Thursday, August 4, 2011

Financial crisis: So much for the August holiday

The screens are red and the FTSE is down 2.6pc so far today, at the tail end of what is already a terrible week. Jose Manuel Barroso has said that the euro crisis is spreading inwards from the periphery, and that the Greek bail-out deal has to be reassessed. Specifically, he said:

“I… urge a rapid re-assessment of all elements related to the European Financial Stability Facility [EFSF], and concomitantly the European Stability Mechanism, in order to ensure that they are equipped with the means for dealing with contagious risk. Markets remain to be convinced that we are taking the appropriate steps to resolve the crisis.”

The ECB is buying bonds again. Bourses in other European capitals are falling (CAC40 -2.4pc, DAX -3pc). So is the Dow, which has been heading south for 10 days now. Global confidence in America’s capacity to galvanise itself back into growth has been shattered by the events of recent weeks. China is sitting on a huge pile of cash. But here it’s all gone wrong. Wiliam Hague, in an interview for CH, points out that he was right all along about the euro being a disaster, evn if he acknowledges that we cannot afford for it to go down. “…it would be a disaster for this country if it suddenly collapsed,” he says. George Osborne’s office can produce a whole host of reasons* why things are not as dark and dire for us as conditions suggest. But it is difficult not to be unnerved by what is going on in the markets. We all know at heart that the debt burden of the developed world is unsustainable. By convention, the political classes and the markets take August off, and leave others to have a crisis. But this financial crisis is beginning to look ominous, as if a corrective spasm is approaching. The markets show no sign of calling a summer truce. Mr Hague is in charge, but at what point do we hear it whispered that maybe the PM, the DPM and the Chancellor should come back and take charge? Not quite yet. Calm could yet prevail. But what chance it spirals the wrong way? (more)

Kettle Chips recalled after batch of the products may have been contaminated with plastic pieces that look like crisps: The beauty of processed food

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued a recall notice on four varieties of Kettle Chips, while the company itself said: "As a precautionary measure, we are asking customers not to eat the product and to contact us for a full refund."

The lines involved are 150g bags of Wave Cut Lightly Salted, Wave Cut Salt & Pepper, Wave Cut Salt & Vinegar, and Lightly Salted Kettle Chips. All of the four batches affected have a best before date of 29 Oct 2011.

It is understood that the 'wave cut' crisps are sold exclusively through Asda, while the 'lightly salted' crisps are sold through Tesco. (more)

Hackers change Hershey's chocolate recipe

Hackers breached security on the website of the American chocolate giant Hershey's and changed a baking recipe, it has emerged.

They recently targeted the firm, the United States' largest chocolate manufacturer and maker of the iconic Hershey bar.

But rather than seeking personal information, it appears the intruders merely sought to adjust one of the free recipes Hershey's publishes for fans of its chocolate, which is often derided as poor quality in Europe.

In an email warning to customers, it said it had "recently discovered that an unauthorized individual accessed one of our websites and altered one of our baking recipes".

"All indications are that this incident involved only the site where we manage consumer baking and cooking recipes. No financial information was stored on the same server as our recipes, and Hershey's online stores operate on a different system," it added.

The firm did not disclose which particular baking recipe the hackers altered and their motivation is unclear. (more)

FTSE falls to 8-month closing low as world stock markets rocked

The top share index fell more than two percent on Wednesday, driven lower by uncertainty over global growth, with commodity stocks heading the list of fallers.

The FTSE 100 sank to its lowest closing level since end-November 2010, dropping 133.88 points, or 2.3 percent, to 5,584.51, extending its losing streak to four days.

"In a word, 'dreadful'. We are very much in 'risk-off' mode when it comes to the whole equity world because I think there are increasing concerns about the growth outlook -- it really is that simple," Peter Dixon, economist at Commerzbank, said.

"We've got the euro zone crisis, the debt problems in the U.S., and now the growth outlook itself -- it's a toxic combination. I think investors are fleeing for safe havens as fast as they can."

Integrated oil stocks took the most points off the index as investors fretted about demand, with U.S. crude off $1.52 at $92.27 a barrel.

The sector was also under pressure as Royal Dutch Shell, BG Group and BP went ex-dividend.

Oil explorer Cairn Energy was among the top blue-chip fallers, down 5.1 percent, after it said a well off the coast of Greenland did not find oil. Evolution Securities repeated its "reduce" rating on the stock.

The 11th-hour deal to avert a U.S. default has failed to brighten the mood. Investors have shifted their focus on to how tighter fiscal policy would impact growth in the United States, one of the main pillars of the global economy. (more)

Cull of 30,000 pet dogs ordered after deadly rabies outbreak in Chinese city

A southern Chinese city has banned pet dogs, leaving tens of thousands facing a cull unless they can find new homes.

Authorities in Jiangmen, Guangdong province, say they are concerned about rabies cases and the general state of the city. But animal lovers have reacted angrily and a disease control expert warned the tactic, which will affect 30,000 animals, is unscientific, inhumane and short-term.

Any dogs seen in the Pengjiang, Jianghai and Xinhui districts after 26 August will be seized or killed, city officials say. Guard dogs will be allowed, but only for companies with property worth at least 5m yuan (£474,000).

The Jiangmen Daily said officials aimed to "prevent and control rabies, maintain public order and sanitation, and create a sound environment for the people". The newspaper added that 42 of the city's 4 million residents had died from rabies in the past three years.

"Dogs found with diseases will be euthanised in a humanitarian manner. We will sign agreements with owners before putting down their dogs," Li Wantong, technology director at an animal disease control centre in Jiangmen, told the Global Times. "We will try to find solutions for healthy ones, as we do not have the capacity to keep a large number."

Some residents back the move, with one complaining to the newspaper: "[Dog] excrement is everywhere in the courtyard and parks, and their barking always disrupts my sleep."

But a poodle owner said: "Banning all pet dogs, taking them away and killing them is a bit too much." (more)

U.N. Security Council issues statement condemning violence in Syria (but no action, of course)



The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday issued a statement condemning the Syrian government's crackdown on protesters and calling for an immediate end to violence by all parties.

"The Security Council condemns the widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities," the eight-paragraph statement says. It further calls for "all sides to act with utmost restraint, and to refrain from reprisals, including attacks against state institutions."

The statement says those responsible for the violence should be held accountable but offers no suggestion that foreign intervention is being considered.

