Thursday, December 1, 2011

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Albanian spy chief facing extradition over torture and Kidnapping, on the Run in the UK as Judge Granted Bail with NO Electronic Tag

A former Albanian spy chief wanted for torture and kidnapping was on the run yesterday after failing to appear at an extradition hearing in London.

Ports and airports were put on alert after 58-year-old Ilir Kumbaro did not turn up at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, where he faced being sent back to Eastern Europe.

The Daily Mail has learned that despite Kumbaro being regarded as ‘clever and resourceful’, his bail conditions did not include any order for him to wear an electronic tag.

Instead, after associates had put up a surety of £10,000, he was told he had to report regularly to a police station while living in Forest Hill, south-east London.

Three months ago, this newspaper revealed how Kumbaro was able to seek asylum and live on benefits in Britain for almost 15 years by using a false identity.

The former secret service chief was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK by pretending he was a Kosovan refugee called Shaqa Shatri when he arrived in August 1996.

Kumbaro, his wife and son then settled down to live in a council flat in Fulham.

His stay here would have remained undetected had he not foolishly used his real name when making a claim for incapacity benefit, thereby alerting the authorities. Read More

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake TAIWAN - 2nd Dec 2011

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck Taiwan at a depth of 16.1 km (10 miles), the quake hit at 00:55:25 UTC Friday 2nd December 2011.
The epicenter was 46 km (28 miles) NNE of Taitung, Taiwan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 2nd Dec 2011

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 72.6 km (45.1 miles), the quake hit at 00:50:32 UTC Friday 2nd December 2011.
The epicenter was 66 km (41 miles) East of Sendai, Honshu, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

3.0 Magnitude Earthquake WESTERN MONTANA - 2nd Dec 2011

A magnitude 3.0 earthquake has struck Western Montana at a depth of just 5.3 km (3.3 miles), the quake hit at 00:37:51 UTC Friday 2nd December 2011.
The epicenter was 39 km (24 miles) ESE of Neihart, Montana
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

5.8 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTH INDIAN OCEAN - 2nd Dec 2011

A magnitude 5.8 earthquake has struck the South Indian Ocean at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the quake hit at 00:22:52 UTC Friday 2nd December 2011.
The epicenter was 1460 km (907 miles) Southeast of Tolanaro, Madagascar
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

5.4 Magnitude Earthquake SULAWESI, INDONESIA - 1st Dec 2011

A magnitude 5.4 earthquake has struck Sulawesi, Indonesia at a depth of 10.2 km (6.3 miles), the quake hit at 22:53:36 UTC Thursday 1st December 2011.
The epicenter was 183 km (113 miles) Southwest of Gorontalo, Sulawesi, Indonesia
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

5.2 Magnitude Earthquake NORTHERN MID-ATLANTIC RIDGE - 1st Dec 2011

A magnitude 5.2 earthquake has struck the Northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the quake hit at 21:35:09 UTC Thursday 1st December 2011.
The epicenter was 1157 km (718 miles) Southwest of Santa Cruz das Flores, Azores, Portugal
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake FIJI REGION - 1st Dec 2011

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck the Fiji Region at a depth of 581.2 km (361.2 miles), the quake hit at 20:21:46 UTC Thursday 1st December 2011.
The epicenter was 261 km (162 miles) Southeast of Lambasa, Vanua Levu, Fiji
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

New Icelandic volcano eruption could have global impact - 2nd Dec 2011

Reader Contribution;

Hundreds of metres under one of Iceland's largest glaciers there are signs of an imminent volcanic eruption that could be one of the most powerful the country has seen in almost a century.

Mighty Katla, with its 10km (6.2 mile) crater, has the potential to cause catastrophic flooding as it melts the frozen surface of its caldera and sends billions of gallons of water surging through Iceland's east coast and into the Atlantic Ocean.

"There has been a great deal of seismic activity," says Ford Cochran, the National Geographic's expert on Iceland.

"There have been more than 500 tremors in and around the caldera of Katla just in the last month, which suggests the motion of magma. And that certainly suggests an eruption may be imminent."

Scientists in Iceland have been closely monitoring the area since 9 July, when there appears to have been some sort of disturbance that may have been a small eruption.

Eruption 'long overdue'

Even that caused significant flooding, washing away a bridge across the country's main highway and blocking the only link to other parts of the island for several days.

"The July 9 event seems to mark the beginning of a new period of unrest for Katla, the fourth we know in the last half century," says Professor Pall Einarsson, who has been studying volcanoes for 40 years and works at the Iceland University Institute of Earth Sciences.

