Saturday, September 17, 2011

Gaddafi claims Nato air strikes have killed hundreds in Sirte

The ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has claimed that Nato air strikes have killed 354 people and injured hundreds more in his home town of Sirte.

A spokesman for Gaddafi told Reuters that the air strikes had hit a residential building and a hotel, but these reports could not be verified as the town has been largely cut off from communication.

Nato disputed the claim, saying it was aware of the allegations but that its targets were military.

"We are aware of these allegations," Colonel Roland Lavoie, spokesman for the western military alliance, said in Brussels. "It is not the first time such allegations have been made. Most often, they are revealed to be unfounded or inconclusive."

Gaddafi's spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, claimed the former Libyan dictator was still in Libya and was personally directing the fighting in Sirte and in Bani Walid, another loyalist stronghold.

In a call from a satellite phone to the Reuters office in Tunis, he said: "Nato attacked the city of Sirte last night with more than 30 rockets directed at the city's main hotel and the Tamin building, which consists of more than 90 residential flats.

"The result is more than 354 dead and 89 still missing and almost 700 injured in one night." more

Troy Davis: Chorus of support grows for condemned Georgia man

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Supporters of Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis on Thursday delivered petitions bearing 638,000 signatures to a state parole board that will decide next week whether to stop the condemned man's execution.

Davis, 41, was convicted of killing a Savannah police officer in 1989 and is due to be executed on September 21.

"There are incredible doubts that still remain," said Wende Gozan Brown, a spokeswoman forAmnesty International, one of the groups organizing the effort to halt the execution.

The Davis case has attracted international attention with former President Jimmy Carter and retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu among leaders who have expressed support for his clemency.

Davis was sentenced to death in Georgia's Chatham County for the murder of police officer Mark MacPhail, who was shot dead near aBurger King restaurant in Savannah. Davis' lawyers say it was a case of mistaken identity. more

Tropical storm Roke bearing down on west Japan

Heavy rain has already reached parts of Shikoku as the west of Japan braces for a tropical storm approaching from the south. The storm could trigger more damage to areas already battered by a storm that hit earlier this month.

The Meteorological Agency says tropical storm Roke was slowly moving west-northwest over the sea about 200 kilometers east of Naha, Okinawa, on Friday afternoon.

The storm is packing winds of more than 80 kilometers per hour near its center.

Roke, accompanied by a warm and humid air mass from the Pacific, is expected to bring up to 50 millimeters of rain per hour to western and central Japan.

Localized downpours have been reported in the Kii Peninsula, which saw record rains from tropical storm Talas earlier this month. Talas left nearly 100 people dead or missing. more

Two cops injured in Belfast bomb attack

Two police officers were injured in a bomb attack on the outskirts of Belfast overnight, the latest of a series of attacks on law enforcement in Northern Ireland, police said on Friday.

Police blamed Irish nationalist militants for bomb attacks on the homes of police officials on Wednesday near the city of Londonderry.

They did not say who was to blame for Friday's attack.

The bomb was thrown at a police patrol as they responded to an alarm call at a toy store shortly after midnight. The officers' injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.

Two members of the store's staff were treated for shock.

Officials have said that armed Irish nationalist militants opposed Britain's presence in Northern Ireland are more active than at any time since a 1998 peace deal. But they lack the wider community support the Irish Republican Army had during three bloody decades known as "the troubles". more

Officer Kenton Hampton placed on leave in wake of third brutality allegation

A police officer in Fullerton, California, whom an attorney accuses of brutality in the death of a homeless man this summer and two arrest cases last year, has been placed on paid leave, a police spokesman announced Friday.

Sgt. Andrew Goodrich identified the officer as Kenton Hampton, but he declined to confirm whether Hampton is among six officers involved in the arrest of Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old homeless man who died five days after allegedly being beaten by police this summer. That death is under investigation by the FBI and the Orange County District Attorney.

But Hampton was involved in two incidents last year in which two men are accusing Hampton of brutality and false arrest, Goodrich told CNN.

"I can't comment as to the type of leave or the reason or the length," Goodrich said of Hampton being placed on paid leave. In making the announcement Friday, Goodrich declined to state when the leave became effective.

Hampton and his attorney couldn't immediately be reached for comment Friday. more

Two bystanders wounded in SF police shooting who "missed" -- Aren't police trained anymore?

According to KCBS and Bay City News Service, two bystanders were hit by gunfire after an officer-involved shooting in San Francisco’s North Beach
neighborhood early this morning.

According to police, at 2:06 a.m., officers located a wanted person in the 400 block of Broadway. The suspect ran away from police and produced a weapon, they said.

Officers then fired at the suspect, who was not hit. However, two bystanders were hit by the gunfire. They were taken to a hospital to be treated for their injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening,
according to police.

The suspect, who was not wounded, was taken into custody. The suspect’s weapon was recovered, police said.

Police did not have information available about how many officers were involved in the shooting or how many rounds were fired. more

Cintia Bustos, Jaime Velasquez, Angela Gonzalez: Oakdale deaths are double murder, suicide, leaving 2 orphans

A man and two women found dead in an Oakdale house each died of a single gunshot wound to the head in an apparent double murder-suicide, the Ramsey County medical examiner's office ruled Friday.

The shooting scene at the blue split-level house, which involved two parents and a babysitter, left other victims as well. A 6-year-old girl returning home from school Thursday found the bodies and ran screaming into the street with blood on her hands. She and her two brothers, ages 3 and 8, were left orphaned.

"When I heard the child found the bodies it really did break my heart," said Washington County Attorney Pete Orput, who expects the county might be asked to help with foster care. "I don't know what it would be like walking in to see your mom and dad dead. That's something that child will never get out of her head, ever."

