Saturday, November 19, 2011

Whales in the desert: Fossil bonanza poses mystery - 19th Nov 2011

More than 2 million years ago, scores of whales congregating off the Pacific Coast of South America mysteriously met their end.

Maybe they became disoriented and beached themselves. Maybe they were trapped in a lagoon by a landslide or a storm. Maybe they died there over a period of a few millennia. But somehow, they ended up right next to one another, many just meters (yards) apart, entombed as the shallow sea floor was driven upward by geological forces and transformed into the driest place on the planet.

Today, they have emerged again atop a desert hill more than a kilometer (half a mile) from the surf, where researchers have begun to unearth one of the world's best-preserved graveyards of prehistoric whales.

Chilean scientists together with researchers from the Smithsonian Institution are studying how these whales, many of the them the size of buses, wound up in the same corner of the Atacama Desert.

"That's the top question," said Mario Suarez, director of the Paleontological Museum in the nearby town of Caldera, about 700 kilometers (440 miles) north of Santiago, the Chilean capital.

Experts say other groups of prehistoric whales have been found together in Peru and Egypt, but the Chilean fossils stand out for their staggering number and beautifully preserved bones. More than 75 whales have been discovered so far - including more than 20 perfectly intact skeletons. Read More

24 people killed during clashes in Syria, rights group says - 19th Nov 2011

At least 24 people were killed in cities across Syria during a government crackdown Saturday against those in opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, according to a U.K.-based human rights group.

Gunfire and explosions could be heard in the western Syrian city of Homs, as residents contended with fuel shortages and power outages throughout the day, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

CNN cannot independently confirm that account and the Syrian government was not immediately available for comment.

The clashes come just ahead of a Saturday deadline set by the 22-member Arab League to put forth a peace plan meant to stem violence against protesters which has resulted in months of bloodshed.

Earlier this week, Syria accepted "in principle" the alliance's plan to permit observers into the country to verify whether the regime has taken measures to protect civilians, a senior Arab diplomat said Friday. Read More

Police pepper spray students staging peaceful sitdown Occupy protest - 19th Nov 2011

A shocking videotape of police forcefully pepper spraying a group of students staging a sit down protest has emerged.

Footage of the tense standoff between police and Occupy demonstrators at the University of California, Davis, shows an officer using pepper spray on a group of protesters who appear to be sitting passively on the ground with their arms interlocked.

Witnesses watched in horror as police moved in on more than a dozen tents erected in the campus quad drenching demonstrators with the burning yellow spray and arresting 10 people, nine of them students. Read More


3.9 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA - 19th Nov 2011

A magnitude 3.9 earthquake has struck Southern California at a depth of 6.1 km (3.8 miles), the quake hit at 20:32:21 UTC Saturday 19th November 2011.
The epicenter was 9 km ( 6 miles) East of Borrego Springs, California
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

52-vehicle crash on German motoway, 3 Killed and further 35 Injured - 19th Nov 2011

Three people were killed and 35 injured in a massive pile-up collision on a fog-covered highway in western Germany, police said.

The crash involved 52 vehicles and occurred on Friday night near the city of Muenster after fog settled over the stretch of autobahn (highway).

Experts are investigating details of the accident, which drew hundreds of emergency workers to the scene. A stretch of highway nearly 6 miles long was closed.

Fourteen people were taken to nearby hospitals and 21 people suffered from minor injuries. It is not known exactly what caused the accident.

In a separate accident, five people were killed and two severely injured in a head-on car collision in the western city of Aachen early on Saturday.

Police said the likely cause of the accident was a speeding motorist. Read More


5.1 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 19th Nov 2011

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 6 km (3.7 miles), the quake hit at 19:27:34 UTC Saturday 19th November 2011.
The epicenter was 92 km ( 57 miles) ESE of Tokyo, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake CENTRAL EAST PACIFIC RISE - 19th Nov 2011

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck the Central East Pacific Rise at a depth of 10.8 km (6.7 miles), the quake hit at 19:02:32 UTC Saturday 19th November 2011.
The epicenter was 1612 km ( 1001 miles) WSW of Puerto Villamil, Isabela, Galapagos
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Nuclear Attack simulation is carried out on the Paris Metro - 19th Nov 2011

They could be scenes from a disaster film with rescuers donning futuristic gas marks and carrying survivors to safety.

But these pictures show an exercise simulating a nuclear, biological and chemical attack at La Defense metro station, just west of Paris.

Rescue workers checked on volunteers involved in the chaotic scenes as they evacuated the busy station located underneath the Grande Arche building in the business district of the city.

The dramatic pictures show people lying on the floor as if injured, with others clasping cloths to their mouth as if trying to avoid breathing in noxious fumes.