"It means you actually see the crust of the earth ripping apart”

Ford Cochran Iceland expert, National Geographic
"The possibility that it may include a larger eruption cannot be excluded," he continues. "Katla is a very active and versatile volcano. Read More

World Cup skiing event cancelled due to lack of snow... and warm weather signals catastrophic season in Alps - 1st Dec 2011

Ski resorts in Europe are continuing to struggle with a lack of snow - which has seen the cancellation of a series of World Cup alpine races.

The French resort of Val d'Isere was forced to abandon the event, due to take place on December 10 and 11, because of the balmy autumn which has this year beleaguered the continent.

Its slopes, seen here in these staggeringly barren photographs, have been badly affected by the warmest and driest autumn in the Alps for 147 years.

The hotter than usual weather is also posing problems across the rest of the continent, with a number of tourist destinations having had to postpone opening.

St Anton, in Austria, will not open for at least another week, and Skiwelt, also in Austria, will not be taking skiers until December 15. Read More

Mayan prediction of world ending in 2012 may be a 'misreading' - it's just the start of a new era, says expert - 1st Dec 2011

An inscription found in the Mayan temple of Tortuguero make a prediction of an apocalyptic even in 2012 - with some conspiracy theorists predicting the world being swallowed by a black hole, the sun, or just clipped by a passing asteroid.

The Mayan inscriptions refer to Bolon Yokte 'descending from the sky' in 2012 - a god associated with war and the underworld.

But a German expert, Sven Gronemeyer, says that the whole thing could just be a misreading.

The tablet on which the inscription was found has a break which makes the end nearly illegible - but even so, the legible parts don't necessarily spell oncoming doomsday.

Gronemeyer said his decoding of a Mayan artefact with a reference to a 2012 date denotes a transition to a new era in the Mayan calendar - and not a possible end of the world.

Bolon Yokte is a figure also associated with change.

Many Mayans also dismiss the apocalyptic predictions as largely a Western idea.

Rather than the end of time itself, the inscription refers to the start of a new era. Read More

UN: Deaths In Syria 'Much More' Than 4,000 - 1st Dec 2011

Syria is now in a state of civil war with a death toll "much more" than 4,000, according to the UN.

Navi Pillay, the body's high commissioner for human rights, said increasing numbers of defecting soldiers were taking up arms against the government of President Bashar al Assad.

She reiterated her claim that Syrian forces were committing "crimes against humanity".

Her assessment came as the EU - already imposing tough sanctions on Iran in a challenge over nuclear activities - agreed to broaden its economic sanctions against the Syrian regime.

New measures will target the oil and financial sectors and an additional 12 people and 11 "entities" have been added to the blacklist.

Syria's state oil company, the General Petroleum Corporation, is among those expected to be targeted. Read More

Chat Page -- December, 2011

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Britain to Claw back Powers from Brussels...maybe they will try in another lifetime

Confession: Chris Grayling has admitted that the Government is set to abandon its attempts to repatriate powers from Brussels.

Britain appears poised to give up the chance to claw back powers from Brussels in an attempt to find a solution to the eurozone storm which threatens to wreck the world economy.

David Cameron has long promised to repatriate control over employment laws and human rights legislation, but a Tory minister admitted it may be necessary to abandon these plans in order to resolve the debt crisis.

Employment minister Chris Grayling argued that eurozone stability was 'the key priority', and said that that may mean the UK taking a back seat in negotiations and dropping its demand for the repatriation of powers.

The news will anger eurosceptic backbenchers, who have been demanding that Britain reclaim powers from the EU as the price for supporting greater eurozone integration.

It comes a day ahead of a crucial summit between the Prime Minister and Nicolas Sarkozy, at which Mr Cameron will urge the French president to speed up decisive collective action to save the eurozone.

Mr Sarkozy is himself under fire in France as he attempts to convince the public that only closer European integration will solve the crisis - his opponents accuse him of 'abandoning' sovereignty and allowing a German takeover of the EU. Read More

"9 days left to save the Euro" -- Banks and businesses now planning for a Eurozone break up

Alexander Hunter nailed: £1.5m online get-rich-quick share tips scam

Gullible investors sent a total of £1.5m to an online share tipster who claimed he had a computer program that delivered total returns of more than 105pc, Newcastle Crown Court heard this week.

But the doublingstocks.com website was run by a 16-year-old schoolboy, Alexander Hunter, now 21, who lives with his parents at Whitley Bay, North Tyneside. They had no idea what he was getting up to online.

New technology; same old human nature. Like most get-rich-quick schemes, it only made one person rich; its promoter.

Complaints about losses on American penny shares which Hunter tipped led to an investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, who contacted Northumbria Police.

Hunter pleaded guilty to four charges of unauthorised trading under the Financial Services & Markets Act of 2000. He was ordered to pay back £986,508 to investors and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years.

