Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Birmingham riots: three men killed 'protecting homes'



A murder investigation has been launched after three people were killed “doing the job of the police” during widespread rioting.

Keen amateur boxer Haroon Jahan, 21, and two brothers were hit by a speeding car in Birmingham in the early hours of this morning, Officers have arrested a 32-year-old man in connection with the deaths and a car has also been recovered.

Tariq Jahan, the father of Haroon, told how he desperately tried to revive his son as he waited for medics to arrive.

“I didn't see it (the fatal incident) with my own eyes. I was round the corner... I heard the car coming at high speed.

“Then we heard the bang and I heard the commotion with the people. I ran towards the commotion and the first guy I found was someone I didn't know.

“I started giving him CPR until somebody pointed out that the guy behind me was my son on the floor.

“Then I swapped positions and started giving him CPR. All the street were out and basically he was looking out for the whole community.”

Police said the incident happened in the Winson Green area of the city at about 1am Wednesday morning.

According to witnesses, the car, containing up to three passengers, hit the three men at around 50mph but did not stop. (more)

UK: CCTV footage shows youths joyriding dumptruck during riots

UK riots: David Cameron condemns sick society as grammar school girl as well as boy of 11 in court over riots

They were, some told us, the alienated poor, those without hope, lashing out in rage and despair. But as the accused London rioters started appearing in court they included university students, a rich businessman’s daughter and a boy of 11.

At Highbury Corner magistrates, the custody vans queued in the street and the paperwork poured across every spare surface yesterday.

They had been working all night, even as the roads fell silent and the local shopkeepers boarded themselves in. “Have you been home yet?” asked a dazed-looking court official to her colleague.

By the end of the day in London, 805 people had been arrested in connection with violence, disorder and looting since Saturday and 251 had been charged.

Here in court, as David Cameron condemned the “sickness” in parts of British society, we saw clearly, for the first time, the face of the riot: stripped of its hoods and masks, dressed in white prison T-shirts and handcuffed to burly security guards. It was rather different from the one we had been expecting.

Among the accused was, for instance, Laura Johnson, the 19-year-old daughter of a successful company director. She lives in a detached converted farmhouse in Orpington, Kent, with extensive grounds and a tennis court. (more)

Secret peace talks between US and Taliban collapse over leaks

Secret exploratory peace talks between the United States and the Taliban leadership have broken down after details of the negotiations were leaked, Western diplomats have told The Daily Telegraph.

The breakdown in the talks at such an early stage has led to recriminations and claims that the details of the meetings and the identity of the Taliban's chief negotiator were deliberately leaked by 'paranoid' Afghan government figures.

Absolute confidentiality had been a key condition for the meetings which were held in Germany and Qatar earlier this year between Tayeb Agha, Taliban leader Mullah Omar's former private secretary, and senior officials from the US State Department and Central Intelligence Agency. The meetings were chaired by Michael Steiner, Germany's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The talks were described as a preliminary exercise aimed at agreeing a series of confidence-building measures to persuade the Taliban that the United States and its allies are serious about a negotiated settlement, sources close to the talks told The Daily Telegraph.

They said Taliban leaders were extremely nervous about entering talks because of widespread scepticism among their own commanders who believed the Americans were only seeking dialogue to divide their movement and fears that any discussions would damage their own credibility.

But after only three sessions details of two meetings in Germany and one in Qatar – held in March and April - were leaked to the Washington Post and Der Spiegel news magazine which named Tayeb Agha as the key Taliban negotiator. (more)

Suzette York, principal of a small private school in Memphis, Tennessee, found murdered -- 17 year old student held on suspicion

The principal of a small private school in Memphis, Tennessee, was found dead in a classroom Wednesday, Memphis police said.

Suzette York, 49, was lying in a pool of blood at Memphis Junior Academy, according to the city fire department.

Police have detained a 17-year-old student in connection with the death, which has been deemed a homicide, police said. No charges had been filed Wednesday evening.

"It's tragic all the way around," Mayor A.C. Wharton Jr. said outside the school. (more)

Asian stocks drop after US and European indexes decline: Panic is spreading throughout world

Asian shares have fallen, after declines in the US and Europe, amid fears that the financial crisis is spreading to bigger economies.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index, South Korea's Kospi and Australia's ASX all fell more than 1%.

The latest sell-off was triggered by rumours that France may become the next country to lose its triple A credit rating.

There was also speculation that one of its biggest banks was in trouble.

Analysts have warned that markets are likely to remain choppy in coming sessions.

"We have had volatile markets in the past that have headed in one direction, but this time around no one seems to know what is going to happen," Andrew Robinson of Saxo Capital Markets told the BBC.

"On Tuesday, you had the Dow Jones up by 4%, if had you asked me then, I would have said it looks like we have bottomed out.

"But you wake up this morning to find that it is down by the same magnitude again." (more)

Peter King calls for inquiry into reports the White House fed secrets about the killing of Osama Bin Laden to Hollywood film-makers

A senior Republican has called for an inquiry into reports the White House fed secrets about the killing of Osama Bin Laden to Hollywood film-makers.

Peter King, chair of the House of Representatives homeland security committee, cited a report suggesting the White House hopes the film will boost President Obama's election bid.

New York Times writer Maureen Dowd said film-makers had "top-level access".

The White House called that report - and Mr King's claims - "ridiculous".

Bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader who had spent almost a decade in hiding since fleeing Afghanistan in late 2001, was killed in May in a raid into Pakistan by members of an elite Navy Seals special forces team.

The killing of the man behind the 9/11 terror attacks marked the recent high point in Mr Obama's presidency.

Since then the president has been dogged by joblessness, a sluggish economy and partisan bickering and gridlock in Washington and has seen his approval rating slip. (more)

Philippines: Dengue kills 6 in Antipolo; Ilocos death toll now 37

At least six people were confirmed dead due to dengue in one village in Antipolo City in Rizal province, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has reported.

In an Aug. 10 report posted on its website Thursday, the NDRRMC said the six fatalities were among 456 people affected by dengue.

"Out of the 456, six persons are confirmed dead. All are from Barangay Cupang," it said.

But the NDRRMC did not name the six, or indicate when they died.

For now, the NDRRMC said the Antipolo City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council provided medical assistance to those affected.

It added the CALABARZON – Calamba, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon (Region IV-A) – Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council is working with local disaster management units to closely monitor the situation. (more)

Dale Ostrander revived after being dead for 20 minutes in surfing accident at sea

This is by far the most amazing story I have ever been a part of. I'm still awestruck as I write this, but I am so very happy to be able to tell it.

