Thursday, August 18, 2011

"Ron Paul: the ONLY Legitimate Candidate"

Al Qaeda seizes town in southern Yemen, residents say

Residents of a town in southern Yemen say it has been seized by Islamists connected to al Qaeda.

People in the town of Shaqra contacted by phone said al Qaeda fighters drove out local tribesmen defending the town Wednesday. They told CNN that the militants now control the harbor at Shaqra and its fishing zone, the main source of income for the town.

Shaqra is on the Arabian Sea some 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) to the east of Yemen's main port, and occupies a strategic position on the coastal road east toward Oman.

"The attacks happened quickly," said Abdul Salam Mansoor, a resident of Shaqra. "One hour our government was in control and an hour later militants control everything."

Government officials in the capital, Sanaa, and in Abyan in the south declined to comment on the reports. But a local security official confirmed Shaqra was in the hands of the Islamists. All government buildings in the town had been taken, he said. The government was unprepared to fight, he said, and that was the reason the militants took over so quickly.

"The government is sending reinforcements to the town and hopes to retake it" soon, he said. (more)

Analysis: Is Recession Dangerously Close? (Yes, says Morgan Stanley)

Europe and America are on the brink of recession. Or at least they are according to Morgan Stanley.

In a rather ominously-titled research note - 'Dangerously Close To Recession - the investment bank cut next year's world growth forecast and forecasts for pretty much every major economy, including not just the euro area but also China and India.

In one sense, this analysis is quite right - the world economy is facing the prospect of a double-dip slowdown.

That, in the end, is what is spooking markets these days, along with the compounding issue that politicians seem incapable of addressing their deficits.

We have been well aware for some time that the crisis did not end in 2008; that banking debts were instead merely transferred across to sovereign balance sheets, setting us up for a far bigger crunch at some point in the future.

And there is no doubt that should the world's big economies slow down - as indeed they have done in the second quarter of the year - we will all feel the impact. (more)

UK: Universities with the worst employment rates are charging among the highest student fees

Going through A level clearing? Here are the universities with the best prospects of getting a job at the end of your degree - and the worst.

Statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show the top ten universities for getting a job at the end of your degree...and the worst. Oxbridge data is included for comparison.

The universities with the highest unemployment rates (six months after leaving uni):

(University/ Unemployment rate)
University of East London -- 22pc
UHI Millennium Institute -- 21.7pc
University of Bolton -- 20.1pc
University of Wales, Lampeter -- 18.9pc
London South Bank University -- 17.6pc
Birmingham City University -- 17.1pc
London Metropolitan University -- 17.1pc
University of Greenwich -- 16.9pc
University of Westminster -- 16.9pc
Leeds College of Music -- 16.6pc (more)

Gold hits new high of $1,816/oz

The price of gold hit a record high above $1,816 an ounce Thursday, as demand for the safe haven investment rose on resurgent worries about a possible new recession for the global economy, analysts said.

Gold struck $1,816.25 on the London Bullion Market short before noon, beating the previous record of $1,814.95 that was forged on August 11. It later pulled back slightly to stand at $1,809.65 an ounce.

The new high came as Europe's main stock markets were plungingahead of US inflation data, with Frankfurt's DAX 30 index down more than 4pc.

"There is another air of panic out there in the market today, what with the DAX ... US crude oil falling two dollars and European banks getting crushed again," said Ian O'Sullivan, an analyst at Spread Co. trading group.

"The beneficiary once again of this nervousness has been gold, which has shot up another 30 dollars today." (more)

Time for fear or greed as markets gyrate?

When markets oscillate wildly, investors don't know whether to get out or hunt for bargains.

nvestors' nerves were tested again last week. Stock markets around the globe plunged dramatically, then swung back wildly before heading south again – only to repeat the whole process all over again.

By Friday night the FTSE 100 stood at 5320 – a rise of about 70 points on the week.

It isn't just the debt-ridden economies of Britain, the United States and Europe that have suffered; share prices have fallen even more dramatically in many emerging markets.

There are only two things that drive markets: fear and greed. Last week the pendulum swung from one to the other. But most commentators agree that it is fear that holds sway at present – whether it is about European debt levels, the possibility of a "double-dip" recession in the US, slower growth forecasts in Britain – or the prospect that France, like America, will be stripped of its triple-A credit rating. (more)

The coming depression in pictures

One of the annoying things about writing for the print editions of newspapers is that there is never enough space for graphics. The online edition suffers no such constraints, so I’ll air here instead a couple of charts that the desk has kindly drawn up to help me with the column I’m doing on whither the stock market.

Another day, another stomach churning plunge in share prices. Equities look cheap, right, so is it time to buy? Yes indeed they do seem cheap to judge by traditional yardsticks such as price earnings ratios, dividend yields and book value. What is more, relative to bonds, they don’t just look cheap, they look incredibly cheap. The graphic below tracks the yield on the FTSE 100 against the yield on 10 year gilts – the so called “yield gap”. (more)

UK retail sales stagnate, adds to gloom on economy

British retail sales barely grew in July as cash-strapped shoppers cut spending, a further sign of the headwind facing the country's fragile recovery.

The Office for National Statistics said sales volumes, excluding petrol, rose just 0.2pc in July from the previous month and were flat year-on-year.

Analysts had forecast a rise of 0.3pc on the month and an equal annual rise, as retailers slashed prices aggressively in summer sales.

Victoria Cadman of Investec said: "It's another set of disappointing data, with the UK consumer limping along at best. What leaps out is that consumers are unwilling to spend on big ticket items - household goods are down 4.1pc on the year.

