Saturday, December 3, 2011

"THE TRUTHER SHOW": With Russia defying the west, is WW3 close?

Study predicts 6km Auckland 'ring of death' - 3rd Dec 2011

An Auckland volcano would create a probable 6km ring of death as the "base surge" of superheated gases and ash exploded outward at ground level, a newly published study says.

And the results indicate the number of people evacuated in the 2008 volcano emergency simulation – named Ruaumoko – was "much smaller than the one suggested by a rational cost-benefit analysis".

GNS chief volcanologist Gill Jolly, one of the paper's authors, said almost everyone caught in a base surge dies, for example, in the 1987 eruption of Mt Pelee on the Carribean island of Martinique, 26,000 people caught in the base surge perished and only two survived.

By studying the effects of Auckland's numerous previous volcanoes and analogous volcanoes worldwide, the authors estimated that a new volcano would have a base surge with a 3km radius. Jolly, however, said "you can't rule out the possibility of it going 6 or 7km".

The volcano that created Lake Pupuke on Auckland's North Shore had a blast radius of 3km, Orakei basin 1.8km and Motukorea (Browns Island) 1km.

Smaller volcanoes around the world had base surges of 250m but the largest volcanoes had surges with a 5km radius.

A worrying "outlier" in the data is that Rangitoto, the most recent volcano, was the biggest by far and outside the conventional volcano field.

A volcanic eruption would probably be preceded by a series of earthquakes up to magnitude 4.5 to 5 as the magma made its way to the surface, Jolly said.

"The worst case scenario is hours [of notice], but probably it would be weeks. We would start to see the earthquakes get more frequent."

Jolly said a big issue was "we don't know where it's going to come up". Read More

Herman Cain says "I am suspending my presidential campaign" - 3rd Dec 2011

Herman Cain announced today that he is suspending his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, because of “the continued hurt” caused by claims of sexual harassment and a 13-year extramarital affair that he called “false accusations” that have created a “cloud of doubt over me and my family.”

“I am at peace with my God. I am at peace with my wife and she is at peace with me,” he said.

“With a lot of prayer and soul searching, I am suspending my presidential campaign, because of the continued distraction, the continued hurt on me and my family,” he said.

After a series of speakers praising Cain, the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO thanked a cheering crowd outside his campaign headquarters in Atlanta for standing by him.

“Let me first say that as usual, Cain supporters are not warm weather supporters, and I can’t thank all of you enough for what you’ve done, how far we have come and the things that we have done,” he said. Read More

Too Big To Jail: When the rich and suited get away with everything

On November 25th, the Friday evening after Thanksgiving, the PBS NewsHour ran a segment called In Aftermath of the Financial Crisis, Who's Being Held Responsible? Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism served as one of the four people interviewed, and noted after the fact that the Friday after Thanksgiving is one of the slowest news days of the year. She also noted that the PBS NewsHour format does not permit cross-talk among those being interviewed, which guarantees that no crucial information will emerge in debate. There is no debate.

Everyone agreed on the central fact under discussion: not a single high-ranking Wall Street banker has gone to jail in the aftermath of the Housing Bubble and financial meltdown.

Now, this fact alone should persuade all Americans without a vested interest in the status quo that the fix is in, the criminal political and regulatory system is incapable of self-correction, and therefore the Empire's obvious decline will continue unabated. Still, for reasons which must surely lie very deep in Human Nature, people still feel a need to discuss this criminal negligence as though ... what? Something will be done about it? To finally get to the bottom of this dastardly business? Who knows?

Even I am talking about it, although I am doing so from a distance large enough to give me some valuable perspective on the matter.

To maintain a Fair & Balanced discussion without crosstalk, PBS included a republican lawyer (Anton Valukas), a liberal blogger (Yves Smith), a conservative think-tanker (Mark Calabria), and an actual former SEC regulator (Lynn Turner). Of the four, only Turner and Smith seemed to think it might be a good idea to prosecute some people, to put some people in jail. (My own view is that a few public executions would have a wondrous effect on banking practices.)

Valukas went first, saying that it's hard to pin the blame on specific individuals and it's almost impossible to prove criminal intent. Moderator Ray Suarez then turned to Lynn Turner, who got right to the heart of the matter. more

Household Debt Mountain Grows, Nobody Cares

The Federal Reserve released its Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit report this week. Calculated Risk duly reported on the results, which included this text from the Fed.

Aggregate consumer debt fell approximately $60 billion to $11.66 trillion in the third quarter of 2011 according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s latest Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit."