Rescuers wearing bright yellow gas masks and white protective boiler suits flooded the station as they carried passengers outside, and equipped others with their own gas masks.

Crews used specialist equipment as they dealt with victims as if they had been contaminated.

The exercise saw the rescuers using their training for nuclear, biological and chemical attacks.

The simulation comes after a report by the Institute of Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety who said in a 500-page report that safety measures in France's nuclear power plants must be strengthened immediately. Read More

Report: Russia warships to enter Syria waters in bid to stem foreign intervention

Russian warships are due to arrive at Syrian territorial waters, a Syrian news agency said on Thursday, indicating that the move represented a clear message to the West that Moscow would resist any foreign intervention in the country's civil unrest.

Also on Friday, a Syrian official said Damascus has agreed "in principle" to allow an Arab League observer mission into the country.

But the official said Friday that Syria was still studying the details. The official asked not to be named because the issue is so sensitive.

The Arab League suspended Syria earlier this week over its deadly crackdown on an eight-month-old uprising. The 22-member body has proposed sending hundreds of observers to the country to try to help end the bloodshed.

The report came a day after a draft resolution backed by Arab and European countries and the United States was submitted to the United Nations General Assembly, seeking to condemn human rights violations in the on-going violence in Syria. more

Retired police chief Ray Lewis arrested in full uniform at Occupy Wall Street demo after branding fellow officers 'obnoxious, arrogant and ignorant'

Sitting against a wall in full dress uniform with his hands cuffed behind him, this is former Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis being arrested during the Occupy Wall St protests.

The ex-cop was taking part in the demonstrations in New York when he was detained by fellow officers who put toughened plastic bands around his wrists and shoved him to the floor.

Startling footage posted on YouTube shows his uniform blending in with a dozen other officers - before they grab him and haul him away.

Earlier he had been seen walking around holding up a sign in the face of riot cops saying: ‘NYPD don’t be Wall St mercenaries’.

Mr Lewis sharply criticised the police and City Hall response to the protests.

He added that he would be back out on the streets as soon as he was released.

Until 2004 he was a captain in Philadelphia’s police department, one of the few in the US which can rival New York for size or complexity. more

Clinton says there could be civil war in Syria

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday Syria could slide into civil war but she did not foresee the global community intervening in the same way it did in Libya.

"I think there could be a civil war with a very determined and well-armed and eventually well-financed opposition that is, if not directed by, certainly influenced by defectors from the army," Clinton told NBC news in an interview in Indonesia, where she was attending a regional summit.

"We're already seeing that, something that we hate to see because we are in favor of a peaceful protest and a nonviolent opposition," she said.

Clinton said, however, that she saw no prospect for the kind of coordinated international intervention that occurred in Libya, where a NATO-led coalition won a U.N. mandate to mount air strikes in support of rebels fighting Muammar Gaddafi.

"There is no appetite for that kind of action vis-a-vis Syria," Clinton said, pointing to regional moves by the Arab League and Turkey as key to persuading Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to halt the violence against civilians. more

The 'forever singles': Professional women who shun families -- Good for society?

Kim Williams is excitedly packing her bags for the trip of a lifetime. It’s not, she admits, the kind of holiday that would be everyone’s cup of tea — an expensive bird-watching trip to the Gambia led by TV wildlife expert Chris Packham.

But that’s irrelevant to Kim: all that matters to her is that the holiday is to her taste. She doesn’t need her choice rubber-stamped by anyone else, least of all by a man.

‘I’m crazy about animals and I’ve always wanted to go on a trip like this,’ explains Kim, 34. ‘I don’t need someone else’s blessing to do it, and I don’t need some boyfriend moaning that he doesn’t want to go, or that I’m leaving him on his own for a couple of weeks. I’m doing what I want to do, and I have no intention of changing tack.’ more

WMD deja-vu: Iran replaces Iraq



America’s whipping up hysteria over the Iranian nuclear program, with the same figures that used to accuse Iraq of possessing chemical and nuclear weapons now repeating themselves with frenetic conviction.

­Iran has long been a hot topic in the West and anti-Iranian sentiments are at a high right now, so – with a little help of some dubious “expert” analysis – it could follow in Iraq's footsteps.

Many remember Senator John McCain giggling, “Bomb Iran… bomb, bomb, bomb…”

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney also signed in, saying “The gravest threat that America and the world faces and faced is a nuclear Iran.”

But it has heated up since last week's report from the UN’s nuclear watchdog IAEA, sparking fears Iran was pursuing atomic weapons. more

As U.S. Looks to Asia, It Sees China Everywhere

The last time the remote Australian city of Darwin played a significant role in American military planning was during the early days of World War II, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur used the port as the base for his campaign to reclaim the Pacific from the Japanese.