Colin Ellis of the British Venture Capital Association said the data suggested that households are still keeping a close eye on their spending.

He said: "With large rises in gas and electricity prices looming, consumer caution could be set to intensify in the months ahead." (more)

“Bugnadoes” Develop Across Areas of Missouri

Parts of Missouri affected by serious flooding in recent months are having to contend with a bizarre new natural hazard, swarms of bugs that appear in the shape of tornado funnels.

The large bug vortexes of flying bugs, which have been referred to by local people as “bugnadoes”, have been spotted throughout low-lying parts of the State in the vicinity of the Missouri River. (more)



4.3 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTHERN XINJIANG, CHINA - 19th August 2011

A magnitude 4.3 earthquake has struck Southern Xinjiang, China at a depth of just 1 km, the quake hit at 02:49:39 UTC Friday 19th August 2011.
The epicenter was 64 km East of Kashi, China
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

5.0 Magnitude Earthquake HOKKAIDO, JAPAN - 19th August 2011

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck Hokkaido, Japan Region at a depth of 106.3 km ( 66.1 miles), the quake hit at 02:28:50 UTC Friday 19th August 2011.
The epicenter was 137 km (85 miles) Northeast of Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan
No Tsunami Alert Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

4.3 Magnitude Earthquake OFFSHORE GUATEMALA - 19th August 2011

A magnitude 4.3 earthquake has struck offshore Guatemala at a depth of 35 km ( 21.7 miles), the quake hit at 00:53:46 UTC Friday 19th August 2011.
The epicenter was 140 km (86 miles) Southwest of Escuintla, Guatemala
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 19th August 2011

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck off the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 20.9 km ( 13 miles), the quake hit at 00:42:21 UTC Friday 19th August 2011.
The epicenter was 313 km (194 miles) East of Sendai, Honshu, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

Explosions at UN office in Afghanistan; Gunfire also reported

DETAILS FORTHCOMING.

Solar Flare Activity Prompting NASA to Convene a News Briefing Thursday in Washington

Increasing solar activity and the threat that coronal mass ejections (CME) pose to Earth has prompted NASA to convene a news briefing at its Headquarter building in Washington on Thursday afternoon.

Thursday’s briefing has been arranged, space agency officials say, in light of new information coming from NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO), spacecraft and other NASA probes. The briefing will feature new details about the structure of solar storms and the impact they have on Earth.

The briefing panellists are Madhulika Guhathakurta, STEREO program scientist; Craig DeForest, staff scientist, Southwest Research Institute, David Webb, research physicist, Institute for Scientific Research, Boston College; and Alysha Reinard, research scientist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado. (more)

Morgellons: Terrifying New Disease Reaching Pandemic Status

It sounds like something from a bad sci-fi movie. People report the sensation of creatures crawling under their skin, mysterious moving fibers appear, and finally bugs and worms pop out. Unfortunately, these terrifying symptoms are all too true. The people having them are experiencing Morgellons, the latest and scariest in the series of bizarre diseases appearing in the last few years, seemingly from nowhere. Morgellons is now reaching epidemic proportions in the U.S. and abroad.

Morgellons starts with relentless itching, stinging or biting sensations. Cotton-like balls may appear on the body with no reasonable explanation. Soon skin rash develops along with lesions that will not heal. Many sufferers report string-like fibers of varying color popping out through the skin lesions. These fibers can be black, white, red or even iridescent blue. Others report black specks falling from their bodies that litter their sheets and bathrooms. Eventually a variety of bugs and worms begin to find their way out of the body through the lesions. Other accompanying symptoms include hair loss, debilitating and chronic fatigue, hard nodules beneath the skin, and joint pain. (more)

Something in The Air is Causing Lung Damage to Our Troops in The Middle east

Some soldiers serving in the Middle East who develop difficulty breathing — but whose chest X-rays show nothing out of the ordinary — have constrictive bronchiolitis, a kind of lung damage virtually unknown in young adults, a study shows.

Reporting in the July 21 New England Journal of Medicine, physician Robert Miller of Vanderbilt University in Nashville and his colleagues documented the condition in 38 of the 49 soldiers studied, who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan and came down with lung problems. Constrictive bronchiolitis, in which tiny airways become narrowed, has rendered some soldiers unfit for active duty.

“Most of them say they can’t seem to catch their breath when exerting themselves,” says study coauthor Matthew King, a pulmonologist at Meharry Medical College, also in Nashville. And while anti-inflammatory medicine and inhaled steroids can help symptoms, he says, the soldiers with bronchiolitis don’t improve. “We have seen no reversibility.” (more)

Tropics About to Explode with Storms? East Coast At Large

On many outlet sources and social media outlets on the internet some general agreement is surfacing that the Atlantic Tropical Season is about to unleash its rage. Although seven storms have formed already this season, they all have been relatively short-lived and rather weak in intensity. This; however, is about to change. As discussed in a few posts on MyWeatherTech.com, twitter, and facebook over the last two to three weeks I have been strongly suggesting this scenario. My hot spot has been the East Coast of the United States so over the next month it could be a very active and interesting time for those particular areas.

