zealand.

It was initially feared he would not survive after he ate sand, believing it was snow. (more)

Landmine Risk After South Korean Floods

Military officials in South Korea have warned buried landmines could have slid down mountains eroded by flood waters - as the death toll from the rains rises to at least 57.

Huge quantities of rainfall since Tuesday have severely disrupted life in the country's capital Seoul, submerging streets, flooding subway stations and forcing businesses to shut.

Rainfall in the capital on Wednesday came in at 12 inches, the biggest one-day amount since 1998 and the third highest ever, the Korea Meteorlogical Administration has said.

Landslides, flooding and accidents have caused the fatalities so far, and at least 12 more people are confirmed missing.

The Defence Ministry has now warned that mines placed on the Wumyeon Mountain in southern Seoul could have slipped down.

Soldiers with metal detectors have been drafted in to search for the mines. (more)

Henson Chua Pleads Guilty To Selling A Military Drone On eBay

Henson Chua plead guilty in U.S. District court in Tampa today on charges of illegal arms sales and smuggling.

According to Tampa bay Online, Chua was in Manila when he listed a three-foot long military Raven drone on eBay with an asking price of $13,000.

The sale was noticed by Special Operations Command (SOC) at MacDill Air Force Base, who tracked the drone to their arsenal through a partially visible bar code.

Federal agents paid for the plane using PayPal and discovered Chua was representing an unidentified Russian buyer.

He faces up to 20 years in prison. (more)

Highway-turned-waterway is the laughing stock of Iran



It was meant to speed up inner-city traffic, but on rainy days, the brand-new expressway in the central Iranian city of Rafsanjan turns into a giant urban waterfall. Our Observers say the road is an example of botched engineering and construction work at its worst.

The highway, which passes under Rafsanjan’s Shohada (Martyrs) Square, in the city centre, was inaugurated with much pomp in May 2010, during an official visit by the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad Hosseini. At the time, Rafsanjan Mayor Ali Akmbar Pourmohamdi declared that the project, which cost an estimated 1.7 million euros to complete, had required a year of preparation and over eight months of construction work. According to Pourmohamdi, the underpass would reduce traffic jams in the city centre by 60 per cent and boost the city’s economic development.

In reality, practically the opposite has occurred. At the first sign of heavy rains, Shohada Square is flooded with a torrent of water that cascades onto the underpass from the bridges above. Traffic slows to a crawl as smaller vehicles are forced to change streets.

Astonishingly, city authorities appear to have chosen to ignore the problem, going as far as to forbid local media outlets and officials from reporting on the flooding. Our Observers in Rafsanjan would only speak out on the condition of anonymity. (more)

Bus collides with truck in northern Bangladesh, killing at least 17, injuring 30

A crowded bus collided head on with a truck in northern Bangladesh on Thursday, killing at least 17 people and injuring 30, police said.

The fatalities included four children, four women and three men who died instantly and six other passengers who succumbed to their injuries at a hospital, local police chief Anisur Rahman said.

All the dead were on the bus that crashed into a truck early Thursday at Shajahanpur in Bogra district, 100 miles (176 kilometers) north of the capital, Dhaka.

The fate of the two drivers was not immediately clear, Rahman said.

Fatal road accidents are common in Bangladesh, mainly because of lax traffic rules and poor road conditions.

An independent research has said up to 12,000 people die each year in road crashes in Bangladesh, a nation of 150 million people.

Earlier this month, 44 people, mostly school boys, died when the truck carrying them overturned in southeastern district of Chittagong. (more)

Ford bets big on India with $900,000,000 plant -- Americans are just too expensive

Ford Motor Co plans to build a $900 million production plant in India, doubling its investment in the country, as the U.S. carmaker seeks to catch up with rivals in the second-fastest growing auto market in the world.

Foreign car makers have been ramping up investment in a price-conscious Indian market, where small cars are the biggest sellers and domestic operators have long dominated the market.

Ford's planned factory in Sanand, in the business-friendly western state of Gujarat, will be running by 2014 and employ 5,000 people, it said. Tata Motors makes the Nano, billed as the world's cheapest car, in the same city.

"Lots of foreign players are only now realising what the India auto market offers them." (more)

If US defaults, stock markets will plunge 30%: Credit Suisse

In the very unlikely event that the United States defaults on its debt obligations, the country's economy would contract by 5 percent and stocks would fall by nearly a third, according to Credit Suisse.

While Andrew Garthwaite and the global strategy team at the Swiss bank see a 50-50 chance of a ratings downgrade of U.S. debt by the major ratings agencies, they remain confident such an outcome would not lead to disaster.

“We think there is a 50 percent chance of a ratings downgrade on U.S. sovereign debt.

