Saturday, September 3, 2011

Magnitude 7.0 - VANUATU - 2011 September 03

Magnitude7.0
Date-Time
Location20.585°S, 169.696°E
Depth132.4 km (82.3 miles)
RegionVANUATU
Distances122 km (75 miles) SSE of Isangel, Tanna, Vanuatu
217 km (134 miles) ENE of Tadine, Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia
347 km (215 miles) SSE of PORT-VILA, Efate, Vanuatu
1860 km (1155 miles) ENE of BRISBANE, Queensland, Australia
Location Uncertaintyhorizontal +/- 14.3 km (8.9 miles); depth +/- 10 km (6.2 miles)


4.7 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE SOUTH COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 3rd September 2011

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 95.2 km (59.2 miles), the quake hit at 20:52:49 UTC Saturday 3rd September 2011.
The epicenter was 34 km (21 miles) WNW of Tokyo, Japan
No reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

Two single-engine planes collide over Alaska

A pilot is missing after two single-engine planes collided over western Alaska, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

A Cessna 207 and a Cessna 208 collided in midair Friday over an area southeast of Bethel, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.

The Cessna 208 crashed and burned.

"We do not know the fate of the pilot, who was the only person onboard," he said.

The Cessna 207 landed and its pilot was seen walking around the plane after the landing, according to the spokesman. more

Quake risk to nuclear reactors greater than thought (Buried but not forgotten)

The risk that an earthquake would cause a severe accident at a U.S. nuclear plant is greater than previously thought, 24 times as high in one case, according to an AP analysis of preliminary government data. The nation's nuclear regulator believes a quarter of America's reactors may need modifications to make them safer.

The threat came into sharp focus last week, when shaking from the largest earthquake to hit Virginia in 117 years appeared to exceed what the North Anna nuclear power plant northwest of Richmond was built to sustain.

The two North Anna reactors are among 27 in the eastern and central U.S. that a preliminary Nuclear Regulatory Commission review has said may need upgrades. That's because those plants are more likely to get hit with an earthquake larger than the one their design was based on. Just how many nuclear power plants are more vulnerable won't be determined until all operators recalculate their own seismic risk based on new assessments by geologists, something the agency plans to request later this year. The NRC on Thursday issued a draft of that request for public comment. more

A compilation of strange natural disasters: Could they have anything to do with changes in our solar system?

The Mapping of Radioactive Fallout from Fukushima: An interesting perspective from the NHK

Fukushima: "Global Alert it's only the start of the disaster"

Concern rising about Iran military nuclear work: IAEA

The International Atomic Energy Agency is "increasingly concerned" about possible activity in Iran to develop a nuclear payload for a missile, the IAEA said in a confidential report obtained by Reuters on Friday.

The U.N. nuclear agency's report said it continued to receive new information adding to such worries.

The IAEA's information had come from many states and also through its own efforts, and was "broadly consistent and credible in terms of technical detail, the time frame in which the activities were conducted and the people and organisations involved."

The developments highlighted in the IAEA's latest quarterly inspection report are likely to fan Western suspicions about the underlying nature of Iran's nuclear activity, which Western powers suspect is aimed at developing atom bombs.

It could provide additional arguments for the United States and its European allies to further tighten sanctions pressure on Iran, one of the world's largest oil producers. more

Job growth stalls, fuels recession fears

U.S. employment growth ground to a halt in August, reviving recession fears and piling pressure on both President Barack Obama and the Federal Reserve to provide more stimulus to aid the frail economy.

Nonfarm payrolls were unchanged last month, the Labor Department said on Friday, as sagging confidence discouraged already skittish businesses from hiring.

It was the first time in nearly a year the economy had failed to create jobs, but economists cautioned against viewing the data as a recession signal, in part because employment was dampened by 45,000 striking workers at Verizon Communications.

Those workers have since returned to work and will be counted as on the payroll in September.

"The economy is struggling against stiff headwinds, which appear to have intensified in recent months," said Millan Mulraine, senior macro strategist at TD Securities in New York. "While it has clearly not fallen off the cliff, there is little to suggest it is anywhere close to regaining its momentum." more

WikiLeaks: IDF uses drones to assassinate Gaza militants



The IDF uses weaponized unmanned aircraft to assassinate militants, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks. The IDF Advocate-General Maj. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit revealed this information to the previous U.S. Ambassador to Israel James Cunningham in a meeting that took place in February 2010.

The details of this conversation, sent from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to the State Department in Washington, were revealed Thursday when they were published online by WikiLeaks, along with more than 250,000 other diplomatic cables.

Maj. Gen. Mandelblit met with Cunningham in order to update him on the investigations that the IDF conducted into the deaths of civilians during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008-2009.

One of the incidences of civilians deaths that they two discussed was the IDF attack on a group of Hamas members who were standing next to a mosque in Gaza. 16 Palestinians were killed in that attack, most of whom were inside the mosque at the time.

The summary of the meeting that was sent to Washington stated, "Mandelblit said that the facts were known: A UAV shot at two Hamas fighters in front of the mosque and 16 unintended casualties resulted inside the mosque due to an open door through which shrapnel entered during a time of prayer." more

Marilyn Duffy, 61, trampled to death by cows protecting their calves after 'her dog's barking spooked them'

A retired mother of two was trampled to death by cows as she walked her dog in a field.

Marilyn Duffy, 61, a former school secretary, was killed by the 20-strong herd on her regular morning route near her home.

Police believe her dog’s barking may have spooked the cattle, which are highly protective of young calves.

Mrs Duffy was knocked down and crushed by the cows, thought to be Friesians, which weigh about half a ton each.

The tragedy is the latest in a spate of fatal tramplings, and happened just two miles from a field in which a woman was killed two years ago.

