Saturday, September 24, 2011

Clark County, Nevada to consider sale of 9,000 acres to Chinese energy company

The Clark County Commission directed staff today to consider a Chinese energy company's offer to purchase another 3,600 acres of county land for a massive solar energy plant and solar-cell factory near Laughlin.

ENN Mojave Energy Corp. now wants all 9,000 acres of available county land about 12 miles south of Laughlin, not 5,400 acres as first reported in June.

Former U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, representing ENN, said an agreement with the county could be complete as soon as November. At that point, negotiations for a purchase-power agreement — between a power seller and potential buyer — would begin.

As soon as the agreement is struck, ENN will begin construction. If an agreement isn't reached, Bryan said, the land would revert back to Clark County.

When ENN's plans were announced, the company said the development would create 2,000 long-term manufacturing jobs paying on average $72,000 a year. The total construction cost for the solar-cell plant, industrial park and solar-energy farm was projected to be in the range of $4 billion to $6 billion.

Officials hoped construction would begin on the solar-cell plant late this year or in early 2012, with solar cells being produced by March 2013 and the first phase of the solar farm operating by March 2014. more

U.S. to expand military presence in Australia to counter China

An emerging defense agreement would let the U.S. expand its military presence in Australia as the Obama administration and its allies maneuver to counter an increasingly assertive China.

It would include positioning U.S. equipment in Australia, increasing access to bases and conducting more joint exercises and training.

The arrangement, somewhat controversial in Australia, is expected to be a centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s visit to the country in November.

Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith said the broader cooperation will mean “more ships in, ships out; more planes in, planes out; more troops in, troops out.”

The U.S. and Australia expect to finalize the plan later this year, according to a senior defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the arrangement was not complete.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met Thursday with Australian defense chief Stephen Smith and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd for talks on the basing arrangement, military cooperation in the Pacific region and other issues. more

Turkey's Erdogan calls Israel's offshore gas drilling 'madness' -- Is a conflict coming?

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described offshore gas drilling by estranged ally Israel and Cyprus as "madness" on Wednesday, raising the stakes in a confrontation over potentially huge deposits in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The quarrel over gas has escalated in recent weeks, just as relations between Israel and Turkey abruptly broke down over Israel's refusal to apologize for its raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla last year in which nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists died.

Israel and the Greek-speaking government of Cyprus are exploring for gas in the eastern Mediterranean, and Israel has laid claim to a massive deepwater gas field discovered in 2009.

Turkey, increasingly assertive in the region under Erdogan, disputes Israeli and Cypriot offshore territorial claims and says Cyprus should not exploit resources until it resolves a stand-off with its breakaway Turkish-speaking north.

Long one of Israel's few friends in the Middle East, Turkey downgraded diplomatic and trade ties with Israel this month after Israel refused to apologize for the May 2010 Gaza flotilla raid.

"The Greek Cypriot administration and Israel are engaging in oil exploration madness in the Mediterranean," Turkish state news agency Anatolian quoted Erdogan as telling Turkish journalists in New York ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting.

"Actually, the Greek Cypriot administration's drilling activity is nothing but sabotage of the negotiation process between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots," he added. more

Meltdown - The men who crashed the world, Part 1 of 4: From Al Jazeera

Hyperinflation In Zimbabwe: Photo Essay

Occupy Wall Street protesters punished by NYPD

Hallmark Produces Layoff Greeting Cards

MELISSA BLOCK, host: Picture a greeting card with a photo of a Persian cat's scowling face on the front. Heard about your job, it says. Open it up, it reads: Is there anywhere I could hack up a hairball, like, say, on a former employer's head? Just wondering. That's from a line of job loss greeting cards from Hallmark, some offering humor, others compassion. Timely in this period of nine percent unemployment.

Here's Derek McCracken, creative director with Hallmark, reading from another card. This one has a lemon on the front.

DEREK MCCRACKEN: Life gave her a lemon, a really big lemon. She started to make lemonade, but then she thought, what the heck, and made a martini with a twist instead. And on the inside, it says, I think you'll handle this like you do everything else - in your own unique way and everything will be more than okay.

And what consumers have said is that validates who the person is versus what they do and, you know, a cocktail never hurts.

BLOCK: Yeah, what is the idea behind the cards? What's the message that you think you're trying to send?

MCCRACKEN: A job loss is temporary and that it doesn't define the person.

BLOCK: If I were to go looking for these cards at a Hallmark store, where would I find them? What would the little note be above them? If some would say, sympathy or birthday or wedding, what would these say?

MCCRACKEN: It would range from appropriate for job loss. They might say encouragement. They might say, tough time, you can do it. So, we kind of focus on the hopeful side of things versus dwelling on the situation. more

Nigeria: Nation's Big Bet On Chinese Yuan

Nigeria's central bank will convert 10% of its $33-billion in foreign reserves to the Chinese yuan, as trade between the two countries continues to grow. TradeInvestNigeria asked Thabo Ncala, co-portfolio manager at Stanlib's Africa Fund whether the growing support for the yuan indicates waning confidence in the dollar.

Why does Nigeria consider China as a safe haven?

The primary reason countries keep reserves is largely for global trade, that is, to pay for imports even when their own currencies depreciate.

This is why many commentators liken foreign reserves to 'import cover'.

Historically, the major players in global trade have been the US, the UK and the Euro zone. Consequently, most countries keep reserves in the US Dollar, GB Pound and the Euro. However, these developed regions are no longer the leaders in global trade, as China is increasingly becoming a major force.

As at the end of 2010, China was Nigeria's largest source of imports (26% of its total imports). So, why does Nigeria need to first convert its currency to USD, then to the yuan? Why should Nigeria pay for imports from China in US Dollars? more

Budget Cuts Blamed for Increase in NYC Subway Rat Infestation

New York City subway systems are being overrun by rats and, according to transit workers, MTA budget and staff cutbacks are to blame. Workers also insist the rodents pose a health risk to everyone that uses the underground transport network.