"The Security Council reaffirms its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Syria," it says. "It stresses that the only solution to the current crisis in Syria is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process, with the aim of effectively addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the population which will allow the full exercise of fundamental freedoms for its entire population, including that of expression and peaceful assembly."

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is to update the council on the situation in Syria within seven days, welcomed the statement. "The world has watched the deteriorating situation in Syria with the most profound concern, but the events of the past few days have been brutally shocking," he told reporters. "Once again, I call on President (Bashar al-) Assad and the Syrian authorities to immediately cease all violence against their people, to fully respect human rights and implement reforms that they have already announced." (more)

NATO to continue Libya attacks during Ramadan: Jerks

NATO vowed to continue its air assault on Libya over the holy Muslim month of Ramadan unless Libyan dictator Mommar Qadhafi agreed to a `verifiable and credible` ceasefire, a spokesman for the western military alliance said Tuesday.

Talking to Brussels-based media representatives via a video link from NATO`s military headquarters in Naples, Italy, Roland Lavoie said, `As long as there are attacks, threats of attacks and incitement of violence against civilians, NATO will act to protect them.`

`A (NATO) ceasefire would require a total cessation of violence from the Qadhafi regime (that) must be verifiable and credible.

A true ceasefire must not be a pause during which the Gaddafi regime can rearm, resupply, regroup or reposition its forces to resume attacks against civilians after Ramadan,` he added.

NATO has flown almost 17,500 sorties over Libya since March 31 to enforce a United Nations-mandated no-fly zone.

On Monday alone - the first day of Ramadan - NATO flew 114 sorties in Libya. (more)

Israel ‘uprising’ activists enraged by housing bill

Activists from Israel’s social protest movement reacted furiously on Wednesday after parliament passed a housing bill that they say will favour the rich and endanger the environment.

Police said that hundreds of demonstrators blocked intersections in cities across the country, ranging from the southern desert city of Beersheva to Kiryat Shmona in the far north. Others stopped traffic in downtown Tel Aviv.

A police spokeswoman said that six people were arrested, three in Tel Aviv and three in Beersheva.

Public radio said that protesters blocked a total of 10 major junctions nationwide.

Protest leaders are calling for mass rallies to be held on Saturday, a week after an estimated 100,000 Israelis took to the streets across the country in some of the largest demonstrations ever seen in the Jewish state.

They railed against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has defended the bill as a measure that will help bring down housing costs, accusing him of ignoring their protests.

“Even though the people of Israel are out on the streets, despite the huge demonstrations (last) Saturday night, Netanyahu and his government are not heeding the voice of the people,” student organiser Yotam Brum told public radio.

“They carry on and pass a law which is not acceptable to us, a law which will benefit big capital and not the citizens of Israel,” he said.

“We shall continue to escalate our struggle until Netanyahu and his government understand that they serve the people and not the tycoons.” (more)

Police to track Breivik's funds -- Should reveal some interesting information

Norwegian police will track funds used by anti-immigration zealot Anders Behring Breivik as part of a year-long probe into his killing spree that left 77 people dead and the nation stunned. A specially created police unit will conduct the investigation, the biggest in Norway's history, into all aspects of the July 22 bombing in Oslo and the shooting spree on nearby Utoeya island. Breivik, 32, has confessed to the attacks.

Some of the 100 investigators now on the case are checking whether Breivik had financial help, a senior officer told Reuters, and are seeking clues in Bermuda, Antigua-and-Barbuda and other off-shore tax havens whose banks are not fully transparent.

"In the interviews he (Breivik) has said he worked for a long time and saved a lot of money to finance his activities later," police prosecutor Paal-Fredrik Hjort Kraby said in an interview.

"It was several million Norwegian crowns -- I won't comment on the exact number -- and he said it was from his own work, not from anyone else."

In a manifesto Breivik boasted that he earned 4 million crowns ($743,200) for his plot by 2005 and channeled some through the Caribbean and eastern Europe before losing about half in "stock speculation" by 2008. (more)

Asian stock markets plunge, following other world stock markets

DETAILS FORTHCOMING.

72 charged in probe of international child sexual abuse network

Seventy-two people have been charged with participating in an international child pornography network that prosecutors say used an online bulletin board called Dreamboard to trade tens of thousands of images and videos of sexually abused children.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday a 20-month law enforcement effort called Operation Delego targeted more than 600 Dreamboard members around the world for allegedly participating in the private, members-only Internet club created to promote pedophilia.

Numerous participants in the network sexually abused children ages 12 and under, produced images and video of the abuse and then shared it with other club members, according to court papers released in the case.

At a news conference at the Justice Department, the attorney general called the criminal activity a “nightmare” for the children.”

Some of the children featured in the images and videos were just infants, Mr. Holder said. (more)

California police accused of beating homless man to death ignites outrage

60% of British teenagers now addicted to cell phones: "Facebook and Twitter fuel iPhone and BlackBerry addiction"

Britons' appetite for Facebook and social networks on the go is driving a huge demand for smartphones – with 60% of teenagers describing themselves as "highly addicted" to their device – according to new research by the media regulator, Ofcom.

Almost half of teenagers and more than a quarter of adults now own a smartphone, with most using their iPhone or BlackBerry to browse Facebook and email.

The study, published on Thursday, also shows that smartphones have begun to intrude on our most private moments, with 47% of teenagers admitting to using their device in the toilet. Only 22% of adults confessed to the same habit. Unsurprisingly, mobile-addicted teens are more likely than adults to be distracted by their phones over dinner and in the cinema – and more would answer their phone if it woke them up.

Separate figures shared exclusively with the Guardian show that, for the first time, smartphone sales outstripped sales of regular mobiles in the first half of this year as the enormous demand continues to rise. Just over half of the total 13.6m mobile sales from January to June 2011 were smartphones, according to research by GfK Retail and Technology UK.

Of the new generation of smartphone users, 60% of teenagers classed themselves as "highly addicted" to their device, compared to 37% of adults. (more)

Sao Paulo council calls for Heterosexual Pride Day -- Is such equality even allowed these days?

The city council of South America's biggest city has adopted legislation calling for a Heterosexual Pride Day to be celebrated on the third Sunday of each December.

Sao Paulo Mayor Gilberto Kassab must sign the legislation for it to become law and has said only that he is studying it. His office declined Wednesday to say whether he supports the proposal.

The legislation's author, Carlos Apolinario, said the idea for a Heterosexual Pride Day is "not anti-gay but a protest against the privileges the gay community enjoys."