The dead were identified as Cintia Guadalupe Ornelas Bustos, 28; Jaime Anival Almaras Velasquez, 32, and babysitter Angela Uscanga Gonzalez, 43.

Police declined to say who was responsible for the shooting because the investigation is not complete. But the medical examiner's office has determined that Velasquez committed suicide, said officer Michelle Stark. more

Joanna Fan, Ziming Shen Accused of Stealing Millions of Dollars Intended for Preschoolers’ Meals

A Staten Island couple stole at least $2.5 million in federal funds meant for nutritious meals for preschoolers, prosecutors asserted in a criminal complaint unsealed on Friday.

The complaint accused the couple, Joanna Fan and her husband, Ziming Shen, of siphoning money over five years from accounts at the nonprofit Red Apple Child Development Center preschool chain, of which Ms. Fan, also known as Xiao Ping, is the executive director. The complaint accused the couple of using the money to make mortgage payments on several Manhattan condominiums and to benefit their private business interests, which include Preschool of America Inc., a chain of about a dozen for-profit preschools in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

The couple surrendered to agents of the United States Agriculture Department on Friday morning and were arraigned before Magistrate Judge James Orenstein of United States District Court in Brooklyn. They pleaded not guilty and posted bail of $750,000 each.

The judge restricted their movement to parts of New York and ordered them to surrender their passports.

“They’re going to defend this vigorously, and obviously all the facts have not come out,” Barry W. Agulnick, Mr. Shen’s lawyer, said after the arraignment.

The charge, theft from programs receiving federal funds, is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine, said Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “As alleged in the complaint, this amounts to one of the largest lunch money thefts in history,” Mr. Nardoza said. more

US Postal Service faces grim ‘new reality’

The current mail system of the United States is "no longer financially sustainable," and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is looking for billions of dollars in cuts to its services.

The postal service announced Thursday it was considering closing nearly 250 processing facilities, cutting equipment by 50 percent and slowing mail delivery in an extreme cost-cutting effort. It is looking for $3 billion in annual savings.

And as the president and Congress search high and low for ways to boost job creation, up to 35,000 people could be laid off as part of that effort.

"We are forced to face a new reality today,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. “With the dramatic decline in mail volume and the resulting excess capacity, maintaining a vast national infrastructure is no longer realistic."

Since the advent of email and other electronic communication, the postal service has seen a steady decline in its use. More than 43 billion fewer pieces of mail are sent now than they were five years ago. First-class mail has dropped 25 percent, and the transmission of stamped letters is down 36 percent over that time frame. The postage purchased to send first-class mail is a primary source of revenue for the USPS. more

Enigma machine to go under the hammer

An encoding device synonymous with one of the most remarkable episodes of World War II espionage will go under the hammer in London later this month.

A version of the three rotor Enigma machine -- used by the German military to encrypt messages, the code of which was subsequently cracked by a team at the legendary Bletchley Park complex -- will be auctioned at Christie's on September 29.

Although the number of the ciphering machines still in existence is thought to remain in the thousands, "it is rare for one to come up for sale," says Christie's specialist, James Hyslop. "Many are believed to have been produced but it's not a particularly high survival," he adds.

During the wartime period, the Enigma machine was the most advanced device of its kind, a forerunner of the first modern computer systems.

Originally produced by a Dutch company for commercial use in the aftermath of the First World War, the technology was snapped up for sole use by the German military in 1929. more

Will the Austrians, Slovaks or Dutch break the euro?

French banks were the center of the European financial storm this week, after Societe Generale and Credit Agricole were downgraded by ratings agency Moody's Investors Service. Eyes were also on the unfolding drama of Italy's surging funding costs, amid warnings the country is one which is too big to fail. At the same time, members of the Free Democrats -- the smaller party in Angela Merkel's governing coalition -- are openly flirting with a more Eurosceptic line.

But there is an aspect of Europe's debt crisis not receiving sufficient attention -- the dangers of a major political rupture, driven by the smaller, stability-oriented European countries. Politicians in the continent's big countries have been riding roughshod not just over the preferences of their own electorates -- the citizens and governments in Finland, Slovakia, the Netherlands, and Austria are increasingly questioning the rationale for writing ever larger cheques in exchange for empty-sounding promises of future fiscal rectitude from Southern member countries.

New bailout packages follows a familiar script: Austerity targets are missed (again); financial markets wobble; the EU initially vacillates. Then, German and French leaders meet. Either to much fanfare, or behind the scenes, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy launch the next escalation of European rescue efforts. Of course, the bill has to be footed by all European member states, not just France and Germany. Franco-German "leadership" is creating growing unease in smaller countries. These political tensions are less visible than headline-grabbing stress in financial markets, but they are every bit as dangerous for the current European rescue efforts. more

Four oil and gas companies responsible for 350 spills named "outstanding operators" by regulators

As gas and oil drilling accelerates along Colorado's heavily-populated Front Range, state regulators named four companies to be "Outstanding Operators" and lauded them for environmental excellence.

But the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission regulators' records show that those companies are responsible for more than 350 spills since January 2010. One of them, Andarko subsidiary Kerr-McGee, released cancer-causing benzene and other chemicals three times last month in Weld County — contaminating land and water.

The awards given by the COGCC exemplified a collaborative regulatory approach that Colorado relies on to protect its environment with a record-high 45,793 wells and companies drilling about eight more a day.

A Denver Post analysis in progress has found that spills are happening at the rate of seven a week - releasing more than 2 million gallons this year of diesel, oil, drilling wastewater and chemicals. Yet state regulators rarely penalize companies responsible for spills — issuing only five fines for spills this, for spills that happened three or more years ago.

For years, industry leaders and state officials have hailed Colorado's regulations as among the best in the nation.

