Friday, December 2, 2011

5.4 Magnitude Earthquake NICOBAR ISLANDS, INDIA REGION - 2nd Dec 2011

A magnitude 5.4 earthquake has struck the Nicobar Islands, India Region at a depth of 38.7 km (24 miles), the quake hit at 19:37:48 UTC Friday 2nd December 2011.
The epicenter was 76 km (47 miles) ESE of Mohean, Nicobar Islands, India
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Albino baby dolphin photographed off Brazilian coast becomes the first recorded of its species - 2nd Dec 2011

LinkBrazilian biologists have found an extremely rare example of an albino dolphin among an endangered species that lives off the southern coast of South America.

The research group, based at Univille university in Santa Catarina, said yesterday that it was the first recorded instance of an albino in the pontoporia blainvillei species, a very shy type of dolphin that rarely jumps out of the water.

It's known in Brazil as Toninha and in Argentina and Uruguay as the La Plata or Franciscana dolphin. Read More

Sebastian Coe effigy burned by Bhopal protesters furious at chemical firm's links with 2012 London Olympics - 2nd Dec 2011

An effigy of Olympic legend and all-round Great Briton Lord Coe was burned on the streets on Indian today in a demonstration against one of the sponsors for the London Games in 2012.

Survivors of the world's worst industrial disaster at Bhopal displayed their violent opposition to the participation of Dow Chemicals in the show piece event.

The company own the Union Carbide pesticide plant which catastrophically leaked, killing 15,000 people and maiming tens of thousands more 27 years ago today.

Children are still being born with deformities to this day and locals claim they have never been properly compensated by the perpetrators of the horrific incident.

Nearly 200 people, some carrying banners that said Down with London Dowlympics' and 'We want justice' marched to the now-abandoned plant.

They burned effigies of Sebastian Coe, the chairman of the London organising committee, and Vijay Kumar Malhotra, the head of India's Olympic Organising Committee. Read More

Woman fights for life after mindless yobs hurl concrete block from bridge on to busy main road - 2nd Dec 2011

A female passenger was left fighting for life after being struck by a concrete slab hurled from a bridge onto a busy main road.

The woman suffered severe head and chest injuries when the slab smashed through the windscreen of the car at 10.20pm on Thursday.

Police said they were treating the attack, which took place from the West Hanningfield bridge on the A12, near Chelmsford, Essex, as attempted murder.

The woman, from Harold Hill, Essex, was rushed to Chelmsford's Broomfield Hospital suffering life-threatening injuries, including multiple fractures, chest and head injuries.

The driver of the vehicle escaped with minor cuts.

Police are linking the incident to a similar attack less than an hour earlier, in which a car was struck by a block of concrete.

The passenger and driver escaped injury but were left shaken and upset by the attack. Read More

Islamic fundamentalists set to force Sharia law on Egypt after election victory - 2nd Dec 2011

Muslim hardliners are set to push for strict religious laws in Egypt after their strong showing in the country's elections.

A spokesman for an ultra-conservative Islamist party said that he was hoping to impose Sharia law on Egypt.

Final results in the first parliamentary election since the fall of dictator Hosni Mubarak will be announced later today.

Islamists led by the Muslim Brotherhood and radical Salafists appear to have taken a majority of seats in the first round of the vote.

If this trend is confirmed, it would give the religious parties a popular mandate in the struggle to win control from the ruling military and ultimately reshape a key ally of the West. Read More

Suspected Extremists Held At US Embassy - 2nd Dec 2011

Twenty protesters have been arrested outside the US embassy in London on suspicion of representing the recently-banned extremist group Muslims Against Crusades.

Some protesters had continued to demonstrate outside the complex.

Activists said demonstrations over the use of American drones in Pakistan had been organised by a group calling itself United Ummah.

Scotland Yard intervened after members were linked to the banned group involved in the burning of poppies on Armistice Day last year.

Muslims Against Crusades was added to a list of the UK's banned terrorist groups after an announcement by Home Secretary Theresa May last month.

The group then cancelled its "Hell for Heroes" demonstration against Remembrance commemorations.

It was due to take place outside the Royal Albert Hall in London, where poppies were burned last year. Read More

Student arrested for burping, lawsuit claims

A 13-year-old was handcuffed and hauled off to a juvenile detention for burping in class, according to a civil rights lawsuit filed against an Albuquerque public school principal, a teacher and a city police officer.

The suit was filed Wednesday, the same day the district was also sued by the family of a 7-year-old autistic boy who was handcuffed to a chair.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the unnamed seventh grader was arrested last May 11 at Cleveland Middle School after he "burped audibly" in his P.E. class. "Criminalizing of the burping of a thirteen-year-old boy serves no governmental purpose," the lawsuit said. "Burping is not a serious disruption, a threat of danger was never an issue."

The lawsuit alleges the boy was transported to the juvenile center without his parents being notified. It also says he was denied his due process rights because he was suspended for the rest of that school year without "providing him an explanation of the evidence the school claimed to have against him." He was not allowed to call witnesses or defend himself against the burping allegation.

The boy was never charged. He scored a - 2 on a scale of 1 to 10 according to a risk assessment given by the jail staff, 10 being extremely dangerous. more

Report: Russia delivers anti-ship missiles to Syria

Missiles that "allow coverage of entire Syrian coastline" reportedly delivered in accordance with 2007 contract.

Russia has delivered anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria, the Interfax news agency cited an unnamed military source as saying on Thursday, days after a United Nations commission of inquiry called for an arms embargo on Damascus.

