Saturday, August 20, 2011

Israel continues deadly air strikes on Gaza



Palestinian fighters in Gaza have launched more rockets into southern Israel, injuring three people.

The attacks against the coastal town of Ashdod on Saturday came in response to continued Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip that have now killed 14 people during the past two nights.

The violent exchanges follow coordinated deadly assaults by gunmen who targeted two buses, a car and an army vehicle in the area north of Israel's Red Sea resort of Eilat on Thursday.

In response to the Gaza attacks and at the request of the Palestinians, the Arab League said it would hold a meeting on Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Egypt called on Israel Saturday to immediately halt its strikes on the Gaza Strip.

"Egypt denounces the use of force against civilians in any circumstance and strongly advises Israel to immediately stop its military operations against Gaza," said an Egyptian foreign ministry statement.

Eight Israelis, including six civilians and two soldiers, were killed on Thursday alongside seven of the attackers, among which were two suicide bombers who detonated near a bus and during a confrontation with soldiers. Over 40 Israelis were also wounded, local media reported.

Israel has vowed to "hunt down" the perpetrators who it said had infiltrated from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

Israeli officials have blamed a Gaza-based armed group called the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) for Thursday's attacks, although the faction has denied any involvement.

The PRC is not affiliated with Hamas. more

Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes?

Imagine a world in which a man who is repeatedly investigated for a string of serious crimes, but never prosecuted, has his slate wiped clean every time the cops fail to make a case. No more Lifetime channel specials where the murderer is unveiled after police stumble upon past intrigues in some old file – "Hey, chief, didja know this guy had two wives die falling down the stairs?" No more burglary sprees cracked when some sharp cop sees the same name pop up in one too many witness statements. This is a different world, one far friendlier to lawbreakers, where even the suspicion of wrongdoing gets wiped from the record.

That, it now appears, is exactly how the Securities and Exchange Commission has been treating the Wall Street criminals who cratered the global economy a few years back. For the past two decades, according to a whistle-blower at the SEC who recently came forward to Congress, the agency has been systematically destroying records of its preliminary investigations once they are closed. By whitewashing the files of some of the nation's worst financial criminals, the SEC has kept an entire generation of federal investigators in the dark about past inquiries into insider trading, fraud and market manipulation against companies like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and AIG. With a few strokes of the keyboard, the evidence gathered during thousands of investigations – "18,000 ... including Madoff," as one high-ranking SEC official put it during a panicked meeting about the destruction – has apparently disappeared forever into the wormhole of history. more

The Slow Death of Europe



“The twenty-first century may yet belong to Europe.” Thus said the late Tony Judt, author of a widely praised history of Europe after the Second World War. Historians are not necessarily prophets, and our century has a while to go, but the prospects of such a future coming to pass are not brilliant at present. Tony Judt was in good and numerous company at the time, in America even more so than on the Continent, and the reasons for such misplaced optimism (which has now quite often given way to panic) will no doubt be studied in the years to come.

Some five years ago in a book entitled The Last Days of Europe I dealt with Europe’s decline—and was criticized for my pessimism. And yet I now feel uneasy facing the apocalyptic utterances of yesterday’s Euro-enthusiasts. For even if Europe’s decline is irreversible, there is no reason that it should become a collapse.

At a time of deep, multiple crises in Europe it is too easy to ridicule the delusions of yesteryear. The postwar generations of European elites aimed to create more democratic societies. They wanted to reduce the extremes of wealth and poverty and provide essential social services in a way that prewar generations had not. They had had quite enough of unrest and conflict. For decades many Continental societies had more or less achieved these aims and had every reason to be proud of their progress. Europe was quiet and civilized. more

Libya says it all: Africa must rise against western imperialism

NATO has been bombing houses and killing families and children in their hundreds in Libya. It has also struck pipelines of the Great Man Made River and this means that the Libyan people will die of thirst because they have no other source of drinking water.

The bombing of the Libyan Coast means that the Libyan people will die of hunger after fish packaging factories and milk processing factories have also not being spared.

There is nothing democratic about what is going on inLibya.

In fact the situation in Libya highlights the urgency with which the African Union should push reforms at the United Nations.

In a few weeks, Heads of States and leaders from across the globe will be meeting inNew York for the annual meeting of the United Nations.

Africa will have to bow her head in shame as many of her leaders will again refuse to take the bull by the horn and challenge America and her allies over their predatory tactics not only on the continent but in the developing world. more

Home prices decline in 53 of 58 Southern Nevada ZIP codes

Homes in 53 of 58 Las Vegas ZIP codes saw their prices fall over the past year, according to a San Diego research firm.

DataQuick reported that Clark County’s home prices as a whole fell 14.7 percent to $116,000 from the second quarter of 2010 to the second quarter of 2011.

That equates to a price per square foot of $66, according to DataQuick, which tracks sales of new and existing homes and condos.

The steep decline is a reflection of the decline in home prices since a federal homebuyer tax credit effectively ended in April 2010.

Many analysts said Las Vegas has yet to hit the bottom in this yearlong wave of price declines. Prices had been stable in 2009 and early 2010.

The five valley ZIP codes where prices increased were 89124 in Desert Shores east of Summerlin (up 0.3 percent); 89128 south of Southern Highlands (up 3.7 percent); 89138 in Summerlin (up 2 percent); 89146 near Spring Valley (up 13 percent) and 89085 in North Las Vegas (up 2.3 percent). more

World Battleground, 1000 years of war in 5 minutes

40 Years of Fiat Currency: Is Gold as ‘Cheap’ as it was in 1971?



Monday was the 40th anniversary of the irredeemable fiat dollar. Unlike the preceding 39 anniversaries, this one was actually noticed! Here, I present several charts that show the changes to the Fed’s balance sheet since 1971. I conclude that the current gold price may be as ‘cheap’ as it was in 1971!

