Sunday, September 25, 2011

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake BANDA SEA, INDONESIA - 26th Sept 2011

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck the Banda Sea, Indonesia at a depth of 554.6 km (344.6 miles), the quake hit at 03:39:24 UTC Monday 26th September 2011.
The epicenter was 215 km (134 miles) SSE from Bauau, Sulawesi, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries reported at this time

International Monetary Fund: admits it might not be able to save the Euro as it emerges that current threat is 'worse than crisis in 2008'

The International Monetary Fund last night issued an extraordinary warning that it might not have enough cash to stem the crisis engulfing the Eurozone, prompting fears that Britain could be forced to find billions more to bail out debt-stricken economies.

Chancellor George Osborne has refused to put British funds on the line for a new EU rescue scheme but he would be unable to resist a call from the IMF to do more.

The dramatic development came as France was forced to deny speculation that it is on the brink of having to bail out its banking system.

Emergency plans are being drawn up for a £2.6trillion deal aimed at saving the euro by allowing Greece to default on its massive debts.

The funds would be used to create a ‘firewall’ around the most indebted Eurozone countries, allow for an ‘orderly’ Greek default on its towering debts, and bail out those European banks most at risk. Read More

Terrorist: Let out after half his sentence but still 'a risk to the public'... the suicide bomb fanatic who's free to stay - thanks to his human right

A fanatical terrorist has escaped being thrown out of the UK because it would breach his human rights.

Hate-filled Siraj Yassin Abdullah Ali, graded the highest possible risk to the public, was released after serving just half of his nine-year sentence for helping the July 21 bombers.

He now mingles freely among the Londoners his co-plotters tried to kill six years ago.

Government officials are desperate to deport the Islamic fundamentalist back to his native Eritrea but have been told they cannot because he could face ‘inhumane treatment or punishment’.

Ali was convicted of helping a gang of five Al Qaeda suicide bombers in their bid to repeat the carnage of the attacks of July 7, 2005, two weeks later. Read More

4.0 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 25th Sept 2011

A magnitude 4.0 earthquake has struck near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the quake hit at 22:43:25 UTC Sunday 25th September 2011.

No reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

Time (JST)
Lat.
Long.
Depth Mag. Region
07:43 JST 26 Sep 11
36.5N 141.0E 10 km 4.0
Ibaraki
Ken - Oki

3.5 Magnitude Earthquake CALIFORNIA, SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA - 26th Sept 2011

A magnitude 3.5 earthquake has struck California, San Francisco Bay Area at a depth of just 9 km (5.6 miles), the quake hit at 03:08:09 UTC Monday 26th September 2011.
The epicenter was 5 km (3 miles) NNE of San Leandro, California
No reports of Damage or Injuries reported at this time

4.0 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 25th Sept 2011

A magnitude 4.0 earthquake has struck near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the quake hit at 22:30:50 UTC Sunday 25th September 2011.

Time (JST)
Lat.
Long.
Depth Mag. Region
07:30 JST 26 Sep 11
36.7N 140.7E 10 km 4.0
Ibaraki
Ken - Oki

No reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

5.3 Magnitude Earthquake CANADA, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES - 26th Sept 2011

A magnitude 5.3 earthquake has struck Canada, Northwest Territories at a depth of just 2.9 km (1.8 miles), the quake hit at 01:02:57 UTC Monday 26th September 2011.
The epicenter was 137 km (85 miles) West of Wrigley, Northwest Territories, Canada
No reports of Damage or Injuries reported at this time

4.5 Magnitude Earthquake GUATEMALA - 25th Sept 2011

A magnitude 4.5 earthquake has struck Guatemala at a depth of 7.9 km (4.9 miles), the quake hit at 21:29:39 UTC Sunday 25th September 2011.
The epicenter was 55 km (34 miles) ESE of Escuintla, Guatemala
No reports of Damage or Injuries reported at this time

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake NORTHERN MID-ATLANTIC RIDGE - 25th Sept 2011

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck the Northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the quake hit at 21:05:42 UTC Tueday 25th September 2011.
The epicenter was 1657 km (1029 miles) ENE of Bridgetown, Barbados
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries reported at this time

New tar balls on Gulf of Mexico beaches 'come from BP oil spill'

Tar balls that turned up on the US Gulf coast this month are linked to BP's oil spill last year, signalling that the area is still not fully cleaned up, a study has found.

