Saturday, November 12, 2011

Italy's Silvio Berlusconi steps down as prime minister



Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi officially resigned Saturday, according to the presidential palace press office, seemingly bringing an end to a long career played out on center-stage in the country's volatile political arena.

The thrice-elected 75-year-old business magnate has said he does not intend to stand again if new elections are called.

Berlusconi stepped down just hours after the lower house of parliament approved austerity measures aimed at restoring confidence in Italy's economy.

Crowds that had gathered outside the presidential palace erupted in cheers -- waving the Italian flag, dancing and singing the national anthem -- when news of his resignation broke.

Since entering politics nearly two decades ago, Berlusconi has been one of his country's great survivors, hanging on despite facing numerous trials, on charges ranging from corruption to having sex with an underage prostitute, none of which has resulted in a jail term.

He was first elected in 1994 but lasted barely seven months, thanks to a dispute with his right-wing coalition partners from the Northern League Party and an indictment for alleged tax fraud. He was acquitted on appeal in 2000 after the statute of limitations had expired. more

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake HALMAHERA, INDONESIA - 12th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck Halmahera, Indonesia at a depth of 134.1 km (83.3 miles), the quake hit at 22:10:32 UTC Saturday 12th November 2011.
The epicenter was 38 km ( 24 miles) Northwest of Ternate, Moluccas, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

4.0 Magnitude Earthquake EASTERN TURKEY - 12th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.0 earthquake has struck Eastern Turkey at a depth of 5 km (3.1 miles), the quake hit at 19:53:48 UTC Saturday 12th November 2011.
The epicenter was 6 km ( 3.7 miles) South of Van, Turkey
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Want weird weather? Come to Oklahoma! -12th Nov 2011

After one of the strangest local weather days in memory, an Oklahoma woman with a sense of humor asked on Twitter earlier this week:

"Wanna experience the apocalypse before it happens? Visit Oklahoma!"

She posted that on Monday night shortly after a 4.7-magnitude aftershock earthquake shook the state. The temblor occurred not long after six tornadoes ripped through southwest Oklahoma, which was preceded by flash-flooding in an area that's been plagued by a historic drought.

"Seriously, WHAT'S GOING ON?" someone else tweeted that night.

The answers vary. Global warning? Coincidence? Bad luck? Bad timing? End of time?

There's agreement on only one thing: It's been weird all year.

"Even for Oklahoma, this is crazy," said Rick Smith, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Norman. "Since January, we've been setting records. People are just kind of amazed and shocked."

State records set this year have ranged from the lowest temperature (31 degrees below zero in Nowata in northeast Oklahoma) to snowfall in a 24-hour period (27 inches, also in Nowata) to the largest hail stone (a spiky, six-inch piece recovered in Gotebo, in southwest Oklahoma).

This year also produced the state's highest-ever-recorded surface wind speed (151 miles per hour near El Reno, outside of Oklahoma City) and biggest known earthquake (5.6 magnitude, breaking the 1956 record).

On Wednesday, Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for 20 counties because of earthquakes, tornadoes and severe storms. Read More

Light Aircraft Crashes into English Channel 25-miles off coast of Guernsey .. Woman Rescued, Man still missing - 12th Nov 2011

A private plane has crashed into the English Channel just off the coast of Guernsey.

A Royal navy vessel, HMS Tyne, has been drafted in to search for the light aircraft and the two people onboard.

The Ministry of Defence said HMS Tyne, a river class offshore patrol vessel, is being used because of its night vision capabilities.

A spokesman said: 'HMS Tyne has been diverted from duties in UK waters to assist with the French-led operation to search for the light aircraft.'

Colin La Ray, director of Guernsey Airport, said two people were on board the aircraft which came down 25 miles off the coast of the Channel Isle this afternoon. Read More

Update: Breaking news on Sky announcing Female rescued, One man still missing.

Majorca Helicopter Crash kills 2 British Nationals - 12th Nov 2011

Two Britons have been killed when their helicopter crashed in a mountainous area of the Spanish island of Majorca.

The helicopter came down in a wooded area between Andratx and Estellencs.

A fire brigade spokesman said the occupants were killed immediately and the helicopter totally destroyed.

He said access to the area was difficult. The two men killed were not identified but police said the British consulate on the Mediterranean island popular with tourists had been informed.

Witnesses saw smoke rising from the wreckage in woodland in Coll de Sa Gramola on the Balearic island.

Jose Luis Montoya, a spokesman for Majorca's Emergency Services, told The Daily Telegraph: "We received several calls at around 11.10am from witnesses saying they had seen a helicopter crash down in flames in a wooded area. Read More

Flash floods hit western Singapore - 12th Nov 2011

According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), the highest rainfall recorded as at 5.30 pm was 91.4 mm at Kent Ridge in the West Coast area.

The afternoon heavy downpour caused a canal at Block 611 in Clementi West to overflow.

One resident at the area said he's never seen anything like this in all his 10 years living there.

"When I saw it, I find it very dangerous, because the volume of water was huge; it carried a mass of water, and the current was moving very fast and splashed very strong waves on to the bridge here," said Mr Lim, a Clementi West resident.

Mr Lim said the flood lasted for about 45 minutes.

He said: "All the small drains are all submerged and the water splashed into the HDB block, and all the trees, plants are all half submerged."

National water agency PUB said the flash floods were due to the intense rainfall and high tide of about 3 metres on Saturday afternoon. And this was what caused the Sungei Pandan Kechil canal to overflow.

Flash floods also occurred along the AYE towards ECP and at Neo Pee Teck Lane, but they subsided within 20 minutes. Read More

Simultaneous ice melt in Antarctic and Arctic

The end of the last ice age and the processes that led to the melting of the northern and southern ice sheets supply basic information on changes in our climate.

