Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tens of thousands of hardened criminals spared jail despite having 15 previous convictions - 25th Nov 2011

Tens of thousands of hardened criminals escaped jail last year – despite having more than 15 previous convictions.

Figures released by the Ministry of Justice reveal that serial offenders accounted for more than a third of the 294,000 cases ending in convictions in the adult courts last year.

Yet barely a third of those with more than 15 previous convictions were jailed. Of the 103,175 cases involving serial offenders just over 36,000 resulted in immediate custody.

In 4,579 cases offenders were released with a police caution despite their lengthy records. Almost 11,000 cases that reached court ended in a conditional discharge, with another 16,000 offenders being let off with a fine. Read More

Ghost Cities: Is China's Boom In Trouble? - 25th Nov 2011

China's "ghost cities" show that the country's economic boom could be more fragile than it appears.

Kangbashi is a showcase city, laid out spaciously on the grasslands of northern China.

It was dreamt up by the local secretary of the Communist Party as a monument to the country's new-found prosperity.

The place is dominated by impressive public buildings - a marble-clad library, a state-of-the-art theatre and a giant convention centre.

In the centre of town a 70m-high statue of two fighting horses looms over Genghis Khan Square.

The only thing missing is the people.

Kangbashi was built to house one million residents, but so far only 20,000 have moved in.

Acres of apartment complexes - many of them luxurious by Chinese standards - are deserted. Store fronts are boarded up. Read More

Synagogue Church of All Nations Churches Told Dying Patients They Were Cured, South London, England - 25th Nov 2011

At least six people have died in Britain after being told that they had been healed of HIV, and could stop taking their medication.

There is evidence that evangelical churches in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow are claiming to cure HIV through God.

We sent three undercover reporters into the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), which is based in Southwark, south London.

All of them told the pastors that they were HIV positive. All were told that they could be healed.

Once a month the church has a prayer line, where people from across Europe come to be cured of all kinds of illness.

At registration they have to hand over a doctor's letter as evidence of their condition

They are filmed giving before and after testimonies, which are put on SCOAN's website.

The healing process involves the pastor shouting, over the person being healed, for the devil to come out of their body, and spraying water in their face.

One of the pastors, Rachel Holmes, told our reporter, Shatila, who is a genuine HIV sufferer, they had a 100% success rate.

"We have many people that contract HIV. All are healed."

She said if symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhoea persist, it is actually a sign of the virus leaving the body. Read More

5.0 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE NORTH COAST OF PAPUA, INDONESIA - 24th Nov 2011

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck near the North Coast of Papua, Indonesia at a depth of 37.5 km (23.3 miles), the quake hit at 23:18:45 UTC Thursday 24th November 2011.
The epicenter was 74 km ( 45 miles) West of Jayapura, Papua, Indonesia
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake PANAY, PHILIPPINES - 24th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck Panay, Philippines at a depth of 64.6 km (40.1 miles), the quake hit at 21:42:31 UTC Thursday 24th November 2011.
The epicenter was 48 km ( 29 miles) WNW of Iloilo, Panay, Philippines
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake EL SALVADOR - 24th Nov 2011

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck El Salvador at a depth of 73.6 km (45.7 miles), the quake hit at 21:13:19 UTC Thursday 24th November 2011.
The epicenter was 31 km ( 19 miles) ESE of San Miguel, El Salvador
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

3.7 Magnitude Earthquake OKLAHOMA - 24th Nov 2011

A magnitude 3.7 earthquake has struck Oklahoma at a depth of 5.2 km (3.2 miles), the quake hit at 21:11:03 UTC Thursday 24th November 2011.
The epicenter was 28 km ( 17 miles) Northeast of Shawnee, Oklahoma
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Shattered Margaret River faces third day of fire hell: Australia

Margaret River today hopes that easing weather conditions will give firefighters the chance to contain the raging bushfire that has forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes and damaged or destroyed at least 34 properties.

About 150 firefighters battled the blaze overnight, assisted by an easing of the winds that helped push it across the Margaret River.

An emergency warning remains for the Margaret River region.

Firefighters heading out for the third day say they are exhausted but optimistic.

Singleton volunteer firefighter Lawrie Drage was one of six firefighters who sheltered with 60 people on the beach at Gnarabup yesterday and is back today.

Mr Drage said he was trying to keep people calm as a sheet of flames leapt over the area.