To review what happened just over 40 years ago, I quote from Murray Rothbard’s fantastic little book, ‘What Has Government Done to Our Money?‘:

On August 15, 1971, at the same time that President Nixon imposed a price-wage freeze in a vain attempt to check bounding inflation, Mr. Nixon also brought the post-war Bretton Woods system to a crashing end. As European Central Banks at last threatened to redeem much of their swollen stock of dollars for gold, President Nixon went totally off gold. For the first time in American history, the dollar was totally fiat, totally without backing in gold. Even the tenuous link with gold maintained since 1933 was now severed. The world was plunged into the fiat system of the thirties—and worse, since now even the dollar was no longer linked to gold. Ahead loomed the dread spectre of currency blocs, competing devaluations, economic warfare, and the breakdown of international trade and investment, with the worldwide depression that would then ensue. more

Is China reconstructing America and making a profit from Western decay?

Chinese banks have poured more than $1 billion into real estate loans in New York City in the past year. Investors from China are snapping up luxury apartments and planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on commercial and residential projects like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. Chinese companies have signed major leases at the Empire State Building and at 1 World Trade Center, which is the centerpiece of the rebuilding at ground zero.

Investment in the city by companies and entrepreneurs from China has been surging in the last few years, recalling the boom in Japanese investment that swept the region in the 1980s and helping to buoy the local economy even as the country as a whole struggles to get out of recession.

The Chinese investments are occurring with little fanfare, in part because Chinese executives tend to shun publicity. But back home, their government is urging them to invest overseas to diversify Chinas foreign-exchange holdings, develop business partnerships and improve the countrys leverage in international affairs.

Dan Fasulo, managing director of Real Capital Analytics, which tracks commercial real estate sales, was combing through his files the other day for deals in New York City that involved Chinese investments. As the list grew longer and longer, he paused, a tone of surprise in his voice. “Its truly amazing how much theyve been able to do without being highlighted in public,” he said. more

Marc Faber readies for hyperinflation, dollar’s demise and civil unrest

“Dr. Doom,” that is — also known as Marc Faber, the Hong Kong-based investment manager, author, and publisher of “The Gloom Boom & Doom Report,” his monthly musing about the state of global economics and geopolitics.

Faber is to financial-market optimists what the Grinch is to Christmas. He doesn’t often like what he sees, and nowadays he finds even less to like about the world’s economic situation than he did in 2008 — as if that wasn’t bad enough.

“Financial conditions are today worse than they were prior to the crisis in 2008,” he said in a telephone interview earlier this week from Thailand. “The fiscal deficits have exploded and the political system [in both the U.S. and Europe] has become completely dysfunctional.”

Certainly, the unprecedented global stock market volatility in this hot August, including Thursday’s rout, suggests that investors and traders alike are looking for someone, somewhere, to take the wheel. Read more: Confidence is collapsing around us.

Pin that against a backdrop of fragile economies, inflationary government policies, high unemployment, social and income disparity, military actions and geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and Asia, and you get a good picture of how Faber sees the investment map. more

Japan "warned" it must decide on future of Okinawa US marine base (Is America an ally or an occupying force?)

A US official who until March was in charge of American policy towards Japan has warned that unless agreement is reached soon over the transfer of a US marine base in Okinawa, Washington will drop the plan to reduce its military footprint on the island.

Kevin Maher, who was sacked as director of the US state department's office of Japan affairs in March after reportedly making disparaging remarks about Okinawans, said disagreement over the future of the base threatened to prolong the island's burden of hosting about half of the 47,000 US troops in Japan.

Under a 2006 agreement, Futenma base, situated in a city, is to be relocated to a coastal area of Okinawa and 8,000 US marines and their families transferred to Guam by 2014.

Local opposition to the move – many Okinawans want the base moved off the island in southern Japan altogether – recently forced the countries to drop the deadline.

"If decisions are not made very clearly in the next few weeks to go forward with the realignment plan, Futenma is probably going to stay where it is," Maher said in Tokyo during a speech to promote his book, The Japan That Can't Decide. more

U.S. to offer $900,000 in relief aid for N. Korea (Is that so?)

The United States announced a decision Thursday to provide North Korea with $900,000 worth of emergency aid for North Korea recently hit by floods.

"In response to humanitarian needs arising from recent flooding in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the United States will provide emergency humanitarian assistance to DPRK," the State Department said in a press release. source

China’s newly rich are flaunting wealth — and giving Communist rulers a headache

China’s new rich love luxury products — imported French handbags, Italian sports cars — and even more, they love to show off their bling.

That seems to be creating headaches for China’s Communist rulers, who after three decades of exhorting their subjects to get rich are facing growing discontent over a widening income gap. Officials now talk about making sure wealth is more evenly distributed, and how to get the rich to tone it down.

As the global economy melts down, and China tries to accelerate its shift to a more consumer-led growth model, Beijing’s leaders see luxury items as a lucrative revenue source. Many Chinese now buy luxury products in Hong Kong or abroad to avoid China’s high taxes, so officials are debating a move to slash tariffs to encourage consumers to shop at home.

But government is loath to be seen as taking any new measures to support the sliver of the population that can afford that pricey new Hermes bag or latest Ferrari, and has delayed any decision on cutting tariffs, according to Chinese media reports and industry analysts.

“The government is facing a conflict,” said Michael Ouyang, representative of the World Luxury Association in China. “They don’t want to promote luxury because they are worried people who cannot afford it will see the advertisements. But they don’t want to limit luxury products because it’s good for the economy. So they’re facing a dilemma.”

It doesn’t help the government’s case when the rich keep showing off their bling.

Exhibit A might be a 20-year-old woman calling herself “Guo Meimei Baby.”

Guo — whose name “Meimei” means “Pretty, pretty” — became a recent Internet sensation in China, and prompted a national scandal, when she posted photos of herself on her microblog posing with her collection of imported Hermes handbags and showing off her white Maserati sports car, called “little horse,” and her (married) boyfriend’s orange Lamborghini, called “little bull.” more

US Postal Service will be insolvent by next August, deputy PMG says

The U.S. Postal Service will be broke by next summer even if it skips an upcoming $5.5 billion payment for retiree health care, its No. 2 leader said Thursday.