Although the maximum size of the ice sheet in the northern hemisphere during the last ice age is relatively well known, there is little reliable data on the dimensions of the Antarctic ice sheet.

A publication appearing in the journal "Science" on 1 December now furnishes indications that the two hemispheres attained their maximum ice sheet size at nearly the same time and started melting 19,000 years ago.

"The decline in the Antarctic ice sheets thus commenced almost 5,000 years earlier than assumed to date, though our investigations show great regional differences and demonstrate how important deepwater archives are," says the lead author of the study, Dr. Michael Weber from the Geological Institute of the University of Cologne.

"Our results suggest that Antarctica was not as climatically isolated as previously assumed," adds Dr. Gerhard Kuhn from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association. "Now we have to presume that the reaction of the large ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic to climate change is more closely linked in time than thought. At least that's the way it was during the last ice age." more

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTHERN GREECE - 12th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck Southern Greece at a depth of 59.8 km (37.2 miles), the quake hit at 18:28:15 UTC Saturday 12th November 2011.
The epicenter was 33 km ( 20) North of Kalamata, Greece
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

"'Glee' sends wrong message on teen sex" -- Too late, it's already being watched by millions of young people

Kids having sex on prime time broadcast TV? Must be sweeps month.

It's so predictable, it's almost laughable. Almost. That is, it would be if it weren't for the fact that there are real-world consequences for these brazen, ratings-boosting publicity ploys.

Fox's soapy, teen-targeted "Glee" tried to boost sagging ratings this week by showing not one, but two teen couples having sex for the first time -- one gay, the other straight. Show co-creator Ryan Murphy and the folks over at "Glee" are spinning this as a "teachable moment" for teens and their parents, an opportunity for dialogue about safe sex and responsible choices. The problem is Ryan Murphy wants to have his cake and eat it, too.

Hollywood loves to defend teen sex story lines by insisting, "Kids are having sex! We're reflecting the real world!" But the truth is much more sobering and complicated.

Yes, there are and always have been sexually active teens, but never before have depictions of premarital teen sex been so widespread in the media. Today, you are more likely to see sexualized teens than adults in sexual situations. By presenting teen sex as common, the media marginalizes teens who choose to remain abstinent while increasing the pressure teens are already feeling to become sexually active. more

Bhopal victims: Lab rats for Big Pharma



Tens of thousands of Indians were poisoned when toxic gas leaked from a plant owned by a US corporation. Now they claim they are suffering even more after pharmaceutical companies used the opportunity to try dangerous experimental drugs on them.

In 1984, 30 tonnes of noxious gas leaked from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, killing around 20,000 people, many of them instantly. Twenty-five years on, victims of India's worst-ever industrial disaster are still coping with the aftermath of a day they will never forget.

“I clutched my children and dragged my wife and mother toward the bus station,” remembers Ramadas Srivastav, a Bhopal victim. “Everyone was screaming ‘run, run!’ We crossed another village where more people got in the car and everybody in the village was screaming ‘run, run!’”

Experts say Union Carbide had faulty equipment, poorly-trained employees, and inadequate evacuation plans.

In the aftermath, despite being charged with manslaughter, managers were bailed out and flown back to the United States, never held to account for their part in the disaster.

Union Carbide eventually reached a $470 million settlement with India’s government, but left without even cleaning up the mess, which caused thousands more to suffer.

Today, thousands like Ramadas Srivastav still suffer, and they are angry. more

Rights to remain silent: US quiet on Libyan human rights



Libya's post-Gaddafi world is showing a lurch towards radical Islam, with strict Sharia law and Al-Qaeda flags in evidence there. But are the US and NATO truly concerned about it?

Not so long ago, the US media presented Libyan rebels as freedom-loving folks, yearning for democracy.

After Gaddafi’s killing the narrative changed, with major news outlets raising questions about the atrocities committed by the rebels and their devotion to hardline Islam.

Sharia law, which is now being introduced in Libya, is considered to be, for the most part, incompatible with democratic values, especially when it comes to women’s rights.

But many experts believe that whatever the new Libyan government’s domestic policies, it will not stop the US from making nice with them.

“Saudi Arabia for instance has the most extreme form of Sharia law. Women are not allowed to drive cars, are not allowed to vote. The crime for adultery for women is the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. And none of this seems to bother the powers that be in Washington…because Saudi Arabia does the bidding of the United States in this oil-rich region,” Brian Becker from the ANSWER coalition told RT.

“Saudi Arabia being a dictatorship and not a democratic state, yet America is a big ally and a big supporter of Saudi Arabia. That just shows that we really don’t care if we’re working with democracies or we’re working with dictatorships. What we care about is our interests in the region,” says Hasan Shibly from the Council on American-Islamic Relations. more

EU is corrupt and beyond fixing: ex-UK minister



RT talks to Lord Alexander Hesketh, who has become the most high-profile defector from David Cameron’s Conservative Party after he rejected a referendum on Britain’s leaving the EU.

­Lord Hesketh was in the cabinet under both Margaret Thatcher and John Major and says over the decades, only the Iron Lady has had the strength to stand up to continental politicians over serious problems Britain has because of its European attachment.

“Every government that we have had, with the exception of Margaret Thatcher’s, has essentially allowed itself to be bamboozled by the civil service into avoiding having a serious discussion with the Europeans about sorting out the problem. And I’m afraid that is now happening to this government,” he told RT.

The British politician says he defected to the UK Independence Party because it is the only party in the country able to tell the EU for what it actually is.

“You cannot deal with the Europeans. Europeans have no desire to negotiate. The EU is a new kind of religion. It is run by people who pay far lower taxes than anyone else in Europe and have their children educated free of charge in like 14 private schools in Brussels. In European Parliament most of the members are paid more three or four times as much money as they would have in any other job that you and I might ever do in life. The system is essentially corrupt and it is unchangeable,” he lashed out. more

'The Old System Is Dead': Greek Ex-Foreign Minister

SPIEGEL: What should the government that leads Greece out of the crisis look like?