Yesterday a memorial site to Mrs Duffy was set up on Facebook. Her husband Roger, 65, and their daughters Caroline, 33 and Angela, 31, were too upset to talk about the incident, which happened on Monday afternoon in the village of Radyr, Cardiff. more

Job seekers join the military as last resort

There's no better government job creator than the U.S. military. Americans sign up for a lot of reasons, such as to serve their country and for the health and education benefits . But CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller reports, some young people are finding that the armed forces are the only employment game in town these days.

Joining the marines was not part of Tyler Mitchell's career path. He graduated with a degree in film and video last year, but he couldn't find a job in Chicago.

"The economy makes it really tough right now," said Mitchell. "People say, 'You go to college, you get a degree, you'll get a great job.' Well nowadays, I don't really think that's really the case. You go to college, you get a degree, you get a lot of debt, and you don't get a job."

"I can't get a job in the civilian world," he continued, "somebody else wants me, so why not go with them?"

Mitchell will be a combat correspondent for the Marine Corps.

"Bottom line, I'll get healthcare, I'll get financial stability, I'll get job experience," he said.

The recession has made it easier to recruit people into the military. Since 2008, the armed forces have either met or exceeded their recruiting goals for all active duty services. more

CDC: 2 children sickened by novel swine flu strain

A new strain of swine flu has shown up in two children in Pennsylvania and Indiana who had direct or indirect contact with pigs. The virus includes a gene from the 2009 pandemic strain that might let it spread more easily than pig viruses normally do.

So far, there's no sign that the virus has spread beyond the two children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday.

"We wanted to provide some information without being alarmist," because people have contact with pigs at fairs this time of year and doctors should watch for possible flu cases, said Lyn Finelli, the CDC's flu surveillance chief. "We're always concerned when we see transmission of animal viruses to humans."

People rarely get flu from pigs - only 21 cases have been documented in the last five years - and it's too soon to know how infective this virus will be, she said.

The new strain is a hybrid of viruses that have infected pigs over the last decade and a gene from the H1N1 strain that caused the pandemic two years ago. It is the first combination virus to turn up in people since the pandemic, said Michael Shaw, a lab chief at the CDC. It's classified as an H3N2 virus.

The first case was an Indiana boy under age 5 who was sickened in late July. He had no contact with pigs, but a caretaker did in the weeks before the boy fell ill. He was hospitalized and has recovered, and no other family members appear ill. more

The last resort: More and more Americans are calling long-stay motels home

A long way down the US housing ladder, beneath the grisly 'projects' of The Wire and the trailer parks hymned by Eminem, beneath the slums of New Orleans and the ghettos of Detroit, you'll find the long-stay hotel. Cheap, not very cheerful, and pretty much a last resort, these institutions provide four walls and a roof, for a few hundred bucks a month. It's some of the cheapest accommodation you'll find anywhere in the US, aside from a cardboard box.

Long-stay hotels can be found in almost every major American city. They offer none of the privacy of trailer parks, and even less of the permanency. Guests make do with postage stamp-sized rooms, paper-thin walls, and nylon sheets. You'll rarely find them listed in tourist guides, even the section of a Lonely Planet devoted to 'rock-bottom dives'. Staying in one isn't exactly what you might call a holiday. It is, however, an experience. So says Kalpesh Lathigra, whose compelling photo-essay on the Wilmington Hotel in Long Beach, Southern California, is published on these pages.

A British documentary photographer, he stumbled upon the place while looking up relatives during a family holiday to Los Angeles (it is owned by his uncle, Bachu), and has since re-visited for extended periods, building close relationships with its most colourful and well-established residents. more

U.S. Debt Held by Public Tops $10 trillion for 1st Time—Up 59 Percent Under Obama

At the close of business on Aug. 31--for the first time in the history of the country--the publicly held debt of the federal government topped $10 trillion, according to data released by the U.S. Treasury Department at 4:00 p.m. yesterday.

During Obama's presidency, debt held by the public has now increased by $3.71694 trillion--or almost 59 percent from the $6.3073 trillion in debt held by the public that the government owed to its creditors on Jan. 20, 2009, when Obama was inaugurated.

Also, according to the most recent reports available from the Treasury and the Federal Reserve, approximately $6.1 trillion of that debt—or about 61 percent of it—is owned by foreign interests (led by the Chinese and the Japanese) and by the Federal Reserve.

At the close of business on Aug. 30, as reported by the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Public Debt, the federal government’s debt held by the public equaled $9,990,126,772,846.86. By the close of business on Aug. 31, it was $10,024,253,354,407.07. more

Pentagon fears listening posts from China

A Pentagon report has found that a multibillion-dollar Chinese telecommunications company that has been seeking to make major inroads in the U.S. market has close ties to China's military, despite the company’s denials.

The Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on China's military, released last month, identifies Huawei as a high-tech company linked to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

“The shipbuilding and defense electronics sectors, benefiting from China’s leading role in producing commercial shipping and information technologies, have witnessed the greatest progress over the last decade,” the report states. “Information technology companies in particular, including Huawei, Datang, and Zhongxing, maintain close ties to the PLA.”

That last sentence prompted Huawei’s vice president for external relations, William Plummer, to write a letter last week urging Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to rescind the allegation.

“This reference has no basis in fact and unjustly perpetuates an aura of doubt and distrust around Huawei that has the effect of prejudicing potential U.S. customers away from the products and solutions that will modernize our communications infrastructure,” Mr. Plummer wrote. more

Disasters in US: An extreme and exhausting year

Nature is pummeling the United States this year with extremes.

Unprecedented triple-digit heat and devastating drought. Deadly tornadoes leveling towns. Massive rivers overflowing. A billion-dollar blizzard. And now, unusual hurricane-caused flooding in Vermont.

If what's falling from the sky isn't enough, the ground shook in places that normally seem stable: Colorado and the entire East Coast. On Friday, a strong quake triggered brief tsunami warnings in Alaska. Arizona and New Mexico have broken records for wildfires.