"The fire went right over the top of us it's pretty scary," he said.

"Today we don't know what is going to happen." more

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTHERN MID-ATLANTIC RIDGE - 24th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck the Southern Mid-Atlantic Ridge at a depth of 10.2 km (6.3 miles), the quake hit at 20:31:06 UTC Thursday 24th November 2011.
The epicenter was 923 km ( 573 miles) WSW of Saint Helena
No Tsunami Warnings Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Merkel and Sarkozy want to change EU treaties: "Nein" is not an option.....Welcome to New Europa

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed on Thursday to put forward an overall plan to change the EU's treaties.

"This is going to restore lost credibility", Nicolas Sarkozy said.

Merkel and Sarkozy want to prevent the stability and growth pact's further abuse, they said. "Countries that ignored the law were not punished in the past -- Germany amongst them. Now we are paying the price," said Merkel.

"We need to correct the fundamental floors in the construction of the eurozone. The situation is not easy -- trust has been lost. And that is the reason why we, Germany and France, want to work on treaty change for the eurozone." Read More

Note: Seems Italy is back in favor, I am sure it won't have anything to do with him being a former EU commissioner, but now at least Italy can join in some meetings.

As Europe, were we not all to stand together? it seems One country is shouting jump whilst the rest are replying How High!, and yes.. this includes the UK.

At least 20 bodies found in western Mexico - 24th Nov 2011

Authorities found more than 20 bodies Thursday inside three abandoned vehicles in Guadalajara, Mexico, state media reported.

The vehicles were discovered near a monument on one of the city's main avenues, the state-run Notimex news agency said, citing police sources.

Officials did not release the exact number of bodies found Thursday morning.

Jalisco state Attorney General Tomas Coronado Olmos told CNN affiliate TV Azteca that a message was found with the bodies, but he did not disclose what it said.

In a Twitter post, Jalisco Gov. Emilio Gonzalez, a former mayor of Guadalajara, said he was "appalled and outraged" by the discovery.

About 43,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced a crackdown on cartels in December 2006, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

But brutal cartel killings are rare in Guadalajara, Mexico's second-most populous city. Read More

Syria faces Friday deadline to avoid Arab League sanctions - 24th Nov 2011

Syria has until Friday to agree to let Arab League observers into the country to monitor the government's response to civil unrest or else face economic sanctions from its neighbors, a senior Arab League diplomat said Thursday.

Syria's membership in the 22-country Arab League was suspended this month after President Bashar al-Assad's regime ignored demands to end its crackdown on citizens.

"If they do not comply, then the league's economic body will file a report to the foreign ministers of the league who will meet on Sunday to vote on the economic sanctions to be implemented," said the diplomat, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the negotiations with Syria.

If Syria agrees by the Friday deadline, then the league will send a delegation to Damascus to discuss details of the observer mission before the team goes, the diplomat said.

At least 29 people died Thursday in clashes with security forces, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC) activist group said, all but one of them in the province of Homs. Read More

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake TONGA - 24th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck Tonga at a depth of 59.3 km (36.8 miles), the quake hit at 18:41:06 UTC Thursday 24th November 2011.
The epicenter was 17 km ( 10 miles) West of Hihifo, Tonga
No Tsunami Warnings Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE NORTH COAST OF PAPUA, INDONESIA - 24th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck near the North Coast of Papua, Indonesia at a depth of 16 km (9.9 miles), the quake hit at 14:51:14 UTC Thursday 24th November 2011.
The epicenter was 127 km ( 78 miles) Northeast of Sorong, Papua, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warnings Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Egypt unrest stirs fears inside Israel: What will come next?

Days of protest in Egypt, ahead of elections expected to produce big wins for the Muslim Brotherhood, have stirred fears in Israel about bilateral ties and the future of the countries' peace treaty.

Israel had largely avoided comment on the unrest, which has seen dozens of Egyptians killed, but with protesters showing no signs of calling off their demonstrations, officials here have started to show concern.

On Wednesday, Israel's civil defence minister Matan Vilnai urged Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who heads Egypt's ruling military council, to bring the situation under control.

"The situation is problematic, sensitive and unclear. Tantawi is trying to avoid chaos and transfer power in the mostly orderly way possible," Vilnai told Israeli military radio.

"We hope that he will succeed... otherwise we will see general chaos and that will be very bad for Egypt."