Bakoyannis: With its black-and-white logic -- according to which one party is always right and the other one is always wrong -- the political system has brought us to where we now are. The old system is dead. We need a coalition government that believes Greece has a future in Europe.

SPIEGEL: So, does that mean you think there needs to be new elections as soon as possible?

Bakoyannis: We need the coalition government even before elections so that we can once again look our partners in the eyes and convince them that Greece has learned from its mistakes. In addition, we need independent experts and personalities in positions of leadership who can really implement the decisions coming out of Brussels, as well.

SPIEGEL: What would be different if your center-right New Democracy party was back in power instead of Giorgios Papandreou? The fact is that, until it was defeated in 2009, the party steered the country right into the debt crisis with its doctoring of the balance sheets and its falsified statistics. more

Why more and more intelligent women are being forced to 'marry down' and find a less-educated man as females win out at work and school

Women are overtaking men in education and in the workplace, a senior Government minister said yesterday – creating a new generation of stay-at-home fathers.

Universities minister David Willetts predicted relationships and traditional household structures will be transformed as the fairer sex powers ahead, and women earn more than their male partners.

Successful women will have to ‘marry down’ by choosing partners less qualified than them – and may increasingly select men based on how supportive they might be to their careers, rather than whether they can support them financially. more

Wealth gap between young and old Americans widest on record

The wealth gap between younger and older Americans has stretched to the widest on record, worsened by a prolonged economic downturn that has wiped out job opportunities for young adults and saddled them with housing and college debt.

The typical U.S. household headed by a person age 65 or older has a net worth 47 times greater than a household headed by someone under 35, according to an analysis of census data released Monday.

While people typically accumulate assets as they age, this wealth gap is now more than double what it was in 2005 and nearly five times the 10-to-1 disparity a quarter-century ago, after adjusting for inflation.

The analysis by the Pew Research Center reflects the impact of the economic downturn, which has hit young adults particularly hard. More are pursuing college or advanced degrees, taking on debt as they wait for the job market to recover. Others are struggling to pay mortgage costs on homes now worth less than when they were bought in the housing boom. more

CIA Drones Kill Large Groups Without Knowing Who They Are

The expansion of the CIA’s undeclared drone war in the tribal areas of Pakistan required a big expansion of who can be marked for death. Once the standard for targeted killing was top-level leadership in al-Qaeda or one of its allies. That’s long gone, especially as the number of people targeted at once has grown.

This is the new standard, according to a blockbuster piece in the Wall Street Journal: “men believed to be militants associated with terrorist groups, but whose identities aren’t always known.” The CIA is now killing people without knowing who they are, on suspicion of association with terrorist groups. The article does not define the standards are for “suspicion” and “association.”

Strikes targeting those people — usually “groups” of such people — are called “signature” strikes. “The bulk of CIA’s drone strikes are signature strikes,” the Journal’s Adam Entous, Siobhan Gorman and Julian E. Barnes report.

And bulk really means bulk. The Journal reports that the growth in clusters of people targeted by the CIA has required the agency to tell its Pakistani counterparts about mass attacks. When the agency expects to kill 20 or more people at once, then it’s got to give the Pakistanis notice. more

US Feds Seek Unfettered GPS Surveillance Power as Location-Tracking Flourishes



The Supreme Court is set to hear historic arguments Tuesday in what perhaps is the most important Fourth Amendment case in a decade — one weighing the collision of privacy, technology and the Constitution.

The question before the justices asks: May the police secretly install a Global Positioning System device on a vehicle without a probable cause warrant issued by a judge in order to track a suspect’s every move?

The last time the justices were confronted with the blending of technology and privacy was a decade ago before the mass proliferation of GPS gadgets. The high court at the time ruled in favor of constitutional protections when it concluded that thermal-imaging devices used to detect marijuana-growing operations inside a house amounted to a search and therefore required a court warrant. Contrast this to a prior ruling in 1983 when the justices said it was okay for the government to use beepers known as “bird dogs” to track a suspect’s vehicle without a warrant.

Technology has advanced since both of these cases, feeding the government’s growing hunger for cost-efficient, easy-to-use spy tools, and making the latest debate before the justices seem Orwellian. Today, one’s exact position on Earth can easily be secretly monitored with devices costing less than $200. Add to this the government’s argument in court briefs that “a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy in his movements from one place to another,” and you have the makings for widespread, unchecked surveillance. more

Is corporate America the key to US job growth? *Cough*

Politicians of all stripes talk about small business being the backbone of the US economy. But the vast majority of Americans work for large companies, and it is big business doing most of the hiring - and firing.

A bright yellow bulldozer cuts through the morning mist in a field in Clayton, North Carolina. On 34 acres of land surrounded by trees, Caterpillar tests the heavy equipment it makes.

The sight of these roaring machines is enough to make many a young boy's heart race faster. But that's not the only reason for excitement. Caterpillar is among the handful of companies now hiring as the global economy slowly recovers. more

Americans still lax with Wi-Fi security: Dangerous in today's world?



Free Wi-Fi is everywhere. There are more than a million hotspots worldwide, in everything from coffee shops to airports to hotels, and more.

Finding a free Wi-Fi hotspot is a great convenience, but it can put your personal information at risk.

And, reports Susan Koeppen of CBS station KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, a recent survey shows the most appropriate mark for Americans when it comes to protecting that info at such hotspots is "D."

The survey, by the Wi-Fi Alliance, found only two-thirds of Wi-Fi users have taken recommended steps to keep the information from prying eyes.

The alliance's Kelly Davis-Felner says, "Consumers should be very, very cautious when using publicly available Wi-Fi."