Researchers from Auburn University found the environmental impact of the spill is continuing 17 months since oil leaked into the ocean, after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon.

They found that "mats" submerged in the seabed for more than a year had been broken up by tropical storms and gave off the tar balls.

The pollution found on Alabama beaches this month had "essentially identical" chemical composition to those from after the spill.

Researchers now "question the validity of the widely-held belief that submerged oil from the Deepwater Horizon accident is substantially weathered and depleted".

BP said it would "continue to have crews out collecting tarballs as the reports come in" but the report would not change its immediate plans. more

Afghanistan is lurching towards a civil war

The assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former Afghan president, who was trying to woo the Taliban makes peace talks even less likely.

If Nato’s strategy in Afghanistan seems familiar, that may be because it increasingly seems borrowed from the Black Knight of Monty Python fame, who, after losing both arms, insists that “it’s just a flesh wound”.

When Afghan insurgents laid waste to government buildings in Kabul last week, the US ambassador explained, perhaps in case we’d misunderstood the 24-hour siege, that “this really is not a very big deal”. A day earlier he’d lamented that “the biggest problem in Kabul is traffic”. Apparently not.

A week on, someone has blown up Afghanistan’s former president, Burhanuddin Rabbani, in the heart of the capital. This is a big deal. It shatters the idea that our enemies are on the ropes, and pushes the country closer to civil war.

Rabbani chaired the High Peace Council, a body tasked with bringing senior Taliban figures in from the cold, but he was always a strange choice as peacemaker. He was a blood-soaked Tajik warlord, who, alongside Afghanistan’s other minorities, had spent the 1990s battling the mostly Pashtun Taliban in a brutal civil war. Rabbani eventually led this Northern Alliance to victory in 2001, helped along by the US Air Force and CIA paramilitaries on horseback. Rabbani’s allies formed a political party, the United National Front, and were given plum ministerial positions.

Years later, with an insurgency raging, Hamid Karzai toyed with the idea of reconciling with the Taliban, perhaps even sharing power. When the US announced that its soldiers would leave by 2014, this became more urgent. Between 2006 and 2010, 80 per cent of the Afghan government’s total spending came from outside. Its choice was simple: reconcile, or die a slow but sure death. more

Britain 'lost' £35bn in uncollected taxes last year (But can one lose what was never theirs?)

Britain lost £35bn in uncollected taxes last year - the equivalent of 7.9pc of the annual revenue, the Treasury has admitted.

The so-called ‘tax gap’, which is the difference between the amount of tax due and the total collected, was reduced from 8.1pc of revenues from the year before but critics argue that the figure is still too high.

The Coalition has pledged to make tax collection more efficient by simplifying the system and clamping down on tax evasion. Last year in the Spending Review George Osborne allocated £917m of funding to HM Revenue & Customs to tackle the tax gap and raise revenues of £7bn a year by 2014/15.

David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘Although these numbers show continued progress by HMRC in reducing the tax gap, there is no room for complacency. Just in the last few weeks we have challenged offshore tax evaders, closed tax avoidance loopholes and created a new HMRC unit to ensure that the wealthier members of society pay their share.”

He added: “We will continue to take action to prevent a minority of rule breakers dodging their responsibility to pay the right tax at the right time.”

Dave Harnett, HMRC permanent secretary for tax, said: “The tax gap is the result of a wide range of behaviours and the challenges are constantly changing, but these figures show we are continuing to tackle non-compliance. more

NHS hospitals crippled by PFI scheme, and are on "the brink of collapse"

Patient care is under threat at more than 60 NHS hospitals which are “on the brink of financial collapse” because of costly private finance initiative schemes, the Health Secretary will warn.

