Sunday, November 27, 2011

Vladimir Putin accepts presidential nomination and warns the West not to interfere in his country's elections - 28th Nov 2011

Vladimir Putin accepted his ruling party's nomination on Sunday to return to Russia's presidency, while accusing foreigners of funding his political opponents in a reminder of the anti-Western rhetoric that characterised his years in power.

Putin, president from 2000-2008 and now prime minister, is expected to easily recapture the presidency in an election in March.

But opinion polls indicate a parliamentary election to be held next week could loosen his United Russia party's domination of Russian politics.

Some speculators believe United Russia will lose its current two-thirds majority that has allowed it to change the constitution at will.

The timing of the announcement of his nomination for the presidency - which he said would seek in September - appeared aimed at giving United Russia a boost in the December 4 parliamentary vote amid flagging support. Read More

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake EASTERN NEW GUINEA REGION, PAPUA NEW GUINEA - 28th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck the Eastern New Guinea Region, Papua New Guinea at a depth of 68.8 km (42 miles), the quake hit at 04:28:40 UTC Monday 28th November 2011.
The epicenter was 41 km (25 miles) WSW of Madang, New Guinea, Papua New Guinea
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time.

Iran threatens to bomb Turkey if U.S. or Israel attacks its nuclear installations - 28th Nov 2011

Iran will bomb Turkey if the U.S. or Israel tries to destroy its nuclear installations, a senior military commander warned today.

General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the aerospace division of the powerful Revolutionary Guard, threatened to target Nato's missile defence shield in the neighbouring country.

The system which Turkey only agreed to install in September, is designed to prevent Iranian missile attacks on Israel.

The warning is part of is part of a new strategy devised by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that consists of responding ‘to threats with threats’.

General Hajizadeh said: ‘Should we be threatened, we will target NATO's missile defense shield in Turkey and then hit the next targets.’

Tensions have been rising between Iran and the West since the release of a report earlier this month by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Read More

Britain draws up emergency plans for collapse of Euro after warnings Italy needs £500 billion bailout - 27th Nov 2011

Britain is drawing up emergency plans for the collapse of the ‘creaking’ Eurozone amid warnings debt-stricken Italy will need a £500 billion bailout involving billions of pounds of UK taxpayers’ money.

Chancellor George Osborne said the Treasury had ‘stepped up’ contingency planning and aimed to be ready for ‘whatever the Eurozone throws at us’.

It emerged yesterday that the International Monetary Fund, in which Britain is a major shareholder, could be forced to offer Italy a €600 billion (£514bn) rescue package to give its unelected new prime minister Mario Monti 12 to 18 months’ breathing room to implement big tax rises and spending cuts.

And in another move, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were revealed to be plotting a new pact on economic union without consulting Britain or other countries outside of the EU.

They are determined not to give Britain the chance of insisting on powers being handed back from Brussels by negotiating a major new EU treaty. Read More

Note: I doubt they will be discussing this with other countries within the EU either.

Nothing will stop us striking! Schools to shut, airports set for chaos, Army on standby -28th Nov 2011

Union leaders have declared there is nothing the Government can do to avert the biggest strikes in a generation this week.

As the Army is put on standby to secure Britain’s borders, millions of public sector workers are being warned that a ‘hugely generous’ pensions offer from ministers will be withdrawn if a deal is not agreed by the end of the year.

But the head of the Trades Union Congress, Brendan Barber, said it was ‘unlikely’ there was anything the Government could say to persuade him to call off Wednesday’s action.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said Mr Barber had ‘let the cat out of the bag’ and demonstrated the unions are hell-bent on confrontation with the Government. Read More

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake MID-INDIAN RIDGE - 28th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck the Mid-Indian Ridge at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the quake hit at 03:33:34 UTC Monday 28th November 2011.
The epicenter was 550 km (341 miles) Northeast of Ile Rodgrigues, Mauritius
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time.

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTH OF THE FIJI ISLANDS - 28th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck South of the Fiji Islands at a depth of 506.8 km (314.9 miles), the quake hit at 01:44:17 UTC Monday 28th November 2011.
The epicenter was 456 km (283 miles) SSW of Ndoi Island, Fiji
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time.

