Friday, October 21, 2011

Website news: Oct 20, 2011 (New posts below)

Hello everyone, just some quick updates:

1) The October prize draw is nearly here!
If you haven't made a donation yet but would like to participate in the draw, you can still do so by clicking on any prize banner.

2) Comment requests have been updated! Please see the bottom of the "About/Contact" page for more information.

3) New category: "DOCUMENTARIES". We're now putting all our documentary videos in one place for your viewing pleasure.

Take care everyone, and thank you very much for continuing to visit and read our website, and for all your comments. We truly appreciate it.

-- Matt & Lynsey

Occupy Melbourne protesters to reconvene after beatings, abuse and arrest; one protestor hospitalized



Occupy Melbourne protesters have peacefully resumed their rally with a march through the city a day after they were forcefully ejected from their campsite in Melbourne's CBD.

About 200 people protesting against corporate greed met in Federation Square before midday on Saturday and voted to continue their rally with a march through the city's heart to Trades Hall.

The protesters were greeted by police dogs and officers on horseback but there was none of the violence between police the activists that brought the CBD to a standstill on Friday.

Cars and trams waited patiently as the protesters marched along Swanston Street en route to Trades Hall, where the group's leaders say they will hold a meeting to decide how the movement proceeds.

Click here to watch more brutal video of Australian police manhandling citizens

Police and protesters clash in Melbourne, tremendous violence reported



Police and protesters have clashed after officers dragged Occupy Melbourne demonstrators from their CBD camp, with the scuffles spilling into nearby streets.

Riot and mounted police broke up hundreds of protesters who blocked streets in the CBD after demonstrators were forcibly removed from the City Square on Friday morning.

About 100 Occupy Melbourne demonstrators, who had camped out in the City Square for a week as part of global protests against corporate greed, defied an order to leave by 9am.

A huge police contingent, including the riot squad, started dragging protesters out of the square about 12.30pm and cleared the area within 10 minutes. more

7.3 quake shakes Kermadec Islands, Tsunami Issued for New Zealand - 21st Oct 2011

A large earthquake has struck near Raoul Island this morning, with a tsunami warning provisionally issued for New Zealand.

New Zealand's National Crisis Management Centre has been activated after the 7.3-magnitude quake struck at 6.57 am today, at a depth of 16km.

It was located 230 kilometeres east of Raoul Island and 310 kilometeres east of Macauley Island, according to GeoNet.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) has issued a Tsunami Information Bulletin in response to the earthquake.

A tsunami is possible, but scientists are now assessing the severity of the threat to New Zealand.

Civil Defence are advising people in coastal areas to stay off beaches, stay out of the water, not to go sightseeing, to listen to the radio and to follow instructions from local Civil Defence authorities.

Raoul Island is the largest and northernmost of the main Kermadec Islands, about 1100 kilometres north-east of New Zealand's North Island. Source

7.6 Magnitude Earthquake KERMADEC ISLANDS REGION - 21st Oct 2011

A magnitude 7.6 earthquake has struck the Kermadec Islands at a depth of 39.8 km (24.7 miles), the quake hit at 17:57:17 UTC Friday 21st October 2011.
The epicenter was 180 km ( 112 miles) East of Raoul Islands, Kermadec Islands
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries r
eported at this time

More to follow

Note: Going by the data from the stations this earthquake should be downgraded to a 7.3 Magnitude

UPDATE 19:32 UTC: USGS has just downgraded this earthquake to a 7.4 Magnitude

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake TONGA - 21st Oct 2011

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck Tonga at a depth of 191.6 km (119.1 miles), the quake hit at 14:56:05 UTC Friday 21st October 2011.
The epicenter was 41 km ( 25 miles) West of Nuku'Alofa, Tonga
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries r
eported at this time

4.2 Magnitude Earthquake OFFSHORE BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR, MEXICO - 21st Oct 2011

A magnitude 4.2 earthquake has struck offshore Baja California Sur, Mexico at a depth of 15.4 km (9.6 miles), the quake hit at 13:17:23 UTC Friday 21st October 2011.
The epicenter was 197 km ( 122 miles) Southwest of Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries r
eported at this time

China cuts US debt holdings after downgrade

China has been found to have sharply reduced its holdings of US government bonds after a major credit rating agency downgraded US debt for the first time in August.

Data released by the US Treasury Department on Tuesday show that China's holdings of US government bonds fell by 36.5 billion dollars in a month, to 1.137 trillion dollars at the end of August. China remains the largest foreign US creditor.

China has not sold more than 10 billion dollars' worth of US government bonds in a month at any other time in the past year.

China had been investing its more than 3 trillion dollars' worth of foreign exchange reserves mainly in US government debt and other dollar-denominated assets.

But the country is hastily diversifying its investment of its reserves -- the world's largest -- in the wake of the US debt problem and European credit crisis. source

Crop circle disks: Fact or fiction? If real, what do they mean? If not, what could epxlain them?

‘Israelis do not want peace’ (Although, it's not fair to blame the people for the Israeli government's actions)



Despite the prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas, thousands of other Palestinians remain in jail. RT talks to the wife of a high-profile prisoner, considered a terrorist by Israel, but a hero by Palestinians.