To see just how easy it is for someone to steal your information while using Wi-Fi, Koeppen headed to Carnegie Mellon University and met up with ethical hacker Spencer Whitman.

"Anyone can capture the traffic coming out of your computer," he told Koeppen.

So she put Whitman to the test, with computers sitting back to back, Koeppen got into CMU's open Wi-Fi network.

On Facebook, she posted a status saying, "Working on story about Wi-Fi dangers! See how quickly our ethical hacker can get into my Facebook account. His name is Spencer." more

Euro crisis: there is now hope for the liberation of Greece

When I read that Joachim Fels, Global Head of Economics at Morgan Stanley, had observed that Sarkozy and Merkel had opened a "Pandora's Box" by publicly contemplating the possible exit of Greece from both the eurozone and the EU itself, I was relieved. What had until recently been unthinkable, except among those of us who have been right all along, is now being thought about by those who planned and executed this reckless adventure.

I must confess that I also remembered the warning uttered in Cabinet by the late great Ernie Bevin on some controversial matter: “If you open up that bloody Pandora's Box you'll let out a load of bleeding Trojan 'orses.”

Well, they have done it. Troubles there certainly will be on the loose, but then we were not short of those. However, at the bottom of the box was Hope.

There is now hope for the liberation of Greece. Hope that it may again become responsible for its own future. There is no guarantee that it would use that responsibility wisely, but it is certainly true that those who are denied the right to decide for themselves will usually behave irresponsibly.

It is only hope. The Masters of Europe have long expressed their contempt for the people by simply refusing to accept the result of any referendum which displeases them.

Now they have taken a further step by prohibiting a referendum in Greece at all. They have – in all but name – fired the Greek Prime Minister. They have succeeded in bringing down his government and directing its replacement with what amounts to a puppet government which will have to accept the bailout terms before the Greeks are allowed to express themselves at a general election. more

The EU sunders Greek politicians from their people

It’s not a national government – not, at least, in sense of a government that represents the nation. The coalition of the two big Greek parties has been formed for the sole purpose of pursuing an agenda that the nation rejects, viz. the Brussels-mandated loans-for-austerity programme. What’s more, the nation is right to reject it. Greeks can see that the bailout money is not coming to them, but to European bankers and bondholders. The interest payments, however, will indeed come from Greek taxpayers.

What we see in Athens is microcosm of what is wrong with the entire European project. Politicians have been sundered from the people they are supposed to represent. Observers are right to say that Greece is a divided society, but the nature of that division is alarming. The fracture is not between PASOK and New Democracy, not between Left and Right, but between the Brussels-backed elites and the rest of the country.

It’s a familiar pattern. European integration invariably pits what the French call the pays légal (politicians, civil servants, business leaders, newspaper editors) against the pays réel (everyone else). When Denmark and Sweden voted on the euro, when France and the Netherlands voted on the European Constitution, when Ireland voted on the Lisbon Treaty, there were thumping ‘No’ votes; yet, on each of these occasions, more than 80 per cent of national MPs had backed the measure.

We saw the same phenomenon in the United Kingdom last month. Sixty-seven per cent of voters wanted their MPs to support an In/Out referendum; only 18 per cent of MPs did so.

Who, then, speaks for the majority? In Greece, parliamentary opposition to the package is largely confined to the Communist Party. It’s not often one gets the chance to say this but, on this occasion, the far Left has been proved dead right. Greek Communists argued from the start that the euro might suit a few oligarchs and Brussels placemen, but that it would be a disaster for working people. Who, in retrospect, can deny that they were on to something? more

Europe's rescue fiasco leaves Italy defenceless

The six weeks allotted to save monetary union have expired. The G20 has come and gone, yet no workable firewall is in place as the drama engulfs Italy and threatens to light the fuse on the world’s third largest edifice of debt.

As of late Friday, the yield spread on Italian 10-year bonds over German Bunds was a post-EMU record of 458 basis points. This is dangerously close to the point where cascade-selling begins and matters spiral out of control.

The European Central Bank has so far bought time by holding a series of retreating lines but either it has reached its intervention limits after accumulating nearly €80bn of Italian debt, or it is holding fire to force Silvio Berlusconi to resign – if so, a foolish game.

The ECB’s hands are tied. A German veto and EU treaty constraints stop it intervening with overwhelming force as a genuine lender of last resort. The bank is itself at risk of massive over-extension without an EU treasury and single sovereign entity to back it up.

This lack of a back-stop guarantor is an unforgivable failing in the institutional structure of monetary union. As Berkeley professor Brad DeLong argues in a new paper, such “utter disregard for financial stability – much less for the welfare of the workers and businesses that make up the economy – is a radical departure from the central-banking tradition.”

The Bank of England was forced to jettison such reactionary nostrums in 1825 after the canal boom burst. It intervened in breach of its own mandate, over howls of protest by the hard-money men who warned that the “millennium of the paper-mongers would be at hand.” A near century of gentle deflation followed. more

McDonald's chief: Curb spending and cut taxes -- Wait, now Ronald has the answers?

America must cut taxes and reduce government spending in order to kick-start an economic recovery, Jim Skinner, the chief executive of McDonald's, has warned.

"The question is, how can we get the ox out of the ditch?" Mr Skinner said. "In order to create jobs in America, you're going to have to cut taxes… particularly in the business community.

"We pay some of the highest [corporate] taxes around the world. There needs to be some levelling."

Asked about federal borrowing, he said: "It's not a good story… the government has to spend less. We have to grow the economy, grow GDP… and you have to be able to do it in an organic way and not through borrowings and increasing debt."

McDonald's army of blue-collar customers need more clarity on core issues, such as healthcare, he said. "Until all of that is all defined and certain… we're going to continue to have a fragile environment for consumer confidence."