Now experts who helped craft those regulations question whether they'll be sufficient because companies are drilling about 3,000 new wells each year. For example, current rules allow drilling within 350 feet of subdivision homes and 300 feet of public drinking water supplies — with no limits on drilling by streams. more

New Japan PM Noda 'concerned' by China military rise

Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Wednesday he was concerned about China's military build-up, urging his giant neighbour to act as a "responsible member of the international community".

Japan wants to deepen relations with China in the run-up to the 40th anniversary next year of the restoration of diplomatic ties, Noda told parliament.

"On the other hand, I am concerned about their reinforcement of national defence power, which lacks transparency, and their acceleration of maritime activities," Noda said.

"I expect China to play an appropriate role as a responsible member of the international community," he said, adding he wanted to visit the country at a convenient time for both sides.

Noda, known to have slightly hawkish views on China, has irked Beijing in the past with his assertion that prominent Japanese war criminals from World War II, should no longer be considered "criminals". more

Indonesian ethnic clashes leave six dead

Police in Ambon, Indonesia, will pursue anyone they suspect of involvement in violence between Christian and Muslim groups that left six people dead and around 80 injured.

Inter-ethnic violence erupted in Ambon, capital of Indonesia's Maluku province -- also known as the Moluccan Islands -- during the funeral of Muslim man killed in a road accident.

Rioting broke out Sunday after rumors surfaced that the motorcycle taxi driver had been tortured to death by Christians.

"We will enforce the law," National Police spokesman Inspector General Anton Bachrul Alam said. "We are currently focusing on pacifying the situation. The investigation is still under way."

Police were helped by several hundred troops to quell street fighting after cellphone text messages circulated to Muslims that the driver had been set upon by Christians, the BBC said.

Police said the man died on the way to hospital after losing control of his motorbike and crashing. more

As Europe stumbles, alarm bells sound for US and China

As Europe’s leaders dither in the gathering storm, its main trading partners are taking steps to safeguard their interests.

The US Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, will be making on Friday his second trip to Europe in less than a week, while the chairman of China’s largest sovereign fund was in Rome last week for talks with Italy’s finance minister, Giulio Tremonti.

The high-profile visits come amid heightened concern about Europe’s debt crisis and the risk of further contagion, with the prospect of a Greek default on its debt now back on the table.

European stock markets have slipped to their lowest level since 2009 following a month of torrid trading, with leading French banks losing up to two thirds of their market value.

And with European leaders showing little appetite for bold moves, governments in Washington and Beijing are concerned things may get worse. more

Palestinian state not option but obligation, says Turkey PM Erdogan

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday it was time to "raise the Palestinian flag at the United Nations" in a rallying call to Arab states before a Palestinian U.N. membership bid opposed by Washington.

Speaking to Arab foreign ministers, he said Israel had undermined its legitimacy by irresponsible behaviour. He made no specific accusations but has in the past criticised Israel for building settlements on occupied land envisaged as part of a Palestinian state.

He has also protested over Israel's offensive against Gaza in 2008, which largely spelt the end of a close alliance between Turkey and Israel, and has condemned its attack on a Turkish ship heading for Gaza that killed nine Turks last year. more

UN body urges nations to use 'vaccine' against land degradation

Ahead of the first high-level meeting on desertification at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification said on Monday world leaders needed to adopt a "vaccine" against land degradation.

That vaccine had been "tried and tested" in southeast Asia, parts of Africa and Australia, and now needed to be rolled out worldwide with heavy investment in sustainable land management.

Luc Gnacadja, executive secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), said politicians needed to get serious about preventing land degradation if they want to secure global food supplies for the future and prevent conflict.

"We need to scale up what works," Gnacadja told Deutsche Welle at the UNCCD headquarters in Bonn.

But he added there had been a lack of political will, funding, and media interest.

In concrete terms, Gnacadja said nations needed to improve the management of land and water to raise the productivity of soil and increase people's access to markets. more

Unemployment: Jobless can no longer claim 'money for nothing' says David Cameron

In a television interview for ITV News, Mr Cameron rejected what he saw as the old principle of unemployment benefit claimants receiving payments whilst doing little to improve their job prospects.

"What we want to do is get people off welfare and into work and we're getting rid of the old idea that you can get your welfare without conditions," the prime minister said.

"If there is something you need to help you get a job, for instance being able to speak Engllsh," Mr Cameron continued, "then it should be a requirement that you take that course, do that study, in order for you to recieve your benefit."

Mr Cameron's comments come as new figures show that more teenagers in the UK are out of work and without a college place than in most other developed nations.

The data – from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development - shows that school-leavers are more likely to be classed as “Neet” – not in education, employment or training – than in countries such as Estonia, Portugal, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia. more

Loose Talk on Greek Default Could 'Cost Billions'

Against the background of increased pressure from the United States for a more resolute approach to the euro debt crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday moved to crush speculation within her government about a possible Greek default.

The future of Europe is tied to the common currency, Merkel told the Berlin public radio station RBB. "For that reason everyone needs to weigh their words very carefully," she said. "What we don't need is disquiet on the financial markets. The uncertainties are already great enough."

Her comments were viewed as an indirect jab at Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Philipp Rösler, who distanced himself from the government over the weekend with a newspaper commentary. In the piece for the conservative daily Die Welt, the leader of her junior coalition party, the increasingly unpopular pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), said "there can no longer be any taboos" in the debate over the euro crisis, including, if necessary, "an orderly bankruptcy of Greece, if the required instruments are available." more

Japan's Noda: Rebuilding, fiscal reform top priorities (Notice now nuclear fallout contiminating world isn't in there)

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda says that rebuilding the disaster-hit northeast and balancing economic growth and fiscal reforms are his Cabinet's top priorities.