Economic and diplomatic pressure has isolated Syrian President Bashar Assad following a nine-month government crackdown against protesters in unrest the United Nations says has killed more than 4,000 people.

Moscow has spoken out against further sanctions imposed by Western and Arab League states, and it has defended its right to sell Syria weapons -- tens of millions of dollars worth last year.

"The contract was completely fulfilled, almost ahead of time," Interfax cited the source as saying of the deal, estimated at $300 million. The source did not say when the deliveries had taken place.

Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said in February that Moscow was pressing ahead with the deal despite Israeli concerns, indicating the missiles might have been delivered earlier this year.

"This weapon allows coverage of the entire coastline of Syria from possible attack from the sea," Interfax quoted the source as saying. more

"You are all wrong, printing money can halt Europe's crisis"

This will enrage many readers — especially the "Austrian" internet vigilantes — but I have to say it.

A near universal view has emerged that Europe's crisis can only be solved by governments and fiscal policy, with varying views over the proper dosage of pain.

I beg to differ. This is a monetary crisis, caused by a jejune central bank that aborted a fragile recovery by raising rates earlier this year, allowed the money supply to collapse at vertiginous rates in southern Europe, and caused a completely unnecessary recession — and a deep one judging by the collapse in the PMI new manufacturing orders in November.

Needless to say, drastic fiscal austerity is making matters a lot worse. You cannot push two-thirds of the eurozone into synchronized fiscal and monetary contraction without consequences.

Note that five-year break-even spreads have dropped below zero for Italy, meaning that markets are now pricing in outright deflation. For a country with public debt stock of 120pc of GDP, that is a death sentence. more

Pensioners to lose thousands after inflation measure change

Members of company pension schemes face losing tens of thousands of pounds in retirement income under changes to an inflation measure.

Someone retiring with a private pension worth £10,000 will lose out on almost £20,000 of pension income, new figures suggest.

The loss arises for occupational pension schemes that have switched their annual increases in pension payments from the RPI measure of inflation, which includes housing costs, to the lower CPI measure, which does not. Figures this week show the gap between the CPI and RPI inflation rates is larger than previously thought.

That means the cost of the switch to pensioners is even greater.

Previous Government estimates suggested that over the coming decades, RPI will exceed CPI by 0.87 percentage points. But the Treasury’s Office for Budget Responsibility this week said the “wedge” would be higher at 1.4 points.

Because of the incremental effect of annual rises, that small statistical change can make a substantial financial difference over the typical 21-year retirement. Someone bowing out with a pension income of £10,000 can expect to receive total payments of £272,989 over their retirement if their income grows in line with CPI inflation of 2 per cent. more

The annual 'War on Christmas' shows how a faith that once united America now divides it

Fox News has declared war on the “War on Christmas”. This happens every year: one crazy liberal tries to outlaw use of the word “Christmas” and Fox announces the coming of the Anti-Christ. The furore can sound cynical and shrill, but it illustrates how culturally divided the USA has become.

This year, Christmas has been stolen by Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee. Chafee is one of those rare old birds, a liberal Republican. And Republican liberals are the worst kind of liberals because they think they’ve got something to prove. In a display of tolerance that no one asked for, Chafee renamed the 17-foot blue spruce tree in his statehouse “the holiday tree”. Fox News was indignant. Anchor Steve Doocy pointed out that the holiday tree was bought on a Christmas tree farm. Not only that, but it looks an awful lot like a Christmas tree and it was erected in celebration of … Christmas. So why rename it? Doocy put a phone number up on screen and urged viewers to call Chafee to complain. “Give him a little surprise,” he said. “It’s just an hour and three minutes until the governor's office opens.”

Some people think that the War on Christmas is manufactured by a Right-wing media desperate for a story. The tree controversy started ignominiously back in November, when the Obama administration floated putting a tax on Christmas trees. It was actually an idea backed by the Christmas tree industry, which wanted to use the income to promote the buying of real trees over fake ones. In short, it was an entirely commercial proposition. But Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce wrote, “The fact is it was a tax meant to fund a board appointed by a federal agency targeting one religion and one religion only – Christianity.” Bruce claimed that the “precedent” for the fee was a Muslim “tax levied on non-Muslim citizens in the Islamic world.” Fox promoted Bruce’s article under the headline, “Obama’s War on Christianity Continues.” more

World's biggest insect is so huge it eats carrots (No, it's not Hillary)

Former park ranger Mark, 53, discovered the giant weta up a tree and his real life Bug's Bunny has now been declared the largest ever found.

He came across the cricket-like creature, which has a wing span of seven inches, after two days of searching on a tiny island.

The creepy crawly is only found on Little Barrier Island, in New Zealand.

The species were wiped off the mainland by rats accidentally introduced by Europeans.

After Mark found the female weta he fed it the carrot before putting it back where he found her.

Mark, 53, said: "Three of us walked the trails of this small island for two nights scanning the vegetation for a giant weta.

"We spent many hours with no luck finding any at all, before we saw her up in a tree.

"The giant weta is the largest insect in the world, and this is the biggest one ever found, she weighs the equivalent to three mice.

"She enjoyed the carrot so much she seemed to ignore the fact she was resting on our hands and carried on munching away.

"She would have finished the carrot very quickly, but this is an extremely endangered species and we didn't want to risk indigestion.

"After she had chewed a little I took this picture and we put her right back where we found her." more

America's saddest cities revealed, and three of them are in the Sunshine State

t might be bathed in glorious sunshine throughout the year - but new research has revealed the Floridian city of St Petersburg is the saddest place to live in the U.S.