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake BOUGAINVILLE REGION, PAPUA NEW GUINEA - 28th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck the Bougainville Region, Papua New Guinea at a depth of 146.3 km (90.9 miles), the quake hit at 01:24:53 UTC Monday 28th November 2011.
The epicenter was 95 km (59 miles) Northwest of Arawa, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time.

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE COAST OF ECUADOR - 27th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck near the Coast of Ecuador at a depth of 56.7 km (35.2 miles), the quake hit at 23:53:56 UTC Sunday 27th November 2011.
The epicenter was 53 km (32 miles) NNW of Machala, Ecuador
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time.

Storm disrupts traffic, electricity in Sweden - 27th Nov 2011

A storm ravaging southwestern Sweden has cut off the electricity supply to some 12,000 homes and has disrupted ferry services between Sweden and Germany.

Ferry operator Scandlines said Sunday it has canceled its operations between Swedish town Trelleborg and Sassnitz in Germany due to the storm. Another operator, TT-Line said its ferries from Trelleborg to Rostock and Travemunde were severely delayed.

Utilities Vattenfall, Fortum and Eon said the storm has cut off electricity supply to around 12,000 of their clients.

The Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute has issued a class 3 warning for the storm, its highest level, saying the extreme winds could pose danger to the public and disrupt services. Source

5.3 Magnitude Earthquake MOLUCCA SEA, INDONESIA - 27th Nov 2011

A magnitude 5.3 earthquake has struck the Molucca Sea, Indonesia at a depth of 25.3 km (15.7 miles), the quake hit at 19:59:38 UTC Sunday 27th November 2011.
The epicenter was 145 km (90 miles) NNW of Ternate, Moluccas, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time.

5.2 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE COAST OF CENTRAL PERU - 27th Nov 2011

A magnitude 5.2 earthquake has struck near the Coast of Central Peru at a depth of 29 km (18 miles), the quake hit at 19:56:38 UTC Sunday 27th November 2011.
The epicenter was 52 km (32 miles) Southwest of Ica, Peru
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time.

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS - 27th Nov 2011

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck the Santa Cruz Islands at a depth of 54.9 km (34.1 miles), the quake hit at 17:48:02 UTC Sunday 27th November 2011.
The epicenter was 199 km (123 miles) South of Lata, Santa Cruz Islands, Solomon Islands
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time.

D-FOX: Please contact us if you can read this.

To D-fox: if you're reading this, please contact us at thecomingcrisis@gmail.com. It's important -- we believe.

Unanimous agreement among scientists: Earth to suffer major loss in species

The thylacine, the dodo, the great auk, the passenger pigeon, the golden toad: these species have become symbols of extinction. But they are only the tip of the recent extinction crisis, and according to a survey of 583 conservation scientists, they are only the beginning. In a new survey in Conservation Biology, 99.5 percent of conservation scientists said a serious loss in biodiversity was either 'likely', 'very likely', or 'virtually certain'. The prediction of a significant loss of species is not surprising—scientists have been warning for decades that if global society continues with business as usual the world will suffer from mass extinction—what is perhaps surprising is the practically unanimous expectation that a global biodiversity decline will occur.

"Understanding the degree of consensus within the scientific community will help policy makers to interpret scientific advice, improving the likelihood of successful of conservation initiatives," said study author Murray Rudd with the University of York. "The extremely high level of consensus demonstrated by these results underlines the urgency of preventing further damage to the natural world."

In addition, nearly 80 percent of respondents agreed that it was 'virtually certain' that human activities were accelerating species loss. Deforestation, habitat loss, climate change, pollution, overexploitation for food or medicine, disease, and invasive species are among a few of the big drivers of biodiversity decline worldwide.

According to the survey, tropical coral reefs are the most likely to see extinctions. Eighty-eight percent of respondents familiar with coral reefs—the most biodiverse marine ecosystems on Earth—predicted that a serious loss was 'very likely' or 'virtually certain'. While coral reefs are suffering from pollution and overfishing, perhaps the most drastic impact is the ongoing rise of greenhouse gas emissions. Ocean acidification from rising carbon levels hurts a coral reef's ability to calcify, imperiling the ecosystem. In addition, rising sea temperatures and sea levels due to climate can cause coral bleaching, which has devastated whole reef systems. more

US Government Profits Off Airline Passengers' Misery

Insider Trading is Legal for Members of Congress

Déjà Vu: Scramble for Africa, Scramble for Middle East

Calling All Victims: Are people milking political correctness?