The decline in outstanding consumer debt reveals that households continue to try and deleverage in the wake of a challenging economic environment and large declines in home values," said Andrew Haughwout, vice president in the Research and Statistics Group at the New York Fed. "However, our findings also provide evidence that consumer credit demand continues to increase, a positive sign for consumer sentiment."

Even as "consumers" struggled to get out of debt while also facing a "challenging" economic environment—this is a euphemism for the the economy can't suck enough—and large declines in home values, credit demand continues to increase according to the Fed, although aggregate debt fell by about $60 billion out a total of $11.66 trillion. That's $60,000,000,000 out of a total if 11,660,000,000,000, which works out to about 0.5%.

I'll leave it to you to work out the various contradictions in the Fed's statement. Hint: is more debt the solution to a debt problem?

But more importantly, did "consumer" debt actually decline? Consider this stink bomb—

Aggregate consumer debt fell slightly in the third quarter. As of September 30, 2011, total consumer indebtedness was $11.66 trillion, a reduction of $60 billion (0.6%) below its (revised) June 30, 2011 level. The 2011Q2 and 2011Q3 totals reflect improvements in our measurement of student loan balances, which we had previously undercounted ... As a result, student loan and total debt balances for 2011Q2 and 2011Q3 are not directly comparable to earlier data ...

These balances are not directly comparable to earlier data? Oh, yes they are! The first graph below shows 2011Q2, which reflects "undercounted" student loan balances. The second graph shows the new data for 2011Q3, which incorporates those balances. more

Software on Android phones 'tracking every key stroke'



Software installed on millions of Android phones is thought to be secretly tracking every key stroke, Google search, and text message by their users, it has been claimed.

An Android app developer in America has posted a video showing what he claims is 'conclusive proof' that 'Carrier IQ' software installed by manufacturers of many US phones record the way those phone are used in real time, as well as their geographic locations.

Carrier IQ has claimed that the software only tracks information for the benefit of users, not for any spying purposes, and that it is “counting and summarising” information rather than recording it.

However, in a YouTube video posted on Monday, the developer, Trevor Eckhart, did a “factory reset” on his Android phone, returning it to the condition in which it is shipped to customers, and linked it to a computer screen which allegedly displayed what the Carrier IQ software was tracking.

The demonstration showed that the software read every keystroke put into the phone, as well as every text message sent to it. It also appeared to log location data, and transmit this to Carrier IQ.

Mr Eckhart, claims it is used by manufacturers of phones that use Google's Android operating system, as well as some BlackBerry and Nokia handsets. It is not thought to be used in Apple’s iPhones. more

Iranian authorities ban Battlefield 3 video game for showing invasion of Tehran

The Iranian authorities have officially banned a new video game, Battlefield 3, because of an in-game assault on Tehran.

The video game, which was made by the American technology company, Electronic Arts, includes a scene in which a US aircraft launches an assault on Tehran.

It was released at the end of last month and received rave reviews around the world. Battlefield 3 has been seen by the video games community as a strong contender to replicate the success of the highly successful rival Call of Duty video game.

The intelligence division of the Iranian police released the following statement: “All computer stores are prohibited from selling this illegal game [Battlefield 3].”

However, according to reports, the game was never officially available in Iran in the first place. There are no official EA resellers set up in the country - which has meant that all copies which have found there way into Iran in the first place, were pirated copies. Consequently EA does not have to take any action over any sellers illegally stocking its game.

A group of Iranian students have taken to the internet to express their annoyance with the game, saying: “We understand that the story of a videogame is hypothetical ... (but) we believe the game is purposely released at a time when the U.S. is pushing the international community into fearing Iran.” The group has more than 5,00 signatures backing their views. more

Can South Africa curb its coal addiction?

Consumer Reports Study Backs Dr. Oz’s Claim About Arsenic in Apple Juice

Just about two months after Dr. Mehmet Oz reported he found potentially dangerous levels of arsenic in apple juice, Consumer Reports released the details of its own investigation, which found 10 percent of sampled fruit juices contain arsenic and lead levels exceeding the federal drinking-water standards.

Consumer Reports tested 88 samples of apple and grape juice from stores in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Ten percent had arsenic levels more than the 10 parts per billion (ppb) limit and 25 percent had lead levels that exceeded the five ppb limit allowed for bottled water, as enforced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Brands included Apple & Eve, Great Value, Mott's, Walgreens and Welch's.

According to Consumer Reports, the arsenic was inorganic, which means it’s a human carcinogen.
In September, Oz told viewers on his show that certain brands of apple juice can be dangerous because they contain high levels of arsenic. Oz claimed that his team tested 50 different brands of apple juice, and they all contained a high element of arsenic.