"We're really up against the wall here in terms of stabilizing the finances of the Postal Service," Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman said in an interview with Federal Times.

The health care "prepayment," due Sept. 30, is mandated under the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act to ensure coverage for future USPS retirees. The Postal Service, which is losing profitable first-class mail volume faster than expected, has so little cash on hand that it cannot make any of that payment, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said Wednesday.

USPS has asked Congress to defer the payment. If Congress doesn't act, USPS will ignore the requirement to pay, leaving it with a carryover of between $1 billion and $2 billion heading into fiscal 2012, a spokesman said in an email.

At best, however, default on the prepayment will keep the mail carrier solvent only through next August, Stroman said.

As an alternative, the Postal Service last week proposed creating its own health coverage plan, separate from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and breaking away from the two major federal retirement programs. It also wants more freedom to lay off union employees.

Postal officials intend to seek congressional approval for all three moves this year, Stroman said, adding that discussions with the House and Senate are underway.

Last week's surprise announcement came as USPS officials were gearing up for negotiations on new contracts with two of their four unions. Talks with the National Association of Letter Carriers began Thursday morning; discussions with the National Postal Mail Handlers Union are set to start Aug. 30. Existing contracts for both unions expire at midnight Nov. 20. more

$20,000 Gold?

Presidential Candidate Rick Perry Championed Pesticides, Torpedoed Regs as Texas Ag Chief

As the harvest season approached in 1995, Texas cotton farmers had a boll weevil problem.

The agriculture industry, then one of the biggest in the nation and vital to the Lone Star State's economy, projected that the beetle -- which feeds on cotton -- could wipe out its crop.

Then-Agriculture Commissioner Rick Perry had a solution. The Republican urged the cotton farmers to buy into a program to eradicate the pests using 250,000 gallons of the pesticide malathion.

It didn't go as planned. Malathion may have gotten rid of the boll weevils, but it also killed beneficial insects that helped keep the crop free of cotton-eating beet armyworms that invaded. As a result, the valley yielded 54,000 bales of cotton -- a far cry from the projected 450,000 bales. According to some estimates, malathion cost cotton growers $140 million in crop losses and put them $9 million in debt to the eradication program.

The episode is emblematic of the now-governor and presidential candidate's tenure as Texas Agriculture Department commissioner, which was marked by a laissez-faire approach to pesticide regulation. That philosophy made Perry the nemesis of environmental groups and government watchdogs, both of which charged that his department neglected its pesticide oversight and enforcement roles.

But it didn't hurt Perry politically. To the contrary, his early efforts on pesticides won the praise and support of Texas' powerful agricultural chemical lobby that, in fact, paved the way to his political ascendancy in the Lone Star State. more

Planet Sludge: Millions of Abandoned, Leaking Oil Wells and Natural-Gas Wells Destined to Foul Our Future

Royal Dutch Shell's 100,000-gallon North Sea oil spill off the coast of England is just the latest example of oil fouling the environment. Other instances of leaking oil from just the past 30 odd years (millions of gallons noted in parentheses) have occurred in Kuwait during the Gulf War (240-336); Bay of Campeche, Mexico (140); Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies (88.3); Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan (87.7); Nowruz Oil Field, Persian Gulf (80); Angolan coast (80); Saldanha Bay, South Africa (78.5); off Brittany, France (68.7); off Nova Scotia, Canada (43); Genoa, Italy (42); Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska (11); and BP's Deepwater Horizon platform leak in the Gulf of Mexico (205). This in-depth EcoHearth report indicates these are but a prelude more numerous catastrophes to come.

Each day hundreds of thousands of abandoned leaking oil wells and natural-gas wells spew toxic pollutants into the environment—and tens of millions more will soon join them—thanks to fatally flawed gas and oil-well capping and lax or nonexistent industry and government oversight. A three-month EcoHearth.com investigation has revealed this developing environmental calamity that almost no one is paying attention to and that gravely threatens ecosystems worldwide. (more)

Better Than Superman? X-Ray Microscope Enables Nanovision

Forget X-ray glasses. A new X-ray microscope can see details a small as a billionth of a meter — without even using a lens.

Instead, the new microscope uses a powerful computer program to convert patterns from X-rays bouncing off materials into images of objects as small as a one nanometer across, on the scale of a few atoms.

Unlike Superman's X-ray vision, which allows him to look through walls to see the bad guys beyond, the new technology could be used to look at different elements inside a material, or to image viruses, cells and tissue in great detail, said study researcher Oleg Shpyrko, a physicist at the University of California, San Diego. But one of the most important applications is in nano-sized engineering, Shpyrko said.

"We can make things at nanoscale, but we can't see them very well," Shpyrko told LiveScience. "So our paper pushes the characterization [of the nanomaterials] forward," he added, referring to their research article published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Aug. 8. (more)

Why Is the Media Ignoring Ron Paul? Jon Stewart Asks (and we're reposting it)

Ron Paul Explodes: Ron Paul for President!

London Riots: Infowars Special Report on Social Unrest and Economic Collapse

Depleted Uranium kills both sides in war

Gaddafi threatens to attack Europe if NATO doesn't retreat

Google Earth map shows radiation at ground level in Japan

A Japanese nuclear agency has created a detailed map showing ground radiation levels within 100 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency made the map by having a survey team drive through the area in June. The team took readings of aerial radiation once every 10 seconds for several days along routes totaling 17,000 kilometers.

The map uses colors to indicate radiation levels and Google Earth technology to help users pinpoint locations.