Above is an image of the Madden-Julian Oscillation Wheeler Plot forecast over the next two weeks. I know it is not that easy to read but the green and yellow line mixed with a gray spread that it depicts is right in the heart of Grid 1 and 2. This is a forecasting tool I look to forecast tropical development. When the oscillation index is in Grid 1 and 2 it signals two things to me. First, it signals a trough in the eastern United States. As you have noticed over the last week the high heat and the oppressive humidity has waned significantly. If you look at the Wheeler Plot it has been in Grids 1 and 2 for the majority of the time. Secondly, the likely enhancement of upward motion in the Tropical Atlantic also occurs in these grid areas. With the fact that we are approaching the peak of the hurricane season as we head toward late August and into September and the MJO oscillation moving right into the prime areas for development, suggestions can be made that the hurricane season is about to turn quite active. (more)

Chavez to nationalize Venezuelan gold industry

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Wednesday he will nationalize the gold industry, including extraction and processing, and use its output to boost the country's international reserves.

The move follows a dispute between his government and foreign miners who say the rules limiting the amount of gold that can be exported from the South American nation hurt their efforts to secure financing and create jobs.

Toronto-listed Rusoro, owned by Russia's Agapov family, is the only large gold miner operating in Venezuela. It produced 100,000 ounces last year.

The gold industry will be just the latest part of the economy to be put under state control by the socialist leader, who said he would issue the necessary decree in the coming days and called on the military to help control the sector.

"I have here the laws allowing the state to exploit gold and all related activities ... we are going to nationalize the gold and we are going to convert it, among other things, into international reserves because gold continues to increase in value," Chavez said in a phone call to state television. (more)

Cracked Fukushima Radioactive steam escapes danger zone (Hey, shut up and eat your tofu!)

Nuclear Plant, Fort Calhoun Images from August 7th -- Why has it disappeared from the news?

U.N. panel: Possible crimes against humanity in Syria (Possible?!?!)



A U.N. fact-finding mission announced Thursday that it has found Syria guilty of human rights violations in its months-long crackdown on protesters and that it may be time for the International Criminal Court to be involved.

"The mission found a pattern of human rights violations that constitutes widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population, which may amount to crimes against humanity," the Fact-Finding Mission on Syria wrote in its report.

The violations include murder and disappearances, torture, deprivation of liberty and persecution, the mission said.

The commission called on the U.N. Human Rights Council to urge the U.N. Security Council to "address in the strongest terms the killing of peaceful protesters and other civilians in Syria through the use of excessive force and other grave human rights violations; to call for an immediate cessation of attacks against the civilian population; and to consider referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court." (more)

Demonstrators protest high cost of Pope’s Madrid visit

Pope Benedict XVI headed to Madrid on Thursday for a million-strong Catholic youth festival after Spanish riot police swung batons in clashes with anti-Church protesters over the cost of the visit.

Benedict flew out of Rome around 9:30 am (0730 GMT), hours after thousands took to the streets of Spain's capital to decry the official 50 million euro bill for the six-day World Youth Day festival at a time of economic hardship.

After an official greeting in Madrid-Barajas airport he will enter the city driving through the streets in his transparent popemobile to the Vatican ambassador's residence, chased by pilgrims running a relay race.

In the evening, the papal cortege heads to the emblematic Plaza Cibeles in central Madrid for a welcoming ceremony. The Spanish air force will fly over, drawing the colours of the Vatican and Spanish flags in the sky.

Late into the night on the eve of the 84-year-old pontiff's arrival, anti-papal protesters and hundreds of young Roman Catholics hurled insults at each other in Madrid's central square Puerta del Sol.

Lines of riot police separated the two sides.

Protesters chanted: "God yes, Church no"; "Not with my taxes"; "We are not the pope's youth"; and "I am a sinner, sinner, sinner." (more)

Fortune telling scam nets $48 million

An American family of fortune tellers has been charged with cheating $40 million (NZ $48 million) out of customers looking to cure illnesses, end spells of bad luck or mend broken relationships.

For almost 20 years the family has been telling customers that money "money is the root of all evil," convincing people to hand over money, jewellery and other valuables, according to ABC News.

And for 20 years, the scheme worked - the family amassed a Florida home, a yacht, 14 cars - including including four Mercedes Benz, a BMW, a Rolls Royce and a Bentley - and over NZ$2.1 million in gold coins.

Police, who dubbed the investigation 'Operation Crystal Ball', arrested 9 family members, ranging in age from 21 to 60.

The family members are all related either by blood or marriage and many used false names in their practices which included Tarot card readings, palm reading, astrology readings, numerology readings and spiritual readings. (more)

Keyona Davis Drove With Infant In Truck Bed (While the infant was still in its stroller)

A Florida babysitter was arrested yesterday for felony child neglect after she loaded a stroller containing an eight-month-old boy into the back of a Dodge Ram pickup truck which then drove around on two of the area’s busiest roadways, police charge.

After receiving several 911 calls from alarmed motorists, the vehicle was approached by Daytona Beach police, who found Keyona Davis, 23, seated in the back of the truck bed next to the stroller.

The driver of the 1994 truck was identified in an arrest affidavit as “Mr. B. White,” who was cited for reckless driving.

Davis, pictured in the above mug shot, was arrested since she “should have reasonably concluded that a 8 mth old child in a stroller in the bed of a pick-up truck is a highly dangerous situation and incredibly unsafe,” according to the affidavit.

The incident, police charged, could have resulted in “serious injury or death to a child especially being driven on 2 of the most traveled roadways & intersections in the county.” It is unclear why Davis put the baby--who was not harned--in the vehicle bed instead of inside the truck’s cab.

After Davis’s arrest, cops contacted the baby’s mother, who arrived at the arrest scene and took custody of her child. The woman “was in tears as I told her about the incident,” a cop reported. (more)

Fight ends Georgetown basketball exhibition in China: Is this how the Chinese treat their guests?

