Friday, November 25, 2011

S&P downgrades Belgium: Another European domino set to fall?

Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded Belgium Friday as the sovereign debt crisis continues to spread across the continent.

The rating change put Belgium's rating down one notch to AA. That's the S&P's fourth-highest rating is still investment grade. But the rating agency warned it is considering further cuts, assigning it a negative outlook.

S&P cited "renewed funding and market risk pressure" in the downgrade announcement, saying those risks are "increasing the perception of difficulties in the Belgian financial sector and in our opinion raising the likelihood that the sector will require more sovereign support."

Worries about the European economy falling into a new recession and what it means to Belgium's budget situation was also cited by the agency.

"With exports of over 80% of GDP, Belgium is one of the most open economies in the eurozone and is therefore in our opinion highly susceptible to any weakening of external demand," it said.

S&P says it expects Belgium's debt will equal about 93% of its gross domestic product at the end of this year and could soon top 100%. more

3.2 Magnitude Earthquake OKLAHOMA - 25th Nov 2011

A magnitude 3.2 earthquake has struck Oklahoma at a depth of 5 km (3.1 miles), the quake hit at 21:24:29 UTC Friday 25th November 2011.
The epicenter was 5 km ( 3.1 miles) Northwest of Prague, Oklahoma
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time.

Colombian Caleras volcano alert raised to Orange - 25th Nov 2011

The Galeras volcano in Colombia's western department of NariƱo could erupt within weeks or days, according to authorities.

The level of volcanic activity was increased to orange alert Thursday 9PM by the Colombian Geological Service and the Volcanology and Seismology Observatory of Pasto, which are monitoring the activity of Galeras.

The institutions stated that in the last 24 hours, tremors have been registered that have similar characteristics to those in the period prior to the majority of eruptions, which occurred between 1992 and 2010.

There has been a reduction in the emission of gases, reflected in the low values of sulphur dioxide measured, both coming from craters and fields of volcanic fissures.

Some 8,000 people live in the area surrounding the volcano that reawakened in 1988.

The Colombian Geological Service will continue to monitor the situation of the Galeras volcano. Source

Gary Glitter a convicted paedophile, Benefits from UK Soft Justice as his Travel Ban is Lifted

Shamed pop star Gary Glitter can travel abroad again after police decided the convicted paedophile is no longer a threat to children, Sky News can exclusively reveal.

Glitter - real name Paul Gadd - had been under a foreign travel ban since he was deported from Vietnam in August 2008.

He had served a three-year jail sentence there for molesting two girls aged 11 and 10 and only just avoided a potential death sentence when rape charges were dropped.

A foreign travel order imposed by magistrates had forced him to give up his passport, but it expired at midnight and the Metropolitan police did not apply to renew it.

It effectively means Glitter, 67, is no longer considered a threat after "making efforts to address his offending," one source told me. Read More

Large Hadron Collider could be world’s first time machine - 15th March 2011

If the latest theory of Tom Weiler and Chui Man Ho is right, the Large Hadron Collider – the world’s largest atom smasher that started regular operation last year – could be the first machine capable of causing matter to travel backwards in time.

“Our theory is a long shot,” admitted Weiler, who is a physics professor at Vanderbilt University, “but it doesn’t violate any laws of physics or experimental constraints.”

One of the major goals of the collider is to find the elusive Higgs boson: the particle that physicists invoke to explain why particles like protons, neutrons and electrons have mass. If the collider succeeds in producing the Higgs boson, some scientists predict that it will create a second particle, called the Higgs singlet, at the same time.

According to Weiler and Ho’s theory, these singlets should have the ability to jump into an extra, fifth dimension where they can move either forward or backward in time and reappear in the future or past. Read More

3.3 Magnitude Earthquake OKLAHOMA - 25th Nov 2011

A magnitude 3.3 earthquake has struck Oklahoma at a depth of 5 km (3.1 miles), the quake hit at 20:09:47 UTC Friday 25th November 2011.
The epicenter was 4 km ( 2.4 miles) North of Johnson, Oklahoma
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time.

Black Friday sales turn ugly as Shopper pepper-sprays fellow bargain-hunters, Two shot and at least 20 injured at Wal-Mart - 25th Nov 2011


Crowds of shoppers trying to bag a bargain from a Wal-Mart store during the Black Friday sales were last night drenched in pepper spray when a scramble for Xbox 360 console deals turned ugly.

It was just one of scores of shootings and outbreaks of violence as tempers frayed in the rush to secure a bargain. At least two shoppers have been shot and scores more injured in fights.

Police in Los Angeles are hunting a female shopper who allegedly injured 20 people at the store in after a confrontation at 10.20pm - just 20 minutes after the shop had opened its doors. Read More


European single currency has a '50-50 chance' of collapsing by Christmas as Italy's borrowing rates soar to record high - 25th Nov 2011

The single European currency has a '50-50 chance' of collapsing by Christmas, one of France's most senior economists warned today.