The agency says the map is more detailed than those that show radiation levels based on data taken from high in the skies. For instance, it shows two sites that are only 100 meters away but whose radiation levels differ by a factor of 10. (more)

Apple is worth as much as all euro zone banks

US technology company Apple is now worth as much as the 32 biggest euro zone banks. That's the stark result from a steep fall in the share price of banks including Spain's Santander , France's BNP Paribas , Germany's Deutsche Bank and Italy's Unicredit , compared to a steady rise in Apple's valuation, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Earlier on Friday the DJ STOXX euro zone banks index fell 4 percent, valuing its 32 members at $340 billion. That's based on the market capitalisation of their free-float shares, which for some French banks in particular is less than 100 percent.

The index has crashed by a third since the start of July, hammered by fears banks will lose billions from their holdings of euro zone government bonds and a failure of policymakers to stop a euro zone debt crisis from spreading.

The euro zone banks have lost three-quarters of their value since peaking in May 2007.
(more)

US Immigration reform in August: Why now?

It's late August. Would you rather hit the beach or discuss immigration reform?

The White House seems to be betting on the former, slipping out news of a major shift in the federal government's approach to illegal immigrants at a time when most Americans traditionally hit the road for summer vacation.

As President Barack Obama packed his bags for Martha's Vineyard this week, the Department of Homeland Security announced its intention to individually review roughly 300,000 pending deportation cases in federal immigration courts. Lower-priority cases -- those not involving individuals considered violent or otherwise dangerous -- will be suspended.

Administration officials call it a matter of prioritizing cases and allocating scarce resources more efficiently. Critics call it backdoor amnesty, a way to push through policy changes that conservatives in Congress would never agree to.

This much is clear: The fate of America's roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants remains a polarizing issue. Politically, the timing of the administration's announcement is as relevant as the substance. (more)

Final battle for Tripoli may be underway: Explosions, gunfire -- "Mayhem in Tripoli"

DETAILS FORTHCOMING.

Rebels claim to take 'revolution' inside Tripoli, clashes reported



Libyan rebels have taken their fight inside Tripoli, home to embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi, a rebel spokesman said late Saturday.

"The revolution from inside Tripoli has officially started (Saturday) evening in many parts ... of Tripoli, and is expected to spread to all of Tripoli," said Jumma Ibrahim, a rebel spokesman from the western mountain region around Zintan.

But speaking a short time later, just before midnight in Tripoli, government spokesman Musa Ibrahim insisted that all is safe and well. He said that the Libyan capital remains under government control, adding that the nearby highways remain open.

Heavy clashes broke out Saturday night in at least one Tripoli neighborhood, marked by intense gunfire, explosions and people screaming as they ran through the street, a resident told CNN.

Gunfire and explosions have become normal occurrences in Tripoli, but CNN personnel on the ground for weeks report that the fighting appeared to be among the most intense yet.

"Most of the neighhoods in Tripoli are rising up," Jumma Ibrahim said. more

Inside Fukushima: Kazuma Obara gains unauthorized access and produces an amazing photo essay full of truth -- Must see!


4.8 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 20th August 2011

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 35.4 km ( 22 miles), the quake hit at 19:37:22 UTC Saturday 20th August 2011.
The epicenter was 93 km (57 miles) ENE of Sendai, Honshu, Japan
Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

5.0 Magnitude Earthquake VANUATU - 20th August 2011

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck Vanuatu at a depth of 60.4 km ( 37.5 miles), the quake hit at 19:23:06 UTC Saturday 20th August 2011.
The epicenter was 57 km (35 miles) SSW of Port-Vila, Efate, Vanuatu
Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

Red Arrow Pilot Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging Dies in Crash in Bournemouth - 20th Aug 2011

A Red Arrow pilot, named as Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging, has been killed after his jet crashed in Bournemouth.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the 33-year-old from Rutland was killed when his Hawk aircraft crashed just south of Bournemouth Airport this afternoon.

The MoD confirmed that it was investigating the cause of the accident.

Group Captain Simon Blake, the Commandant of the RAF's Central Flying School, said Flight Lieutenant Egging was a "gifted aviator" who flew in the "most demanding position" of the formation - on the right hand outside of the diamond.

"A true team player, his good nature and constant smile will be sorely missed by all.

"In such a close knit team, this tragedy will be keenly felt by his fellow team members, the Reds and all of the engineering and support staff, the Blues," he added.

The display team had taken part in Bournemouth's annual air festival shortly before the crash. Read More

Coming Crisis Alert -- Major Pacific Quake Event -- August 20, 2011

WARNING AREA AND DURATION:

ALERT LIFTED: August 21, 2011.

ALERT EXTENDED until August 22, Noon, EST due to worsening world seismic monitoring activity.

Pacific Ocean, with extra attention on New Zealand, Vanautu, and Fiji until Tuesday, August 21, 2011, Noon EST.

EVENT INFORMATION:

Update: August 21, 2011
World seismic monitors have worsened in their measurements, although no major event has yet occurred.

August 20, 2011
Vanautu has experienced two 7+ earthquakes in the span of 5 hours, one of which was extremely shallow. World quake monitors have become incredibly active around Vanautu, Fiji Islands, Kermadec Islands and New Zealand, leading us to believe that there is a significant possibility of a major quake event in the Pacific region within the next 12-24 hours.

EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS:

1) If you live in the Pacific region, please remain away from coasts, off of beaches, and on elevated positions.

2) Please remain close to your TV or radio should Tsunami alerts or emergency instructions issued by your government or emergency authority.

3) In the event of a large Pacific quake, immediately abandon any low-lying positions and seek elevation: do NOT return to fetch items until the Tsunami warning has been lifted.