What began as a goodwill trip to China for the Georgetown men’s basketball team turned violent Thursday night, when its exhibition game against the Bayi Rockets deteriorated into a melee during which players exchanged blows, chairs were thrown and spectators tossed full water bottles as Hoyas players and coaches headed to the locker room at Olympic Sports Center Stadium.

Georgetown Coach John Thompson III pulled his players off the court with 9 minutes 32 seconds left in the game and the scored tied at 64 after a chaotic scene in which members of both teams began throwing punches and tackling one another.

Georgetown senior center Henry Sims had a chair tossed at him by an unidentified person, and freshman forward Moses Ayegba, who was wearing a brace on his sore right ankle, walked onto the court with a chair in his right hand. According to Georgetown officials, Ayegba had been struck, prompting him to grab a chair in self-defense.

It was the second time both benches emptied in physical game marred by fouls. By halftime, Bayi had 11 fouls while Georgetown had 28.

Immediately before the fighting began, Bayi forward-center Hu Ke was called for a foul against Georgetown’s Jason Clark. The senior guard clearly took exception to the hard foul and said so to Hu, triggers an exchange of shoves.

That’s when players from the Georgetown and Bayi benches ran onto the court, and bedlam ensued. (more)

In China, reporters covering Biden get the heave-ho

Reporting from Beijing—
Vice President Joe Biden's famously loquacious style has now become the source of some international tension.

At the senior levels, the American and Chinese delegations actually seem to be getting along quite well. But relations between the press and staff traveling with the vice president and Chinese officials guarding access to the leaders are another story entirely.

Biden's schedule Thursday, his first full day in China, included two bilateral meetings with Chinese Vice President Xi Jingping. American and Chinese press were to be allowed in to hear the opening remarks at the start of the first, expanded meeting.

At least that was the plan.

Xi spoke first, calling Biden's visit a "major event" in the U.S.-China relationship and expressing his desire to work with America "to promote development of relations between our great nations." (more)

Record numbers of homeless people in Portland, ME



More families than ever are struggling to get by. Shelter workers in Maine’s largest city are scrambling to accommodate record numbers of homeless people this summer.

Today, shelter workers gathered at Portland City Hall in search of both short and long term solutions.

The Portland family shelter is not exactly home sweet home.

"I'm happy this place is here, don't get me wrong," said Alan Beam.

Alan Beam and Sarah Green and their two children ended up here three weeks ago after an Arson Fire forced them out of their old apartment.

"It's very challenging to be here because my daughter is about to second grade” said Green.

Gabriella will start her school year here, in this crowded triple decker family shelter in Portland’s bayside neighborhood.

"Oh, we're super busy. At times we have 25 families hereand have to double up," said Jeff.

It’s the same story around the corner at the Oxford Street shelter: the 154 beds here are filled every night with the surplus being sent down the road to the Preble Street resource center.

“We are using the space that they have where we call in city staff and open an overflow shelter in the evening," said Doug, Portland’s Health and Human Services director.

Overall, Portland’s homeless rate is up 12 percent from this time last year. (more)

One in five American children now living in poverty according to new report

Karla Washington worries how she will afford new school uniforms for her five-year-old daughter.

Washington, an undergraduate student, earns less than $11,000 a year from a part-time university job.

The salary must cover food, rent, health care, child care and the occasional splurge on a Blue's Clues item for her only child.

'My biggest fear is not providing my daughter with everything that she needs to be a balanced child, to be independent, to be safe, to feel like she is of value,' said Washington, 41. (more)

William Camacho's Barbershop Shut Down Due to Animal Sacrifices

Authorities shut down a Massachusetts barbershop after finding evidence of animal sacrifices, and the owner is claiming his religious freedoms have been violated.

New Bedford barber William Camacho told WHDH-TV he practices Palo Mayobe, an Afro-Caribbean religion similar to Santeria. Animal control officers removed two chickens and four roosters, one dead, from the shop's basement, after fire and building inspectors found the birds during a safety inspection.

Camacho, who said he was going to move the birds off the premises, says he does not sacrifice animals at the barbershop.

“It’s very insulting to me,” he said. “’Because what happens is that -- where I come from, it’s very known -- and this town, it’s ignorant for them, ‘cause they don’t know what type of religion it is.”

City officials say it's a health issue, not a religious one. (more)

Americans' Satisfaction With National Conditions Dips to 11%

Americans' satisfaction with the way things are going in the United States has fallen back to 11%, the lowest level since December 2008 and just four percentage points above the all-time low recorded in October 2008.

1979-2011 Trend: In general, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time?

The Aug. 11-14 Gallup poll finds satisfaction down five points from July (16%) and nine points since June (20%). The dip is likely a response to the recent negotiations to raise the federal debt ceiling and continued concern about the national economy amid a volatile stock market. The recent downing of a U.S. military helicopter in Afghanistan resulting in the deaths of 30 U.S. servicemen could also be contributing to Americans' glum mood.

Gallup began measuring Americans' satisfaction with national conditions in 1979. Since then, satisfaction has been lower than the current 11% in only a few measurements in the final months of 2008. The all-time low of 7% came in an Oct. 10-12, 2008, poll, conducted shortly after stock values plummeted following Congress' passage of the TARP legislation in response to the September 2008 financial crisis.

The current figures represent the continuation of a long slump in national satisfaction, which has been below 30% since September 2009, below 40% since August 2005, and below 50% since January 2004. The historical average satisfaction rating since 1979 is 40%. The all-time high is 71% in February 1999.