So it was with considerable symbolism that President Obama arrived on Wednesday in Canberra, Australia’s capital, for a trip that will include an announcement that the United States plans to use Darwin as a new center of operations in Asia as it seeks to reassert itself in the region and grapple with China’s rise.

The United States is taking some first steps — bold in rhetoric, still mostly modest in practice — to prove to its Asian allies that it intends to remain a crucial military and economic power in the region as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan draw to a close. The new Australian base, coming after decades in which the Pentagon has been slowly but steadily reducing its troop presence in Asia, puts American planes and ships closer to trading corridors in the South China Sea, where some traditional American allies worry that China is trying to flex its military muscle.

Over the past year and a half, China has moved to assert territorial claims in the resource-rich but hotly contested waters near the Philippines and Vietnam. Many of the region’s smaller countries have asked Washington to re-engage in the region as a counterweight.

“The U.S. needs to show the Chinese that they still have the power to overwhelm them, that they still can prevail if something really wrong happens,” said Huang Jing, a foreign affairs analyst and visiting professor at the National University of Singapore. “It’s a hedging policy.”

For the United States, the more muscular approach toward China has far-reaching implications, not just geopolitically but also economically. With Republicans at home calling for punitive measures against China for its currency and trade practices, Mr. Obama wants to appear strong in pressing Beijing. He made headway on an ambitious American plan to create a Pacific free trade zone, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that, for now, would not include China. more

My name is Bond, Scary Bond

The list of EU countries causing investors concerns is growing as their bond yields goes up. Besides the usual suspects Spain and Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria saw their bond yields on the rise.

­French 10-year bond yields have been rising sharply in the last few weeks – rising to 3.7%. Dutch bonds reached 2.4 percent and Belgian ones went up to 4.9%, stretching the spread with the benchmark German 10 year bond. Spain's government bond yields are now above 6% for the first time in three months. Italian 10-year bonds slipped above 7% only to fall in anticipation of the announcement of the country’s new cabinet.
The news contributed to the problem of the Eurozone and fostering uncertainty in the markets.
Investors believe the European crisis can not be solved only by crisis management, and eventually the problem will only accumulate, says Anna Bodrova, analyst at InvestCafe.

"Tomorrow France, which has the highest credit rating, will hold a bond auction, but judging by the reactions from the market players the profitability of French bond is set to fly. Even today, the spread between German and French bonds had reached 189 basis points, which is regarded as a signal of excessive risks.”

Asian markets are also plunging on Wednesday with Nikkei dropping 0.82% and the Hang Sang sliding 2.72% on the back of news from Europe, with low volumes leading to choppy action.

Dmitri Kuleshov, Deputy Head of analytical department of IC Russ-Invest, says global markets fluctuate on news from vulnerable countries. “The negative trend on the markets is led by a set the rumors about a possible downgrade of France ratings along with the latest U.S. Federal Reserve recommendation to raise levels of security on mortgage bonds for prime dealers. Moreover, there is a threat of $100 billion high-risk loans insolvency in China.” more

Higher radiation detected downstream in Fukushima

Surveys by Japan's Environment Ministry show that downstream radiation levels have risen in some rivers in Fukushima Prefecture.

The ministry has been monitoring radiation levels in rivers near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to assess the impact of the accident there.

Officials took sand samples from 2 rivers in September.

In northern Fukushima Prefecture, the upstream radioactive cesium levels were 3,200 becquerels per kilogram in the Niida River in a district of Iitate Village.

The downstream levels of the same river in an area of Soma City were 13,000 becquerels.

The upstream levels had fallen to one-fifth of those observed in May, but the downstream measurements had tripled.

Cesium levels near the mouth of the Mano River in another part of Soma City had doubled from May.

Kinki University Professor Hideo Yamazaki says radioactive substances in riverbed sands are probably moving downstream, and radiation levels should be monitored near river mouths. more

Radioactive cesium may have reached Hokkaido: Japan

A team of researchers says radioactive cesium discharged from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant may have contaminated soil in Hokkaido and areas of western Japan more than 500 kilometers from the plant.

The international team, including researchers from Nagoya University, simulated the spread of radioactive materials. They combined global atmospheric patterns with nationwide radioactive measurements taken over one month from March 20th, 8 days after a hydrogen explosion at the Fukushima plant.

The researchers say the results suggested that some cesium-137 had reached the northernmost island of Hokkaido, and the Chugoku and Shikoku regions of western Japan.

They say the radioactive material may have accumulated in the soil due to rain.

Cesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years.

But the research team says the pollution is not high enough to require decontamination.

The radiation density per kilogram reached 250 becquerels in eastern Hokkaido, and 25 becquerels in mountainous areas of western Japan.