"Cutbacks mean the rats are back!" members of Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 chanted during a rally in front of the Parsons-Archer subway center in Jamaica, Queens – which has one of the largest rodent infestations.

TWU Local 100, the subway workers' union, is urging commuters to sign an online petition in support of its campaign, "New Yorkers Deserve a Rat-Fee Subway."

"We have a huge rat problem," TWU vice president Kevin Harrington told the NY Daily News.

Subway passengers are seeing an increased number of rodents. One source told the paper that platforms for the 4,5, and 6 trains are a complete "rat fest."

One woman, while waiting for a downtown train, was reportedly bitten by a rat earlier this month. The rodent drew blood when it chomped down on her foot. more

And Now, With The Market Collapse Into The Close: Dow Jones to Drop to 800?

Are you prepared yet?

No?

Well I'm sorry, because it's too late now.

I mean really, honestly too late.

The market figured it out and it didn't take very long - in fact, it took less than an hour.

This latest distortion by The Fed has just destroyed the last bit of earnings power the banks had. It's gone. All to preserve the ponzi scheme in the Federal Government - the same Federal Government that just sent a bleat to Bernanke about tampering with the economy.

The very same legislators that will now do nothing about what was just done.

You got that? They will do nothing.

What did Bernanke's act tell us?

He burned the furniture for warmth today. He and the rest of the Fed cabal are done; this was the card that was known to do much more damage than it could ever help anyone - or anything. He burned the furniture to allow the Federal Government Ponzi to continue for one more year while utterly screwing the private lending industry of all sorts from banks on down.

There is no shortage of lendable money. There hasn't been since this entire mess began. The problem was that money was too easy, not too tight, and people ran into the wall on their ability to pay.

You cannot drink yourself sober.

The game is over folks. Europe is now the lynchpin between here and the SPX at 500, and that's a short-term stop between here and an entirely-possible outcome of where it began in 1980.

That's S&P 100, not 500, and Dow 800.

I know what the comments are going to be on this statement already: That can't happen because of divisors.

Oh really? It sure can happen as companies go bankrupt and get replaced, then the replacements collapse too. more

AUGUST: 1,587 mass layoff actions affected 165,547 workers

Employers took 1,587 mass layoff actions in August involving 165,547 workers, seasonally adjusted, as measured by new filings for unemployment insurance benefits during the month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Each mass layoff involved at least 50 workers from a single employer. The number of mass layoff events in August increased by 8 from July, and the number of associated initial claims increased by 20,547. In August, 391 mass layoff events were reported in the manufacturing sector, seasonally adjusted, resulting in 48,997 initial claims.

The national unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in August, unchanged from the prior month but down from 9.6 percent a year earlier. In August, total nonfarm payroll employment was unchanged from the prior month at 131.1 million and increased over the year by 1.3 million.

The number of mass layoff events in August was 961, not seasonally adjusted, resulting in 99,213 initial claims for unemployment insurance. Mass layoff events decreased by 15 from August 2010, while associated initial claims increased by 6,778. (See table 2.) Nine of the 19 major industry sectors in the private economy reported over-the-year increases in initial claims, with the largest increases occurring in information and manufacturing. The six-digit industry with the largest number of initial claims in August 2011 was wired telecommunications carriers. more

GM expansion in China a threat to U.S. jobs? (Aren't you glad you bailed them out?)



Two years after it was saved by a bailout from Washington, General Motors is trumpeting its latest investments in China.

As CBS News business and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis reported from Shanghai, American cars are more popular than ever in China, and U.S. automakers sell more cars there than anywhere else in the world. And while that's good news for American car companies, it makes many question what it will mean for American jobs.

If you were to visit General Motors in Shanghai, you'd find a lot of what you would in Detroit

The plant, says David Gibbons, executive director of manufacturing for GM in Shanghai, is "very similar. The processes are the same, the systems are the same, the quality systems are the same. Really, the only difference is the employees."

With its Chinese partner, Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corp., GM manufactures Buicks, Chevys and Cadillacs in China -- for the Chinese market -- and employs more than 13,000 people throughout the country.

That number is set to grow, thanks to a just-announced deal to develop and build, with SAIC, the next generation of electric cars in China. more

Foe to friend – changed US stance on Al Jazeera (after putting CIA plant at its head)



Al Jazeera's director general has resigned due to rumors he is linked to the CIA. Critics say that would explain the switching US attitude towards the Qatar-based news network.

Not all that long ago, the Al Jazeera news network was considered “evil” by Washington. However the White House has certainly changed its tune, recently praising the channel’s ground-breaking coverage.

That is little surprise, say critics, after WikiLeaks revelations exposed Wadah Khanfar, its director general, as having links to the CIA, prompting him to hurriedly quit. Stepping into the vacant chair is Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, an executive at Qatargas and a member of the country's ruling dynasty. This has fueled fears that Doha’s voice will get louder.

Al Jazeera, or “The Island”, is not in isolation anymore. Right now Al Jazeera English is seen in 2 million American households.

The channel’s in-your-face coverage of the violent turmoil in the Middle East and Libya, has grabbed it a cozy place alongside other local news sources in the US. The recent WikiLeaks claim about Al Jazeera’s now-resigned director general, though, indicate a longer-term interest in the channel among certain sections of America. more

Greeks strike over new austerity measures

Bank of America Filing-Fee Case May Open ‘New Front’ in Mortgage Lawsuits After Cheating Americans for 10 Years

Bank of America Corp. (BAC) is among a group of lenders that may face a wave of new lawsuits claiming the system they’ve used for more than a decade to register mortgages cheated cash-strapped counties out of millions of dollars.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said state attorneys general and county officials across the U.S. have expressed interest in his lawsuit against Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc. and Bank of America, filed in Texas state court on Sept. 21. Dallas County could be owed as much as $100 million in filing fees, he said.