This could happen even if the debt ceiling [cnbc explains] is raised,” Garthwaite, the head of global strategy at Credit Suisse, said in research note.

“We doubt it will have much effect," he continued. "Japan has a 1.1 percent yield and an AA- rating, many U.S. Treasury funds do not have credit-rating limitations and national bank regulators would probably keep risk weightings for U.S. sovereign debt at zero.”

If no budget deal is struck, but the U.S. does not default, Garthwaite predicts a bad time for stocks and the economy.

“As our economists point out, each month of no rise in the ceiling could easily take 0.5-1 percent off GDP.

In this case, equity markets would drop by 10-15 percent, prompting Congress to find a solution, and bond yields would fall to 2.75 percent.” If that proved to be the case, investors would in Garthwaite’s opinion need to get into defensive stocks and out of the dollar. (more)

Officials: "Jihadi literature" found in arrested Pfc. Naser Abdo's backpack



Jihadi literature was found in a backpack belonging to Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, who said he wanted to attack soldiers at Fort Hood, two law enforcement officials said.

A statement on the Fort Hood website acknowledged Pfc. Naser Abdo's arrest but said it had no connection to the base.

"We are aware at this time that Killeen Police Department arrested a soldier yesterday. The incident leading to the arrest did not occur on Fort Hood and the soldier was not a Fort Hood based soldier," the statement said.

Abdo was assigned to Fort Campbell in Kentucky.

Abdo refused to deploy to Afghanistan on grounds of his religion and had put in the paperwork to be discharged as a conscientious objector. The Army approved his request, but he was then charged with child pornography and went AWOL, the official said.

"We have two things that I believe make us American, and that's freedom of religion and freedom of choice," he said in an interview last year.

He said he had to remain true to Islam.

"I've come to the conclusion that the consequences I would face by refusing deployment are a lot less than the consequences I would face should I go. I don't think I would be able to live with myself if I deployed," he said.

Abdo had put in the paperwork to be discharged as a conscientious objector at Fort Campbell. The Army approved his request, but he was then charged with child pornography and went AWOL, the official said.

CNN spoke with Abdo in 2010 when he was trying to be discharged as a conscientious objector. (more)

Nintendo Slashes Prices After First Ever Loss; Shares Plummet 30% -- A sign of the times for Japan's economy?

Japanese video game specialist Nintendo is slashing the cost of its 3DS hand-held player following weak sales.

The decision was announced after the company announced its first ever quarterly operating loss, which came as a shock to the markets.

The loss figure for April-June came in at $483.6m (£296.1m) while its annual operating profit forecast was also slashed.

Nintendo kept its full-year sales forecast for the 3DS at 16 million but said that was because it would cut the device's suggested retail price worldwide.

In Europe, the figure falls by "around a third", according to a company statement.

The move comes into force on August 12. (more)

Oops, it's a £700,000 prang... Hapless blonde crashes her Bentley into a Merc, Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin

When in Monte Carlo, everything is done in style. And that includes crashing your car.

This was the moment when a woman driver caused a £700,000 five-car pile-up as her Bentley collided with a Mercedes, Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin.

Disaster struck as the hapless blonde negotiated the traffic around the Place du Casino in her £250,000 Bentley Azure.

The driver of a white Mercedes S Class worth £75,000 was the first victim as the 2.7-ton Bentley scraped down the side of it before ploughing into a £143,000 black Ferrari F430. (more)

Revolting pictures of piled-up rubbish give Egyptian capital label of Garbage City (and it's been like this for hundreds of years, apparently)

With mountains of rubbish towering over children and endless bin bags bulging from high-rise flats, these are the shocking images that show Cairo's 'Garbage City' - where thousands of Egyptians live amongst piles of stinking rubbish.

Manshiyat naser, or Garbage city, as it is known by locals, is a slum on the outskirts of Cairo, just a short drive away from luxury five star resorts.

But these shocking photos show a whole community which has been living in the slums for hundreds of years surrounded by rats and rotting rubbish.

Photographer Ilya Stepanov took the pictures to document the lives of the Zabbaleens - a people who have been living among rubbish, and making a living out of recycling it, for generations.

One image shows huge piles of bagged rubbish stacked high in the streets, with most of the piles twice the size of the helpless children stood nearby. (more)

Hay Crisis Reaches North Texas, Ranchers Stunned At Shortage



With 75 percent of the state suffering through an exceptional drought, ranchers have begun using words like “desperation” and “panic” when it comes to finding and affording hay to feed their livestock.

“I can’t remember the shortage of hay like it is right now,” Punk Carter said.

Carter is a cutting horse trainer in Celina, in Collin County. For months, North Texas avoided the conditions that farmers in the western and southern parts of the state were dealing with.

But now, the hay crisis has hit the northern counties. Prices, feed stores say, have risen 20 to 30 percent this summer. Some say they’ve gone up even more.