Nagoya University professor Tetsuzo Yasunari says the simulation suggested cesium had dispersed across a wide area. He called for a nationwide testing of soil, and warnings of hot spots where radiation levels are high. source

Will Ayatollah Khamenei eliminate the Iranian presidency?

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, one of the greatest failures of the country’s leadership has been the inability to make a promised transition from a monarchy to republican rule. In fact, since Ayatollah Ali Khamenei began his tenure as Supreme Leader twenty-two years ago, he has centralized power further in his own hands, creating what can be called a clerical monarchy.

Now, Khamenei may be completing the circle and entirely eliminating any notion of a “republic” by turning Iran into a fully blown theocratic and authoritarian state.

Last month, Khamenei made a short statement, which has sparked an intense debate. The 72-year-old Iranian leader hinted at the possibility of dissolving the post of president, one of only two institutions in which the populace has a say.

During a visit to Kermanshah, a western Iranian province, Khamenei announced, “In the country’s current political system, there is a president who is directly elected by the people. This is a good and an effective method. However, if someday in the distant future, it is decided that the parliamentary system is a better way to elect the head of the executive branch, there is nothing wrong with changing the current mechanism.”

So why has the Supreme Leader decided to suggest eliminating the position of the presidency in Iran? What does he have to gain from this dramatic political shift? The most obvious explanation is his determination not to repeat the disputed 2009 election and its aftermath. Elections in Iran historically have offered the population rare opportunities to express their grievances with the regime. The protests in 2009 and 2010, which drew millions of Iranians to the streets, not only seriously threatened Khamenei’s ability to govern, but exposed his unpopularity. more

Coming Crisis Report: Animal Deaths, Bee Attacks -- Is the Earth Changing?

"Spend £27,000 on university? No, thank you..."

When I tell people I’m not going to university, I am often met with shock and pity. I have the qualifications – three A-levels, including two As – but not the inclination.

This autumn, I have watched each and every one of my friends leave home for higher education. My entire school life had been based on preparing me for to university. In Year Seven, my teachers would hold up failed maths exams and bellow, “You will never go to university if you carry on like this”. In sixth form, I had two classes a week devoted solely to my Ucas application; and after I’d been suspended for a second time, the headmaster put his head in his hands and sighed, “Well, there’s always secretarial college”.

So higher education of some kind was not an option, it was a given. Now, when people find out that I am not participating in this rite of passage, they tend to assume that I am either about to come into a huge amount of money or that I failed my A-levels. Neither of which is the case: I just don’t want to go.

I became disillusioned with the idea of university when I realised that every one of my friends was applying. Not just the clever ones, or those who wanted to carry on studying: all of them – including those who “simply couldn’t miss out on freshers’ week”.

But the intensive competition for truly desirable courses meant the majority had to settle for subjects of minimal interest. My two best friends, neither of whom is entirely unintelligent, both applied to relatively competitive universities because of pushy parents and the assumption that university is everything. They have ended up studying Construction Management and Sports Performance Studies. more

Extra 150,000 foreign workers in Britain as unemployment rises

The number of foreign workers employed in the UK has risen by almost 150,000 even as the number of British people with jobs fell.

Even as the number of jobless people rose to its highest in nearly 20 years, employment among foreign citizens rose by more than 6 per cent.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that unemployment was 2.62 million in the three months to September.

Youth unemployment passed 1 million, prompting warnings of a “lost generation” of young Britons.

But even as overall unemployment rose, foreign workers continued to prosper.

The number of non-UK nationals in British employment was 2.56 million, up 147,000 from the same period year earlier. more

Game shares collapse 40%, warns about tough Christmas -- Another industry about to topple?

The share price fell 40pc to 11.42p in early trading. Two years ago the shares were at ten times that level.

The company, which is the country's biggest specialist video games retailer, said on Wednesday it had been hit by not just a cyclical fall in the video games market, but also terrible conditions on the high street.

Analysts were alarmed at the company's trading statement, which warned that sales would be considerably lower than expected and that the company's profit margins would be hit harder than previously forecast.

Ian Shepherd, the chief executive, said seven weeks ago that he was confident that the "embarrassment of riches" of new games in September, October and November would help the company hit all its forecasts. These included Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, FIFA 12 and Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

However, this morning he said that though sales of the games had initially performed well, with the company taking market share off rivals, they had tailed off in a worrying fashion, leading him to predict that the crucial few weeks before Christmas would see a sales fall. more

U.S. boosts estimate of auto bailout losses to $23.6B

The Treasury Department dramatically boosted its estimate of losses from its $85 billion auto industry bailout by more than $9 billion in the face of General Motors Co.'s steep stock decline.