­He is regarded by many as the Palestinian Nelson Mandela. The alleged founder of Fatah's Tanzim armed wing, Marwan Barghouti has been imprisoned in Israel for nearly a decade, serving five life sentences for murdering five Israelis. Over the years, his release has been one of the major stumbling blocks in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal.

His wife, Fadwa Barghouti, insists the reason that Israelis are releasing other Palestinians with blood on their hands while her husband remains in jail comes down to pure politics.

“His judgment and sentencing in an Israeli court was all political. The Israelis put him in jail because he is the leader of the Palestinian people and the Israelis don’t want there to be Palestinian leaders,” she told RT. “He is a symbol of unity between Palestinians. The Israelis are afraid to release him because he can bring about reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.” more

Commissioner Keith Towler: Smacking bad children 'doesn't work' (aside from the past few thousand years, at least)

Wales's children's commissioner has joined calls for a change in the law to stop parents smacking their children, as assembly members debate the issue.

Keith Towler said physically punishing children does not work and there was "no such thing as a safe smack".

AMs will be allowed a free vote on a motion calling for legislation.

Meanwhile, one senior MP wants the assembly's legal powers over smacking clarified by the Supreme Court.

A cross-party group of four AMs is urging the Welsh government to introduce legislation intended to outlaw smacking by removing the defence of "chastisement" for assaulting a child.

Members of all four parties will have a free vote when they debate the motion.

If passed, the motion would not bind the government.

A change in legislation will help shift attitudes and behaviour relating to assaulting children - something which can't be done while the law condones smacking”

It would mean if an allegation of hitting a child is made against an adult, there is less wriggle-room for those who might argue in defence that they had not realised they had hit the child so hard. more

Airline manager: 2nd plane crashes in 5 days in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, no deaths

A second light aircraft crashed on takeoff Wednesday in Botswana’s Okavango Delta but all six people onboard survived unscathed, the air charter company said.

Another failed takeoff in the same area five days ago killed eight foreigners.

Delta Air manager Kagiso Senwedi told The Associated Press that the passengers — a Namibian and four French tourists with a South African pilot — are being transported by boat from Delta Camp in Botswana’s remote north to Maun town.

“They are all a bit shaken, which is understandable, and did not want to fly back,” he said, adding some suffered only minor injuries.

He said the company’s Cessna 206 single-engine turbo-charged aircraft crashed in a failed takeoff from Delta Camp’s dirt airstrip Wednesday morning.

He had no further details: “We’re communicating by radio and should know more later in the day.”

A Cessna 208B operated by Moremi Air crashed shortly after takeoff Friday from Xakanaxa bush airfield and burst into a conflagration that apparently killed the British pilot and seven tourists from France, Switzerland and the UK. Rescuers who arrived quickly at the scene had to ferry buckets of water from a nearby swamp to try to douse the blaze.

Four people survived last week’s crash, including a badly burned Frenchwoman who was medically evacuated for treatment to Johannesburg in neighboring South Africa.

The Ministry of Transport is investigating both crashes. source

Strings attached: US in Uganda



The US denies an interest in Uganda’s oil, but there are many other reasons for its presence in the region. None of them altruistic, claims war correspondent Eric Margolis.

American “aid” to Uganda is being offered without any third-party help, which is a sure sign that the effort is for its own sake, rather than humanitarian reasons.

The White House is deploying a hundred troops in the African country with the official aim of helping the authorities in a fight against a guerilla group that has been dragging on for two decades.

But award-winning war correspondent Eric Margolis told RT that if Washington had humanitarian interests in mind it would not be going in alone.

Various interests of the US are to be found in Central Africa, states Margolis.

Firstly, it is the growing conflict in Somalia, with which the US is a close ally, the correspondent suggested. It may be also Kenya, another beneficiary of US military financing.

Ethiopia is an ally as well. The American presence in Africa also includes its base in the tiny East African nation of Djibouti, but most troops there are not on combat missions.

But an internal African problem may not be the sole attraction for the newly expanded US contingent in the region. It may be also linked to some kind of geopolitical game, Margolis continued.

“The US is also concerned about Chinese penetration in the region that they are going to gobble all the economical resources and earn influence on the regional governments. So the US maybe want to stop this Chinese advancement in central Africa,” he said. more

US written Anti-Missile Defense promise ‘not good enough’: Russia



The US has offered a written promise not to use its anti-missile shield in Europe against Russia. Moscow still wants a legally-binding document rather than any non-binding declaration – written or not.

Meanwhile, the government of Romania on Wednesday approved legislation that would authorize the deployment of US missile interceptors in the country as part of a US missile shield. The legislation still needs to be approved by the parliament.

US efforts to move ahead with its missile defense system in Europe have been met with scepticism and resistance by Russia.

The US is trying to convince Russia that the anti-missile defense system (AMD) it is deploying in Eastern Europe will not compromise Russia’s national security.

US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Ellen Tauscher said Washington can offer written assurances on the issue, but not to the extent that Moscow wants.

