Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Arab democrats: Beware the US model

Americans like to think of themselves and their country as a model for the world. Indeed, this attitude of self-congratulation is one of the least attractive aspects of US culture when viewed from abroad, even if Americans themselves are barely aware of it. For most Americans, this common faith in the superiority of many aspects of their society - from popular entertainment, to higher education, to the judicial system, and so on - is part of the web of shared assumptions that underlie US culture. And among these, nothing is so firmly fixed in the American mind than the inherent superiority of their democratic political system.

Well. The world has been treated in recent weeks to the spectacle of the vaunted two-party American political system as it has driven the government heedlessly to the very brink of a disastrous default on its debt payments. This national financial near-miss, and the profound scepticism it has generated concerning the US' long-term ability to put its fiscal house in order, has roiled global stock markets, and threatens, if not soon addressed, to upend the dollar-based global financial system which has been in place since the end of World War II. Whether such a change in the global financial system is a good or bad thing over the long term I cannot say, but it would not happen without severe global economic dislocations, from which all would suffer. (more)

Rallies grow across India for jailed activist: Are the people unstoppable?

Huge protests have taken place across India in support of a jailed anti-corruption campaigner who has been demanding a tough anti-graft law.

Thousands of protestors turned out on Wednesday after Anna Hazare, a self-styled Gandhian, was arrested a day earlier when he went ahead with his planned protest and hunger strike in the capital, New Delhi.

Hundreds of his supporters, who had planned to join the protest, were also detained. Hazare's arrest sparked spontaneous demonstrations in cities across the country.

Spurred by messages on social networking sites, such as on Twitter and Facebook, at least 15,000 supporters thronged to one protest site in central Delhi alone, a Reuters reporter said.

In northeast Assam state, thousands of farmers, students and lawyers marched. In the financial capital of Mumbai, thousands of people carrying the Indian flag and wearing Gandhi caps chanted "I am Anna".

In the technology hub of Hyderabad, lawyers boycotted courts, students skipped class and hundreds took to the streets. (more)

Horrors in Hama: Trainee doctor tells of the bloodshed he witnessed during the Syrian army's siege of the city of Hama

The three young men were running to the Horany hospital to give blood when several shots rang out and 18-year-old Talha Khamees [WARNING: graphic video] fell to the ground, his own dark blood spilling from the hole where his left eye used to be.

As he lay sprawled on the road, Khamees was shot again, said a trainee doctor from Hama, a childhood friend of the young man, who spoke to Al Jazeera after witnessing the killing. The two other men, Omar al-Masri and Besher Ghannameh, also said to be just 18 years old, had run a little ahead of Khamees, but turned back when they heard the shot.

Khamees was still alive, the young doctor said, but as al-Masri and Ghannameh tried to pull him to safety more shots rang out. Al-Masri was shot in the chest and died soon after. Ghannameh bled to death on the street after about half an hour, the doctor and others helpless to save him.

It was August 1, the second day of the assault on Hama. As during the siege of Deraa, President Bashar al-Assad's snipers were operating a shoot-to-kill policy as the regime's tanks pounded and terrorised the city. Thugs and secret police took over the streets, which for the previous month had seen the largest-ever protests for an end to the Assad family's 41-year rule.

The young doctor didn't know al-Masri or Ghannameh very well, but Khamees was a close friend.

"He was such a kind and brave guy," the 23-year-old medical student said. "He had a school exam due that day, but it was cancelled because of the military assault. So when he heard the call from the minarets of the mosques that the hospital needed blood, he went with his friends. I saw all three friends shot. They were shot by a sniper. It was the first time I cried since childhood." (more)

Legalising drugs a solution to the violence in Mexico?



Almost five years ago, Mexicans watched their President Felipe Calderon send soldiers out onto the streets of cities like Ciudad Juarez, announcing an unprecedented frontal attack on the country’s drug cartels.

Then, they saw the death toll rise year by year, from around under 3,000 in 2007 to almost 20, 000 in 2010. This year could be even higher.

When I went to Cancun for the Climate Summit in late November, a taxi driver told me that the leve of violence was seriously disrupting the economy - especially tourism - and that he hoped the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) , which ruled Mexico for 70 years, would be brought back to power in the next presidential elections.

“Before, during the PRI governments , we didn’t have this problem with the drug traffickers . They minded their business and we minded ours. Why should we do the dirty work for the Americans, who are the ones who consume the drugs?“ the man asked point blank.

I was amazed that anyone could articulate what seemed like such a short-sighted point of view. Didn’t he realise that sooner or later the traffickers would become so powerful that they would become everyone’s problem in Mexico? (more)

Honduras: A drug trafficker's paradise



"If you want to see the inner workings of the drug trafficking business, Honduras is the country," says Victor (not his real name). He was a major drug trafficker before he became a born-again Christian, after being shot in the skull and surviving.

Now he wants to purge all his sins, including several murders, to avoid being sent to hell in the afte life, he says.

Victor was in charge of overseeing cocaine shipments and "narco planes" to Honduras.

The illegal drugs from Colombia and Venezuela travel to the heart of Central America, where they are handed over to Mexican drug lords in Guatemala or Mexico.

He would then personally deliver the money to the cartel boss. He was making $200,000 a month, but others were making a lot more: approximately five shipments a month, carrying 4,500 kilos, bought at $2,000 each, but re-sold at $7,000, adds to more than $100m per month.

"I had a godfather. Everything was easy, I just needed to call him up if the police stopped me at a check point and asked about the bags of money that I often transported in my car," he says.

Victor says the government and armed forces have been infiltrated by the cartels. (more)

Pakistani military want veto on drone strikes

Pakistani civilian and military leaders are insisting on an effective veto over which targets US drone strikes hit, according to well-informed Pakistani military sources here.

The sources, who met on condition that they not be identified, said that such veto power over the conduct of the drone war is a central element in a new Pakistani demand for a formal government-to-government agreement on the terms under which the United States and Pakistan will cooperate against insurgents in Pakistan.

The basic government-to-government agreement now being demanded would be followed, the sources said, by more detailed agreements between US and Pakistani military leaders and intelligence agencies.

The new Pakistani demand for equal say over drone strikes marks the culmination of a long evolution in the Pakistani military's attitude toward the drone war. Initially supportive of strikes that were targeting Al-Qaeda leaders, senior Pakistani military leaders soon came to realise that the drone war carried serious risks for Pakistan's war against the Pakistani Taliban.

A key turning point in the attitude of the military was the unilateral US decision to focus the drone war on those Pakistani insurgents who had already decided to make peace with the Pakistani government and who opposed the war being waged by Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban against the Pakistani military. (more)

Mexico's war on drugs has had little impact on trafficking and violence (Sound familiar?)