Having a Guinness World Record for 768 straight days of sunshine did nothing for the state's fourth largest city - deemed to be a hotbed for suicides and anti-depressant pill poppers.

The unemployment hotspot of Detroit, Michigan, unsurprisingly followed close behind, with third place in the 'Frown Town' stakes going to Memphis, Tennessee.

Three of the saddest 10 cities hailed from the Sunshine State.

In contrast, Honolulu, Hawaii - the birth place of U.S. President Barack Obama - is the happiest place to live.

Manchester, New Hampshire, was the second best place to reside, with Fargo, North Dakota, in third. more

Rumour of bananas carrying flesh-eating bacteria wipes out banana market in Mozambique: The power of disinformation

Sales of bananas in Maputo have plummeted following the circulation of malicious e-mails and mobile phone text messages claiming that South African bananas are infected with a lethal bacteria.

The bananas sold in Maputo are grown in Mozambique, not South Africa indeed, Mozambique exports bananas to South Africa. But this has made no difference to panic-stricken consumers who are avoiding the fruit altogether.

The Ministry of Health has assured consumers that the messages are a hoax and that nobody has appeared at any Mozambican health unit suffering from illness caused by infected bananas.

The Ministries of Health, Agriculture and Trade issued a joint statement on Wednesday stating "there is no record of the entry of any infected bananas into the country", and guaranteeing that staff on the borders are careful to avoid the entry into the country of any infected produce.

This has not done the banana sellers in Maputo any good at all. One of the suppliers of bananas to the Maputo market, Horacio Simbine, told the independent television channel STV, that he has been unable to move bananas out of his warehouse because of the rumour. more

Lawmakers Hope To Make Money With Detroit-Only Lottery Before City's Finances Totally Collapse

Would a city-run lottery in Detroit solve the city’s financial problems? One state lawmaker thinks so.

WWJ’s Vickie Thomas reports that state Rep. Dr. Jimmy Womack, D-Detroit, is drafting legislation to start a “Detroit only” lottery. He plans to meet with the state lottery commission next week.

The idea is the brainchild of Councilman Kwame Kenyatta, and it comes in the midst of a Detroit financial crisis that has created the threat of massive layoffs, service cuts, and even potential insolvency.

“I believe it’s going to be a political challenge. I’m up for the task,” said Womack about a city lottery. “When we explore opportunities to revitalize municipalities, we have to take into consideration that often times you’re unable to cut your way out of a deficit and you have to generate income and revenue.” more

Copper Thieves Steal From St. Paul Holiday Lights Display



Electric cords have been cut and stolen from the lighted displays in St. Paul’s Phalen Park this week.

According to a representative of IBEW Holiday Lights, the thieves cut both heavy and light duty electric cords, costing the event more than $2,500 to replace.

“One of the tragedies of the thefts is that the cost of replacing cords means there is less for us to donate to our worthy non-profits,” said Lisa Engh, event co-chair. “All of our net proceeds go straight to charities that benefit our community so this hurts on many levels.”

However, Engh said the event’s volunteers are keeping the 50 lighted displays running every night.

“While it is disappointing to have a Grinch try to steal the holiday spirit from the community, it certainly is a reassuring sign of the season to see our Holiday Lights in the Park volunteers step up to keep the displays shining bright for our guests each night,” said Engh.

Right now, the price of copper is about $3.50 a pound. Organizers pointed out that there really isn’t much copper in their cords.

John Schmitz walks daily in the park and can’t believe anyone would try to ruin such a display.

“It’s pretty shocking,” he said. “It’s sad something so nice would be ruined by I am sure just a few people.”

St. Paul Police are now increasing patrols, but are turning to the public for help. Anyone with information on the thefts is asked to call St. Paul Police at 651-291-1111. more

Yaribely Almonte charged with performing abortion... on herself...

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced Thursday that a Manhattan woman has been charged with self abortion.

Yaribely Almonte, 20, is accused of wrapping the fetus of her unborn daughter in plastic and dumping it in a garbage bin outside of her West 191st Street apartment.

Authorities are investigating whether the woman ended her pregnancy by drinking an herbal concoction billed as an abortion-causing tea, a person familiar with the case told The Associated Press Thursday.

The body was found on Tuesday by the building superintendent, who was sorting recyclables, police said. Almonte was arrested and charged on Wednesday night. more

Teen stopped at airport by TSA-stapo for design on purse

A teenage girl's sense of style got her in trouble at the airport.

Vanessa Gibbs, 17, claims the Transportation Security Administration stopped her at the security gate because of the design of a gun on her handbag.

Gibbs said she had no problem going through security at Jacksonville International Airport, but rather, when she headed home from Virginia.

"It's my style, it's camouflage, it has an old western gun on it," Gibbs said.

But her preference for the pistol style didn't sit well with TSA agents at the Norfolk airport.

Gibbs said she was headed back home to Jacksonville from a holiday trip when an agent flagged her purse as a security risk.

"She was like, 'This is a federal offense because it's in the shape of a gun,'" Gibbs said. "I'm like, 'But it's a design on a purse. How is it a federal offense?'"

After agents figured out the gun was a fake, Gibbs said, TSA told her to check the bag or turn it over. more

Beijing to crack down on 'black jails' run by private security firms

Beijing's public security bureau has launched a six-month crackdown on so-called black jails operated by private security firms in the Chinese capital.

Local governments hire the firms to stop people who travel to Beijing to voice grievances about perceived injustices in their areas.

The police say the firms are involved in illegal detention, violence and running underground jails.

The government usually prefers not to admit these kind of operations exist.