“We cannot provide legally-binding commitments, nor can we agree to limitations on missile defense, which must necessarily keep pace with the evolution of the threat,” she said on Tuesday at a forum in Washington hosted by the Atlantic Council.

American interceptors cannot target Russian ballistic missiles, assured the director of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, Army Lieutenant General Patrick O'Reilly, who was also attending the event. He added that the Russian military are welcome to witness any test of the interceptors with their own equipment to see that for themselves. more

A Trillion Euro Insurance Policy for the European Common Currency: Will it make a difference?

With just days to go before European Union leaders gather in Brussels for a summit aimed at finding a way out of the euro zone's ongoing debt crisis, an agreement appears to be taking shape. But renewed concerns about the state of France's fiscal health are creating fresh hurdles in the effort to save the common currency.

The Financial Times Deutschland reported on Tuesday evening that euro-zone leaders have come up with a plan to increase the impact of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) over and above the €440 billion ($608 billion) lending capacity it currently has. The paper said the leveraged EFSF will be able to martial aid worth up to €1 trillion. A similar story in the British daily the Guardian indicated that the ceiling was to be even higher, as much as €2 trillion.

Rather than granting the EFSF a bank license, an initial idea to which there was widespread opposition, the backstop would become a kind of insurance fund providing first-loss guarantees to both public and private investors. Essentially, investors will be insured against the first 20 percent to 30 percent losses on their investments in state bonds. The move would allow the fund to stretch further than originally envisioned.

Such a leveraging of the EFSF has come to be seen as inevitable in recent weeks. Even as euro-zone parliaments were voting to expand the EFSF to its current size in September and October, a consensus had developed that, given the acceleration of the euro crisis this autumn, €440 billion would not be enough. more

Laser-pen attackers to end up in prison



Following a set of outrageous incidents, parliament has decided to criminalize attacking people with laser pens.

The law passed in the first reading will punish the attackers with a prison sentence of up to 10 years.The maximum penalty will apply if the laser-attack results in at least one death.

If a pilot is temporarily blinded, up to seven years in jail is possible.

The punishments will apply to people over the age of 14.

Laser-pen-wielding hooligans have already attacked at least 30 jets landing in Russia since the start of the year.

Police have detained two people. One of them, a 22-year-old resident of Rostov-on-Don, was allegedly blinding pilots from his balcony.

He used a laser pen with a green beam – the most dangerous type for the human eye. Police released him on condition he does not leave town.

Such incidents are not common only in Russia. In the US there were 2,836 laser stunts as planes were taking off or landing in 2010 alone.

So far in 2011, pilots have reported over 1,100 such incidents in the United States. Earlier this month, the Federal Aviation Administration announced that they would impose fines of up to US$11,000 per violation. more

Tear gas at the barricades: NATO sprays Serb protests



NATO peacekeepers have used tear gas against Serb protesters in northern Kosovo. They dispersed the crowd in order to start dismantling barricades erected in a protest against deployment of customs checkpoints on the border.

The tension has already spilled into violence in Kosovo, reports RT’s Maria Finoshina. One Serb was gunned down and two wounded near the city of Pec in the west of the province. The shooting was done by their Albanian neighbor, she says.

Meanwhile some 300 Serbs tried to prevent the Kosovo peacekeeping force (KFOR) from tearing down the barricades in Kosovo’s north, but the soldiers were armed with anti-riot equipment to cordon off the barricaded area.

KFOR used loudspeakers to try to convince the Serb to go home, but it failed to help. There was a lot of shouting from both parties, but otherwise the conflict was not violent.

NATO soldiers fired tear gas grenades at the protesters and managed to disperse them, says AFP. RT's Maria Finoshina says it was more likely pepper spray than tear has. She adds KFOR is erecting a barbed wire fence to isolate Serbs from the barricade and threatens to use force against them.

At least 100 armed transport vehicles are involved in the operation, which is aimed at removing the 16 barricades on the border. KFOR is also using a number of drones, which are circling over the area of the conflict.

The actual dismantling of the barricades has not started yet and Serbs are watching KFOR actions closely. The tension remains high. more

Greeks back austerity bill as police clash with protesters



The unpopular austerity bill has finally been passed following a vote in the Greek Parliament, while outside police were using tear-gas to disperse the thousands of demonstrators that had gathered around the parliamentary building in Athens.

Despite growing dissent in the ruling Socialist Party, which has a decisive majority of four seats in Parliament, the bill was passed, although party member and former labor minister Louka Katseli voted against Article 37, which had been framed to minimize collective bargaining rights.

In the meantime, one person was killed and dozens injured in Greece during the second day of violent protests aimed against the government's new austerity measures.

More than 50 thousands demonstrators gathered in the city's main square outside parliament while the authorities are preparing for a final vote on the austerity bill.

Thus far, the Greek Parliament gave the bill initial approval which triggered Greece's most chaotic and violent protest so far. After a majority vote the lawmakers will discuss the details of the new tax hikes and cutbacks on salaries and pensions.

The situation on the square is very tense, RT's Sara Firth reports from the scene. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades. more

Pakistan on emergency alert after nuclear power plant leak; no damage or radiation

An official at a nuclear power plant in Pakistan says it declared a seven-hour emergency after heavy water leaked out of a reactor during maintenance work.