The extreme peril threatening the euro was highlighted by respected intellectual Jacques Attali, the former president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

He said urgent action was needed immediately to tackle the European debt crisis, and prevent the euro 'exploding' and plunging the financial system into chaos.

Mr Attali was asked by France's 20 minutes news website if France was in danger of losing its coveted AAA credit rating status.

But he answered: 'That is no longer the question. The rating is effectively lost because France is already being treated as an AA rated country by the markets.

'The question now is will the euro still exist at Christmas.

'There is one chance in two that the single currency will no longer be there, or that at the very least it will be in the process of unravelling. Read More

Military Readied Ahead Of Strike to Man Britain's Borders - 25th Nov 2011

Military personnel are being asked to prepare to man Britain's borders when public sector workers stage a mass walkout next Wednesday, Sky sources have said.

It comes as Heathrow Airport bosses warned the strike on November 30 could cause "gridlock" as passengers are forced to remain on planes as queues build inside terminals.

Civil servants have also been approached to help out, with up to 18,000 immigration officials are expected to take part in the walkout.

Passengers travelling through Heathrow next week have been told they may have to queue for up to 12 hours during the strike.

And chiefs at airport operator BAA are even suggesting to airlines that they fly their planes half full.

The warning came in a letter to all airlines which fly to Heathrow from chief operating officer Normand Boivin.

He said BAA had "reluctantly concluded" that the UK Border Agency would be unable to provide a contingency plan to support normal operations.

Mr Boivin warned: "Modelling of the impacts of strike action on passenger flows at Heathrow show that there are likely to be very long delays of up to 12 hours to arriving passengers. Read More

Heidi's Bar and the "Drink Bond": A metaphor for America's financial situation

As forwarded by a reader:

Heidi is the proprietor of a bar in Detroit.

She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar.

To solve this problem, she comes up with a new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later.

Heidi keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers' loans).

Word gets around about Heidi's "drink now, pay later" marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Heidi's bar. Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in Detroit .

By providing her customers freedom from immediate payment demands, Heidi gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages.

Consequently, Heidi's gross sales volume increases massively.

A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognizes that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Heidi's borrowing limit.

He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral!!!

At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert traders figure a way to make huge commissions, and transform these customer loans into DRINK BONDS.

These "securities" then are bundled and traded on international securities markets.

Naive investors don't really understand that the securities being sold to them as "AAA Secured Bonds" really are debts of unemployed alcoholics. Nevertheless, the bond prices continuously climb!!!, and the securities soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation's leading brokerage houses.

One day, even though the bond prices still are climbing, a risk manager at the original local bank decides that the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Heidi's bar. He so informs Heidi.

Heidi then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons, but being unemployed alcoholics they cannot pay back their drinking debts.

Since Heidi cannot fulfill her loan obligations she is forced into bankruptcy. The bar closes and Heidi's 11 employees lose their jobs.

Overnight, DRINK BOND prices drop by 90%.

The collapsed bond asset value destroys the bank's liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economic activity in the community.

The suppliers of Heidi's bar had granted her generous payment extensions and had invested their firms' pension funds in the BOND securities.

They find they are now faced with having to write off her bad debt and with losing over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds.

Her wine supplier also claims bankruptcy, closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations, her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers.

Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their respective executives are saved and bailed out by a multibillion dollar no-strings attached cash infusion from the government.

The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on employed, middle-class, nondrinkers who have never been in Heidi's bar.

Does everyone know fully understand the situation we're in?

"Rods": Are they undiscovered creatures? Unidentified flying objects? Or simple camera artifacts? (Fact or fiction)

PART ONE:



PART TWO:



PART THREE:



PART FOUR:

Military chief: Israel under threat from all sides



The Middle East is back on the agenda. Israel's military chief of staff reportedly warned this week that an increase in rocket attacks against Israel might lead to a large-scale military operation in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Additionally, Israel's defense minister warned of a possible Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear program after the international nuclear watchdog agency reported that Iran conducted secret weapons-related tests and may be close to developing a nuclear warhead.

Lt.-Col. Avital Leibovich, the head of the international media division of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), told CBS News that the Israeli military now needs to deal with several fronts, where in the past they have had only one.

Today, Leibovich said, in a regional environment altered by the "Arab Spring," Israel's borders with Lebanon, Gaza, and Syria pose the greatest risks to its population and the IDF. On the northern border with Lebanon, Israel has to contend with the Shiite militia Hezbollah, which stores its weaponry under civilian villages in the south of Lebanon. Near Gaza, Israeli citizens now face missiles fired from the Hamas-run enclave that can reach farther into the Jewish state than ever before. And in Syria, uncertainty surrounding the fate of the embattled Assad regime, which last May organized mass marches on the Golan Heights border with Israel. more

23 women convicted of child pornography in Sweden: Buried but not forgotten

A Swedish court on Tuesday convicted 23 women and one man of child pornography offenses in what investigators called a unique case because of the number of female perpetrators.