Last Friday afternoon a large church youth group from Spanaway was visiting the beach off the Cranberry Beach approach in Long Beach, WA.

Shannon Kissel and his daughter Nicole were boogie-boarding nearby when they saw two boys were in need of help. While they were able to retrieve one boy, they were not able to rescue Dale Ostrander, who was caught in a rip tide. It was about 10 minutes until the surf rescue team was on scene.

Twenty-plus kids from the youth group sobbed uncontrollably and prayed on the sand during the search, a truly heart-wrenching sound. It was then at least another 15 minutes or so before rescue swimmer Eduardo Mendez spotted Ostrander, and he and swimmer Will Green were able to grab him and pull him aboard a jet ski.

Seconds later at the shore, Doug Knutzen carried him up to where paramedics were waiting to treat him. They were on the beach for another 10 minutes trying to revive him. I think it's safe to say that everyone was certain Ostrander was dead. But the crew continued to work on him, and apparently once they got to the hospital they were able to get a weak pulse and get him breathing again.

Ostrander was air-lifted to Portland for treatment. After he was put in an induced coma for a couple days, he woke up.

And today (Aug. 9) they removed his breathing tube. Not only did Ostrander breath on his own, but he spoke complete sentences. Amazing. This boy was dead for upward of 20 minutes, easily.

From the blog prayersfordale.blogspot.com: At 4:11 pm today "The doctors just removed Dale's breathing tube and he is now breathing on his own. Also, because of possible damage to the brain, they were unsure if he would be able to speak. Minutes after the tube was removed, the doctors told him to cough. Not only did Dale talk back to the doctors, he responded in a full sentence saying, “I don't have to.”

Dale continues to get better by the minute, and the doctors are more and more amazed!" (more)

Syria expands offensive near Turkey border



Syrian tanks stormed two northwestern towns near the border with Turkey, expanding its military offensive to crush protests, local residents said, a day after Ankara pressed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end killings of civilians.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said at least one woman was killed and 13 people injured on Wednesday when 12 tanks and armoured vehicles, entered the towns of Taftanaz and Sermin, around 30km from the border with Turkey.

In Homs at least 16 people have been killed by security forces, reports from activists said.

Omer Onhon, the Turkish ambassador, visited Hama on Wednesday and said that tanks were moving out of the city ten days after the army stormed in.

Forty personnel carriers decked with Syrian flags rolled out of Hama with soldiers chanting slogans praising embattled Assad, said a journalist from the AFP news agency who visited the city on a tour organised by the authorities.

However, witnesses told Al Jazeera that after Onhon's visit to Hama, where he was told military operations had ended, Syrian army forces moved back into the town. (more)

Libya, Iran revel in mocking Britain over riots

A country overrun by rioters. A government facing questions over policing. Its leader accused of having lost legitimacy.

Sound familiar? But this week, rather than another country swept by an Arab Spring-style democracy movement, it was Britain feeling the heat.

And turning the tables, after enduring sustained criticism from the West, it was authoritarian regimes such as Iran and Libya that delighted in mocking Britain over riots that have engulfed its major cities.

The criticism came as other nations around the world reassessed their usually peaceful views of the UK, revising official advice to Britain-bound travelers and publishing newspaper headlines and editorials likening London to troublespots such as Somalia's Mogadishu.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a favorite target of international indignation for his saber-rattling speeches and his country's treatment of activists in 2009 democracy protests, landed his punch on Wednesday as Britain reeled from its latest night of trouble.

With tongue no doubt planted firmly in cheek, Ahmadinejad apparently made an speech to reporters in which he condemned Britain's police for brutality shown against "opposition" protesters, the official IRNA news agency said.

His comments followed similar condemnation by the Libyan regime of Moammar Gadhafi, which called for UK Prime Minister David Cameron to step down. With barely-concealed relish, saying he had "lost all legitimacy" because of the riots shaking Britain. (more)

San Francisco: New security cameras to keep eye on ALL Muni buses as part of Homeland Security efforts

With a $6 million federal Homeland Security grant, hundreds of San Francisco’s Muni buses will soon have high-tech video surveillance cameras the transit agency can survey in real-time.

While the transit system uses a surveillance system now, it is more than 10 years old, requires much upkeep, and footage is stored on tapes within each vehicle that must be brought to an office and viewed.

The grant will pay for the installation of video surveillance systems on 358 Muni buses, according to city documents. The project also includes installation of wireless networks, computers and servers at three bus yards “that will enable SFMTA personnel to view, download and store the captured video images wirelessly and view them in real-time or through the Internet.”

“Having a more reliable camera system will help us improve safety, reduce and more effectively manage claims and prosecute crimes,” said Kristen Holland, spokeswoman for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees Muni. “Surveillance footage has and will continue to be one of the key elements of our efforts to reduce vandalism and all crimes on Muni.”

According to city documents, “the new system will provide real-time viewing of images, inside and outside the bus, by law enforcement officers, emergency responders and other authorized personnel on a real-time basis from a distance of about 500 yards in case the bus is hijacked and used for terrorism activities.” (more)

What really happened on night of deadly Afghanistan helicopter crash?

Late last Friday night, special forces troops from the NATO-led coalition launched an operation to capture a Taliban leader in an inaccessible valley southwest of Kabul.

A few hours later 38 troops -- 30 of them Americans -- lay dead in a transport helicopter destroyed in the worst single incident suffered by foreign forces in 10 years of war in Afghanistan.

Little, if any, information was available soon after the crash, mainly because "a cone of silence had been ordered from the top," one senior military official said.

Reuters has been able to reconstruct a clearer picture of the circumstances of the crash after interviews with officials from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and the U.S. military.

Unless identified, all spoke on condition of anonymity because investigations are still being carried out.

The disaster unfolded after an ISAF Special Operations Command (SOC) team that included at least some U.S. Rangers began a raid in the Tangi valley in central Maidan Wardak province under darkness late Friday.

Typically carried out in conjunction with Afghan soldiers, "night raids" anger ordinary Afghans who complain they do not respect their privacy or Islamic culture. However, they are one of the most successful tactics used by foreign troops hunting insurgents who hide among Afghan civilians. (more)

Gadhafi's son Khamis, reported killed, appears on Libyan TV

Libyan state television broadcast images Wednesday of a man it said was Moammar Gadhafi's youngest son in an attempt to refute rebel claims that he had been killed in a NATO airstrike.