Andrew Lansley says he has been contacted by 22 health service trusts which claim their “clinical and financial stability” is being undermined by the costs of the contracts, which the Labour government used extensively to fund public sector projects.

The Daily Telegraph can disclose that the trusts in jeopardy include Barts and the London, Oxford Radcliffe, North Bristol, St Helens and Knowsley, and Portsmouth.

Between them the trusts run more than 60 hospitals which care for 12 million patients.

There is already evidence that waiting lists for non-urgent operations have begun to rise as hospitals delay treatment to save money. Adding to this are growing fears over the impact of the financial crisis on care this winter.

Under the PFI deals, a private contractor builds a hospital or school. It owns the building for up to 35 years, and during this period the public sector must pay interest and repay the cost of construction, as well as paying the contractor to maintain the building. more

Seven wonders of the natural world (out of many!)

Right now the selection is being narrowed down to just seven candidates. You can view the candidate photo gallery here.

A quarter of over-55s have less than £500 in savings

A quarter of people over the age of 55 have less than £500 in savings, while seven out of ten people in that age group do not believe that they should pay for care in their retirement.

The findings are contained in the Real Retirement Report from insurance company Aviva, which is based on interviews with 10,000 consumers.

The report shows that over-55s have seen incomes fall, savings drop and debts rise as they struggle to cope with the rising cost of living. The average monthly income for this age bracket has fallen by almost £80 over the last three months to £1,216 due to spiraling inflation. However 25 per cent of people have just £500 or less saved in the bank.

Aviva found that despite the relatively low amount of money available to many in this age group, seven out of ten people do not believe that they should pay for care in their retirement. It also found that eight out of ten people admitted to being “worried, concerned or terrified” about meeting care costs. Most people questioned conceded that they are likely to have to meet some of the costs of care in their retirement.

Clive Bolton, a director at Aviva, said: “Our research clearly shows that the majority of over-55s do not believe that they should have to pay for care in retirement. However with a rapidly aging population, this is simply not possible.” more

History lessons 'squeezed out of crowded timetables': UK

Children’s grasp of history is under threat as schools cut the amount of lesson time devoted to the subject, ministers were warned today.

Research shows that rising numbers of pupils are receiving just two years of compulsory lessons during secondary education instead of the recommended three because of pressure on school timetables.

According to figures, many schools fail to offer history as a discreet subject at all – often merging it with geography to form generic “humanities” lessons.

It also emerged that some head teachers ban pupils from choosing history at GCSE-level amid fears they will fail to gain good grades – damaging schools’ league table rankings.

The disclosure is made in a study by the Historical Association that will raise fresh fears over the future of the subject in English state schools.

It follows the publication of separate figures this summer showing that the overall proportion of pupils studying the subject in state comprehensives dropped by almost a fifth under Labour. more

Bank of England's MPC indicates QE2 is a case of if not when

The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has sent the message loud and clear that it is now a case of "when" and not "if" for a second round of quantitative easing (QE).

The change in tone of the minutes of the MPC's September meeting, published on Wednesday, reflected a growing sense that now is the time to don hard hats and brace for a second global downturn.

What clearer indication could there be of the stormy times ahead for the UK economy than a signal from the Bank that more stimulus – on top of historically low interest rates and £200bn of QE – will be needed?

Although the committee toyed with the idea of alternative stimulus measures – including cutting interest rates further, despite them having been held at just 0.5pc since March 2009 – the MPC concluded that additional QE would be the best way forward for further support.

While the MPC remains concerned about high inflation – the consumer prices index came in at 4.5pc in August, more than double the 2pc target – its attention has shifted back to growth.

"Despite the fact that inflation is forecast to top 5pc later in the year, MPC members are more concerned about steering monetary policy in a way that the economic recovery remains afloat," said Nida Ali, economic adviser to the Ernst & Young ITEM Club. more

Rice: Unstable staple for half the world?

Care for some Japanese sushi, Spanish paella or Vietnamese pho for your next meal?