Too Many Options: Has our society fallen victim to complexity and the law of diminishing returns?

"Herman Cain is a Welfare Queen"

'Ration-book’ meat cuts such as heart, cheeks, trotters and sweetbreads are growing more and more popular -- Fad, or necessity?

A new phrase is entering the culinary lexicon: “ration-book meat cuts”. After decades relegated to pet food and canny ethnic butchers, offal and other more obscure bits of calf, sheep and pig are finding their way onto smart meat counters. At the forefront is Waitrose (waitrose.co.uk), which has now extended its range of forgotten cuts (best not to mention the o-word) to the likes of sweetbreads and ox cheek, albeit only in selected stores.

Its competitor Morrisons, meanwhile (morrisons.co.uk), has been quietly selling heart, hock and such like for years. Butchers, too, may not have these more interesting cuts on display, but most are delighted to fetch them from the fridge.

These lesser-known bits aren’t just good value, they are delicious, too. Some need cooking for longer, but others, such as liver, are cooked in a flash. They are generally lean and with no pesky bones, although you may have to do a little fiddling around removing membranes.

The flavour is meaty but, with the exception of pig’s kidneys and tripe, not overpoweringly strong. Here are some of my favourites. Be brave. You won’t regret it. more

Spain: The fifth victim to fall in Europe’s arc of depression

Let us all extend our sympathies to the Spanish people. They face the greatest national emergency since the Civil War yet their vote for drastic change is palpably useless, even if democracy has in this case at least been respected.

As union leader Javier Dos put it, the EU-imposed austerity plans of the incoming Partido Popular are “nothing more than the continuation of policies leading Europe toward disaster”.

The new government of Mariano Rajoy has precious few policy levers at its disposal and cannot alone do anything at this late stage to prevent a death spiral within the strait-jacket of EMU.

The immediate destiny of his country lies entirely in the hands of Germany, the AAA creditor core, the EU authorities, and the European Central Bank, the nexus of policy-making power that together dictates whether Spain will be thrown a lifeline or be pushed further into depression and social catastrophe.

What can the quiet Galician do to stop Spain’s 22.6pc unemployment rate – or 46pc for youth – from ratcheting higher this winter as the combined effects of fiscal austerity and a credit crunch together do their worst? How can he stop real M1 deposits contracting at a 5pc rate.

Spain is a disquieting story for northern neo-Calvinists, still clinging their morality tale of what went wrong with monetary union, a belief that feckless Greco-Latins borrowed their way to disaster, and that Teutonic virtue for all is the path to redemption. more

Tahir square protests against military rule in pictures

The Occupy movement has failed the essential test of protest

Unlike the student revolutionaries of the Sixties, the protesters at Zuccotti Park and St Paul's Cathedral have no clear political objectives, apart from vague attacks on the current economic system.

Somebody asked me a week or so ago whether the Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York and their soulmates at St Paul’s Cathedral didn’t remind me a bit of my own student revolutionary days in Berkeley. Even though my politics had changed, said my interlocutor, this must evoke a little hint of nostalgia.

No, it doesn’t. And that is not because my political views have moved on. In fact, I would not repudiate any of the causes that I demonstrated for in the 1960s: the things that I stood for then (well, most of them) are things I would be prepared – as we used to say at the time – to put my body on the line for now.

The abolition of racial segregation in the Southern states of America (and de facto segregation in its Northern ones), the right of black US citizens to register as voters, and opposition to American military action in Vietnam still seem to me to be issues on which it was necessary and right to take a stand. The reason that I find it impossible to feel any kinship with the erstwhile campers of Zuccotti Park – let alone their imitators in London – is not because I repent of my own youth, or no longer accept the value of public protest. There is all the difference in the world between what we did then and what is going on now.