“This is a big new front,” said Christopher L. Peterson, associate dean and professor at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law. “This case is scary because if Dallas wins then there are a lot of other counties around the country that are going to follow.”

MERS, a unit of Reston, Virginia-based Merscorp Inc., says on its website that its aim is to place every mortgage in the country on an electronic, rather than a paper, system that allows members to buy and sell mortgages. more

Arctic sea ice reaches minimum 2011 extent, the second lowest in the satellite record

The blanket of sea ice that floats on the Arctic Ocean appears to have reached its lowest extent for 2011, the second lowest recorded since satellites began measuring it in 1979, according to the University of Colorado Boulder's National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The Arctic sea ice extent fell to 1.67 million square miles, or 4.33 million square kilometers on Sept. 9, 2011. This year's minimum of 1.67 million square miles is more than 1 million square miles below the 1979–2000 monthly average extent for September – an area larger than Texas and California combined.

While this year's September minimum extent was greater than the all-time low in 2007, it remains significantly below the long-term average and well outside the range of natural climate variability, according to scientists involved in the analysis. Most scientists believe the shrinking Arctic sea ice is tied to warming temperatures caused by an increase in human-produced greenhouse gases pumped into Earth's atmosphere.

"Every summer that we see a very low ice extent in September sets us up for a similar situation the following year," said NSIDC Director Mark Serreze, also a professor in CU-Boulder's geography department. "The Arctic sea ice cover is so thin now compared to 30 years ago that it just can't take a hit anymore. This overall pattern of thinning ice in the Arctic in recent decades is really starting to catch up with us." more

'Emerging Contaminants of Concern' Detected Throughout Narragansett Bay Watershed, U.S.

A group of hazardous chemical compounds that are common in industrial processes and personal care products but which are not typically monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency have been detected throughout the Narragansett Bay watershed, according to a URI researcher.

Rainer Lohmann, associate professor of chemical oceanography, and graduate student Victoria Sacks, with the help of 40 volunteers, tested for the presence of the chemicals in 27 locations. The compounds were found at every site.

"Being exposed to these compounds is the hidden cost of our lifestyle," said Lohmann. "It's frustrating that as we ban the use of some chemical compounds, industry is adding new ones that we don't know are any better."

Lohmann said the good news is that the chemicals were detected at extremely low levels.

"By themselves, none of these results makes me think that we shouldn't be swimming in the bay or eating fish caught there," he said. "But we only tested for three compounds that might be of concern, and we know there are hundreds more out there. The totality of all those compounds together is what may be worrisome." more

Bedbug Insecticides Linked To 80 Illnesses, 1 Death

Worried about bedbugs? Maybe you should be more concerned about the insecticides used to get rid of them.

A government study counted one death and 80 illnesses linked to bedbug insecticides over three years. Many were do-it-yourselfers who misused the chemicals or used the wrong product. And most of the cases were in New York City.

The study released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the first to look at the issue.

The CDC was able to only get data from seven states, including New York, where bedbugs have become a highly publicized problem and where health officials have also been extra vigilant about unusual chemical poisonings.

Investigators said they didn't know what to expect, but were relieved to see a relatively small number of cases.

"At this point, it's not a major public health problem," said Dr. Geoff Calvert, a CDC investigator who co-authored the study. more

Shuar indigenous people blockade river against 'murderous' oil company: Peru

Over the weekend more than 100 Shuar indigenous people, also known as Wampis, blockaded the Morona River in Peru in an effort to stop exploratory oil drilling by Canadian-owned Talisman Energy. The blockade in meant to prevent oil drilling in an area of the Peruvian Amazon known as Block 64, home to four indigenous tribes in total and the Pastaza River Wetland Complex, a Ramsar wetland site.

"We do not consider the oil company as a creator of jobs but instead as murderous, criminal and abusive. We do not want Talisman in the Wampis territory," a statement from the Shuar reads pointing to Talisman Energy's track record in Peru as well as alleged human rights abuses in Sudan during the nation's civil war. The company sold off its Sudan holdings in 2003 after international criticism, while a lawsuit in the US against Talisman was thrown out due to sufficient admissible evidence. The US Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

The Shuar blockade comes at a time when the new Peruvian administration is working to repair battered relations with indigenous groups. Earlier this month, Peru's new president Ollanta Humala signed into law a measure requiring that industry consult indigenous groups prior to any activities on their land, including oil drilling. Although the law does not go so far as to give indigenous groups a 'veto' over industrial activities on their land.

"What we want to do with this law is have the voice of indigenous people be heard, and have them treated like citizens, not little children who are not consulted about anything," Humala said at the signing. more

EPA grants air permit to Shell for Arctic drilling

Shell Oil Co. on Monday took a step closer to tapping vast petroleum reserves off Alaska's Arctic coasts when the federal Environmental Protection Agency approved an air quality permit for one of the company's drilling vessels.

The EPA approved the air permit for the drilling vessel Noble Discover, which Shell hopes to use for exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast, and its support fleet of oil spill response and supply vessels.

Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith said the permit was a hopeful step.

"The delivery of final air permits for our exploration program is another in a series of recent, positive developments and adds to our confidence that we will be drilling our offshore Alaska leases by July of next year," Smith said in an email.

Environmental groups and some Alaska Native groups bitterly oppose offshore Arctic drilling. more

Humanity falls deeper into ecological debt: study

Humankind will slip next week into ecological debt, having gobbled up in less then nine months more natural resources than the planet can replenish in a year, researchers said Tuesday.

The most dominant species in Earth's history, in other words, is living beyond the planet's threshold of sustainability, trashing the house it lives in.

At its current pace of consumption humankind will need, by 2030, a second globe to satisfy its voracious appetites and absorb all its waste, the report calculated.

Earth's seven billion denizens -- nine billion by mid-century -- are using more water, cutting down more forests and eating more fish than Nature can replace, it said.