Skinner's intervention will be seized upon by President Obama's opponents amid a fierce debate in Washington over the country's deteriorating finances and high unemployment. As Democrats and Republicans fire up their 2012 election campaigns, the focus is on the "9pc nightmare", with both the US budget deficit and jobless total at that level. more

Are black children really turning 'white'?

I’m sitting with a friend I haven’t seen in a while. He’s black, parents from Guyana, in his forties, married to a white woman, and doesn’t have a single black revolutionary bone in his body.

"You know, the thing about Starkey, Katharine, is that he was onto something."

I nod, smiling, yeah yeah, I know. I wrote so much at the time of the David Starkey Newsnight scandal that one would have thought I had a particular interest in David Starkey and not in education. What he said was ridiculous but perhaps what he meant had some truth in it: that something is going on with our youth, and black MTV gangster culture has something to do with it. Not that I say any of this to my friend, who simply presumes that my nodding means that I’ve understood what he’s about to say.

"Yeah, you know, the thing is, he got it right! It is just that he got it the wrong way round."

Huh? I frown. What on earth is he talking about?

My friend laughs. "The whites haven’t become black Katharine! It’s the blacks who have become white!"

He goes on to explain, prompting me to think back to my childhood, insisting that I should think of how white friends of mine might have behaved with their parents and how I had been with mine. more

The 22-Year-Old Who Led the Charge Against Bank of America

When Bank of America announced it would charge customers a $5 monthly debit card fee in late September, it probably did not count on a 22-year old woman standing in its way. But for Molly Katchpole, a 2011 college graduate who works two part-time jobs in Washington, D.C. and lives paycheck to paycheck, the annual increase of $60 was just plain unacceptable. "I heard the news about the fee, and was like, 'That is it. I'm sick of this,'" says the daughter of a Rhode Island machinist and a physical therapist. "On the one hand they are running a business, but on the other hand, it is people's money they are working with, and some people don't have a lot of money. It's not like they are just selling toothbrushes — it goes much deeper than that."

So Katchpole turned to Change.org, an online platform that publishes petitions and mobilizes community campaigns. Her open letter to Bank of America to withdraw the new fee went viral. She closed her Bank of America account, cut up her debit card on camera, and moved her money to a community bank. And Americans flooded her with support. One month and 306,000 signatures later, she won: Bank of America removed the extra charge on Nov. 1. more

Magic Johnson and HIV: The Lasting Impact of Nov. 7, 1991 -- Survivability only for the rich?

Nov. 7, 1991, seemed like it would be a typical practice day for the Los Angeles Lakers. The season had just started, and the Lakers were trying to defend their Western Conference title, hoping to hang yet another championship banner atop the Great Western Forum. Yes, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls had beat them for their first title that June, and looked to have the making of a dynasty. But the Lakers still had some leftover talent from the 1980s, the decade in which they won five championships. Guys like James Worthy, Byron Scott and, of course, Magic Johnson, had plenty of basketball left.

That morning A.C. Green, the iron-man Laker power forward who would eventually play in 1,192 consecutive games, an NBA record, was doing his prepractice stretching. Suddenly, Green says, Lakers coach Mike Dunleavy announced that instead of taking the practice court at Loyola Marymount University, the team would be heading over to the Forum for a mandatory meeting. (See photos of Magic Johnson's sports career.)

Weird, Green thought. He knew this meeting must be important. But when the Lakers arrived at the Forum locker room, the guys were still joking around, staying loose. That changed in a hurry, however. Before Johnson shook the world, he would shake his Laker teammates. "The meeting was turned over to Magic really soon," says Green. "He said, 'I want to talk to you guys first. And let you know what's going on first. I've contracted the HIV virus, and for right now, I know I'm going to have to stop playing. I might have to retire. We're trying to find out more.'" more

The Special Ops Era, 10 Years Later: How Mavericks Reinvented the Military

In a new book from TIME, Special Ops: The Hidden World of America's Toughest Warriors, International Editor Jim Frederick reports on the secret world of military special operations units. Now available in bookstores everywhere, or go to time.com/specialops to order your copy today.

The first time most Americans heard the name Stanley McChrystal was in mid-2009, when President Obama promoted him to four-star general and commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan. The appointment took many in Washington by surprise too: Stanley who? McChrystal was not a man accustomed to the schmoozing rituals of the Beltway. But national security cognoscenti knew exactly who he was: a killer. Having just completed a five-year stint as the chief of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which oversees America's most secret military units, like SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force, Stan McChrystal was the quintessential black-ops warrior. McChrystal was one of a new generation of military leaders who became top commanders in the post-9/11 era and completed the transition from a military run by Cold Warriors like Norman Schwarzkopf, Tommy Franks, and Colin Powell to one focused on terrorism and the so-called small wars that prevail today. more

Is Ecocide a Crime? (Yes.)

As oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico from BP's Deepwater Horizon rig in May 2010, and then CEO Tony Hayward made his infamous statement that he wanted his life back, he likely had little fear of it being taken in a court of law.

But that reality could be changing as a movement to make business executives and political leaders legally accountable for environmental destruction gains global momentum. Campaigners are calling for the introduction of a new internationalized law of ecocide - the mass destruction of ecosystems – that would be on a par with genocide and similar crimes against humanity.

In late September the Hamilton Group – an NGO promoting sustainable development - staged a mock trial at the U.K.'s Supreme Court. The day-long proceedings saw two fictional oil company execs - played by actors – face three counts of ecocide. Their multinationals stood accused of killing migratory birds and degrading the environment in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and in the tar sands in Canada, with the pair facing a volunteer jury, one supposedly screened to be free of activists.

“We took it very seriously,” says jury foreman Huw Spanner, a 51-year-old writer and editor. “It seemed a mixed group – there were some green skeptics,” he adds of the jury.