The single most important disparity, as my list of the causes I supported might indicate, is that we knew quite definitively what it was that we were demanding. That is, we had a clear conception of what it would mean to win: to have achieved our goal. The Civil Rights movement succeeded – after a campaign of extraordinary courage and perseverance – first in de-segregating the schools in Alabama, and then in getting Congress to pass an Act that made racial discrimination illegal. So those campaigners who went down to Mississippi to register black voters knew that they had not risked their lives for nothing. The young men who burned their draft cards (a federal offence) and then fled the country were aware that they were sacrificing their American futures – but they also knew precisely what would constitute a victory for their side of the argument.

What exactly is it that would count as a successful outcome for today’s protesters? They attack capitalism and want to replace it with – what? According to a press release from the New York branch, they wish to: “Resist authority. Rebuild the economy. Reclaim our democracy.” Really? Resist all authority? That would effectively put an end to any form of ordered society that could protect the weak and ensure justice. more

The tide of history is now flowing against the euro

The cracks in the euro have created fissures in the whole European project of 'ever closer union'.

There has been a fundamental change in the way the European Union is thought about – and the change has happened not just in Britain, but across all member states. A decade ago, the almost universal assumption was that “ever closer union” was inevitable: the tide of history was pulling inexorably in that direction, because the world was coalescing into vast political and economic blocs – of which Europe was one.

To mourn the passing of individual European nations as significant political entities was futile: the equivalent of army officers lamenting the passing of the cavalry charge in the age of the machine gun or the tank. The movement towards a united Europe was simply a fact – so we should stop whining, and get used to it. Nations, such as Britain, that held out against the euro for reasons of pure sentimentality, would sooner or later join in the project that would bind all of Europe’s nations together irrevocably.

The “tide of history” argument wasn’t founded on reason or evidence, but it had a peculiar power. People were genuinely frightened about being left behind. And it is the collapse of that fear that has done more than anything to transform the terms of the debate about Europe – not least because everyone now is a lot more frightened of being stuck inside the euro, despite the German finance minister’s claim last week that every EU country secretly longs to join it.

As the daily demonstrations and riots in Athens show, Greece’s voters – though not yet its political class – have come to the conclusion that their membership of the euro now means their impoverishment, and their subservience to a programme of ever-greater austerity imposed by Eurocrats whom they cannot hold to account. Political parties in Holland, Finland and Austria – all founder members of the euro, and all with strong economies – are openly wondering whether joining wasn’t a colossal mistake.

In Holland, the party that favours a referendum on continued euro membership is crucial to the survival of the coalition government, so it may actually force the issue. In Austria, the Freedom Party, which advocates pulling out of the single currency, is running neck and neck in the polls with the ruling Social Democrats. more

Hong Kong bust shows China cocaine boom

As mainland Chinese discover expensive wines and luxury cars from the west, so too grows the demand for illegal drugs such as cocaine.

And this booming trade uses Hong Kong as a conduit between Latin American producers and the burgeoning mainland China market. On September 18, local police arrested eight individuals, one of them a U.S. citizen, in connection with a 567-kilogram seizure worth around US$77 million in the local market.

“Historically, Hong Kong has been the center of drug trafficking in this region,” said Simon Young, Director of the Center for Comparative Law at the University of Hong Kong.

Amounts found by authorities have been increasingly large in the territory over the last years. A recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes said they expect consumption in Mainland China to continue its rise.

Hong Kong’s relatively lenient laws for trafficking – with no capital punishment for offenders –is one of its comparative advantages for serving the China market, according to Young. The city’s status as a financial hub also makes it a convenient center for money laundering.

“There’s enormous amounts of drug proceeds that go through this jurisdiction,” Young told CNN.

And Hong Kong’s streets illustrate its increasing status as a Latin American cocaine entrepôt. more

Derreck Kayongo: Hotel soap project hero -- Consider all the things we take for granted...

Spain's lost generation: Getting a job is now nearly impossible

The world needs more toilets: 2.6 billion of them

It does not make for pleasant dinner conversation. But we have a global sanitation crisis. More than 40% of the world's population does not have access to a toilet. These 2.6 billion people, most living in low- and middle-income countries in Asia and Africa, face the daily challenge of finding a bush, train track or empty lot where they can urinate and defecate in relative privacy.