Total weather losses top $35 billion, and that's not counting Hurricane Irene, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. There have been more than 700 U.S. disaster and weather deaths, most from the tornado outbreaks this spring.

Last year, the world seemed to go wild with natural disasters in the deadliest year in a generation. But 2010 was bad globally, and the United States mostly was spared.

This year, while there have been devastating events elsewhere, such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Australia's flooding and a drought in Africa, it's our turn to get smacked. Repeatedly.

"I'm hoping for a break. I'm tired of working this hard. This is ridiculous," said Jeff Masters, a meteorologist who runs Weather Underground, a meteorology service that tracks strange and extreme weather. "I'm not used to seeing all these extremes all at once in one year." more

America's First Marijuana Street Fair Coming to Oakland

Oakland's reputation as the nation's most cannabis-friendly city is safe. Now, and forever, especially after the once-gritty city hosts what is touted as America's first marijuana street fair.

The International Cannabis and Hemp Expo will grace downtown Oakland for two days beginning Saturday at noon, according to reports. Once held at the Cow Palace, organizers decided to move the event to Oakland over a key dispute: officials at the state-owned arena in Daly City balked at the idea of open-air cannabis consumption, something festival-goers will be able to do right in the open in Oakland.

Right in front of City Hall.

The festival will also feature an eclectic mix of speakers, music, info booths and music, but it's the medical cannabis patient smoking area in front of City Hall that's bound to draw the most attention. People inside the so-called "215 area" -- for 1996's Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana in California, the first state in the union to recognize the plant's medicinal value -- will be able to smoke, vaporize or otherwise ingest cannabis to their heart's delight. Though no marijuana will be for sale.

The area bounded by Broadway, Clay Street, 14th Street and 16th Street, including Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of City Hall will all be roped off, and only paying adults will be allowed inside. Tickets start at $20. Organizers expect at least 20,000 people, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. source

China offered Gadhafi huge stockpiles of arms: Libyan memos

China offered huge stockpiles of weapons to Colonel Moammar Gadhafi during the final months of his regime, according to papers that describe secret talks about shipments via Algeria and South Africa.

Documents obtained by The Globe and Mail show that state-controlled Chinese arms manufacturers were prepared to sell weapons and ammunition worth at least $200-million to the embattled Col. Gadhafi in late July, a violation of United Nations sanctions.

The documents suggest that Beijing and other governments may have played a double game in the Libyan war, claiming neutrality but covertly helping the dictator. The papers do not confirm whether any military assistance was delivered, but senior leaders of the new transitional government in Tripoli say the documents reinforce their suspicions about the recent actions of China, Algeria and South Africa. Those countries may now suffer a disadvantage as Libya’s new rulers divide the spoils from their vast energy resources, and select foreign firms for the country’s reconstruction. more

Journal editor resigns over 'problematic' climate paper -- Pressure? Or bad science?

The editor of a science journal has resigned after admitting that a recent paper casting doubt on man-made climate change should not have been published.

The paper, by US scientists Roy Spencer and William Braswell, claimed that computer models of climate inflated projections of temperature increase.

It was seized on by "sceptic" bloggers, but attacked by mainstream scientists.

Wolfgang Wagner, editor of Remote Sensing journal, says he agrees with their criticisms and is stepping down.

"Peer-reviewed journals are a pillar of modern science," he writes in a resignation note published in Remote Sensing.

"Their aim is to achieve highest scientific standards by carrying out a rigorous peer review that is, as a minimum requirement, supposed to be able to identify fundamental methodological errors or false claims.

"Unfortunately, as many climate researchers and engaged observers of the climate change debate pointed out in various internet discussion fora, the paper by Spencer and Braswell... is most likely problematic in both aspects and should therefore not have been published." more

‘Aftershock’ Book Predicts Economic Disaster Amid Controversy in 2012

Robert Wiedemer’s new book, “Aftershock: Protect Yourself and Profit in the Next Global Financial Meltdown,” quickly is becoming the survival guide for the 21st century. And Newsmax’s eye-opening Aftershock Survival Summit video, with exclusive interviews and prophetic predictions, already has affected millions around the world — but not without ruffling a few feathers.

Initially screened for a private audience, this gripping video exposed harsh economic truths and garnered an overwhelming amount of feedback.

“People were sitting up and taking notice, and they begged us to make the video public so they could easily share it,” said Newsmax Financial Publisher Aaron DeHoog.

But that wasn’t as simple as it seems. Various online networks repeatedly shut down the controversial video. “People were sending their friends and family to dead links, so we had to create a dedicated home for it,” DeHoog said.

This wasn’t the first time Wiedemer’s predictions hit a nerve. In 2006, he was one of three economists who co-authored a book correctly warning that the real estate boom and Wall Street bull run were about to end. A prediction Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, were not about to support publicly.

Realizing that the worst was yet to come, Wiedemer and company quickly penned “Aftershock.” However, just before it was publicly released, the publisher yanked the final chapter, deeming it too controversial for newsstand and online outlets such as Amazon.com. more

Black unemployment: Highest in 27 years

The August jobs report was dismal for plenty of reasons, but perhaps most striking was the picture it painted of racial inequality in the job market.

Black unemployment surged to 16.7% in August, its highest level since 1984, while the unemployment rate for whites fell slightly to 8%, the Labor Department reported.

"This month's numbers continue to bear out that longstanding pattern that minorities have a much more challenging time getting jobs," said Bill Rodgers, chief economist with the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

Black unemployment has been roughly double that of whites since the government started tracking the figures in 1972.

Economists blame a variety of factors. The black workforce is younger than the white workforce, lower numbers of blacks get a college degree and many live in areas of the country that were harder hit by the recession -- all things that could lead to a higher unemployment rate.