7.0 Magnitude Earthquake VANUATU - 20th August 2011

A magnitude 7.0 earthquake has struck Vanuatu at a depth of just 2 km ( 1.2 miles), the quake hit at 18:19:21 UTC Saturday 20th August 2011.
The epicenter was 68 km (42 miles) SSW of Port-Vila, Efate, Vanuatu
Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

5.2 Magnitude Earthquake VANUATU - 20th August 2011

A magnitude 5.2 earthquake has struck Vanuatu at a depth of 35.3 km ( 21.9 miles), the quake hit at 18:02:00 UTC Saturday 20th August 2011.
The epicenter was 106 km (65 miles) SSW of Port-Vila, Efate, Vanuatu
Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

4.2 Magnitude Earthquake POLAND - 20th August 2011

A magnitude 4.2 earthquake has struck Poland at a depth of of just 1 km ( 0 miles), the quake hit at 17:29:03 UTC Saturday 20th August 2011.
The epicenter was 9 km (9.3 miles) South of Polkowice, Poland
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

4.2 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE COAST OF WESTERN TURKEY - 20th August 2011

A magnitude 4.2 earthquake has struck near the Coast of Western Turkey at a depth of 10 km ( 6.2 miles), the quake hit at 17:13:50 UTC Saturday 20th August 2011.
The epicenter was 21 km (12.5 miles) South of Piryion, Turkey
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake FIJI REGION - 20th August 2011

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck the Fiji Region at a depth of 371.2 km ( 230.7 miles), the quake hit at 17:28:52 UTC Saturday 20th August 2011.
The epicenter was 243 km (151 miles) West of Nuku'Alofa, Tonga
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake VANUATU - 20th August 2011

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck Vanuatu at a depth of 9.5 km ( 5.9 miles), the quake hit at 17:44:27 UTC Saturday 20th August 2011.
The epicenter was 120 km (75 miles) SSW of Port-Vila, Efate, Vanuatu
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

US troops may stay in Afghanistan until 2024



America and Afghanistan are close to signing a strategic pact which would allow thousands of United States troops to remain in the country until at least 2024, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

The agreement would allow not only military trainers to stay to build up the Afghan army and police, but also American special forces soldiers and air power to remain.

The prospect of such a deal has already been met with anger among Afghanistan’s neighbours including, publicly, Iran and, privately, Pakistan.

It also risks being rejected by the Taliban and derailing any attempt to coax them to the negotiating table, according to one senior member of Hamid Karzai’s peace council.

A withdrawal of American troops has already begun following an agreement to hand over security for the country to Kabul by the end of 2014.

But Afghans wary of being abandoned are keen to lock America into a longer partnership after the deadline. Many analysts also believe the American military would like to retain a presence close to Pakistan, Iran and China. (more)

NASA data on Comet Elenin "Missing" -- What's going on?

Nato shifts training focus to Afghan needs: So much for the war "winding down"

The Nato-led alliance fighting in Afghanistan has switched approach in training Afghan forces, a US major general said, in the face of escalating violence and a looming 2014 deadline to hand over security responsibilities.

Questions about the United States’ success in the increasingly unpopular war were raised earlier this month when the Taliban killed 30 US troops in a helicopter, the largest single loss for foreign forces in the 10 years of war.

That added to growing unease in Washington and Europe about the costly war that has caused lawmakers to question whether bringing all Nato combat troops home by 2014 is fast enough.

Nato’s resource training of Afghan police and army needed an overhaul and has changed its focus to Afghan needs over the past year, said US Major General Peter Fuller, the deputy commander for programmes and resources within the Nato training mission.

“We’re going in the other direction,” Fuller said in an interview late on Wednesday at the mission’s headquarters in Camp Eggers in Kabul, a sprawling base home to some 2,500 Nato trainers. (more)

US Government Paying Farmers, Ranchers $112M to Protect Bird (Sage Grouse) Too Numerous to be Threatened

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is paying $112 million in tax money to farmers and ranchers in 11 Western states to restore the habitat of the Sage Grouse, a bird that has not been listed as either threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species law because the government says there are too many of them.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week that the USDA would dedicate $21.8 million to pay eligible ranchers and farmers in the state of Wyoming to encourage conservation practices that preserve the numbers of Sage Grouse.

That will bring to $112 million the total amount that the USDA has distributed over the last two years to eligible farmers and ranchers in 11 states as part of its Sage Grouse Initiative.

“Working with the Department of Interior, we are working together with our producers in the Western part of the United States to avoid having the Sage Grouse be placed on the endangered species list,” Vilsack said during a conference call briefing last Thursday. (more)

Sarah Lynn Cheek left child in stroller outside bar while she drank



A Daytona Beach mother was arrested and charged with child neglect after police say she left 5-year-old child who was in her care in a stroller outside a bar while she was inside the bar drinking

It happened around 9:45 p.m. Thursday at a bar on E. Orange Avenue in Daytona Beach.

According to the arrest report, Sarah Lynn Cheek, 34, went to the bar with the 5-year-old child and told the child to, ”Stay here. I’m going to get you a candy bar.” The report says bar patrons saw the child outside the bar alone and called police who arrested Cheek and charged her with child neglect. Police transported the child back home and made contact with the child’s father who told officers that his 14-year-old daughter was watching the 5-year-old while he was sleeping and that Cheek asked the teen if it was alright to take the child for a walk. The teen agreed and Cheek left with the child. (more)

U.S. Scrambling to Ease Shortage of Vital Medicine

Federal officials and lawmakers, along with the drug industry and doctors’ groups, are rushing to find remedies for critical shortages of drugs to treat a number of life-threatening illnesses, including bacterial infection and several forms of cancer.

The proposed solutions, which include a national stockpile of cancer medicines and a nonprofit company that will import drugs and eventually make them, are still in the early or planning stages. But the sense of alarm is widespread.

“These shortages are just killing us,” said Dr. Michael Link, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the nation’s largest alliance of cancer doctors. “These drugs save lives, and it’s unconscionable that medicines that cost a couple of bucks a vial are unavailable.” (more)

GM says bankruptcy excuses it from Impala repairs

General Motors Co (GM.N) is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit over a suspension problem on more than 400,000 Chevrolet Impalas from the 2007 and 2008 model years, saying it should not be responsible for repairs because the flaw predated its bankruptcy.