Whether his victims will get their money back remains to be seen. They are certainly not entitled to anything from the UK statutory safety net provided by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, because that only covers individuals and firms authorised by the Financial Services Authority. more

Pensions apartheid: get ready to work until you are 75 as State Ponzi scheme unravels

Experts say the increase in State Pension Age announced by Chancellor George Osborne in his Autumn Statement yesterday will not be the last and millions of younger people should prepare to work until they are 70 or even 75.

No wonder public sector workers are striking today to protect taxpayer-subsidised schemes that enable many to retire two decades earlier than what looks like the new norm for those in the private sector. Mr Osborne's proposals yesterday to end national pay bargaining and cut jobs in the public sector can only have thrown petrol on the fire of their indignation.

Ed Wilson, a director at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), said: “The Government brought forward the increase in the state pension age to age 67 by nearly 10 years so that it will be place by 2026. There is a clear direction of travel that means that many of today’s younger employees can expect to be working well into their 70s.

“People hoping to retire at a particular age are having to revise their plans and are facing a stark choice between working longer, saving more or retiring poorer. Based on the principle the Government had previously set out of increasing State Pension age in line with improvements in longevity, we calculate that the State Pension age could be set to rise to age 70 by 2050.” more

"If Christianity goes, so does Europe"

Many people are breathing a restrained sigh of relief this morning after the cavalry, in the form of the US Federal Reserve, rode to the rescue of European financial institutions. Of course, it is uncertain whether this move will help solve Europe’s lending crisis or whether it merely postpones the day when the euro collapses – followed perhaps by the defeat of the European Project itself.

Whatever the future holds, we need to understand that the economic collapse is not the main crisis which engulfs Europe. More significantly, we see the EU developing into the ever-tighter totalitarianism which was envisaged from its inception. The founding fathers of the EU never foresaw a democratic union. The founders of the project, such as Coundenhove-Kalergi and Jean Monnet, always assumed there would be government not by elected statesmen but by technocrats. This is indeed what we have seen recently in the appointment of such men to supreme power in Greece and Italy.

But this creeping totalitarianism is not the root of our problem. Our crisis is a spiritual crisis, a crisis of identity. As the philosopher and former President of the Italian Senate, Professor Marcello Pera said,
“Christianity is so consubstantial with the West, that any surrender on its part would have devastating consequences.”

But all references to Europe’s Christian character have been expunged by the EU bureaucrats. Europe is now officially secular. Pope Benedict XVI identified our real crisis with terrifying clarity:

“The EU is godless. But then it is unthinkable that the EU could build a common European house while ignoring Europe’s identity. Europe is a historical, cultural and moral identity before it is a geographic, economic or political reality. It is an identity built on a set of values which Christianity played a part in moulding.” more

Pope Benedict XVI's astronomer: the Catholic Church welcomes aliens

Highly evolved extra terrestrial lifeforms may be living in space and would be welcomed into the church - "no matter how many tentacles", one of the Pope's astronomers has said.

The senior Vatican scientist, Brother Guy Consolmagno, said that he would be delighted if we encountered intelligent aliens and would be happy to baptise them.

His pronouncement opens up the possibility of space missionaries heading out to the stars to convert aliens to Christianity.

Speaking on the eve of addressing the British Science Festival, Dr Consolmangno said he had no problem with science and religion co-existing together.

But he dismissed Creationism and claimed that the revival of “intelligent design" – the controversial theory that only God can explain gaps in the theory of evolution – was “bad theology".

Dr Consolmango is one of a team of 12 astronomers working for the Vatican, said the Catholic Church had been supporting and funding science for centuries. more

UN: Syria civilian death toll 'much more' than 4,000

The number of people killed in Syria following a crackdown on protesters since March is "much more" than 4,000, the UN rights chief said on Thursday.

"We are placing the figure at 4,000. But the information coming to us is that it's much more," said United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay during a conference in Geneva, saying the situation can be characterised as a civil war.

Pillay will address a special session of the Human Rights Council on Friday called to discuss the findings of an independent panel on the human rights situation in Syria.

The Independent Commission of Inquiry said on Monday Syrian forces had committed crimes against humanity, including the murder and torture of children, following orders from the highest levels of Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The panel gathered evidence from 233 witnesses and victims on the brutal repression of anti-regime protesters but was not given permission to enter the country.

A previous toll issued by the UN earlier this month put the number of estimated deaths at 3,500. At least eight more civilians were killed Thursday in the troubled provinces of Hama and Homs, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. more

Half-man half-dog diner: The future of mankind?



The video sees Bizzle the dog, dressed in a white shirt, devour a box of cheese covered biscuits one-by-one using only his 'hands' in an adaptation of a classic slapstick comedy routine.