As an example, he mentioned how Sao Paulo's huge gay pride day parade is held every year on Paulista Avenue, one of the main thoroughfares in this city of 20 million people, while the March for Jesus organized by evangelical groups is not allowed on the same avenue.

"I respect gays and I am against any kind of aggression made against them," Apolinario said. "I have no trouble coexisting with gays as long as their behavior is normal."

The Brazilian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Association criticized the legislation, saying it could provoke homophobic violence. (more)

Erica Ryan accused of punching toddler son on MBTA bus, surrounded by angry mob



A mother accused of punching her toddler son in the mouth on a city bus and shouting expletives at him was surrounded by a "hostile" crowd of passengers until police arrived, authorities said Wednesday.

Erica Ryan pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Roxbury District Court to a charge of assault and battery on a child causing injury. Prosecutors requested bail be set at $25,000; a judge set bail at $500 and ordered Ryan to stay away from the boy.

Transit police say the 25-year-old Ryan punched her 1-year-old son and called him names for refusing to eat Tuesday on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority bus. A "hostile" crowd of passengers surrounded her and wouldn't let her off the bus until authorities arrived, police said.

After police arrived and separated Ryan from the crowd, she shouted, "No one is going to take my baby!" authorities said. Dried blood was around the baby's mouth, police said.

Ryan denied intentionally striking the boy, according to a police report. Her attorney, Adelio De Miranda, didn't return a phone message Wednesday.

"I was just trying to feed my baby on the crowded bus, then my hand slipped and I hit him in the mouth," Ryan said, according to the report.

However, three bus passengers told police that Ryan had been verbally abusing the toddler with a series of vulgar expletives.

The boy was treated at a hospital and is now staying with his grandparents. (source)

Report: Obama Administration Added 600 Regulations, $9.5 Billion in Red Tape in July

Many House and Senate conservatives are reviving their battle against federal regulations, claiming that the president hasn't stopped issuing job-killing rules during the debt ceiling fight. "While Washington and Americans have been focused on the debt ceiling, the Obama administration has continued to roll out more crushing red tape," said a spokesperson for Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso, who's been championing the regulation fight.

At Tuesday's GOP Senate caucus lunch, the lawmakers said that they will renew their efforts, supported by business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In a memo Barasso handed out to the lawmakers, he claimed that the administration in July only has put in $9.5 billion in new regulatory costs by proposing 229 new rules and finalizing 379 rules. Among those he cited were EPA, healthcare reform, and financial regulatory reform rules. (more)

Magnus Gaefgen, child murderer, awarded money by German court because "his human rights had been violated"

A German court on Thursday awarded a man convicted of murdering an 11-year-old boy euro3,000 ($4,290) in damages because a police officer had threatened violence during an interrogation.

The Frankfurt state court ruled that 36-year-old Magnus Gaefgen deserved the damages because his human rights had been violated by the deputy police chief's threat during questioning about the missing boy. But the court rejected Gaefgen's claim that he had suffered trauma as a result and should receive euro10,000 in compensation.

"Based on the evidence, it is much more likely that this (trauma) is to be attributed to the experience of killing the victim," Judge Arne Hasse wrote in his ruling. Gaefgen also was ordered to pay the bulk of the costs of the trial.

Criticism of the ruling was swift and sharp, recalling the outrage provoked by the October 2002 crime itself.

Eleven-year-old Jakob von Metzler, the son of a prominent Frankfurt banking family, went missing for four days; it eventually turned out he had been kidnapped and murdered by Gaefgen, then a 27-year-old law student. (more)

Al Gore: "We Need To Have An American Spring"

"Now, they've been around for a while, but they are spreading far and wide and more people are getting involved. We need to have an American spring, you know, the Arab spring. The non-violent part of it isn't finished yet, but we need to have an American spring. A kind of an American Tahrir Square. Non-violent change where people from the grassroots get involved again. Not the, you know, not in the Tea Party style,'" Al Gore said on Current TV's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann."

"There are people who are genuinely upset in the Tea Party. I understand that. But that movement was funded with seed money from right-wing billionaires, the Koch Brothers, and promoted on Fox News," Gore said. (watch video here)

California aluminum school bleachers stolen over summer break as metal thefts explode

A California desert school's aluminum baseball field bleachers have been stolen.

Students returned Monday to Apple Valley's Academy of Academic Excellence campus and learned a large section of the bleachers were stolen during the summer break.

San Bernardino County sheriff's investigators tell the Victorville Daily Press ( http://bit.ly/o1tLPf) that the crime was discovered with the start of school. There are no suspects.

It's apparently the work of metal thieves who get paid by recyclers.

School chief Rick Piercy says the campus is stunned that someone would hurt kids when budgets are strained. (more)

Obama "DisappointMINTS": Satirical mints poking fun at Obama pulled from UT bookstore

Breath mints are usually refreshing, but a Knoxville legislator believes a University of Tennessee bookstore's selling of novelty candies mocking President Barack Obama stinks.

UT officials pulled the mints poking fun at Obama from store shelves after state Rep. Joe Armstrong, a Democrat, visited the bookstore and told the director he found the satirical mints offensive.

"When you operate on state and federal dollars, you ought to be sensitive to those type of politically specific products," Armstrong said. "If it was a private entity or corporation or store, (that's different), but this is a state university. We certainly don't want in any way to put the university in a bad light by having those political (products), particularly aimed at defaming the president."

The tin can of mints has a blue and red image of the president with the words: "This is change? Disappointmints." (more)

U.S. eats up most of debt limit in one day: $239 billion spike uses up 60% of funding OK’d on Tuesday

U.S. debt shot up $239 billion on Tuesday — the largest one-day bump in history — as the government flexed the new borrowing room it earned in this week’s debt-limit increase deal.

The debt subject to the statutory limit shot way past the old cap of $14.294 trillion to hit $14.532 trillion on Tuesday, according to the latest the Treasury Department figures, which are released on the next business day.

That increase puts the government already remarkably close to the new debt limit of $14.694, which means one day’s new borrowing ate up 60 percent of the $400 billion in space Congress granted the president this week.

Debt numbers go up and down regularly, depending on what the Treasury Department is redeeming or issuing on any day, but have been on a steep upward trend for the past decade as spending has ballooned and revenues have fluctuated.

For the past 2½ months, though, the number essentially was frozen as the government was poised to reach the borrowing limit set by law. The Treasury Department used extraordinary means to stall, but was about to run out of room on Tuesday.