Their unanimous convictions on two of the three charges were perhaps a meaningless victory for Greens given that the proceedings – despite being based on real events and featuring genuine barristers, expert witnesses and a judge - were entirely devoid of legal status. more

Production of Biofuel from Forests Will Increase Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Study Finds

The largest and most comprehensive study yet done on the effect of biofuel production from West Coast forests has concluded that an emphasis on bioenergy would increase carbon dioxide emissions from these forests at least 14 percent, if the efficiency of such operations is optimal.

The findings are contrary to assumptions and some previous studies that suggest biofuels from this source would be carbon-neutral or even reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In this research, that wasn't true in any scenario.

The study was published in Nature Climate Change, by scientists from the College of Forestry at Oregon State University and other institutions in Germany and France. It was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.

During the past four years, the study examined 80 forest types in 19 eco-regions in Oregon, Washington and California, ranging from temperate rainforests to semi-arid woodlands. It included both public and private lands and different forest management approaches.

"On the West Coast, we found that projected forest biomass removal and use for bioenergy in any form will release more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than current forest management practices," said Tara Hudiburg, a doctoral candidate at OSU and lead author on the study. more

Fallout forensics hike radiation toll: Global data on Fukushima challenge Japanese estimates

The disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in March released far more radiation than the Japanese government has claimed. So concludes a study1 that combines radioactivity data from across the globe to estimate the scale and fate of emissions from the shattered plant.

The study also suggests that, contrary to government claims, pools used to store spent nuclear fuel played a significant part in the release of the long-lived environmental contaminant caesium-137, which could have been prevented by prompt action. The analysis has been posted online for open peer review by the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

Andreas Stohl, an atmospheric scientist with the Norwegian Institute for Air Research in Kjeller, who led the research, believes that the analysis is the most comprehensive effort yet to understand how much radiation was released from Fukushima Daiichi. "It's a very valuable contribution," says Lars-Erik De Geer, an atmospheric modeller with the Swedish Defense Research Agency in Stockholm, who was not involved with the study.

The reconstruction relies on data from dozens of radiation monitoring stations in Japan and around the world. Many are part of a global network to watch for tests of nuclear weapons that is run by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization in Vienna. The scientists added data from independent stations in Canada, Japan and Europe, and then combined those with large European and American caches of global meteorological data. more

Extreme Melting On Greenland Ice Sheet, Team Reports; Glacial Melt Cycle Could Become Self-Amplifying

The Greenland ice sheet can experience extreme melting even when temperatures don't hit record highs, according to a new analysis by Dr. Marco Tedesco, assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at The City College of New York. His findings suggest that glaciers could undergo a self-amplifying cycle of melting and warming that would be difficult to halt.

"We are finding that even if you don't have record-breaking highs, as long as warm temperatures persist you can get record-breaking melting because of positive feedback mechanisms," said Professor Tedesco, who directs CCNY's Cryospheric Processes Laboratory and also serves on CUNY Graduate Center doctoral faculty.

Professor Tedesco and his team collected data for the analysis this past summer during a four-week expedition to the Jakobshavn Isbræ glacier in western Greenland. Their arrival preceded the onset of the melt season.

Combining data gathered on the ground with microwave satellite recordings and the output from a model of the ice sheet, he and graduate student Patrick Alexander found a near-record loss of snow and ice this year. The extensive melting continued even without last year's record highs. more

A Rise in Fungal Diseases is Taking Growing Toll on Wildlife

On the southeastern outskirts of Washington, D.C., inside the Smithsonian Institution’s cavernous Museum Support Center, one can see some frogs that no longer exist. Alcohol-filled glass jars hold preserved specimens of Incilius periglenes, the Monte Verde golden toad; the Honduran frog Craugastor chrysozetetes, which in life was olive-brown with purple palms and soles; its Costa Rican cousin, Craugastor escoces; and Atelopus ignescens, a black toad not seen in the wild for decades.

All of these extinct species are likely victims of the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which attacks the outer skin layers of amphibians, disrupting their water and electrolyte intake so severely that infected animals can die of cardiac arrest. The fungus, known familiarly as Bd, has been found in more than 500 species of amphibians in 54 countries to date, most recently in Asia. Some areas of Central America have lost more than 40 percent of their amphibian species to Bd infection.

Karen Lips, a University of Maryland herpetologist who has watched Bd march through Central American amphibian populations for almost 20 years, says no amphibian is safe: “We live in a Bd world now,” she says. more

Biggest-ever jump seen in global warming gases

The global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide jumped last year by the biggest amount on record, the U.S. Department of Energy calculated, a sign of how feeble the world's efforts are at slowing man-made global warming.

The new figures for 2010 mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst-case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago.

"The more we talk about the need to control emissions, the more they are growing," said John Reilly, co-director of MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

The world pumped about 564 million more tons of carbon into the air in 2010 than it did in 2009. That's an increase of 6%. That amount of extra pollution eclipses the individual emissions of all but three countries — China, the United States and India, the world's top producers of greenhouse gases.

It is a "monster" increase that is unheard of, said Gregg Marland, a professor of geology at Appalachian State University, who has helped calculate Department of Energy figures in the past.

Extra pollution in China and the U.S. accounts for more than half of the increase in emissions last year, Marland said. India and China are huge users of coal. Burning coal is the biggest carbon source worldwide and emissions from that jumped nearly 8% in 2010.

"It's a big jump," said Tom Boden, director of the Energy Department's Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at Oak Ridge National Lab. "From an emissions standpoint, the global financial crisis seems to be over." source

Eastern U.S. Forests Not Keeping Pace With Climate Change, Large Study Finds

More than half of eastern U.S. tree species examined in a massive new Duke University-led study aren't adapting to climate change as quickly or consistently as predicted.