In his first policy speech in the Diet since taking office earlier this month, Noda stressed his determination to tackle the challenges brought on by the March 11th earthquake and tsunami.

Noda told the plenary sessions of the Lower and Upper houses on Tuesday that he aims to have the current generation shoulder the cost of reconstruction.

To this end, he said he will try to cut government spending, sell off national property, and consider temporary tax increases.

Noda also pledged to bring the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant under control. more

Italy under pressure as debt worries grow

Italy had to pay record interest to sell its bonds on Tuesday as it raced to calm market fears that it was losing control of a huge public debt and could trigger a crisis that threatened the euro zone.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said a 54 billion euro (46.7 billion pound) austerity plan would be approved by parliament on Wednesday and promised to pursue other measures to boost growth. Sources told Reuters the government was also considering sales of property and local utilities to raise funds to cut its debt -- now around 120 percent of annual national output.

"Quite simply, investors have lost confidence in Italy's ability to extricate itself from the euro zone debt crisis," said sovereign debt consultancy Spiro Sovereign Strategy.

"The implications of this for Europe's monetary union are quite worrying." more

Israel seeks to boost UAV strike power as regional war drums beat louder

The Israeli air force is expanding its wing of unmanned aerial vehicles built by Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems, some to be used as missile-armed gunships.

Meantime, The Jerusalem Post reports that state-run IAI, Israel's leading defense contractor, is working with Rheinmetall Defense of Germany to develop a new weapons system for aerial drones to cope with proliferating threats facing the Jewish state.

The air force plans to form a new squadron of medium-altitude, long-endurance UAVs consisting of Elbit's Hermes 900 and IAI's Heron 1 to enhance its drone capabilities.

The Israeli air force bought three Hermes 900s for evaluation in May 2010 and is waiting for final approval from the General Staff of the Israeli armed forces to purchase new platforms under a five-year procurement plan currently being finalized.

The 900 is based on the smaller Hermes 450, which has been in service for several years. It has been widely used to carry out assassination missions against Palestinian militants in the West Bank and Gaza Strip using missiles.

The 900 variant can carry double the equipment payload of the 450. These include electro-optic cameras, laser designators, radar systems, electronic intelligence and electronic warfare suites. more

Mission impossible: counting the cost if EMU fails

Greece's exit from the euro zone would inflict untold damage on Europe's economy, further burnish the attractiveness of a rising Asia and hasten the emergence of China's yuan as a global currency.

Until recently, even thinking about the consequences of a break-up of the euro was, well, unthinkable. No longer.

Doubts over how much more austerity recession-hit Greece can endure are growing by the day. They are matched by doubts as to how long political and public opinion in Germany, the euro zone's paymaster, will stand for keeping Athens and others on the bloc's periphery afloat with emergency loans and bond purchases by the European Central Bank.

Some within the ECB are equally unhappy about it.

If the outcome of the mounting crisis is unpredictable, so are the consequences.

Domenico Lombardi with the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, said the economies of the euro zone are so inter-connected that the secession of one of the 17 members would open up a Pandora's box.

Greece could not quit or be expelled from the bloc in a surgical manner. Markets would then line up Italy in their sights. If Rome were then forced out, France's banks -- already under pressure from short-term funding strains -- could melt down because of their exposure to Italian debt.

"It would be almost impossible to draw the line. You could devise a framework for an orderly exit in normal circumstances, but we have gone much too far for that," said Lombardi, a former executive director of the International Monetary Fund. He put the chances of a euro zone break-up at fifty-fifty. more

What Awaits Young Americans

It is becoming increasingly difficult to figure out what America's younger generation is thinking. Perhaps they are too distracted by the fast-paced blur of modern existence to notice that the freedom and prosperity Americans have enjoyed for generations is quickly evaporating, and that such qualities are not merely arbitrary characteristics of the national landscape guaranteed for time eternal.

Given what our education system has been teaching (or not teaching) for the last several decades, perhaps they do not understand that freedom and prosperity are inextricably intertwined. Maybe they genuinely believe that government exists to provide for them and that government's ability to do so could never possibly be threatened.

Because they have lived only in a time of quickly accelerating technological advancement, perhaps they have confused those leaps forward with the advancement of mankind itself, assuming that whatever life their parents enjoyed, their own could only be better.

Maybe they do not understand that the definitive expression of liberty, and the only means of maintaining it, is personal responsibility. Perhaps some truly believe that an endless array of piercings and tattoos, the exploration of sexual deviancy, and other personal pleasures are the ultimate measures of articulating freedom.

Reno airshow crash deathtoll raised to 9; probe focuses on wayward part

The death toll rose to nine Saturday in an air race crash in Reno as investigators determined that several spectators were killed on impact as the 1940s-model plane appeared to lose a piece of its tail before slamming like a missile into a crowded tarmac.

Moments earlier, thousands had arched their necks skyward and watched the planes speed by just a few hundred feet off the ground before some noticed a strange gurgling engine noise from above. Seconds later, the P-51 Mustang dubbed the Galloping Ghost pitched oddly upward, twirled and took an immediate nosedive into a section of white VIP box seats.

The plane, flown by a 74-year-old veteran racer and Hollywood stunt pilot, disintegrated in a ball of dust, debris and bodies as screams of "Oh my God!" spread through the crowd. more

Bomb blast near India's Taj Mahal injures 3

A bomb exploded Saturday at a private hospital in the tourist city of Agra, India, injuring three people.

The bomb went off at Jai Hospital's reception area, said Brij Lal, spokesman for Uttar Pradesh police. The hospital is about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from the famed Taj Mahal, India's most popular tourist destination.

The blast blew out window panes and damaged the hospital's waiting room, where the three injured people were, said P.K. Tiwari, the inspector general of police in Agra. One of them sustain burn injuries.