In its monthly report to Congress, the Treasury Department now says it expects to lose $23.6 billion, up from its previous estimate of $14.33 billion.

The Treasury now pegs the cost of the bailout of GM, Chrysler Group LLC and the auto finance companies at $79.6 billion. It no longer includes $5 billion it set aside to guarantee payments to auto suppliers in 2009.

The big increase is a reflection of the sharp decline in the value of GM's share price.

The current estimate of losses is based on GM's Sept. 30 closing price of $20.18, down one-third over the previous quarterly price.

GM's stock closed Monday at $22.99, up 2 percent. The government won't reassess the estimate of the costs until Dec. 30.

The government has recovered $23.2 billion of its $49.5 billion GM bailout, and cut its stake in the company from 61 percent to 26.5 percent. But it has been forced to put on hold the sale of its remaining 500 million shares of stock.

The new estimate also hikes the overall cost of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program costs to taxpayers. TARP is the emergency program approved by Congress in late 2008 at the height of the financial crisis.

In total, the government used $425 billion to bailout banks, insurance companies and automakers, and provided $45 billion in housing program assistance.

The government now expects to lose $57.33 billion, including the full cost of the housing program, up from $36.7 billion. The new estimate means the government doesn't believe it will make an overall profit on its bailouts. more

USS George H.W. Bush faces chronic toilet outages at sea: 7 billion dollars wasted on war

The U.S. Navy is confronting any number of strategic challenges as it seeks to rein in costs and cope with an aging fleet of ships and planes.

And, then, on a new ship, there’s the issue of the toilets.

The USS George H.W. Bush, built at a cost of $6.2 billion and deployed on its first combat mission only last spring, has experienced chronic plumbing problems for months, with the faltering of its vacuum-based system repeatedly leading to toilet outages.

Now, what was ostensibly a comical issue has turned into a quality-of-life issue, not to mention something of an Internet meme.

In the old days, perhaps no one would have been the wiser about a problem with the toilets, or “heads,” as they’re known aboard Navy vessels. Aircraft carriers, after all, would go to sea for months at a time and families would be lucky to get a couple of letters from their sailor.

But in the Internet era, what happens at sea does not stay at sea.

Last week, the mother of a sailor aboard the Bush, a Norfolk-based carrier, fired off a post on her blog, complaining that the toilet problem had persisted because the vacuum system was malfunctioning. The independent Navy Times picked up on the story, and detailed reports of some sailors searching for upwards of an hour for a functioning toilet, plus some other very unpleasant business.

Since then, the Navy has acknowledged the problems but insisted they are being caused primarily by sailors flushing what shouldn’t be flushed: shirts, underwear, eggs, cutlery, among other items. more

The many reasons to bring down Libya

Mexican journalists risk all to report on drug war

Three years after the killing of Mexican journalist Armando Rodriguez, his colleagues said they are more determined than ever to write about the nation's drug cartels despite the risks.

"Those who ordered the killing of Armando were wrong because those who are left are more seasoned and we are working," said Luz del Carmen Sosa, a reporter for El Diario de Juarez newspaper who took over Rodriguez's crime beat after his death. "Those who believed we were going to take step back, they were wrong."

On November 13, 2008, Rodriguez -- called "El Choco" by his colleagues because of his chocolate skin tone -- was about to take his two young daughters to school when a man approached the garage of his house and fired 11 shots into his chest. His daughters, one of whom witnessed the attack, have not spoken publicly since the incident and did not attend a memorial event for their father on Sunday. Rodriguez's wife declined an interview request from CNN.

His colleagues believe he was targeted because of his coverage of drug cartels in the border town of Ciudad Juarez. more

Abuse of Lebanese domestic workers so bad some countries forbid citizens to work there -- one domestic worker dies in Lebanon *every week*

"Moon Rising", a documentary by Jose Escamilla -- Is NASA suppressing information? Fact or fiction?

Jobs market 'slow, painful contraction' predicted

The UK labour market faces a "slow, painful contraction" with firms delaying recruitment of more staff, a key report suggests.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) predicted the jobs market would worsen in the medium term amid global economic "turmoil".

Its quarterly survey of 1,000 employers found firms' future hiring plans dwarfed by likely public sector losses.

A separate Barnardo's report said jobless teenagers were being "ignored".

It found employers adopting a "wait and see" policy towards the economy.

This involved reduced recruitment as well as fewer redundancies.

The number of UK employers planning to outsource work overseas or hire migrant workers had also fallen substantially in the last three months, the survey found.

The CIPD said the employment situation could worsen if the eurozone crisis thrust the world back into recession. more

‘US is a declining power and has trouble adjusting’



The APEC summit in Honolulu revealed sharp divisions between the US and China, US growing critical over Beijing's control of the value of the Yuan. But experts believe it could take over as the world's reserve currency if China can meet expectations.