“West Texas, South Texas all around us is just devastated. And, that’s been going on for a while now. So, it’s catching up with us,” Carter said.

Carter owns 30 horses. Hay to feed them now costs him almost $1,000 a month, he said.

One square – a 55 to 65 pound of hay – costs $9.75 right now. Last year at this time, it was $2.00 less, he said.

The lack of rain has withered hay crops.

Robby Sims, one of the managers with D & L Farm and Home said ranchers are calling, desperate for hay.

“You get 20 to 25 phone calls a day. ‘Do you have hay? How much is hay?’ Everybody’s kind of getting to that point where they’re struggling and panicking with it,” Sims said.

And hay isn’t just for horses. Farmers are selling their cattle in record numbers because they can’t afford the hay to feed them. (more)

Two women Bulgarian students find hidden cameras in apartment near Westchase

The tiny cameras were hidden in smoke detectors and motion sensors, placed in the bedrooms and bathrooms of a west Hillsborough apartment.

Late Monday, two Bulgarian women discovered the covert cameras in their apartment. And now the Bulgarian students are afraid their every move — from sleeping to showering — may have been broadcast on the Internet.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is investigating and says detectives have recovered some equipment and are following several leads.

However, between Tuesday night — when a report about the episode appeared on Bay News 9 — and Wednesday morning when detectives returned, some of the electronic equipment was removed, said sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon.

The women didn't answer their door Wednesday, but in an interview Tuesday with Bay News 9 said their landlord has a key to the apartment.

The Sheriff's Office declined to name any suspects. (more)

Luis and Jonathan Baez Arrested, Pilot Hurt (And Chased Around Airport) After Fight On Plane At Miami International Airport

Two brothers were arrested after police said they attacked a pilot at Miami International Airport on Wednesday night.

American Airlines Flight 1755 was about to take off from MIA to San Francisco International Airport when a flight attendant noticed that passenger Jonathan Baez, 27, was not wearing his seat belt. She tried to wake him up, but he was unresponsive so she called the pilot.

The pilot then decided to turn the plane around and head back to the gate. Once at the gate, the pilot and flight attendant both tried to wake Baez. He finally woke up and was told he needed to exit the plane.

While the pilot and flight attendants were escorting Baez off the plane, they claim his brother, Luis Baez, 29, said, "When you fly to San Juan, I will have you killed."

Both men exited the aircraft. But police said that moments later, Luis Baez reentered the plane and punched the pilot in the face.

A flight attendant stepped in and police said Luis Baez hit her on the shoulder.

Police said both brothers then attacked the pilot again in the jet bridge. They punched him several times and then chased him around the terminal.

The rest of the flight crew and even passengers from the flight came to the pilot's defense and subdued the brothers until police arrived.

The pilot suffered a large bruise and blurring in his eye. He also told police he is very fearful that Baez will follow through on his death threat.

Both Luis Baez and Jonathan Baez were charged with Aggravated Battery and remain in the Miami-Dade County Jail. (more)

US reviews Libya rebel request to open Washington embassy

The United States said it was reviewing a request by Libya's rebels to open an embassy in Washington, following Britain's decision to expel diplomats from Muammar Gaddafi's regime.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the rebel National Transitional Council on Tuesday submitted a formal request to open what the United States would consider Libya's embassy to the United States.

Mr Toner indicated that the United States was sympathetic to the request - major powers recognized the rebels as Libya's legitimate representatives this month - but needed to sort out practicalities such as accreditation.

"They did send an official request regarding the reopening of their embassy and we're reviewing that request. And we'll work through these issues," Toner told reporters.

Ali Aujali, who was accredited as Libya's ambassador, defected from the Kadhafi regime in February as violence erupted and affiliated himself with the National Transitional Council.

William Hague, the foreign secretary, on Wednesday invited the council to appoint an ambassador and expelled remaining diplomats loyal to Gaddafi. (more)

Philadelphia art dealer 'smuggled tonne of ivory'

An art dealer has been arrested and accused of smuggling a tonne of African ivory into the US for sale at his Philadelphia store.

Victor Gordon, 68, paid a conspirator to fly to Africa, purchase raw ivory and have it carved to his specifications, prosecutors said.

The conspirator dyed the carvings in order to make them appear old before smuggling them into the US, they said.

Traffic in ivory is tightly restricted under US and international law.

"It's safe to say dozens of elephants sit before you," Edward Grace, deputy chief of law enforcement for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, told reporters in Philadelphia.

There, officials displayed for reporters intricately carved whole tusks and smaller sculptures and figurines that agents had seized from Mr Gordon's shop and from his customers.