"It is difficult to say what the cause and motive of the blast were. But we know that this was not a sophisticated device and seems to have not created too much impact," Tiwari said. "My guess is this is a crude bomb."

Police at the scene said they spotted several unclaimed lunch boxes and bicycles near the blast site.

India's Home Ministry said it had dispatched commandos to Agra and was in the process of collecting evidence from the scene.

The Agra blast occurred a day after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned the nation's senior police officers about India's vulnerability. more

Rare sand tiger shark caught in Petitcodiac River, Canada - 16th Sept 2011

Jay Edgett of Dorchester, N.B., has been fishing for many years but a lifetime of angling did not prepare him for what he saw on the end of his line last week.

Edgett and his friends were fishing for bass off of a pier in the Petitcodiac River in southern New Brunswick when he hooked a fish. When the fish came to the surface, he quickly realized it was not a bass but instead a rare sand tiger shark.

“I can honestly say it was the shock of a lifetime down here fishing bass. [The] rod went down and I realized quickly it wasn’t a bass,” Edgett said.

“The words came out of my mouth were, ‘Wow.’ Just, 'My jumping, what is that?’”

Edgett's group of friends pulled out the video camera and recorded the rare feat of landing a sand tiger shark in the Petitcodiac River.

Scientists at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans say it is extremely rare to see a sand tiger shark in Atlantic Canada.

They are normally found in Australia, South Africa or the eastern seaboard of the United States.

Steve Campana, head of the Canadian Shark Research Laboratory at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, was thrilled with the discovery.

"This is a pretty unusual, as a matter of fact this is a very rare circumstance — it's only actually the fourth sand tiger shark that I'm aware of that's ever strayed into Canadian waters," said Campana. Read More

Small Shark Found Barely Alive on North Oregon Coast - 16th Sept 2011

(Sunset Beach, Oregon) – It's the third time in two weeks such a shark has washed up – and the second time this week Seaside Aquarium rushed to a beach situation involving some sort of creature. (All photos taken by Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium)

On Wednesday – the same day aquarium staff responded to a huge Elephant seal corpse – staff went to the aid of a Salmon shark found struggling in the surf at Sunset Beach, just north of Seaside. The aquarium’s Tiffany Boothe said they quickly placed the shark into a container and then raced it to the aquarium in hopes of reviving it.

“Once at the aquarium, staff did what they could to revive the shark but it was obvious that the shark was not going to survive the night,” Boothe said. “Typically, sharks found struggling in the surf have something very wrong with them and the likelihood of survival is minuscule.”

Earlier that day, aquarium staffed dealt with a larger-than-usual Elephant seal.

The shark was four feet long and a juvenile – which are commonly seen along the Oregon coast. They closely resemble Great White sharks and are often mistaken as baby Great Whites. Read More

Zombie scare in Ireland: Eighth century skeletons buried with stones in mouths

Archaeologists have made a gruesome discovery which could be straight out of a horror movie.

A number of 8th Century human skeletons have been found with large stones stuck in their mouths - something researchers believe locals did to stop the dead from returning to walk the Earth as zombies.

The research started more than six years ago in what was supposed to be a survey of medieval churches in County Roscommon, Ireland.

But a group of the experts stumbled on more than 120 skeletons in a cemetery which dates between the 7th and 14th centuries.

Chris Read, from the Institute of Technology in Sligo, Ireland, has been leading the team during a series of digs carried out between 2005 and 2009 at Kilteasheen, near Loch Key. Read More

5.2 Magnitude Earthquake OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 16th Sept 2011

A magnitude 5.2 earthquake has struck off the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 24.1 km (15 miles), the quake hit at 17:54:47 UTC Saturday 17th September 2011.
The epicenter was 145 km (90 miles) East of Hachinohe, Honshu, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake ATACAMA, CHILE - 17th Sept 2011

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck Atacama, Chile at a depth of 26.1 km (16.2 miles), the quake hit at 17:41:04 UTC Saturday 17th September 2011.
The epicenter was 30 km (18 miles) Southwest of Vallenar, Atacama, Chile
No reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

The rise and fall of the Euro

California schools turn away unvaccinated students

Some California schools are turning away middle and high school students who have not received a required whooping cough vaccine while others are defying a law passed last year after a historic spike in cases of the potentially fatal disease.

The law approved last September initially required all students entering grades seven through 12 to get vaccinated by the start of the 2011-2012 school year. Lawmakers passed a 30-day extension this summer as districts worried many students wouldn't meet the deadline.

Under California law, students also can still attend if their parents file a form saying they oppose vaccines.

No statewide estimates of the number of students turned away is available because districts are not required to report their final vaccination tally until December, state education and public health officials said.

But anecdotal reports from individual districts indicate the percentage of students meeting the requirement varied widely, from about half of students to nearly all. more

Geithner warns EU of ‘catastrophic risk’

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The US Treasury secretary told Europe’s leaders to stop bickering and take control of the debt crisis that has brought “catastrophic risk” to financial markets.

In a blunt warning that reflected Washington’s growing concern, Timothy Geithner urged European leaders to halt a months-long clash with the European Central Bank and argued that the EU’s growing reliance on foreign lenders would imperil the bloc’s ability to control its own destiny.

“What is very damaging [in Europe] from the outside is not the divisiveness about the broader debate, about strategy, but about the ongoing conflict between governments and the central bank, and you need both to work together to do what is essential to the resolution of any crisis,” Mr Geithner said on the sidelines of a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Wroclaw, Poland on Friday.

“Governments and central banks have to take out the catastrophic risk from markets… [and avoid] loose talk about dismantling the institutions of the euro,” he added. more

Three years after Lehman, how could rogue trading still happen?