Those hands, of course, belong to one of the hungry canine's owners, based in Northampton, who said that the humourous illusion was "born of a Sunday evening with nothing better to do."

The 88-second clip of Bizzle, a mixed breed of American Bulldog and Douge de Bordeaux, has gone down very well online since being posted on YouTube on November 28.

Watched over 67,000 so far, the clip has provoked much merriment. So much so in fact that one amused viewer left the comment "definitely what the internet was made for" to which over 150 others watching on the video-sharing website have agreed. source

Thief Swipes Donated Gifts From Antioch Church: US



A church in far north suburban Antioch is scrambling – after someone stole items that were donated as Christmas gifts for needy families.

As CBS 2′s Pamela Jones reports, during regular business hours on Monday, somebody walked into St. Stephen Lutheran Church and stole $700 worth of toys, coats other items intended for Open Arms Mission Charities.

“What drives somebody to steal kids’ Christmas presents?” pastor Ellen Arthur said.

All the thieves left behind was a box and some wrapping paper.

“This was going to be for a 5-year-old girl. There were shirt, snow pants and boots in here,” Arthur said.

Arthur said church members had gathered about 20 gift packages right near the door.

“What’s really so heartwarming about St. Stephen people, they not only put in, like, a pair of boots for a little boy, but they put in several pairs of socks, or a little toy truck or an extra little book or something,” she said.

But the empty space left where piles of gifts should be sent the pastor on a frantic search, on the chance someone moved the presents for safekeeping.

The church posted news of the theft on its website and the community pitched in with replacement gifts. more

Feds Raid Midtown Club ‘Cheetah’s', Break Up Global Stripper Smuggling Scheme: New York

Federal authorities say they’ve busted a global underground immigration ring, and at the center of the scheme — strip clubs across Manhattan.

The feds carried out boxes of evidence from one Midtown strip club during an early Wednesday morning raid, dubbed “Operation Dancing Brides.”

They said the club — Cheetah’s — is one of several at the center of an underground immigration ring that stretches from Times Square to the heart of Russia.

“Today’s arrests bring to an end a long-standing criminal enterprise operated by colluding organized crime entities that profited wildly through a combination of extortion and fraud,” ICE HSI Special Agent-in-Charge James T. Hayes, Jr. told 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa. “As alleged, the defendants controlled their business and protected their turf through intimidation and threats of physical and economic harm. Today, that business model has been extinguished.” more

Beatings Inside Detroit Middle School Bathroom, So Called 30-Second Game

Beatings Inside Detroit Middle School Bathroom, So Called 30-Second Game: MyFoxDETROIT.com



A teenage girl is battered and beaten inside a Detroit school restroom while other girls watch and record the whole thing. However, this isn't the first time this girl has been assaulted at school. Her family says administrators know about the fighting and chose to look the other way.

School is supposed to be about reading, writing and arithmetic, but inside the walls of Detroit's Ludington Middle School a bathroom has been used as a backdrop for brutal teenage brawls.

It's a game called "30 Seconds," but no one is playing. One eighth grader pummels another while a group of girls stand by egging it on -- taping and timing it.

"This happened during school at eight o'clock in the morning. Where was security, the staff, teachers? You do not notice that 15 of your kids are gone out of a classroom?" said Arletha Newby.

Somehow 13-year-old Jasmine Crawley walked away with only broken glasses and a few scratches. She says she was pressured to fight, restlessly harassed for losing and now bullied for coming forward.

"She has comments on her Facebook leading from this tape of her getting beat up -- 'Snitches get stitches,'" Arletha Newby said. more

Trade in surveillance technology raises worries

Northern Virginia technology entrepreneur Jerry Lucas hosted his first trade show for makers of surveillance gear at the McLean Hilton in May 2002. Thirty-five people attended.

Nine years later, Lucas holds five events annually across the world, drawing hundreds of vendors and thousands of potential buyers for an industry that he estimates sells $5 billion of the latest tracking, monitoring and eavesdropping technology each year. Along the way these events have earned an evocative nickname: The Wiretappers’ Ball.

The products of what Lucas calls the “lawful intercept” industry are developed mainly in Western nations such as the United States but are sold throughout the world with few restrictions. This burgeoning trade has alarmed human rights activists and privacy advocates, who call for greater regulation because the technology has ended up in the hands of repressive governments such as those of Syria, Iran and China.

“You need two things for a dictatorship to survive — propaganda and secret police,” said Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), who has proposed bills to restrict the sale of surveillance technology overseas. “Both of those are enabled in a huge way by the high-tech companies involved.”

But the overwhelming U.S. government response has been to engage in the event not as a potential regulator, but as a customer.