At the same time, we are disgorging more CO2, pollutants and chemical fertilizers than the atmosphere, soil and oceans can soak up without severely disrupting the ecosystems that have made our planet such a comfortable place for homo sapiens to live.

Counting down from January 1, the date when human activity exceeds its budget -- dubbed "Earth Overshoot Day" -- had receded by about three days each year since 2001.

The tipping point into non-sustainability happened sometime in the 1970s, said the Oakland, California-based Global Footprint Network, which issued the report. more

Antibiotics losing the fight against deadly bacteria

Our last line of defence against bacterial infections is fast becoming weakened by a growing number of deadly strains that are resistant to even the strongest antibiotics, according to new figures given to The Independent on Sunday by the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

The disturbing statistics reveal an explosion in cases of super-resistant strains of bacteria such as E.coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae, a cause of pneumonia and urinary tract infections, in less than five years.

Until 2008, there were fewer than five cases a year in the UK of bugs resistant to carbapenem, our most effective intravenous (IV) antibiotic. New statistics reveal how there have been 386 cases already this year, in what the HPA has called a "global public health concern". Doctors are particularly concerned because carbapenems are often the last hope for hospital patients suffering from pneumonia and blood infections that other antibiotics have failed to treat. Such cases were unknown in the UK before 2003.

Years of over-prescribing antibiotics, bought over the counter in some countries, and their intensive use in animals, enabling resistant bacteria to enter the food chain, are among the factors behind the global spread. According to the latest figures from the World Health Organisation, some 25,000 people a year die of antibiotic-resistant infections in the European Union.

In a statement issued during a WHO conference in Baku, Azerbaijan, last week, the organisation warned that doctors and scientists throughout Europe fear the "reckless use of antibiotics" risks a "return to a pre-antibiotic era where simple infections do not respond to treatment, and routine operations and interventions become life-threatening." more

Gender-bent fish found downstream of pharmaceutical plants

High levels of intersex fish are found in wild populations that live downstream to a pharmaceutical production plant, showing for the first time that the two are linked.

A French study finds that more than three-quarters of wild gudgeon fish examined had a mix of male and female traits in their sex organs if they lived directly downstream to a plant that manufactures pharmaceutical drugs.

Exposure to the chemical mix discharged from the nearby drug plant may contribute to the abnormalities, the researchers report in the journal Environment International. The study is important because it is the first to link discharge from a drug manufacturing plant – rather than a sewage treatment plant – with physical and chemical changes in fish living downstream.

The researchers found that up to 80 percent of the fish they tested were intersex – that is, the fish had both male and female characteristics in their ovaries or testis. Intersex indicates endocrine disruption in fish that can foreshadow larger effects on fish populations because of reductions in breeding abilities.

Pharmaceuticals can enter the environment through sewage treatment plants after people excrete them or flush unwanted drugs down the toilet. They can also directly enter waterways via discharge into rivers and streams by drug manufacturing plants. Which source contributes more is not known. more

Carbon Nanoparticles Break Barriers--and That May Not Be Good

A study by researchers from the schools of science and medicine at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis examines the effects of carbon nanoparticles (CNPs) on living cells. This work is among the first to study concentrations of these tiny particles that are low enough to mimic the actual exposure of an ordinary individual.

The effects on the human body of exposure to CNPs -- minute chemicals with rapidly growing applications in electronics, medicine, and many other fields -- is just beginning to be revealed. Exposure at the level studied by the IUPUI researchers is approximately equivalent to what might be the result of improperly disposing of an item such as a television or computer monitor containing CNPs, living near a CNP producing facility, or working with CNPs.

The research, published in the September 2011 issue of the journal Nanotoxicology, focuses on the effect of low concentration CNP exposure on the cells that line the renal nephron, a tubular structure inside the kidney that makes urine. The investigators found the role of the CNPs in this part of the body to be significant and potentially worrisome.

“Unlike many other studies, we have used low concentrations of CNPs that are typical of what might appear in the body after ingesting them from environmental contamination or even from breathing air with CNPs. We found that these minute particles cause leakage in the cellular lining of the renal nephron,” said study first author Bonnie Blazer-Yost, Ph.D., professor of biology at the School of Science at IUPUI and adjunct professor of cellular and integrative physiology and of anatomy and cell biology at the IU School of Medicine. more

Turkey's war against Kurds could widen

Turkey is reported to be considering an intelligence alliance with Iran and Iraq to combat Kurdish separatists who have their main sanctuary in northern Iraq.

Turkey may even mount a ground offensive in a bid to crush the separatist movement.

The Turkish air force has been bombing bases of the Kurdish Workers' Party, known as the PKK, for several weeks, killing around 200 people in scores of raids.

But this hasn't stopped raids by the militants into southeastern Turkey, where nearly 50 soldiers have been killed.

Ankara's escalating assault on the outlawed PKK since June, when a de facto cease-fire expired, has coincided with an Iranian ground offensive against Iranian Kurds who are holed up in the Qandil Mountains of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

These moves by Turkey and Iran have once again thrust Iraq's Kurdish enclave into the maelstrom of ancient regional rivalries at a time when the Middle East is in turmoil. more

Gaddafi Hunt Intensifies Amid Fight For Sirte - 24th Sept 2011

A search for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is intensifying across Libya as revolutionary forces appear to be gaining the upper hand in the battle for his hometown of Sirte.

National Transitional Council soldiers are now close to entering the pro-Gaddafi city after a day of heavy fighting.

But it is far from clear whether the city will fall in the next few days as loyalists are well dug in and well-motivated for the fight.

Sirte is not only symbolically important - it is ousted dictator Col Gaddafi's hometown - it is also geographically and strategically vital, as it divides the country between east and west.

Meanwhile, anti-Gaddafi soldiers are moving out into the far reaches of the country in the hunt for the fugitive colonel. Read More

4.1 Magnitude Earthquake OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 24th Sept 2011

A magnitude 4.1 earthquake has struck off the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 20 km (12.4 miles), the quake hit at 15:06 UTC Saturday 24th September 2011.