In 2012 Mexico will elect a new president who will need to decide whether to continue the crackdown on the country's drug cartels.

Current president Felipe Calderon is under pressure with no end in sight to the rising violence. He has complained of being "misunderstood" over his battle with cartels and says he has the majority of the people's support although "perhaps silently".

But is there a way out and after nearly five years of the policy what, if any, are the alternatives for Calderon's successor? (source)

Fighting and cholera plague Somali hospitals: the struggle to keep patients safe amid gunbattles, funding gaps and cholera outbreak

Somali government troops and African Union peacekeepers have advanced on rebels in northern Mogadishu, prompting one hospital caught in the crossfire to be evacuated.

Doctors and patients fled an SOS hospital on Tuesday after stray bullets from a fire fight between members of the armed group al-Shabab and Somali authorities broke out.

Ahmed Ibrahim, Somalia director for the SOS Children charity, told Reuters news agency: "We have been getting stray bullets in the hospital. We evacuated children ... Patients started running away and some of the staff fled from the hospital."

A nurse at the SOS hospital described the chaotic scene.

"Today, anti-aircraft gun shots deafened us - then a stray bullet hit the veil of a patient's relative," said nurse Dahir Abdulle. "I took cover inside the dispensary. After [some] minutes, I came out but could not see a single patient."

"Relatives rushed patients who still had IV drips attached to them," he added.

Al-Shabab claimed to have withdrawn from Mogadishu weeks ago, but pockets of the group remained.

Instability in Somalia's capital has complicated the work of relief organisations aiming to provide food, shelter and safety to tens of thousands of famine-stricken refugees. (more)

The "Islamo-Bolivarian" threat: Should the US be worried about the close relationship between Iran and Venezuela?

In early July, the US Congressional Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence held a hearing entitled "Hezbollah in Latin America - Implications for US Homeland Security".

The line-up of witnesses consisted of Roger Noriega, visiting fellow at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute; Douglas Farah, senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center; Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council and journal editor for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs; and Brown University professor Dr. Melani Cammett, the only testifier who bothered to provide an accurate history of Hezbollah and to refrain from referring to the Lebanese political party and resistance movement as a terrorist organisation directed by Iran.

Cammett's co-witnesses more than made up for her dearth of creativity. Given the quality of what is consistently allowed to pass as evidence of the threat posed to the US by the supposed love affair between Iran and leftist Latin American regimes, it is perhaps only surprising that the first three expert-propagandists did not invoke Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's joke in the Oliver Stone documentary "South of the Border" - in reference to a corn-processing facility - that, "This is where we build the Iranian atomic bomb."

Stripped of its facetious intent, the comment would have proved an able companion to the clique's existing arsenal of justifications for increased US militarisation of Latin America as well as potential military manoeuvrings against Iran. (more)

Philippines accused over rights abuses



The Philippines government has been accused of failing to prevent killings and human rights abuses by its military, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

Authorities say they have launched a new campaign to educate the troops but new allegations of torture have emerged. (more)

Profiteering from hunger? UN investigating the possible theft of food supplies meant for Somalia's famine victims



The UN World Food Programme is investigating the possible theft of food supplies meant for Somalia's famine victims. But it has denied reports that half of all its aid is being stolen and sold on the black market.

More than 3.2 million Somalis - almost half the population - need food aid, after a severe drought engulfed the country. This comes against the backdrop of the country's long running civil war.

So what affect does food aid theft have on humanitarian work in Somalia and how can aid agencies tackle corruption? (more)

China launches anti-terror campaign in restive west region of Xinjiang (One wonders what will happen to civillians there)

Chinese security forces have launched a two-month “strike hard” crackdown against violence, terrorism and radical Islam following renewed ethnic violence in the restive western region of Xinjiang, the regional government said.

The campaign began Aug. 11 and will last through Oct. 15, and includes around-the-clock patrols of trouble spots, identity checks and street searches of people and vehicles, according to a notice posted Tuesday on the regional government's website.

Authorities will step up investigations of suspicious activity and deal with defendants even more harshly through accelerated trials, the notice said.

“Public security units at all levels across the region must strengthen the work of security, take strict precautions, and create fear and awe,” it said.

The region's police department conceded that the number of rising violent incidents was on the rise, and pledged to “uncover the masterminds and organizers behind such activities.” (more)

In Defence of PIGS: European Union Financial Tyranny

Readers have asked for a quick verdict on the Merkel-Sarkozy deal.

I have nothing to say. There was no deal. It was a vacuous restatement of clauses that already exist in the Lisbon Treaty, or an attempt to pass off retreads such as the Tobin Tax and harmonization of the corporate tax base as if they were new.

No eurobonds, no fiscal union, no boost to the EFSF rescue fund, no change of policy on the ECB’s mandate. Zilch.

More fiscal austerity for laggards, without even the Marshall Plan we had on July 21. It is all a step backwards into the black hole.

As for appointing EU president Herman van Rompuy head of a eurozone panel, I find it remarkable that anybody should take this seriously (much as I like the poet Van Rompuy, among the best of the lot). There is already a Eurogroup, headed by Jean-Claude Juncker.

The emptiness of the summit – coupled with Sarkozy’s deliciously absurd theatrics – tells us all we need to know. Neither Merkel nor Sarkozy seem capable of rising to the occasion. Europe is drifting towards its existential crisis.

The ECB can hold the line for now by purchasing €20bn of Spanish and Italian bonds each week. But once the ECB nears €150bn or so, the markets will brace for the next crisis.

Italy alone has to raise or roll-over €68bn by the end of September. You can be sure that a great number of investors will take advantage of ECB intervention between now and then to lighten their holdings, and switch the risk to eurozone taxpayers. The ECB may have to buy at least €100bn of Italian bonds alone by late September to cap the 10-year yield at 5pc.

Perhaps the Chinese and Gulf states will keep buying. Perhaps not. (more)

Swiss fail to stem rise in franc from flight to safety

The Swiss franc jumped on Wednesday after a failed attempt by the Swiss National Bank to stem a rise in the currency triggered by a flight to safety from the eurozone debt crisis.

At one stage the euro tumbled more than 2pc against the Swiss franc to a low of SFr1.12248 on disappointment at measures put forward by Germany and France to tackle to the eurozone's troubles and worries over a slowdown in the bloc.

The franc has pulled back sharply from last week's all-time highs against the euro and dollar as speculation mounted that the SNB could introduce a peg with the euro to curb the Swiss franc's strength.

However, the central bank only boosted liquidity on Wednesday by expanding sight deposits to SFr200bn from SFr120bn, saying it would introduce further measures if necessary.