How ironic that it should be exactly three years to the day that Hank Paulson, then the U.S. Treasury Secretary, allowed Lehman Brothers to go to the wall, that an unauthorised loss of $2 billion from UBS’s investment banking operation in London should have been announced by CEO Oswald Grübel.

Paulson’s decision was inexplicable in the circumstances, having saved Bear Stearns and supported AIG, and it sent seismic tremors of fear through financial markets not seen since 1929. UBS’s loss has at least been declared, though the reason behind the alleged behaviour of 31-year-old Kweku Adoboli may take some weeks to manifest itself.

What is astonishing to all of us is that since the banking crisis of 2008, regulatory controls have been tightened up immeasurably, and credit managers are virtually the most important appointee in a financial institution. However the old adage of “where’s there’s a will there’s a way” still prevails, and if a rogue trader wants to go under the radar, sadly it still seems to be an insurmountable problem. UBS has had copious chairmen and CEOs leading up to and after the banking crisis. Billions of dollars in losses have been declared on sub-prime lending and other derivatives and the banks has faced a serious spat with the U.S. Department of Justice over the tax issues of some of its clients. more

Mexico murders show how Internet empowers, threatens

Two days ago, I learned about two young people killed by drug gangs in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, their corpses bound and hung from a bridge. Unfortunately, drug murders happen so often in Mexico that they are not news anymore. This time was different.

The murders have received a lot of international attention because the bodies were found with handwritten messages claiming that the couple had been killed for snitching on the cartels via the Internet. Is it possible that these murders grabbed more attention than last month's 50-person massacre because of the connection to social media?

As a technologist, I find it easy to get swept up in the techno-utopian view of how social technologies are changing the world for the better. I do believe it. For example, Twitter hashtags are saving lives in Mexico by empowering citizens to report shootings and helping others to avoid them. However, those same hashtags have landed three people in jail on charges of "terrorism" for supposedly spreading false rumors online.

Now we learn about the murders of supposed "Internet snitchers." more

Ozone Pollution — Another Predictable Defeat

In a perverse sort of way, it is always gratifying to assert a rule of life and see it applied only a few days later. I stated the rule in Another Pointless Climate Protest.

When push comes to shove, economic concerns will always trump environmental concerns. That's a Rule of Life. Get some small magnets, write it down on a piece of paper, and put it on your refrigerator door. For humankind, environmental concerns are a luxury they can afford when the economy is doing well. And in so far as the economy can not be expected to do well in the foreseeable future, environmental concerns are off the table for many years to come, if not forever.

President Hopey-Changey, "citing the struggling economy, asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday (September 3) 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

Homo laeviculus — "Clueless Man": An apt description of many human beings today

Australian science writer Julian Cribb believes a strong case can be made for renaming the human species, which Linnaeus dubbed Homo sapiens (Latin, meaning "wise man") in the 18th century. I heartily concur. Cribb laid out his compelling arguments in The case for re-naming the human race.

It is time the human race had a new name. The old one, Homo sapiens – wise or thinking man – has been around since 1758 and is no longer a fitting description for the creature we have become

[My note: example member of our species, left].

When the Swedish father of taxonomy Carl Linnaeus first bestowed it, humanity no doubt seemed wise when compared with what scientists of the day knew about both humans and other animals. We have since learned our behavior is not as wise as we like to imagine – while some animals are quite intelligent. In short it is a name which is both inaccurate and which promotes a dangerous self-delusion.

In a letter to the scientific journal Nature (476, p282, 18 August 2011) I have proposed there should be a worldwide discussion about the formal reclassification of humanity, involving both scientists and the public. The new name should reflect more truthfully the attributes and characteristics of the modern 21st century human – which are markedly different from those of 18th century ‘man’. more

A Modest Proposal For Reducing The Unemployment Rate

Tomorrow, it will become official — the long-term unemployed are a political football. Obama will give a jobs speech proposing various ineffectual measures for creating jobs. The Republicans will reject these proposals, their goal being that Obama should have no successes between now and November, 2012, although little can be done to lower the unemployment rate in any case. Perhaps it is time to think outside the box.

According to various news reports, the President will soon start leaving the Imperial Capital to visit with the Little People living in those vast, mostly unexplored dominions outside the Beltway. He will rail against Do-Nothing Republicans.

For politicians, the unemployment rate is the magic number. The "official" rate now stands at 9.1%, but those not brain-dead know it is actually much higher. In politics, however, only the magic number counts. Most projections show the official rate will remain above 9% a year from now. That would certainly be true if the economy actually improved. The discouraged would then re-enter the Labor Force, driving the jobless rate up. Otherwise, nothing much will change between now and then.

The President needs that rate to fall in order to win re-election. The Republicans would like that rate to stay the same, or get worse. According to the peculiar logic of our political system, one party wants the economy to improve between now and the next election, and the other wants it to deteriorate. more

Consumers Are Depressed Beyond Reason

How bad off are we? Examples abound, but the fact that markets hang on every word Ben Bernanke says ought to tell you how far down the road to ruin we've traveled. Has this man ever gotten anything right?

I usually pay no attention to the remarks of the Fed Chairman, but I was struck by this story in the New York Times called Fed Chief Describes Consumers as Too Bleak (hat tip, Tim Iacono).

WASHINGTON — Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, offered a new twist on a familiar subject Thursday, revisiting the question of why growth continues to fall short of hopes and expectations.

Mr. Bernanke, speaking at a luncheon in Minneapolis, offered the standard explanations...

Then he said something new: Consumers are depressed beyond reason or expectation.

Oh, sure, there are reasons to be depressed, and the Fed chairman rattled them off: “The persistently high level of unemployment, slow gains in wages for those who remain employed, falling house prices, and debt burdens that remain high.”

However, Mr. Bernanke continued, “Even taking into account the many financial pressures that they face, households seem exceptionally cautious.”