Elephants are protected under the 1975 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Ivory more than 100 years old can be sold can be legally imported into the US.
Two smuggled ivory tusks, in a photo provided by the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York The government hopes to seize all the allegedly smuggled ivory

"The amount of the elephant ivory allegedly plundered in this case is staggering and highlights the seriousness of the charged crimes," United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch said. (more)

House vote on GOP debt plan delayed due to non-support, cancelled -- Dangerous times ahead?



House Republicans delayed a vote Thursday on Speaker John Boehner's plan to raise the nation's debt ceiling while enacting sweeping cuts in government spending, indicating a rift within the GOP could undermine the party's latest attempt to avoid an unprecedented national default and stave off potential economic catastrophe.

The delay showed Boehner was unable to muster sufficient support from his own caucus to guarantee his proposal would pass in the face of expected unified Democratic opposition.

It was unclear if the vote would occur on Thursday night. Influential House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said he expected the Boehner plan to eventually pass, but when asked about timing, answered: "I don't know the answer to that question."

"There is a delay. The reason has not been stated," Rep. Nan Hayworth, R-New York, who supports the plan, told CNN. Hayworth acknowledged that some members "have had a lot of deep thinking to do" about their votes, and said the delay might be to confirm "the last few" supporting votes.

After the announcement of the delay, conservative congressmen were seen entering and leaving Boehner's office as the speaker tried to generate the necessary support. A floor debate on the plan was cut short, and the House moved on to discuss the naming of a post office in Illinois.

Staff members were later seen carrying pizzas from a local restaurant into Boehner's office.

Defeat would be a major setback for Boehner, who assumed his post in January, and further muddy the already tense negotiations over a deficit reduction deal that would also increase the federal borrowing limit. In particular, it would show Boehner was unable to control the tea party conservatives elected last year in a Republican wave that delivered a GOP majority in the House and his ascension to speaker. (more)

Johnjdehart68 / Truthtellerradio new Youtube channel

Hey everyone, just letting you all know John's new Youtube channel:

http://www.youtube.com/user/PatrioticTruther

Be sure to subscribe, and pass the word on in your own Youtube channels and websites!

-- Matt

San Jose neighbours deposit trash at Wells Fargo in protest of home foreclosure



About a dozen concerned members of a neighborhood group came to the Wells Fargo Branch at Story Rd. and King Rd. in San Jose Wednesday carrying trash bags instead of money sacks.

Protesters left the waste inside the bank lobby as managers rushed to call police. The trash dumped Wednesday was collected at blighted bank-owned property connected to Wells Fargo. (source)

Americans losting faith: Just 17% say country is on right track

Just 17% of Likely U.S. Voters now say the country is heading in the right direction, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey taken the week ending Sunday, July 24. That finding is the lowest measured since January 11, 2009.

From August 2007 to early January 2009, confidence in the nation’s current course ranged from a low of 10% to a high of 24%. When President Obama assumed office, optimism rose to 27% and climbed to the low to mid 30s until May 2009. That figure has steadily declined since.

Seventy-five percent (75%) of voters say the country is heading down the wrong track, the highest finding since early January 2009. Since that time, voter pessimism had ranged from 57% to 72%.

Most Republicans (91%) and voters not affiliated with either political party (77%) believe the country is heading down the wrong track. Even a strong majority (58%) of Democrats now say the country is heading in the wrong direction.

Forty percent (40%) of black voters say the country is heading in the right direction, a view shared by just 15% of white voters and just as many voters of other ethnicities (15%).

Roughly half (51%) of the Political Class are confident in the nation’s current course, while 84% of Mainstream voters are not.

Most males and females agree the country is on the wrong track. Voters under the age of 30 are slightly more positive about the nation’s current course than their elders.

Separate polling finds that consumer confidence has fallen to a new two-year low while investor confidence continues to hover just above the lowest levels of 2011. (more)

Charles Monnett, who documented drowned polar bears due to global warming, put in administrative leave -- because it seems he might have... made it up

A federal wildlife biologist whose observation in 2004 of presumably drowned polar bears in the Arctic helped to galvanize the global warming movement has been placed on administrative leave and is being investigated for scientific misconduct, possibly over the veracity of that article.

Charles Monnett, an Anchorage-based scientist with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, or BOEMRE, was told July 18 that he was being put on leave, pending results of an investigation into "integrity issues." But he has not yet been informed by the inspector general's office of specific charges or questions related to the scientific integrity of his work, said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

On Thursday, Ruch's watchdog group plans to file a complaint with the agency on Monnett's behalf, asserting that Obama administration officials have "actively persecuted" him in violation of policy intended to protect scientists from political interference.

Monnett, who has coordinated much of the agency's research on Arctic wildlife and ecology, has duties that include managing about $50 million worth of studies, according to the complaint, a copy of which was provided to The Associated Press.