This prompted the Swiss franc to rise again.

Lena Komileva, global head of G10 currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman, said the SNB's measures were "inadequate in an environment where investors are seeking safe haven". (more)

US inflation rises as tobacco prices surge

American companies paid higher prices for tobacco, pharmaceuticals and light motor trucks last month, driving wholesale inflation up by 0.4pc, official statistics show.

Inflation in the core Producer Price Index, which excludes food and energy prices, rose for the eighth consecutive month to its highest level in the past six months.

Data released by the US Labor Department shows that overall PPI, which measures all price changes before they reach consumers, rose 0.2pc in July.

Higher prices for fresh fruit, melons, beef and veal played a significant role in pushing up inflation, the Labor Department said.

Another key reason was a 2.8pc surge in tobacco prices, which jumped by 2.8pc in July, accounting for nearly a quarter of the July advance.

US gas prices fell for the second straight month, down 2.8pc, while food prices saw the biggest rise since January, rising by 0.6pc last month. The rise in inflation followed a 0.4pc drop in June. (more)

Part-time Britain hits record high as unemployment soars to 2.5 million

Britain's economic recovery hopes were dashed today as official figures showed unemployment rose by 38,000 in the three months to June to 2.49m and the number of people working part-time because they could not find full-time jobs surged to a new record high.

The number of people claiming jobless benefits also surged 37,100 last month to 1.56m - the largest monthly increase since May 2009, the Office for National Statistics said.

The figures cast doubt over the private sector being able to pick up the slack from public sector job losses and deal a further blow to UK growth prospects.

The statistics also point to further misery for Britain's young people: youth unemployment rose by 15,000 over the quarter to reach 949,000, or 20.2pc of 16-24 year olds. The "worrying" figures come on the eve of thousands of young people receiving their A-level results and entering the jobs market for the first time.

However, the number of people in work rose by 25,000 on the quarter to reach 2.97m. But the jump was partly due to more people working part-time because they could not find a full-time job - some 83,000 more people had no chioce but to take part-time work, reaching 1.26m on the quarter - the highest figure since records began.

The unemployment rate was 7.9pc and there were 9.3m economically inactive people aged between 16 to 64, the figures showed. (more)

Gunfire, Grenade Attacks Kill 10 in Pakistan

Officials say gunfire and grenade attacks have killed at least 10 people, including a former national lawmaker, in Pakistan's largest city.

Senior government official Sharfuddin Memon says former lawmaker Waja Kareem Dad was shot Wednesday in the southern port city of Karachi. Dad was a member of the ruling Pakistan People's Party.

Memon is the security adviser to the government of Sindh province, where Karachi is the capital.

Karachi has a long history of political, ethnic and sectarian violence, and much of the fighting is blamed on gangs that are said to be affiliated with the main political parties in the city.

More than 300 people were killed in Karachi in July alone. (more)

Mars rover photographs strange object: UFO? Lander? Just a rock?

Crop Circle 15th Aug 2011 at Jubilee Plantation, near Cherhill, Wilthsire UK

U.N. cites reports of Syrian forces shooting defectors

A senior U.N. official earlier this month briefed the Security Council on reports that Syrian security forces had opened fire on defectors within their ranks and executed troops who refused orders to kill civilians, according to a copy of the notes used to give the confidential briefing.

The unverified reports cited by Oscar Ferandez-Taranco, the U.N. assistant secretary general for political affairs, appear to underscore the brutality of President Bashar al-Assad’s efforts to enforce loyalty within his ranks. The reports also raise questions about the veracity of the Syrian government’s claims, echoed by Brazil, India and Russia, that the violence in Syria is increasingly fought between two armed camps. (more)

ATF's 'Fast and Furious' firearms tracked to at least 11 violent crimes

Firearms illegally trafficked under the ATF’s Fast and Furious program turned up at the scenes of at least 11 “violent crimes” in this country in addition to being involved in the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in southern Arizona last year, the Justice Department has acknowledged to Congress.

Although Justice did not provide any details about those crime scenes, it has been learned that the additional violent crimes occurred in cities such as Phoenix, where Operation Fast and Furious was managed, and as far away as El Paso, Texas, where a total of 42 Fast and Furious weapons were seized in two separate crimes.

The new numbers, which vastly broaden the scope of the danger the program posed to U.S. citizens over a 14-month period, are contained in a letter Justice Department officials turned over last month to Senate Judiciary Committee members. (more)

UK riots: Home Secretary considering new general curfew powers



Police could be handed new curfew powers to clear the streets of rioters, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said today.

The Home Office are discussing how to give forces the powers they need to tackle future disturbances, Mrs May said.

Officers should be given clearer guidance on public order policing, she said.

The new powers could let the police clear large urban areas of people during breakdowns of public order.

Councils can currently apply for dispersal orders, where police can move groups of youths who are causing a nuisance. Curfews can also be imposed on individual offenders.

"Under existing laws, there is no power to impose a general curfew in a particular area, and, while curfew conditions can be placed on some offenders as part of their Asbo, criminal sentence or bail conditions, there are only limited powers to impose them on somebody under the age of 16," she said. (more)

Attacks in Iraq heighten political tensions: Was the "mission" ever accomplished?

One day after insurgents unleashed the most lethal series of attacks in Iraq this year, political tensions flared as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki appointed a member of his governing coalition as acting defense minister.

The appointment appeared to be a bid by the prime minister to offer some response to a deadly series of attacks that highlighted the weakness of Iraq’s American-trained security forces. But if the appointment was intended to show resolve, it also underscored the internal divisions that continue to undermine the government’s ability to address Iraq’s many lingering troubles. Some Sunni leaders criticized the appointment as reneging on an earlier political deal.

The Monday attacks also served to unnerve Washington, coming a few months before the United States is scheduled to withdraw its remaining troops. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that she abhorred “the loss of life and the ability of these terrorists to continue to operate inside Iraq,” but that Iraq could do more to protect itself. (more)

5.2 Magnitude Earthquake HINDU KUSH REGION, AFGHANISTAN- 17th August 2011

A magnitude 5.2 earthquake has struck Hindu Kush Region at a depth of 31.8 km ( 19.8 miles), the quake hit at 23:52:03 UTC Wednesday 17th August 2011.
The epicenter was 133 km (82 miles) Southwest of Feyzabad, Afghanistan
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

Mekong River dolphin population on the brink of extinction









The Irrawaddy dolphin population in the Mekong River is at high risk of extinction, with numbers estimated at 85 and the survival of new calves very low, WWF said on Wednesday.