But even excluding those factors, blacks still are hit with higher joblessness. more

Texas power officials say new EPA rule could cause 'emergency events' (such as rolling blackouts)

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, operator of the state's power grid, said in a report today that a new federal environmental regulation would reduce generating capacity and put the grid "at increasing risk of emergency events," including rotating power outages.

The Jan. 1 implementation date for the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, designed to curb air pollution from power plants, leaves ERCOT with "an extremely truncated period" in which to assess the impact of the rule and "no realistic opportunity to take steps that could even partially offset the substantial losses of available operating capacity," it said.

The report outlined three scenarios, with even the "best-case scenario" expected to result in the loss of an estimated 1,200 to 1,400 megawatts of generating capacity during peak consumption periods, ERCOT said.

"Had this incremental reduction been in place in 2011, ERCOT would have experienced rotating outages during days in August," the report said.

Rotating power outages are implemented as an emergency measure when electricity demand is close to exceeding power supplies from generators.

Peak power consumption hit record levels that exceeded 65,000 megawatts on several days of exceptionally high temperatures in August, causing ERCOT to implement initial emergency measures and putting it close to instituting rotating outages. more

Obama Asks EPA to Pull Ozone Rule: President Reverses Agency's Tighter Air-Quality Standards That Republicans and Businesses Said Would Stunt Growth

President Barack Obama, citing the struggling economy, asked the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday to withdraw an air-quality rule that Republicans and business groups said would cost millions of jobs.

The surprise move—coming on the same day as a dismal unemployment report—reflected the energy industry's importance as a rare bright spot in adding U.S. jobs. The tighter standards for smog-forming ozone could have forced states and cities to limit some oil-and-gas projects.

In making the move, the White House clearly judged that it had more to lose from industry and Republican criticism than it had to gain from environmental groups who support the rule.

The EPA's January 2010 proposal, to tighten air-quality standards to a level below that adopted under President George W. Bush and even further below what most states now adhere to, has been cited for months by industry groups and lawmakers as "regulatory overreach" that they say is undercutting the economic recovery. Republican presidential candidates have routinely criticized the EPA in stump speeches.

Mr. Obama said in a statement that he remains committed to public health and clean air, but he added, "I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover." more

Libya's other wealth: Archaeological treasures (that will likely be damaged, stolen or destroyed)

Before Moammar Gadhafi, there were the Phoenicians. And the Greeks. The Romans. The first Arabs. They're a reminder that no civilization -- and no leader -- is forever.

The Libyan transitional leaders have a lot to deal with once they stop being rebels, and begin shaping a new Libya: Keeping law and order, setting up a rudimentary government, dealing with money -- and oil.

But what about Libya's other wealth? Its archaeological treasures?

They are all over the country.

In the south, in Acacus, rock paintings 12,000 years old cross an entire mountain range.

In the east, the city of Cyrene holds a thousand years of history -- Roman general Mark Antony once gave it to Cleopatra.

And along the coast, the splendid ruins of Leptis Magna that were buried for centuries under the sand was said to be one of the most beautiful cities of the Roman Empire.

What will happen to these sites in the days ahead? If you look at history, their fate does not bode well.

"We're very worried," said Francesco Bandarin of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO. more

Proposed legal changes in China cause jitters (Because it turns the country into an even greater police state)

Obsessed with keeping social order, China is now pushing to revise its laws in ways that will broaden police powers.

The National People's Congress last week released a proposed revision of the Criminal Procedure Law that would allow the police to detain suspects for up to six months, at a location determined by the police, in cases that involve state security, terrorism or serious cases of corruption.

The existing law requires the police to notify families of detainees within 24 hours. If revised, the law will allow police to secretly detain suspects, if they believed notifying relatives or a lawyer "may hinder the investigation."

Critics say the proposed legislation could legitimize and potentially increase the number of secret detentions.

"(It) would give the security apparatus free rein to carry out 'disappearances' lawfully," said Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch. "Legalizing secret detention puts detainees at even greater risk of torture and mistreatment."

Nothing better illustrates such concerns than the case of Ai Weiwei, the high-profile artist who was detained by Chinese authorities in April as he was about to board a flight for Hong Kong. He was released in June -- after 81 days in police custody.

He was later accused, but not formally charged, of tax fraud. His family denies the allegation and believes he was targeted due to his social and political activism. more

Pot grow-op survives huge New Mexico wildfire

A massive wildfire earlier this summer in New Mexico scorched aboriginal lands, threatened one of the United States's premier nuclear facilities and pushed bears into nearby cities. But it somehow spared more than 9,000 marijuana plants in a remote area of a federally protected park.

Officials said no arrests have been made in the sophisticated growing operation in the backcountry of Bandelier National Monument. But authorities said Friday they were looking for at least two suspects. They estimated the plants were two to three metres tall. That many plants would typically produce around $10 million worth of marijuana.

"It was a lot larger than we anticipated," park superintendent Jason Lott said. "It [was] much bigger and more sophisticated than we ever expected."

The marijuana operation had an irrigation system and a possible evacuation route for those overseeing the plants, Lott said. Temporary housing structures, trash and food caches were also found nearby.

The pot was discovered in rugged terrain during an Aug. 23 helicopter flight surveying a flash flood, Lott said. That flooding was caused when monsoonal rains fell on the charred area of the park, where soil and rocks had been loosened by the fire, the largest in New Mexico history. more

Disappearance of glacial river stuns B.C. hikers: Canada

One of the glacial rivers feeding a large lake straddling the Yukon-British Columbia border has dried up, hikers say, turning a normally fast-running watercourse into a muddy field strewn with icebergs.

"We were able to walk right into the river bed and stand among the 60-foot icebergs that are grounded now," said Diana Thayer of Atlin, B.C., who came across the phenomenon while hiking near the Llewellyn Glacier along the Sloko Inlet trail in late August.