The list of attendees for this year’s U.S. Wiretappers’ Ball, held in October at the North Bethesda Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, included more than 20 federal agencies, Lucas said. Representatives of 43 countries also were there, he said, as were many people from state and local law enforcement agencies. Journalists and members of the public were excluded.

On offer were products that allow users to track hundreds of cellphones at once, read e-mails by the tens of thousands, even get a computer to snap a picture of its owner and send the image to police — or anyone else who buys the software. One product uses phony updates for iTunes and other popular programs to take control of personal computers. more

Weekly Jobless Claims Jump Back Over 400,000 Mark: US

Claims for unemployment insurance unexpectedly rose last week, climbing past the psychologically important 400,000 mark as the jobs market showed signs of more weakness.

Weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 402,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Applications had been below 400,000 for three straight weeks.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, was mostly unchanged at slightly below 400,000.

The average fell to a seven-month low two weeks ago. Weekly applications had been declining for two months.

Applications would need to stay below 375,000 consistently to push down the unemployment rate [cnbc explains] significantly. They haven't been at that level since February.

The report comes one day before the government reports on job growth in November. Economists project that employers added a net 125,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate stayed at 9 percent for the second straight month.

While the job growth would be an improvement from October, when the economy added just 80,000 jobs, it's still barely enough to keep pace with population growth. more

Occupy L.A.: 30 tons of debris left behind at City Hall tent city

Sanitation officials said Wednesday that they expect to haul away 30 tons of debris from the Occupy L.A. encampment –- everything from clothing to heaps of garbage to oddball curiosities left behind by the protesters who lived at the City Hall tent city for two months.

Andrea Alarcon, president of the city Public Works board, said workers already have removed 25 tons of belongings from the City Hall park, all of it heading straight to a landfill.

Sanitation crews also have vacuumed up about 3,000 gallons of water that had washed into a catch basin in recent days and are testing it for hazardous materials, she said.

The sheer volume of personal belongings left behind after the early morning Los Angeles Police Department raid has astonished city workers: books and CDs, luggage and boom boxes, mattresses and dining chairs, cellphones, electric razors, a small red guitar with its neck snapped –- all surrounded by dozens of collapsed and empty tents.
A steady flow of people stopped by the park Wednesday to take photos and video and watch workers in white hazmat suits rake trash into neat piles.

As workers broke down tents and placed them in trash cans, Ramir Delgado, 25, snapped photos out of curiosity.

"It's a shame how I see all trash around here," he said. He pointed to his head. "People don't understand that the freedom starts here in your mind."

Delgado said he was disappointed in Occupy L.A.

"You know why this is filthy and not clean is there isn't leadership," he said.

A few feet away, crews in the hazmat suits raked trash of discarded protest signs, nail polish and jars of peanut butter.

"This looks like pure anarchy," Delgado said, adding, “in a Hollywood way.” more

The new American attitude: "I've got 15 kids and 3 babydaddies, and someone has to pay for all my kids!"

Central Bank Action Merely 'Buys Time' for Europe

Stocks in Asia surged on Thursday, after the coordinated action by global central banks to provide cheaper dollar funding to European banks spurred massive gains on Wall Street. But according to a number of analysts CNBC spoke to, the rally is unlikely to last, as the move merely bought time for European leaders and doesn’t solve the euro zone’s fundamental debt problems.

"This liquidity is definitely something that's addressing the symptoms of the problems, but we really need the Europeans themselves to be attacking the cause and the solvency issues," said Nick Bennenbroek, Head of Currency Strategy at Wells Fargo in New York.

Michael McCarthy, Chief Markets Strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney said the stock surge was typical of a bear market rally. "Right now Europe needs a leader, somebody who can take this situation by the scruff of the neck and bring all of European interests to bear to get them to act in concert," he added.

Europe's already crippling debt crisis is set to worsen in 2012, when many of the region's governments are forced to refinance huge amounts of debt. According to Ilian Mihov, a professor of Economics at the INSEAD business school, Italy alone will have to roll over 400 billion euros ($538 billion) in 2012, about 20 percent of its total debt. With yields on bonds at 7 to 8 percent, that could be difficult, he added. more

New Study Shows U.S. Government Fails to Oversee Treatment of Foster Children With Mind-Altering Drugs

The federal government has not done enough to oversee the treatment of America's foster children with powerful mind-altering drugs, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to be released Thursday.

ABC News was given exclusive access to the GAO report, which capped off a nationwide yearlong investigation by ABC News on the overuse of the most powerful mind-altering drugs on many of the country's nearly 425,000 foster children.