Fishing gear, especially gill nets, and illegal fishing methods involving explosions, poison and electricity all appear to be taking a toll, with surveys conducted from 2007 to 2010 showing the dolphin population slowly declining.

"Evidence is strong that very few young animals survive to adulthood, as older dolphins die off and are not replaced," said Li Lifeng, director of WWR's freshwater programme.

"This tiny population is at risk by its small size alone. With the added pressure of gill net entanglement and high calf mortality, we are really worried for the future of dolphins." (more)

NRDC: Acidic Oceans, Climate Change and Death

Q&A with NRDC senior scientist Lisa Suatoni

How closely is ocean acidification related to global climate change?

Ocean acidification and global climate change are two -- independent -- impacts of rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations. When fossil fuels are burned, carbon dioxide is produced. Approximately two thirds of that CO2 goes into the atmosphere, where it causes global warming; the remaining third is absorbed by the world’s oceans, where it causes ocean acidification. Two problems, one culprit.

Where are the effects of ocean acidification most pronounced right now?

Acidification is expected to be most pronounced in regions where water chemistry is changing rapidly and where sensitive organisms are abundant (and ecologically or economically important). With respect to water chemistry, scientists are most concerned about regions of coastal upwelling, such as the West Coast of the United States, and cold areas such as the poles. The Arctic is predicted to be corrosive to some types of shelled organisms in the next 10 to 30 years. And given the sensitivity of tropical corals, nations that are dependent on healthy coral reefs are expected to feel ecological and socio-economic impacts in the very near future. (more)

Idaho trout face climate trouble, study finds

Effects on different species would vary, and even researchers hope the situation won’t be as bad as the data suggest.
When Seth Wenger and Dan Isaak release a scientific paper that predicts hard times for the West’s trout, they know a lot of people are skeptical.

“Fundamentally, skepticism is a good thing in science,” said Wenger, a fisheries researcher with Trout Unlimited in Boise.

Both Wenger and Isaak, a fisheries biologist at the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station in Boise, were a part of a team of 11 scientists who said trout habitat could drop by 50 percent over the next 70 years because of a warming world. The paper, published Monday in the peer-reviewed science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, predicts native cutthroat habitat could decline by 58 percent.

The two men, who have devoted their lives to scientific research, say they depend on the scientific method and peer review to judge the quality of the research that underscores their findings. The climate predictions are based on 10 of the 20 climate models developed independently worldwide that all show the world is getting warmer.

“The climate models have been right for 30 years and they are getting better all the time,” Isaak said.

The data these men have collected in the watersheds of the West shows the same trends, they said. And warmer water isn’t the only problem.

The research also shows that warmer winters are causing more winter floods that wash away the gravel that holds brook and brown trout eggs. (more)

Ringing the Warning Bell: Colistin-Resistant Klebsiella

In all the latest bad news about bacteria becoming highly resistant — through carbapenem resistance, or the “Indian supergene” NDM-1 — there has been one hopeful thread: All of the organisms have remained susceptible to one very old, little-used drug called colistin.

That might be about to change. Which would be very, very bad news.

Writing in a recent issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, faculty from the University of Pittsburgh say they saw five patients last year with colistin-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae, a Gram-negative bacterium that is a frequent cause of very serious hospital infections and that has already become resistant to multiple classes of drugs.

The patients were seen over four months at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Four of them were cared for by the transplant team and the fifth was in a medical ward in a separate building. One of the patients died.

The cluster unfolded like this:

The first patient was a 63-year-old man who was hospitalized in January 2010, initially on a surgical ward, and then scheduled for a liver transplant. Ten days after being admitted, he was diagnosed with carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella or CRKP, an increasingly common drug-resistant organism (subject of my Scientific American piece last April) for which the drugs colistin and tigecycline are the only remaining treatments. He was transferred to the transplant intensive care unit, and on March 10, his Klebsiella infection was discovered to have become colistin-resistant. (more)

EPA’s Outdated Tests Leave American Cars Guzzling Gas

The U.S. automobile industry has come a long way since the 1970s. Today’s vehicles are safer, more fuel-efficient and more comfortable. Yet public policy toward cars is marred by standards set in 1978 that are as obsolete as a rusted Chevy Nova.

At issue is how federal regulators calculate each automaker’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy. Obscure as these CAFE ratings may be, their public policy impact is vast. Whenever the U.S. government tells automakers to boost their CAFE scores -- as it did this summer -- it transforms the next generation of cars Americans drive.

The trouble is, the tests used to gauge fuel efficiency don’t reflect the way we actually drive, especially on the highway. The government’s highway test involves a top speed of 60 mph, an average speed of 48.3 mph, no use of heaters or air conditioners and an achingly slow initial acceleration in which it takes more than a minute to go from zero to 50 mph.

It would be one thing if this exercise in pokey driving produced equally distorted scores for all models. But the outmoded CAFE process risks short-changing cars with smart fuel- saving features in favor of others that are engineered for the test. (more)

Human activities linked to warming and loss of sea ice

About half the recent record loss of Arctic sea ice can be blamed on global warming caused by human activity, according to a new study by scientists from the nation's leading climate research center.

he peer-reviewed study, funded by the National Science Foundation, is the first to attribute a specific proportion of the ice melt to greenhouse gases and particulates from pollution.

The study used supercomputers named Bluefire and Franklin and one of the world's most sophisticated climate models to reach its conclusions, said lead author Jennifer Kay, a staff scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The paper was published last week in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters. (more)

Shell silent on North Sea oil pipeline leak

Royal Dutch Shell Plc was silent yesterday on the status of an oil leak of unspecified size in the North Sea and authorities said they had no information on whether the leak had been stemmed, provoking anger from environmentalists.

The Anglo Dutch oil major said on Friday that it had discovered the leak from a flow line at its Gannet Alpha Platform and said then it was working to stem the flow.

The company declined to comment yesterday.

A spokeswoman for the Maritime & Coastguard Agency said it had no information on the status of the clean-up operation and that none of its staff were at the spill site.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said it was not involved and referred questions to Shell. (more)

NYPD Seeks Pack Of Thugs Who Beat, Rob Fordham Heights 64 Year Old Man Of His Bible



The NYPD is hunting for a vicious trio who have been robbing folks along Creston Avenue in the Fordham Heights section of the Bronx.

The brutes are described as African Americans, aged 16-20. They may have a fourth accomplice.

Police say the thugs have struck three times in the same spot: 181st & Creston Avenue, just off the Grand Concourse. They’ve allegedly robbed people on July 23, August 3 and August 8. In all three cases, the muggings were in the early morning – between 1:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m.