"It just seemed the plug had been pulled on a bathtub."

Thayer said Atlin Lake, which is British Columbia's largest natural lake and extends its northern tip into Yukon, has already "dropped about 50 feet and perhaps is still draining."

A neighbour of Thayer's, John Lyons, visited the site the day after she returned and described what had happened.

"The photographs were spectacular," he said. "You see where the bergs had been dragged along the bottom and you could see the drag marks in the mud from all the various icebergs." more

Tropical Storm Lee drenches Louisiana coast - 3rd Sept 2011

Slow-moving Tropical Storm Lee brought torrential rains to the Louisiana coast on Saturday as the heart of the storm approached New Orleans, where flood defenses were expected to be put to the test.

The storm was expected to bring up to 20 inches of rain to southeast Louisiana over the next few days, including to New Orleans, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The center of Lee was 45 miles southwest of Morgan City, with maximum winds of 60 miles per hour, the hurricane center said. Lee's winds were expected to stay below the 74 mph threshold of hurricane strength.

But the prospect of flooding in low-lying New Orleans evoked memories of Hurricane Katrina, which flooded 80 percent of the city, killed 1,500 people and caused more than $80 billion in damage. Half of the city lies below sea level and is protected by a system of levees and flood gates. Read More


Julian Assange could face arrest in Australia over unredacted cables - 3rd Sept 2011

Government says at least one intelligence official identified after complete cache of cables was published.

Julian Assange could face prosecution in Australia after publishing sensitive information about government officials amongst the 251,000 unredacted cables released this week.

WikiLeaks published its entire cache of US diplomatic cables without redactions to protect those named within, a move condemned by all five of the whistleblowing website's original media partners.

Australia's attorney general, Robert McClelland, confirmed in a statement on Friday that the new cable release identified at least one individual within the country's intelligence service. He added it is a criminal offence in the country to publish any information which could lead to the identification of an intelligence officer.

"I am aware of at least one cable in which an ASIO officer is purported to have been identified," he said. "ASIO and other Government agencies officers are working through the material to see the extent of the impact on Australian interests. Read More

English Defence League march halted by police as far-right leader is held - 3rd Sept 2011

Anti-fascists stage counter-protest in the East End of London, chanting 'they shall not pass' amid angry confrontations.

Large crowds assembled in east London to oppose a demonstration by the far-right English Defence League on Saturday. There were frequent angry confrontations. At one stage EDL members chanted, "You're scum and you know you are," to foreign tourists, while an Asian man singled out for abuse shouted back, "I'm as English as you are."

Hundreds of residents and anti-fascist campaigners converged on Whitechapel Road close to the East London Mosque, a target for members of the EDL, amid a police presence of around 3,000 officers, some of who were in riot gear. Muslims accuse the EDL of fostering hate against them through claims that a gradual "Islamisation" of Britain is taking place.

As he was about to give a speech, the EDL's founder, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, 28, who uses the name Tommy Robinson, was led away by police and arrested. He is presently under court restrictions after being convicted of leading a fight at a football match in Luton earlier this year. Read More

US Authorities Investigate Incursion By Mexican Federal Police -- who not only crossed border illegally, but fired upon American citizens

Border Patrol officials are investigating an incursion by Mexican federal police into the United State on Thursday morning.

U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Doug Mosier said armed officers with Mexico's Secretaria de Seguridad Publica federal police were in the incursion, which took place in El Paso, near the Border Patrol's Ysleta station.

The Mexican government, Border Patrol and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are investigating the incident. U.S. authorities responded to the incident.

An ABC-7 viewer contacted the station early Thursday, saying her son, husband and friends were hunting on the Rio Grande levy on the U.S. side when men on the Mexico side fired shots, narrowly missing them. She said more men on the Mexico side drove up with automatic weapons and into to U.S. side. She said the armed men fired weapons and stole hunters' chairs and drove back into Mexico.

Mosier said Border Patrol agents and Texas Parks and Wildlife officers were sent to the area immediately.

"Upon approach, our agents observed those subjects (Mexican officers) who committed the incursion return back to Mexico," Mosier said. more

Tropical Storm Lee could veer toward New Orleans

Heavy rains from slow-moving Tropical Storm Lee began to drench southern Louisiana on Saturday as officials warned the storm was expected to turn east toward New Orleans.

Lee's top sustained winds early Saturday morning were 85 km/h as it moved north-northwest at 11 km/h.

The storm's centre was located about 155 kilometres south of Lafayette, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal warned residents that heavy rains and tidal surges could produce flooding in parts of New Orleans that are two metres below sea level.

The storm could be a major test of levees that were rebuilt in New Orleans after hurricane Gustav struck three years ago.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina brought catastrophic damage to New Orleans, as well as the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines. The Category 5 hurricane was blamed for the deaths of more than 1,800 people and resulted in vast areas of the city being submerged by floodwaters. more

"Is torture ever right?"

It is nearly 10 years since the 9/11 attacks, a horrific day that changed the world as well as America.

In a country with a reverence for its constitution, debates about practical questions often end up as arguments about first principles.

The attacks on America prompted fierce battles about how civilised societies should treat their enemies, and whether torture can ever be right.

I've been asking a top CIA officer how he felt about what was happening at black sites and Guantanamo Bay prison. Phil Mudd was deputy director of the Office of Terrorism Analysis at the CIA in 2001.

"I remember so many times, sitting at the nightly, what we'd call 'the five o'clock', the threat briefing for (CIA) director Tenant," he says.

"And you would sit there on a Friday night, it'd be seven o'clock, you're going to miss dinner again, miss going out with your friends, realising: okay, let's say, we've got a new prisoner. I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, but we need to know quickly, we need to know." more

ECB chief Trichet "warns" Italy to stick with austerity

Italy has received a stern warning from the head of the European Central Bank to stick to its austerity plan after it failed to pass key measures.