Rebels claimed on Friday that 27-year-old Khamis Gadhafi, who commands one of the best trained and equipped units in the Libyan military, was killed in the western front-line town of Zlitan. The regime dismissed the claim and said the rebels were only trying to deflect attention from the killing last week of the opposition's military commander, possibly by other rebels.

The images on television showed the son at a Tripoli hospital visiting people wounded in a NATO airstrike and said it was on Tuesday. If genuine, it would be the first time he has been seen in public since the reports of his death. (more)

Swelling list of demands fuels Israel protests

Israel’s social protest movement started with a tent on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard and a few voices demanding affordable housing. In less than a month it has grown into a national phenomenon – and perhaps the most serious challenge yet to the government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Last Saturday, more than 250,000 Israelis took to the street to call for social reform. Tent cities have sprung up across the country, drawing in an ever-expanding cast of protesters – from students to pensioners, and Holocaust survivors to taxi drivers.

In a striking procession of strollers, young parents marched through Tel Aviv to demand better childcare. Dairy farmers, meanwhile, decided to flood a busy intersection with milk in an effort to highlight their low income.

The demands, too have grown. What started out as a protest against housing costs has morphed into calls for a sweeping overhaul of Israel’s economy and society: the protesters want a new taxation system (lower indirect taxes, higher direct taxes), free education and childcare, an end to the privatisation of state-owned companies and more investment in social housing and public transport. There is talk of imposing price controls on basic goods and a broader desire to see an end to “neo-liberal” government policies. (more)

Hong Kong exchange trading disrupted as hackers target website

The Hong Kong stock exchange was forced to suspend trading in stocks including HSBC Holdings after hackers broke into the exchange's website on Wednesday, preventing investors from accessing company announcements made during the midday break.

"Our current assessment that this is a result of a malicious attack by outside hacking," the chief executive of Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing (HKEx) Charles Li told reporters after the company announced interim results.

In a statement released earlier, HKEx said it had adopted a half-day (one trading session) suspension policy for issuers that announce price-sensitive information during the lunch hour.

Other systems at the exchange were not affected and trading in its securities and derivatives markets operated normally, the exchange said.

If the website remains unstable on Thursday, the exchange's bulletin board will be used for dissemination of information but the stocks will be not suspended, said Mark Dickens, head of listing at HKEx. (more)

Investors lose a trillion dollars in one day: Stock market madness continues

Investors lost a trillion dollars in the stock market Monday as the debt crisis in Europe, lackluster economic news and a downgrade to the U.S. credit rating spark fears of a double-dip recession.

The Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index, the broadest index of U.S. stocks, lost 891.93 points, or just over 7%, Monday. This represents a paper loss for the day of approximately $1.0 trillion.

Monday is the largest percentage drop for the Index since December 1, 2008 when it fell over 9%.

Since July 22, when Republicans abandoned debt negotiations with the White House for the third time that month, the index has lost $2.9 trillion in value.

Cynical investors, which could include any of the millions of Americans with pension plans, mutual funds or other retirement accounts, might be tempted to blame squabbling politicians in Washington for much of their ill fate. But experts say it's more complicated than that. (more)

Jeffrey T. Burke charged with stealing $100k worth of vases from cemeteries

More than 400 grave marker vases, valued at more than $100,000, have been recovered by police after a 35-year-old man suspected of stealing vases from cemeteries in the west suburbs was arrested.

The suspect, Jeffrey T. Burke of Hometown, pleaded guilty in 2007 for a similar theft in DuPage County, according to the Elmhurst Police Department.

Burke was arrested last Friday, Aug. 5, by Elmhurst police for stealing brass vases from grave markers at two Elmhurst cemeteries, a cemetery in unincorporated Will Coounty and other unidentified cemeteries, a release from Elmhurst police said. During their investigation, police recovered more than 400 of these vases, with a value of more than $100,000.

It is alleged that Burke took the vases to a scrap yard to exchange them for cash, police said. (more)

UK: Twitter refuses to close accounts of rioters to protect their 'freedom of expression'

Twitter has refused to close the accounts of London rioters who used the service to spread unrest and insisted that Tweets must 'continue to flow'.

The US-based company said that 'freedom of expression' was essential and that information would be 'kept flowing'.

Social networks have faced criticism for allowing rioters and looters to incite violence and public disorder across the country since riots began last Saturday in Tottenham.

Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger were used by rioters and police have signaled that they will trawl people's accounts to find offenders.

But Twitter refused to take their own action against offenders. A spokesman told the Telegraph that a blog post on the issue earlier this year was still relevant.

'Our goal is to instantly connect people everywhere to what is most meaningful to them. For this to happen, freedom of expression is essential,' it says.

'Some tweets may facilitate positive change in a repressed country, some make us laugh, some make us think, some downright anger a vast majority of users. We don't always agree with the things people choose to tweet, but we keep the information flowing irrespective of any view we may have about the content.' (more)

Economic Uncertainty Leading to Global Unrest

London is reeling from three nights of rioting that's poured hundreds of people into the streets, leaving several local neighborhoods in shambles. One man is dead, dozens injured and arrested.

The protests have now spread to other cities, with violence reported in parts of Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol.

Great Britain and other parts of the world are experiencing unrest at a time of global economic uncertainty and stock market volatility.

Here's a look at what's happening around the world and how economic downturns are bringing protestors into the streets. (more)

Korean Stock Broker Leaps to Death Amid Market Plunge

A South Korean stock broker jumped to his death from a high-rise office amid worldwide market turmoil.

The 48-year-old broker, identified only as "Seo," sent text messages to colleagues expressing regret over severe losses, just minutes before leaping to his death Wednesday in the city of Daegu, according to Chief investigator Lee Kang-ho.

Lee said Seo's text messages included an apology to his clients. The messages said prices of the stocks owned by his clients nosedived and he felt sorry, a Daegu police spokesman told AFP. No separate suicide note was found.

Police said CCTV footage showed the man coming out of an elevator alone on the 18th floor of the building before he was found dead on the ground.

South Korean stocks have been especially volatile amid global financial turmoil sparked by fears the U.S. and European economies could be headed for recession. (source)

France facing debt downgrade? European Shares Close Down 3.5% on French Bank Fears

European shares ended sharply down on Wednesday, led lower by a steep sell-off in banking shares, with Societe Generale down more than 21 percent at one point on a slew of rumours about the bank.