Time (JST)
Lat.
Long.
Depth Mag. Region
00:06 JST 25 Sep 11
37.2N 141.7E 20 km 4.1
Fukushima
Ken - Oki

No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

Amanda Knox appeal: Prosecutors call for life sentences - 24th Sept 2011

Prosecutors have called for an appeals court to extend the sentences given to two convicted murderers of British student Meredith Kercher to life terms.

American Amanda Knox and Italian Raffaele Sollecito were found guilty in 2009 of murder in Italy and jailed for 26 years and 25 years respectively.

The pair, who deny any wrongdoing, are appealing against their convictions.

In summing up, prosecutors said evidence pointed to the pair's guilt and defended the original DNA evidence.

Independent experts had questioned the reliability of evidence - used in the original trial - from a knife and Miss Kercher's bra clasp.

Manuela Comodi, one of the prosecutors making closing statements, showed the jury how she believed the bra had been cut from Miss Kercher. She also showed jurors photographs from the scene.

The prosecution told the court the independent experts, appointed by a judge, did not have sufficient qualifications to be described as experts.

'Bungled sex game'

They also said the DNA was only one part of the original case against Knox and Sollecito. Read More

High-flying gold crashes in record $100 freefall - 23rd Sept 2011

Gold crashed more than $100 on Friday, as a slide turned into a free fall, with weeks of volatility, renewed strength in the dollar and talk of hedge fund liquidation wrecking its safe-haven status.

The sell-off came even after relative calm was restored to the stock and oil markets following Thursday's losses. Bonds also dived with gold and silver as investors took profit on a near week-long rally in U.S. Treasuries.

Widespread talk of possible selling by big hedge funds covering losses in other markets set off one of the biggest routs on record in the precious metals group.

The CME Group, which oversees trading in U.S. gold and silver futures, responded by raising margins, or deposits, required on trades of the two precious metals as well as copper. The move would further squeeze the most optimistic investors in gold, who are trying to hold onto long positions or bets on higher prices.

"We're making new lows and the bull case for gold is on pause for the near term," said Adam Klopfenstein, senior market strategist for precious metals at MF Global in Chicago. Read More

Guards fired at outside area of Pope's Mass in Germany - 24th Sept 2011

Two private security company workers were shot at with an air gun near where Pope Benedict was to hold Mass in Germany on Saturday, police said.

Four shots were fired, but no one was injured, Dirk Sauter, a spokesman for Erfurt police said in a statement.

One person has been taken into custody.

"The incident happened at a security check at the outer perimeter of the security zone" for the pope's Mass, Sauter said.

A spokesman for the German Interior Ministry said the incident took place "several hundred meters away from the actual venue, and certainly no one fired shots at the pope." Source

Dozens of Protesters were killed in Yemen's capital today - 24th Sept 2011

A few dozen people were killed in Yemen's capital on Saturday as protesters took to the streets and government Republican Guards clashed with Yemeni soldiers who support the opposition.

At least 26 protesters were killed when security forces fired at them and rockets landed in Sanaa's Change Square, according to medical staffers there. Change Square is the epicenter of the opposition movement in the capital. At least 52 protesters were injured.

Twelve dissident soldiers were killed and 112 others were injured when the guards attacked the 1st armored division in Sanaa, an army unit that defected, a spokesman for the defectors said.

"More than 93 rockets bombarded the 1st division and many of the injured are in critical condition," said Abdul Ghani al-Shamiri, a spokesman for Gen. Ali Mohsen, a prominent defector who leads the division.

Republican Guards were attacking a location in another city, Taiz, a medic there said. There were no further details. Read More

Panther on the Loose in San Marco, Florida? - 24th Sept 2011

Police have been notified of two panther sightings in the San Marco area.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office was alerted Friday to one sighting at the dead end of Lasalle Street and another at 1501 Hendricks Avenue.

Florida Fish and Wildlife has been notified, said a statement from Bujeda.

JSO advised the public to be alert and aware of children and pets, and to never approach a panther. Source

Steve Stevenson in grizzly attack was shot by friend and not killed by the Bear - 24th Sept 2011

A hunter attacked by a wounded grizzly in a Montana forest was killed not by the bear, but by a gunshot fired by a companion trying to save him, authorities said Friday.

Lincoln County Sheriff Roby Bowe said an autopsy determined 39-year-old Steve Stevenson of Winnemucca, Nev., died of a single gunshot to the chest. The cause of death was determined by a medical examiner with the Montana State Crime Lab.

The shot was fired by 20-year-old Ty Bell, also of Winnemucca, as he attempted to stop the bear’s attack. No charges are expected, Bowe said.

The autopsy found bite marks on Stevenson’s leg caused by the bear.

“We’re fairly convinced it was obviously an accident,” Bowe said. “But the county attorney will review the final report once we’re done.”

Bell and Stevenson were on a black bear hunting trip with two other people in a thickly-forested region along the Montana-Idaho border when the attack occurred Sept. 16.

The foursome had split into two-member teams, and early in the day Bell shot and wounded what he thought was a black bear, which are considered less aggressive than grizzly bears.

Bell and Stevenson waited about 15 minutes until they thought the bear had died, then tracked the 400-pound grizzly into thick cover, according to Stevenson’s mother, Janet Price. Read More

Randy 'Amanda' Lehrer missing for a month found encased in concrete in a drum at her home. But where is husband who reported her missing? - 24th Sep

The body of a woman who has been missing for a month has been found encased in concrete in a drum in her basement, her mother says.

Rose Moncarz told CBC News in Canada thather daughter Randy 'Amanda' Lehrer was found at her home in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The police have yet to confirm that the body is Miss Lehrer.

Her husband, Steven Acuna, was last seen arguing with his wife outside her place of work on the day she disappeared.