Jean-Claude Trichet told a forum in northern Italy that sticking to the plan was "absolutely decisive" to Italy's credit worthiness.

Italy faces a debt mountain of 1.9 trillion euros (£1.7tn; $2.7tn).

But Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, beset by personal scandals, has failed to pass clear measures.

The ECB has been buying Italy's bonds in the market to try to hold down yields and stop its borrowing costs spiralling out of control.

There has been some speculation that it may reduce its purchases to put pressure on Rome to act more quickly to pass a much disputed 45.5bn euro package of austerity measures now going through parliament.

However, any sign of the ECB cutting back its bond-buying programme would risk triggering a market sell-off that could tip the eurozone's third economy into a Greek-style emergency, Reuters news agency reports. more

Central Somalia clashes claim 30, many wounded

Heavy fighting in a town in central Somalia has left at least 30 people dead and 100 wounded.

A hospital in the town of Galkayou, supported by Medecins Sans Frontieres, has been coping with the casualties.

The town is divided between the regions of Puntland and Galmudug.

The conflict involves 2 clans, but Puntland said the fighting was taking place between its troops and a group with links to Islamic radicals of al-Shabab.

The clashes, involving heavy artillery, have been taking place in residential areas of Galkayou.

On Saturday there was a lull in the fighting, but the commander of Puntland paramilitary force, Colonel Mohamed Muse was killed in the town. more

UN 'growing concern' over Iran nuclear weapons plan

The UN nuclear watchdog says it is "increasingly concerned" that Iran is secretly working on components for a nuclear weapons programme.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) describes its information as "extensive and comprehensive".

In a report seen by news agencies, it also says Tehran is preparing to enrich uranium at a new location - an underground bunker near Qom.

Tehran insists its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.

Iran is subject to UN Security Council sanctions for refusing to freeze its enrichment programme.

Uranium enrichment can produce fuel for a nuclear reactor but can also be used to make a nuclear warhead.

The IAEA says "many member states" had provided evidence for its latest assessment on Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Extracts of the report, published by the AFP news agency, said the IAEA was "increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organisations". more

Vatican rejects Irish criticism over child sex abuse by priests

The Vatican has rejected criticism that church leaders sought to cover up extensive abuse of young people by priests in Ireland, in a lengthy statement sent to the Irish government Saturday.

The Vatican response follows a biting attack by Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in the wake of the Cloyne report, published in July, which investigated abuses in the diocese of Cloyne, near the southern city of Cork.

Addressing lawmakers, Kenny claimed the report exposed the Vatican as trying to hinder an inquiry into child sex abuse for its own benefit and said it revealed the "dysfunction, the disconnection, the elitism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day."

Irish lawmakers then passed a motion deploring "the Vatican's intervention which contributed to the undermining of the child protection framework and guidelines of the Irish State and the Irish Bishops."

Tthe Vatican responded to the criticism by Kenny and other Irish lawmakers by recalling its envoy to Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza.

Saturday's 25-page statement is the latest development in a row that has seen an unprecedented rift open up between the Vatican and Ireland, a heavily Roman Catholic country. more

Tropical Storm Lee heads for land as states brace for flooding

Tropical Storm Lee was strengthening as it swirled toward the Gulf Coast at a leisurely pace early Saturday, where it was unleashing heavy rains and strong winds over southern Louisiana.

Heavy rains will pound some areas along the Gulf coast, with some forecast to receive up to 20 inches.

A tropical storm warning was in effect from the Alabama-Florida border all the way to Sabine Pass, Texas. A tropical storm watch was in effect from the Alabama-Florida border Eastward to Destin, Florida.

The Louisiana governor declared a state of emergency in 10 parishes and urged residents to pay attention to the weather and flash flooding warnings.

In New Orleans, much of which sits below sea level, Mayor Mitch Landrieu took similar measures. The storm will test the levees rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina pounded the region six years ago this week.

The city is likely to see 8 to 10 inches of rain in the next few days, according to Landrieu, who urged residents to "prepare for the worst and let's hope for the best" as the storm inched toward land.

"In addition to the rain, in addition to the primary concerns with the water, there is also going to be sustained periods of strong winds. We expect this winds on land," Gov. Bobby Jindal said. more

Three bodies found in search for missing military plane in Chile

At least three bodies were found Saturday as the search continued for a military plane with 21 people aboard that went missing Friday off Chile's Pacific coast, near the Juan Fernandez islands, CNN Chile reported.

Two of the bodies recovered were women and the other was a man, the mayor of Juan Fernandez, Leopoldo Gonzalez, told CNN Chile. Their identities have not yet been confirmed.

An emergency beacon originally believed to be from the plane was found Saturday, but is now thought to have belonged to a fishing boat, CNN Chile reported.

Gen. Maximiliano Larraechea, secretary general of the air force, earlier told Chile's state-run broadcaster TVN that one of the plane's locator devices had been found. TVN quoted him as saying he was almost certain the plane had crashed because of the number of items recovered.

Defense Minister Andres Allamand was travelling to the area on Saturday morning, Chile's Ministry of Defense said.

The plane tried to land twice before losing contact, Allamand told reporters Friday. more

Iranian official's trip to North Korea postponed -- a trip planned by China

A visit to North Korea and China planned by Iran's parliament speaker was postponed Saturday, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.

Ali Larijani's trips were intended to promote parliamentary cooperation.

"The time for Larijani's visit has changed and we will announce the new time when it is determined," said Hijatoleslam Hossein Sobhaninya, a member of the presiding board of parliament, according to Mehr.

In May, a report compiled by a U.N. panel of experts looking into Security Council violations by North Korea found the country continues to trade banned weapons technology with several nations, including Iran. source

Tensions grow between Turkey and Israel

Streets of Tripoli awash with weapons



China’s coal rush leaves three million living on the edge

Voracious mining has hollowed out vast tracts of the north of China, leaving three million people living on ground that could collapse at any moment.