Vilnai said Israeli officials were in "permanent contact" with members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), including Tantawi. more

Polish far-right's 'no gay sex' logo sparks anger -- Why, because they're not afraid to take a stand?

Polish gay rights campaigners on Wednesday denounced a court ruling that allowed a far-right movement to formally register a homophobic symbol as one of its logos.

"Such symbols tap directly into fascist, neo-facist and xenophobic traditions, and intolerance," Robert Biedron, a top campaigner and newly-elected lawmaker from the left-wing opposition, told reporters.

Biedron, who is Poland's first openly-gay member of parliament, urged the justice ministry to step in.

In a little-noticed decision at the end of October, a court allowed the small National Rebirth of Poland (NOP) party to register two symbols.

One was the Celtic cross, used by far-right movements internationally, while the other was a stylized illustration of gay sex with a bar through it.

The NOP trumpeted the court ruling on its website earlier this week, saying it capped a two-year legal battle. more

Passenger forced to stand for seven hours on U.S. Airways flight because of 400-POUND man sitting next to him

The passenger who had to stand during a seven-hour flight because of a morbidly obese man sitting next to him has today spoken about his ordeal.

Arthur Berkowitz, 57, said his 400lb neighbour on US Airways Flight 901 from Anchorage to Philadelphia made it impossible to get into his seat.

The obese man spilled over into Mr Berkowitz's personal space and he could not move because the plane was full so he was forced to stand up.

He said the obese man was very sorry. 'The first thing he said to me was: "I want to apologise - I'm your worst nightmare",' he told MailOnline. more

Libya: "This was always a civil war, and the victors are not merciful" -- Militias now run rampant in the streets, 7000 imprisoned

The detention of 7,000 people in prisons and camps by the anti-Gaddafi forces is not surprising. The conflict in Libya was always much more of a civil war between Libyans than foreign governments pretended or the foreign media reported.

The winning anti-Gaddafi militia are not proving merciful. Often they have had relatives killed in the fighting or imprisoned by the old regime who they want to avenge. Sometimes they come from tribes and towns traditionally hostile to neighbouring tribes and towns. Gaddafi supporters are being hunted down. According to one person in Gaddafi's home town of Sirte, they are facing a "continuing reign of terror".

"There is a deep and spreading frenzy, particularly among some of the youth militia and the Islamists, to hunt down anyone associated with the former regime," the source said.

The National Transitional Council, whose control is largely theoretical, is not in a position to stop this purge because many of its members are themselves frightened of being accused of links with the old regime. more

What's killing America? U.S. ranks 28th in life expectancy (lower than Chile and Greece)

A new survey on health care is revealing that you may not be getting what you pay for if you check into a U.S. hospital.

The U.S. healthcare system is more effective at delivering high costs than quality care than other developed nations, according to the study, conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD.

It found first-rate treatment for cancer but insufficient primary care for other ailments.

The study said Americans pay more than $7,900 per person for healthcare each year - far more than any other OECD country - but still die earlier than their peers in the industrialized world.

The cost of healthcare in the United States is 62 percent higher than that in Switzerland, which has a similar per capita income and also relies substantially on private health insurance.

Meanwhile, Americans receive comparatively little actual care, despite sky-high prices driven by expensive tests and procedures.

They also spend more tax money on healthcare than most other countries, the study showed. more

Survival Shop Reports Jump In Sales To People Preparing For “Possible Collapse”

A chain of three stores that sells survival food and gear reports a jump in sales to people who are getting prepared for the “possible collapse” of society.

“We had to order fifty cases of the meals ready to eat to keep up with the demand in the past three months,” said manager Steve Dorsey at Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters Inc. in Webster Groves. “That’s not normal. Usually we sell 20 to 30 cases in a whole year.”

Dorsey says business has been brisk since the spring uprisings in the middle east, as customers share concerns about political uprisings, the world economy and the future of the United States.

“I’ve had people in here that are very wealthy and they’ve spent thousands of dollars just on backpacks that they fill with survival gear, one for each person of their family,” Dorsey said, “And something where they can just grab a bag and get out of Dodge.”