The GAO's report, based on a two-year-long investigation, looked at five states -- Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon and Texas. Thousands of foster children were being prescribed psychiatric medications at doses higher than the maximum levels approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in these five states alone. And hundreds of foster children received five or more psychiatric drugs at the same time despite absolutely no evidence supporting the simultaneous use or safety of this number of psychiatric drugs taken together. more

Germany seeks public help in neo-Nazi murder hunt

German authorities investigating a neo-Nazi cell thought to have killed 10 people have asked for the public's help.

The head of the federal prosecutors' office asked people to come forward with any information.

He said the three known members of the group used various names, false IDs and railcards, and rented multiple flats.

They must have had help to sustain their life in the underground, he said.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

This terror cell did not leave anything to chance”

Joerg Ziercke German federal criminal police office

The existence of the group, which called itself the National Socialist Underground (NSU), came to light after two members were found dead in an apparent joint suicide and a third gave herself up to police.

A further three people accused of being associated with the group are in custody.

The cell is believed to have shot dead 10 people, mostly foreign-born shopkeepers, and carried out at least 14 bank robberies to finance their activities.

They are also thought to be responsible for two bomb attacks in Cologne.

Officials are still investigating whether the cell was responsible for any more crimes.

At a joint news conference, the federal criminal police office and the prosecutors' office showed a stash of weapons discovered at one of the group's bases. more

Drought fears after low winter rain levels

The drought that has affected parts of England since June will last into next summer if there is insufficient winter rain, the Environment Agency has said.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman says water companies need to prepare now for the possibility.

Anglian Water has been granted a permit to pump water from the River Nene into one of its reservoirs on Thursday.

A lack of rainfall over the past few months means that groundwater levels are still falling in many areas.

The Environment Agency, which covers England and Wales, says that even if there is average rainfall over the winter and spring, parts of central, eastern and south-eastern England are unlikely to see a full recovery from drought conditions in 2012.

Trevor Bishop, head of water resources at the Environment Agency, told BBC News: "There are people putting up Christmas decorations in homes and businesses down the road and we're standing here in December talking about drought and that's an unusual situation.

"The ground below our feet is still dry, and at this time of year we would expect it to be fully saturated and the rainfall helping to replenish supplies, ready for next year."

Water companies in the worst-affected areas are having to use more river water to top up reservoirs that should really be seeing far more rain at the moment. more

How animals predict earthquakes

Animals may sense chemical changes in groundwater that occur when an earthquake is about to strike.

This, scientists say, could be the cause of bizarre earthquake-associated animal behaviour.

Researchers began to investigate these chemical effects after seeing a colony of toads abandon its pond in L'Aquila, Italy, in 2009 - days before a quake.

They suggest that animal behaviour could be incorporated into earthquake forecasting.

The team's findings are published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. In this paper, they describe a mechanism whereby stressed rocks in the Earth's crust release charged particles that react with the groundwater.

Animals that live in or near groundwater are highly sensitive to any changes in its chemistry, so they might sense this days before the rocks finally "slip" and cause a quake.

The team, led by Friedemann Freund from Nasa and Rachel Grant from the UK's Open University hope their hypothesis will inspire biologists and geologists to work together, to find out exactly how animals might help us recognise some of the elusive signs of an imminent earthquake. more

Michelle Obama's holiday decorations: 37 Christmas trees, a 400lb gingerbread house and and a replica of family dog Bo in almost EVERY room: Cutbacks?

First dog Bo is upstaging the Christmas decorations at the White House this holiday season.

The Obamas' Portuguese water dog is in almost every room of the ground and State floors, ranging from a miniature licorice and marshmallow version to a felt design four-and-a-half feet tall.

First lady Michelle Obama welcomed military families to the first viewing of the decorations today. 'Shine, Give, Share' is the theme for the Obama family's third Christmas in the mansion.

The theme translates throughout the public viewing space from gold foil leaf trimming to shiny quartz ornaments.

Bo made a special appearance in the State Dining Room as military children created holiday ornaments and decorated cookies.

Several decorations honour military families including a Gold Star Families Tree with ceramic gold ornaments carrying personalized messages by families. Tour visitors can also create handwritten notes for the troops. more

Western Canada told to brace for colder winter

The western provinces, Far North and some other areas of the country can expect a colder-than-average winter, according to Environment Canada's latest seasonal outlook.

The weather office says British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, the most western part of Northern Ontario and much of Labrador can expect below seasonal temperatures through December, January and February.

But areas around the Great Lakes, southern Quebec and the eastern Maritimes will be above seasonal, Environmental Canada says.

"This is quite a departure from last month's outlook for the East, where most [areas were expected] to come in below seasonal for winter," says CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe.

"The cooler temperatures in the West can be explained by the fact that we are still in a 'La Nina' pattern," Wagstaffe says. "Cooler-than-normal ocean temperatures near South America change weather patterns around the world, including our jetstream, which tends to ride farther south in the West during this setup."