Democrats are somewhat more likely to say they are satisfied (19%) with conditions in the United States today than are Republicans (9%) and independents (8%). (more)

US says Legionnaire's cases triple over decade

Cases of Legionnaire's disease have tripled in the last decade, U.S. health officials said Thursday, but the risk of dying from it is lower because of more effective treatment.

Legionnaire's most often strikes the elderly and can cause deadly pneumonia. The germ spreads through mist or vapor from contaminated water or air conditioning systems.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 3,522 cases in 2009, the most since Legionnaire's was first identified in 1976. There were only 1,110 cases in 2000. CDC officials think the increase may be partly because there are more old people.

To be sure, Legionnaire's remains uncommon. Just 8 percent of its victims died in the last decade, compared to 20 percent in the 1980s and 1990s. But it still kills hundreds of Americans each year. Despite the low case count, experts believe the disease sickens and even hospitalizes thousands every year whose cases aren't reported.

The increase in cases is worrisome, said study co-author Dr. Lee Hampton, a CDC epidemiologist. "We need to minimize the risk of people dying from this," he said. (more)

New Video Surfaces Showing Unprovoked Attack Outside City Hall by Philadelphia Teens



A new video has surfaced showing a group of teen girls attacking a worker outside City Hall in Philadelphia, myfoxphilly.com reports.

The video, shot in May, shows a woman being attacked in broad daylight. The video shows the woman walking outside City Hall when a pack of teenage girls appears from behind her and slams her into the ground, hitting her repeatedly.

The woman said the attack was relentless.

"When I was in the air was when they got the first punch on my face that scared me I’ve never been punched like that,” she told myfoxphilly.com.

In the video, the girls are seen laughing, screaming and even dancing. (more)

Firefighters Checked For Plague, Truck Fumigated After Unusual House Call (and being "coated" in thousands of fleas)

Firefighters are used to dealing with threats from smoke and flames, dangerous footing or beams falling from above. But Waterbury firefighters checking an abandoned building recently encountered a smaller – but potentially deadly hazard.

Fleas.

Chief David Martin says Waterbury firefighters routinely check abandoned buildings for fire hazards, and when four fighters left after a check at 48 Taylor Street, they “didn’t realize until they came out and got back on the engine that they were literally coated in fleas.”

“One of the guys described it as they had thousands of them, crawling on them. “

The firefighters were taken to Waterbury hospital to be undressed, scrubbed down and checked for flea-borne diseases, and the fire truck was professionally fumigated. (more)

Air Force discharging sergeant who doubts Obama (I guess he'll have to fire 90% of the American population as well)

The Air Force said Wednesday it is discharging a hero of the so-called birther movement who refused to report to duty in Germany for a few days earlier this month because he doubts President Barack Obama's citizenship.

Staff Sgt. Daryn Moran expects to be discharged within the next week. Although the 41-year-old Nebraska man refused to report to duty and had called for Obama's arrest in statements on websites, several other things contributed to his discharge, including his opposition to Obama's decision to allow gays to serve openly in the military.

Moran, who has served nine years in the Air Force, drew the attention of the birther movement when he shared his views on Obama's citizenship on websites of groups that believe Obama was not born in the U.S. and therefore is not eligible to serve as president or commander in chief.

Obama released a copy of his detailed birth certificate from Hawaii in April in an attempt to quell the questions about whether he was born outside the U.S. But many birthers contend Obama's birth certificate must be a fake. (more)

Christine O'Donnell Walks Off Piers Morgan Interview -- How dare he ask journalistic questions?!

Seven killed in series of terrorist attacks in southern Israel

Seven people were killed and at least 26 people were wounded Thursday in a series of terrorist attacks on Israeli targets approximately 20 kilometers north of the southern city of Eilat, close to the border with Egypt.

The first attack, at around 12 P.M., was a drive-by shooting targeting Egged bus 392 traveling from Be'er Sheva to Eilat, near the Netafim junction. (more)

Morgan Stanley Cuts 2011 Global Growth Forecast

Morgan Stanley slashed its global growth forecast for 2011 and 2012, saying the U.S. and the euro zone were "dangerously close to a recession", and criticized policymakers in Washington and Europe for not acting more decisively to contain the sovereign debt crisis.

The bank cut its global gross domestic product growth forecast to 3.9 percent from 4.2 percent for 2011, and to 3.8 percent from 4.5 percent for 2012.

"Our revised forecasts show the US and the euro area hovering dangerously close to a recession — defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction — over the next 6-12 months," Joachim Fels, who co-heads Morgan Stanley's global economics team, said in a research note dated Wednesday.

That was not the bank's base case scenario, he said, noting the corporate sector still looked healthy and lower inflation will ease pressure on consumers' pocketbooks, while central banks such as the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank could try to loosen policy further.

Still, "it won't take much in the form of additional shocks to tip the balance," he added.

"A negative feedback loop between weak growth and soggy asset markets now appears to be in the making in Europe and the US." (more)

Jobless Claims in U.S. Top Forecast: Getting Worse and Worse

More Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, signaling the labor market is struggling two years into the economic recovery.

Jobless claims climbed by 9,000 to 408,000 in the week ended Aug. 13, the highest in a month, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News projected a rise in claims to 400,000, according to the median forecast. The number of people on unemployment benefit rolls rose, while those receiving extended payments fell.

Companies like Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (BK) are paring staff, one reason consumers are limiting their spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy. Unemployment at 9.1 percent helps explain why Federal Reserve policy makers last week pledged to hold interest rates at a record low until at least mid-2013 to spur growth. (more)

'Four Dead' As Storm Strikes Music Festival in Belgium as the Netherlands Weather alert is Raised to ORANGE for this evening - 18th Aug 2011

At least four people have been killed after a storm hits an open air music festival, according to reports in Belgium.