A SocGen [SOGN.PA 22.18 -3.835 (-14.74%) ] spokeswoman categorically denied all rumours relating to the bank's financial solidity, but the bank's shares were still down 14.7 percent after hitting a 2-1/2-year low and witnessing their biggest daily percentage decline in more than two decades.

Credit Agricole [CAGR.PA 6.073 -0.813 (-11.81%) ] fell 11.8 percent, while the European banking index [.SX7P 138.08 -9.95 (-6.72%) ] was down 6.5 percent.

"We are running short of triple-A countries. If France is downgraded, that raises issues about other countries as well. Fundamentally public finances are not very strong," said Klaus Wiener, chief economist at Generali Investments, which manages 330 billion euros ($469 billion).

"It's very unfortunate to see all this action at this point in time when we have a very fragile market environment." (more)

Is Canada immune to economic collapse in U.S?

Canadians are rightfully asking themselves whether the Canadian economy is headed for a cliff if the United States falls to recession so soon after the last one. Do we hit the rocks together, or is our safety net still holding?

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty warn of tough times ahead, they also point to the last recession a few years ago and how Canada walked away with a few bruises but no broken bones, like the Americans. Don't panic now, they say.

But the pain train is revving if the hobbled U.S. economy is heading to what is called a double-dip recession, Europe continues its nose-dive and other global markets struggle.

Will it be a Tylenol 3 or an Aspirin for the pain?

"It is true that we are in excellent financial and fiscal shape if you compare us with any of our trading partners, but that doesn't mean we are going to be exempt from any negative implications arising in the global economy," says Queen's University economics professor Tom Courchene.

What's in store? Experts say higher interest rates and job losses, many in the private sector, as U.S. demand for Canadian goods wanes. The U.S. is Canada's largest export market.

Fear also drives down the economy as consumers tighten their belts, hold off on purchases and, in some cases, unload their stocks to seek a safe haven - which many are doing by buying American greenbacks, and that is driving down the value of the high-flying loonie. (more)

Kosovo Serbs begin dismantling road blockades as escalation continues

Serbs in northern Kosovo have begun dismantling roadblocks set up amid increased tensions over two border crossings between Serbia and Kosovo.

Last month Kosovo's mainly ethnic Albanian government sent paramilitary police to seize the two crossings.

After a two-week stand-off with Nato-led peacekeepers, a deal has now been reached to allow Nato to control the border crossings.

The dispute was caused by a trade ban between Serbia and Kosovo.

The government in Pristina had sent security forces to the crossing points at Jarinje and Brnjak to enforce a ban on Serbian imports, to which Serbs responded by blocking roads.

An ethnic Albanian policeman was killed and four people were injured in clashes with Serbian nationalists. (more)

Chinese Commentator Threatens Pulling Plug on US Debt

The downgrade of US debt has focused attention on how America's largest creditor – the People's Republic of China - will react. Reactions in China have been varied. The most encouraging remarks came from China's premier Wen Jiabao who is considered a relative liberal.

While he subscribed to the general tone in the Chinese press and called for the Americans and Europeans to adopt responsible monetary policies to combat their deficits, he appeared to signal his country's willingness to help get over the crisis.

"The global community should improve the communication and coordination of their macro economic policies to realize sustainable, stable and balanced growth in the world economy."

Economics professor Shi Jianxun represented the general trend that blames the United States for damaging the global economy and called upon creditors of the United States to band together and insist on greater protection for their assets in dollars. He even suggested they demand compensation for their losses. He further urged an early meeting of the G 20 summit to address the problems in the United States and Europe.

A commentary in the official party newspaper People's Daily by Ding Gang, translated in the paper's English subsidiary Global Times, captured the most attention. It effectively recommended that China pull the United States by the economic leash if it went forward with the sale of F-16 fighter planes to Taiwan. This sale reflected American arrogance and disrespect, since it was obvious that China would be the major purchaser of the increased US debt. (more)

With Ratings Companies Circling, Japan Parties Reach Compromise

One country that is taking the Standard & Poor's downgrading of US debt to heart is Japan. It is no secret that Japan, with its high government debt-to-GDP ratio, was a prime target for a downgrade.

Politically, Japan resembles the United States in terms of political gridlock between the government controlled lower house and an upper house controlled by the opposition. While unlike the American model, the two houses are not equal in power, the opposition control of the upper house made the passage of financial legislation an impossibility.

Now a new agreement between the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the LDP's traditional ally Komeito has assured passage of a deficit-financing bill via a bond issue.

The opposition had held up its approval for the bill because it demanded as a price that the government backtrack from major policies that proved popular with the electorate. These included monthly child cash stipends designed to stimulate the country's anemic birthrate, free high school education designed to promote greater equality and farm subsidies in an attempt to crack the LDP's rural electoral stronghold. (more)

Israel's youth voice frustration over economy

Ancient Aliens - "Aliens and Monsters" - S03E02

PART ONE:


PART TWO:


PART THREE:

Red Cross: Rise in violence against medics in warzones

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned of an alarming rise in attacks on medical facilities and personnel in conflict zones.

The ICRC report, Healthcare in Danger, lists 600 attacks worldwide on doctors, nurses, ambulances and hospitals from mid-2008 to the end of 2010.

It covers 16 nations, including Libya, Afghanistan, Somalia and Colombia.

The report notes that while some attacks are accidental, many deliberately target healthcare workers.

The right of those wounded in war to receive medical treatment - and the right of medical workers to move freely - are enshrined in the first Geneva Convention.

But, almost 150 years after the convention was adopted, it is being violated on a regular basis, says the ICRC's director-general Yves Daccord.

"Clearly there is a trend in terms of no respect of healthcare… and more importantly for us, nobody seems to care about it," he told the BBC.

"A few years ago, when an ambulance was shelled, or a hospital was taken by armed people, or doctors were arrested, there was an outcry. But now nobody - people, governments, armed groups - seems to be interested anymore." (more)

China's first aircraft carrier 'starts sea trial'

The Chinese navy's first aircraft carrier has begun its sea trials, the state-run Xinhua news agency has said.

It quoted military sources as saying that the refitted former Soviet warship left its shipyard in the north-east and the trial "would not take a long time".

The move is likely to raise fresh concerns over China's rapid military build-up.

Beijing is currently involved in several maritime territorial disputes, particularly in the South China Sea.

The aircraft carrier left its shipyard at Dalian Port in northeast Liaoning Province on Wednesday morning, Xinhua reported.