"Many models have suggested that trees will migrate rapidly to higher latitudes and elevations in response to warming temperatures, but evidence for a consistent, climate-driven northward migration is essentially absent in this large analysis," says James S. Clark, H.L. Blomquist Professor of Environment at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

Nearly 59 percent of the species examined by Clark and his colleagues showed signs that their geographic ranges are contracting from both the north and south.

Fewer species -- only about 21 percent -- appeared to be shifting northward as predicted. About 16 percent seemed to be advancing southward, and around 4 percent appeared to be expanding in both directions. more

COMING CRISIS ALERT: Increased chance of El Hierro Eruption -- November 12, 2011

UPDATE: November 14, 2011, 1035am EST: With a decrease in the size and frequency of quakes on El Hierro, as well as a lack of information regarding the worsening of C02 levels, the alert has been lifted.

ALERT AREA AND DURATION:


El Hierro, Canary Islands, until November 15, 2011, midnight EST.

EVENT:

There is now an increased chance of eruption in the North of El Hierro.

Co2 has reached 1481 + / - 37 tonnes per day, an amount equivalent to 4.35 times the normal average value considered for the diffuse emission of CO2 for the island.

The 4.6 magnitude quake was the largest earthquake to hit El Hierro since the swarm of earthquakes started, a swarm which has now reached over 11,500 earthquake since July 2011.

National Geographic Institute researchers have discovered that the increased ground deformation during the past 4 days has been accompanied by an increased magnitude in the seismic activity, which could be an indication of a new influx of magma in the North and could possibly lead to a new Eruption.

Alert for La Restinga remains on Red.

Alert for the rest of the Island remains on Yellow,


EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS (as issued by the government through colour categorization):

Red alert level instructions in case of evacuation:

1) Stay calm, avoiding situations of fear and panic.
2) Call 1-1-2 Emergency
3) In case of evacuation, the authorities shall establish the most appropriate evacuation routes and the optimal venue for the population. This will be announced via Media. In any case it is better to know in advance and know the emergency plan.
4) Institutions, buildings and schools should have in their self-protection plan recommendations concerning volcanic risk.
5) Before leaving home be sure to take your luggage with personal items and above all, essential medication and personal documents and housing
6) Disconnect electricity, water and gas.
7) Listen to the radio the official reports on volcanic activity.
8) Avoid approaching areas considered at risk, can be toxic gases, ash is abrasive, the wind can blow hot slag at any time the volcano may change their behavior.

Actions to be taken in case of a scenario of ash:

1) When the ashes are falling close doors, windows and all ventilation in the house (chimney, heating, air conditioners, etc..) To prevent ash from entering the home.
2) Do not stay in open areas, keep children from playing outside and avoid exercise.
3) Take special care for people with respiratory problems or elderly.
4) Avoid going out and if you do to prevent respiratory problems use dust masks can also use towel or tissue moistened with water, and vision with glasses pretéjase type swimmer, use long sleeves will reduce contact with the skin.
5) If a great amount of ash falls, do not drive to avoid accidents due to poor visibility.If you are caught by the rain of ash on the car. Stay in it with the windows closed.
6) Wash your eyes, nose and face with homemade saline solution by adding a teaspoon of salt in a liter of boiled water.
7) Keep covered water tanks and cisterns.
8) Keep the ashes in contact with food. Wash fruits and vegetables. Do not eat outdoors.

If you live on the Canary Islands, please keep close tabs on governmental emergency instructions that may be issued on short notice. Stay close to a TV or radio.

Should an tsunami alert be issued, head immediately for higher ground. Do not pack. Do not wait. Do not ponder over whether it’s necessary to evacuate; just move.

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake EASTERN TURKEY - 12th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck Eastern Turkey at a depth of just 19 km (12.7 miles), the quake hit at 18:20:02 UTC Saturday 12th November 2011.
The epicenter was 25 km ( 15.5) Northwest of Van, Turkey
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

El Hierro Scientists admit that the current average of CO2 over El Hierro is 4.35 times above the normal Average

Scientists at the Institute of Technology and Renewable Energies (ITER), an agency of the Cabildo of Tenerife and now form part of volcanological Institute of the Canaries, have established that from July more diffuse flux measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) in El Hierro through numerous scientific campaigns on diffuse volcanic gas emissions that have materialized over the entire surface of the island.


To date, the results reflect the record of an upward trend of the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere by the volcano of the coast of El Hierro has reached 1481 + / - 37 tonnes per day, an amount equivalent to 4.35 times the normal average value considered for the diffuse emission of CO2 for the island.

The purpose of these scientific surveys is to assess spatio-temporal variations of the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by the volcanic system of El Hierro during the recent earthquake-volcanic crisis.

These scientific surveys have failed to materialize due to Makavol project 'Strengthening of R & D + i + d to contribute to the reduction of volcanic risk in the Macaronesia (MAC/3/C161)', which is being co-financed by transnational cooperation program of the European Union Madeira-Canary-Azores (MAC 2007-2013) and the collaboration of the Cabildo of Tenerife and El Hierro.

The reasons for realizing this type of scientific stem from the inability to obtain such information through permanent instrumental networks, to be absolutely convinced that the gases are the driving force of volcanic eruptions and the importance of carbon dioxide in programs for volcanic surveillance, since it is the second major component of volcanic gases after water vapor and its low solubility in molten-magma-silicitados, causing the carbon dioxide exhaust systems ease volcanic depths. Source

4.0 Magnitude Earthquake EASTERN TURKEY - 12th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.0 earthquake has struck Eastern Turkey at a depth of 20 km 12.4 miles), the quake hit at 17:05:21 UTC Saturday 12th November 2011.
The epicenter was 21 km ( 12.7 miles) Northeast of Van, Turkey
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Suicide and gang killing cast shadow over US Occupy movement

Two deaths have struck at the heart of the Occupy protest movement. A war veteran has killed himself at the Burlington encampment, while a young man was gunned down near the activists’ camp in Oakland.