The FDA was quick to contest the report, saying that all apple juice sold in stores is safe. The agency said the testing was inaccurate because Oz tested for both organic arsenic, which is not harmful, and also inorganic arsenic. The results of testing for both combined, according to the agency, led to the conclusion of levels being dangerously high.

The FDA sent a letter to The Dr. Oz Show saying that "we have advised you that the test for total arsenic DOES NOT distinguish inorganic arsenic from organic arsenic." more

Does austerity hurt the low-paid?

When I hear the word austerity, I immediately think of nuns -- plainly dressed, in austere living quarters, with stern expressions. It's an odd admission coming from a secular Jew who has never set foot in a Catholic school, but not a surprising one given that severe fiscal policies are being meted out on suffering nation-states like swift slaps of a ruler on a wrist.

It's as though profligate countries such as Greece, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States went on a decades-long bender and are just now being reined in by the moral fiscal authority. Never mind that in most civilized societies, we've long decided that spanking our children is an unacceptable form of punishment, not to mention ineffective. Spanking nation-states is becoming a global fad.

Yet not only are austerity plans failing to rescue wayward nations, they're causing even greater harm.

The United Kingdom was the first country laid across the lap of fiscal austerity. Conservatives in Britain argued that government deficits could be solved by slashing public spending quickly and severely. They got what they wanted, including a particularly drastic set of cuts affecting the country's poor and unemployed. But despite the cuts, Britain's economy has not recovered.

This week, Britain announced it was lowering its economic growth estimates yet again and the multinational Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) projects Britain will enter a recession next year. In other words, England was the pilot test for austerity measures, and the pilot test has failed. more

Iran 'builds own missile defense system'

Iran says it is developing its own missile defense system after Russia last year blocked delivery of the formidable S-300PMU system, which had been purchased in 2007.

Israeli defense expert Uzi Rubin, architect of the Jewish state's evolving multilayer missile defense program, says Tehran may be getting help from North Korean weapons engineers.

Iranian news agencies quoted defense officials as saying the Iranian Bavar 373 system is a substitute for the five S-300 batteries Moscow refused to deliver. The Iranians claim their system is more advanced than the Russian S-300, which was developed by NPO Almaz of Moscow.

"The designing phase of the Bavar 373 missile system Â… is to be completed soon," said Brig. Gen. Farzad Esmaili of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which oversees missile development projects in Iran.

"We don't think about the S-300," he added. "This domestically built system has more advanced capabilities than the S-300."

"Intuitively, it's difficult to imagine that the Iranian system is as good as the S-300," Rubin told The Jerusalem Post. "Making the missile is the simple part. The problem is creating complex radars and other components.

"The effectiveness of the system depends on the radars. The Iranians have some skills in this but years of experience are needed. It's difficult to believe that this can be done in one generation."

However, Rubin observed, "there are indications they're not working alone."

He said North Korean engineers may be helping the Iranians, as they have frequently over the years. The Iranians, he noted, "may be on the way to reaching these capabilities." more

Obama's Civilian Army is now law and is being funded -- what happens now?

Is an American "Youth Army" closer to fact than fiction? Farfetched or a reptition of history?

Russia activates missile warning system near EU

Russia on Tuesday activated a radar warning system against incoming missiles in its exclave of Kaliningrad on the borders of the EU, in response to Western plans for a US missile shield in Europe.

President Dmitry Medvedev announced that the Voronezh-DM station was moving on to immediate combat readiness, days after threatening to deploy missiles in Kaliningrad amid a growing dispute with the West.

"I expect that this step will be seen by our partners as the first signal of the readiness of our country to make an adequate response to the threats which the (Western) missile shield poses for our strategic nuclear forces," Medvedev said.

Using rhetoric reminiscent of the Cold War, he added: "If this signal is not heard, we will deploy other methods of protection including the taking of tough countermeasures and the deployment of strike forces."

Medvedev said last week Russia was prepared to deploy Iskander missiles, which officials say have a range of up to 500 kilometres (310 miles), in the Kaliningrad exclave that borders EU members Poland and Lithuania.

Romania and Poland have agreed to host part of a revamped US missile shield which Washington said is aimed solely at "rogue" states like Iran but Moscow believes would also target its own capability. more

Iran spooked by U.S., Israeli covert ops

Iranian news agencies reported an explosion Monday in the central Iranian city of Isfahan, which hosts a nuclear research facility, but on Tuesday the provincial deputy governor denied there had been any explosion.

It was never made clear where the reported blast occurred, although there was nothing to link it to the research facility attached to the city's university.

But the explosion-that-never-was, the Iranians say, underlines how the country is being spooked by covert operations against its nuclear program by U.S. and Israeli intelligence services.