The couple's 11-month-old daughter has also not been seen since then.

Miss Lehrer was reported missing five days later by her husband.

Police said Acuna has been uncooperative with the investigation.

He has refused to be interviewed with the presence of a lawyer, they said.

Earlier police chief Tom Comey described the gruesome discovery in a 55-gallon drum as a 'significant development in the case.' Read More

Police hunt thugs who chop off heads of pheasants 'for sport' - 24th Sept 2011

These two men are wanted by police for killed five pheasants and cutting off their heads - in the latest attacks on innocent birds.

The pair were seen between 5pm and 6pm on August 21, with a small boy, near to large wire pens containing young pheasants at woods on private land near Flitwick, Beds.

Not long after they appeared on the CCTV, the gamekeeper walked past the pens and found five pheasants had been killed, apparently with a weapon like a catapult.

The heads of the birds had been removed, and police believe the act may have been some sort of sport.

PC Jon Birch wants anyone who can identify the men to call 01234 842616.

It is the lastest in a string of attacks on wildlife around England.

In June, thugs beheaded birds, poisoned fish and smashed 130 windows during a night rampage through a wildlife centre in Wythenshawe Park, Manchester. Read More

Fireman kept six women as slaves for two years in underground dungeon, China - 24th Sept 2011

The hostesses in the karaoke bars of Luoyang city in China's Henan province were the prey for Li Hao.

The former firefighter, 34, cruised the joints, picking his targets and then kidnapping them to inflict regular abuse of gut-wrenching depravity.

Two of the six sex slaves that Li allegedly kept in hideous underground confinement died, but four have now been rescued from their suffering.

Today, we are able to show an artist's impression of the two 'unimaginably sophisticated' small rooms in which the women were said to have been held, and the barbarity becomes horribly clear.

The secret rooms, dug four metres under his rented basement and hidden behind seven iron doors, were located in a residential complex away from his home, where his wife and son lived unaware of the alleged kidnappings, said the Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper.

A police official confirmed that a man who works for the city's technological supervision bureau had been taken into custody.

The paper reported that Li regularly raped the nightclub and karaoke bar workers and would give them food only once every two days to keep them physically weak. Read More

Physicist dismisses 'discovery' of particles that can travel faster than the speed of light - 24th Sept 2011

Scientists spoke of their disbelief yesterday over claims that particles have apparently been recorded travelling faster than the speed of light.

If the calculations are correct, the findings by physicists at the CERN research centre they have disproved Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity – the cornerstone of physics.

Subatomic particles called neutrinos were beamed from the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland to a laboratory in Italy 454 miles away, and beat the speed of light by 60 nanoseconds.

But other scientists have dismissed the claims, with one saying he 'would eat his shorts' if they are proved right.

Celebrity scientist Brain Cox was not so dismissive, saying that if the results are confirmed it would be 'one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time'.

Others were more cynical. Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of Physics at the University of Surrey, said: ‘Let me put my money where my mouth is: if the CERN experiment proves to be correct and neutrinos have broken the speed of light, I will eat my boxer shorts on live TV.’

The apparent fidnings raises science fiction scenarios such as sending information back in time and blurring the line between past and present.

As experts across the world expressed their shock – and cynicism – the physicists at CERN insisted they had tested and re-tested the findings for six months and could not find anything to alter the result.

If they are right the neutrinos made the journey in 0.0024 seconds, travelling at 299,798,454 metres per second. Read More

Britain warns Iran over nuclear programme at UN meeting

British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Wednesday warned his Iranian counterpart that Britain would resist any increase in Iran's nuclear capabilities, during a meeting at the UN in New York.

Hague told Ali Akbar Salehi there were "important areas of disagreement" between the two countries, but that there was no inherent hostility in Britain towards the Middle East nation, a Foreign Office (FCO) statement said.

"The Foreign Secretary emphasised that there was no animosity between the British people and the Iranian people," a foreign office spokesman explained.

The British ministry stressed that it respected Iran's right to civil nuclear power, but that Iran "had not persuaded the international community that its nuclear programme was for peaceful purposes."

Britain would "maintain its strong resolve to oppose nuclear proliferation," and would back the UN's mission to make sure Iran's nuclear programme did not take on military dimensions, said the spokesman. more

Hungry N. Korea soldiers steal from civilians: report

North Korea has stepped up a crackdown on soldiers in a northeastern city who are stealing from locals because they cannot survive on their food rations, a report said Wednesday.

Military police have been stationed everywhere in the streets of Hyesan city to check the identification of soldiers, said the Daily NK, a Seoul-based online newspaper run by defectors.

North Korean soldiers are supposed to receive about 800 grams (28 ounces) of food per day in rations but this has shrunk to about 540 grams, it said.

"They are hungry and... they are heading for local farms to steal (food)," Daily NK said, citing a source in Hyesan.

"The weather is getting colder and the number of soldiers deserting their posts is rising."

Since June a military driver training school in Hyesan has handed out only about 170 grams of food. Hungry soldiers have also been stealing clothes, shoes and other items from homes in broad daylight to sell in the market, it said.

The North has a Songun (army first) policy which prioritises military welfare. But there have been several reports that soldiers are suffering from food shortages along with civilians. more

Traces of Japan nuclear fallout in California rainwater

Low levels of radioactivity showed up in rainwater in northern California two weeks after the Japan nuclear disaster in March but soon returned to normal, said a US study out Wednesday.

The detected levels of radioactive isotopes cesium, iodine, and tellurium were very small and posed no risk to the public, according to the findings of research funded by the US Departments of Energy and Homeland Security.

Rainwater was collected in the San Francisco Bay area cities of Berkeley, Oakland, and Albany from March 16 to 26, said the report in the online journal PloS (Public Library of Science) ONE.

"The first sample that showed elevated radioactivity was collected on March 18th, and levels peaked on March 24th before returning to normal," said study led by professor Eric Norman in the department of nuclear engineering at the University of California at Berkeley.