The Falu District Court gave the women, aged between 38 and 70, conditional sentences and fines ranging from 2,500 to 18,000 Swedish kronor ($380 to $2,700). It also sentenced a 43-year-old man to one year in prison for aggravated child pornography.

The court said the women received scores of sexually explicit video clips and photographs of children from the man and discussed them online with him. Some said they liked the images or shared sexual fantasies about the children, and one woman sent pornographic images of children to the man, the court said.

The material showed girls and boys of various ages, from toddlers to teenagers.

The man made contact with the women on the Internet and had sexual relations with about half of them, but they had no connection to each other, the court said.

Some 1,181 pictures and 40 films with child pornography were found in the man's computer, including brutal images of shackled children being raped by adults.

Swedish police said reactions they have received from Interpol indicate this is the first child pornography case worldwide to involve so many women.

Maybe it's time to start holding women up to the same scrutiny as men. After all, that's what equality is all about, right? How many other crimes by women go unnoticed, such as rape, abuse and so on, due to the "gender camouflage"?

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake OFF THE COAST OF BIO-BIO, CHILE - 25th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck off the Coast of Bio-Bio, Chile at a depth of 31.7 km (19.7 miles), the quake hit at 17:35:47 UTC Friday 25th November 2011.
The epicenter was 211 km ( 131 miles) Southwest of Concepcion, Chile
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time.

Lawyer:3 American college students NOT released -- 25th Nov 2011

An Egyptian-American filmmaker arrested amid ongoing protests in Cairo has been released, her lawyer said Friday, but three American college students accused of violence were still behind bars.

There were no immediate details about the release of documentarian Jehane Noujaim, which was confirmed by her lawyer, Ragia Omran.

Film producer Karim Amer said Wednesday that Noujaim -- whose works include "The Control Room," about Al-Jazeera and the United States during the early days of the Iraq War -- was arrested while filming close to the Interior Ministry building in Cairo.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, David Lynfield, said Thursday that U.S. diplomats were in touch with Egyptian authorities about her case.

The three college students -- Derrik Sweeney, Gregory Porter and Luke Gates -- were ordered released Thursday, said Adel Saeed, the spokesman of the general prosecutor, but late in the day, they remained in police custody. Read More

Bank of England sees 'worsened' economic outlook

The UK's economic outlook has worsened and the economy could stagnate until the middle of next year, the governor of the Bank of England has said.

Sir Mervyn King also said that the eurozone debt crisis was the "single biggest risk" to the UK.

The Bank has cut its 2011 and 2012 growth predictions to about 1%.

It came as the UK unemployment total rose by 129,000 in the three months to September to 2.62 million, with youth unemployment above one million.

The unemployment total was the largest since 1994, and the unemployment rate rose to 8.3%, the highest since 1996. more

Pentagon could bomb enemy hackers

A US Department of Defense report has outlined how the American military plans to respond to foreign hacker attacks. We’re talking all-out retaliation, both in cyberspace, and in real life.

­The 12-page document sent to Congress was made public on Tuesday. Legislators had wanted the Pentagon to deliver the report on new cyber-warfare policy by March 1 this year, but the top brass were a few months late.

"When warranted, we will respond to hostile attacks in cyberspace as we would to any other threat to our country," the report said as cited by Reuters. "We reserve the right to use all necessary means – diplomatic, informational, military and economic – to defend our nation, our allies, our partners and our interests."

The warrant for such an operation would come from the President, and he will decide what “use of force” in cyberspace will constitute. Stand-alone operations would not trigger a Congressional notification requirement under the War Powers Resolution, reports the Washington Post.

The biggest problem with reacting to a hacker attack is identifying the guilty. A number of security experts and intelligence have pointed to Chinese and Russians as the key perpetrators of cyber-attacks on American computers. However no accusations have been officially pressed against those governments.

The Pentagon plans to tackle the issue by employing behavior and cyber forensics experts, who would point to the individuals responsible. more

Down but not out: OWS reclaims Zuccotti



Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protestors were back in New York City’s Zuccotti Park Tuesday evening after police evicted them in a pre-dawn raid the very same day. RT was on the scene to film events as they unfolded.

­Tuesday evening’s chants of “all day, all week, occupy Wall Street” cut a sharp contrast with the chaos which had unfolded earlier that day. Acting on orders from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hundreds of police raided and dismantled the park encampment located in the heart of New York’s financial center, arresting 147 people in the process.

After New York Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman found the city was justified in enforcing a ban on sleeping in the square-block park, some 16 hours after the eviction was carried out, police lifted the barricades and slowly began to allow the protestors back in.

Unlike the preceding chaos which ushered in the day, Tuesday evening’s return was underscored by a sense of hope, as the sound of drums punctuated the intermittent chants.

As a clearly distraught young man in plastic cuffs seemingly fought back tears as he waited to be put into a police wagon, his arrest appeared to be the exception rather than the rule. more

Occupy... Hmm: Where to go from Zuccotti Park?