The latest details come from newspaper reports about a campaign to stamp out unauthorised security firms in the capital.

Zhang Bing, deputy head of Beijing's public security bureau, was quoted as saying there are about 300,000 private security guards in the city.

He said more than half worked for companies that were unlicensed, the Beijing News reported.

"The city's security market is in complete chaos. Some companies have been operating outside the law," he said, according to another newspaper, the Global Times.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Zhang went on to describe some of the activities undertaken by these unauthorised security firms.

"A few have even allowed their security guards to impede the flow of government work and to participate in illegal activities, such as detaining people and setting up black jails," he is reported to have said.

Black jails are temporary detention centres established to hold petitioners, people who come to Beijing to report individual problems to the central government. more

WHO issues Europe measles warning

European countries need to act now to tackle measles outbreaks, the World Health Organization warns.

The WHO report says there were over 26,000 measles cases in 36 European countries from January to October 2011.

Western European countries reported 83% of those cases, with 14,000 in France alone.

In England and Wales, there were just under 1,000 confirmed measles cases in that period - compared with just 374 in the whole of 2010.

Altogether, measles outbreaks in Europe have caused nine deaths, including six in France, and 7,288 hospitalisations.

France has now launched a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about the need for MMR vaccination.

Jean-Yves Grall, the Director-General for Health in France, said: "France can simply not afford to have deaths, painful and costly hospitalisations, disruptions to work and school from a completely vaccine-preventable disease."

Ninety per cent of European cases were amongst adolescents and adults who had not been vaccinated or people where it was not known if they had been vaccinated or not.

And measles from Europe has been linked to outbreaks in several other countries including Brazil, Canada and Australia. more

US senator calls for answers on phone 'snooping'

The maker of the smartphone software that triggered a snooping row has been called to account by a US Senator.

Senator Al Franken has written to Carrier IQ asking it to explain the "troubling" findings of security expert Trevor Eckhart.

Mr Eckhart claimed Carrier IQ software could log everything people did on their smartphones but did not ask for consent to record data.

Carrier IQ said its software helped diagnose faults, not spy on users.

The row blew up after Mr Eckhart posted a video on YouTube that he said showed Carrier IQ could record a user's location, keystrokes and the websites they visited.

Carrier IQ tried to silence Mr Eckhart with the threat of legal action but backed down following the intervention of the digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

In a statement, Carrier IQ said its software did not record keystrokes but was a diagnostic tool used by operators to help pinpoint what caused network glitches.

In the letter Senator Franken sent to Carrier IQ, he asked the company to clarify what types of data its software captured and what was done with that information.

He wrote that, despite Carrier IQ's claims, some of the data being acquired had nothing to do with diagnostics. If Mr Eckhart's findings were borne out, he warned, Carrier IQ could have broken US law. more

Merkel urges euro fiscal union to tackle debt crisis -- Is the United States of Europe imminent?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Europe is working towards setting up a "fiscal union", in a bid to resolve the eurozone's debt crisis.

She told the Bundestag that a new EU treaty was needed to set up such a union and impose budget discipline.

On Monday she is to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has also called for EU treaty changes.

EU leaders have been under pressure to do more to tackle the debt crisis, amid concern about the survival of the euro.

In her speech, Mrs Merkel promised "concrete steps towards a fiscal union" - in effect close integration of the tax-and-spend polices of individual eurozone countries, with Brussels imposing penalties on members that break the rules.

"We need budget discipline and an effective crisis management mechanism," she said. "So we need to change the treaties or create new treaties."

The German government has been pressing for changes to establish powers to veto national budgets in the eurozone that breach agreed rules.

"We have started a new phase in European integration," Mrs Merkel said. more

Maya 'did not predict end of world in 2012' (We'll soon find out)

The calendar used by the ancient Mayan civilisation does not predict the end of the world in December 2012 as some believe, according to experts.

A new reading of a Mayan tablet mentioning the 2012 date suggests that it refers to the end of an era in the calendar, and not an apocalypse.

The date was "a reflection of the day of creation", Mayan codes researcher Sven Gronemeyer told AP.

The day also marked the return of a Mayan god, Mr Gronemeyer added.

Bolon Yokte, the god of creation and war, was expected to return, according to Mr Gronemeyer's reading of a Mayan text carved into stone 1,300 years ago.

The date marks the end of one of the periods of roughly 400 years into which the Mayan calendar is divided.

Mexico's National Institute for Anthropological History has also tried to counter speculation that the Maya predicted a catastrophic event for 2012.

Only two out of 15,000 registered Mayan texts mention the date 2012, according to the Institute, and no Mayan text predicts the end of the world.

"There is no prophecy for 2012. It is a marketing fallacy," Erik Velasquez, etchings specialist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told Reuters. source

Tibet 'sees first monk self-immolation protest'

A former monk has set himself on fire in Tibet, reports say, in the latest such protest against Chinese rule.

The monk is reportedly being treated for his wounds after the protest in Changdu, known as Chamdo in Tibetan.

If confirmed, the incident would be the first self-immolation in the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

Activists say 11 monks and former monks have set themselves on fire this year, but the incidents have all taken place in Tibetan areas of Sichuan Province.

Access to the Tibetan Autonomous Region is tightly restricted, and information is difficult to corroborate.

Radio Free Asia reported that the monk, a 46-year-old named as Tenzin Phuntsog, had scattered leaflets and shouted slogans before setting fire to himself on Thursday afternoon.

The US-based broadcaster quoted an anonymous source living in India, and another source calling from Tibet as confirming the incident.