Between 1990 and 2008, the share of the world's population that had access to basic sanitation increased only 7%, to 61% of the world's citizens. In many developing countries, mobile phone penetration is expanding at a faster rate than sanitation. In Tanzania, for example, half the country's citizens have mobile phones, but only 24% use an improved sanitation facility.

Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of World Toilet Day, a day set aside not simply as a celebration of this most venerable and useful of technologies, but as a way to draw attention to the crisis and some possible solutions.

This sanitation crisis is not only an affront to dignity. It results in the release of hundreds of tons of feces and urine each day directly into rivers, lakes, landfills and oceans, creating an immense human and environmental health hazard. Every day more than 4,000 young children die from sanitation-related illness. Fully half of the hospital beds in the developing world are occupied by people whose ailments can be traced to poor sanitation. more

Supercommittee failure could trigger US credit downgrade, economists warn: US

Economists are warning of dire consequences if US politicians fail to make progress this weekend in tense talks aimed at reducing America's massive deficit ahead of a Wednesday deadline.

The bi-partisan congressional super-committee is charged with drawing up plans for a $1.2tn reduction in the nation's deficit by the middle of next week. Failure to do so will trigger an automatic "sequester" that will make cuts of that size to defence and social welfare programmes starting in 2013. But the two sides seem far from finding a solution after clashing over tax revenues.

While Wednesday is the official deadline for the supercommittee to report back, it has until Monday to tell the Congressional Budget Office about the impact any plan they send to Congress will have on the budget.

"Time is running out. What I can say is we are leaving no stone unturned, negotiations continue and we are looking to find a way. We recognise what's at stake and we're hoping to reach an agreement," Democrat committee member Chris Van Hollen told CNN Friday.

Failure to reach an agreement on what is essentially a small reduction on the deficit – just 0.7% of gross domestic product in 2013 – could trigger another rating's agency downgrade, warned economists including Paul Ashworth, chief North American economist at Capital Economics.

"With all this pressure to reach an agreement, it really doesn't look good if they can't find a solution," said Ashworth. more

"Germans try to kill off Pound"

BRITAIN will soon be forced to scrap the pound and join the euro, one of Germany’s most senior figures said yesterday.

In a chilling threat to UK sovereignty, German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble predicted that all Europe would one day use the single currency. “It will happen perhaps faster than some in the British Isles currently believe,” he said.

His sinister warning followed the emergence of a secret German plan to build a powerful new economic government for the eurozone and block an EU referendum in Britain.

A leaked German foreign ministry memo detailed plans for a new European Monetary Fund. It also claimed the EU’s treaty could be altered to centralise more power without triggering a vote.

In a further sign of growing German supremacy within the EU, David Cameron was yesterday rebuffed by Chancellor Angela Merkel in talks over how to tackle the euro crisis.

Last night British opponents of the EU were horrified by the bellicose threat to Britain’s economic independence.
Tory MP Peter Bone said: “I would be happy to have a bet with the German finance minister that the euro will disappear before the pound. It is a completely absurd suggestion that will never happen.”

Fellow Tory backbencher Douglas Carswell said: “It is a tragedy that a continent of millions of hard-working people is run by clowns like this.” more

Large Numbers of ‘Near Poor’ Startle the Census: US

They drive cars, but seldom new ones. They earn paychecks, but not big ones. Many own homes. Most pay taxes. Half are married, and nearly half live in the suburbs. None are poor, but many describe themselves as barely scraping by.

Down but not quite out, these Americans form a diverse group sometimes called “near poor” and sometimes simply overlooked — and a new count suggests they are far more numerous than previously understood.

When the Census Bureau this month released a new measure of poverty, meant to better count disposable income, it began altering the portrait of national need. Perhaps the most startling differences between the old measure and the new involves data the government has not yet published, showing 51 million people with incomes less than 50 percent above the poverty line. That number of Americans is 76 percent higher than the official account, published in September. All told, that places 100 million people — one in three Americans — either in poverty or in the fretful zone just above it.

After a lost decade of flat wages and the worst downturn since the Great Depression, the findings can be thought of as putting numbers to the bleak national mood — quantifying the expressions of unease erupting in protests and political swings. They convey levels of economic stress sharply felt but until now hard to measure.