Consumers, in other words, are behaving as if the economy is even worse than it actually is.

Economic models based on historic patterns of unemployment, wages, debt and housing prices suggest that people should be spending more money. Instead, just as corporations are sitting on their money, households are holding back, too. more

America Is A Plutonomy

I've often spoken of the enormous income and wealth inequality here in the United States. It follows that our "consumer" society has become more and more dependent on spending by the rich and well-off because they've got most of the money. I was surprised to learn there is a term for societies like ours. America is a Plutonomy, as described in the Wall Street Journal's U.S. Economy Is Increasingly Tied to the Rich.

Capitalism Who cares how the rich spend their money?

Well, perhaps everyone should these days. Consumer spending accounts for roughly two-thirds of U.S. gross domestic product, or the value of all goods and services produced in the nation. And spending by the rich now accounts for the largest share of consumer outlays in at least 20 years.

According to new research from Moody’s Analytics, the top 5% of Americans by income account for 37% of all consumer outlays. Outlays include consumer spending, interest payments on installment debt and transfer payments.

By contrast, the bottom 80% by income account for 39.5% of all consumer outlays.

It is no surprise, of course, that the rich spend so much, since they earn a disproportionate share of income. According to economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, the top 10% of earners captured about half of all income as of 2007. What is surprising is just how much or our consumer economy is now dependent on the rich, and how that share has increased as the U.S. emerges from recession. more

America Has Abandoned Its Young People

When a society forsakes its young people, offering them basically nothing to help them start their adult lives, that society no longer has any reason to exist. What is the purpose of a society if not to maintain continuity between current and future generations? Who would have children if they knew in advance that their kids would lead lives far worse than theirs had been? That is the situation we face in the United States today.

America's Middle Class is shrinking. The problem is not merely that people are dropping out it. It's also the case that most young Americans will never get there. For those who get a college degree, there is often only a mountain of debt and a poor-paying job to look forward to. College tuitions are now inflating at a rate which boggles the mind. CNN Money recently published Stop the tuition madness (hat tip Bill Hicks).

... colleges are bidding up tuition prices faster than a hedge fund manager at an art auction. Over the past 10 years the cost of private college has jumped more than 60%, nearly three times as much as incomes over the same period, and will now set you back $42,000 a year on average.

Prices at public colleges have shot up even more, nearly doubling to $21,000 for in-state students. Got younger kids? By 2020 you're looking at a four-year bill that's likely to top $240,000 for private schools and $155,000 at public universities. Sure there's financial aid, but scholarships aren't keeping up with tuition inflation. So long, retirement hopes; hello again, boss.

Your children will suffer, too, if they're forced to start their adult lives with onerous debt. "Student loans can affect every decision young adults make: whether they can go to graduate school, buy a house, even start a family," says Patrick Callan, president of the Higher Education Policy Institute.

It doesn't have to be this way... more

Fitch downgrades Toyota one notch to "A"

Ratings agency Fitch on Monday said it had downgraded the long-term debt of Japan's biggest automaker Toyota by one notch to "A", citing its exposure to a strong yen in another blow to the firm.

Toyota is "the most exposed among the big three Japanese automakers to FX movements and its profitability improvement was slowest among its Japanese competitors post the recent economic crisis even after disregarding the impact of product recalls in the past two years," Fitch said in a statement.

It said the outlook was stable. The rating is the sixth-highest score on Fitch's scale of 22.

The yen has soared to post-war highs against the dollar in recent weeks, and on Monday hit a 10-year high against the beleaguered euro as investors flock to the safe haven currency amid fears over eurozone debt and a global slowdown.

A strong yen erodes the repatriated profits of Japan's exporters while making it harder for goods produced domestically to be cost competitive.

This has spurred concerns of a potential "hollowing-out" of Japanese industry as more production, and jobs, are shifted overseas. more

Walker's World: A dying economy

So much for the recovery. In none of the Group of Seven economies, including Germany, has industrial output returned to pre-crash levels.

In the United States, for example, industrial output stands at 94.2 percent of its level in the first quarter of 2008.

In the last three years since September, 2008, the most reliable market index to the U.S. economy has produced nil returns. Even including dividends, the Standard and Poor's 500 is exactly where it was in the month that the crisis exploded with the Lehman Brothers collapse.

Despite vast injections of deficit spending and stimulus packages by the G7 governments and by the unprecedented creation of liquidity by central banks, the developed economies are back to where they started when the crash began. And one crucial element of the global economy -- the stability of the eurozone -- is in worse shape than it was three years ago.

Worse still, several of the key strategies put in place three years ago to address the crisis have visibly failed. more

China says stabilising prices a priority as inflation continues to bite

China's central bank said Monday stabilising prices remained a top priority as the nation's politically sensitive inflation rate was still high, despite a slight easing in August.

"Currently, some factors causing price rises in China have to some extent been controlled but have not been completely eliminated," the People's Bank of China said in a statement.

"Inflation is still high, and stabilising overall price levels remains the main macro-economic task."

Authorities in the world's second-largest economy have been struggling to tame inflation, which they fear could cause more unrest after recent public protests, as living costs spike for many millions.

The government has implemented a number of measures over the past year to try to slow inflation, including restricting the amount of money banks can lend and hiking interest rates five times since October.

The National Bureau of Statistics said Friday that the consumer price index (CPI) -- the main gauge of inflation -- rose 6.2 percent in August, down from a more than three-year high of 6.5 percent in July. more

China uses 9/11 to crack down on Xinjiang: group

Over the past decade China has used the global "war on terror" to jail thousands of ethnic Muslim Uighurs in the far-western and restive Xinjiang region, a minority rights group said Sunday.