The study also noted that "similar gamma ray counting measurements were performed on samples of weeds collected in Oakland and on vegetables and milk sold commercially in the San Francisco Bay area." more

UK students ‘most distracted by social media’

Global survey reveals British students are the world’s most easily distracted by social media and the second most-connected on the planet after the Chinese

More than nine out of ten British students are distracted by Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites at least once an hour, a new global survey has claimed. The rate – the highest in the world – will “reshape business for a new generation”, claimed Phil Smith, UK CEO of Cisco who commissioned the research. British students were also the second most connected in the world, beaten only by the Chinese in terms of how frequently they use the internet on a mobile device.

Nearly three-quarters said they would rather have internet access than a car. Mr Smith claimed that employers needed to take into consideration the new ways that students and young people worked. “It could mean fewer people commuting, more people working from home,” he said. “But businesses also need to consider that if people are getting distracted from their jobs, it’s often down to bad management.” One in three college students and young professionals across the world now considers the internet to be as important as fundamental human resources such as air, water, food and shelter, the survey also found.

More than half said the web was an “integral part of their lives”. The report is based on surveys of college students and professionals 30 years old and younger in 14 countries. Two of five college students surveyed globally said the internet is more important to them than dating, going out with friends, or listening to music. More than one in four said staying updated on Facebook was more important than partying, music or seeing friends. more

The global financial crisis has a social cause: the low-wage world

The starting point is the weakness of the labor movement, which made ​​possible a world of low wages. However, this world is structurally unstable, which we are now beginning to experience. Today every country tries to keep the wage level low, thereby diminishing the domestic demand, and must find foreign markets for their products. This mechanism has worked for the last ten years because the U.S. acted as a “vacuum cleaner” for surplus products of other countries. And not because the workers’ wages were too high, but because it was a huge private debt accumulated in the U.S.. The system took the workers to pay their mortgage debts with new loans and paying interest on the loans with new credit cards.

Could a fragile credit structure actually hold? This was only one bomb, which exploded now. The consequences are once again passed to the workers and employees, while the Wall Street executives, who manufactured these explosives, could even profit from it. Take, for example, the Paulson plan. It stipulates that the government will buy banks’ risky assets in exchange for investment and place fresh money at their disposal, leaving the possibility that banks, once the storm has passed, can regain their titles. If the government pays very high prices, bankers may eventually pocket a nice profit at the expense of the state budget.

What is the obvious impact of this crisis? Much will depend on its duration and depth. For now, the establishment is pursuing a strategy that Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa described in his book The Leopard: “If you want everything to remain the same, we have to change something.” The Paulson plan is an example of this strategy, because it consists of cash in exchange for debt, designed to intervene as little as possible in terms of ownership and control of bank capital. The same applies to sales of preferred shares to the government because it restricts the right to vote at shareholders meetings and it has the ideology of neoliberalism-has-failed and that capitalism’s days are numbered? more

Global Recession: 2012

The global recession in 2012 is “65 to 75 percent sure” and the one that could degenerate into a long depression, says Roger Nightingale, economist and strategist RDN Associates.

Peak growth rates for the world economy took place over 12 months ago and “brought him down,” Nightingale says. “We probably started to decline in the region around next spring, not sure, but this is the most likely option. I would say that the recession is 65 percent, 75 percent certain.”

The Economist warned that the recession would kick in, the world economy may be too weak to cause GDP for years or even decades.

“When the crisis ends, and when the recovery begins, it will be strong enough to take us in a kind of growth again? Or should we find ourselves in a prolonged depression type scenario? “He marvels.

“Seven years is a brief depression but can last much longer than that. I would be happy if it lasts for only seven years. In the case of Japan, it lasted 20 years,” he said.

Nightingale added that the U.S. economy has “some big advantages,” but did not know he was strong enough to rule the world out of recession.

“America is very competitive right now, and has many advantages in finance, agriculture and many other areas. There are great advantages in the situation of America, and are responsible for some growth. Be sufficiently large to maintain anything goes, and to rescue the world, is another matter, “he said.

But Nightingale said that Europe is “difficult to completely hopeless.” He warned that the BRIC countries, China and India may be headed in a “somewhat similar direction”. more

Fees knock 25 percent off the value of your pension fund

New figures reveal that fees and charges can wipe a quarter off the value of a personal pension fund.

According to the latest Money Management Pension survey, charges are wiping thousands of pounds of people’s private pensions.

In the worst case it said the highest charging plan takes £21,140 out of the projected fund. This figure relates to the Skandia plan that has a 6.3pc adviser fee, plus 0.5pc trail commission paid to the adviser each year.

Someone investing £200 a month over 25 years could expect a pension worth £157,494 if the plan was fee-free. The Skandia plan would be worth just £120,050.

But Skandia wasn’t the only provider named and shamed in the survey. Axa’s with-profits personal pension would be worth just £127,853 after charges and a Legal & General plan would be worth just £122,225. The best fund with the lowest charges was B&CE – its plan would be worth £142,566.

Money Management said that it is generally accepted that high charges can be justified if performance is stellar, but if performance falls the policyholder is left with a high charging plan and charges eat invidiously into value over time. more

Pre-paid card users 'unprotected' -- and risk losing everything

Pre-paid cards have grown in popularity in recent years but many consumers are unaware of what would happen to their money if the card provider went bust.

Ryanair has recently announced its intention to launch a new prepaid card, which will be the only payment mechanism by which customers can avoid a payment administration fee. This is the latest in a number of similar initiatives. However many consumers do not realise the money they have on these cards is not protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

A prepaid card looks just like a normal credit or debit card, and enables you to buy products and services where ever these cards are accepted.

The main difference is that you can only spend the balance that has been preloaded onto it. This means there is no risk of running into debt as it has no credit or overdraft facility and crucially, the card has none of your personal bank details attached to it. According to consumer group, Which?, these cards are most typically used for holidays, school trips and managing household finance.