The ground had barely dried in New York's freshly scrubbed Zuccotti Park when hundreds of angry Occupy Wall Street protesters crowded around its perimeter, staring down grim-faced riot police and vowing to reclaim the space.

For all the bravado, though, the city's dismantling of their tent settlement was shattering to a movement that has been forced to confront a future far less idyllic than the one envisioned when Occupy Wall Street began.

With their tents, kitchen gear, generators and personal belongings seized by police, even die-hard Occupy Wall Street demonstrators acknowledged that the surprise post-midnight raid was a logistical setback that could force the movement to find a new home. more

Sanctions useless against Iran?



he West continues to increase pressure on Tehran over its suspected nuclear program. But will the latest set of sanctions help it reach its goals? Some experts believe the measures will only fuel nationalistic feelings in Iran and boost the regime.

Ivan Eland, an expert on political economics from the Independent Institute told RT the sanctions being pushed on Iran are a blunt tool and will probably hurt the Iranian people.

“When you bomb a country, it unifies the population with the government, even if they don’t like the government. In this case we are not bombing yet, but we are attacking them economically. It actually helps the regime because a lot of the people in Iran, especially the young, don’t really like the regime,” he stated.

The Russian deputy foreign minister said that recent events resemble an attempt to bring about regime change. And according to Eland, that is what the West really wants, though it is not going to work.

“Sanctions rarely work. Even in the case of South Africa, where regime change occurred and sanctions were used, people associated the two, but in reality most revolutions happen internally, not from external sources,” he explained.

David Lindorff, founder of the news blog "This Can't Be Happening", believes that pressure coming from the US and Israel could merely encourage Tehran to obtain nuclear weapons.

“If you really want a country to get nuclear weapon then just keep threatening it with attack. Sooner or later they will do that because that’s the best defense they have against an attack.” more

Is the "China Syndrome" inevitable at Fukushima, Japan? The Japanese nuclear architect who built Reactor 3 thinks so

Syria: Six Elite Pilots 'Killed In Ambush' - 25th Nov 2011

Six elite military pilots were among 10 killed in an ambush in the restive Homs province of Syria, the country's military has said.

In a rare television statement, the armed forces confirmed the deaths which occurred on Thursday, marking a dangerous escalation in violence.

It said the "terrorist" attack was proof there was foreign involvement in the eight-month revolt against President Bashar al Assad's rule.

"An armed terrorist group undertook an evil assassination plot that martyred six pilots, a technical officer and three other personnel on an air force base between Homs and Palmyra," the military spokesman said on state television.

International pressure has been mounting on President Assad to curb violence, but the statement warned that the army will "hit back" at any attempt to cause chaos.

The deaths come as Syria misses a deadline imposed by the Arab League to sign a deal allowing monitors into the country. Read More

Occupy L.A. says city is offering bribes to move

City officials have offered Occupy L.A. protesters 10,000 square feet of indoor space and other incentives to vacate the City Hall lawn they have camped on for over seven weeks, a lawyer for the group said on Tuesday.

The proposal emerged from two days of talks between city officials and 12 Occupy L.A. representatives, including Jim Lafferty, an advocate for the protesters who is executive director of the National Lawyers Guild's Los Angeles chapter, he said.

A 50-member "city liaison group" began debating the plan on Tuesday evening, and many expressed deep suspicions about the city's proposal.

"It's called co-option -- you become part of the system when you make a deal with them," said Mike Saulenas, 60, a member of the group.

The Los Angeles encampment is among the oldest and largest established on the West Coast by anti-Wall Street activists aligned with a two-month old nationwide movement protesting economic inequality in the country and corruption in the U.S. financial system. more

New York Hospitals get cameras installed... to make sure health care workers actually wash their hands... because 20% don't...

Beeps and blinking lights are the constant chatter of a hospital intensive care unit, but at the I.C.U.’s in North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., the conversation has some unusual contributors. Two L.E.D. displays adorn the wall across from each nurses’ station. They show the hand hygiene rate achieved: last Friday in the surgical I.C.U., the weekly rate was 85 percent and the current shift had a rate of 91 percent. “Great Shift!!” the sign said. At the medical I.C.U. next door, the weekly rate was 81 percent, and the current shift 82 percent.

That’s too low for a “Great Shift!!” message. But by most standards, both I.C.U.’s are doing well. Those L.E.D. displays are very demanding — health care workers must clean their hands within 10 seconds of entering and exiting a patient’s room, or it doesn’t count. Three years ago, using the same criteria, the medical I.C.U.’s hand hygiene rate was appalling — it averaged 6.5 percent. But a video monitoring system that provides instant feedback on success has raised rates of hand-washing or use of alcohol rubs to over 80 percent, and kept them there.