The complaint seeks Monnett's reinstatement along with a public apology from the agency and inspector general. It also seeks to have the investigation dropped or to have the charges specified and the matter carried out in accordance with policy. The complaint also says that investigators took Monnett's computer hard drive, notebooks and other unspecified items from him, which have not been returned. (more)

Rep. David Wu could be eligible for $1M in pension, benefits -- it's good to be a (morally questionable) politician

Rep. David Wu could be eligible for pension and benefits worth more than $1 million in his lifetime, according to an analysis by the National Taxpayers Union.

Wu, D-Ore., first elected in 1998, announced Tuesday he will leave Congress. His departure follows a report in The Oregonian last week that an 18-year-old woman complained to his office about an "unwanted sexual encounter."

The National Taxpayers Union, a non-partisan organization, calculated that Wu could qualify for a pension worth about $851,000 over his lifetime.

It also estimates Wu's balance in his federal Thrift Savings Plan, which is like a 401(k) plan for members of Congress, could possibly be as high as $213,855.

Wu, 56, could immediately draw $23,871 on his pension if he opts to receive early payments. If he waits until he's 62, his annual pension would be about 30% higher, NTU estimates. (more)

Tropical Storm Don to Hit Texas, Energy Operators Evacuate Workers

A tropical storm warning has been issued across the Texas coast early Thursday. Tropical Storm Don is violently blasting its way into the central Gulf of Mexico and forecasters are telling those in the path of the storm to stay on alert over the coming days.

Don was about 635 miles east-southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas at 5 a.m. ET, the National Hurricane Center said. This is the fourth named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season.

The National Hurricane Center said, “This general motion with an increase in forward speech is expected through Friday. Some strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours.”

The Center calls Don a small tropical cyclone and if continued on its projected path the storm could hit land along the southeastern coast of Texas at 1 a.m. Saturday morning.

The thousands of oil and gas production platforms in the region are particularly of major concern.

Reuters reports that Shell Oil Co, along with several other offshore energy operators evacuated workers on Wednesday. (source)

Chinese riot after killing of fruit vendor -- Is China falling apart?

Hundreds of rioters in a southern Chinese city battled with police into the early hours of Wednesday morning after a disabled fruit vendor died while being beaten by Chinese officials on the street in broad daylight.

The man, identified by the government as 52-year-old Deng Qiguo, died on Tuesday afternoon after a “dispute with city management staff” in the city of Anshun, in southern China’s Guizhou province, according to state media reports.

Local residents and numerous internet accounts from self-professed eyewitnesses said the one-legged man was beaten to death on the street outside a fruit and vegetable market by a group of China’s notorious chengguan or “city management” officials.

This quasi-police force mostly enforces laws against beggars, street vendors and other petty offenders and has a reputation for brutality and corruption.

Such cases are relatively common and a huge riot last month in China’s industrial heartland of Guangdong was apparently sparked by a similar incident in which city management officials beat up a 20-year-old pregnant migrant worker.

On Wednesday, dozens of graphic video clips and photographs of Mr Deng’s dead body were circulating on the internet but the gathering of angry residents that began after his death and lasted until the early hours of Wednesday morning seemed to have been quelled.

“Anyone who goes near [the scene of the earlier protest] will get beaten, they beat many people, more than 100,” said one Anshun resident who asked not to be named because of the fear of official retribution. “There are still a lot of police around here.” (more)

Cataracts, hips, knees and tonsils: NHS begins rationing operations

Hip replacements, cataract surgery and tonsil removal are among operations now being rationed in a bid to save the NHS money.

Two-thirds of health trusts in England are rationing treatments for "non-urgent" conditions as part of the drive to reduce costs in the NHS by £20bn over the next four years. One in three primary-care trusts (PCTs) has expanded the list of procedures it will restrict funding to in the past 12 months.

Examples of the rationing now being used include:

* Hip and knee replacements only being allowed where patients are in severe pain. Overweight patients will be made to lose weight before being considered for an operation.

* Cataract operations being withheld from patients until their sight problems "substantially" affect their ability to work.

* Patients with varicose veins only being operated on if they are suffering "chronic continuous pain", ulceration or bleeding.

* Tonsillectomy (removing tonsils) only to be carried out in children if they have had seven bouts of tonsillitis in the previous year. (more)

Pvt. Nasser Jason Abdo Arrested Over Concerns of Second Alleged Plot to Attack Fort Hood

At least one U.S. military serviceman has been arrested after raising concerns over another alleged plot to attack Fort Hood, Fox News has learned exclusively.

Pvt. Nasser Jason Abdo, an AWOL soldier from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, was arrested by the Killeen Police Department near Fort Hood and remains in custody there. Authorities, however, will not say if Abdo is the one who raised security concerns.