However, consumers should be aware that the FSCS does not cover prepaid cards or e-payment cards and should the provider become insolvent, any funds loaded onto the card would not be protected.

Mark Neale, chief executive of the FSCS, said: "In recent years, prepaid cards have become increasingly common, especially for those people who are unable to get standard bank accounts with debit or credit cards. more

Billionaires boost London house prices to fourth most expensive in the world

Billionaires’ homes in London now change hands for an average of more than £3,000 per square foot and our capital has the fourth most expensive house prices in the world, according to new analysis by international estate agents Savills.

Riots, banker-bashing and the threat of a mansion tax did not deter the global super-rich from investing more than £3.3bn in London property last year. While the ‘squeezed middle’ is suffering from frozen or falling incomes and rising taxes they cannot easily avoid, the rich are getting richer – partly because of above average house price inflation at the top of the market.

Billionaires’ property prices in 10 cities around the world increased by an average of 10pc in the first six months of this year, Savills calculates. That was more than half as high again as the average of 6pc for ordinary mortals’ homes in Hong Kong, London, Moscow, Mumbai, New York, Paris, Singapore, Shanghai, Sydney and Tokyo.

China’s booming economy helped Hong Kong push Tokyo off pole position as the world’s most expensive city. Billionaire homes in Hong Kong now typically fetch £6,700 per square foot, compared to £5,190 in Tokyo. Sterling’s weakness made London house prices look like bargains to international buyers – but also helped Paris overtake our capital for the third most expensive slot in the global index with an average price per square foot of £3,270. more

Al Gore's five loaves and two fishes (and his $100,000,000 made from "Global Warming")

Not content with having invented the internet, the great Climate Science communicator Al Gore appears to have developed still more miraculous skills of late: the ability to turn 17,000 into 8.6 million – just like that.

The figures refer to the number of "views" for Gore's special "24 Hours Of ManBearPig" which this column helped celebrate the other day. Gore claims that as many as 8.6 million flocked to his thrilling festival of climate fear; but a nasty cruel man called Charles the Moderator at Watts Up With That? has "done the math" and reckons the figure is probably more like 17,000. And that, he believes, is a generous estimate. (H/T John from CA).

So whom are we to trust? An evil climate denying website run by evil climate deniers? Or a loving family man who has selflessly made it his mission to travel the world acquiring as large a carbon footprint as possible in order to spread the word that we should all drastically reduce our carbon footprints?

I'm with Gore, obviously. Not only has his knowledge and insight proved hugely influential on our own beloved Prime Minister's climate policies – "I've just had a meeting with Al Gore. He really knows his stuff", David Cameron once told a distinguished businessman who'd come hoping for a quiet word about his economically disastrous environmental policies – but it's quite obvious that he really is a man with the power to work miracles.

Just look, for example, at the magical way he has managed to make his fortune grow. In 2000, the year he lost the presidential election, he was worth a modest $1-2 million. Now his fortune has swollen to well over $100 million, thanks to partly to his $100,000 plus speaking engagements (which have earned him at least $10 million) and partly to his canny green investment decisions (such as his decision to pull his investments out of the Chicago Carbon Trading exchange before it collapsed due to global lack of interest in trading an Emperor's New Clothes commodity invented by Enron's Kenneth Lay and championed by an even dodgier Hawaiian/Kenyan born Chicago lawyer). more

'Mind-reading device' recreates what we see in our heads

Mind reading could become a reality after scientists unveiled a device which translates what we are seeing in our heads onto a screen.

By monitoring the brain activity of people while they watched Hollywood movie trailers, researchers were able to recreate a moving picture similar to the real footage being played.

While the technology is not yet capable of reading our thoughts, it could eventually lead to ways of translating our dreams and memories onto screen.

If it is refined enough the method could even be used to explore the minds of stroke patients, experts said.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, used MRI scanners to monitor the blood flow in people's brains as they watched films including Madagascar 2, Pink Panther 2 and Star Trek unfold on a screen.

After analysing how the brain's visual centre responded to on-screen movements, the scientists created a computer program which could accurately guess what the person was looking at. more

The great euro swindle

Very rarely in political history has any faction or movement enjoyed such a complete and crushing victory as the Conservative Eurosceptics.

The field is theirs. They were not merely right about the single currency, the greatest economic issue of our age – they were right for the right reasons. They foresaw with lucid, prophetic accuracy exactly how and why the euro would bring with it financial devastation and social collapse.

Meanwhile, the pro-Europeans find themselves in the same situation as appeasers in 1940, or communists after the fall of the Berlin Wall. They are utterly busted. Let's examine the case of the Financial Times, which claims to be Britain's premier economic publication. About 25 years ago something went wrong with the FT. It ceased to be the dry, rigorous journal of economic record so respected under its great postwar editor Sir Gordon Newton.

Turning its back on its readers, it was captured by a clique of left-wing journalists. An early sign that something was going wrong came when the FT came out against the Falklands invasion. Naturally it supported Britain's entry to the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1990. In 1992, it endorsed Neil Kinnock as prime minister. It has been wrong on every single major economic judgment over the past quarter century.

The central historical error of the modern Financial Times concerns the euro. The FT flung itself headlong into the pro-euro camp, embracing the cause with an almost religious passion. Doubts were dismissed. Here is the paper's Lex column on January 8, 2001, on the subject of Greek entry to the eurozone: "With Greece now trading in euros," reflected Lex, "few will mourn the death of the drachma. Membership of the eurozone offers the prospect of long-term economic stability." The FT offered a similarly warm welcome to Ireland.

The paper waged a vendetta against those who warned that the euro would not work. Its chief political columnist, Philip Stephens, consistently mocked the Eurosceptics. "Immaturity is the kind explanation," sneered Stephens as Tory leader William Hague came out against the single currency. more