Or maybe just a steamy bowl of white rice to go with your Filipino adobo, Indian red curry or Indonesian beef rendang?

About one of every two people in the world relies on rice as a staple food, according to the Manila-based International Rice Research Institute.

So if the price of rice jumps, nearly half of the global population could be impacted.

HSBC noted Tuesday that the cost of the consumable commodity is rising – and will continue to do so.

Over the past six months, the global bank has found the price of rice has risen by 7.2%. In that same period, the price of another staple – wheat – has fallen 4% while the IMF’s World Food Index shows the average commodity price has dropped 2.2%.

So, what’s wrong with rice? It turns out Thailand, the world’s biggest rice exporter supplying one-third of global demand, is a primary cause. more

The 6 Most Horrifying Lies The Food Industry is Feeding You Read more: The 6 Most Horrifying Lies The Food Industry is Feeding You

If there's one thing in the world the food industry is dead set against, it's allowing you to actually maintain some level of control over what you eat. See, they have this whole warehouse full of whatever they bought last week when they were drunk that they need to get rid of -- and they will do so by feeding it all to you. And it doesn't matter how many pesky "lists of ingredients" and consumer protections stand between you and them.

First up: much of the food you eat contains wood. That's right, wood. (more)

The Deadliest Volcano In The Planet Is Ready To Explode Again

The last time the deadliest volcano in the planet exploded it was 1815. It killed more than 71,000 people on the spot and it was responsible for a volcanic winter that caused the worst worldwide famine of the 19th century.

Now it may explode again.

Its name is Mount Tambora and it’s located in the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia. Back in 1815, the whole island was obliterated. Most of its population was killed and its vegetation reduced to ashes. Some trees were uprooted and pushed into the sea along with ash, creating three-mile-long rafts.

But its destructive power wasn’t just limited to the island. It affected the entire world. The volcano’s ash rose into a column that reached 43km high, right into the stratosphere. The heaviest particles eventually went down, but a stratospheric sulfate aerosol veil remained for years, dimming the sunlight everywhere. This disrupted the entire global climate in a big way, which started a chain of events that killed millions through the Northern Hemisphere.

The next year there was no summer and temperatures went down an average of 0.5C. It doesn’t seem like a lot but the suspended sulphur released by the volcano caused agricultural crops to fail and livestock to die everywhere. The United States experienced extreme frosts and heavy snow that ruined the harvest. The same happened in Europe and everywhere, which resulted in a worldwide famine. The famine helped to spread a new strain of cholera in Asia and a typhus epidemic in southeast Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. It wasn’t fun at all.

Experts are now saying that Mount Tambora is ready to erupt again. A steady stream of earthquakes are shaking the island, from less than five a month in April to more than 200 now. Columns of ash are already venting as high as 1400m.

Experts have established a 3km danger perimeter and its inhabitants are fleeing under government orders. But most of the people know the story from 1815 and don’t need any orders to start running. In fact, people outside of the danger zone are also fleeing.

Nobody knows for sure if Mount Tambora would explode with the same intensity as it did in 1815 and nobody knows when. more

USA Underground Buildings List (In case you need to go somewhere in an emergency)

This list contains about 675 buildings in the United States that are underground, either completely or to a significant extent. It also includes a few that are under construction or are being planned. The list is incomplete for several reasons. Private homes are not included, except for one located in a former missile silo and one that is located in a sculpture garden that is open to the public. Wineries with cellar space open to the public are included only if they are outside of California; in addition, there are more than 100 California wineries, some of which have underground installations large enough to contain offices and production facilities as well as aging cellars (for a partial list, see Building Caves: Wine Not?). Most of the buildings listed below were identified through descriptions published in newspapers, magazines, and books. View the list here

Bad policy decisions could push the US into a 'lost decade' and put the eurozone into recession, warns IMF

Bad policy decisions could condemn the US to a "lost decade", tip America and the eurozone back into recession, and lead to "stagnation" in the world's major economies, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned.