Dorsey says some customers talk of stocking up on freeze-dried meals for the home, while others confide they are stashing supplies at a remote location away from the city where they would go in an emergency. more

Chaos Builds in the Streets of Cairo as a Truce Fails


The outskirts of Tahrir Square, the iconic landmark of Egypt’s revolution, plunged into chaos on Wednesday, after attempts by the Egyptian military, religious clerics and doctors failed to stanch a fifth day of fighting that has posed the greatest crisis to the country since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February.

The fighting in darkened streets, suffused with tear gas and eerily illuminated by the flashing lights of police cars and the floodlights of armored personnel carriers, seemed to stand as a metaphor for a political transition that has careened into deep uncertainty just days before elections that were supposed to anchor the shift from military to civilian rule.

The military that seized power with Mr. Mubarak’s fall rebuffed protesters’ demands to surrender authority this week, and the political elite has seemed paralyzed or defensive over the unrest. The discontent in Tahrir Square has broadened from demands for the generals to cede control and anger over bloodshed into dissatisfaction with a transition that has delivered precious little since the uprising’s heady days in February.

“This is a revolution of the hungry!” declared Amr Ali Mohammed, a 23-year-old protester taking a break from the battle with the police. “Egyptians have had enough.”

The sense of uncertainty that prevailed in Egypt echoed some of the most anxious days of the uprising that began in January against Mr. Mubarak’s nearly 30 years of rule. Though life went on in much of the capital, the protests demonstrated a resilience they had lacked for months, and episodes of dissent have erupted in other parts of the country, including Alexandria, Egypt’s second-largest city. Neither politicians nor the military seemed ready to embrace a drastic step that many insisted was needed to end the unrest. more

Fitch cuts Portugal credit rating to junk status

Fitch Ratings on Thursday cut Portugal's sovereign credit rating to BB-plus from BBB-minus, putting the country's rating in junk status. The rating carries a negative outlook, which means a further cut is possible. "The country's large fiscal imbalances, high indebtedness across all sectors, and adverse macroeconomic outlook mean the sovereign's credit profile is no longer consistent with an investment-grade rating," Fitch said in a news release. The ratings firm said recession will make the government's deficit-cutting plan more challenging and will hurt bank asset quality, but that the government's commitment to the plan was "strong." The Portugal PSI 20 index is up 0.2% to 5,241.26, underperforming other European stock markets. source

FBI arrests 7 in Amish haircut attacks in Ohio

The leader of a breakaway Amish group allowed the beatings of those who disobeyed him, made some members sleep in a chicken coop and had sexual relations with married women to "cleanse them," federal authorities said Wednesday as they charged him and six others with hate crimes in hair-cutting attacks against other Amish.

Authorities raided the group's compound in eastern Ohio earlier in the day and arrested seven men, including group leader Sam Mullet and three of his sons.

Several members of the group carried out the attacks in September, October and November by forcibly cutting the beards and hair of Amish men and women and then taking photos of them, authorities said.

Cutting the hair is a highly offensive act to the Amish, who believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards and stop shaving once they marry. One victim told the FBI he would rather have been "beaten black and blue than to suffer the disfigurement and humiliation of having his hair removed," according to court papers. more

Illegal immigrants suspected in 30 border fires in Arizona

People entering the U.S. illegally from Mexico are believed responsible for more than one-third of human-ignited wildfires in Arizona over a five-year period, according to a government report that could stoke congressional debate over illegal immigration.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the Government Accountability Office report supports remarks he made earlier this year after his state was hit hard by wildfires. At the time, McCain was accused of "scapegoating" immigrants.

"I hope this report is a lesson to the activists and public officials that would prefer to engage in partisan character attacks rather than help focus the discussion on the vital need to secure our southern border," he said in a statement.

Illegal immigrants are believed to have started 30 of 77 fires that were investigated from 2006 through 2010, according to the report by the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress.

Federal land management agencies, however, did not investigate all 422 human-caused fires on federal and tribal land, as called for by federal policy. more

Armed illegals stalked US Border Patrol: Mexicans were ‘patrolling’ when agent was slain

Five illegal immigrants armed with at least two AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifles were hunting for U.S. Border Patrol agents near a desert watering hole known as Mesquite Seep just north of the Arizona-Mexico border when a firefight erupted and one U.S. agent was killed, records show.

A now-sealed federal grand jury indictment in the death of Border Patrol agent Brian A. Terry says the Mexican nationals were “patrolling” the rugged desert area of Peck Canyon at about 11:15 p.m. on Dec. 14 with the intent to “intentionally and forcibly assault” Border Patrol agents.