­CEO of Country Risk Solutions Daniel Wagner has told RT that each passing APEC forum and other events on the global stage clearly show that China is really in the driver’s seat in many respects.

“This is coming at an awkward times for the U.S., because it is clearly a declining power at the same time it is having trouble adjusting to what that means,” he told RT. “At the same time China is having a bit of a challenge adjusting to what it means to be a truly global player. And it had in the past not really lived up to some of the expectations of some other of the world powers and it is finding its own footing in that regard.”

“I think what we are seeing is a real paradigm shift now,” he went on. “Whether it is with one of the BRICS countries, or with Indonesia, with South Africa , with some of the lesser known emerging global powers. They all are having a difficult time deciding exactly how they should enter the world stage, what role they can play there and how they can have the most impact.”

Commenting about the eurozone debt crisis and China’s ability to step in and save the Euro, Daniel Wagner gave his reasons why Beijing is not in a hurry to hand over the cash.

“China is being very cautious and very sensible in taking its time before reacting, simply not wanting to throw good money after bad,” he said. “They question – Why should we do that? You need to give us a good reason why we should throw you a lifeline. They realize they have a great opportunity to do so and at the same time they really don’t want to do so, if they are simply going to throw their money away.” more

Occupy Crackdown: Beginning of the End for Protests?

The tension is mounting outside Oakland's City Hall after police issued three eviction notices to anti-Wall Street protesters over the weekend, telling demonstrators they do not have the right to camp overnight.

Still, 150 tents remained today in Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Though authorities have not said when or if they plan to raid the encampment, protesters are bracing for a crackdown when the sun goes down.

Oakland police issued similar warnings to Occupy Oakland before raiding the campsite on Oct. 25. More than 80 protesters were arrested and the clashes turned violent. Police used tear gas and bean bags, seriously injuring an Iraq war veteran in the process. He was reportedly released from the hospital, but his friends say he still has trouble speaking.

But the movement that garnered support around the country, is now facing backlash from city governments nationwide.

Police in many cities say they have run out of patience and officials are raising concerns about what they call unsanitary conditions, even a growing number of crimes at some camps. more

"Torture will not win the Mexican drug war" -- What will?

In its all-out offensive against the powerful crime syndicates that run the drug trade, Mexico has made some impressive strides, including the capture of the heads of almost every major cartel. But it has also made some mistakes.

In facing down a brutal and ruthless enemy, President Felipe Calderon was justified in taking very strong steps against the cartels. With the local police largely compromised, Mr. Calderon chose to deploy 50,000 soldiers, as well as members of the Navy and federal and state police, to battle the cartels. More than 46,000 people have died of drug-related violence since 2006.

While soldiers are only deployed at the request of the state governments, this strategy has nonetheless had some negative consequences. Some elements within the military now stand accused of a pervasive pattern of human-rights abuses against civilians. A report by Human Rights Watch documents more than 170 cases of torture – including beatings and electric shocks – committed by the military to extract information about organized crime; 39 disappearances that suggest the involvement of security forces; and evidence of 24 extrajudicial killings.

While complaints against the military mount, there have been few credible prosecutions. Of the 1,615 investigations opened in the five states most affected by the drug violence since 2007, not one soldier has been convicted. (Of course, many cases are still ongoing, and may well result in convictions.) more

US vs. China: Who rules?



As politicians and financiers bring their different perspectives to the APEC summit in Honolulu, a single idea is proving a unifying force. With global economic power shifting eastwards, the chorus of anti-China rhetoric is growing ever louder.

­If there is one US state where the Occupy movement has little chance, it is probably Hawaii. Despite a high concentration of politicians and Wall Street bigwigs mingling at the APEC summit, the only place people are willing to occupy en masse here are the beaches. With one exception. The few protesters allowed in downtown Honolulu were speaking out against greed and social injustice. They were against economic inequality. They were against China.

Coincidentally or not, the mood on the podium was similarly hostile. Employing some of his sharpest language yet, US President Barack Obama threatened Beijing with punitive economic steps unless it started "playing by the rules." His political opponents were even more belligerent.

“I happen to think that the Communist Chinese government will end up on the ash heap of history if they do not change their virtues,” Rick Perry, Republican presidential candidate, said in the course of the debates.

“We have to have China understand that, like everybody else on the world stage, they have to play by the rules!” responded his rival for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney.

Rules, rules and again rules. As the country that has been ruling the roost for decades, the United States has never been shy of policing others. But as China’s GDP continues to grow at a rate of nine per cent a year, against two-and-a-half per cent growth in the US, the reprimand seems to be internally driven. more

UK schools: Teachers out, troops in



A UK government still reeling from major riots is planning to get tough on gang culture by deploying soldiers in the nation’s schools. While the plan’s authors believe discipline is key, critics say the boot camps will only alienate kids further.