The Census Bureau, which published the poverty data two weeks ago, produced the analysis of those with somewhat higher income at the request of The New York Times. The size of the near-poor population took even the bureau’s number crunchers by surprise. more

Wind farms are "absolutely useless," says Duke: UK

The Duke of Edinburgh has made a fierce attack on wind farms, describing them as “absolutely useless”.

In a withering assault on the onshore wind turbine industry, the Duke said the farms were “a disgrace”.

He also criticised the industry’s reliance on subsidies from electricity customers, claimed wind farms would “never work” and accused people who support them of believing in a “fairy tale”.

The Duke’s comments will be seized upon by the burgeoning lobby who say wind farms are ruining the countryside and forcing up energy bills.

Criticism of their effect on the environment has mounted, with The Sunday Telegraph disclosing today that turbines are being switched off during strong winds following complaints about their noise.

The Duke’s views are politically charged, as they put him at odds with the Government’s policy significantly to increase the amount of electricity generated by wind turbines. more

Report: Israel to employ high-tech weapons in Iran strike

Current and former US intelligence officials estimate that any Israeli attack on nuclear sites in Iran would go far beyond airstrikes from F-15 and F-16 fighter jets and likely include electronic warfare against the Islamic Republic's electric grid, Internet, cell phone network, and emergency frequencies for firemen and police officers.

The officials, who based their assessment on a US intelligence report published last summer, told the Daily Beast news website that Israel has been assembling a multibillion-dollar array of high-tech weapons that would allow it to jam, blind, and deafen Tehran's defenses in the case of a pre-emptive aerial strike.

According to the officials, one of the weapons Israel has developed is capable of mimicking a maintenance cell phone signal that commands a cell network to “sleep,” effectively stopping transmissions. The Israelis also have jammers capable of creating interference within Iran’s emergency frequencies for first responders, they told the Daily Beast.

The sources also said that in case of an attack on Iran, Israel would likely exploit a vulnerability that American officials detected two years ago in Iran's big-city electric grids, which are not “air-gapped”—meaning they are connected to the Internet and therefore vulnerable to a Stuxnet-style cyberattack. more

Ron Paul Warns GOP Not To "Capitulate" On Taxes, Won't Rule Out Indy Bid



Ron Paul with Sean Hannity discussing the economy and the election. Paul talks about the lack of attention he receives, if he is not ignored altogether. Paul says he and his staff were "annoyed" by the fact that he only received 89 seconds to speak at the last Republican debate.

Paul warned his Republican colleagues in the Congress that they better keep their pledge to not raise taxes. He says if they do "capitulate" on taxes then people will make them pay.

"I have no intention of doing that," Paul says of a third-party run if he doesn't get the Republican nomination. However, when asked several times by Hannity to rule out an independent bid, he would not. more

Climate change means more frequent droughts and floods, U.N. panel says in report

Climate change will make drought and flooding events like those that have battered the United States and other countries in 2011 more frequent, forcing nations to rethink the way they cope with disasters, according to a new report the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued Friday.

The report — the culmination of a two-year process involving 100 scientists and policy experts — suggests that researchers are far more confident about the prospect of more intense heat waves and heavy downpours than they are about how global warming is affecting hurricanes and tornadoes. But the new analysis also speaks to a broader trend: The world is facing a new reality of more extreme weather, and policymakers and business alike are beginning to adjust.

Gerald Meehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and one of the report’s reviewers, said it highlights why climate change means more than just a gradual rise in the global temperature reading.

“The fact is, a small change in average temperature can have a big impact on extremes,” Meehl said in an interview. “It’s pretty straightforward. As average temperatures go up, it’s fairly obvious that heat extremes go up and [the number of] low extremes go down.”

Meehl co-authored a 2009 study showing that during the past decade the number of record highs in the United States outnumbered the record lows by an average of 2 to 1; historically, the two have been roughly even. Two Australian researchers last year found a similar trend between 1997 and 2009. more

Russian hackers targeted U.S. water plant in apparent malicious cyber attack, expert says

FOREIGN hackers have broken into a water plant control system in Illinois and damaged a water pump in what may be the first reported case of a cyber-attack on a critical US computer system, according to an industry expert.