The August 8 attack was caught on tape and is shocking for its senseless brutality. (more)

Series Of Mysterious Cat Disappearances In Lakewood, Colorado



Some people in Lakewood are worried after a series of mysterious cat disappearances.

About a dozen cats have vanished over the past few months near the Denver Federal Center and neighbors are worried the worst may be yet to come.

“I see a cat’s paw; the whole paw,” Diana Sequin said. “It just killed me. I just cried and got on my knees.”

Sequin, an owner of four cats, was devastated last week after finding part of her neighbor’s cat in her yard. It was one of many mysterious pet disappearances in her Lakewood neighborhood at Taft and West Dakota Drive.

“It’s just a sad, sad thing,” she said. (more)

World food inflation continues: Companies paid 0.4 pct. more for wholesale goods, excluding volatile food and energy costs

A key measure of wholesale inflation rose in July by the most in six months.

The measure, called core wholesale inflation, excludes volatile food and energy prices. It surged 0.4 percent last month.

But most economists say they aren’t concerned about the increase. One reason is that it was driven largely by costlier tobacco products and pickup trucks, which economists say are probably one-time events.

Raw material prices also fell in July. Those figures should lead to lower wholesale prices in coming months.

And the costs of components are rising more slowly than the costs of the finished goods calculated in the inflation measure.

The Federal Reserve and private economists tend to focus on core inflation. It’s seen as a better predictor of price changes than overall inflation is.

Higher wholesale prices tend to raise pressure on department stores, groceries and restaurants to pass along higher costs to consumers. But that will be difficult now at a time of high unemployment and stagnant wages, which have caused consumers to tighten spending. (more)

Christopher Kyle Deviers, Chad Wallace Lumpkin arrested for beating and mugging cancer patient of his medication

Two suspects have been arrested in connection with Monday's home invasion and robbery on Altoona Drive.

With assistance from the Virginia State Police, Christopher Kyle Deviers, 25, and Chad Wallace Lumpkin, 25, both of Spotsylvania, were each arrested at their homes without incident and charged with robbery and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Deviers and Lumpkin are both incarcerated at the Rappahannock Regional Jail under no bond.

The investigation is ongoing and additional arrests are anticipated.

A Fredericksburg cancer patient is recovering after being brutally beaten during a robbery Monday.

Police said three men knocked on 43-year-old Eddie Butler's door Monday night, in the 300 block of Altoona Drive. When the victim answered, the men pointed a gun at Butler and demanded money and prescription drugs.

Police said Butler resisted, and the suspects responded by beating him with a metal baton. Investigators were appalled at the brutal nature of the attack. (more)

Food Deliveryman Robbed, Beaten Unconscious In Delaware

Police in Delaware are searching for seven suspects who robbed and attacked a food deliveryman, leaving him unconscious.

The attack happened at about 10:40 p.m. Tuesday in the 500 block of W. 26th Street in Wilmington.

According to investigators, the victim told them he was making a delivery when he was met by an unknown black male. The victim said six other black males appeared and began to strike him in the head and face until he lost consciousness.

Upon waking, the victim discovered that money, personal property and the food order had been taken.

Anyone with information is urged to call the Wilmington Police Criminal Investigation Division at 302-576-3620 or Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333. (more)

Boy Killed Great-Grandma With Sword: Police

A Georgia teen killed his great-grandmother and wounded his grandmother with a sword before cops took him down with a stun gun, officials said.

Cops in Douglasville arrived at the home Monday afternoon to find the dead woman lying in the front yard and the 15-year-old boy standing in the doorway with a sword and a pellet gun, which he used to shoot out the windows of their squad car, Douglas County Sheriff Phil Miller told The Associated Press.

Inside, they found the grandmother, who is in her 50s, barricaded inside a room. She was taken to the hospital and treated for non-life-threatening injuries, Miller said.

Authorities had been to the home before on reports of the teen being violent.

"We've arrested him on two different occasions. Once in June where he had another sword, which is in evidence. This is not the same sword. He cut his grandmother on the foot with it that time," Miller said, according to CBS Atlanta. (source)

Corey White shot dead after facebook hit allegations

London Eley and Timothy Bynum insist they were just blowing off steam when they posted a Facebook exchange about a plot to kill the father of Eley's baby.

But target Corey White's family saw the posts this spring and called police. A Philadelphia judge on Monday upheld felony charges against the pair, who've been detained since their June arrest.

Hours later, the 22-year-old White was gunned down on a southwest Philadelphia street.

"I get the speculative connection to my client," said defense lawyer Gerald Stein, who represents Eley. "The hearing being yesterday and then, boom, the guy's dead a couple of hours later?"

He believes it's mere coincidence - but is nevertheless glad his client was still in custody Monday night when White was killed.

Police said they have several leads in the precision hit on White, not all of them related to the Facebook plot. (more)

Putin sets sights on Eurasian economic union

Twenty years after the Soviet Union collapsed, Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, may not, as is sometimes alleged, be trying to recreate it. But he is pursuing a different project – to build a “quasi-European Union” out of former Soviet states.

A customs union he launched a year ago between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan has already removed tariffs and customs controls along the three states’ internal borders.

Come January this is due to expand into a “common economic space”, ensuring free movement of goods, services and capital across a single market of 165m people – 60 per cent of the former Soviet population.

At a Moscow summit this month, prime ministers of the three states set an even more ambitious target – turning the grouping into a “Eurasian economic union” by 2013. There is even talk, down the line, of a common currency. (more)

Angry union shoots John King, "scab worker", in leg



The Monroe County Sheriff's Department is working to solve a case of vandalism that turned life-threatening.

John King was shot in the arm last week when he surprised a man trying to slash the tires on the truck at his Lambertville home.The word "scab" was also scrawled on the side.

King says he became suspicious when he saw an outside security light outside go on.

When he stepped out of his front door, the man fired one shot and ran off.

King is the owner of the largest non-union electrical contracting company in the area.

Anyone with information should call the Monroe County Sheriff's office at 734-240-7530. (source)

Keemonta Peterson gets probation in home circumcision of baby son

An Oregon woman who tried to circumcise her 3-month-old son at home after reading the Old Testament and watching YouTube videos has been sentenced to five years of probation.

Keemonta Peterson pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal mistreatment. The 30-year-old Portland woman must also undergo mental health treatment.

Peterson called 911 and the boy was rushed to a hospital last October after her botched effort left the infant bleeding uncontrollably and in intense pain. A prosecutor says he has fully recovered.

The Oregonian reports the boy and his three siblings are in the state's care, although Peterson can see them under supervision.