"[The former monk] was very frustrated by the recent imposition of restrictions on Karma monastery and by the detention of many monks. There was even talk by Chinese officials of closing the monastery," the source in Tibet was quoted as saying. more

Canadian debt levels inch higher: Loans, credit card debt creep up as holidays approach

Ballooning credit card bills, tangled lines of credit and hefty personal loans - these financial burdens continue to weigh heavily on the minds of Canadian consumers as the holidays near. Chartered Canadian banks are holding rising amounts in outstanding personal loans, credit card balances and lines of credit, according to the Bank of Canada. Mortgage assets are also on the uptick. The chart below shows the growing debt load being held by Canada's banks. View interactive presentation here

Jobless rate higher in November: Canada

Canada lost a surprising 18,600 jobs in November, pushing the country's unemployment rate up by 0.1 percentage points to 7.4 per cent, Statistics Canada said Friday.

Economists had been looking for between 16,000 and 17,000 jobs to be added, and for the unemployment rate to remain unchanged at 7.3 per cent.

The loss of 53,300 part-time jobs offset an increase of 34,600 in full-time work, the federal agency said.

"The details [of] the November jobs report are mildly better than the headline," Scotiabank economist Derek Holt said in a commentary. That's because most of the drop came in one province, and was tied to a decrease in self-employment.

Employment fell in Quebec, where 31,000 jobs were lost and the provincial unemployment rate hit eight per cent, and in Saskatchewan, which lost 4,200 jobs and saw unemployment rise one percentage point to 5.1 per cent. more

Merkel says fixing eurozone crisis will take years

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed for stronger rules against overspending as the long-term answer to Europe's debt crisis, saying fixes for the euro's flaws need to be written into changes in the basic EU treaty.

Merkel's stance, laid out Friday, could be part of what markets have greeted as an emerging plan for more effective action to contain the crisis, combined with more aggressive action by the European Central Bank to quickly lower borrowing costs for hard-pressed governments facing financial disaster.

Speaking to lawmakers in Parliament ahead of a crucial European summit next week, the German leader emphasized that tougher rules against running up debt were the only path forward -- a process could take years.

"The German government has made it clear that the European crisis will not be solved in one fell swoop," Merkel said. "It's a process, and this process will take years." more

Why Canadians should care about a euro collapse

The demise of the euro would deliver a significant blow to the Canadian economy, leading to less trade, higher unemployment and a possible recession, financial experts say.

"The situation in Europe would create a tsunami that would reach our shores very very quickly," Louis Gagnon, finance professor at Queen’s University School of Business in Kingston, Ont., told CBC News.

"We would be collateral damage and this collateral damage would be very, very significant."

With some European countries seemingly unable to control their spiralling debt crises, and with uncertainty over the type of financial relief the European Central Bank may contribute, there are fears the end of the euro is near. more

U.N. rights chief warns of 'civil war' in Syria

Syria faces a "full-fledged civil war" if the regime's "continual ruthless repression" against peaceful demonstrators and civilians isn't stopped now, the top U.N. human rights official said Friday.

Speaking in Geneva, Switzerland, to a U.N. Rights Council's special session on Syria, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay noted with concern the reports of "increased armed attacks by the opposition forces, including the so-called Free Syrian Army, against the Syrian military and security apparatus."

"In light of the manifest failure of the Syrian authorities to protect their citizens, the international community needs to take urgent and effective measures to protect the Syrian people," Pillay said. more

7 Afghan militants killed in cross-border skirmish

Seven Afghan militants were killed and five Pakistani security forces injured in a cross-border skirmish Friday, officials said.

It was the latest in a series of recent cross-border assaults from Afghanistan's Pech Valley and the provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, all areas from which U.S. troops began pulling out earlier this year as part of a strategy designed to bolster security in more populated areas of Afghanistan.

The five injured Pakistani security personnel were airlifted by military helicopters to a base in northwest Pakistan, Col. Nasir Jadoon, commander of a border security force in Chitral, Pakistan, said.

The Pakistani forces returned fired into Afghanistan, killing seven militants, Jadoon said.

In the same border region in August, at least 25 Pakistani security personnel were killed when between 200 and 300 militants attacked border posts along Pakistan's border with Agfhanistan. Those who died included Pakistani soldiers and police. more

Eurogeddon: The 10 failures of EU leaders

Just like the credit crunch three years ago, the current eurozone crisis will no doubt spawn endless books and provide many an interesting case study for the world’s future economists. Whether the lessons will be learned and future crises avoided depends largely on whether you believe history repeats itself. And that’s another topic that divides opinion as much as the eurozone itself.

Already academics at Oxford University’s Centre for International Studies have identified 10 key failures of Europe’s leaders in how they have handled the issue, even though the saga is far from over.

Associate Fellow Kirsty Hughes says that the errors are largely political, democratic and economic in nature.

Here’s a list of where Hughes says EU leaders got things so wrong:

1) Lack of European political vision and strategy

Aside from the talk about balancing budgets together and pooling Europe’s giant debt pile, Hughes says what the region needs now is vision “to show that the EU is more than just a single currency, that it has a current and future political, social and economic purpose and dynamic.” How can you get bond markets to invest in you for the next 10 or 20 years without a clear vision on your combined goals? Especially with countries squabbling about the erosion of sovereignty that may result with proposed changes to the EU treaties– changes Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel says are essential for future integration. more

Mud volcano in Pingtung erupts, covers cemetery: Taiwan

Wandan mud dome, one of Taiwan's 17 active mud volcanoes, erupted early Friday after nearly a year of inactivity, spilling mud flows of up to two meters high.