Hospitals do impossible things like heart surgery on a fetus, but they are apparently stymied by the task of getting health care workers to wash their hands. Most hospitals report compliance of around 40 percent — and that’s using a far more lax measure than North Shore uses. I.C.U.’s, where health care workers are the most harried, usually have the lowest rates — between 30 and 40 percent. But these are the places where patients are the sickest and most endangered by infection. more

Mexico acknowledges 2nd Mayan reference to 2012

Mexico's archaeology institute downplays theories that the ancient Mayas predicted some sort of apocalypse would occur in 2012, but on Thursday it acknowledged that a second reference to the date exists on a carved fragment found at a southern Mexico ruin site.

Most experts had cited only one surviving reference to the date in Mayan glyphs, a stone tablet from the Tortuguero site in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco.

But the National Institute of Anthropology and History said in a statement that there is in fact another apparent reference to the date at the nearby Comalcalco ruin. The inscription is on the carved or molded face of a brick. Comalcalco is unusual among Mayan temples in that it was constructed of bricks.

Arturo Mendez, a spokesman for the institute, said the fragment of inscription had been discovered years ago and has been subject to thorough study. It is not on display and is being kept in storage at the institute.

The "Comalcalco Brick," as the second fragment is known, has been discussed by experts in some online forums. Many still doubt that it is a definite reference to Dec. 21, 2012 or Dec. 23, 2012, the dates cited by proponents of the theory as the possible end of the world. more

Black Friday: All this Over a $2 Waffle Maker? And they dare call OWS protestors "useful idiots"?

Italy collapse would be the 'end of the euro'

Italy had to pay record rates to raise €10bn this morning, while France and Germany warn that a blow-out in its giant debt mountain would signal "the end of the euro."

Meanwhile, EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn has upped the pressure on Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti's new government, calling for "an ambitious timeline" on economic reforms.

"Italy is faced with formidable challenges," Mr Rehn told Italian lawmakers during a visit to Rome.

"The new government needs to deliver on fiscal consolidation and adopt bold measures to re-launch growth," he said.

''Full and effective implementation will be key," he said, adding: "It would be essential to give strong signals to citizens and markets with a clear and ambitious roadmap for reform and an ambitious timeline."

In its bond auction, Italy was forced to pay a rate of 6.504% on bonds due in six months and 7.814% on bonds due in two years - dangerous levels that analysts say could drive Italy insolvent within months.

A day after a summit in Strasbourg with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Mr Monti's press office reported the two leaders had said a debt collapse in Italy would be "the end of the euro." more

Global health fund halts new programs due to financial problems

The world's biggest financier in the fight against three killer diseases says it has run out of money to pay for new grant programs for the next two years — a situation likely to hit poor AIDS patients around the world.

An official with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said Thursday that they have been forced to cease giving new grants until 2014 because of global economic woes brought on by debt crises in the United States and Europe.

An independent panel recommended in September that the fund must adopt tougher financial safeguards after it weathered a storm of criticism and doubts among some of its biggest donors.

The fund created the panel — chaired by former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt and ex Botswana President Festus Mogae — in March to address concern among donors after Associated Press articles in January about the loss of tens of millions of dollars in grant money because of mismanagement and alleged fraud.

Germany, the European Commission and Denmark withheld hundreds of millions of euros in funding pending reviews of the fund's internal controls. Germany — the fund's fourth-largest donor- has since restored its funding. more

Woman shot during robbery on Black Friday near Wal-Mart in Myrtle Beach

A 55-year-old Marston, N.C., woman was shot in the foot during a robbery attempt after Black Friday shopping at the Wal-Mart in Myrtle Beach, authorities said.

The shooting was one of several Black Friday-related criminal investigations across the country overnight. No other incidents were reported in Horry and Georgetown counties.

The shooting in Myrtle Beach happened at 1:13 a.m. Friday in front of the Osaka Japanese Steakhouse on 794 Oak Forest Lane, according to an incident report from the Myrtle Beach Police Department.

A 58-year-old woman from Rockingham, N.C., told police that she, the victim and a 25-year-old man had just returned to their vehicle after shopping at the nearby Wal-Mart on Seaboard Street. The gunshot victim and the other man live in Marston, N.C., according to records.

The woman told officers that she was entering the truck at the driver’s side door when she heard the 55-year-old woman scream while she was standing near the trunk of the vehicle. The woman told police that she heard a male suspect demand the victim’s purse and then heard a gunshot.

The 58-year-old woman got into the vehicle and grabbed a gun out of the center console and pointed it toward a second suspect, the report shows. more

Canadian wages plummet

Canadian workers are failing to keep pace with the rising cost of living as average real wages continue to shrink dramatically, according to new data from Statistics Canada.

Real after-inflation wages have been dropping since the summer, and in September the average paycheques of Canadian workers declined outright — by 0.3 per cent to $872.75.

That means less money in Canadian pockets for Christmas gifts, but also for other necessities as workers cope with an uncertain economy, rising business pessimism and government restraint.

"The nominal wage gains being as soft as they are has created a condition where the average Canadian isn't keeping up with the cost of filling their grocery carts, filling their cars and heating their homes," said Derek Holt, a senior economist with Scotiabank.

Recent surveys suggest Canadians are still planning to spend pretty much as they have in the past this Christmas season, although more will seek out bargains at U.S. stores along the border.