"Military sources said that the first sea trial was in line with the schedule of the carrier refitting project," it said.

"After returning from the sea trail, the aircraft carrier will continue refit and test work." (more)

Stock market mayhem wipes £100 a month off thousands of pensions

Thousands of people who are due to retire this month will find their pension income is nearly a fifth lower than what they expected a month ago because of the global stock markets crisis.

They are victims of a ‘double whammy’ – falling share prices and bond yields – which will combine to cut £100 a month off the income many of those entering retirement now will receive for the rest of their lives.

Pension funds are most people’s biggest exposure to stock markets.
Both their capital and the income it will produce has been hit by recent events. First, the value of retirement funds following the FTSE 100 index has fallen by 17pc in the last four weeks. Second, annuities – a form of guaranteed income for life, based on gilt yields – now pay 2pc less income than they did in July. Gilts are bonds issued by the British Government and prices have been pushed up in the panic because they are seen as secure but this cuts the income they pay, expressed as a percentage of their price today.

That’s a toxic combination for members of defined contribution or money purchase schemes, which have tended to replace traditional defined benefit or final salary pensions in the private sector. The new schemes rely on stock market returns, rather than employers’ promises, to build a fund which is largely used to buy an income for life in retirement. (more)

False beauty in advertising and the pressure to look 'good'

From smoothing skin and erasing wrinkles to enlarging muscles and slimming waists, airbrushing, or "photoshopping," men and women to so-called perfection is the norm in advertising. These images don't reflect reality, yet from a younger and younger age, people are aspiring to these biologically impossible ideals.

For some, the desire to look as perfect as these models can become all-consuming, and a wealth of evidence suggests that people in the UK are experiencing serious body image problems -- a trend undoubtedly replicated around the globe. Adolescents and teenagers unhappy about their bodies can develop eating disorders, turn to diet pills or steroids, or try cosmetic surgery and Botox injections.

One study found that one in four people is depressed about their body, another found that almost a third of women say they would sacrifice a year of life to achieve the ideal body weight and shape, and almost half of girls in a recent survey think the pressure to look good is the worst part of being female.

These very real and serious issues are not helped by the impossible visions of perfection everywhere in our visual culture. A growing body of scientific evidence reinforces the link between negative body image and exposure to idealized images. (more)

"How F***** Are We? Pretty Darned" -- America's debt past point of no return

The Empire's Decline is usually a slow-moving affair. It took about 30 years to reach August 9, 2011. Things have deteriorated gradually, but that's all changing. This week we are privileged to the watch the Decline in real-time. Where do we stand?

The stock market crashed Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing over 600 points after Standard & Poors downgraded the U.S. credit rating to AA+ with a negative outlook, which means that further downgrades are possible in the future. The Nymex oil price fell $6.41 to $81.21/barrel, proving once again that Academic Economists are surely right in thinking that oil prices always reflect supply & demand fundamentals.

Everybody with "skin in the game" has a corn-pone opinion about the ratings downgrade. Billionaire Warren Buffett is infuriated, saying America's credit rating should be quadruple A (AAAA), a rating which only exists in his mind. Liberals like Robert Reich and Paul Krugman are also very angry because they know that debt doesn't matter. As Alan Greenspan opined, debt can always be paid off by printing money (see the Daily Ticker video below).

And because we can print money, there's no reason why the U.S. can not pay off it's debts. The Daily Ticker's Henry Blodget points out that we have to consider more than our ability to pay off our debts. We must also consider our willingness to do so. Just ten days ago—how time flies!—it appeared that the U.S. would not agree to pay the bills it had already agreed to pay.

Politicians are blaming each other, with Democrats calling it "The Tea Party Downgrade" and Republicans calling it "The Obama Downgrade." That's the spirit! More precisely, that's the spirit which caused Standard & Poors to downgrade the United States. (more)

Dow Jones plunges another 520 points, wiping out yesterday's rally attempt

DETAILS FORTHCOMING.

5.2 Magnitude Earthquake TONGA - 10th August 2011

A magnitude 5.2 earthquake has struck Tonga at a depth of 71.1 km ( 44.2 miles), the quake hit at 19:39:19 UTC Wednesday 10th August 2011.
The epicenter was 23 km (14 miles) SSE of Hihifo, Tonga
No Tsunami Warning Issued, No Reports of Damage or Injuries

4.0 Magnitude Earthquake EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN SEA - 10th August 2011

A magnitude 4.0 earthquake has struck Eastern Mediterranean Sea at a depth of 23 km, the quake hit at 19:31:34 UTC Wednesday 10th August 2011.
The epicenter was 42 km South of Kale
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries

Falcon HTV-2 Hypersonic aircraft that flies at 20 times the speed of sound takes to skies - 10th Aug 2011

An experimental unmanned aircraft that fly at 20 times the speed of sound is to undergo a crucial test flight on Thursday.

The Falcon HTV-2 will be launched on a rocket into space then will glide back down to Earth at speeds of 13,000mph.

The previous test flight lasted only nine minutes before being deliberately crashed as a safety measure due to technical difficulties.

This mission, should it succeed, could set new records in sub-orbital space travel and pave the way for a generation of super weapons.

The rocket carrying the Falcon will take off Thursday, weather permitting, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard an Air Force Minotaur IV rocket, which is a decommissioned ballistic missile.

The test was originally scheduled for Wednesday.

The Falcon will then separate off and come back down at colossal speeds - it would take less than 12 minutes to fly from New York to Los Angeles, a journey which takes a normal jet more than five hours.

The project is being developed by The Pentagon and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as part of a new generation of hypersonic weapons that can strike faster than missiles. Read More

FLIGHT OF THE FALCON

Name: Falcon HTV-2

Mission: To provide the U.S. Military with its first in a new generation of sub-orbital weaons.

Top speed: 13,000mph or Mach 22. A MiG-25 can typically reach Mach 2.3, or 1,520mph

Length: 12ft long

Materials: Made of experimental material that can withstand up to 800C it will experience upon re-entry.

Cost: $308million, so far

Payload: Potentially anything up to 1000lbs, including a nuclear bomb.

Range: Anywhere in the world in less than 60 minutes

Completion date: 2025 (Would they really show the world a secret craft 14 years before completion?)


Colonel Gaddafi's youngest son is not dead... according to Libyan state television which shows him safe and well - 10th Aug 2011

Colonel Gaddafi's youngest son has not been killed by the rebels, according to Libyan state television, which has shown footage of him looking safe and well.