At least two of the Mexicans carried their assault rifles “at the ready position,” one of several details about the attack showing that Mexican smugglers are becoming more aggressive on the U.S. side of the border.

According to the indictment, the Mexicans were “patrolling the area in single-file formation” a dozen miles northwest of the border town of Nogales and — in the darkness of the Arizona night — opened fire on four Border Patrol agents after the agents identified themselves in Spanish as police officers.

Two AK-47 assault rifles found at the scene came from the failed Fast and Furious operation.

Using thermal binoculars, one of the agents determined that at least two of the Mexicans were carrying rifles, but according to an affidavit in the case by FBI agent Scott Hunter, when the Mexicans did not drop their weapons as ordered, two agents used their shotguns to fire “less than lethal” beanbags at them. more

Euro on ‘Death Watch’ After Investors Spurn German Bonds

Investors began to fear the worst for the euro after unusually weak demand at an auction for bonds from Germany, the region’s largest economy. One analyst went so far as to put the currency on a “death watch.”

Germany sold just 60 percent of the 6 billion euros in 10-year bunds it brought to auction, about the weakest demand seen for the country’s debt in the currency’s 16-year history, economists said. The rejection of debt from Europe’s safe harbor marks a new stage for the crisis.

“No bunds wanted equals no Euros wanted equals the Euro death watch,” wrote Mark Steele, an analyst with BMO Capital Markets. “We have seen many poor German auctions. This is not the issue. The issue is how badly the euro is doing after the weak auction.”

The euro [EUR=X 1.3333 -0.001 (-0.07%) ] fell more than 1 percent against the dollar to a 7-week low against the Greenback. The currency threatened to break through the October lows that came amid the height of turmoil in Italy and Greece. Both countries would go on to install new Technocrat leaders, lifting confidence in the currency briefly. more

Most liveable alien worlds ranked

Scientists have outlined which moons and planets are most likely to harbour extra-terrestrial life.

Among the most habitable alien worlds were Saturn's moon Titan and the exoplanet Gliese 581g - thought to reside some 20.5 light-years away in the constellation Libra.

The international team devised two rating systems to assess the probability of hosting alien life.

They have published their results in the journal Astrobiology.

In their paper, the authors propose two different indices: an Earth Similarity Index (ESI) and a Planetary Habitability Index (PHI). more

N. Korea threatens South with "sea of fire"

North Korea threatened Thursday to turn Seoul's presidential palace office into a "sea of fire," stepping up its rhetoric one day after South Korea conducted large-scale military drills near a front-line island attacked by North Korea last year.

On Wednesday, South Korea mobilized aircraft, rocket launchers, artillery guns and naval boats for the first anniversary of the artillery attack on a military garrison and fishing community on Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea. Two marines and two construction workers were killed in the attack, the first on a civilian area since the 1950-53 Korean War.

A similar "sea of fire" threatens to engulf Seoul's presidential Blue House if South Korean forces fire a single shot into North Korean territory, the North's People's Army warned in a statement from Pyongyang.

"They should not forget the lesson taught" by the Yeonpyeong shelling last year, said the statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. more

Afghan children in Kandahar 'killed by Nato'

Seven civilians, including six children, have been killed in a Nato air strike in southern Afghanistan, local officials say.

District Governor Niaz Mohammad Sarhadi told the BBC the civilians died late on Wednesday in the Zheray district of Kandahar province.

He said the strike had been launched in a remote area after Taliban insurgents were seen planting roadside bombs.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai strongly condemned the bombing.

The issue of civilian casualties at the hands of Nato forces is highly sensitive in Afghanistan.

A Nato spokesman in Kabul said there had been a "firefight" between insurgents and Nato forces in Kandahar province, but could not confirm whether air support had been called in.

An investigation has been launched. more

Cash crisis hits disease battle

Efforts to tackle diseases which kill millions each year could be badly affected by a severe shortfall in donations to a worldwide funding body.

The Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria will make no new grants until 2014, and there is a threat to some existing projects.

It asked international donors for $20bn, but received just $11.5bn.

This misses even the fund's "minimum" $13bn target, which it says is needed to maintain programmes until 2014.

HIV charities said they were "extremely alarmed" by the decision.

This is the first time in its 10 year history that the fund has been forced to cancel its three-yearly funding round.