Beijing has attributed any social unrest in Xinjiang to the forces of "terrorism, separatism and religious extremism" and has jailed and even executed alleged perpetrators, the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress said.

"The Chinese authorities found in 9/11 the perfect excuse to crack down on all forms of peaceful political, social and cultural Uighur dissent," the exiled head of the Congress, Rebiya Kadeer, said in a statement.

"The past decade has proved that the Chinese government is misusing the fight against terrorism to curb Uighur dissent and silence political opponents.

"While the number of protests against government policies is increasing day by day in the whole country, only Uighur protests are labelled as 'terrorism'." more

Pentagon attacks inspired war of 'vengeance': US

US military and political leaders on Sunday paid solemn tribute to the victims of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon and to troops who have waged a war of "vengeance" in the decade since.

"Lives ended in this place. Dreams were shattered. Futures were instantly altered. Hopes were tragically dashed," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a ceremony marking the day a hijacked airliner slammed into the US military headquarters ten years ago.

Mullen, joined by Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, said the attack inspired a new generation to join the armed forces as the country sought retribution against Al-Qaeda militants.

"From this place of wrath and tears, America's military ventured forth as the long arm and clenched fist of an angry nation at war.

"And we have remained at war ever since, visiting upon our enemies the vengeance they were due and providing for the American people the common defense they demand," Mullen said.

As survivors and victims' families sat under a blistering sun, a Navy chorus sang "Amazing Grace" before troops from every branch of the military laid a wreath one-by-one at each marker for those killed in the attack. more

Fear of rising China unites polarized US politicians

With the 2012 election cycle heating up, US politicians this week harnessed worries over a rising China to power support for everything from patent law reform to debt reduction -- and their own ambitions.

US President Barack Obama led the pack, warning Thursday that crumbling US infrastructure threatened Washington's standing as "an economic superpower" as he laid out a battle plan for assaulting 9.1 percent unemployment.

"And now we're going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads?" he said in a campaign-style speech aimed at shoring up his embattled reeletion prospects, weighted down by the sluggish US economy.

Fighting much the same battle, Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney on Tuesday made confronting China over its alleged currency manipulation and rampant theft of US intellectual property a cornerstone of his economic plan.

"I have no interest in starting a trade war with China, but I cannot accept our current trade surrender," said the former Massachusetts governor, who trails Texas Governor Rick Perry in the fight for the party's presidential nomination.

Representative Jeb Hensarling, the top Republican on a new "Supercommittee" ordered to shave more than one trillion dollars from US debt in ten years, noted Beijing is Washington's largest overseas creditor.

"In interest payments alone, we are enabling China to buy two jet fighters a week," he said as the panel formally took up its mission on Thursday. more

Italy says it's vulnerable to neighbours' nuclear mishaps

Italy said Monday the blast that killed one person and injured four at a nuclear site in France highlighted its own vulnerability to such atomic incidents on the territory of its neighbours.

"Unfortunately, as we have always said, the (nuclear) stations near our borders, 19 of them beyond the Alps, will not spare us in case of dysfunction," said Secretary of State for Economic Development Stefano Saglia.

Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo also said the French accident site has been placed under "constant surveillance" by Rome.

The explosion highlighted, the minister added, "the necessity for Italy to have an nuclear safety agency that is operational and a recognised authority."

The region of Liguria on the French border was maintaining a state of alert for radioactive emissions as a precaution, Rome said.

Democratic party opposition leader Raffaella Mariani urged the government to "come to parliament and state clearly whether there are risks for Italian citizens".

And Antonio Di Pietro of the Italy of Values party said: "Today, we can find energy sources that are cleaner and less dangerous." more

Critters on Ocean Floor Communicating in Synchronized Rumbles

Understanding animal communication has long been a fascinating and vast area of research for those who dare to welcome the challenge. Some species use body language to express their message while others use calls and loud noises.

In fact, some animals communicate in frequencies that are inaudible to humans, either above or below our hearing range.

But how do critters on the ocean floor use communication to fend off predators, attract mates and protect their homes? This was the question six scientists, including two students from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Erica Staaterman and Austin Gallagher set out to answer.

Their destination was the muddy water off the coast of Catalina Island, California.

Their subject was the California mantis shrimp Hemisquilla californiensis, a benthic crustacean that measures 8 - 10 inches.

"Rarely are there studies of benthic acoustics (sounds from the oceans floor)," said Staaterman. "There has always been suspicion that burrow-dwelling creatures like the mantis shrimp make some sort of noise, and our research is going to help us better understand life and communication on the ocean floor." more

Can you afford to die?

Cost of dying increases to £7,248 – three months' average salary. Funerals alone 60pc more expensive in seven years.

The cost of dying has increased by 20pc over the past four years – to £7,248, the same as three months' average UK salary. As the official inflation figures show the cost of living increased by 4.5pc in August, statistics from Sun Life Direct show the cost of a funeral has increased by far more – 61pc since 2004.

In its fifth Annual Cost of Dying Report, Sun Life also revealed that a quarter of people had made no end of life plans at all, including making a will.

Nearly half of consumers have not made any funeral funding arrangements, instead saying that they expected friends and family to cover costs after they have died.

The total cost of dying, which includes probate fees, headstones and flowers as well as funeral costs, has increased by more than £400 in the past year alone. Sun Life also predicted that these costs would continue to increase in the future – as Britain's ageing population neglects to make provisions for their death.

Simon Cox, head of life planning for Sun Life Direct, said: “Many people are sleepwalking into a financial nightmare, leaving their end of life plans to either their families, the state or no one at all.

"As a nation we need a wake-up call. Our research indicates that although there is indeed some openness in talking about death, action is still greatly lacking. Steps need to be taken to avert the sort of distress and concern experienced by the nearly one in five who struggle with funeral costs.” more