But economists say that can't keep up and point out mostforecasts project consumers cutting back in the next year. more

Black Friday pepper-spray attack injures 20

Black Friday, the biggest U.S. shopping day, has taken some unfortunate turns — including at one Los Angeles-area Wal-Mart where a woman allegedly used pepper spray to gain an edge over fellow shoppers and injured 20 people.

The pepper-spray incident happened shortly after the store opened Thursday evening as shoppers prowled the aisles for discounts.

Elsewhere, police in Fayetteville, N.C., were searching for two suspects after gunshots rang out at a local mall early Friday. And two women in upstate New York were facing charges after a fight broke out at a Wal-Mart.

But for the most part, Black Friday has been largely peaceful, with hundreds of people lining up overnight in search of bargains at stores such as Best Buy, Target, and Abercrombie & Fitch, which opened at midnight ET following the U.S. Thanksgiving. more

Occupy Edmonton camp swept by police: Canada

Edmonton police moved in and dismantled the Occupy camp in a downtown park early Friday morning, resulting in at least three arrests.

"We were all sleeping in the white tent," said Mahad Mohamed. "They woke us up and told us to move."

About 45 officers arrived to remove the protesters and their camp in what appeared to be a peaceful eviction, which took about 90 minutes. Police erected a fence around the perimeter of the camp and most of the officers have left the scene.

The CBC's Andrea Huncar reported that three protesters were arrested on trespassing charges. One protester attempted to handcuff himself to a stove.

The three were released at about 7 a.m. after being issued trespassing fines of $287.

Occupy Edmonton protesters said earlier this week they would not willingly leave the downtown park where they had been camped out since mid-October.

"We will peacefully resist this latest eviction attempt," Mike Hudema had said on Tuesday.

The protesters said they were prepared to stay at the site for years if need be.

"We're building a community here," said Hudema. "We aren't harming anybody." more

Nuclear power 'gets little public support worldwide' -- Gee, I wonder why

There is little public appetite across the world for building new nuclear reactors, a poll for the BBC indicates.

In countries with nuclear programmes, people are significantly more opposed than they were in 2005, with only the UK and US bucking the trend.

Most believe that boosting efficiency and renewables can meet their needs.

Just 22% agreed that "nuclear power is relatively safe and an important source of electricity, and we should build more nuclear power plants".

In contrast, 71% thought their country "could almost entirely replace coal and nuclear energy within 20 years by becoming highly energy-efficient and focusing on generating energy from the Sun and wind".

Globally, 39% want to continue using existing reactors without building new ones, while 30% would like to shut everything down now.

The global research agency GlobeScan, commissioned by BBC News, polled 23,231 people in 23 countries from July to September this year, several months after an earthquake and giant tsunami devastated Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power station. more

Deadly new, old floods wreak havoc in Thailand

Flooding ravaged parts of southern Thailand on Thursday, with residents there joining their countrymen in Bangkok and beyond struggling with the effects of high water.

Parts of Songkhla province were declared disaster zones a day after rushing water swept away a 3-year-old child, So Hemakul, a provincial disaster and mitigation official, told the state-run MCOT news agency. The child's body was found Thursday.

Heavy rains led Songkhla Gov. Winyu Thongsakul to urge residents of 16 districts to brace for flooding. Already, more than 360 people in the area have been forced to evacuate due to water as deep as 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) in places.

Still, though the situation threatened to worsen, the scale of personal and economic devastation paled compared to that elsewhere in Thailand, including areas in the central part of the Southeast Asian nation such as Bangkok.

Earlier this week, the government reported on its website that 17 provinces -- at that point, not yet including Songkhla -- were experiencing severe flooding.

The damage already done this season has prompted an extensive, and expensive, government effort. On Thursday, the Flood Recovery and Restoration Committee requested nearly 13 billion baht ($415 billion U.S.) for various projects to help flood-ravaged areas, according to the government's website. more

Italian short-term borrowing costs surge: Europe teeters on verge of collapse

Italy's borrowing costs shot higher on Friday as Rome was forced to pay euro-era high interest rates to investors in what analysts called an "awful" auction of short-term debt.

Yields on two-year bonds jumped above 8 per cent after an auction of this debt and six-month bills raised the full targeted €10bn but at the cost of sharply higher yields.

The European Central Bank on Friday was reportedly intervening in the sovereign bond market again, buying Italian and Spanish debt in an effort to limit the unsustainable rise of interest rates.

"We're witnessing a slow-motion collapse of the world's third-largest bond market. It is agonising to watch," Nicholas Spiro, a London-based sovereign risk analyst, said.

The auction will add to pressure on Mario Monti, Italy's new prime minister leading a government of technocrats, to announce details of his plans to reduce Italy's budget deficit and promote economic growth as Italy hovers on the edge of renewed recession. After just a week in office, Mr Monti, former European commissioner, has only spoken in general terms of what he intends to do and has still not appointed his full team.