Abdo was found with weapons and explosives at the time of his arrest, a senior Army source confirms to Fox News. He was arrested at around 2 p.m. Wednesday after someone called authorities to report a suspicious individual.

Eric Vasys, a spokesman with the FBI's San Antonio Office, said authorities found firearms and bomb making components, which he described as smokeless gun powder, inside Abdo's motel room.

Bob Jenkins, a Fort Campbell spokesman, told Fox News that Abdo was also being investigated for child pornography found on his government computer.

Abdo went AWOL on July 4. On the eve of his first deployment to Afghanistan -- after only one year in the Army -- Abdo applied for conscientious objector status. It was denied by his superiors at Ft. Campbell but later overturned by the Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Army review board. (more)

Iran revolutionary guards' commander set to become president of Opec

A senior commander of Iran's revolutionary guards, who is subject to comprehensive international sanctions, has been nominated as the country's oil minister, a position that currently includes the presidency of Opec.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, sent a list of four ministers, including Rostam Ghasemi, commander of the revolutionary guards' Khatam al-Anbia military and industrial base, to the parliament for approval, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

Should the parliament confirm Ghasemi's nomination next week, the commander, who is targeted by US, EU and Australian sanctions, will be automatically appointed as head of Opec, giving the revolutionary guards access to an influential international platform.

Under Iran's constitution the president is in charge of appointing cabinet ministers, who take office after the approval of parliament.

Iran took the Opec presidency in October last year, its first time at the head of the oil exporters' cartel since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Unrest in the Middle East, especially the ongoing war in Libya, has given Opec a crucial role in determining the current oil price. Iran is the second-largest crude oil exporter in Opec.

The nomination follows an extraordinary power struggle between Ahmadinejad and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Ahmadinejad attempted to take over the oil ministry as its temporary head in May but his move was blocked by parliament. He then appointed Mohammad Aliabadi, a close ally, as a caretaker. (more)

Investors losing patience with US debt standoff

Global markets continued to send the signal to US senators that the political standoff over the country’s debt ceiling is hurting, while disappointing earnings in Europe added to the gloom.

Stocks on Wall Street were modestly higher in morning trade after a dip in US jobless claims, leaving the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.6 per cent at 12,373.92 by midday in New York.

European shares recovered losses in a late trade dash for the flat line, with the FTSE Eurofirst 300 ending 0.1 per cent higher at 1,089.39. By the close in Germany, sharp losses for BASF and Siemens dragged the Xetra Dax index down 0.6 per cent to 7,190.06. Asian stocks, however, fell sharply, reacting to overnight losses in the US.

Meanwhile, yields on Italian bonds pushed higher, with the 10-year note yielding close to 6 per cent after the latest debt auction. Rome sold nearly €8bn in three-, four- and 10-year bonds, and although the total amount raised was at the top end of expectations, yields paid were higher than at previous auctions and the bid-to-cover ratio was on the low side.

The US debt problems, along with the lingering concerns over eurozone markets, have become particularly damaging as it is now the busiest period of earnings season. Investors have found it difficult to look beyond the negatives in corporate results when the overall market mood is this gloom-stricken. (more)

A key point absent in DC: American people care about jobs and the economy

While Washington dithers and brings the country to the brink of another economic collapse, the American people are pretty cranky about jobs and the economy. And neither party is free of their wrath. It really is the economy, stupid. And jobs, stupid. From the Washington Post:

More than a third of Americans now believe that President Obama’s policies are hurting the economy, and confidence in his ability to create jobs is sharply eroding among his base, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

But Americans’ discontent does not stop there. The survey also found that Americans harbor negative feelings toward congressional Republicans. Roughly as many people blame Republican policies for the poor economy as they do Obama. But 65 percent disapprove of the GOP’s handling of jobs, compared to 52 percent for the president.

There's bad news for both parties in this poll. That's because people aren't feeling particularly good about the economy:

The dissatisfaction is fueled by the fact that many Americans continue to see little relief from the pain of a recession that technically ended two years ago. Ninety percent of those surveyed said the economy is not doing well, and four out of five report that jobs are difficult to find. (more)

IMF chief warns on US default’s far-reaching impact

The new International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde has said that Washington must speedily resolve a political stalemate over raising the debt ceiling and the euro zone should “quickly” implement its sovereign debt crisis fighting plan to avoid more “turbulence”.

Speaking in New York she warned of serious consequences for the world economy if US politicians fail to reach an agreement on raising the debt ceiling by next Tuesday’s deadline: “The critical objective is now for the United States to be able to increase the debt ceiling with a view to avoiding a default, which would be terrible for the United States, which would be terrible for the economy at large.

Lagarde said she hoped “the political courage shown by European leaders will soon be followed by bold fiscal action in the US”.