Tariq Rasheed says Tuesday night’s leak did not cause any damage or radiation. He said on Thursday that the plant located in the southern city of Karachi was safe and that the emergency was declared as standard procedure.

He says the plant is scheduled to restart operations in one month.

The Karachi Nuclear Power Plant went on line in 1971 and is currently capable of producing 100 megawatts of electricity. The plant is located on the outskirts of the city. source

Halloween’s Pagan Themes "Fill West’s Faith Vacuum": Amity Shlaes

Seems like Americans just want it to be Halloween all year. The holiday just keeps getting more popular. Seven in 10 expect to celebrate it in some way this Oct. 31, up from about six in 10 last year, according to a National Retail Federation report.

This is the most in the nine years the NRF has been tracking. In 2011, Americans are also planning to spend more than other years, an average of $72 each. Total outlays by consumers are expected to reach $6.86 billion this fall.

Why the surge in popularity for an ancient harvest ritual? Some of the factors that account for it are as harmless and loveable as a new 12-pound pumpkin from the farm. Others have the capacity to spook.

Start with the good that the holiday now demonstrates. Thirty or 40 years ago, Halloween seemed to offer only more evidence of the failures of our cities. There were plenty of neighborhoods -- Kenwood on Chicago’s South Side, Adams Morgan in Washington, and Midwood in New York spring to mind like ghouls -- where the night was best known for the opportunities it provided for muggers or for teen gangs to hurl those pumpkins against someone’s front door. “Newark Braces for Halloween,” read a 1967 New York Times headline over a nervous article describing riot-prevention measures, including street patrols by clergymen.

Go farther back, before the 1940s, and Halloween had lethal connotations. In the Old South, “Mischief Night,” on Oct. 30, offered the Ku Klux Klan cover to put on their own costumes and wreak some of their worst damage. A mild example shows up in the 1960 novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” when on Halloween night a local gets revenge for lawyer Atticus Finch’s representation of a black man in court by attacking his son Jem and breaking his arm. more

3 Teens Facing Charges For Three-Way Sex Acts... During Class



It has happened again. There are reports of students engaged in inappropriate sexual acts, and this time, it happened in a school during class.

Mike Schuh has the details.

Baltimore County Police showed up at Milford Mill Academy Thursday. Three students are charged with a perverted sex act and indecent exposure.

Police say it happened in the auditorium while class was in session. They say three students were involved in a sex act while a substitute teacher was in the room.

“Throughout the school, everybody talks. Everybody talks,” said one person.

The three range in age from 15 to 17.

Students say someone videotaped the act and posted it online. But police haven’t found the tape yet.

“It gives a very bad name to the school. And to young females like me,” said a student.

Baltimore County school officials tell WJZ they are cooperating with the police investigation. They say once the investigation is complete they will take the appropriate disciplinary action if necessary. more

Harrisburg Nixes Holiday Parade Over Low Cash as American Cities' Finances Collapse

Santa Claus won’t be making his annual early visit to Pennsylvania’s capital city.

Officials in Harrisburg have canceled the city’s annual holiday parade because organizers haven’t raised enough money.

Last year, the cash-strapped capital started requiring special events to pay for themselves. Parks and recreation director Brenda Alton says not enough sponsors have ponied up to keep the floats afloat.

Mayor Linda Thompson says she’s hopeful the parade can be pulled off in 2012.

The parade has traditionally marked the start of the holiday season with floats, bands and balloons and the arrival of Santa Claus.

Parade organizers in the suburban Philadelphia town of Hatboro say a shortage of donations may force them to cut back their parade. Santa may have to hoof it rather than ride a float. source

UN rights agency calls for Gadhafi death probe

The UN Human Rights office is calling for an investigation into Moammar Gadhafi's death, saying questions remain about whether the ousted Libyan leader was killed in clashes or executed after his capture in Sirte.

A day after Libyan interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril confirmed Gadhafi's death, questions linger about how the longtime dictator was killed — and who was responsible for killing him.

Libyan officials, meanwhile, are trying to determine how to handle the burial process and NATO officials were meeting Friday to discuss the end of the Libya mission.

"We believe there is a need for an investigation," said Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights. "More details are needed to ascertain whether he was killed in some form of fighting or was executed after his capture." more

US government gives Fisker Automotive $529,000,000 to build electric cars... in Finland

With the approval of the Obama administration, an electric car company that received a $529 million federal government loan guarantee is assembling its first line of cars in Finland, saying it could not find a facility in the United States capable of doing the work.

Vice President Joseph Biden heralded the Energy Department's $529 million loan to the start-up electric car company called Fisker as a bright new path to thousands of American manufacturing jobs. But two years after the loan was announced, the job of assembling the flashy electric Fisker Karma sports car has been outsourced to Finland.

"There was no contract manufacturer in the U.S. that could actually produce our vehicle," the car company's founder and namesake told ABC News. "They don't exist here."

Henrik Fisker said the U.S. money has been spent on engineering and design work that stayed in the U.S., not on the 500 manufacturing jobs that went to a rural Finnish firm, Valmet Automotive.