Khamis Gaddafi, the youngest of seven of the Libyan ruler's sons, had been thought to have been fatally wounded in a NATO air stroke attack near Zlitan last week - news that boosted the morale of the anti-regime supporters.

But these images show the 28-year-old - who commands one of the best trained and equipped units in the Libyan military - visiting victims caught up in another NATO strike.

The Libyan government, who have been fighting the rebels since the Arab Spring caught fire in the Middle East almost six months ago, immediately denied that the son had been killed.

If the footage is genuine, the news that Gaddafi's son is not, in fact, dead, it will be another blow to the rebels' cause, whose momentum has been waning in recent weeks.

If real, it will be the first time Khamis Gaddafi has been seen since the bombing attack on August 5. Read More

Ten days of secret slaughter: Syrian death toll approaches 400 since massacre on the eve of Ramadan - 10th Aug 2011

At least one woman was killed and 13 people injured today when Syrian tanks stormed two northwestern towns near the border with Turkey.

Twelve tanks and armoured vehicles, along with 10 large buses full of troops stormed the towns of Taftanaz and Sermin as part of a military offensive to crush reform protests.

The incident sends the death toll close to 400 in the ten days since the army killed 145 people on the eve of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and prayer.

It was one of the deadliest bouts of violence since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began five months ago.

Human rights groups claim the death toll since March is somewhere between 1,700 - 2,000, although this is an estimate as the country has banned foreign media and restricted any local coverage that strays from the party line.

Amnesty International predict a 'conservative' estimate would be more than 1,600.

Spokesman Neil Durkin said: 'We're trying to piece together numbers as some information is getting out through telephone calls and the internet, no matter how much the country is trying to stop it getting out. Read More

Anders Behring Breivik may of 'Filmed' Norway Island Massacre - 10th Aug 2011

Norwegian terror suspect Anders Behring Breivik may have filmed his massacre of 69 people on Utoya island, Norwegian police have said.

The claim comes amid a series of revelations about the killings, with police admitting they could have taken a much quicker route to the island.

Oslo police chief of staff Johan Fredriksen also conceded officers could have called on a rescue helicopter.

But he denied claims the aircraft could have transported snipers in time to make a difference or that it would have ensured a faster arrival on the island for specialist terror police.

Oslo police lawyer Christian Hatlo said Breivik had made references to having filmed his entire 72-minute killing spree.

The shootings came just hours after a bomb blast in the capital he is also suspected of, which left 10 people dead.

"We have information from his manifesto and from earlier interrogations indicating that he did have a camera," Mr Hatlo said.

He said evidence at Breivik's home suggested he had a camera and had intended to film the attacks.

"We are looking for his camera but have not found anything so far," he said. Read More

5.3 Magnitude Earthquake SOLOMON ISLANDS - 10th August 2011


A magnitude 5.3 earthquake has struck Solomon Islands at a depth of 30 km (18.6 miles) , the quake hit at 18:06:19 UTC Wednesday 10th August 2011.
The epicenter was 164 km West of Gizo, Solomon Islands
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries

S. Korea opens fire after North artillery shelling

South Korean marines returned fire Wednesday after North Korea launched artillery shells into waters near the disputed maritime line that separates the two rivals, South Korean defence officials said.

The three North Korean shells fired near the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea prompted the South to fire three shells back, Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said. Both sides' shells landed in the water, and there were no reports of casualties.

South Korean forces have been on high alert in the area since a North Korean artillery attack killed four people in November on South Korea's Yeonpyeong island. Wednesday's artillery exchange, which happened in hazy weather, was near that island.

The firing follows a recent easing of animosity between the Koreas and could be a warning about joint U.S.-South Korean military drills set for next week.

Last month, a senior North Korean diplomat met with U.S. officials in New York to negotiate ways to restart long-stalled international talks aimed at persuading the North to abandon its nuclear weapons aspirations. The meeting came after the Koreas' nuclear envoys held cordial talks during a regional security forum in Indonesia.

Another South Korean Defence Ministry official, who refused to be named because of office policy, said South Korean forces stepped up their monitoring of the North after Wednesday's artillery exchange.

South Korean marines on Yeonpyeong returned fire after North Korea fired from one of its front-line islands, the official said. (more)

'Super' mouse evolves resistance to most poisons

Scientists say that some European house mice have developed resistance to the strongest poisons.

German and Spanish mice have rapidly evolved the trait by breeding with an Algerian species from which they have been separate for over a million years.

The researchers say this type of gene transfer is highly unusual and normally found in plants and bacteria.

The Current Biology report says this process could yield mice resistant to almost any form of pest control.

Warfarin is a drug widely used in medicine as an anti-coagulant to prevent the build-up of harmful blood clots. It works through inhibiting a protein called VKORC1. This protein turns on our ability to produce vitamin K, which is essential for clotting.

Too much warfarin can cause fatal bleeding, and it was this quality that led to its introduction as a pesticide against rats and mice in the 1950s.

But the creatures have been slowly evolving traits to survive warfarin, and pockets of resistant rodents have been found in many different parts of the world.

Now scientists say that German and Spanish mice have found a rapid method of overcoming the threat by cross-breeding with Algerian mice that are, according to the researchers, an entirely different species. (more)

US drone attack kills 21 'militants' in Pakistan

A US drone attack has killed at least 21 militants in north-western Pakistan, local intelligence officials said.

The drone fired two missiles, destroying a vehicle and a compound near Miranshah town in North Waziristan tribal district, on the Afghan border.

The dead militants include some foreigners and are believed to be part of the Haqqani network, officials say.

The group is believed to be behind a number of attacks against US troops in Afghanistan.

North and South Waziristan are regularly targeted by drone missiles.

The US says the region provides sanctuary to al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents who are involved in attacks on Nato forces in Afghanistan.

"The dead included local Taliban as well as some Arabs and Uzbek nationals," news agency Reuters quoted an unnamed intelligence official in North Waziristan as saying. (more)

Islamist militant group resurgent in Egypt

The town of el Arish in Egypt sits on the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean, its fine beaches lined by palm-trees. Developers have built luxury resorts close to this town of about 100,000 people.

But in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, el Arish is becoming known for something far different from tourism. A well-armed jihadist group is making its presence felt on the dusty streets here, intimidating opponents and demanding Egypt becomes an Islamist state.