Multnomah County Circuit Judge Eric Bergstrom told Peterson on Monday that "the reality is you love your children and had absolutely no intent to harm your child." (more)

*Cough, cough*

Metal thieves scale new heights: Cell phone towers, including one in Lakeville

Thieves determined to reap value from scrap metal have pried storm grates from streets, sliced catalytic converters from cars and trucks and stripped copper downspouts from churches.

Now they’ve sunk to new depths – or reached new heights, depending on your view.

Lakeville Police Chief Frank Alvilhiera said police who went to a Verizon cell tower off Route 140 earlier this month found a man attempting to steal copper plates used to ground the towers during lightning strikes.

“The officers reported that he was over 100 feet above ground,” said Alvilhiera. “This is the first time we have had a theft from a cell tower that I can recall. This has been the trend with copper prices high. Thefts are on the rise everywhere.”

In fact, cell towers have been targeted by copper thieves around the country:

In Spartanburg County, S.C., copper has been stolen from seven cell towers this summer, including from four AT&T towers on a single day in July. Police said the rise in thefts may have been prompted by a new law to take effect later this month that will require anyone selling copper to obtain a permit from the county sheriff.

In Richland, Penn., two copper grounding plates were discovered missing from a cell tower last week. Each plate costs $500 to replace, according to a technician. (more)

Dog Thefts Are Up 32 Percent



If you’re one of millions of dog owners in the Los Angeles area, be sure to keep an eye on your beloved four-legged friend.

Dog thefts are up 32 percent this year, according to the American Kennel Club.

Stolen dogs are almost always resold, and are often used in laboratories or dog fights.

Pit bulls and other large breeds are stolen the most frequently. Purebreds are also at risk because thieves think they can get a lot of money for them.

However, without paperwork, purebreds are usually no more valuable than mixed breeds.

The AKC database of registered dogs show 224 pets have been stolen this year, compared to 255 for all of 2010. (more)

Obama Agriculture Secretary Vilsack: Food Stamps Are A "Stimulus"

Obama's Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack: "Well, obviously, it's putting people to work. Which is why we're going to have some interesting things in the course of the forum this morning. Later this morning, we're going have a press conference with Secretary Mavis and Secretary Chu to announce something that's never happened in this country -- something that we think is exciting in terms of job growth. I should point out, when you talk about the SNAP program or the foot stamp program, you have to recognize that it's also an economic stimulus. Every dollar of SNAP benefits generates $1.84 in the economy in terms of economic activity. If people are able to buy a little more in the grocery store, someone has to stock it, package it, shelve it, process it, ship it. All of those are jobs. It's the most direct stimulus you can get in the economy during these tough times." (watch video here)

Youths attack police in Sweden overnight

Swedish police say unrest erupted overnight in Goteborg, the country's second largest city, as several officers were attacked by youths hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails.

Police say no one was seriously injured in the attacks, but at least two police officers reported burned eyes after being targeted by a green laser light.

It was not immediately clear what provoked the unrest, but police say two people were arrested for vandalizing a streetcar just before midnight Tuesday and this could have sparked the melee.

Two police cars were vandalized and one other car was incinerated.

Police spokesman Lars-Gunnar Gustafsson said Wednesday that no arrests have been made. (source)

So Many Flies At Burger King, Inspectors Wouldn’t Open Mouths

Do you want flies with that?

A Burger King on the city’s South Side has been closed by the city, after inspectors found so many insects buzzing around that they were “afraid to open their mouths.”

As WBBM Newsradio’s Keith Johnson reports, the Dumpster Task Force closed the Burger King at 1701 W. 95th St., on the eastern edge of the Beverly neighborhood, on Tuesday.

More than 200 flying insects of various species were found throughout the Burger King. They were spotted on the walls, the ceilings, the shelves for clean dishes, around the sink, in the food storage area, in a dry storage area, on the tubing of boxes of soft drink syrup, and in front of the drive-up window, according to the city’s Department of Streets & Sanitation.

A wasp nest was also found just over the rear door. (more)

US Computer lab’s Chinese-made parts raise spy concerns

A U.S. supercomputer laboratory engaged in classified military research concluded a recent deal involving Chinese-made components that is raising concerns in Congress about potential electronic espionage.

The concerns are based on a contract reached this summer between a computer-technology firm and the National Center for Computational Engineering at the University of Tennessee, whose supercomputers simulate flight tests for next-generation U.S. military aircraft and spacecraft, and simulate submarine warfare for the Navy.

The storage system for the contract calls for using software from U.S. cybersecurity firm Symantec installed over devices made by Huawei Technologies, a Chinese telecommunications giant that U.S. officials have said has close ties to China’s military. Huawei and Symantec formed a joint venture in 2008, with Huawei owning 51 percent of the shares of the enterprise. (more)

U.S. Officials: Syria Using Diplomats to Threaten Opposition Around the World

Syria is taking its war against President Bashar al-Assad's political opponents global, using diplomats in Washington, London and elsewhere to track and intimidate expatriates who speak out against the Damascus regime, according to Syrian dissidents and U.S. officials.

Syrian embassy staffers are tracking and photographing antiregime protesters and sending reports back home, Syrian activists and U.S. officials say. Syrian diplomats, including the ambassador to the U.S., have fanned out to Arab diaspora communities to brand dissidents "traitors" and warn them against conspiring with "Zionists."

A half-dozen Syrian-Americans interviewed by The Wall Street Journal in recent weeks say that as a result of their activities in the U.S., family members have been interrogated, threatened or arrested in Syria. The Obama administration says it has "credible" evidence that the Assad regime is targeting relatives of Syrian-Americans who have participated in peaceful U.S. protests. (more)

Trump: Obama 'Takes More Vacations Than Any Human Being I've Ever Seen'



GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: I wanted to talk to you about the recent news about Pakistan and China. But first I want to ask you about your tweet. I can't resist. A recent tweet from you, on your Twitter account, says, Barack Obama played golf yesterday, now he heads to a 10-day vacation in Martha's Vineyard, nice work ethic.

DONALD TRUMP: Well, the fact is, he takes more vacations than any human being I've ever seen. They used to complain about George Bush, but I understand he's already exceeded George Bush and we're not even through the year. So he likes vacation.

VAN SUSTEREN: What does -- I mean, obviously, that doesn't sound a -- send a good message if, indeed, the American people think that he likes a, quote, "vacation."

TRUMP: Well, I mean, it sends a bad message. Here we have a country that really is going to hell in a handbasket. Let's not kid ourselves. What's happening to this country is horrible. All over the world, they're talking about it. And we have a president that's constantly -- whether it's Martha's Vineyard or someplace else, constantly on vacation. I mean, all the time he's on vacation! So I think it sends a very, very bad message. We have to work in this country to bring it back. (more)

Richmond San Rafael Bridge Closed By Gunman

A barricaded gunman in a hotel in San Rafael closed down the Richmond San Rafael Bridge Wednesday.