A cabinet meeting on Friday had been expected to announce names of deputy ministers and under-secretaries, but ministers emerging from the meeting said the issue was not discussed. Reports and comments from politicians suggest that Mr Monti has been blocked in his efforts to get the main political parties inside his government with senior posts. more

Montreal police move in on Occupy camp: Canada

Police descended on Occupy Montreal campers in Victoria Square a day after a second round of eviction notices were handed out by the city.

A few dozen tents remained at the site Friday morning.

Montreal police started blocking off streets and moving in on the site in the square, where Occupy movement supporters set up camp in mid-October, at around 9 a.m. ET.

They ripped up tent pegs and pulled out poles before city workers moved in and starting loading items into a dump truck.

An area was set up for people to claim their belongings once the cleanup of the site was complete.

Protesters watched from the sidelines, chanting and jeering at police. They didn’t interfere with the operation, however, and no arrests have been reported.

The protesters had been negotiating with the city and hoped to be able to remain for one more night in advance of a rally set for Saturday. more

Ganzouri regains PM job as Egypt braces for 'last chance' protests



Kamal Ganzouri, who served as prime minister under President Hosni Mubarak, regained the post Friday as competing protests drew tens of thousands of demonstrators in the capital.

"We are here to serve our nation," said Ganzouri, who served as Mubarak's defense minister for 20 years.

Ganzouri told reporters that Hussein Tantawi, field marshal of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and Egypt's dominant force since Mubarak's ouster in February, "made it clear to me, he is no longer willing to stay in power. If he told me otherwise, I'd not have accepted to take this role."

Ganzouri said he had asked for time to form a cabinet "that will be accepted by everyone." more

Turkey warns Syria to make choice as deadline passes

Turkey's foreign minister warned Friday that it was time for Syria to make a decision, as a deadline passed for it to agree to let Arab League observers into the country to monitor the government's response to civil unrest.

Damascus's failure to respond opens the door to economic sanctions against Syria by its neighbors, a senior Arab League diplomat told CNN in Cairo.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Syria risked international isolation if it continued on its present path -- and, that the current bloodshed as it puts down pro-democracy protests could not be tolerated.

"Syria has to make a decision," he said, speaking in Istanbul alongside his Italian counterpart, Giulio Terzi. more

Black Friday comes to America: The new National Holiday

Larger -- and younger -- crowds jammed the nation's malls and big box stores on Black Friday, as a new generation got in on one of the biggest sales days of the year.

There were big crowds across the country as doors opened Thursday night. Due to earlier openings, the crowd at Columbia Mall in Grand Forks, N.D., was much bigger than in previous years -- and noticeably younger, too, according to Bill Reid, general manager.

Reid said shoppers made a beeline for fleece jackets at Victoria's Secret, a four-piece luggage set for $89.99 at JC Penney, and women's boots on sale for $19.99 at Macy's. "They were going like hotcakes and it was a disaster area," he said of the boots, which were entirely sold out within hours.

At the Herberger's in the Holiday Village Mall in Great Falls, Mont., the entire stock of comforters on sale for $19.97 sold out within an hour.

"This is the first year we've opened at midnight, and you almost couldn't get a parking space," said the mall's general manager Devin Hartley.

Along with bargain-basement goods, luxury stores at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in New York were particularly popular, said spokeswoman Michele Rothstein. Lines formed outside of Coach and Gucci as early as 7 p.m. and deals such as an additional 50% everything at Cole Haan drew shoppers from all over, including a strong international contingent and even parents with strollers. more

Pakistani woman suspected of killing, cooking husband

A Pakistani woman is being held on suspicion of killing her husband, cutting him up and trying to cook the pieces, Karachi police said Friday.

Zainab Bibi, 32, was arrested in connection with the murder Tuesday of her husband Ahmad Abbas, police said.

Her 22-year-old nephew, Zaheer Ahmed, is accused of helping Bibi stab Abbas to death and carve his body into small pieces.

Police said she wanted to cook her husband's body parts so she could dispose of them without being caught.

Neighbors raised the alert when they detected a foul odor in the neighborhood, police said.

Pakistan's domestic satellite channel ARY News spoke to Bibi in the police station where she is being held in the southern city of Karachi.

In an interview broadcast late Thursday, she claimed to have killed her husband because he wanted a physical relationship with their daughter -- and said she did not regret her actions. more

Russia opposes foreign interference in Syria, official says - 25th Nov 2011

Russia warned against international military intervention in Syria and described it as an "absolutely unacceptable" solution to ending months of government crackdown against protesters.

The Syrian people must be left to decide their own fate, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich was quoted as saying by Russian news agency Interfax.

Human rights issues should not be used as a justification for action by the West, he said.

"Under no circumstances must human rights issues be used as a pretext for interfering in the internal affairs of a state, in this particular instance, Syria," Lukashevich said.

"A scenario involving military intervention in Syrian affairs is absolutely unacceptable for us."