"We're not in the business of failing; we're in the business of winning. So we make the right decision for the business," Fisker said. "That's why we went to Finland." more

US Cybercommand chief opposes U.N. Internet control

The commander of the U.S. Cyber Command said Thursday that he does not favor giving the United Nations the power to regulate the Internet.

Some regulations are needed to protect critical networks that control electrical power, banking, transportation and other key elements of society, Army Gen. Keith Alexander, who is also director of the National Security Agency, said after a speech to a security conference.

But asked whether the U.N. should have a regulation role, Gen. Alexander said: “No. I’m not for regulating, per se. I’m concerned about it, and this is a tough question. I would say, generally speaking, I’m not into that portion of regulating as you would espouse.”

Last month, Russia, China, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan submitted a resolution to the U.N. General Assembly calling for giving individual states the right to control the Internet. The resolution, submitted Sept. 14, calls for “an international code of conduct for information security.”

It requests “international deliberations within the United Nations framework on such an international code, with the aim of achieving the earliest possible consensus on international norms and rules guiding the behavior of states in the information space.”

China tightly controls the Internet through a cybersecurity police force estimated to be more than 10,000 people who monitor Internet users and websites.

Russia’s authoritarian government has taken steps in recent years to curb Internet freedoms. Uzbekistan and Tajikistan also are authoritarian regimes that seek to control Internet use.

Gen. Alexander said that, rather than seeking U.N. regulation, individual countries “first need to step up and say, ‘Look, how do we do this without regulating it?’“ more

MIT Develops New Radar Technology: Military Could See Through Walls

Looking through walls is no longer something we read about in comic books or watch in Superman movies.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory has presented new radar technology that would allow humans to see through a solid wall.

The device is 8½ feet long. It consists of an array of antennae arranged in two rows -- including eight signal receiving elements on the top and 13 signal transmitting elements at the bottom. Other components include cabling, a low-power radar transmitter, a sensitive radar receiver, a filoscope (used as a small screen purely for diagnosing problems) and of course a larger screen, similar to the average 24 inch computer screen, where one can actually view images transmitted.

All this equipment is mounted onto a movable cart that can stand at a range from 15 to 40 feet from the location you're observing.

Researcher and leader of the project, Dr. Gregory Charvat, tells ABC News the technology was conceived with the notion that it would be used by U.S. soliders during war time.

"It can be powerful during military operations especially in urban combat situations," said Charvat. more

TSA agents now conducting random spot checks on highways: Tennessee becomes first state to "fight terrorism" statewide



You're probably used to seeing TSA's signature blue uniforms at the airport, but now agents are hitting the interstates to fight terrorism with Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR).

"Where is a terrorist more apt to be found? Not these days on an airplane more likely on the interstate," said Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons.

Tuesday Tennessee was first to deploy VIPR simultaneously at five weigh stations and two bus stations across the state.

Agents are recruiting truck drivers, like Rudy Gonzales, into the First Observer Highway Security Program to say something if they see something.

"Not only truck drivers, but cars, everybody should be aware of what's going on, on the road," said Gonzales.

It's all meant to urge every driver to call authorities if they see something suspicious.

"Somebody sees something somewhere and we want them to be responsible citizens, report that and let us work it through our processes to abate the concern that they had when they saw something suspicious," said Paul Armes, TSA Federal Security Director for Nashville International Airport.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol checked trucks at the weigh station with drug and bomb sniffing dogs during random inspections.

"The bottom line is this: if you see something suspicious say something about it," Gibbons said Tuesday. more

How long before one's "papers" are asked for?

US Senators Draft Bill to Give Visas to Foreigners Buying Pricey Homes

The reeling housing market has come to this: To shore it up, two Senators are preparing to introduce a bipartisan bill Thursday that would give residence visas to foreigners who spend at least $500,000 to buy houses in the U.S.

The provision is part of a larger package of immigration measures, co-authored by Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, designed to spur more foreign investment in the U.S.

Foreigners have accounted for a growing share of home purchases in South Florida, Southern California, Arizona and other hard-hit markets. Chinese and Canadian buyers, among others, are taking advantage not only of big declines in U.S. home prices and reduced competition from Americans but also of favorable foreign exchange rates.

To fuel this demand, the proposed measure would offer visas to any foreigner making a cash investment of at least $500,000 on residential real-estate-a single-family house, condo or townhouse. Applicants can spend the entire amount on one house or spend as little as $250,000 on a residence and invest the rest in other residential real estate, which can be rented out. more

New virus threatens Iran's nuclear program

First there was the Stuxnet computer virus that wreaked havoc on Iran's nuclear program. Now comes "Duqu," which researchers on Tuesday said appears to be quite similar.

Security software firm Symantec said in a report it was alerted by a research lab with international connections on Friday to a malicious code that "appeared to be very similar to Stuxnet." It was named Duqu because it creates files with "DQ" in the prefix.

The US Department of Homeland Security said it was aware of the reports and was taking action.

"DHS' Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team has issued a public alert and will continue working with the cyber security research community to gather and analyze data and disseminate further information to our critical infrastructure partners as it becomes available," a DHS official said.