With little time to spare, Congress and the White House managed to cobble together a deal to grant new borrowing authority: an initial increase of $400 billion, coupled with future increases. (more)

Typhoid fever cases soar in Negros Oriental, Philippines

The Department of Health (DOH) has noted a rapid growth in the number of typhoid fever cases in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.

From June to July 2011 alone, there were already 78 recorded typhoid fever cases in the province.

Barangay Poblacion, with 30, topped the list of having most number of cases reported.

Investigations conducted by the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (RESU) revealed that the drinking water of some Guihulngan City residents is contaminated with fecal coliform, a bacteria that can be found in human feces.

RESU has advised the local government to set up an improvised chlorinator for the water reservoir in order to manage the contamination.

According to DOH, should the number of cases continue to increase in the upcoming days, they will be forced to declare a typhoid outbreak in the locale. (source)

Lithuanian mayor crushes car parked in cycle lane -- Too bad politicians couldn't get this tough on murderers, pedophiles

The mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, has come up with an unusual solution to solve the problem of illegal parking: Frustrated by the behaviour of luxury car owners, the office of Arturas Zuokas released a video of the Mayor driving over a Mercedes S-Class in a Soviet-era armoured tank.

The stunt was organised to warn car owners against parking in cycle lanes, something strictly forbidden within the streets of capital. A keen cyclist, Zuokas has long urged the people to take up cycling and campaigned to introduce cycle lanes during a previous term in office.

”What should the city do about drivers who think that they are above the law? It seems that a tank is the best solution,” Arturas Zuokas explained his reasoning before the stunt.

“The get-tough approach.” Miriam Elder writing in The Guardian stated that this approach “earned praise for Zuokas, who has been better known for his involvement in a bribery scandal while serving two terms as mayor until 2007.” Perhaps this was his intention. Elder went on to state that the mayor was “beaming triumphantly as he rides roughshod over the car.”

A publicity stunt. The Telegraph described the event as “a publicity stunt designed for the internet age.” It went on to assert that “the car that he so demonstrably crushed was bought especially for the exercise and did not belong to an unsuspecting motorist, a spokeswoman clarified.” (more)

Police Arrest More Than 1,000 Organized Crime Suspects in Hong Kong

Police arrested more than 1,000 people and seized millions of dollars worth of illicit goods during a massive anti-crime joint operation by Hong Kong, Macau and Chinese police, authorities said Thursday.

Nearly 2,500 locations, including night clubs and massage parlors, were raided during the operation, which took place between July 1 and July 31, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The operation, codenamed "Thunderbolt 11," was aimed at curbing organized crime activities in the Special Administrative Region and smashing crime links between Hong Kong, Macau and the Chinese mainland, Acting Superintendent of the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau Ng Wai-hon told a news conference.

Of the 1,081 people arrested, 347 were from mainland China.

Police also seized more than $1.4 million in illicit goods, including 45 pounds of heroin, 190,000 pornographic and pirated compact discs, and large sums of cash.

"The success of Thunderbolt 11 has shown the determination and capability of the police forces of Hong Kong, the Mainland and Macao in combating crimes," Ng said. (more)

"Brace yourself for economic disaster" (We've been buckled up for a while now here at The Coming Crisis!)

We are now being asked to "share" in the hardships that are admittedly the result of the greed of powerful and unrestrained world "owners."

The corruption and greed that preceded this most recent world-wide economic downturn has impacted many nations. There is a plan, we are told, to turn this situation around. There is probably a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

However, we have another, more imminent and threatening economic disaster just ahead of us.

The same unreasonable and unquestioned belief that an "invisible hand" will guide us to a world of happiness is again at work.

We will continue to allow greed and wealth to influence how the world will exist in the future, even though there is evidence that this economic system has been proven to be unsustainable in the past.

There is no doubt that hundreds of millions of people will suffer as a result of the recent unbridled greed of the current "owners of the world," the most powerful of whom seem to know no constraint in their march to ever increasing wealth and ownership of the resources of this planet.

They leave no compromise to allow for the happiness and fulfillment of the masses.

The laws of "self-appointed owners" and their lobbyists leave those without economic protection to fend for themselves. It is as if we know what is coming and cannot stop it.

The die is cast unless we regulate the power of the wealthy and their lawmakers, who they own. (more)

Pentagon Could See Deep Cuts In Debt Deal: What will this mean for America's war machine?

For several GOP lawmakers, the decision on whether to vote for the debt deal hinged on how the prescribed cuts will affect defense spending. In the end, enough Republicans in the House put their concerns about cutting the deficit over their concerns about cutting defense spending.

But no one really knows how much the Pentagon will have to cut as a result of the deal or when.

"We are in uncharted territory here," said David Berteau, an expert on budgetary issues with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He says the Pentagon hasn't had this much uncertainty about its budget since the end of the Cold War.

"We just don't know what the future looks like," he said. "What's the bottom? Where are we headed for here?"

Defense officials seemed just as confused about what the debt deal means for the future of the U.S. military.

"I don't think that we fully know yet," said Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan. "We're still looking through this to determine those impacts." (more)

With the Debt Ceiling Deal, America Has Been Played

Oh what a tangled web we weave…

The deal is done. The House passed it, the Senate passed it and the president signed it. Done deal, debt ceiling raised. So, we can all sigh a huge relief right? Er, not really.

Just look at Wall Street yesterday. The Dow Jones closed down, again. The international community was sickened by the circus they saw the U.S. government enter into for this deal; and the country is divided over whether it's happy with the outcome.

What we do know is America is happy something was done on a bipartisan level. And that's where the happiness ends. [See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]

What we do know is the Republicans don't really want more cuts, for if they did they would've embraced the president's original plan which would have reduced the deficit by nearly double the very plan they voted in favor of.

We do know the Tea Party holds more than just a checkbook when it comes to Republicans and yes, I'm talking about a body part here.

We do know that every party is now even more divided, fragmented than before. The Republicans can't decide if they want more spending cuts or if they just want to try to make the president a one term leader. The Democrats feel like they've been thrown under a bus, and regardless of their anger over no increased revenues in this plan, many voted for it. And the Tea Party? A movement within the Republican Party, (obviously they don't have the guts to be a party); well, their approval rating has steadily dropped since March, and it seems the only people that bow down to their demands, despite their being a minority, are House Republicans. (more)

'Jobs, not cuts: Battlecry for 'American Dream' movement

After the 2008 financial collapse and Barack Obama’s election, millions of Americans hoped that our country would create a New Deal for the 21st century.