Cutting its global forecasts sharply, the world's economic watchdog said the global economy had entered a "dangerous new phase" and urged policymakers to tread a careful line between aggressive deficit reduction and growth. Central banks should stand ready to restart the printing presses to aid the recovery, it added in its twice-yearly World Economic Outlook.

"The recovery has weakened considerably. Strong policies are needed to improve the outlook and reduce the risks," Olivier Blanchard, the IMF's chief economist, said. "Markets have clearly become more sceptical about the ability of many countries to stabilise their public debt. Fear of the unknown is high."

Europe's leaders came under scathing criticism over the escalating debt crisis. "Europe must get its act together," Mr Blanchard said, adding that there was "widespread perception policymakers are one step behind the action". Urging a speedy implementation of the July 21 agreement to bolster the single currency area's €440bn bail-out fund, he said: "The eurozone is a major source of worry. This is a call to arms."

The warning came as Portugal's prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho said his country may need fresh aid if Greek defaults.

"In the case of a default of Greece, this aid could be necessary and it is important that our partners are convinced that it is worth helping Portugal, and in this case, Ireland, too," he said. more

Debt crisis: EU 'refusing to recognise China as a market economy'

China has signalled that the West must do more to recognise it as a market economy if Europe wants further help in fixing its debt crisis.

Beijing's warning comes as Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy have all turned to the Asian superpower as a potential buyer of their debt.

Already the biggest foreign creditor to the US, the still strong economic growth enjoyed by China may hand it extra sway in trade negotiations with Europe. The Chinese government wants the European Union to recognise China as a full market economy under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, which would remove many restrictions for Chinese companies.

"It would help the US and the EU break away from their current financial woes should they ditch protectionist measures and sincerely open their arms to Chinese investments, allowing China to make the most of its rich foreign exchange reserves," said state-run news service Xinhua on Tuesday.

China agreed to adopt non-market status for 15 years when joining the WTO in 2001 but Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said last week that China had reformed enough for his country – the world's fastest-growing major economy – to have its WTO status changed now.

Despite the leverage the crisis in Western economies has handed China, a US official on Tuesday warned Beijing it must do more to open up its own economy. "China's current business climate is causing frustrations among foreign business and government leaders," Gary Locke, the US Ambassador to China, said in a speech in the Chinese capital. He also told Beijing to allow its currency to trade more freely and stop intellectual property theft. more

Modern day 'rustlers' raid Australian meat counters in "miniature crime wave"

Cigarettes used to be the bounty of choice for shoplifters keen to turn a quick profit.

Now gangs of “modern day rustlers” are targeting supermarkets for prime cuts of meat to sell on the black market, according to police in Tasmania, Australia.

“Years ago, there used to be rustlers. They used to go out and steal cattle, cut them up on the side of the road, in paddocks, take the meat and sell it. Our lot are a lot lazier,” says Detective Inspector David Plumpton.

“These days, these modern day rustlers, they just go straight into a supermarket. It’s already packed, and they’ve just got to put it straight into the frying pan.”

According to the police, shoplifters have been working in teams to target supermarkets in the island state. Accomplices act as lookouts while the main culprit slips some of the red stuff into a trolley, or whatever else is to hand.

“We’ve had them taking prams in, loading prams up and then just wheeling the prams out," Plumpton says.

Like cigarettes once were before retailers started hiding them behind the counter, meat is a high value product that's readily accessible and easy to sell on. more

"Time to panic"

Today’s unemployment data suggests that we are experiencing something far worse than a mere “bump in the road”, as our President described it last month. In fact, if last month was the time to panic, as Stephanie Kelton argued here, then today’s data should create real palpitations in the White House. This isn’t just a “bump,” but a fully-fledged New York City style pot hole.

First the headline number everyone looks at: non-farm payrolls. Up 18,000 in June, the increase was 100,000 less than expectations. In addition the prior two month payroll increases were revised down by -44,000 overall. That’s weak – but not terrible.

Dig a bit deeper into the data and it looks absolutely awful: The household measure of employment fell by -445,000. Okay, it’s a noisy number. But, as Frank Veneroso has pointed out to me in an email correspondence, this measure of employment which is never revised now shows no employment growth over the last five months and very negative employment growth over the last three.