Symantec said samples recovered from computer systems in Europe and a detailed report from the unnamed research lab confirmed the new threat was similar to Stuxnet.

"Parts of Duqu are nearly identical to Stuxnet, but with a completely different purpose," Symantec said. "Duqu is essentially the precursor to a future Stuxnet-like attack." more

France Likely to Lose Top Rating in Stressed Economic Scenario, S&P Says

France is among euro-region sovereigns likely to be downgraded in a stressed economic scenario, according to Standard & Poor’s.

The sovereign ratings of Spain, Italy, Ireland and Portugal would also be reduced by another one or two levels in either of New York-based S&P’s two stress scenarios, the ratings firm said in a report dated today. These assume low economic growth and a double-dip recession in the first set of circumstances, and add an interest-rate shock to the recession in the second.

“Ballooning budget deficits and bank recapitalization costs would likely send government borrowings significantly higher under both scenarios,” S&P analysts led by Chief Credit Officer Blaise Ganguin in Paris wrote in the report. “Credit metrics would deteriorate sharply as a result.”

S&P is seeking to take account of the economic slowdown that hit Europe in the second quarter and which has led the ratings company to trim 2012 growth forecasts to an average of between 1 percent and 1.5 percent. France would follow the so- called peripheral euro-region nations that have already been downgraded, with Moody’s Investors Service saying earlier this week that its top rating was under threat. more

S&P sees downgrade blitz in EMU recession, threatening crisis strategy

Standard & Poor's (S&P) is to warn that a double-dip recession in Europe would imperil France's AAA rating and set off a string of downgrades across Southern Europe, undermining the EU's debt crisis strategy.

The EU-IMF bail-out machinery would require an extra €250bn or more to stabilize eurozone debt markets, forcing Germany and EU's creditor states to vastly increase rescue commitments.

The report, due Friday, said a double-dip recession would lead to a downgrade of "one or two notches" for France, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Portugal, both because of tumbling tax revenues and the extra costs of propping up banks.

The scenario looks increasingly likely after Germany slashed its growth forecast from 1.8pc to 1pc for 2012. Greece and Portugal are contracting at alarming speeds. Italy and Spain are already in industrial recession.

"Confidence surveys have fallen off a cliff over past three months," said Marchel Alexandrovich from Jefferies Fixed Income. "The lagged effects of fiscal and monetary tightening are still working their way through the system so it looks highly likely that we are in recession now."

Drastic loan shrinkage as banks rush to meet new capital requirements before next June risk intensifying the downturn, and may lead to a credit crunch. Alberto Gallo from RBS said deleveraging by Europe's lenders could reach €5.1 trillion over coming years, partly through asset sales and run-offs. more

Dollar slumps to record low versus yen as American economy continues to crumble

The U.S. dollar slumped to a record low against the yen on Friday in its biggest one-day decline in nearly two months, bringing back into focus the threat of official intervention to weaken the Japanese currency.

Traders reported initial large selling of dollars from a U.K. clearer and macro funds, and losses accelerated after the pair broke through a series of stops around 76.30 and 75.90.

"No specific news. Just general investor impatience with the Bank of Japan's lack of a yen weakening policy," said Tommy Molloy, chief dealer at FX Solutions at Saddle River, New Jersey.

Talk that Japanese authorities may follow the footsteps of the Swiss National Bank in putting a floor in dollar/yen had buoyed the currency pair in recent sessions, but investors resumed yen buying after market speculation failed to materialize.

The euro rallied against the dollar, but fell against most other currencies, as doubts persisted that European leaders are able to deliver a solution to the escalating debt crisis soon.

The dollar fell as low as 75.78 yen on trading platform EBS , surpassing its previous record low of 75.941 set in August.

It last traded down 0.9 percent at 76.18 yen, coming off lows on reported buying from Japanese banks at the 76.00 level. At current levels, it was on pace for its biggest daily fall since Aug. 26.

If the yen does hold, it could hit 75.50 per dollar, followed by the 75.00 mark, Molloy said. more

Old American theory of natives crossing over landbridge into North America is 'speared'

An ancient bone with a projectile point lodged within it appears to up-end - once and for all - a long-held idea of how the Americas were first populated.

The rib, from a tusked beast known as a mastodon, has been dated precisely to 13,800 years ago.

This places it before the so-called Clovis hunters, who many academics had argued were the North American continent's original inhabitants.

News of the dating results is reported in Science magazine.

In truth, the "Clovis first" model, which holds to the idea that America's original human population swept across a land-bridge from Siberia some 13,000 years ago, has looked untenable for some time.

A succession of archaeological finds right across the United States and northern Mexico have indicated there was human activity much earlier than this - perhaps as early as 15-16,000 years ago.

The mastodon rib, however, really leaves the once cherished model with nowhere to go. more

US dumping criminals at border with Mexico

Mexican President Felipe Calderon says violence along his country's border with the US is fuelled in part by the US opting to deport rather than prosecute criminals.

It was cheaper to send them back rather than try them, Mr Calderon said.

Such people, he said, then joined forces with criminal gangs in Mexico.

Nearly 400,000 illegal immigrants were deported in the past fiscal year, half of whom had been convicted of a crime, US officials said on Tuesday.