Up to noon Friday, hot gray mud was still spewing from the volcano in Pingtung County and residents could be seen lighting fires nearby to burn off the gases emitted by the volcano.

The mud flowing from three cracks in Hsinyuan Township spread to a public cemetery and a corn field but no other damage was reported.

The eruption occurred south of Wandan Township, where the first eruption in the 1720s was recorded.

The eruptions typically take place once or twice every year near the border between the two towns. There has not been an eruption in Hsinyuan itself for nearly half a century, according to residents. source

Mysterious Metal Debris Crashed Through Warehouse Roof - Plymouth, MA - Dec. 1, 2011

Half a German city of Koblenz evacuated after two-ton 'Blockbuster' RAF bomb is found at the bottom of the Rhine - 2nd Dec 2011

Almost half the German city of Koblenz is under evacuation orders as experts prepare to defuse a two-ton ‘Blockbuster’ RAF bomb in the Rhine.

The 10ft bomb, one of the biggest in the wartime arsenal of Bomber Command, was discovered after 65 years when the river level dropped during the driest November on record.

The fuse is badly corroded, and the authorities are evacuating 45,000 of Koblenz’s 120,000 population to leave a security zone of a mile around the bomb - which is capable of destroying an entire city block.

The evacuation - the biggest in German postwar history - will involve fleets of buses and 1,000 volunteers helping police and firemen.

It is due to take place on Sunday so as not to disrupt Saturday Christmas shopping.

Some 700 patients at two hospitals will have to be moved, as well as the residents of seven old people’s homes and prisoners in a local jail.

The city’s main train station will also have to be emptied as well as several hotels.

Authorities this week built a temporary dam of some 350 sandbags around the bomb which is covered by just 16 inches of water.

The plan is then for bomb disposal teams to pump the water out and get to the bomb proper to begin the delicate job of removing the detonator.

It is expected to take several hours to make the bomb safe. Should it show signs of going off, experts

The low level of the Rhine has already exposed four other unexploded bombs. Read More

Russia admits defying West by supplying cruise missiles to Syria as U.N. chief says country is in full-scale civil war - 2nd Dec 2011

Russia last night admitted it had defied the West and supplied Syrian president Bashar al-Assad with a batch of cruise missiles.

Despite warnings today that the country was in civil war and ongoing concerns over terror tactics used against civilians, Moscow will also go-ahead with training the dictator's troops to use the state-of-the-art weapons.

'Supersonic anti-ship Yakhont cruise missiles have been delivered to Syria,' said an informed Russian source.

A total of 72 missiles were ordered by Damascus, but Moscow did not make clear how many had been delivered in the recent past.

'These arms will make it possible to defend Syria's entire coastline against a potential attack from sea,' said another source.

Israel fears the cruise missiles could fall into the hands of Hezbollah militants in neighbouring Lebanon.

The US also sought to halt arms sales to the Syrian ruler after his bloody crackdowns on street protests.

Moscow insists that a deal on the missiles and radar equipment, signed in 2007, is legal under international law.

With instability growing in the region, Moscow may have calculated that by arming the dictator, it reduces the chances of Western intervention in the country. Read More

'Jail's a five-star holiday... but wish they'd sort the wi-fi': Thief's boasts in his Facebook photo album of jail life - 2nd Dec 2011

The en suite facilities would appear to be up to scratch but apparently the rooms are not served too well by a wireless internet connection.

But this is no TripAdvisor review of some 3-star hotel, rather one boastful prisoner's assessment of his 'holiday' at Her Majesty's pleasure.

Adam Ghali, 26, has posted pictures of himself from inside his cell on Facebook.

The thief, who is currently serving an 18-month sentence at Camp Hill Prison on the Isle of Wight, took to the social networking site to boast about his sentence.

He also complained about the lack of WiFi internet.

In one post Ghali wrote: 'just on holiday. her majesty has sum fine establishments! camphill is 5star with ensuite facilities, wifi leaves alot to be desired.'

Despite a ban on the devices, the thug then posted his mobile phone number urging his 348 Facebook friends to 'book in' to the jail. Read More

Merkel: Fiscal union only way to solve eurozone crisis - 2nd Dec 2011

German Chancellor Angela Merkel highlighted Friday the need for fiscal union to resolve the debt crisis that threatens Europe's single currency, the euro, and the global economy.

"Fiscal union is the aim, one with real power. There is no other way," she said. "We are working for treaty change, we want to avoid a split between euro and non-euro countries."

During the speech to Germany's Bundestag, the country's national parliament, Merkel warned it will take a long time to resolve the financial crisis.

"The European debt crisis won't be over within a drum beat," she said.

European Union leaders have come under fire to address the debt crisis over concerns it could unravel the euro.

Merkel described it as a "crisis of trust," saying "politics has failed."

A split of the eurozone into members and nonmembers is not an option, according to Merkel. Read More

Protests Over Olympic Deal With Chemical Firm in India - 2nd Dec 2011

Protests are being staged in India against a controversial sponsorship deal for the 2012 Olympics in London.

Activists claim Dow Chemical, the firm which bought the company held responsible for the Bhopal industrial disaster in 1984, is not a fitting sponsor for the Games.

Bhopal is one of the world's biggest environmental disasters and the Indian government is still pursuing Dow for £1.1bn in compensation for the estimated 15,000 victims.

Protesters are holding a series of demonstrations in Bhopal over the next couple of days to coincide with the 27th anniversary of the disaster.

Indian athletes have also asked the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to take action.