To keep its glittering skylines alight, China now uses more coal than the United States, Europe and Japan combined.

In the dust-blown mountains of China’s coal belt, locals have lived for years with choking clouds of soot and the continual roar of mines that never sleep, digging for 24 hours a day. Now they face being buried alive as China tries to extract every last nugget of coal from beneath them.

Shanxi Huang Jia Po is a village on the edge. For centuries, 500 farmers have lived here, carving stepped fields into the side of their mountain and planting corn, marrows and aubergines in the fertile yellow soil that covers Shanxi province.

But the children of the farmers will have to live somewhere else, because it is only a matter of time before the village falls into the honeycomb of mining tunnels below. Standing in his courtyard, Lu Linhu points to a 30ft deep hole that has opened up in the cement outside his front door. Behind him, wide cracks have appeared in the walls and ceiling of his bedroom. The 38-year-old Mr Lu, like many other villagers, has used gaudy posters to cover the holes and ease his state of mind.

“We cannot really sleep properly any more,” he said. “At night, we can feel the shaking of the ground when they use dynamite in the mine. And when it rains, the water comes flooding in through the cracks. more

Banks to tell families: cut back or face losing your home

Tens of thousands of struggling families are to be phoned by their bank and told to cut spending or face losing their houses when interest rates rise.

More than 30,000 home owners will be told to spend less on nights out, Sky television, gym membership and mobile phones so they can concentrate on paying back their mortgage.

Officials from two taxpayer-owned banks admitted on Tuesday that they were undertaking secret credit checks to identify high-risk customers.

Experts said that while it was normal practice for banks to embark on credit checks on customers it was unprecedented for so many families to be targeted after their mortgage had been approved.

The warning will come from the state-owned bank charged with recovering the Government’s £48 billion investment in Bradford & Bingley and Northern Rock, the mortgage lenders that were nationalised during the credit crisis.

UK Asset Resolution (UKAR) has identified around 30,000 borrowers from these banks who could find themselves in financial difficulty when interest rates rise from the current historic low of 0.5 per cent. more

More than one in four graduates 'fail to find work'

More than a quarter of graduates were not in full time work three and half years after leaving university, new figures show.

University leavers are also becoming more likely to be unemployed, the statistics suggest.

Data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) reveals that 27.7% of UK graduates who left university in 2006/07 were not in full time paid work three and a half years later.

Some 8.8% were in part time paid or voluntary and unpaid work, while 5.3% were working and studying, and 6.5% were just studying.

But 3.6% were assumed to be unemployed, the statistics show.

This is higher than in other years. more

One-in-five teachers 'physically attacked' at school

A fifth of teachers have been physically assaulted in the last 12 months amid growing concerns over a collapse in classroom discipline, it emerged today.

Some 20 per cent of staff working in schools said they had been attacked by pupils or parents during the 2010/11 academic year, figures show.

A further two-thirds of teachers reported being verbally abused and 18 per cent said they had been subjected to slurs from pupils on social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook.

The conclusions come amid Government claims that the balance of power in schools has swung too far towards pupils in recent years.

This summer, it issued new guidance to schools in an attempt to crackdown on bad behaviour.

Teachers have been told to use force to physically restrain unruly pupils, break-up fights and remove disruptive children from the classroom. more

"When Obama Talks, No One Listens": Jobs-creation speech moved, and moved, and moved...

Kemp, Texas shut off its water supply to citizens after running out -- a portent of things to come? (Buried but not forgotten)

Former Al Queda jihadist Abdul Hakeem Belhaj at the heart of Libya's revolution



Abdul Hakeem Belhaj, one of the most effective commanders among anti-Gadhafi forces in Libya, has seen plenty of combat in his 45 years. A well-built, bearded man with dark, serious eyes, he fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan -- and alongside al Qaeda in the dying days of the Taliban regime.

Now he is commander of the anti-Gadhafi forces in Tripoli, and swears loyalty to the National Transitional Council, describing himself as an "ordinary Libyan" fighting for a common cause.

But there's not much ordinary about Belhaj. As a young man in the late 1980s, he was one of scores of jihadists in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group that went to fight in Afghanistan. His military prowess soon made him a commander among his fellow fighters. After the fall of the Taliban, Belhaj left Afghanistan and was arrested in Malaysia in 2004. After some questioning by the CIA, he was sent back to Libya and jailed.

Belhaj was released from Moammar Gadhafi's notorious Abu Salim jail last year. He and dozens of others of LIFG fighters negotiated with the Gadhafi regime for their freedom -- in return for denouncing al Qaeda and its philosophy of jihad.

The negotiations were led by a former LIFG member in exile, Noman Benotman, and Saif al Islam Gadhafi, one of the sons of the Libyan leader and a man that Belhaj is now hunting.

The Gadhafi regime had jailed hundreds of Islamists, among them fighters of the LIFG who had launched a short-lived insurgency in the 1990s. Many were massacred during a prison revolt in 1996. more

Road trip! American student joins rebels in fight for Qaddafi stronghold Bradley Hope (Or, Why Libya Has Become a Circus)

t the centre of a circle of cheering rebel soldiers near Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s hometown this week stood an improbable figure who gives new meaning to the term “road trip”.

Chris Jeon, a 21-year-old university student from Los Angeles, California,shrugging cooly, declared: “It is the end of my summer vacation, so I thought it would be cool to join the rebels. This is one of the only real revolutions” in the world.

In a daring, one might even say foolhardy, decision two weeks ago, Mr Jeon flew on a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Cairo. He then travelled by train to Alexandria and by a series of buses to the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. From there, he hitched a ride with rebels heading west towards the Libyan capital of Tripoli. After a 400km (248-mile) trek across the desolate North African landscape, he was now in the town of An Nawfaliyah, the toast of his comrades and a newly anointed road warrior.