President Calderon's remarks came during a speech at an immigration conference in Mexico City.

"There are many factors in the violence that some border cities in Mexico are experiencing but one of them is because the American authorities are deporting some 60,000 or 70,000 migrants a year to cities like Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana," he said.

Among these, "there are many who really are criminals, who have committed some crime, and it is simply cheaper to leave them on the Mexican side of the border than to begin a legal process... to decide if they are guilty or not."

Mr Calderon said the deported criminals then linked up with criminal networks in Mexico. more

Global warming 'confirmed' by independent study

The Earth's surface really is getting warmer, a new analysis by a US scientific group set up in the wake of the "Climategate" affair has concluded.

The Berkeley Earth Project has used new methods and some new data, but finds the same warming trend seen by groups such as the UK Met Office and Nasa.

The project received funds from sources that back organisations lobbying against action on climate change.

"Climategate", in 2009, involved claims global warming had been exaggerated.

Emails of University of East Anglia (UEA) climate scientists were hacked, posted online and used by critics to allege manipulation of climate change data. more

Gadhafi's fall has no whiff of Arab Spring: Libyan despot's death had more to do with NATO muscle than popular uprising

The simple, tempting reaction to news of Moammar Gadhafi's death and the ignominious exhibition of his corpse is that he was a creep, and the world is better off without him.

What makes it all the richer is the ridiculous cult of personality he built around himself, like so many other Arab dictators of his generation.

His "green book" of wild political musings that was forced down Libyans' throats, his King Canute-like efforts to contain the expansion of the Sahara Desert, his Praetorian guard of uniformed Amazons, the bad plastic surgery and hair transplants, his laughable insistence that he was not a leader but a beloved first among equals – all a narcissistic membrane easily pierced by missiles.

Certainly, Gadhafi could be entertaining. His rambling speeches at the UN, and his insistence that he be able to set up his Bedouin tent in New York City were great comic relief.

I covered a meeting of the Arab League in Jordan back in the 1990s when he announced the whole exercise was pointless because none of the other leaders in attendance actually had any backbone, then decamped to the desert, where he set up his tent and flamboyantly consorted with his fellow Bedouins for the rest of the day.

But his crazy viciousness trumped all that. This was a man whose agents downed a civilian jetliner, bombed a discotheque in Berlin and gave aid and succor to some of the most violent extremists on earth. He ran a dark police state, crushed internal dissent, persecuted the Berber people, used his oil money to prop up equally vicious African leaders and collected weapons of mass destruction.

In the end, he sent foreign mercenaries against his own people, reportedly supplied with Viagra, the better to rape when they weren't marauding and killing. more

What are officials hiding about Fukushima? Is radiation in Canada worse than admitted?

After the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, Soviet officials were vilified for hiding the impacts from the public.

But when Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident took place last March, public officials in Japan and Canada alike jumped straight into Chernobyl-style damage-control mode, dismissing any worries about impacts.

Now evidence has emerged that the radiation in Canada was worse than Canadian officials ever let on.

A Health Canada monitoring station in Calgary detected radioactive material in rainwater that exceeded Canadian guidelines during the month of March, according to Health Canada data obtained by the Georgia Straight.

Canadian government officials didn’t disclose the high radiation readings to the public. Instead, they repeatedly insisted that fallout drifting to Canada was negligible and posed no health concerns.

In fact, the data shows rainwater in Calgary last March had an average of 8.18 becquerels per litre of radioactive iodine, easily exceeding the Canadian guideline of six becquerels per litre for drinking water.

“It’s above the recommended level [for drinking water],” Eric Pellerin, chief of Health Canada’s radiation-surveillance division, admitted in a phone interview from Ottawa. “At any time you sample it, it should not exceed the guideline.” more

Thailand to open flood gates to save capital - 21st Oct 2011

Thailand's prime minister asked all Bangkok residents to move their belongings to higher ground as government workers fought to contain flooding inching toward the capital city.

Government spokeswoman Thitima Chaisaeng said the move is a precautionary measure.

"We think that a state of emergency is not necessary at this moment," she said.

To protect their cars, residents double parked along elevated highways, making it nearly impossible to navigate around a city where traffic is congested on a normal day.

As water from Thailand's worst flood in half a century bore down on the capital, officials changed course.

Until now, they had hoped that strengthening flood barriers and widening canals would keep populated areas safe.

But now the government is trying a different tack: opening floodgates to relieve pressure on dams and levees and send the water toward the sea.

The decision to divert water through canals in Bangkok means parts of the city will likely be flooded. Read More

Circumstances of ex-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's death must be investigated, says United Nations Human Rights chief. - 21st Oct 2011

Circumstances of ex-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's death must be investigated, says United Nations Human Rights chief. More to follow ...

Tax Time? Not for Giant Corporations - Article March 2011

March 27 - While hard working Americans fill out their income tax returns this tax season, General Electric and other giant profitable corporations are avoiding U.S. taxes altogether.

With Congress returning to Capitol Hill on Monday to debate steep spending cuts, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations must do their share to help bring down our record-breaking deficit.