The lawsuit, filed on June 29 by Donna Trusky of Blakely, Pennsylvania, contended that her Impala suffered from faulty rear spindle rods, causing her rear tires to wear out after just 6,000 miles. [ID:nN1E7650CT]

Seeking class-action status and alleging breach of warranty, the lawsuit demands that GM fix the rods, saying that it had done so on Impala police vehicles.

But in a recent filing with the U.S. District Court in Detroit, GM noted that the cars were made by its predecessor General Motors Corp, now called Motors Liquidation Co or "Old GM," before its 2009 bankruptcy and federal bailout.

The current company, called "New GM," said it did not assume responsibility under the reorganization to fix the Impala problem, but only to make repairs "subject to conditions and limitations" in express written warranties. In essence, the automaker said, Trusky sued the wrong entity. (more)

Dollar value versus Yen plumges to all-time low

The euro rebounded on Friday as an early sell-off lost steam on central bank demand and technical buying, although the currency was vulnerable due to fears about euro-zone banks and a gloomy global outlook.

The U.S. dollar, meanwhile, plunged to a record low against the yen, with traders emboldened by a Wall Street Journal report citing Japan's top currency official saying Japanese authorities do not plan to intervene often.

The euro rose to a session high of $1.44530 EUR=EBS on trading platform EBS, having fallen earlier to a low of around $1.42589 as European shares suffered steep losses. The euro was also boosted by market chatter that the European Central Bank was buying peripheral bonds [GVD/EUR].

"The rebound in the euro seems to have been timed with the recovery in equities, which have come back from the worst points of the day," said David Mann, regional head of research for the Americas at Standard Chartered in New York.

U.S. stocks .N were mixed in midday trading, while an index of European shares .FTEU3 fell 1.7 percent.

"But it would be very difficult to sustain the euro's rally. I don't think we should read too much into today's moves. The market is very choppy and cautious," Mann said. (more)

Chicago "Desperately" Needs Cash From Casino

Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he and Gov. Pat Quinn should be able to work out their differences over legislation that would clear the way for a casino in Chicago, among other places.

As WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, the mayor says the funds that would be generated from the casino are desperately needed.

This is an investment we need to make in our own city’s future. We have an opportunity now with the Chicago casino, which the city of Chicago residents favor,” Emanuel said, “and I told you, I wasn’t like an enthusiast about it, but I cannot continue to have Hammond, Indiana, get $20 million a month while our infrastructure is crumbling.” (more)

Federal Officials Reject City’s Plan to Ban Food Stamps for Soda

Federal officials on Friday rejected Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s proposal to bar New York City’s food stamp users from buying soda and other sugary drinks with their benefits.

In October, the city proposed a two-year experiment to see if the prohibition would reduce obesity among people who buy their groceries with food stamps. But in a letter Friday, an administrator of the food stamp program in Washington said the city’s proposed experiment would have been “too large and complex” to implement and evaluate.

Tom Vilsack, the secretary of agriculture, said in a statement that the United States Department of Agriculture “has a longstanding tradition of supporting and promoting incentive-based solutions that are better suited for the working families, elderly and other low-income individuals” who rely on food stamps. “We are confident that we can solve the problem of obesity and promote good nutrition and health for all Americans and stand ready to work with New York City to achieve these goals.”

The city’s proposal was part of Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign to make the city a healthier place, which has included banning smoking indoors and in public parks, barring restaurants from cooking with trans fats and requiring them to inform customers about calorie counts.

The mayor was not pleased with the rejection on Friday. (more)

Barack and Michelle Obama take two separate private jets to vacation in Martha's Vineyard: And YOU paid for it!

With the economy in turmoil, the national debt rising and millions of American families struggling to make ends meet, Barack Obama yesterday decided to practise his golf swing.

Teeing off his holiday, Mr Obama was driven to Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown for a round of foursomes golf.

Aides said the President played the links course with long-time Chicago friend Eric Whitaker and two White House staffers.

Earlier in the day Mr Obama visited the Bunch of Grapes book shop in Vineyard Haven with daughters Malia, 13, and Sasha, 10 and picked up five or six books.

'They've got to buy some books,' he said, adding that one of his daughters had an assignment. (more)

S&P Cuts Venezuela's Credit Rating; Outlook Stable

Standard & Poor's on Friday downgraded Venezuela's credit ratings as it implemented a new methodology more heavily focused on political risk—a key weakness in the oil-producing country.

S&P cut Venezuela's long-term sovereign rating to B-plus from BB-minus. The outlook on the new rating is stable. The agency's new methodology was published on June 30, a little more than a month before it invoked political concerns to downgrade U.S. credit ratings.

Political risk has been a constant issue in Venezuela, where change in economic rules and nationalization of companies are common. Uncertainty about the health of President Hugo Chavez, who had surgery in Cuba earlier this summer to remove a cancerous tumor followed by chemotherapy treatment, has added to those risks, S&P said in a statement.

"In our opinion, changing and arbitrary laws, price and exchange controls, and other distorting and unpredictable economic measures have undermined private-sector investment and hurt productivity, weakening Venezuela's domestic economy," S&P analyst Roberto Sifon Arevalo wrote in a report.

Venezuela's vast oil and gas reserves "somewhat" offset the policy uncertainty, S&P said. The country posts steady current account surpluses which, combined with strict capital controls, result in positive net asset positions. (more)

Syrian tanks storm protest hub of Homs

Tanks rumbled into the central city of Homs at dawn Saturday, a day after security forces killed at least 34 anti-regime protesters across Syria, adding urgency to a UN mission expected this weekend.

"Several tanks took up positions at dawn in the district of Al-Khalidiyeh" in the central city of Homs, Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.

"Throughout the night and this morning shots were heard from Al-Khalidiyeh to Baba Amr and Inshaat," he added, referring to two other central locations in the city.

Regime forces were also conducting arrests in the city of Latakia early Saturday, the Observatory said, adding that many of those picked up were minors.