Instead, it feels like we are getting a Raw Deal, one that drags us back toward the 19th century.

This summer, a minority of extremists somehow grabbed what should have been a routine legislative act and used it to highjack our democracy, undermine our nation’s standing in the world, jeopardize our shaky economic recovery and impose massive, job-killing cutbacks — all while blocking any tax increases on the rich.

Many Democrats fought hard to limit the damage. (Special thanks are owed to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, the Progressive Congressional Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus. Also, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Bernie Sanders played key and complementary roles.) As a result, the debt-ceiling agreement offers some protection for needed social programs — but they are thin protections.

This whole process was distressing; the final outcome looks depressing. We are supposed to be a much better country than this.

How did we get to this low place, from the high hopes we had in November 2008?

Some blame the president for being “too weak and compromising.” Others believe he did his level best, but that his Tea Party opponents were just “too strong and crazy.”

Well, no matter who wins that debate, most Americans are going to feel like losers. (more)

What's Next for the Stock Market? (Maybe a game of limbo-stick?)

In a post to the Buzz & Banter, published Monday afternoon, I wrote the following:

Putting all of this together, my take on the most likely scenario going forward is the following: After a relief rally associated with the passage of the debt ceiling legislation today or tomorrow, I believe that the market will tend to drift down towards the 1250-1260 support band in the next couple of weeks. I believe that if the market visits that support area, there is a better than 50% probability that it will violate it. The reason is that I think poor economic data pertaining to July and released in August may weigh heavily on the market during the entire month. If the market violates this key support band around the 1250-1260 area, at that point we would dealing with the specter of a potential cyclical bear market.

It didn’t take long for that scenario to play out, did it?

As a result of this move I sold the remainder of my SPX put positions earlier today with the S&P at around 1,235. I remain long VXX, as I believe that implied volatilities are still low.

So, the question is: What happens now and what to do going forward? A few thoughts:

Europe is a major key. The woes of the Old Continent are back on the front pages. The bond market is taking things into its own hands and sovereign debt yields for Spain and Italy are spiking towards levels which, if sustained, will catalyze a major crisis with global implications. Thus, it would not be wise to buy stocks anywhere in the world until one can gain an insight that concludes things are going to be brought under control in Europe. (more)

"Is Obama Trying to Collapse the Economy?"

Combine class warfare, demonizing the rich, getting as many people onto the welfare rolls as possible, and pushing the economic system to collapse and you have a flawless formula for Cloward-Piven 2.0 -- and a vehicle that ensures Obama remains in power.

Cloward-Piven is a much talked-about strategy proposed in the mid-1960's by two Columbia University sociology professors named Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven. The Cloward-Piven approach was sometimes referred to as the "crisis strategy," which they believed were a means to "end poverty."

The premise of the Cloward-Piven collective/anti-capitalist gospel decried "individual mobility and achievement," celebrated organized labor, fostered the principle that "if each finally found himself in the same relative economic relationship to his fellows ... all were infinitely better off."

The duo taught that if you flooded the welfare rolls and bankrupted the cities and ultimately the nation, it would foster economic collapse, which would lead to political turmoil so severe that socialism would be accepted as a fix to an out-of-control set of circumstances. (more)

Nigeria Ogoniland oil clean-up 'could take 30 years'

Nigeria's Ogoniland region could take 30 years to fully recover from oil spills, a UN report says.

The long-awaited UN study says environment restoration could prove to be the world's "most wide-ranging and long-term oil clean-up" ever taken.

The report found that pollution seriously threatened public health in at least 10 communities in the region.

Oil giant Shell has accepted liability for two spills which devastated communities in 2008 and 2009.

One community said it would seek hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation. Shell said it would settle the case under Nigerian law.

The UN report, which follows a two-year investigation, has already proved controversial in part because it was funded by Shell.

Nigeria is one of the world's major oil producers. (more)

Shattered glass: what causes panes to fall off buildings (Shoddy construction based on profit motive, perhaps?)

Two instances of glass falling off highrise buildings in Toronto this week have people wondering whether it's pure coincidence or a sign of some pervasive construction flaw.

Similar incidents have occurred at a highrise hotel and residence complex in Austin, Texas, and at the Quebec provincial library in Montreal.

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, panes of balcony glass fell from two separate condominium towers in downtown Toronto, scattering shards on sidewalks and structures below but not injuring anyone.

The incidents happened at the Festival Tower above the TIFF Bell Lightbox, the new headquarters of the Toronto International Film Festival that opened only last year; and at one of two highrises that make up the Murano complex on Grosvenor Street near Bay Street.

In both cases, it was not the first time that balcony glass had broken free of the structures.

At the Murano tower, the glass that fell was part of balcony partitions installed in 2009, at least eight of which have shattered since December 2010. They were made by a company that has since gone out of business, according to the developer, Lanterra Developments. (more)

Unschoolers learn what they want, when they want: Is the "system" what's really holding children back?

Six-year-old Karina Ricci doesn't ever have a typical day. She has no schedule to follow, no lessons to complete.

She spends her time watching TV, doing arts and crafts or practicing the piano. She learned to spell by e-mailing with friends; she uses math concepts while cooking dinner.

Everything she knows has been absorbed "organically," according to her dad, Dr. Carlo Ricci. She's not just on summer break -- this is her life year round as an at-home unschooler.

"It's incredible how capable she is," Ricci said in a phone interview from his home in Toronto, Ontario. "And I think that all young people are that capable ... if you don't tell them they can't or they're not allowed, they surprise us in a lot of ways."

Ricci is professor of alternative learning at Nipissing University and an advocate of unschooling, a concept that's gaining popularity in both Canada and the United States thanks to frustration with the current public education system. In unschooling the child is in control of his/her learning. They are free to decide what they want to study, when they want to study it.

Experts say there are about 2 million home-educated students in the U.S., and Ricci estimates 10% adhere to unschooling ideals. In addition, there are more than 20 Sudbury schools -- private institutions that follow the same philosophy -- in North America. A new one is set to open in Toronto next fall. (more)

Ron Paul Speech at Davenport, Iowa - August 2, 2011

Food police target organic foods in California: What's going on?

BREAKING: Dow Jones plummets 500+ points as Eurozone "on the brink"

20.53 A new watershed moment, the Dow is down 513 points. US must just be praying for the bell to close trading.

20.50 NBC is to air a special report on the US markets when they close at 4pm Eastern time.

20.44 Dow falls by 470 points, that's 4pc...

Miner Alcoa is the biggest faller, off 8.35pc. And here's an interesting fact - there are no risers on the US's leading index.