It blames the problem on a combination of "substantial budget challenges" in some of the countries who would normally contribute, and low interest rates cutting returns on its investments. more

Yemen: At least five protesters 'shot dead' in Sanaa

At least five protesters have been shot dead by loyalists of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the capital, Sanaa, reports say.

They were protesting against a power transfer deal that promises Mr Saleh immunity from prosecution.

The president has condemned the violence and ordered an investigation into the killings.

On Wednesday, he signed the deal in Saudi Arabia under which he will step down after some 30 years in power.

He has agreed to hand power to his deputy.

Mr Saleh "condemned the violence that left casualties today in the capital Sanaa" and "ordered the ministry of interior to carry out an immediate and full investigation and to bring those responsible for this crime to justice, whatever party they belong to," the state Saba news agency reported.

Many others were wounded in the clashes, reports say.

An AFP correspondent said the protesters were shot at by armed civilians, whom they described as Mr Saleh's "thugs", as they marched towards the city centre.

"Government loyalists opened fire on a demonstration from rooftops, from inside shops and from a passing car," Ibrahim Ali, a 22-year-old man at a local hospital who had been wounded in the knee, told Reuters news agency. more

Sri Lanka 'counting civilian war deaths'

Sri Lanka is close to completing a census of the number of civilians who died in the final phase of the civil war, the defence secretary has said.

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said the count proves the number of people killed as a result of government action was "far too small" to constitute war crimes.

In April, a UN-backed report said tens of thousands may have died and pointed to evidence of army bombardment.

The government has rejected such claims and calls for an international probe.

In May 2009, the army defeated Tamil Tiger rebels fighting for a separate homeland in the north and east of Sri Lanka, after almost 26 years of civil war.

Much of the controversy surrounding the conduct of the army and the rebels centres on what happened during the closing stages of that war, when tens of thousands of civilians were hemmed into a narrow strip of land in the north of the country caught between government and rebel fighting. more

Rampant materialism: Why does every person need 200kg of steel a year?

Is the raw stuff we devour - plastic, steel, concrete, energy - going down even as the economy grows?

Imagine that every year, every one of us gave birth to an eight-year-old made from steel. Disturbing image.

Now go further. Imagine that you also gave birth - everyone, male and female, young and old, every year - to 10 cement, one plastic and three paper eight-year-olds and one new-born aluminium baby.

Well, in a sense, you do. This is the global average production per head of stuff: about 200kg of steel each, for example, enough to sculpt a child.

But we aren't all at the global average. In the UK, our annual consumption of materials is about three times higher.

So for the UK, we're not talking about a family of eight-year-olds any more, we're talking about enough raw materials to create adults.

This is just a visualisation of the amount of stuff we produce, no more, and if you find it odd, no problem. But for some, it might just make resource use more meaningful. more

Thawing permafrost sinks buildings, hikes costs in North Canada

In the Arctic, the ground is melting beneath northerners’ feet.

This brings a new and costly infrastructure challenge to a region where building is already tricky.

Many buildings need to be renovated because they’re sinking. New buildings struggle to last in an uncertain future.

Sara Brown, director of community operational support with the Northwest Territories Association of Communities, says the costs to upgrade and fix buildings in Canada’s North could range from $250 million to $420 million.

“This doesn't just affect community infrastructure. It affects residents’ homes and the amenities they enjoy as well. So the better informed we all are about this, the better we'll be able to deal with it in a proactive way as opposed to reactive way,” said Brown. more

China navy to carry out Pacific exercises

China's navy will carry out exercises in the Pacific Ocean in the coming days, amid continuing tension over maritime disputes in the region.

The defence ministry said the drills were routine and were not targeting any specific country.

China is locked in territorial rows with several nations, and the US has recently made a series of announcements bolstering its presence in the region.

A Pentagon spokesman said the US had no problem with the naval exercises.

Captain John Kirby said that China was "entitled to exercise their military in ways they deem fit".

A short statement on the defence ministry's website announced the exercises late on Wednesday.

"This is an annual, planned, routine drill. It is not directed at any specific country or target and is in keeping with relevant international laws and practices," said the statement.

"China's freedom of navigation and other legal rights should not be obstructed." more

Mexico police find 17 burned bodies in two vehicles

Mexican police have found 17 charred bodies in two pick-up trucks in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state.