­When the going gets tough, the tough get going – and army boot-camps are not the place to step out of line.

It is this culture of military self-control the government now wants to bring into schools to cure the lack of discipline it blames for the recent riots. So it is calling on the cavalry – well, retired soldiers – to swap the frontline for the front of a classroom.

The government is fast-tracking troops into teaching as a way, it says, to restore adult authority in the wake of last summer’s riots. It wants to provide more male role models, even giving teachers new powers to use physical force as a way to control disruptive pupils.

“It is not a bad thing for children to know where they stand,” says Affan Burki, an army captain and future headmaster of the Phoenix School. “If they step to the wrong side of the line, they will be punished accordingly. If they stay on the right side of the line, within the confines of the law, they will not be punished.”

It is a line few might dare cross with a teacher like Burki at the helm. He has been appointed headmaster at a new academy where every teacher will be a former soldier. Uniform inspections and military-style roll-calls will provide the polish on a strict routine. more

‘No responsible leader of Iran would dare not to have the bomb’



Despite the media buzz about a possible war between Israel and Iran, a military conflict between the two countries is unlikely, says Uri Avnery, Israeli peace activist and former parliament member.

America will not allow Israel attack Iran, even if the Israeli cabinet wants to, because Iran would perceive an Israeli attack as an American attack and respond accordingly, he told RT.

“Israel cannot conduct any major military operation without the prior consent of the United States. We need American arms, we need spare parts, we need ammunition. We need, if the war continues, support from America. America will not let us attack Iran,” the activist believes.

The hype over the possibility of war works in several ways, Avnery believes. It facilitates implementation of more international sanctions against Iran, which allows American and European leaders to show their voters that they are doing something about the problem. It puts leverage on Iran. And it helps the Israeli government draw public attention away from domestic social tension, which is a major threat to the cabinet. But the sanctions will not stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon.

“Sanctions may slow it down, but if a country decides to have a nuclear bomb for its own self-defense at any price, then sanctions will not help. Sanctions are just a pretext for the United States and Europe not to do anything,” he explained.

Iran does need to have an effective deterrent to guard against attack. However, the threat comes not from Israel, but rather from America, the activist points out. more

Lack of soap means illness, death for millions of children

It still makes Fatoma Dia's eyes widen whenever the Hilton hotel cleaning worker sees a bar of barely used soap on a bathroom counter.

"This," she says, picking it up with a gloved hand and dropping it in a brown bucket, "is valuable where I come from."

The 35-year-old grew up in a mountainous region of southern Sudan where soap can cost more than a day's wages. Because some in the region, could not wash, they got sick.

Across the globe, 2.4 billion people do not have access to clean sanitation, according to the World Health Organization. An estimated 1.5 million children die every year because their immune systems are not mature enough to battle diarrheal and respiratory diseases spread in contaminated environments.

Sicknesses related to contaminated water supplies and poor human hygiene tend to plague poorer regions in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South America, East Asia and the Caribbean. Water-borne illnesses such as cholera can hit countries suddenly, particularly in the wake of a natural disaster where there is little infrastructure previously in place to handle sustainable cleanup and recovery.

A recent example is Haiti. Hit by an earthquake in January 2009, many Haitians were forced to live in tent camps and use water that was contaminated. Incidents of cholera plagued the country, a problem that continues today. more

Iran may reconsider atomic watchdog cooperation as situation deteriorates



Iranian lawmakers want Tehran to reassess its cooperation with the U.N. atomic agency after the latter published what Iran calls a "politically motivated" report on its nuclear program, state-run Press TV reported

Ali Larijani, speaker of the parliament, said Sunday the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency was based on outdated information from the United States and Israel.

"I think we should seriously reconsider our cooperation," according parliament member Siamak Mareh Sedq, who said the negatives of IAEA membership outweigh positives.

"Anyone in his right mind will think twice before becoming a member of such an organization," lawmaker Mehdi Kouchakzadeh said.

Mohammad-Hassan Aboutorabi-Fard, vice speaker of the parliament, suggested a different approach.

"I think we must work with the IAEA. This way we can continue to prove that the agency has no independence," Aboutorabi-Fard said. "The opposite is also true; as a member we can help the agency revise its policies and become politically independent and effective as an international body." more

Urban farming promises to slash food miles: How long before it's rendered illegal or corporatized?

Food routinely travels across the planet by train, plane and ship, but are all these 'food miles' necessary? Urban farms could put a substantial amount of fresh produce on our tables without the long journeys.