20.36 I hear that CNBC in America is running until the 4pm (US time) Dow close without adverts! It must be serious.

20.31 Any excuse for a pretty graph. Here is the Dow today. It opened at 11893.86 and is down 444 points at the moment. It's at its lowest point this year - how many times have I written that so far today? (more)

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake KEPULAUAN MENTAWAI REGION, INDONESIA - 4th August 2011

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck the Kepulauan Mentawai Region, Indonesia at a depth of 36.6 km ( 22.7 miles), the quake hit at 16:34:03 UTC Thursday 4th August 2011.
The epicenter was 226 km (140 miles) WNW of Bengkulu, Sumatra, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No damage or injuries reported at this time

4.4 Magnitude Earthquake KYUSHU, JAPAN - 4th August 2011

A magnitude 4.4 earthquake has struck Kyushu, Japan at a depth of 117.3 km ( 72.9 miles), the quake hit at 15:09:43 UTC Thursday 4th August 2011.
The epicenter was 56 km (34 miles) Northwest of Miyazaki, Kyushu, Japan
No damage or injuries reported at this time

God and taxes, how America is governed

I've never quite figured out how evangelical Protestantism and extreme fiscal conservatism are entangled. But they are, at least here in the U.S.

Apparently, the God worshipped by the most fundamentalist of born-again Christians prefers small government. He does not approve of raising taxes, even on the rich. (Some might say especially on the rich.)

I had all this explained to me years ago, shortly after arriving in the States, by a prominent leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, one of the most powerful evangelical denominations in the country.

This preacher was more intent on explaining why abortion is murder and homosexual behaviour should be criminalized. But he took the time to explain how God's plan applied to government finances, too.

The fact that wealthy Americans pay much lower taxes than wealthy people in any other developed country is, apparently, God's wish.

True believers would never force America's most pampered citizens to pay a greater share in order to help the less fortunate or reduce the nation's indebtedness. That sort of talk is just "class warfare." (more)

Haiti lashed by tropical storm Emily

Tropical Storm Emily caused flooding and damaged hundreds of homes in Haiti on Thursday as hundreds of thousands of vulnerable earthquake victims around the capital waited nervously in flimsy shanties and tents for the full brunt of the storm.

Strong winds whipped through palm trees in the capital while heavier rains fell further north, damaging homes as well as a cholera treatment centre, said Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, the country's civil defence director. But there were no reports of deaths.

The storm was nearly stationary off the coast of the island Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic, but forecasters said they expected it to head north-northwest and hit land later in the day, dumping torrential rains across a country where more than 600,000 people still live without shelter after last year's earthquake.

Forecasters said the storm was likely to cross eastern Cuba on Friday and might touch Florida on Saturday, though the projected track would keep its centre offshore.

David Preux, head of mission for the International Organization for Migration in the southern city of Jacmel, said that he expected conditions to worsen during the night. (more)

VIDEO: Syrian protests rage against Assad -- Arab Summer in full swing?

This video shows images of protests in Syria, captured by a foreign journalist who managed to gain rare access inside the country. CBC News has agreed not to identify him because he fears for his safety.

Many of the activists he profiles in this piece also want their identities protected, for the same reason. They are on the front lines of the effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Note: Because of rights issues, this video is restricted to views from inside Canada only. (watch video here)

'Internet Throttling' by AT&T, Verizon lacks transparency (and is likely just another cash grab)

If you're a longtime AT&T iPhone user whose unlimited data plan was grandfathered in when AT&T stopped offering unlimited plans last year, a brand new twist on your plan might seem like a pretty significant limitation after all.

On Friday AT&T announced that, starting October 1, it will begin throttling data delivery speeds to the "top 5%" of heaviest data users." This means their experience of the mobile Internet over AT&T's network will slow to a crawl.

According to AT&T, this measure is a "step to manage exploding demand for mobile data," because "many experts agree the country is facing a serious wireless spectrum crunch."

AT&T says the throttling will only be temporary; full speed will be restored to throttled customers at the start of the each billing cycle.

In the meantime, throttled users can technically still move as much data as they want across the carrier's network -- just at very slow speeds, a process that most smartphone users would probably find unacceptable.

AT&T says it will provide some warning prior to throttling: "Before you are affected, we will provide multiple notices, including a grace period."

But where exactly is the line that, when crossed, might put an AT&T "unlimited" customer at risk of throttling?

AT&T is being very slippery on this key point. (more)

Ex-CIA official sounds alarm about hackers' next targets

The former director of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center raised concerns Wednesday about an impending "code war" in which hackers will tamper not just with the Internet but with technology that runs real-world infrastructure.

Somewhat fittingly, Cofer Black's keynote talk at the Black Hat hacker conference at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas was interrupted by a literal alarm: flashing lights, sirens and the whole bit.

"Attention, please. Attention, please," a robotic woman's voice said repeatedly as Black smiled, apparently confused. "We are currently investigating the alarm signal you are hearing. Please remain calm."

After a pause and some laughs from the audience, Black kept going.

"This is a very delicate window into our future," he told the hackers. "Cold war, global war on terrorism and now you have the code war -- which is your war."

It's unclear what caused the alarm -- whether it was planned to help make Black's point, was an accident or was the result of a hack. Black Hat is a computer security conference attended by thousands of hackers. (more)

Arabian oryx back from brink of extinction, but for how long?



Forty years ago the Arabian oryx was extinct in the wild.

Today this large antelope, native to the Arabian peninsula, is back from the brink with 1,000 animals across five Middle Eastern countries, thanks to a breeding program and series of re-introductions.

It is an unprecedented conservation success story, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which recently re-classified the Arabian oryx from "endangered" to "vulnerable."

The organization said it was the first time that a species which was once "extinct in the wild" has improved in status by three full categories out of six on its Red List.

The conservation organization said it is believed that the last remaining wild individual was shot in Oman in 1972.

Thabet Zahran Al Abdessallam, of the Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi, said: "Hunting was the principal reason, but of course the loss of habitat due to the development and population increases (is) another reason. Now after the re-introduction into the wild, poaching is a threat."