Firefighters were called to a burning vehicle and found a dozen corpses, while at another location five bodies were inside a charred truck.

Officials are investigating if the victims were among several people kidnapped in the state on Monday.

Sinaloa is the power base of the drug gang led by Mexico's most wanted man, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman.

The governor of Sinaloa state, Mario Lopez Valdez, said he believed the killings were "a message between rival drug gangs".

Firefighters were called out to extinguish a burning vehicle early on Wednesday, officials said.

Minutes later, a second truck was reported to be on fire.

Officials said it appeared the victims had been shot dead, then the vehicles set alight. more

Arctic sea ice loss unprecedented in 1,450 years

The recent loss of sea ice in the Arctic is greater than any natural variation in the past 1½ millennia, a Canadian study shows.

"The recent sea ice decline … appears to be unprecedented," said Christian Zdanowicz, a glaciologist at Natural Resources Canada, who co-led the study and is a co-author of the paper published Wednesday online in Nature.

"We kind of have to conclude that there's a strong chance that there's a human influence embedded in that signal."

In September, Germany's University of Bremen reported that sea ice had hit a record low, based on data from a Japanese sensor on NASA's Aqua satellite. The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center, using a different satellite data set, reported that the sea ice coverage in 2011 was the second-lowest on record, after the record set in 2007.

What makes recent sea ice declines unique is that they have been driven by multiple factors that never all coincided in historical periods of major sea ice loss, said Christophe Kinnard, lead author of the new report.

"Everything is trending up – surface temperature, the atmosphere is warming, and it seems also that the ocean is warming and there is more warm and saline water that makes it into the Arctic," Kinnard said, "and so the sea ice is eroded from below and melting from the top." more

China labor unrest flares as orders fall

China is facing its worst wave of labour unrest since a series of wildcat strikes at Japanese-owned car plants last year, as declining export orders force factories to reduce worker pay.

More than 10,000 workers in Shenzhen and Dongguan, two leading export centres in southern Guangdong province, have gone on strike over the past week. The latest protests broke out on Tuesday at a Taiwanese computer factory in Shenzhen.

"There has been an intensification of labour unrest in the past week that is probably the most significant spike in unrest since the summer of 2010," said Geoffrey Crothall of China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based labour advocacy group that monitors unrest in China.

The strikes come amid mounting concerns about the global economy, which is suffering from the European sovereign debt crisis and a weak recovery in the US. Fears about the Chinese economy grew on Wednesday after a manufacturing index compiled by HSBC fell to levels not seen since March 2009. Last week, Guangdong's acting governor said the province's exports dropped 9 per cent in October from the previous month. Provincial leaders are also contending with widespread protests by farmers over land seizures. On Monday nearly 5,000 residents in the town of Wukan marched on government offices in a peaceful protest.

Factories are cutting the overtime that workers depend on to supplement their modest base salaries, after a drop in overseas orders.

According to CLB, the average basic wage for electronic workers is about Rmb1,500 ($236) a month, but rises to Rmb2,500 with overtime. "Their basic wage is never enough on its own without overtime," Mr Crothall said. more

Snowfall in eastern Newfoundland causes closures: Canada

Heavy snowfall in eastern and southern Newfoundland has closed most schools and businesses, and is causing hazardous driving conditions Thursday.

As driving, wet snow that started overnight and continued into the morning, Environment Canada said snow warnings remained in effect for everyone east of Clarenville and for the whole south coast.

By 7 a.m., about 15 centimetres had fallen in the St. John's area, Argentia was estimated to have about 14 centimetres and Gander was reporting about one centimetre.

"Well, it looks like the Avalon and the Burin peninsulas are getting the worst of it today. We've already seen upwards of 20 centimetres in the Burin, less in St. John's, but expect another 15 centimetres for those areas this morning,” Wes Miller of Environment Canada said before 7 a.m.

Metrobus, the St. John's public transportation system, closed at 9 a.m.

Police warn people to drive carefully in the hazardous conditions.

A tractor-trailer truck slid off the Trans-Canada Highway about 15 kilometres east of Goobies, but the highway remained open.

Most schools in the Eastern School District, including St. John’s, were closed for at least the morning.

According to CBC St. John's meteorologist Ryan Snoddon the storm is record-breaker for this date.