No vehicles were getting across the Bay in either direction. Specifically, the CHP closed I-580 from the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge toll plaza to the US-101 junction.

The shut down began around 11 a.m.

A San Rafael police spokeswoman said on KCBS radio that the Extended Stay hotel is on E. Francisco Blvd. They said the man fired one shot toward the bridge and that is why they shut it down.

They were also evacuating the hotel.

Police also said that there may be a woman in the hotel room with the gunman. They said the man is a suspect in a recent crime and the stand off began when police attempted to question him.

A police negotiator is on the scene and was attempting to talk the man out of the hotel room as of 11:45 a.m. (more)

Honest Japanese return $78million in cash found in earthquake rubble - 17th Aug 2011

Reader Contribution;

Japanese citizens have shown incredible honesty in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that brought the country to its knees.

It emerged yesterday that the Japanese returned almost $78million in cash found in the quake rubble.

In the five months since the disaster struck, people have turned in thousands of wallets and purses found in the debris, containing nearly $30 million in cash.

More than 5,700 safes that washed ashore along the coastline have also been hauled to police stations by volunteers and rescue crews.

Inside the safes officials found about $30million in cash. In one safe alone, there was the equivalent of $1,000,000.

Other contained gold bars, antiques and other valuables.

Japan’s National Police Agency said nearly all the money found in the areas worst hit by the tsunami has been returned to its owners.

Most people kept bankbooks or land rights documents with their names and addresses in their safes.

At one point, there were so many safes handed in to police that they had difficulty finding room to store them.

Even now, Koetsu Saiki, of the Miyagi Prefectural Police, said a handful of safes are handed in every week. Read More

Obama to lay out new jobs plan... after his vacation in September

Seeking to jolt the economy, President Barack Obama will propose new ideas to create jobs and help the struggling poor and middle class in a major speech after Labor Day. And then he will try to seize political advantage by spending the fall pressuring Congress to act on his plan.

Obama's plan is likely to contain a mix of tax cuts, jobs-boosting construction projects and steps to help the long-term unemployed, a senior administration official told The Associated Press. The official emphasized that Obama's proposals would be fresh ones, not a rehash of plans he has pitched for many weeks and still supports, like his idea of an "infrastructure bank" to finance construction jobs.

On a related front, Obama will also present a specific plan to cut the staggering national debt and to pay for the cost of his new short-term economic ideas. It will challenge the new "supercommittee" of Congress to go beyond its goal of finding $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. (more)

'It's entirely inappropriate': Fashion industry outraged after French label launches lingerie for girls as young as FOUR

In a move that has shocked fashion onlookers, scantily-clad young girls wearing make-up and sporting voluminous up-dos are promoting a new range of lingerie that is targetted at girls as young as four years old.

Combining lingerie and lounge wear to form 'loungerie,' the Jours Apr├Ęs Lunes line for four to 12-year-olds features a range of panties, bras, camisoles and T-shirts with lace edges, ribboned bow detailing and nautical stripes.

The shots feature young girls in poses and styling that seem far too premature for their ages.

Wearing striped bras and panties, they play with make-up and jewellery, strings of pearls wrapped around their small frames.

Most of the photos are too risque to feature on MailOnline, the bare legs and stomachs of the girls deeming them inappropriate for publication.

In one shot, a girl wears Jackie O-style sunglasses while lounging back on a pillow, her modesty protected by just panties and a cropped polka-dot tied top. (more)

Years of High Unemployment Ahead at Recovery’s Pace

Despite the official end of the recession in June 2009, the labor market remains stagnant. Employment has fallen by nearly 7 million jobs since the recession began. Unemployment remains above 9 percent. This is the weakest recovery of the post–World War II era. Current policies have not stimulated business hiring. If job creation occurs at the same rate as in the 2003–2007 expansion, unemployment will not return to pre-recession levels until 2018. If job creation continues at the low rate of the past year, unemployment will remain permanently high. Congress needs to act to prevent this by removing federal barriers to business investment and success.

Deep Recession, Weak Recovery

The collapse of the housing bubble and the resulting financial crisis plunged the U.S. economy into a deep recession in 2008. Unemployment rose above 10 percent, and employers shed more than 8 million net jobs.

The recession officially ended in June 2009, but payroll employment remains 6.9 million jobs below its December 2007 peak. The average unemployed worker has been without work for 39.7 weeks (nine months)—the longest since the government began keeping track in 1948. (more)

Guns, gas masks and war bunkers: The families who live in fear of the apocalypse

Post-apocalyptic worlds may exist on the big screen and in sci-fi novels, but that's where the similarities between a disaster-ravaged planet and daily life in America end.

Or so you may think.

A new TLC show introduces us to the families who live in fear of the apocalypse, convinced by the inevitability of the end of the world as they know it.

But far from admitting defeat, the programme instead focuses on their preparations for life after destruction. And, as TLC shows, survival tactics take on many forms.

Livin' for the Apocalypse follows four families who are not only predicting the apocalypse but preparing for its arrival. The measures that they are taking now, are they believe, the key to their survival if economic collapse, doomsday predictions, natural disasters, alien invasion, meteor strikes or zombie viruses ever take grip of planet earth.

Meet Peggy and Scott Layton. The parents of seven children, the Laytons believe they are 'ready for anything.' (more)

Eurozone in Recession, Industrial Production “Unexpectedly” Drops .7%; France in Recession, Germany on the Way; Is the US in Recession?

Recession loom everywhere you look. Let’s look at France: French growth sputters to a halt in 2nd quarter

The French government was put under further pressure to cut deeper into spending after figures Friday showed growth in Europe’s second biggest economy ground to a halt in the spring, in another sign that the global economy is facing rising recessionary threats.

With the worse-than-expected French growth figures suggesting a possible budget shortfall this year, government ministers may have to find additional savings ahead of a key meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy on Aug. 24.

The flat growth reported in the second quarter of the year was attributable to a slump in consumer spending and exports, and came as policymakers scramble to soothe investor concerns that the country could be the next major economy to lose its coveted triple-A credit rating. (more)

Obamageddon: Why the U.S. Economy Is the Titanic Headed for the Iceberg

America is in shambles from sea to shining sea. Unemployment is at Great Depression levels. Real Estate is collapsing. The stock market is crumbling. Retail sales are vanishing. Consumer confidence is plummeting. Inflation is skyrocketing (on the products that matter- energy and food prices). And of course, our U.S. Triple A credit rating is gone for the first time in history.