Operation Oryx, which included the World Wildlife Fund and Phoenix Zoo, in the United States, was set up in 1962 to establish a herd in captivity -- comprising the last remaining animals and those in royal collections -- to prepare to reintroduce them into the wild. (more)

Shell faces $410M payout over Nigeria oil spills (It's about time)

Royal Dutch Shell faces having to pay compensation of potentially more than £250m ($410m) after the Anglo-Dutch oil group admitted liability for two spills in Nigeria following a legal claim brought in the UK.

The agreement comes after a class-action lawsuit was brought in the High Court by the Bodo Community in the Niger Delta against Shell and its subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).

Martyn Day, of law firm Leigh Day acting for the Nigerians, said that he was pleased Shell had admitted liability and agreed to concede to the English jurisdiction and court system.

The compensation set to be paid to the 69,000 Nigerians affected by damage caused by the leaks is thought to be in excess of £250m. Most of those who have brought claims are fishermen and typically earn about £3,000 to £5,000 a year on average.

The award compensates them for their loss of livelihood over the past three years and also reflects the fact that it could still take a year or even two years to complete the clean-up during which time they may be unable to fish.

The SPDC said it "has always acknowledged that the two spills which affected the Bodo community, and which are the subject of this legal action, were operational".

"As such, SPDC will pay compensation in accordance with Nigerian law," it added. (more)

Japan to fire 3 top nuclear officials as nuclear disaster meanders onward

The Japanese government said Thursday three top nuclear officials will be let go following their handling of the Fukushima Daiichi crisis, which has eroded public confidence in the country's nuclear policy.

Banri Kaieda -- minister of economy, trade and industry -- made the announcement, saying he had been mulling a drastic change within the ministry, which monitors the nuclear industry.

The officials who will be fired from their official posts are the vice minister for economy, trade and industry; the head of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, and the head of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant, located about 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Tokyo, was flooded by the tsunami that followed Japan's March 11 earthquake. The result was the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, as the plant's three operating reactors melted down and spewed vast quantities of radioactive particles across the surrounding area. (more)

Euro crisis: Barroso warns debt crisis is spreading

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has warned that the sovereign debt crisis is spreading beyond the periphery of the eurozone.

In a letter to European governments, he called on them to give their "full backing" to the euro currency zone.

He also said governments should rapidly re-assess the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) to reduce the risk of contagion in the eurozone.

It is being reported that the European Central Bank has been buying bonds.

Sources quoted by Reuters said that the bonds being bought were those issued by Portugal and the Irish Republic - crisis-hit countries who have found it more expensive to borrow on the open markets - and that the ECB had no plans to buy any other bonds.

By late afternoon, the main stock markets across Europe will all down by more than 2%. (more)

Unemployment claims at 400,000 level: This means things are getting better, right? ...right?

The number of first-time filers for unemployment benefits fell last week, but remained at a key level signaling that the job market remain sluggish.

There were 400,000 initial unemployment claims filed in the week ended July 30, the Labor Department said Thursday, down 1,000 from an upwardly revised 401,000 the prior week. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com were expecting jobless claims to rise to 405,000.

Initial claims have sat above 400,000 for 17 consecutive weeks, since the start of April, when high oil prices, bad weather and Japan's tsunami were weighing on businesses.

Economists say claims need to consinstenly hold below that level to achieve sustainable job growth and lower the unemployment rate.

"The job market and the broader economy are firmly in agonizingly slow growth mode for foreseeable future," said Tim Quinlan, economic analyst at Wells Fargo. "While we don't think there will be another recession, the probability of that has never been higher than it is now." (more)

Rawesome Food Club Raided by Local, Federal and Canadian Agents? Why are organic food groups being harassed?

Our food-club, Rawesome, was raided by federal, California State and Los Angeles County Health Officials and Police with guns drawn and threatening. They unplugged our surveillance camera to hide their actions. They threateningly refused video capture of their raid when members commenced filming. They served warrants on volunteer workers. Volunteers told them that they were trespassing on private property. they had no jurisdiction and must leave immediately but government agents refused to leave. Instead, those government agents trespassed and kidnapped volunteers and members for the entire time that they seized the property, about 5 hours. Also, they stole, under the term confiscate, thousands of dollars worth of member's FOOD that was private property, mostly raw dairy products and honey.

Two individuals identified themselves as FBI and Canadian government agents but they did not show their badges or surrender their business cards as did agents: Senior Investigator Ted Holst for Los Angeles City District Attorney; Los Angeles Environmental Health Specialist lll Michelle LeCavalier for Environmental Health Food and Milk Program Food Inspection Bureau; Investigator Marco Solorio for U.S. Food and Drug Administration Los Angeles District; Consumer Safety Officer Anita L. Liu for USFDA Import Operations Branch Los Angeles District; and Supervising Special Investigator Robert H. Donnalley for California State Animal health and Food Safety Services of CA Department of Food and Agriculture.

County of Los Angeles Bureau of Specialized Surveillance issued HEARING NOTICE 654043 for the next morning at 11:30 am to Rawesome Foods. That hearing was to occur less than 24 hours after the raid; impossible, no sane court would support such brief notice. The Hearing Notice claimed ILLEGAL FOOD FACILITY violation of CAL Code 114381 (states that a food facility shall not be open for business without a valid permit to operate. (more)

Swedish man caught trying to split atoms at home

A Swedish man who was arrested after trying to split atoms in his kitchen said Wednesday he was only doing it as a hobby.

Richard Handl told The Associated Press that he had the radioactive elements radium, americium and uranium in his apartment in southern Sweden when police showed up and arrested him on charges of unauthorized possession of nuclear material.

The 31-year-old Handl said he had tried for months to set up a nuclear reactor at home and kept a blog about his experiments, describing how he created a small meltdown on his stove.

Only later did he realize it might not be legal and sent a question to Sweden's Radiation Authority, which answered by sending the police.

"I have always been interested in physics and chemistry," Handl said, adding he just wanted to "see if it's possible to split atoms at home."

The police raid took place in late July, but police have refused to comment. If convicted, Handl could face fines or up to two years in prison.

Although he says police didn't detect dangerous levels of radiation in his apartment, he now acknowledges the project wasn't such a good idea.

"From now on, I will stick to the theory," he said. (more)

Himalaya glaciers shrinking on global warming,some may disappear

Three Himalaya glaciers have been shrinking over the last 40 years due to global warming and two of them, located in humid regions and on lower altitudes in central and east Nepal, may disappear in time to come, researchers in Japan said on Tuesday.

Using global positioning system and simulation models, they found that the shrinkage of two of the glaciers -- Yala in central and AX010 in eastern Nepal -- had accelerated in the past 10 years compared with the 1970s and 1980s.