On a scorching hot day late in July, several dozen people were demonstrating outside the al Nasr mosque in el Arish after Friday prayers. They were Salafists - conservative Islamists who want Egypt governed according to Islamic law. But not conservative enough for members of the Takfir-wal Higra - a group sympathetic to al Qaeda's goal of establishing an Islamic Caliphate.

Mohamed Mahmoud, who was among the protestors, recalls what happened that day. "The Takfiris stormed in by the hundreds mounted on pickup trucks and motorcycles waving black flags, a symbol of Jihad," he told CNN from a safe house not far from el Arish.

"The militants were heavily armed with machine guns, hand grenades and rocked-propelled grenades," he said.

"They attacked two police stations and scared the residents under the name of Jihad. We only call for Jihad if someone attacks our Islamic country or people," added Mahmoud. (more)

Ai WeiWei: Dissident Chinese artist defiant in first interview since his release

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei pledged to continue fighting injustice in his first interview since his release from detention.

The outspoken critic of the nation's human rights record was arrested in April, detained for three months and charged with tax evasion.

"Of course you might live an easier life if you abandon some rights. But there are so many injustices, and limited educational resources," Ai told the Chinese Communist party's Global Times newspaper. "They all diminish happiness. I will never stop fighting injustice."

The paper describes Ai as "feisty" in his first interview since being released from prison in June after a three-month detention on tax evasion charges that some observers alleged were trumped up.

A condition of his bail forbids him from using Twitter, the newspaper said, but the artist has been outspoken on the social media platform. (more)

Dow plunges 400 points at opening bell today as Europe fears return

U.S. stocks fell sharply Wednesday, wiping out the previous session's huge rally, as fears about Europe's ongoing debt crisis resurfaced.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) dropped 430 points, or 3.8%. The index fell as much as 467 points, which exceeded the gain in Tuesday's massive advance.

The S&P 500 (SPX) fell 43 points, or 3.7%, and the Nasdaq composite (COMP) lost 84 points, or 3.4%.

Ever since Standard and Poor's stripped the United States of its AAA credit rating Friday, fears have been building that rating agencies may also downgrade AAA-rated nations in Europe, since they are also struggling with severe debt problems.

On Wednesday, shares of French bank Societe Generale, or SocGen, tumbled almost 20% on the Paris stock exchange amid speculation that France, Europe's second largest economy after Germany, may be first to face a rating cut.

Even though the major rating agencies have reiterated France's AAA rating, "there's growing concern that France could get downgraded," said Tom Schrader, managing director at Stifel Nicolaus. "There's fear that S&P might do something stupid."

Financial stocks led the sell-off in U.S markets, as investors worried that problems in the European banking sector could spillover into the U.S. banks. (more)

Bus driver won't be fired for writing while driving: Does unionization put lives at risk?

A Gatineau, Que., bus driver will not be fired after he was caught on video filling out paperwork as he drove.

The Société de transport de l'Outaouais (STO) representative said the transit service had a meeting with the driver this week to discuss punishment. But STO said he had a good driving history and would not be fired.

The driver became a local YouTube sensation after a passenger shot video of him scribbling away on papers he had rested on a satchel on his lap while driving down Tache Boulevard in Gatineau.

His hands rarely grip the steering wheel during the video's 57 seconds, and on several occasions his hands aren't on the wheel at all.

Since it was posted online July 18, the video has received more than 130,000 hits on YouTube.

Felix Gendron, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union in Gatineau, said the driver's privacy rights were violated. Tuesday, the union asked STO to ban passengers from being able to record drivers, said Gendron.

"I think that the person who makes the video, if they don't like the way the driver's doing that they should go tell the driver. Not go put that on TV," he said. (more)

Syrian troops depart Hama but violence erupts in other Syrian cities



Syria's military is withdrawing Wednesday from the restive city of Hama, more than a week after security forces besieged the city to crack down on a major epicenter of anti-government sentiment.

This comes as violence erupted in other towns and amid international cries for Syria's government to end its brutal drive on peaceful protesters intensified.

Scores of deaths have been reported in the siege on the western city of Hama, a push coinciding with last week's start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a period of fasting and reflection. That offensive exacerbated world condemnation toward Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Syrian army units left the city "after restoring the security and stability to the city that have been though tough times due to the acts of killings, terrorizing and sabotage that was done by the armed terrorists groups," the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said on Wednesday. An officer in the army told journalists that soldiers went back to their bases.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Wednesday Turkish Ambassador to Syria Omer Onhon went to Hama and confirmed that tanks and heavy weapons were withdrawn and there is no military buildup "in its surroundings." (more)

Japan's prime minister Naoto Kan to resign after post-quake bills pass: Japan's political instability lingers on

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Wednesday he'll resign once new bills related to post-earthquake reconstruction pass parliament, to avoid a political vacuum.

He's expected to step down by the end of August.

"I will put my words into action once those two bills are approved at the Diet," promised Kan at a Lower House committee session, before it approved one of those measures: a deficit-financing bond bill to fund the government's disaster reconstruction plan.

Kan has been facing strong pressure even within his own party to step down, with plummeting popularity in the wake of the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami, followed by one of the worst nuclear crises in history.

The prime minister has said he'll resign on the condition that two bills are passed -- the deficit-financing bond bill and the new energy promotion bill -- which he believes push forward his reconstruction policies.

Kan's Democratic Party of Japan and the biggest opposition party, the Liberal Democrats, agreed to pass the two bills through the upper and lower Houses by the end of August.

One of Kan's cabinet members said the change in the government would not change the government's energy policies.

"The government is in transition, but everyone is on the same page as far the nuclear policies, (and agree that they) are the most urgent policies to deal with," Goshi Hosono, the state minister in charge of the nuclear crisis, said in an interview with a group of foreign journalists Wednesday. (more)

The Coming Fiscal Train Wreck: US

Yesterday's post Revisited The CBO's Budget Fantasies focused on the revenue side of future deficits. I recommend you read it if you haven't already done so. (I did some updates after publishing it.)

It seems clear that the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office has very likely overestimated future economic (GDP) growth, and thus the size of the deficits in the years 2012-2021 (in the baseline case). The CBO also assumes that various tax changes made over the last decade will disappear as scheduled, including the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire in December, 2012. A more realistic view of our corrupt politics makes it highly unlikely those cuts will be allowed to expire as scheduled.

Today we will look at the outlays part of the CBO's baseline, including brief looks at Medicare & Medicaid and Defense. Here's the basic fiscal chart, repeated from yesterday's post.

