Saturday, September 17, 2011
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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)
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
The epicenter was 30 km (18 miles) Southwest of Vallenar, Atacama, Chile
No reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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'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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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