High winds and heavy rain struck the Pukkelpop festival near the town of Hasselt in the north of the country, the DH Daily has said.

Video from the site shows stage equipment dangling precariously and soaked revellers running for cover.

According to the Belga news agency, two stages collapsed, one on top of the crowd.

Some giant screens also fell down and trees were uprooted.

It is thought around 60,000 people are attending the event.

More to follow...

Note: The Netherlands has this evening raised the weather alert to ORANGE as the storm is moving over the South of Holland.

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 18th August 2011

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck off the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 15.7 km ( 9.8 miles), the quake hit at 16:45:18 UTC Thursday 18th August 2011.
The epicenter was 381 km (236 miles) East of Iwaki, Honshu, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

European economy: no escape

The US bank Morgan Stanley has worsened the forecast for the world GDP growth: in 2011 it will go down from 4.2% to 3.9% and in the future from 4.5% to 3.8%. The bank states that the USA and Europe are close to recession.

The bank also blames Europe for political mistakes and the Old World’s inadequate response to the sovereign debt crisis.

Switzerland has already responded to the economic instability: the economy is suffering from the strengthened Swiss franc. The strengthening was the result of investors’ activities who began to invest in gold, the Japanese yen and the Swiss franc. Now authorities decided to allocate 740mln Euro to support companies working in exports and tourism. At the same time, the Central Bank intends to increase the volume of francs offered to the markets.

Meanwhile, the main problem of the Euro zone is shifting to Germany whose economy has frozen. Many experts say that this is not ordinary stagnation, the situation is getting incessantly worse. In fact, this puts an end to the role of Germany as a locomotive pulling the weak links of the Euro zone out of a ditch. (more)

Balancing act: Keeping the world economy from imploding

The world economy is in crisis because of too much debt. But underlying the debt is the problem of imbalance. The distinction between financial strength and weakness has become stark between different continents, different countries within the same continent, and even different regions within the same country. These extremes have made the relationship between debtor and creditor unstable.

The collapse of the Western banking system under a cascade of bad debts in 2007-09 was the greatest economic disaster of the postwar era. Governments and central banks responded with remedial measures that could not prevent a bitter recession but at leasat avereted a repeat of the Great Depression. Those policies included slashing interest rates to almost zero, expanding the money supply, and running up big budget deficits to try to stimulate demand.

That medicine has not resolved the structural weakness at the heart of the world economy, however. And because it has failed to spark a confident pace of economic recovery in the United States and Europe, it has in one respect intesified the problem. The initial financial crisis was caused by a heedless expansion of credit during the boom years of the beginning of the last decade. Massive fiscal stimulus in the advanced industrial economies has left several nations with unsustainable levels of national debt or budget deficits. What emerged as a crisis born in the private sector, owing to irresponsible risk-taking by banks, has now become a crisis of sovereign borrowers.

The biggest sovereign borrower is the United States, where the banking crisis started. The chaotic state of US public finances led Standard and Poor’s, the rating agency, to downgrade its rating of US government debt. This diminished creditworthiness of the US may aggravate a problem known as the external imbalances. (more)

Nikola Aleksic and fellow Serbians begin fighting back against GMO foods and chemtrail spraying

Hackers target San Francisco BART transport agency... again

Hackers have launched another attack on a transport agency that cut off mobile phone services at San Francisco stations last week to prevent protests.

Hacking group Anonymous announced on Twitter that the private data of 102 Bay Area Rapid Transit (Bart) police officers had been leaked.

The group claimed responsibility on Monday for disabling Bart's marketing website, myBART.org.

Bart police have been criticised for shooting dead a homeless man in July.

Officers said the man lunged at them with a knife, but the killing has caused public anger. (more)

Libya conflict: Rebels 'take' key Zawiya oil refinery

An oil refinery outside the Libyan town of Zawiya, just 50km (30 miles) west of Tripoli, has been taken by opposition forces, according to reports.

A Reuters news agency reporter said rebels were in the complex and there was no sign of pro-Gaddafi troops.

If confirmed, it would be both a strategic and psychological blow to Colonel Gaddafi's supporters, the BBC's Matthew Price in Tripoli says.

Pro-Gaddafi forces have lost territory to the rebels in recent days.

The oil refinery outside Zawiya has been a strategic target of the opposition forces for some time, our correspondent says.

Rebel fighter Abdulkarim Kashaba said on Wednesday that they had taken "control [of] the gates of the refinery" and were planning an assault.

Heavy gunfire could be heard after rebels in cars loaded with large-calibre ammunition sped towards the refinery.

The Reuters reporter at the scene said on Thursday that small groups of rebel fighters had now occupied the oil terminal, and there was no sign of Col Gaddafi's forces. (more)

Mosquitoes 'developing resistance to bed nets'

Mosquitoes can rapidly develop resistance to bed nets treated with insecticide, a study from Senegal says.

In recent years the nets have become a leading method of preventing malaria, especially in Africa.

In the Lancet Infectious Diseases, the researchers also suggest the nets reduced the immunity of older children and adults to malaria infection.

But other experts say the study was too small to draw conclusions about the long-term effectiveness of nets.

In the war against malaria, the cheapest and most effective weapon to date has been the long-lasting insecticide-treated bed net.

Over the last few years the nets have been widely distributed in Africa and elsewhere - the World Health Organization says that when properly deployed they can cut malaria rates by half. (more)

Somalia famine: UK insists aid is 'getting through' (So why is everyone still dying?)