The recent debt ceiling fiasco spawned an "agreement" by which there are $1 trillion in backloaded cuts in discretionary spending over the period 2012-2023. There may be another $1.4 trillion cuts by the end of this year, or there may not be. The rule of thumb about spending cuts says: believe it when you see it. Bear in mind the words of Ron Paul when you think about announced spending "cuts"—

One might think that the recent drama over the debt ceiling involves one side wanting to increase or maintain spending with the other side wanting to drastically cut spending, but that is far from the truth. In spite of the rhetoric being thrown around, the real debate is over how much government spending will increase.

No plan under serious consideration cuts spending in the way you and I think about it. Instead, the "cuts" being discussed are illusory, and are not cuts from current amounts being spent, but cuts in projected spending increases. This is akin to a family "saving" $100,000 in expenses by deciding not to buy a Lamborghini, and instead getting a fully loaded Mercedes, when really their budget dictates that they need to stick with their perfectly serviceable Honda. But this is the type of math Washington uses to mask the incriminating truth about their unrepentant plundering of the American people. (more)

America's Crisis Of Confidence Begins

After the close of markets last night, Standard & Poors (S&P) announced that U.S. debt would no longer carry a AAA rating. From Bloomberg's U.S. Loses AAA Credit Rating as S&P Slams Debt, Politics—

Standard & Poors downgraded the U.S.’s AAA credit rating for the first time, slamming the nation’s political process and criticizing lawmakers for failing to cut spending enough to reduce record budget deficits.

S&P lowered the U.S. one level to AA+ while keeping the outlook at “negative” as it becomes less confident Congress will end Bush-era tax cuts or tackle entitlements. The rating may be cut to AA within two years if spending reductions are lower than agreed to, interest rates rise or “new fiscal pressures” result in higher general government debt, the New York-based firm said yesterday...

“More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating,” S&P said.

S&P put the U.S. government on notice on April 18 that it risked losing the AAA rating it had since 1941 unless lawmakers agreed on a plan by 2013 to reduce budget deficits and the national debt. It indicated last month that anything less than $4 trillion in cuts would jeopardize the rating.

The downgrade was the final straw in a week which I believe the world will long remember. It would behoove those who can not accept the obvious facts of America's decline to think about what happened last week. Our political "leaders" proved beyond any doubt that they are just as short-sighted, self-serving, dysfunctional and corrupt as I have repeatedly said they are. It's a wonder the U.S. credit rating is not BBB+, or worse.

The stock market fell all week long, with the DJIA losing 10% of its value on Thursday. On Friday, the stock indices went up & down like a yo-yo. Nobody knew whether to buy or sell. For investors, there was nothing to hang your hat on. The endless crisis in Europe seemed to be getting worse, the economy obviously sucks, and everyone knew a downgrade was coming. And then S&P lowered the boom. Those holding equities will have all weekend to think about the safety of their money. (more)

Seven Billion Or Bust: Is the Human Population out of control? Or is the way we live what's holding us back?

It's a great time to be alive. We can say without fear of contradiction that Homo sapiens has been an unqualified success. Make no mistake about it, the future looks bright. 2011 promises to be another bumper year for humanity, for this is the year our astonishingly fertile species will reach 7 billion individuals (Science Daily, July 28).

Global population is expected to hit 7 billion later this year, up from 6 billion in 1999. Between now and 2050, an estimated 2.3 billion more people will be added — nearly as many as inhabited the planet as recently as 1950. New estimates from the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations also project that the population will reach 10.1 billion in 2100.

These sizable increases represent an unprecedented global demographic upheaval, according to David Bloom, Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography at the Harvard School of Public Health, in a review article published July 29, 2011 in Science.

Over the next forty years, nearly all (97%) of the 2.3 billion projected increase will be in the less developed regions, with nearly half (49%) in Africa. By contrast, the populations of more developed countries will remain flat, but will age, with fewer working-age adults to support retirees living on social pensions...

The world's population has grown slowly for most of human history. It took until 1800 for the population to hit 1 billion. However, in the past half-century, population jumped from 3 to 7 billion. In 2011, approximately 135 million people will be born and 57 million will die, a net increase of 78 million people [graph above, source].

Considerable uncertainty about these projections remains, Bloom writes. Depending on whether the number of births per woman continues to decline, the ranges for 2050 vary from 8.1 to 10.6 billion, and the 2100 projections vary from 6.2 to 15.8 billion. (more)

'Green slime' outbreak blamed on pollution, not just hot weather

Thick green layers of toxic scum forming on British canals and lakes have been blamed on the hot weather and fertilisers being washed into water.

Some 83 incidents of algae have been reported to environmental authorities so far this year, starving lakes of oxygen and putting native species at threat.

The highest ever number of annual reported incidents was 226 five years ago, but the Environment Agency said this year was an unusually bad one.

Toxic ‘cyanobacteria’, known as blue green algae, has been recorded along the Welsh coast, in Scottish lochs, infesting the Norfolk Broads, ruining swimming ponds in London and in fishing ponds and streams across the country.

It is not known how many of this year’s incidents relate to blue-green algae, but dog walkers and swimmers have spotted “green slime” in country parks, on the surface of reservoirs used for drinking water and even on the underside of bridges.

Thames Water spends £2m every year cleaning up algae from lakes and reservoirs. (more)

Do We Need a Militant Movement to Save the Planet (and Ourselves)?

Environmental groups are trying to build a critical mass around issues like global warming to inspire public action and encourage legislators to get their heads out of the sand. The Sierra Club is working to block new coal burning power plants, a new coalition is organizing actions against a tar sands pipeline, and folks in West Virginia are sitting in trees in an attempt to halt destructive strip mining. It's great work, but what if it's not enough? What if it's too little, too late? What if we never get enough mass for it to ever reach that critical point?

A new book called Deep Green Resistance, by Aric McBay, Lierre Keith and Derrick Jensen, says that we likely won't have enough people interested in saving the planet before we run out of time. So, they're calling for a change in strategy. You may know Jensen from his many books, including Endgame. McBay is the author of Peak Oil Survival: Preparing for Life After Gridcrash, and Keith is the author of The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability. The three longtime activists have teamed up to offer a more radical approach to our environmental crisis.

They use words like "militant" and "resistance" a lot. And they critique the Left a lot. And they review the semantics of "violence." "I would urge the following distinctions," writes Keith, "the violence of hierarchy vs. the violence of self-defense, violence against actual people vs. violence against property, and the violence as self-actualization vs. the violence of political resistance." (more)