His remarks come as Syria faces a Friday deadline to agree to let Arab League observers into the country to monitor the government's response to civil unrest. Read More

First Austria now Snowless Scandinavians are asking 'where's winter?' - 25th Nov 2011

For some reason, Scandinavia is not its frigid self, with unusually warm weather delaying the onset of winter in northern latitudes normally decked in white.

The lack of snow has been bad news for winter sports -- World Cup ski races have been dropped, or held on artificial snow, and mountain ski resorts are unable to open.

There are even reports of bird song and blooming gardens in some places typically entering the winter freeze at this time of year.

"Some flowers, like roses, have actually begun to blossom for a second time," said Mats Rosenberg, a biologist in Orebro, south-central Sweden.

Weather experts say this fall is on track to become one of the warmest on record in the northern part of Scandinavia, where the start of winter has been delayed by more than a month in certain locations.

In the Finnish town of Sodankyla, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of the Arctic Circle, snow cover started Nov. 17, the latest date in 100 years, said Pauli Jokinen, spokesman at the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

Animals -- such as stoats, hares and willow grouse -- that change color with the season turned white weeks before the snows came, bringing an eerie feeling to the snowless wilds of Lapland. Read More

Space tornadoes caused by gas from rotating black holes: research - 25th Nov 2011

The mysterious phenomena in space known as "space tornadoes" are likely the result of high-energy gas shooting out of a rotating black hole, research by Kyoto University professor Takeshi Tsuru and postgraduate student Makoto Sawada has found.

Space tornadoes, which emit strong radio waves, were discovered in 1960, and became the focus of attention for their strange spiral shape. Scientists suggested that they were remains of exploding supernovae or revolving neutron stars.

The Japanese researchers analyzed data on a space tornado from the Suzaku X-ray astronomy satellite, which is equipped with highly sensitive measuring equipment, and found that there were collections of plasma at each end of the tornado. The groups of plasma, which were of similar size and shape, had a temperature of about 10 million degrees Celsius. The researchers then used a radio telescope at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan's Nobeyama Radio Observatory in Nagano Prefecture to discover that molecular clouds existed at the same spots alongside these twin collections of plasma.

The researchers accordingly projected that there was a rotating black hole at the center of the tornado, and that a jet of high-energy particles emitted from each end created the spiral shape. Read More

14 Hospitalized for Food Poisoning in Northwest China - 25th Nov 2011

Fourteen people were hospitalized after eating contaminated food in northwest China's Shaanxi province on Thursday, local authorities said on Friday.

The victims began to show signs of food poisoning around 10:35 a.m. Thursday after eating food purchased from a street vendor in the Chang'an district of the provincial capital of Xi'an, according to district government officials.

An initial investigation showed that the victims, mainly migrant workers and students at a nearby university, are suffering from nitrite poisoning. They are being treated at the Shaanxi Provincial People's Hospital and are in stable condition, officials said.

Police have questioned the street vendor who sold the food to the victims, as well as the owners of a nearby meat store and grain store. Source

Severe Storm hits Sri Lanka's Southern Coast - 25th Nov 2011

Sri Lanka’s Southern Coast is hit by a severe storm since 9.00 a.m. today. In the Matara district many trees, light posts and name boards have been uprooted.

Roofs of many schools have been damaged by the storm. It has also damaged many buildings and roads are impassable. The Disaster Management Centre informed that although they have formed Rescue and Clearing Teams with the assistance of the Security Forces these teams are unable to move in at the moment since the storm is still continuing and the teams will move in as soon as it becomes possible. The storm is being experienced from Galle up to Dondra.

A similar situation is reported from the Galle District as well. The roads are impassable and in this district too many trees, light posts and name boards have been uprooted and schools and houses are being damaged. Source

80 students hospitalized after Chlorine leak, India - 25th Nov 2011

Chlorine leak from the public sector Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited led to the hospitalisation of more than eighty students from the Chavara Government Higher Secondary School near here on Friday. Immediately, authorities declared holiday for the school.

Soon after the resumption of classes, students started swooning after inhaling the gas. Students experienced vomitting and profuse flow of tear was seen in most of the students.

About 35 students have been admitted to the nearby Chavara Government Primary Health Centre and over 50 were being treated at the Karunagapally taluk Hospital. Police and Fire and Rescue Service Personnel have rushed to the scene to take control over the situation. Source

20 people suffer carbon monoxide poisoning at Thanksgiving Party, Kilbourn Park neighborhood, Illinois - 25th Nov 2011

Twenty people suffered carbon monoxide poisoning at a Thanksgiving party in the Kilbourn Park neighborhood after someone used a grill inside a home Thursday night, a spokesman for the Chicago Fire Department said.

Seven people were transported in good-to-fair and fair-to-serious conditions to area hospitals from the single-family home on the 4300 block of West Roscoe Street, said Larry Langford, a spokesman for the department.

The victims were transported to West Suburban Medical Center and Our Lady of the Resurrection Medical Center, he said.

Thirteen others were treated at the scene, Langford said. The incident happened before 11 p.m. Source