Sanders renewed his call for shared sacrifice after it was reported that General Electric and other major corporations paid no U.S. taxes after posting huge profits. Sanders said it is grossly unfair for congressional Republicans to propose major cuts to Head Start, Pell Grants, the Social Security Administration, nutrition grants for pregnant low-income women and the Environmental Protection Agency while ignoring the reality that some of the most profitable corporations pay nothing or almost nothing in federal income taxes.

Sanders compiled a list of some of the 10 worst corporate income tax avoiders.

1) Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009. Exxon not only paid no federal income taxes, it actually received a $156 million rebate from the IRS, according to its SEC filings. (Source: Exxon Mobil's 2009 shareholder report filed with the SEC here.)

2) Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS last year, although it made $4.4 billion in profits and received a bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department of nearly $1 trillion. (Source: Forbes.com here, ProPublica here and Treasury here.)

3) Over the past five years, while General Electric made $26 billion in profits in the United States, it received a $4.1 billion refund from the IRS. (Source: Citizens for Tax Justice here and The New York Times here. Note: despite rumors to the contrary, the Times has stood by its story.)

4) Chevron received a $19 million refund from the IRS last year after it made $10 billion in profits in 2009. (Source: See 2009 Chevron annual report here. Note 15 on page FS-46 of this report shows a U.S. federal income tax liability of $128 million, but that it was able to defer $147 million for a U.S. federal income tax liability of $-19 million)

5) Boeing, which received a $30 billion contract from the Pentagon to build 179 airborne tankers, got a $124 million refund from the IRS last year. . (Source: Paul Buchheit, professor, DePaul University, here and Citizens for Tax Justice here.)

6) Valero Energy, the 25th largest company in America with $68 billion in sales last year received a $157 million tax refund check from the IRS and, over the past three years, it received a $134 million tax break from the oil and gas manufacturing tax deduction. (Source: the company's 2009 annual report, pg. 112, here.)

7) Goldman Sachs in 2008 only paid 1.1 percent of its income in taxes even though it earned a profit of $2.3 billion and received an almost $800 billion from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department. (Source: Bloomberg News here, ProPublica here, Treasury Department here.)

8) Citigroup last year made more than $4 billion in profits but paid no federal income taxes. It received a $2.5 trillion bailout from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury. (Source: Paul Buchheit, professor, DePaul University, here, ProPublica here, Treasury Department here.)

9) ConocoPhillips, the fifth largest oil company in the United States, made $16 billion in profits from 2006 through 2009, but received $451 million in tax breaks through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction. (Sources: Profits can be found here. The deduction can be found on the company's 2010 SEC 10-K report to shareholders on 2009 finances, pg. 127, here)

10) Over the past five years, Carnival Cruise Lines made more than $11 billion in profits, but its federal income tax rate during those years was just 1.1 percent. (Source: The New York Times here) Read More

NOTE: These companies will be paying the personal income tax on profits NOT the corporate one. Either way it isn't good

Occupy Philadelphia Marching To Cantor Speech - 21st Oct 2011

One of the president's biggest critics on the jobs bill will visit Philadelphia on Friday.

Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will give a speech at the University of Pennsylvania. And he will have some visitors waiting for him.

Protestors from the Occupy Philly movement say they will march to Penn to protest Cantor's appearance.

The speech comes a day after the Senate rejected President Barack Obama's proposed legislation aimed at helping state and local governments avoid layoffs of teachers and first responders.

Republicans unanimously opposed the measure on a 50-50 vote that fell well short of the required 60 votes to defeat the GOP filibuster.

Despite the loss, the Obama administration continues to push the plan, which includes infrastructure spending and boosting the hiring of police and fire fighters. Source

Surfer survives shark attack near Newport, Oregon - 21st Oct 2011



A man surfing south of Newport is alive after surviving an alleged shark attack Thursday.

Bobby Gumm of Newport was surfing with three friends about 200 yards off the coast at South Beach State Park when witnesses say was suddenly thrown approximately 10-feet into the air.

Ronald and Carol Clifford of Waldport were with Gumm when the attack occurred.

"He said he just got done surfing. He said he went up to sit down. He felt a bump on his leg, and noticed it was a shark. And that's when he called for help," Ronald Clifford said.

Clifford, a local surfing instructor, says he saw a 2-foot fin come out of the water. Read More

Red tide alert for waters around Nanaimo, Canada - 20th Oct 2011

Fisheries officials closed areas around Nanaimo for shellfish harvesting due to unacceptable marine biotoxin results Wednesday.

Some areas south of Nanaimo are closed to harvesting all bivalve shellfish (oysters, clams, scallops, mussels and geoducks). Other areas in and around Nanaimo are closed to harvest of all bivalve shellfish except manila clams, littleneck clams, oysters and mussels; or are open except for harvesting of butter clams and scallops.

A complete list of the closures, as well as a map of the sub-areas around Nanaimo, is available at www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/psp. This information is also available by calling toll-free 1-866-431-3474.

Red Tide (Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning contamination) is caused by microscopic marine organisms that product toxins that can accumulate in bivalve shellfish because these animals filter feed.

Eating shellfish in a red tide zone can result in serious illness or death. Source