In addition, one person was wounded Saturday in the Al-Herak district of southern Daraa province where relatives and parents staged a protest outside a hospital demanding the bodies of their loved ones, the Observatory said. (more)

Tripoli facing three-sided advance by Libyan rebels: "Final battle" to happen any day?

Muammar Gaddafi's 41-year grip on power in Libya looked more precarious than ever on Friday night, as rebel forces advanced on the capital from three directions after breaking out of the once-besieged town of Misrata.

With rebels taking control of the coastal town of Zlitan in the east, those in the west claimed to have made progress clearing out the last pro-Gaddafi troops from Zawiyah, 30 miles west of Tripoli. They now have the main coastal road under pressure on both sides of the capital and also under threat from the Nafusa mountains.

Gaddafi's army outside Tripoli is trapped in a series of besieged and shrinking enclaves, with rebels controlling more than two thirds of the country. And as the stranglehold on the capital tightens, plans are being made to evacuate the last remaining foreign workers by sea.

It was a day of heavy street fighting in Zlitan, where rebels from Misrata came up against tanks and troops from the 32nd brigade commanded by Gaddafi's son Khamis. Thirty-five rebel troops were killed and scores more injured.

By Friday night, however, opposition leaders said they had taken control of the city 100 miles east of Tripoli. They said their column had reached the outskirts of Al Khums another 30 miles along the coast. (more)

Getting ready for a wave of coal-plant shutdowns: Energy crisis imminent?

Over the next 18 months, the Environmental Protection Agency will finalize a flurry of new rules to curb pollution from coal-fired power plants. Mercury, smog, ozone, greenhouse gases, water intake, coal ash—it’s all getting regulated. And, not surprisingly, some lawmakers are grumbling.

Industry groups such the Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities, and the American Legislative Exchange Council have dubbed the coming rules “EPA’s Regulatory Train Wreck.” The regulations, they say, will cost utilities up to $129 billion and force them to retire one-fifth of coal capacity. Given that coal provides 45 percent of the country’s power, that means higher electric bills, more blackouts and fewer jobs. The doomsday scenario has alarmed Republicans in the House, who have been scrambling to block the measures. Environmental groups retort that the rules will bring sizeable public health benefits, and that industry groups have been exaggerating the costs of environmental regulations since they were first created.

So, who’s right? This month, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which conducts policy research for members of Congress, has been circulating a paper that tries to calmly sort through the shouting match. Thanks to The Hill’s Andrew Restuccia, it’s now available (PDF) for all to read. And the upshot is that CRS is awfully skeptical of the “train wreck” predictions.

Pasco couple fear losing home to foreclosure... for paying mortgage too early

Seventy-year-old Sharon Bullington may lose her home because she paid her mortgage a week early.

That may not make much sense to the thousands of homeowners who are behind on their mortgages in Florida. But it seems it does to Bank of America, which has filed to foreclose on Bullington and her husband, James, 78, who is terminally ill.

"It's like death to me," Sharon Bullington said, her voice quivering on the phone Friday. "My husband is bedridden. It's almost more than I can bear."

The couple moved to Florida 15 years ago after James Bullington retired from General Motors in Flint, Mich., and moved into the 1,591-square-foot New Port Richey home, which is now valued at $133,464, though they owe about $177,000.

When James became ill, the couple encountered financial difficulties because of high medical bills. The couple asked Bank of America to modify the loan.

There was a catch. The couple would have to first officially default on their $1,400-a-month payment. The couple did that and entered into the modification plan, which reduced their payment to $916.

Sharon Bullington made the January payment on Dec. 23, and the bank accepted the money, according to court records.

The next month, she made the February payment over the phone. Weeks later, the money had not been withdrawn from her bank account. After Bullington asked the bank about it, a representative told her she had punched in the wrong routing number. In March, the bank kicked the couple out of the modification plan. (more)

West Midlands police release new Birmingham riot images of Police being shot at

New CCTV of the riots in Birmingham shows police officers being shot at, the West Midlands force has said.

The footage, which has been released by the police to encourage members of the public to come forward, shows a group in the Newtown area late on 9 August.

The group, all masked and all wearing black clothing, caused extensive damage at the Barton Arms pub.

Shots were also fired at the police helicopter and petrol bombs thrown at a marked police car, the force said.

Officers have started an attempted murder and arson investigation, and appealed for anyone with information about the attacks to contact them.

A police spokesman said a small amount of money was stolen from the pub, but the use of alcohol and petrol led police to believe that the intention was to start a fire.

Chief Constable Chris Sims said: "Releasing footage that is so disturbing in nature is an unusual step for us as a force, however, the potential for serious harm, or worse, in this incident has led us to this decision." (more)

'Flash mobs' pose challenge to police tactics



Armed with cellphones and connected through Facebook, bands of young people have been rushing into stores to steal goods or assaulting bystanders in a spate of recent "flash mob" incidents across the USA.

Philadelphia leaders imposed an early curfew on parts of the city this month after roving bands of teens beat and robbed bystanders during violent attacks across the city. This week, surveillance cameras caught several dozen youths swarming into convenience stores in Germantown, Md., and Washington, D.C., and stealing armfuls of snacks and drinks as the store clerk looked on helplessly.

The suspects in these crimes often connected via cellphones and share information on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, police say.

How best to combat the technology-connected crimes — and how far police agencies should reach into private online and mobile phone access — are at the core of a growing debate among police officials, city leaders and civil rights activists. Everyone agrees: It's uncharted territory for law enforcement. (more)

The Unthinkable Is Poised to Happen, Econisomt Warns

The Aftershock Survival Summit is a gripping, no-nonsense presentation that’s quickly becoming a financial beacon in an economic tsunami.

Featuring an exclusive interview with famed economist and best-selling author Robert Wiedemer, this disturbing presentation exposes harsh economic truths along with a dire financial warning — a prophetic message that’s spreading across America like wildfire.