Yala's mass shrank by 0.8 (2.6 feet) and AX010 by 0.81 metres respectively per year in the 2000s, up from 0.68 and 0.72 metres per year between 1970 and 1990, said Koji Fujita at the Graduate School of Environmental Studies in Nagoya University in Japan.

"For Yala and AX, these regions showed significant warming ... that's why the rate of shrinking was accelerated," Fujita told Reuters by telephone.

"Yala and AX will disappear but we are not sure when. To know when, we have to calculate using another simulation (model) and take into account the glacial flow," Fujita said, but added that his team did not have the data to do so at the moment. (more)

Energy, environmental programs prepare for debt deal pain

Popular energy and environmental programs should prepare for a decade of spending cuts under the debt deal reached late Sunday between the White House and congressional leaders.

Less clear, however, is the effect that the landmark agreement will have on popular tax incentives for the oil, gas, renewable and other energy industries.

Constituencies fighting in the trenches for every dollar insist that their programs are small relative to other big-ticket items in the annual appropriations process. But there's still plenty of concern that everything from wastewater grants to air pollution monitoring and biofuels research and development will face the scalpel as lawmakers start cutting about $2.7 trillion in spending over the next decade.

"The numbers are just too vague, but obviously we don't feel we're in a good place," said Scott Slesinger, legislative director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“These guys are looking at 20 percent real cuts in the next two or three or four years,” said GOP strategist Mike McKenna said. “That’s a big, big hit for an agency to take.” (more)

Russia may lose 30% of permafrost by 2050: official

Russia's vast permafrost areas may shrink by a third by the middle of the century due to global warming, endangering infrastructure in the Arctic zone, an emergencies ministry official said Friday.

"In the next 25 to 30 years, the area of permafrost in Russia may shrink by 10-18 percent," the head of the ministry's disaster monitoring department Andrei Bolov told the RIA Novosti news agency.

"By the middle of the century, it can shrink by 15-30 percent, and the boundary of the permafrost may shift to the north-east by 150-200 kilometres," he said.

The temperature of the zones of frozen soil in oil and gas-rich western Siberia territories will rise by up to two degrees Celsius to just three or four degrees below zero, he predicted.

Permafrost, or soil that is permanently frozen, covers about 63 percent of Russia, but has been greatly affected by climate change in recent decades.

Continued thawing of permafrost threatens to destabilise transportation, building, and energy extraction infrastructure in Russia's colder regions.

"The negative impact of permafrost degradation on all above-ground transportation infrastructure is clear," Bolov added. (more)

UK Academics Claim Weather Forecasting Techniques Are ‘Deeply Flawed’ (As are many activities related to science and public information)

Two University of Manchester academics have attempted to rewrite the meteorological manuals by claiming that the way the world learns about the weather is wrong and has been wrong for 90 years.

Dr David Schultz and his colleague Professor Geraint Vaughan produced their claim in the journal Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
“Given the UK’s obsession with the weather, it would seem obvious that the basic understanding of how low pressure systems evolve has been known for a long time. Instead, some of the biggest storms in the UK’s history, such as the Great Storm of October 1987, did not fit this basic understanding”, the academics suggest.

They said that the traditional model for how low pressure systems evolve is deeply flawed. The model, used since the 1920s and devised by Norwegian meteorologists, is that when a storm occludes (evolves), it will automatically begin to weaken and pose little danger of severe weather.

However, argues Dr Schultz, this is not the case – occluded storms may well contain strong winds and regions of heavy precipitation.

Naturally, many in the public recognize that. The Great Storm of October 1987 and the Burns’ Day storm of January 1990 were both clear reminders: occluded, but still deadly. Dr Schultz’s new model addresses these weaknesses with the Norwegian model because the prior belief that occluded storms were weak could lead to poorly-informed predictions or forecasts.

Dr Schultz, from the University’s School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, claims they now know that the deepening of a low pressure system is not dependent on when a cyclone occludes. (more)

Small Amounts Of Warming Could Trigger Rapid Ice Shelf Collapse

Only small amounts of subsurface warming of water is required to trigger a rapid collapse of ice shelves, according to a new report to be published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The joint research by academics from China and the United States analysed prehistoric “Heinrich events” that happened many thousands of years ago, creating mass discharges of icebergs into the North Atlantic Ocean. The findings, the researchers say, provide historical evidence that warming of water by 3-4 degrees was enough to trigger these huge, episodic discharges of ice from the Laurentide Ice Sheet in what is now Canada.

They claim the results are important due to concerns that warmer water could cause a comparatively fast collapse of ice shelves in Antarctica or Greenland, increasing the flow of ice into the ocean and raising sea levels. One of the most vulnerable areas, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, would raise global sea level by about 11 feet if it were all to melt.

“We don’t know whether or not water will warm enough to cause this type of phenomenon,” said Shaun Marcott, a postdoctoral researcher at Oregon State University (OSU) and lead author of the report. “But it would be a serious concern if it did, and this demonstrates that melting of this type has occurred before.”

If water were to warm by about 2 degrees under the ice shelves that are found along the edges of much of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, Marcott said, it might greatly increase the rate of melting to more than 30 feet a year. This could cause many of the ice shelves to melt in less than a century, he said, and is probably the most likely mechanism that could create such rapid changes of the ice sheet. (more)

The Last Great Wilderness: Human Impact On the Deep Sea

The oceans cover 71% of our planet, with over half with a depth greater than 3000 m. Although our knowledge is still very limited, we know that the deep ocean contains a diversity of habitats and ecosystems, supports high biodiversity, and harbors important biological and mineral resources. Human activities are, however increasingly affecting deep-sea habitats, resulting in the potential for biodiversity loss and, with this, the loss of many goods and services provided by deep-sea ecosystems.

These conclusions come from an international study conducted during the Census of Marine Life project SYNDEEP (Towards a First Global Synthesis of Biodiversity, Biogeography, and Ecosystem Function in the Deep Sea). The authors, over 20 deep-sea experts, conducted a semi-quantitative analysis of the most important anthropogenic impacts that affect deep-sea habitats at the global scale in the past, present and future scenarios. The impacts were grouped in three major categories: waste and litter dumping, resource exploitation, and climate change. The authors identified which deep-sea habitats are at highest risk in the short and mid-term, as well as what will be the main anthropogenic impacts affecting these areas, in a paper published in PLoS ONE on Aug. 1, 2011. (more)