The tragedy in Burlington happened on Thursday afternoon. The 35-year-old veteran, believed to be called Josh, shot himself in the head in one of the tents, according to local media reports. He was still alive when the police took him to hospital, but died from the wound several hours later.

Following the incident, the city authorities closed off half of the City Hall Park and ordered all camping there halted. This resulted in clashes between the protesters and the police on Thursday night.

Meanwhile in Oakland, a young man was shot dead in the evening near the Occupy encampment outside City Hall. After being rushed away in an ambulance, he was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

Protesters, who have just marked their movement’s one-month anniversary, say the death was not related to Occupy Oakland. Rather, the man was killed in a fight between two local gangs.

The victim, whose name has not been released, was reportedly beaten up earlier on Wednesday and came back with his friends on Thursday. Witnesses say they heard between four and six gunshots fired and saw several young men flee the scene. more

Turkey quake caught on CCTV



Security cameras in the Turkish city of Van have captured the dramatic moments when a 5.7 magnitude earthquake struck on Wednesday. At least 17 people were killed as two hotels collapsed, and 28 have been pulled from the rubble alive.

­Relatives of missing people remained at the scene throughout the night despite cold weather, as rescuers from nearby cities provided hot drinks, AP reports.

"We are not receiving any proof that there are still people alive following the latest listening, but we are still working as if there are survivors underneath the wreckage,” AP quoted senior disaster management official Aksit Dayi as saying. “We are working with the layer removal system and have now reached the third floor."

Turkish authorities are planning to finish rescue work by the end of today.

As the tremor hit, lights went off and CCTV footage shows people running from buildings, as gigantic clouds of smoke covered the street.

The same Turkish province suffered another deadly earthquake last month, that killed more than 600 people. source

Fukushima, Japan update 11/10/11

Donald Rudolph, 18, charged with killing his mother, his sister and his mother's boyfriend in house massacre in Massachusetts - 12th Nov 2011

A teenager has been charged with killing his mother, his mother's boyfriend and his sister.

Donald Rudolph, 18, of Weymouth, Massachusetts, was arrested after police discovered a gruesome scene at his mother's home.

Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey said on Friday that police found the bodies after a neighbour called and said there was suspicious activity at the house just after 8pm on Thursday.

When police arrived they allegedly saw the suspect crawling out of a basement window, WHDH-TV reports. Read More


Penn State Bomb Threat! FBI called in as tens of thousands arrive for first game after sex abuse scandal that rocked college

Penn State was on alert today as the FBI was called in to investigate a possible bomb threat at the football stadium after the athletic program was plagued with scandal following sex abuse charges by one of the team's former coaches.

Police and FBI were told of a bomb threat to the famed Beaver Stadium Friday night, but extensive searches prompted them to give an 'all clear' order.

The caller is still unknown, but given the heightened tensions surrounding the football program at the school, officials are not taking any chances.

Two sweeps with bomb sniffing dogs were done, both coming up empty.

Jerry Sandusky, the former defensive line coach who allegedly sexually assaulted a number of boys during his tenure, was also the target of violence as someone threw a cinder block at his house Thursday night.

The school is attempting to move forward as normal with their game against Nebraska on Saturday, with many hoping it will be part pep rally, part cleansing. Read More

800 rare and endangered giant snails frozen to death because of a faulty temperature gauge - 12th Nov 2011

A faulty temperature gauge was today blamed for 800 rare giant snails being accidentally frozen to death.

Staff at New Zealand's conservation centre in Hokitika were said to be 'very upset' over the incident.

The endangered Powelliphanta land snails, which measure 9cm across, had been rescued from an area earmarked for coal mining.

They were kept in a temperature-controlled room run by the Department of Conservation, but the technical glitch sent temperatures plunging below freezing.

The snails were among 6,000 taken from the Stockton Plateau on South Island several years ago when the area was earmarked for coal mining, the BBC reported.

About 4,000 of them have already been relocated to new habitats.

The conservancy's technical support manager, John Lyall, said a temperature monitor in one of three containers failed, making the room colder than the snails could stand.

The incident had been 'very upsetting' for staff, who were committed to the care of the snails, he said. Read More

Russia's Mars dream ends, and now a toxic nightmare begins as its crippled fuel-filled probe heads back down to earth - 12th Nov 2011

Russia's space agency has all but given up hope of saving a £100million spacecraft that was bound for Mars but conked out shortly after launch.

Engineers had three days to fix a problem that caused the Phobos-Grunt probe to shut down before batteries aboard the craft died for good.

The engines that were supposed to propel it on its way to the red planet failed to ignite, and any attempts to correct the failure seemed doomed when scientists admitted that they couldn't even establish communications with the craft.

Now that the deadline has come and gone, Phobos-Grunt will run out of battery life and begin a decaying orbit around the Earth until it - and the 12 tons of dangerous fuel it is carrying - makes an unwelcome and uncontrolled return to the surface.

Roscosmos spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov said efforts to communicate with the unmanned Phobos-Grunt hadn't brought any results. Read More

4.2 Magnitude Earthquake EASTERN TURKEY - 12th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.2 earthquake has struck Eastern Turkey at a depth of just 0.5 km (poorly constrained), the quake hit at 14:50:16 UTC Saturday 12th November 2011.
The epicenter was 15 km ( 9.3) East of Ercis, Turkey
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

5.0 Magnitude Earthquake OFFSHORE SUCRE, VENEZUELA - 12th Nov 2011

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck offshore Sucre, Venuzuela at a depth of 81.9 km (50.9 miles), the quake hit at 12:52:02 UTC Saturday 12th November 2011.
The epicenter was 31 km ( 19 miles) Northwest of Guiria, Venezuela
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time