They are also angry about Dow Chemical's £7m sponsorship deal. Read More

Radioactive xenon-133 400,000 times normal found in Chiba air immediately after Fukushima nuke accident - 2nd Dec 2011

Radioactive xenon-133 some 400,000 times normal levels was detected in the atmosphere here immediately after the outbreak of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, a radiation survey organization said.

It took three months before the volume of radioactive substances returned to normal levels.

The Chiba-based Japan Chemical Analysis Center made the announcement during a radiation research session in Tokyo on Dec. 1, organized by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

Keisuke Isogai from the center denied that the high concentration of radioactive substance posed a health hazard.

"I think xenon-133 drifted from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant to Chiba in the form of a plume. Since the detected amount translates into a cumulative external exposure to radiation of only 1.3 microsieverts over the three-month period, it won't cause a health hazard," he said. Read More

1 dead, 16 injured in Tennessee crashes involving 176 cars - 1st Dec 2011



One person was killed and 16 others injured Thursday in three separate chain-reaction crashes involving 176 cars north of Nashville, authorities said.

Heavy fog and black ice were thought to have contributed to the crashes on State Highway 386 in Sumner County, said county emergency medical services Capt. Vincent Riley.

The incidents began just before 8 a.m. ET, when a car ran off the highway and caused a chain reaction accident in "heavy, heavy fog," he said.

At least one school bus, with children aboard, was involved in the crashes, he said. None of the children were injured.

The man who died was driving a compact car that went under a semitrailer, Riley said.

The 16 people transported to local hospitals were not critically injured, he said.

The highway remained closed throughout most of the day as authorities attempted to clear the wreckage. As of Thursday afternoon, one side of the highway was still blocked with 50 cars that were not driveable and must be towed, Riley said.

A fog advisory was not in effect for the area at the time of the crashes, said CNN meteorologist Sarah Dillingham, but the heavy fog could have been a localized event. Source

General strike clogs streets of Athens - 1st Dec 2011

The streets of the Greek capital were jammed with tens of thousands of protesters Thursday as unions held a general strike in response to austerity policies and government spending cuts aimed at securing bailout funding for the debt-shackled Greek economy.

The march went off with none of the violence that has marked previous street demonstrations. Security forces stood aside but were in place near the Greek Parliament building.

Police estimated that 18,000 protesters were out on the streets, while union organizers gave higher numbers, claiming it was their largest march since the economic crisis hit last spring.

The 24-hour strike played havoc with transportation, although essential services remained open, as well as the country's airports and the Athens stock exchange.

In Athens, the atmosphere was calm. While many shops remained open, there was a sentiment of sympathy with the marchers.

"We have nothing left to lose," said Margarita Argyriadou, an unemployed business school graduate. "All aspects of our lives have been depreciated. We will have no life."

"The new government is doing nothing to help us," added Ilias Papadopoulos, an economist taking part in the march. "It helps only to fix the banks... And that works against us because if the work is all to help the banks to survive, then we are going to die." Read More

Al Qaeda leader claims responsibility for capture of American - 2nd Dec 2011

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has claimed responsibility for the capture in August of a 70-year-old U.S. citizen in Pakistan, according to a number of radical websites known for carrying militants' messages.

In the eighth episode of a series called "A Message of hope and glad tidings to our people in Egypt," the speaker sent a "message of support and encouragement" to members of al Qaeda and the Taliban as well as to "our female oppressed prisoners."

"We did not forget you and we will not forget you, God willing, and therefore in order to release you, we have been successful, thanks to God almighty, to capture an American Jew called Warren Weinstein," he said.

He described the captive as "a former employee and a current contractor working with the U.S. government in its aid program to Pakistan, which aims to fight the jihad in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and just like the Americans arrest any suspect linked to al Qaeda and the Taliban, even if they were far related."

The speaker then listed eight demands that he said, if met, would result in Weinstein's release. They included the lifting of the blockade on movement of people and trade between Egypt and Gaza; an end to bombing by the United States and its allies in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Gaza; the release of anyone arrested on charges of belonging to al Qaeda and the Taliban; the release of all prisoners in Guantanamo and American secret prisons and the closure of Guantanamo and the other prisons; the release of terrorists convicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center; and the release of relatives of Osama bin Laden, the founder of al Qaeda who was killed in May in Pakistan. Read More

Explosion at Bank in China Kills 2 - 1st Dec 2011

A explosion shook a branch of the China Construction Bank late Thursday afternoon in Wuhan, a provincial capital in south-central China, a municipal police official there said, and state media reported that at least two people were killed and more than 10 were injured.

Postings on the Twitter-like Weibo microblog, from people identifying themselves as being in Wuhan, said that someone put two or three bags of what looked like cement near the bank’s entrance, along with a “work in progress” sign. The bags turned out to be full of explosives and detonated when an armored car full of cash showed up.

The armored car was not punctured and kept going, the postings said.

The cause of the blast is under investigation, said a man answering the phone at the Wuhan municipal police press office, who declined to provide his name.

Explosives are sometimes used in commercial and domestic disputes as well as in crimes in China, partly as an alternative to guns, which are extremely hard to obtain. Natural gas leaks sometimes cause explosions as well, but these have more often been reported at restaurants than banks. Source

Search for God Particle is nearly over, as CERN prepares to announce findings - 2nd Dec 2011

The search for the 'God particle' could be nearing a resolution as physicists prepare to announce the latest evidence from the Large Hadron Collider.

At a special meeting at the Cern laboratory near Geneva in Switzerland, scientists from the two main experiments targeting the Higgs boson will disclose their latest findings.