America is staring at economic disaster- Obamageddon. We are the Titanic, headed straight for the iceberg. Even delusional 500 point up days on Wall Street will not change the frightening long term picture. The iceberg is straight ahead.

Obama and his socialist cabal have channeled Hoover and FDR, who turned an ordinary bust into The Great Depression with a toxic strategy of more government, more spending, more debt, more entitlements, more rules and regulations strangling business, higher minimum wages, more power to unions, higher taxes, more printing of money by Fed, and trade tariffs. This is the Obama blueprint squared.

Here’s where the story gets downright frightening. This time the results are going to be dramatically worse than 1929. This time we are facing The Greatest Depression ever.

Why? Because The Great Depression had NONE of problems and obligations we are now facing. (more)

Stock markets fall as Merkel-Sarkozy debt talks disappoint

European shares have fallen after talks between French and German leaders did little to calm investors' fears that the debt crisis could spread further.

The two leaders agreed to press for closer economic integration within the eurozone, but did not announce any specific measures to tackle the crisis.

Shares opened sharply lower before recovering, with Frankfurt's Dax index down 0.5% and London's FTSE 100 flat.

The gold price also hit a new a record high, reflecting continued uncertainty.

After falling back towards the end of last week, the price hit $1,795 an ounce in early trading before slipping slightly.

In New York, the Dow Jones index opened up 0.5%.

A proposed tax on financial transactions hit bank shares.

Commerzbank fell by 4%, while Royal Bank of Scotland and BNP Paribas were down 2% towards the end of trading. Shares in exchange operators also suffered, with Deutsche Boerse losing 5% and the London Stock Exchange falling 3.6%. (more)

Swedish wolves threatened by under-reported poaching

llegal poaching accounts for over half of all deaths of Swedish wolves, suggests a new study.

Basing their estimates on long-term wolf counts, the researchers reveal that two-thirds of poaching goes undetected.

The study suggests that without the past decade of persecution Swedish wolves would be four times more abundant than they are today.

"Many have speculated that poaching levels are high for many threatened species of carnivores," said Chris Carbone from the Zoological Society of London.

"This study presents an important step in trying to quantify this hidden threat," he added.

The new study predicts the size of the wolf Swedish population each year based on counts from the previous year.

These counts are based on radio-tracked wolves and the more traditional 'footprint count', used in Sweden for over 10 years to estimate wolf numbers. (more)

Indian PM: Anti-corruption protest 'misconceived' (Millions of Indians disagree)

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has told parliament that the hunger strike by anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare is "totally misconceived".

He said the 74-year-old was trying to circumvent democracy by demanding the overhaul of an anti-corruption bill.

Mr Hazare spent the night inside Tihar jail in Delhi after rejecting an offer by the authorities to release him.

He has said he will remain there unless he can resume the public protest stopped by his arrest on Tuesday.

Protests backing his campaign have been gathering momentum across the country.

Thousands of people have gathered outside Tihar jail, many carrying the Indian flag and shouting "Down with corruption" and "Hail Mother India".

There were also reports of large demonstrations at India Gate in Delhi, in Mumbai, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bhubaneshwar and in the north-eastern state of Assam.

Supreme Court lawyers have announced they will march to show their support for Mr Hazare, while auto-rickshaw drivers have gone on strike. (more)

Suspected US drone 'kills four militants' in Pakistan

A suspected US drone attack has killed four militants in north-western Pakistan, local intelligence officials said.

The drone fired a missile, destroying a house in a market in Miranshah town in North Waziristan tribal district.

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.

Last week, a US drone attack killed at least 21 militants in North Waziristan. Among the dead were several foreigners believed to be part of the Haqqani network.

Last month, drone strikes killed at least 30 people in less than 24 hours in the area.

Drone attacks have escalated in the region since President Barack Obama took office in 2008. More than 100 raids were reported in the area last year. (more)

South Koreans sue Apple over iPhone privacy

A group of nearly 27,000 South Koreans is suing Apple for $26 million for what they claim are privacy violations from the collection of iPhone user location information.

Each person in the suit is seeking $932 in damages, Kim Hyeong-seok, one of their attorneys, said Wednesday. He said they are targeting Apple Inc. and its South Korean unit to "protect privacy" rights.

Apple spokesman Steve Park in Seoul declined to comment. Apple has faced complaints and criticisms since it said in April that its iPhones were storing locations of nearby cellphone towers and Wi-Fi hot spots for up to a year. Such data can be used to create a rough map of the device owner's movements.

Apple also revealed that a software bug caused iPhones to continue to send anonymous location data to the company's servers even when location services on the device were turned off.

The company has said it will no longer store the data on phones for more than seven days, will encrypt the data and will stop backing up the files to user computers. It also has fixed the bug with a free software update.

Kim, the lawyer, took Apple to court earlier this year over iPhone privacy and was awarded one million won.

He said he expected the first hearing in the new case to take place in October or November. (more)

Royal military renaming slammed as colonial throwback: Canada

Restoring the "royal" designation to Canada's air force and navy has been praised as a nod to Canada's military history, but some critics argue the move is regressive and unnecessary and will backfire on the Conservative government.

"We've had gradual, incremental changes toward putting our colonialist symbols into the dustbin of history, and this is the first time a government has taken steps to restore it," says Tom Freda, co-founder and director of Citizens for a Canadian Republic.

"I believe they're wrong-headed and they're making a mistake. The public will remember this and see this is as a party of the past. Canadians don't think the monarchy is appropriate for the 21st century."

Historian Jack Granatstein, who headed up the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa from 1998 to 2001, called the move "abject colonialism." (more)

Millionaires, billionaires and Buffett: Paying enough taxes?

Millionaires and billionaires just aren't feeling the love in the U.S. these days. With constant talk about the perils of deficits and debt ceilings, the super well-off have become the targets of much resentment, accused by some of not paying their fair share of taxes.

U.S. President Barack Obama, sensing a political opportunity, has taken up the drumbeat, repeatedly taking dismissive swipes at "millionaires and billionaires." He has said their tax breaks result in lower government revenue and threats to government programs, meaning kids are being denied money for scholarships, funding for medical research is being threatened and food safety is being compromised.

And now, one of their own, has taken up the cause. In a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, billionaire investor Warren Buffett said it's time for his "mega-rich" friends to pay more in taxes, saying they've been protected too long.

Buffett said investment managers like himself can classify their income as carried interest, meaning they pay only a 15-per-cent tax rate. But he said the middle class pay somewhere between 15 per cent and 25 per cent and also pay heavy payroll taxes.

But some observers have suggested that Buffett is not painting the whole picture about his overall tax burden as well as the taxes paid in general by the extremely well off. (more)