Nowadays it's no surprise to find Californian lettuce in a New York grocer or New Zealand onions in a German supermarket.

A massive logistical operation swings into action every day in industrial societies, just to supply cities with food. Yet some say cities could be doing a lot more to feed themselves.

Volkmar Keuter of the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology in the German town of Oberhausen says cities are full of unused potential to grow food.

"You might have some kind of production going on underneath a roof. Certain industrial installations that produce heat could be used as a greenhouse in winter," he told Deutsche Welle.

"Or you might have office buildings. Offices often have large server rooms that produce heat as they cool the computers. That heat could be used as well." more

'Harmless' Xenon cloud is known to cause dramatic increase in lung cancer: Fukushima, Japan

Lasers to Shield Israeli Planes from Libyan Missiles

Israel is reportedly speeding up plans to put an anti-missile laser system on its commercial airplanes amid fears missing Libyan rockets may have fallen into the hands of Palestinian militants -- a security move that a U.S. airline official said would not be worth the cost for the American fleet.

An Israeli defense official said today all Israeli passenger planes would be outfitted with a laser-based system meant to "blind" heat-seeking missiles "within months," about a year ahead of schedule, according to reports by The Associated Press and Reuters.

Though the system has been in development since 2002, Israeli defense officials said its implementation was put on the fast track after reports emerged that thousands of heat-seeking, shoulder-fired missiles were left unguarded in Libyan weapons depots and subsequently looted during the chaos of the revolution. Last month Egyptian authorities told The Washington Post they had intercepted some missiles in smuggling tunnels between the Sinai Peninsula and the Palestinian territory of Gaza, just miles from the Israeli border. more

Ian Tuckley, Former SAS soldier facing jail for string of child rapes on girls as young as four - 19th Nov 2011

A former SAS soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan has been convicted of a string of horrific sex crimes against children.

Ian Tuckley, 32, from Hereford, was found guilty of abusing two young girls over a number of years.

The twice-divorced father of two, was convicted of 15 offences, including rape, following a trial lasting almost three weeks.

Jurors at Worcester Crown court found him guilty of raping and assaulting a girl aged between six and nine years old from 2006 to 2009.

He was also convicted of six counts of rape and four counts of indecent assault against another victim between 1996 and 2007, when the girl was aged between four and 15 years old.

Tuckley, of Farran Avenue, Credenhill, who served with the Royal Welsh Regiment and the SAS, lured one victim to his bedroom by promising to show her one of his guns before raping her, according to prosecutors.

On one occasion, he offered one of his two alleged victims sweets in exchange for sexual acts.

Tuckley was convicted alongside his brother-in-law, Martin Finney, from Walsall, West Midlands. Read More

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake ANDREANOF ISLANDS, ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, ALASKA - 19th Nov 2011

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck Andreanof Islands, Aleutian Islands, Alaska at a depth of 223.5 km (138.9 miles), the quake hit at 18:06:25 UTC Saturday 19th November 2011.
The epicenter was 100 km ( 62 miles) North of Atka, Alaska
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 19th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 56 km (34.8 miles), the quake hit at 17:36:57 UTC Saturday 19th November 2011.
The epicenter was 97 km ( 60 miles) ESE of Sendai, Honshu, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Meningitis claims lives of 12 infants in Mizoram, India - 19th Nov 2011

At least 12 infants have died due to meningitis during the past 45 days in Mizoram’s Saiha district bordering Myanmar, health officials on Saturday said.

Five infants below the age of one year died during November while seven infants died in October.

14 additional beds have been squeezed into the 50-bedded Saiha district hospitals in view of the rising number of patients, the officials said, adding even free clinics have been organised in the remotest villages to safe the infants.

The officials said the situation in the area might have been aggravated due to malnutrition among locals, especially among the infants. Source

Hague To Meet Syrian Rebel Leaders In London - 19th Nov 2011

Foreign Secretary William Hague is expected to meet with Syrian rebel leaders as Britain continues to pressure the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Talks will take place in London on Monday with representatives of the Syrian National Council and the National Co-ordination Committee for Democratic Change after months of behind-the-scenes diplomatic contact.

Meetings will also be held in Downing Street with Prime Minister David Cameron's advisers.

The Foreign Office also announced that Frances Guy, former ambassador to Beirut, has been appointed as a full-time envoy to lead work with exiled Syrian leaders.

A spokeswoman said: "We have been having regular contacts with a variety of figures in the Syrian opposition for several months. We are now intensifying these.

"The Foreign Secretary has appointed a senior foreign office official, Frances Guy, to lead this work and also intends to meet opposition representatives in the near future."

It comes amid heightened international pressure on Syria over the regime's brutal suppression of protests. Read More