But it gets worse: The work week was down one tenth. Overtime was down one tenth. The labor participation rate at 64.1% was the lowest since 1984. The broad U6 unemployment rate rose from 15.8% to 16.2%. In other words, as Frank suggested to me this morning, “many other employment indicators in this report confirm the deep disappointment in the payroll series and the much more negative message of the household series.” more

Computer gamers solve problem in AIDS research that puzzled scientists for years

When scientists struggle with a problem for over a decade, few of them think, “I know! I’ll ask computer gamers to help.” That, however, exactly what Firas Khatib from the University of Washington did. The result: he and his legion of gaming co-authors have cracked a longstanding problem in AIDS research that scientists have puzzled over for years. It took them three weeks.

Khatib’s recruits played Foldit, a programme that reframes fiendish scientific challenges as a competitive multiplayer computer game. It taps into the collective problem-solving skills of tens of thousands of people, most of whom have little or no background in science. Here’s what I wrote about Foldit last year:

The goal of the game is to work out the three-dimensional structures of different proteins. Proteins are feats of biological origami; they consist of long chains of amino acids that fold into very specific and complicated shapes. These shapes can reveal how proteins work, but solving them is fiendishly challenging. To do it, scientists typically need to grow crystals of purified protein before bouncing X-rays off them.

Foldit takes a different approach, using the collective efforts of causal gamers to do the hard work. And its best players can outperform software designed to do the same job. Best of all, you don’t need a PhD to play Foldit. Barely an eighth of the players work in science, and two-thirds of the top scorers have no biochemistry experience beyond high school. The controls are intuitive; tutorial levels introduce the game’s mechanics; colourful visuals provide hints; and the interface is explained in simple language. While protein scientists concern themselves with “rotating alpha-helices” and “fixing degrees of freedom”, Foldit players simply ‘tweak’, ‘freeze’, ‘wiggle’ and ‘shake’ their on-screen shapes. more

Could world social unrest hit America's streets?

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has suggested the unrest that rocked the streets of Cairo and Madrid this year could spread to the US. Is he right?

It was a long, hot spring and summer on the streets of Greece, England and Madrid, as protesters and rioters vented their fury at high unemployment, painful austerity measures and following a fatal police shooting in London.

The US, meanwhile, has been virtually free of rioting and even of widespread peaceful political protest.

This is despite some of the highest unemployment in decades, growing income inequality, dissatisfaction with the nation's direction, frustration with its dysfunctional government and the threat of drastic cuts to social programmes.

On Friday, Mr Bloomberg raised the spectre of social unrest amid high unemployment among young Americans.

"You have a lot of kids graduating college, can't find jobs," he said on a radio show.

"That's what happened in Cairo. That's what happened in Madrid. You don't want those kind of riots here. The damage to a generation that can't find jobs will go on for many many years."

In the past century, the US has experienced its share of political tumult and unrest, from the destitute "Bonus Army" veterans of World War I who clashed with federal troops in Washington in 1932, to the urban race riots in the 1960s and the Rodney King riots in 1992. more

'Hell on earth': Detailed satellite photos show death camps North Korea still deny even exist

The North Korean government may deny their existence, but photos taken from space have revealed in unprecedented detail the concentration camps that are used imprison more than 200,000 citizens.

Men, women and children are forced to work seven days a week as slaves and eat 'rats, frogs, snakes, insects' and even faeces to battle starvation in the camps.

Previously there have been blurred images taken by satellite but new detailed pictures from South Korea's Unification Ministry allow a closer look at the sites - and also prove they have grown.

Experts say the tens of thousands of prisoners at the camps are often taken from their homes or in the street for supposed 'political crimes' rather than actual misdemeanours. more

Miguel Caballero: Designer hopes to make a killing in New York with bulletproof fashion line

A fashion designer may have found the answer to gun violence - stylish clothing for men and women that is completely bulletproof.