As she spoke the dollar continued to fall against a range of currencies. (more)

Weak growth pressures UK government

The British economy barely grew between April and June.

As industrial output shrank, GDP expanded by just 0.2 percent from the first three months of the year. That took the annual growth rate to 0.7 percent

The figures cast doubt on the government’s ability to cut the budget deficit with austerity measures.

Finance minister George Osborne blamed temporary factors — like lost productivity due to the Royal Wedding — and insists the UK is doing better than many others: “There’s enormous instability in the euro area, there’s a big argument in the United States at the moment about debt and here in Britain we’ve got a plan that has provided stability in a very unstable world and has brought our interest rates down and, you know, that has helped the economy grow.”

Some experts question his assessment: “We were somehow promised this double mantra of cutting debt but also miraculously sustained and ever rising economic growth — it’s in a dream world that you can achieve these things,” said Jonathan Tonge, professor of politics at the University of Liverpool. (more)

Jungle battle in Philippines kills 7 marines

Seven Philippine marines were killed and 21 others were wounded Thursday by a rebel group linked to al-Qaeda during an attempted raid of their jungle camp.

The early morning battle was some of the fiercest fighting this year between the Philippine military and Abu Sayyaf militants.

About 30 marines manoeuvred in stormy weather close to the encampment of more than 50 militants in mountainous Patikul township in southern Sulu province, setting off the gunbattle before dawn, regional military spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said.

It was not immediately clear if there were casualties among the militants, who were led by Radulan Sahiron, a one-armed commander long wanted by U.S. and Philippine authorities for a string of bombings and kidnappings, Cabangbang said.

The marines moved overnight on a mission to capture Sahiron, Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon and allied militants belonging to the Southeast Asian militant network Jemaah Islamiyah. The militants were holed up in one jungle area on Jolo Island, Cabangbang said. (more)

China train crash: Signal design flaw blamed -- Is "chinese craftmanship" showing up in their own infrastructure?

Serious flaws in a signalling system caused a fatal collision on China's high-speed rail network, officials say.

Thirty-nine people died when a train ran into the back of another which had stalled on a viaduct near Wenzhou after lightning cut its power supply.

The system "failed to turn the green light into red", said An Lusheng, head of the Shanghai Railway Bureau.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who has been visiting the crash site, vowed to "severely punish" those responsible.

"The country's development is for the people, so the most important thing is people's lives," Mr Wen told reporters at the scene.

"No matter if it was a mechanical fault, a management problem, or a manufacturing problem, we must get to the bottom of this.

"If corruption was found behind this, we must handle it according to law and will not be soft."

Mr Wen earlier promised to take steps to improve safety on the high-speed rail network - one of the government's flagship projects which it hopes highlights China's development.

Six carriages derailed and four fell between 20m to 30m (65ft to 100ft) from the viaduct after Saturday night's crash, which injured nearly 200 people.

The accident came just four years after the country's first high-speed trains began operating. (more)

Huge Arctic fire hints at new climate cue

An exceptional wildfire in northern Alaska in 2007 put as much carbon into the air as the entire Arctic tundra absorbs in a year, scientists say.

The Anaktuvuk River fire burned across more than 1,000 sq km (400 sq miles), doubling the extent of Alaskan tundra visited by fire since 1950.

With the Arctic warming fast, the team suggests in the journal Nature that fires could become more common.

If that happens, it could create a new climate feedback, they say.

Temperatures are low even in summer, and the ground can also remain wet after the ice has melted.

But 2007 saw unusually warm and dry conditions across much of the Arctic - resulting, among other things, in spectacularly fast melting of Arctic sea ice.

This created conditions more conducive to fire, and when lightning struck the tundra in July, the Anaktuvuk River fire ignited.

"Most tundra fires have been very small - this was an order of magnitude larger than the historical size," said Michelle Mack from the University of Florida in Gainesville, who led the research team on the Nature paper and is currently conducting further field studies in Alaska.

"In 2007, we had a hot, dry summer, there was no rain for a long period of time.

"So the tundra must have been highly flammable, with just the right conditions for fire to spread until the snow in October finally stopped it." (more)

Exxon profits up on higher oil prices

US oil giant Exxon Mobil has reported a rise in quarterly profits on the back of higher oil prices.

The company said that net profit rose to $10.7bn (£6.6bn) for the three months to June, up 41% from the same period last year.

The profit was its largest since the third quarter of 2008. The firm said production had risen by 10%.

Higher oil prices have also boosted rivals such as Royal Dutch Shell, which reported a 77% jump in profits.

The price of oil has surged in the past year, driven by political unrest in oil-producing countries.