Newfoundland and Labrador, and the rest of Quebec look to have seasonal temperatures.

In October, the U.S. weather forecasting company Accuweather predicted a cold winter for B.C. and Alberta. It also blamed the influence of La Nina. more

Jeremy Clarkson Apologises for saying all strikers should be SHOT

Jeremy Clarkson tonight apologised for saying that striking public sector workers should be shot after the BBC received more than 4,700 complaints about his comments.

Speaking on the One Show he said that government workers refusing to work should be killed in front of their families.

But today he said he did not intend the remarks to be taken seriously.

The BBC also offered an apology for the remarks and said the item 'wasn't perfectly judged'.

Earlier Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said they were seeking 'urgent legal advice' about whether his comments had been referred to police.

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott condemned the presenter via Twitter, saying: 'I know Jeremy Clarkson likes winding people up but it's worth pointing out he gets £1m a year from the licence fee/public sector.'

This afternoon the BBC said it had received 4,769 complaints about Mr Clarkson, but a spokesman for Scotland Yard said they had not yet received a complaint.

David Cameron described Clarkson's remarks as 'a silly thing to say'. Read More

Note: A reader of the Daily Mail left a Comment which sums it up in just a few words:

I have a 12 year old grandaughter who understands that he didn't literally mean that. What a sad, politicically correct, bunch of whingers we have become. It was a joke. All credit to the bloke for getting maximum publicity for his products and programmes, all freely sponsored by the BBC.

5.4 Magnitude Earthquake VANUATU - 1st Dec 2011

A magnitude 5.4 earthquake has struck Vanuatu at a depth of 157.2 km (97.7 miles), the quake hit at 16:26:00 UTC Thursday 1st December 2011.
The epicenter was 75 km (46 miles) North of Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Environmental groups mobilize against shale gas fracking: Canada

New Brunswick’s environmental movement is beginning to flex its muscle in communities across the province as citizens attempt to block any future development of the shale gas industry.

Many people associated with the movement are worried that shale gas exploration and in particular the use of hydraulic fracturing, or hydro-fracking, could contaminate their local water sources.

The New Brunswick government has rebuffed repeated calls to impose a moratorium on shale gas exploration or hydro-fracking.

However, groups such as the Conservation Council of New Brunswick have spent months touring the province, speaking to groups, both large and small, about what they see as the perils of the shale gas industry.

David Coon, the executive director of the Conservation Council, and Stephanie Merrill, the freshwater director for the council, wrote in an opinion article for CBC News that they once thought the industry could move forward under strict regulations.

However, the two environmentalists now argue that shale gas should remain locked more than a kilometre below the ground.

“However, [in the last two years] we have learned much and have come to the conclusion that shale gas development cannot be done safely,” they argue. more

Arab League warns Syria of foreign intervention 'dangers'

The Syrian regime can "avoid the dangers of a foreign intervention" if it agrees to an Arab League plan to defuse the conflict, the league's secretary-general told CNN on Thursday.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Araby said the government hasn't accepted the league plan to send observers into the country to monitor the government's response to civil unrest. But he said the Syrian government has a chance to overcome the crisis by agreeing to the idea.

"The Syrian government is not complying with the Arab initiative plan and their inability to stop the violence is what led to the escalation of the procedures of the sanctions against it," el-Araby said in a statement.

Earlier this week, foreign ministers from 19 Arab League countries voted to slap economic sanctions on the Syrian regime, including cutting ties with the nation's central bank, banning high-profile officials from visiting Arab countries and freezing government assets.

The Arab League and other powers have been jacking up pressure on the Bashar al-Assad regime to end its nearly nine-month-long crackdown on demonstrators, a relentless push against peaceful citizen protest.

The U.S. Treasury sanctioned two high-ranking Syrians and two government controlled entities on Thursday for their role in the crackdown. One of the people is Mohammad Makhlouf, al-Assad's uncle and father of long-serving financial adviser Rami Makhlouf. The other is Aus Aslan, a Syrian general. more

At least 20 dead in Iraq violence

At least 20 people were killed and dozens more were wounded in a number of attacks and shootings in Iraq on Thursday, government officials said.

In Khalis, about 75 kilometers (46 miles) north of Baghdad, at least 13 people died and 31 others were wounded when a car bomb exploded at an outdoor vegetable and fruit market Thursday morning, Mayor Odai al-Khadran told CNN. The predominantly Shiite town is in Diyala province.

In the small, predominantly Sunni town of al-Jeel, about 40 kilometers (24 miles) north of Baghdad, gunmen stormed three separate houses, opening fire randomly while residents slept. Seven people were killed, including two women and a child, police officials in Baquba told CNN. Five other people, including three women, were wounded.