On November 8, a municipal water employee in Illinois noticed problems with the city's water pump control system, and a technician determined the system had been remotely hacked into from a computer in Russia, said Joe Weiss, an industry security expert who obtained a copy of an Illinois government report on the incident. The city affected was Springfield, according to the US Department of Homeland Security.

Problems with the system had been observed for two to three months and recently the system ''would power on and off, resulting in the burnout of a water pump'', the November 10 report from the statewide terrorism and intelligence centre stated, according to Mr Weiss. ''This is a big deal,'' he said.
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The report said it was unknown how many other systems might be affected.

It said hackers apparently broke into a software company's database and retrieved usernames and passwords of various control systems that run water plant computer equipment.

Using that data, they were able to hack into the Illinois plant, Mr Weiss said.

It is not the first time that two-step technique - hack into a security company in order to gain the keys to enter other companies or entities - has been detected. more

Pizza still a vegetable for U.S. schools

Pizza still counts as a vegetable in U.S. public school cafeterias.

The U.S. Agriculture Department originally wanted to require a half cup of tomato paste for a pizza slice to qualify as a vegetable. But on Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives backed off from the stricter requirement.

A slice of pizza will continue to qualify as a vegetable because it contains two tablespoons of tomato paste.

"It's an important victory," Corey Henry, spokesman for the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI), told Reuters.

The trade association lobbied Congress on behalf of frozen pizza sellers, such as ConAgra Foods Inc and Schwan Food Co and french fry maker McCain Foods Ltd.

The USDA also proposed limits on french fries, increasing the variety of fruits and vegetables and limiting starchy vegetables including corn and green peas.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Center for Science in the Public Interest said the legislation would be a bigger "blunder" than when U.S. President Ronald Reagan's administration tried and failed to credit ketchup as a vegetable in the school lunch program.

"Pizza should be served with a vegetable, not count as one," the consumer advocacy groups said on its website. more

Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib Escapes an Assassination attempt - 27th Nov 2011

The Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib has escaped an assassination attempt this weekend according to sources within the government.

El-Keib visited the headquarters of the Libyan radio in the districtAshat on Saturday. As he was entering the building, men opened fire on his delegation. Two employees of Prime Minister were Killed and five were wounded, but El-Keib escaped unharmed. The Suspects motives have not been disclosed.

The prime minister was also attacked on Sunday. Berbers, Hundreds of them gathered at the office of El-Keib with their blue-green-yellow flags waving. El-Keib spoke to the protesters but failed to reassure them they demanded representation within the government and the minority rights of the Amazigh Berbers as they call themselves. Berbers are not Arabs, but they hope that the "Arab Spring" their difficult position in North Africa will improve.

The Berbers in Libya played a major role in the fall of dictator Gaddafi. Source

Germany and France examine push for euro zone integration....Who cares what the rest of Europe wants - 27th Nov 2011

Germany and France are exploring radical methods of securing deeper and more rapid fiscal integration among euro zone countries, aware that getting broad backing for the necessary treaty changes may not be possible, EU officials say.

Germany's original plan was to try to secure agreement among all 27 EU countries for a limited change to the Lisbon Treaty by the end of 2012, making it possible to impose much tighter budget controls over the 17 euro zone countries -- a way of shoring up the region's defenses against the debt crisis.

But in meetings with EU leaders in recent weeks, it has become clear to both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy that it may not be possible to get all 27 countries on board, EU sources say.

Even if that were possible, it could take a year or more to finally secure the changes while market attacks on Italy, Spain and now France suggest bold measures are needed within weeks.

As a result, senior French and German civil servants have been exploring other ways of achieving the goal, either via an agreement among just the euro zone countries, or a separate agreement outside the EU treaty that could involve a core of around 8-10 euro zone countries, officials say.

No firm decisions have yet been reached.

Reuters exclusively reported on November 9 that French and German officials were discussing plans for a radical overhaul of the European Union to establish a more fiscally integrated and possibly smaller euro zone.

"The Germans have made up their minds. They want treaty change and they are doing everything they can to push for it as rapidly as possible," one senior EU official involved in the negotiations told Reuters. "Senior German officials are on the phone at all hours of the day to every European capital." Read More