The UK will "not tolerate" corruption hindering efforts to tackle the famine in Somalia, a senior minister has said.

Andrew Mitchell said he had raised the issue with the Somali prime minister on a visit to the country on Wednesday.

He said members of the UK public donating money in recent weeks could be assured aid was getting through to those in need and would not be wasted.

The government has pledged an extra £25m towards food and medicine to help the 400,000 people at risk of dying.

Mr Mitchell was speaking after returning from Somalia's war-torn capital - the first visit by a British minister in 18 years.

He has warned of "a race against time" to tackle the severe famine in the country and said that without urgent action many thousands of children could starve to death. (more)

Bolivia sees rise in people-smuggling

Juan Rivera couldn't believe his luck when he was taken to Russia with the promise of a guaranteed job and a monthly pay of $2,500 (£1,550).

The 35-year-old Bolivian was among hundreds who replied to an advertisement in the local press for builders to work abroad.

Mr Rivera had been doing seasonal manual work in Argentina.

Travelling to the town of Rostov in Russia seemed like a great opportunity to earn money for his growing young family. His wife was pregnant at that time.

But once in Russia, none of that money materialised.

What awaited him instead were exploitation, overcrowded accommodation and hunger. (more)

IBM produces first 'brain chips'

IBM has developed a microprocessor which it claims comes closer than ever to replicating the human brain.

The system is capable of "rewiring" its connections as it encounters new information, similar to the way biological synapses work.

Researchers believe that that by replicating that feature, the technology could start to learn.

Cognitive computers may eventually be used for understanding human behaviour as well as environmental monitoring.

Dharmendra Modha, IBM's project leader, explained that they were trying to recreate aspects of the mind such as emotion, perception, sensation and cognition by "reverse engineering the brain."

The SyNAPSE system uses two prototype "neurosynaptic computing chips". Both have 256 computational cores, which the scientists described as the electronic equivalent of neurons.

One chip has 262,144 programmable synapses, while the other contains 65,636 learning synapses. (more)

Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says

A study using census data from nine countries shows that religion there is set for extinction, say researchers.

The study found a steady rise in those claiming no religious affiliation.

The team's mathematical model attempts to account for the interplay between the number of religious respondents and the social motives behind being one.

The result, reported at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, US, indicates that religion will all but die out altogether in those countries.

The team took census data stretching back as far as a century from countries in which the census queried religious affiliation: Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.

Their means of analysing the data invokes what is known as nonlinear dynamics - a mathematical approach that has been used to explain a wide range of physical phenomena in which a number of factors play a part.

One of the team, Daniel Abrams of Northwestern University, put forth a similar model in 2003 to put a numerical basis behind the decline of lesser-spoken world languages. (more)

Stanford prison experiment continues to shock

Forty years ago a group of students hoping to make a bit of holiday money turned up at a basement in Stanford University, California, for what was to become one of the most notorious experiments in the study of human psychology.

The idea was simple - take a group of volunteers, tell half of them they are prisoners, the other half prison wardens, place them in a makeshift jail and watch what happens.

The Stanford prison experiment was supposed to last two weeks but was ended abruptly just six days later, after a string of mental breakdowns, an outbreak of sadism and a hunger strike.

"The first day they came there it was a little prison set up in a basement with fake cell doors and by the second day it was a real prison created in the minds of each prisoner, each guard and also of the staff," said Philip Zimbardo, the psychologist leading the experiment.

The volunteers had answered an advertisement in a local paper and both physical and psychological tests were done to make sure only the strongest took part.

Despite their uniforms and mirrored sunglasses, the guards struggled to get into character and at first Prof Zimbardo's team thought they might have to abandon the project. (more)

Jessica Beagley on trial for putting hot sauce in adopted child's mouth as punishment



In a case that has drawn international attention, jurors on Wednesday watched video showing an Alaskan mother squirting hot sauce in the mouth of her adopted son.

Her attorney said it was punishment for misbehaving at school and lying about it to his mother.

The video was originally aired on a Dr. Phil episode and caused a public uproar in Russia where the boy is from.

The footage, along with audio of the boy screaming as he's forced to stand in a cold shower, was shown as part of Jessica Beagley's trial Wednesday on misdemeanour child abuse charges.

Prosecutors say Beagley went beyond what would be considered reasonable parental discipline. Her lawyer, William Ingaldson, said she resorted to unconventional disciplinary methods because more traditional forms of punishment had not worked with the boy.

Beagley, along with her police officer husband, adopted the boy and his twin brother from a Russian orphanage after their parents abandoned them, Ingaldson said. The boys were taken there after Russian investigators found their family living in a shack, where the boys slept on shelves in an armoire, he said. (more)

Stocks: 'It's a war zone out there'

Turmoil returned to the stock markets on Thursday, as renewed concerns about the U.S. and global economies sent major indexes plunging and pushed gold to a new record high.

Investors rushed to move their money into safe U.S. government bonds -- and yields on the benchmark 10-year Treasury fell to a record low below 2%.

Investors were walloped by bad news on multiple fronts: Morgan Stanley put out a dismal forecast for global economic growth. A key reading on housing came in worse than expected. And a report showed a significant slowdown in manufacturing.

"We had a couple days to stabilize and breathe, but you forget that it's a war zone out there and there's just too much uncertainty about the economy," said Frank Davis, director of sales and trading at LEK Securities. (more)

Obama demands resignation of Syria's Assad -- Next war in the queue?

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday issued his first direct call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

Obama said Assad must go "for the sake of the Syrian people."