God help us.

Designer Miguel Caballero first developed his line in his native Colombia, where wealthy clients needed protection from Medellin drug cartel hit men, but didn't like the bulky look of bulletproof vests.

After all, if you must run away from a shooter, why not do it in couture?

Two years ago, Caballero saw the sky-high level of gun violence in the U.S. and thought, "Market!"

He opened up in Miami, and it's been a thriving business ever since.

Celebrities were the first to wear his impermeable apparel. Caballero made Sean (Diddy) Combs a bulletproof white dinner jacket, tunics for the Wu Tang Clan and a kimono for Steven Seagal, New Yorker writer David Owen reports.

The journalist even allowed the designer to shoot him while he was wearing one of his sporty black suede jackets. The bullet, Owen writes, "was flattened and rounded like a mushroom cap." more

Scientists find way to "disarm" AIDS virus

Scientists have found a way to prevent HIV from damaging the immune system and say their discovery may offer a new approach to developing a vaccine against AIDS.

Researchers from the United States and Europe working in laboratories on the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) found it is unable to damage the immune system if cholesterol is removed from the virus's membrane.

"It's like an army that has lost its weapons but still has flags, so another army can recognize it and attack it," said Adriano Boasso of Imperial College London, who led the study.

The team now plans to investigate how to use this way of inactivating the virus and possibly develop it into a vaccine.

Usually when a person becomes infected with HIV, the body's innate immune response puts up an immediate defense. But some researchers believe HIV causes the innate immune system to overreact. This weakens the immune system's next line of defense, known as the adaptive immune response.

For this study -- published on Monday in the journal Blood -- Boasso's team removed cholesterol from the membrane around the virus and found that this stopped HIV from triggering the innate immune response. This in turn led to a stronger adaptive response, orchestrated by a type of immune cells called T cells. more

NYPD teaches nightclubs to look out for possible terrorists with 'bulging veins in the neck'

The NYPD's updated guide to bolstering the safety of city nightclubs offers tips on how to spot patrons who are bombed - as well as those carrying bombs.

The 27-page booklet, titled "Best Practices for Nightlife Establishments," advises owners to be cautious about nervous customers who are sweating profusely and with "bulging veins in the neck."

"Counter-terrorism security plans should include training for all staff in the detection of possible suicide bombers," the guide, released Monday, says.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly insisted the guide, produced in conjunction with the New York Nightlife Association, is not meant to "alarm, but to help owners and operators craft effective strategies for terrorism prevention and preparedness."

On how to spot would-be terrorists, the guide recommends being alert to people with "visible wires and tape" protruding from their clothing and "individuals who are obviously disguised."

Nightclub workers should also be aware of people casing establishments by photographing or videotaping.

"Be on the lookout for people with suspicious bags and identical bags being carried by several individuals," the guide suggests. more

US states seek to privatise prisons: Bad idea?

US states are set to privatise scores of prisons as they try to close gaping budget deficits, creating significant new markets for the industry’s biggest private contractors.

In Florida alone, 29 state prisons are set to be privatised. This represents the largest prison privatisation programme in US history, according to Tobey Sommer, an analyst covering the private prison market at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, an investment bank based in Atlanta.

Arizona recently completed a string of public hearings on a plan to add thousands of privately operated prison beds. Last month Ohio announced plans to raise $200m by selling off five state prisons, though in the end it sold only one for about $73m.

Other states are expected to follow suit as private contractors pitch themselves as a solution to cash-strapped states’ fiscal woes.

The Florida plan has a new twist that Mr Sommer estimates could be emulated by other states hoping to streamline their budgets. Instead of outsourcing only newly constructed prisons, they plan to outsource existing beds as well. “This may be a blueprint to close other states’ budget gaps,” Mr Sommer said. more

Greek Default Could Tip US Into Recession

Despite being more than 5,000 miles from Washington D.C., a default in Athens could trip up the global banking system just enough to tip the U.S. into a recession, investors and economists said.