"Snowfall to 9:30 a.m: St. Lawrence 27 centimetres; Winterland 31 centimetres; St. John's 25 centimetres ; Gander 1 centimetre," he tweeted. more

4.0 Magnitude Earthquake WESTERN IRAN - 24th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.0 earthquake has struck Western Iran at a depth of 2 km (1.2 miles), the quake hit at 14:10:30 UTC Thursday 24th November 2011.
The epicenter was 12 km ( 7.4 miles) Southwest of Masjed-e Soleyman, Iran
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

American students freed in Egypt - 24th Nov 2011

Three American college students arrested on suspicion of throwing Molotov cocktails during a protest in Cairo against Egypt's ruling military council were released Thursday, a spokesman for the Egypt general prosecutor's office told CNN.

Joy Sweeney, whose son Derrik Sweeney is one of the three detained students, told CNN's "American Morning" she was overjoyed by the news.

"We are just so blessed and so grateful right now," she said. "I can't wait to give him a big hug."

The students were to be taken to a physician for a medical examination and back to the police station for paperwork to be processed, then to their dorm rooms, she said. They may be able to call home afterward.

The Egyptian attorney general is not going to appeal against the trio's release, she said. Read More

After Apology, Egypt’s Military Rejects Quick End to Its Rule - 24th Nov 2011

Egyptian generals offered an unusual apology on Thursday for the killings of protesters in Tahrir Square, the iconic landmark of the country’s revolution, but rejected the demonstrators’ demands for an immediate end to military rule.

As violence around the square eased after five days of intense clashes, the military also insisted that parliamentary elections, scheduled for next Monday, would proceed as planned.

“We will not delay elections. This is the final word,” Gen. Mamdouh Shaheen, a member of the ruling military council told a news conference.

Maj. Gen. Mukhtar el-Mallah, another council member, told the news conference that the military would not relinquish power because to do so would be “a betrayal of the trust placed in our hands by the people.” Egyptians must focus on the elections, he said, not on street protests.

“We will not relinquish power because of a slogan-chanting crowd,” he said.... Read More

Higher than average radioactivity levels have been detected in a drain on a main road at Seascale, Sellafield, England - 24th Nov 2011

Higher than average radioactivity levels have been detected in a drain on a main road at Seascale.

Sellafield Ltd said: “We have no reason to believe that this presents any risk to the public.”

Sellafield is believed to be the source of the activity but investigations are under way to find out exactly where from.

A spokesperson said: “No activities have been carried out on site that could account for a recent elevation of levels and it is therefore likely that these results reflect the presence of historical contamination.”

The ‘hot’ drain is on Drigg Road, leading from Seascale to Drigg village. The radioactivity could be from old site operations or residue from the cull of contaminated pigeons in the area several years ago. Other drains have been contaminated in the past.

The discovery of increased levels of radioactivity is highlighted in the annual Radioactivity in Food and the Environment Report.

The spokesman for campaign group Cumbrians Opposed to Radioactivity, Martin Forwood, has asked for an urgent explanation of what he said was an “unprecedented hike in radioactive concentrations”.

He added: “Until then there can be little public reassurance on the sudden appearance of these high levels being found in Seascale some 13 years after the effects of the Seascale pigeon saga were supposed to have been remediated.” Read More

6 killed in Arizona plane crash - 24th Nov 2011

Six people are believed to have been killed when a small plane crashed in a fireball in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona.

The twin-engine aircraft was carrying three adults and three children to a Thanksgiving gathering, Pinal county Sheriff Paul Babeu said.

Ten search and rescue workers have been dropped by helicopter near to the crash site to look for survivors.

"At this point, we can't confirm there would be survivors. Our hope is that there would be, but it does not look promising," Mr Babeu added.

Officials said the plane - a Rockwell AC69 - had refuelled shortly before it crashed and ignited a wildfire.

It came down in steep, cliff-like terrain near a remote summit called Flat Iron, about 45 miles east of Phoenix.

Television news footage showed a fire blazing in the dark.

The plane was registered to an air charter firm Ponderosa Aviation, based in Safford, Arizona.

The company has eight full-time pilots and has been in operation since 1974, according to its website.

"What we understand is that this aircraft flew from Safford to Falcon Field in Mesa (near Phoenix) to pick up children for Thanksgiving, to go back to Safford, so it's heartbreaking if that's the case," Mr Babeu said.

As well as the three children, the other people believed to be on board the plane were the pilot, a mechanic and another adult, he added. Source