P.O.V.: Should Syria's president resign, as Obama suggests? Take our survey.

In a written statement demanding the resignation, Obama also said he has signed an executive order freezing all Syrian assets in the U.S. The order also banned the U.S. import of petroleum and petroleum products of Syrian origin.

International pressure against Assad is mounting after his continued attempts to violently crush a six-month uprising. Nearly 2,000 people are believed to have been killed in the crackdown, while tens of thousands have been arrested.

"It is clear that President Assad believes that he can silence the voices of his people by resorting to the repressive tactics of the past," Obama said. "But he is wrong. As we have learned these last several months, sometimes the way things have been is not the way that they will be. It is time for the Syrian people to determine their own destiny, and we will continue to stand firmly on their side."

Shortly after Obama issued his statement, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the move "will further tighten the circle of isolation around the [Syrian] regime." (more)

Series of car burnings hit Berlin neighborhoods

A string of vandalism attacks have hit the German capital, with vandals burning dozens of cars so far this week, including an additional nine overnight, authorities said Thursday.

For the past three nights, districts has been filled with thick smoke as cars go up in flames.

In addition to the nine Wednesday night, 15 others were set on fire the night before, authorities said.

At least 11 cars went up in flames Monday night.

The vandalism has heightened fears in normally quiet and wealthy districts in Berlin, where children play in parks and people laugh in street cafes.

"In my opinion, it is vandalism and we should hope that the offenders don't cross the line to terrorism," Dieter Wiefelsputz, a home affairs expert for the German Social Democratic Party, told CNN on Thursday.

German authorities said they are taking the problem seriously.

"There are about 100 extra police officers out on the streets of Berlin each night to arrest the attacker or attackers," police spokesman Thomas Neuendorf said.

A government official said the attacks are unprecedented.

"Right now, we have reached a new peak of car attacks in Berlin," said Ehrhart Koerting, the senator for domestic affairs in the city. (more)

Bomb attacks in Afghanistan kill 26

A truck bomb ripped through the main security gate of a U.S. military base in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing at least two local guards and injuring nine others, the International Security Assistance Force said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide attack against the base in Gardez, the provincial capital of Paktia province.

In western Afghanistan, 24 people were killed Thursday when a roadside bomb exploded in Herat province. Eleven others were injured.

Many of the victims were on a minibus that hit the bomb, said Noorkhan Nikzad, a local police spokesman. (source)

How does corruption rank with global economies?



With people in the streets of India in support of graft-buster Anna Hazare, where does India rank among the world’s major economies in terms of corruption?

Moreover, is there a correlation between strong economies and good transparency?

Depends where you look. Comparing the world’s 10 largest economies against their rankings in the 2010 Transparency International corruption perceptions index, here’s how they stack up:

1) U.S. – 22 (out of 178 nations)

2) China – 78

3) Japan – 17

4) Germany – 15

5) France –25

6) UK – 20

7) Brazil – 69

8) Italy – 67

9) Canada – 6

10) India – 87

Only Canada, the ninth largest economy, ranks in the top 10 in terms of transparency among 178 nations listed on the corruption perceptions index, with an 8.9 score on a scale of 10 (very clean) to 0 (highly corrupt). Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore tied for the top spot with a 9.3 score. (more)

'Green drought' hides hunger in Ethiopia

Images of Ethiopia's leafy, green vegetation may not match everyone's idea of what a drought should look like but this is the other face of the catastrophe affecting millions in the region.

Long-anticipated rains may have fallen in parts of this landlocked country in the Horn of Africa, but they came too late to produce desperately needed crops.

"People are facing a serious food shortage, even though they're surrounded by greenery," said David Throp from children's development organization Plan International in Ethiopia.

"This year, the rains that allow seeds to germinate and crops to start to grow did not come. As a result, families were not able to harvest crops when they normally do," he continued.

The World Food Program (WFP) says it is assisting 3.7 million people in Ethiopia, mostly affected by drought, with up to 15 million people affected in the Horn of Africa as a whole. (more)

New satellites battle pollution 'ghosts'



They call it battling ghosts: The incredibly tricky task of using satellites to track the invisible airborne pollutants that determine the air quality and health of our major cities.

But as concerns mount over global warming, scientists say existing space technology has now reached its limits in this battle -- unable to measure how emissions are being cut in the urban centers that most people now live in.

Now a new generation of orbiting sensors capable of mapping these wraith-like chemicals at city level is being built in a laboratory in central England, a development that will give scientists a new tool in the fight to cut pollution.

Roland Leigh, a climate change technology scientist at the University of Leicester, says his team is midway through what is potentially a 15-year project to launch the sensitive satellite equipment of the future.

These small spacecraft will eventually provide an additional dimension to data collected on the planet's atmosphere by Envisat, a truck-sized Earth-observing satellite launched into twice-daily orbit in 2002. (more)

From soldier to savior: India's Hazare another Gandhi?

He wears only khadi, a simple garb of homespun cotton, and lives in a small room off a temple in a remote, drought-prone western Indian village. A veteran of the 1965 India-Pakistan war, he retired from the Indian army and took vows of chastity and public service.

According to public statements in June, the septuagenarian bachelor has $1,500 in his bank account.

But ascetic social activist Anna Hazare has galvanized the nation of India, rattling the country's leadership at the highest levels, as he garners support that cuts across economic and social divides.

His grassroots effort to fight corruption through public fasting has drawn comparisons to Mohandas Gandhi, whose non-violent efforts helped lead to India's independence from British rule in 1947. (more)