But it’s not just the grim predictions that are causing the sensation; rather, it’s the comprehensive blueprint for economic survival that’s really commanding global attention. (more)


Reports: Bank of America cutting 10,000 or more jobs

Bank of America (BAC) is cutting 3,500 employees this quarter and working on restructuring plans that will ax several thousand more, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times report, citing people familiar with the situation.

The reports Friday said that the job cuts at the biggest U.S. bank by assets might exceed 10,000 or about 3.5% of its work force.

The retrenchments are part of CEO Brian Moynihan's efforts to engineer a recovery at BoA, which was hit hard by the bursting of the housing bubble. Its share price has fallen nearly 50% this year. (more)

U.S. hikers in Iran get 8 years in prison



The two U.S. hikers detained for two grueling years in Iran on spying charges have been sentenced to eight years in prison, state-run TV reported Saturday.

Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer each received five years for espionage -- specifically "cooperating with the American intelligence service" -- and three years for illegal entry, the IRINN reported, quoting an "informed" judiciary source.

They have 20 days to appeal their sentence, which was handed down by the Revolutionary Court, IRINN reported.

Fattal and Bauer and another person, Sarah Shourd, were seized on July 31, 2009 when they were hiking in the Iraqi Kurdish region and allegedly crossed into Iran illegally. (more)

Israel 'regrets' deaths in Egypt and promises inquiry after Egyptian ambassador is recalled

The Israeli defence minister has said he "regrets" the deaths of Egyptian policemen on the Gaza border after Cairo moved to recall its ambassador.

Without confirming Israeli forces had killed the five policemen, Ehud Barak said he had ordered a joint inquiry to be held along with the Egyptian army.

He said his forces had been pursuing militants who had carried out attacks against Israeli civilians.

In Cairo, angry crowds have been protesting outside the Israeli embassy.

Egyptian state TV said earlier that the country was recalling its ambassador to Israel until Israel explained why it had reportedly shot the policemen.

Demanding an apology, Egypt's cabinet was quoted as saying Cairo held Israel politically and legally responsible and was summoning the Israeli ambassador.

The latest violence began on Thursday when gunmen attacked Israeli buses.

Eight people were killed in the attacks, near the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat. (more)

Winnipeg car injures as many as 10 as it speeds through crowd after altercation

A car struck as many as 10 people early Saturday in Winnipeg after reports of a fight at the scene, police say.

Investigators are still sorting through details, but they say at least two of the injured are listed in critical condition in hospital.

Police were originally called to the scene just before 3 a.m. CT on Garfield Street, just north of Yarwood Avenue for a disturbance involving people fighting and yelling.

When officers arrived, they discovered a group of people with various injuries and immediately called for more help.

Winnipeg Police are expected to release more information about the incident at a news conference scheduled for 11 a.m. (more)

Mexico investigates alleged selling of girls

Mexico's National Human Rights Commission has opened an investigation into reports that some indigenous communities in the country continue to practice the ancestral custom of selling their daughters.

The commission named the Highland Mixtec community in the southern state of Oaxaca as one group in which girls between the ages of 11 and 15 are allegedly sold by their parents.

"The parents have found a way to negotiate and in exchange for money give away their daughters, either to their future husbands or families who take them to other cities to help in domestic labor," the commission said in a news release.

The commission did not say how widespread the practice is believed to be or how it was alerted to it.

The girls are sold for up to 3,000 pesos (U.S. $245) or the equivalent in goods such as cattle, beans or corn, the commission said. The parents give up all rights over the girls. (more)

5.6 Magnitude Earthquake VANUATU - 20th August 2011

A magnitude 5.6 earthquake has struck Vanuatu at a depth of 40.9 km ( 25.4 miles), the quake hit at 17:11:35 UTC Saturday 20th August 2011.
The epicenter was 83 km (25.4 miles) Southwest of Port-Vila, Efate, Vanuatu
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

5.9 Magnitude Earthquake VANUATU - 20th August 2011

A magnitude 5.9 earthquake has struck Vanuatu at a depth of 37.3 km ( 23.2 miles), the quake hit at 17:13:07 UTC Saturday 20th August 2011.
The epicenter was 67 km (41 miles) SSW of Port-Vila, Efate, Vanuatu
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

5.0 Magnitude Earthquake KERMADEC ISLANDS REGION - 20th August 2011

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck the Kermadec Islands Region at a depth of 227.9 km ( 141.6 miles), the quake hit at 17:08:36 UTC Saturday 20th August 2011.
The epicenter was 252 km (157 miles) SSW of Raoul Island, Kermadec Islands
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

7.5 Magnitude Earthquake VANUATU - Tsunami Warning Issued - 20th August 2011

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake has struck Vanuatu at a depth of 10 km ( 6.2 miles), the quake hit at 16:55:02 UTC Saturday 20th August 2011.
The epicenter was 63 km (39 miles) SSW of Port-Vila, Efate, Vanuatu
Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

TSUNAMI BULLETIN NUMBER 001 PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER/NOAA/NWS ISSUED AT 1704Z 20 AUG 2011  THIS BULLETIN APPLIES TO AREAS WITHIN AND BORDERING THE PACIFIC OCEAN AND ADJACENT SEAS...EXCEPT ALASKA...BRITISH COLUMBIA... WASHINGTON...OREGON AND CALIFORNIA.  ... TSUNAMI INFORMATION BULLETIN ...  THIS BULLETIN IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY.  THIS BULLETIN IS ISSUED AS ADVICE TO GOVERNMENT AGENCIES.  ONLY NATIONAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO MAKE DECISIONS REGARDING THE OFFICIAL STATE OF ALERT IN THEIR AREA AND ANY ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN IN RESPONSE.  AN EARTHQUAKE HAS OCCURRED WITH THESE PRELIMINARY PARAMETERS   ORIGIN TIME -  1655Z 20 AUG 2011  COORDINATES -  18.4 SOUTH  168.0 EAST  DEPTH       -   10 KM  LOCATION    -  VANUATU ISLANDS  MAGNITUDE   -  7.5