During the peak of sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007, al-Jeel was thought to be controlled by al Qaeda in Iraq, but the town's main tribe later turned against al Qaeda, with many of its members joining an Awakening Council.

In Baghdad, two roadside bombs exploded in two separate locations, wounding nine people, including four police officers, police said. more

5 killed, 24 hurt in shelling in Yemeni province

Shelling in the southern Yemeni province of Taiz killed five people and wounded 24 Thursday, medics said.

Residents blamed the attack on forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down last month after weeks of protests against his 33-year rule.

"The attacks were everywhere. The government does not care anymore if anyone dies. Every one who was killed or injured was a civilian and were not bearing arms," said resident Shareef al-Sabri.

The defense ministry did not comment when contacted.

Taiz residents have been among those who have been calling for Saleh's ouster. And many believed the attacks on the province are meant to crack down on the opposition. more

Nigerian senate passes anti-gay bill, defying British aid threat

The Nigerian senate has passed a bill banning same-sex marriages, defying a threat from Britain to withhold aid from nations violating gay rights.

The bill by Africa's most populous nation calls for a 14-year sentence for anyone convicted of homosexuality. Anyone who aids or "abets" same-sex unions faces 10 years in prison, a provision that could target rights groups.

It goes to the nation's House of Representatives for a vote before President Goodluck Jonathan can sign it into law.

"It would place a wide range of people at risk of criminal sanctions, including human rights defenders and anyone else -- including friends, families and colleagues -- who stands up for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people in Nigeria," Amnesty International said in a statement.

The bill passed Tuesday comes nearly a month after British prime minister, David Cameron, threatened to withhold aid from nations violating gays rights, sparking outrage in Africa where leaders interpreted it as "colonial" display of power.

Homosexuality is illegal in most African countries based on remnants of sodomy laws introduced during the British colonial era and perpetuated by cultural beliefs. more

5.3 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTHERN XINJIANG, CHINA - 1st Dec 2011

A magnitude 5.3 earthquake has struck Southern Xinjiang, China at a depth of 57.7 km (35.9 miles), the quake hit at 12:48:20 UTC Thursday 1st December 2011.
The epicenter was 32 km (19 miles) WSW of Shache, Xinjiang, China
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Greeks Walk Out of Their Jobs Over 'Unrelenting' Cuts

Thousands of crisis-hit Greeks have walked out of their jobs to challenge "unrelenting" austerity measures.

The 24-hour general strike, organised by Greece's two biggest labour unions since the start of the year, is the first test of industrial action to challenge the resolve of the country's new unity government to implement brutal budget cuts demanded by Athens' creditors to keep rescue funds flowing into this tiny debt-ridden nation.

Protest rallies are planned across the country, throughout the day. The focal point, however, will be the Greek capital where half the country's population of 11 million resides and where financial dishevelment has been more pronounced since the crisis surfaced in late 2009.

"The hope was that a new unity government formed last month would usher a change in the policy mix of austerity measures," said Yannis Panagopoulos, president chairman of GSEE, Greece's biggest umbrella union representing the private sector.

"That hasn’t changed. Instead we’re seeing an intensification of unfair, unjust measures devastating Greeks." Read More

Tougher Sanctions Slapped On Iran Amid Nuclear Fears - 1st Dec 2011

Tougher sanctions have been slapped on more than 180 Iranian companies and individuals as EU countries seek to challenge Tehran to halt nuclear work.

William Hague helped push for new measures to be agreed at a meeting with his European Union colleagues.

"I hope we will agree today additional measures which will be an intensification of the economic pressure on Iran - peaceful, legitimate, economic pressure particularly to increase the isolation of the Iranian financial sector," he said, as he travelled to the meeting.

He was backed by German counterpart Guido Westerwelle who said the aim was "to dry up Iran's financial sources".

The EU's foreign policy chief - Briton Catherine Ashton - called for more measures against Tehran "to make it clear to Iran that we are very serious". Read More

10 days to save the EURO - Step One was successful....... for a few hours

Market rally stalls on European markets.....Try a waterproof Plaster next time - 1st Dec 2011

European stocks were unable to maintain the strong rally from the previous session on Thursday, stalling in early trading as sentiment returned to caution.

London's FTSE remained little moved at the open, edging down to 0.18% in early trade. Germany's DAX was down 1.04% and France's CAC 40 was off 0.62%.

Central bank action on the mounting eurozone crisis had earlier boosted stock markets around the world, with Asian indices rising sharply in morning trading following strong gains in Europe and the United States.

In a coordinated move with other central banks, the U.S. Federal Reserve cut the penalty rate it charges on liquidity from 100 to 50 basis points, averting a liquidity crisis and boosting financial markets. Read More