The price of a barrel of benchmark US light sweet crude oil is up to around $97 a barrel currently, from $78 a year ago. (more)

WHO: Hepatitis toll 'in millions'

Medical experts are calling for global action to tackle the viruses that cause the liver disease hepatitis.

The first worldwide estimates in drug users show 10 million have hepatitis C while 1.3 million have hepatitis B.

Writing in the Lancet, experts say only a fraction of those who could benefit are receiving antiviral drugs.

Only one in five infants around the world are vaccinated against hepatitis B at birth, they say.

The figures, published in the Lancet, show about 67% of injecting drug users in the world have been exposed to hepatitis C, while around 10% have come into contact with hepatitis B.

In the UK, around half of injecting drug users have been infected with the hepatitis C virus, while the rate for exposure to hepatitis B is 9% - the highest in western Europe. (more)

BBC reporter Ahmad Omid Khpolwak among dead in Afghan suicide attacks that killed 19

The BBC says one of its reporters has died in an insurgent attack in Afghanistan that killed at least 19 people.

The broadcaster said that Ahmad Omid Khpolwak was killed in Thursday's suicide attack in the southern Uruzgan province.
Uruzgan, afghanistanUruzgan, Afghanistan

Afghan authorities said the attack left at least 17 people dead.

BBC said the stringer was 25 years old and joined the network in 2008.

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the trio of attacks Thursday on the governor's house, police headquarters and a third office used by a well-known private security company official in Tarin Kot, the capital of Uruzgan province.

Afghan security forces responded to the scene and NATO coalition forces provided air support as fighting continued, said U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Brockhoff, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi told The Associated Press that a total of six suicide bombers conducted the attacks.

Initial reports said seven explosions went off, but it was not clear what caused them all, provincial spokesman Milad Ahmad Mudasir said. (more)

4.3 Magnitude Earthquake PUERTO RICO REGION - 28th July 2011

A magnitude 4.3 earthquake has struck Puerto Rico Region at a depth of 23 km ( 14.3 miles), the quake hit at 20:34:45 UTC Thursday 28th July 2011.
The epicenter was 55 km (34 miles) Northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No damage or injuries reported at this time

5.6 Magnitude Earthquake OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE - 28th July 2011

A magnitude 5.6 earthquake has struck offshore Maule, Chile at a depth of 26.1 km ( 16.2 miles), the quake hit at 19:50:19 UTC Thursday 28th July 2011.
The epicenter was 73 km (45 miles) WNW of Cauquenes, Maule, Chile
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No damage or injuries reported at this time

Cave network in the heart of Vietnamese jungle is so large its end is yet to be found - 28th July 2011

These are the breathtaking images which capture the hidden depths of the world's biggest cave passage, which still has left cavers still searching for its end.

Hidden in the depths of the Vietnamese jungle lies The Hang Son Doong, part of a network of over 150 caves.

Discovered by British cavers in 2009, the cave passage in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park was originally thought to be a modest 150 metres long and 200 feet high.

But these remarkable images - taken during two further expeditions of the caves - show the previously undiscovered depths of the magnificent cave passage, now the largest in the world.

At a mammoth 2.5 miles long, 330ft wide and almost 800ft high, Hang Son Doong also known as Mountain River Cave, is as high as 25 double decker buses.

And as shown in these amazing images taken by photographer Carsten Peter, there is even a jungle concealed deep inside the cave.

Carsten from Munich, Germany, took the images in 2010 when he joined British and German cavers during further expeditions of the site. Read More

Ghost towns on the increase as rural America accounts for just 16% of population - 28th July 2011

Vast swathes of the U.S. countryside are emptying and communities becoming ghost towns as rural America now only accounts for just 16 per cent of the population.

The 2010 census results suggest that by 2050 many of these areas could shrink to virtually nothing as businesses collapse and schools close.

This dramatic population implosion is the culmination of a century of migration to cities, as in 1910 the share of rural America was at 72 per cent.

In 1950 the countryside remained home to a majority of Americans, amid post-World War II economic expansion and the baby boom.

However, once busy areas have been abandoned, in South Dakota for example, the town of Scenic is up for sale for $799,000 as today just eight people live there. Read More

50 children rushed to hospital with 'food poisoning', South Africa - 28th July 2011

Fifty schoolchildren were taken to hospital for suspected food poising on Thursday, Western Cape health officials said.

The pupils from Silukhanyo Primary in Strand became ill after they ate a sugary snack at about mid-morning.

EMS spokesperson Keri Davids said, "They have been transported to Helderberg Hospital and Ikhwezi community health clinic. Apparently the kids are complaining of abdominal pain and they are throwing up."

The provincial Education Department said it is awaiting a report.

The department's Bronagh Casey said, “Our officials are busy investigating the incident. It’s reported that the sale of some chocolate sweets is the cause of the sickness.” Source