“How do you fire this thing?” he asked on Wednesday as a bearded rebel handed him an AK-47. Locating the trigger of the assault rifle and switching off the safety, Mr Jeon fired it in the air in two short bursts.

“I want to fight in Sirte!” he proclaimed, using hand gestures and pointing west towards Sirte. Whether the rebels understood him was far from clear. “It’s hard to communicate. I don’t really speak any Arabic,” he said. more

Michigan Hospital Group Tells Employees: Get Flu Shot Or Get Fired

Mandate may already be the most charged word in the health care industry, but this is a new twist altogether. The Michigan-based Munson Healthcare group has issued a new rule requiring all its employees, including doctors, to get a flu shot by the end of the calendar year, according to an Associated Press report.

"The people we serve here are very sick," chief operating officer Kathleen McManus told the Traverse City Record-Eagle. "And I will not put a patient at risk." Indeed, McManus says that Munson was motivated to enact the policy as a response to the voluntary employee compliance rates of 65 percent.

Munson has seven hospitals covering 24 counties.

The new rule, announced by Munson via a prepared release this past week, has been met with dissatisfaction among a bloc of Munson workers. Roughly 50 made a showing at the most recent meeting of the Troy-based group, Michigan Opposing Mandatory Vaccines, also according to the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Employees are taking issue with the principle of their employer mandating such a rule.

In interviews with the media, employees have referred to the new code as a "civil rights issue." more

Disturbing images of Vietnam War: We never learn, but always repeat


London Ditches Carbon Offsets for 2012 Olympics -- Going green not so important anymore, apparently

As part of London’s bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics, organizers offered a plan to keep the Games green—but they’ve changed their minds. The committee will “no longer pursue formal offsetting procedures,” it said, dropping its pledge to balance carbon emissions from the Games with clean-energy investments in developing countries. Such offsetting would have “diverted” attention from Britain, says the Games’ sustainability chief. The decision also saves the organizing committee up to $4.4 million, Bloomberg reports.

“If you want to go down certified carbon-offsetting, all projects have to be overseas, so if we plant a lot of trees in Essex that just doesn’t count,” says the official. “Because the Games are in the UK, we wanted to maximize the Games locally.” A British Green Party rep wasn’t happy with the shift. “Obviously we want the Olympics to benefit London, but environmentally they should be a green Olympics to benefit the whole world as well.” The move comes amid reports of mounting costs, according to the Guardian. source

Crooked propane gas stations face fines in the millions in Santo Domingo

The consumer protection agency (Pro Consumidor) will fine propane gas stations the equivalent of 500 minimum wages (RD$3.0 million) if they swindle customers with false measurements.

Pro Consumidor director Altagracia Paulino said the same penalty would be levied against the hardware stores and other businesses caught selling the components used to make “acid of the devil,” whose sale is banned by its resolution 104-2010.

The official called on the Chamber of Deputies to urgently pass the Law to regulate the sale to the public of drain cleaners whose active ingredients are sulfuric, nitric and hydrochloric acids, and any other corrosive substance that could be used to injure people. more

Inuit people: "Sun and stars are shifting" -- Just climate change? Or something more?

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake KERMADEC ISLANDS, NEW ZEALAND - 3rd September 2011

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck the Kermadec Islands, New Zealand at a depth of 16.6 km (10.3 miles), the quake hit at 17:26:43 UTC Saturday 3rd September 2011.
The epicenter was 107 km (66 miles) South from Raoul Island, Kermadec Islands
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

Tarbes hit by storm and torrential rain overnight, France causing Flash Floods - 3rd Sept 2011

Tarbes, the departmental capital of Hautes-Pyrenees, was hit by a huge storm last night that left streets flooded and cars abandoned.

According to Meteo France, 45mm fell in one hour and over the two hour period, 75mm fell, compared to a total rainfall of 47mm for the entire month of August this year.

The sheer volume of water has flooded basements and homes in both Tarbes and Bagneres de Bigorre, which was also affected.

Motorists had to abandon their vehicles in parts of the city, particularly in hollows under bridges where the water was two or three feet deep. No casualties have been reported, but the fire service were called out more than seventy times during the night. Source

Cajon Pass fire 30 percent contained; I-15 reopened for now, California - 2nd Sept 2011

Firefighters work Friday, Sept. 2, 2011, in Oak Hill, Calif., to contain the flames of a fast-moving wildfire that erupted Friday on the main interstate between Southern California and Las Vegas.

The fire forced evacuations of 1,500 homes, temporarily closed the freeway to holiday weekend traffic and surged through hundreds of acres of desert brush.

A California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman says firefighters have contained 30 percent of the fire that erupted along Interstate 15 Friday. As of Saturday morning, both lanes of I-15 along the Cajon Pass were reopened, though that could change as the firefighting effort continues and winds shift, according to fire officials. Read More

Cougar attack area stays closed as parks staff continue to hunt for the cougar that attacked an 18month-old boy, Canada - 3rd Sept 2011

Kennedy Lake in Pacific Rim National Park will remain closed during the long weekend as parks staff continue to hunt for the cougar that attacked an 18month-old boy on Monday.

"We did not catch anything today," Parks Canada spokeswoman Arlene Armstrong said Friday.

"We'll see what happens over the long weekend. We have extra staff out."

B.C. Parks has agreed to close its parks on either side of Kennedy Lake for the long weekend as well, said Armstrong.

The parks are not highuse areas but are popular with locals.

Julien Sylvester was attacked at Swim Beach in the Kennedy Lake day-use area, about 16 kilometres east of Ucluelet.

The boy was with his grandfather and four-yearold sister. The cat pounced on the child and sank its teeth into his skull before Julien's grandfather drove it away.

By Thursday, Julien's medical condition had been upgraded from fair to good. Read More