While researchers from the ATLAS and CMS teams regularly present batches of their most recent data, there is particular excitement surrounding the seminar on December 13.

Although scientists are unlikely to announce conclusive evidence of whether or not the particle exists, their data could be strong enough to make a confident guess one way or the other.

There is added excitement within the scientific community because the two teams, both of which include British experts, will not be comparing their results beforehand to avoid biasing their interpretation of their own data. Read More

Egypt awaits poll results as Tahrir protest planned - 2nd Dec 2011

Egypt will hear the results of elections which Islamist parties look set to win on Friday, and protesters have called a rally to remember 42 people killed in clashes with police last month.

Islamist success at the polls in the most populous Arab nation would reinforce a trend in North Africa. Moderate Islamists lead governments in Morocco and post-uprising Tunisia after election wins in the last two months.

Egyptians voting freely for the first time since army officers ousted the king in 1952 seem willing to give Islamists a chance. "We tried everyone, why not try sharia (Islamic law) once?" asked Ramadan Abdel Fattah, 48, a bearded civil servant.

Parliament, whose exact makeup will be clear only after Egypt's staggered voting process ends in January, may challenge the power of the generals who took over in February after an uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak, an ex-air force chief. Read More

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

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 12 km (7.5 miles), the quake hit at 08:16:25 UTC Friday 2nd December 2011.
The epicenter was 50 km (31 miles) ESE of Mito, Honshu, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Syria to be condemned at UN Human Rights Council - 2nd Dec 2011

A special session of the UN Human Rights Council will be asked to adopt an independent report that the Syrian regime has committed multiple crimes against humanity in its crackdown on protests.

Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights will say Syrian forces 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.

Activists reported up to 22 people killed Thursday, adding to what has become a daily grind of violence.

"We are placing the (death toll) figure at 4,000 but really the reliable information coming to us is that it's much more than that," Pillay said in Geneva.

"As soon as there were more and more defectors threatening to take up arms, I said this in August before the Security Council, that there's going to be a civil war," she added. "And at the moment, that's how I am characterizing this." Read More

Dead dolphin washes up on Surf Beach, Australia - 2nd Dec 2011

A dead dolphin discovered washed up on Surf Beach last weekend wasn’t buried until Wednesday.

Beachgoers found the striped dolphin on the beach on Saturday, and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) was called.

A NPWS spokeswoman said, because the dolphin was not a rare breed, they didn’t take the carcass for further examination.

“Based on our reports, there was no reason for us to act,” she said.

She said the dolphin there had no marks or scratches that would suggest that it was killed by “human intervention”.

However, she said there was a large population of marine animals at the moment and stranding incidents were on the increase.

According to the spokeswoman, disposing of the dead dolphin was Eurobodalla Shire Council’s responsibility because it washed up on a council beach.

A council spokeswoman said the dolphin remained on the beach until it was buried on Wednesday morning, after they sought advice from NPWS. Source

1,450 People Evacuated After 5.2 Magnitude Earthquake Jolts China's Xinjiang - 2nd Dec 2011

A total of 1,450 people had been evacuated from their homes in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region by 11 a.m. Friday after the area was hit by a moderate earthquake Thursday night, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said in a statement.

About 11,300 people were affected by the 5.2-magnitude earthquake centered in the county of Shache in Kashi prefecture, which is about 1,666 km southwest of Xinjiang's capital city of Urumqi, reported Xinhua news agency on Friday.

Nearly 290 houses had collapsed while another 1,966 were damaged in the quake. So far, no casualties have been reported.

Most of the affected are residents from the counties of Shache, Zepu and Yuepuhu, the ministry said, adding that the tents and other relief materials have been transported to the quake-hit region. Source

Six Earthquakes hit Philippines Friday 2nd Dec 2011

A series of six mild earthquakes hit the Philippines Friday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology reported.

There was no report of damage or injuries.

The quakes occurred from 12:11 a.m. until 8 a.m. on Friday, said Phivolcs.

The first quake had a 3.1 magnitude, and was detected at 12:11 a.m. Its epicenter was located 49 kilometers northeast of Burgos, Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte, Philvolcs said.

At 2:25 a.m., a 2.8 magnitude quake was recorded by Philvolcs. Its epicenter was located four kilometers northwest of Caluya, Antique.

At 3:31 a.m., a 3.1 magnitude earthquake took place, with its epicenter located 15 kilometers northwest of Virac, Catanduanes.

A 3.6 magnitude quake was recorded at 4:40 a.m., with its epicenter 57 kilometers northeast of Burgos, Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte.

The strongest of the tremors, a 4.5 magnitude earthquake, was recorded at 5:59 a.m. Its epicenter was located 65 kilometers northeast of San Policarpio in Eastern Samar.

A 2.9 magnitude quake was also detected at 8:25 a.m., with its epicenter located 35 kilometers southeast of Palayan City in Nueva Ecija.

All of the earthquakes were tectonic in origin, Philvolcs said. Source

5.0 Magnitude Earthquake PANAMA-COSTA RICA BORDER REGION - 2nd Dec 2011

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck the Panama-Costa Rica Region at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the quake hit at 06:57:43 UTC Friday 2nd December 2011.
The epicenter was 38 km (23 miles) West of David, Panama
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTH OF JAVA, INDONESIA - 2nd Dec 2011

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck South of Java, Indonesia at a depth of 14.7 km (9.1 miles), the quake hit at 06:09:38 UTC Friday 2nd December 2011.
The epicenter was 382 km (237 miles) South of Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time