“Due to financial trading relationships and off-balance sheet exposure to European banks, the U.S. banking system will not go unscathed,” said Michelle Meyer, a Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist, in a note to clients Friday. “If the crisis in Europe escalates, it could be the shock that pushes the U.S. economy into recession [cnbc explains] ."

While this is not the base case predicted by Bank of America [BAC 6.99 --- UNCH ], the firm does still prepare its clients for this possibility by laying out how the Greece crisis could quickly become a “Lehman event.” After all, a 50 percent haircut on Greek sovereign debt [cnbc explains] would mean a very manageable $60 billion, or just two percent, of total bank foreign claims for U.S. banks, according to the report. But that’s just director exposure.

There are five major ways the U.S. is connected: trading counterparty risk and derivative ownership with heavily-exposed European banks, overall market confidence, central bank funding, money-market funds [cnbc explains] and trade flows. more

‘Extravagant’ Spending, $16 Muffins Found at U.S. Meetings (that YOU pay for)

U.S. Justice Department agencies spent too much for food at conferences, in one case serving $16 muffins and in another dishing out beef Wellington appetizers that cost $7.32 per serving, an audit found.

“Some conferences featured costly meals, refreshments, and themed breaks that we believe were indicative of wasteful or extravagant spending,” the Justice Department’s inspector general wrote in a report released today.

The inspector general reviewed a sample of 10 Justice Department conferences held between October 2007 and September 2009 at a cost of $4.4 million. The Justice Department spent $73.3 million on conferences in fiscal 2009, compared with $47.8 million a year earlier, according to the report.

The muffins were served at a conference of the Executive Office for Immigration Review and the beef Wellington was offered at a meeting hosted by the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys. A conference of the Office on Violence Against Women served Cracker Jacks, popcorn and candy bars at a single break, costing $32 per person, according to the report. more

4.0 Magnitude Earthquake FOX ISLANDS, ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, ALASKA - 25th Sept 2011

A magnitude 4.0 earthquake has struck the Fox Islands, Aleutian Islands, Alaska at a depth of 41.3 km (25.7 miles), the quake hit at 20:05:20 UTC Sunday 25th September 2011.
The epicenter was 195 km (121 miles) ESE of Atka, Alaska
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries reported at this time

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE COAST OF CENTRAL PERU - 25th Sept 2011

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck near the coast of Central Peru at a depth of 30.8 km (19.1 miles), the quake hit at 19:59:16 UTC Sunday 25th September 2011.
The epicenter was 147 km (91 miles) Southwest of Puquio, Peru
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries reported at this time

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake VANUATU REGION - 25th Sept 2011

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck the Vanuatu Region at a depth of 14.7 km (9.1 miles), the quake hit at 19:11:07 UTC Sunday 25th September 2011.
The epicenter was 347 km (216 miles) ENE of Port-Vila, Vanuatu
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries reported at this time

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake EASTERN UZBEKISTAN - 25th Sept 2011

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck Eastern Uzbekistan at a depth of just 1 km (0 miles), the quake hit at 19:18:19 UTC Sunday 25th September 2011.
The epicenter was 12 km (7.1 miles) East of Uychi, Eastern Uzbekistan
No reports of Damage or Injuries reported at this time

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTH OF THE FIJI ISLANDS - 25th Sept 2011

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck South of the Fiji Islands at a depth of 500.2 km (310.8 miles), the quake hit at 17:43:41 UTC Sunday 25th September 2011.
The epicenter was 486 km (301 miles) SSW of Ndoi Island, Fiji
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries reported at this time

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS - 25th Sept 2011

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck the Santa Cruz Islands at a depth of 37 km (23 miles), the quake hit at17:34:27 UTC Sunday 25th September 2011.
The epicenter was 359 km (223 miles) North from Santo (Luganville), Vanuatu
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries reported at this time

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Termie's Terrifying Tabulations: The US Debt Crunched in Brief

In case anyone is interested on some updated crunched US debt numbers, our loyal reader Termie has offered some to share:



But hey, that's no reason not to get this party started, right?