The Isfahan episode occurred just more than two weeks after a massive explosion at a ballistic missile base near Tehran killed the architect of Iran's strategic missile program, Maj. Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam.

It also came hard on the heels of an Iranian announcement that security authorities had captured a dozen "CIA spies" targeting the nuclear program. That followed reports earlier in the week that other alleged CIA operatives had been rounded up in May.

None of the reports have been verified and the CIA declined comment, although agency officials had in recent days admitted -- unusually -- that bungled operations in Beirut against Hezbollah, Iran's key proxy in Lebanon, had led to the capture of a dozen Lebanese informants.

"The U.S. and Zionist regime's espionage apparatuses were trying to damage Iran both from outside and inside with a heavy blow, using regional intelligence services," declared Parviz Sorouri of the Iranian Parliament's national security committee.

Iranian officials say the Nov. 12 blast at the al-Ghadir base, a storage and testing area for Shehab-3 ballistic missiles, was an accident that occurred during the testing of a new missile. more

Germany now major Mideast arms supplier

The German government is under fire for its $2 billion sale of 270 Leopard 2 tanks to Saudi Arabia but the fact is that Germany is now a key arms supplier to the Middle East.

Its customers include Israel, which has ordered three more Dolphin class submarines from Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft AG, and Algeria, which in June was cleared for frigates, armored vehicles and border security systems that newsmagazine Der Spiegel says are worth $14 billion.

German opposition parties and critics within Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right coalition, as well as peace and church groups, are up in arms over the secretive Saudi deal because it underlines a fundamental shift in Germany's long-restrictive export regulations.

"In her eagerness to support the German defense industry, Merkel is breaking with a traditional doctrine of German foreign policy," Der Spiegel reports.

"The fundamental principle used to be that weapons produced in Germany couldn't be delivered to countries engaged in a conflict.

"Now, the government is justifying its deals with strategic arguments, saying the government in Riyadh is needed as a stabilizing force in the Middle East," Der Spiegel noted.

The previous German government sanctioned arms sales to Saudi Arabia as well but these totaled around $400 million, chickenfeed compared to Berlin's current military exports to the Middle East. more

South Korean warships stage live-fire drill

South Korean warships staged a live-fire drill Tuesday in a show of strength towards North Korea despite its threats to retaliate, the defence ministry said.

The drill took place in the Yellow Sea to test readiness against infiltrations by North Korean warships and submarines.

"Today's drill shows our strong will not to tolerate further provocations by North Korea," a ministry spokesman told AFP, referring to the deadly bombardment of a South Korean border island last year.

The drill was part of a broader exercise involving about 20 destroyers, frigates and patrol boats as well as helicopters and anti-submarine surveillance aircraft, he said.

South Korea last week held a major land, sea and air exercise near the disputed Yellow Sea border to mark the anniversary of the island attack on November 23, 2010.

Those manoeuvres triggered an angry reaction from North Korea, which threatened to turn the South's presidential palace into a "sea of fire" in response to any provocation. more

Russia to send warships to Syria in 2012: report by Staff Writers

Russia will send a flotilla of warships led by its only aircraft carrier to its naval base in Syria for a port call next year amid tensions with the West over the Syrian crisis, a report said Monday.

The ships, headed by the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, will dock at the little-utilised Russian base in the Syrian port of Tartus in spring 2012, the Izvestia daily said, quoting the Russian navy.

The Tartus base, a strategic asset for Moscow dating back to Soviet times, is rarely used by Russian vessels and currently no Russian ship is based there although civilian and military personnel are present.

A naval spokesman confirmed the plan to send the ships but insisted it had nothing to do with the deadly violence in Syria between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition.

"The call of the Russian ships in Tartus should not be seen as a gesture towards what is going on in Syria," the spokesman told the paper, adding the Admiral Kuznetsov would also visit Beirut, Genoa and Cyprus.

"This was planned already in 2010 when there were no such events there. There has been active preparation and there is no need to cancel this," added the spokesman.

Russia and the West have become deeply split over the situation in Syria, with Moscow insisting that sanctions and pressure against the Assad regime is not the way to solve the crisis. more

Internet has become 'surveillance machine': Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange blasted the mainstream media, Washington, banks and the Internet itself as he addressed journalists in Hong Kong on Monday via videolink from house arrest in England.

Fresh from accepting a top award for journalism from the prestigious Walkley Foundation in his native Australia on Sunday, Assange spoke to the News World Summit in Hong Kong before keeping a regular appointment with the police.

He defended his right to call himself a journalist and said WikiLeaks' next "battle" would be to ensure that the Internet does not turn into a vast surveillance tool for governments and corporations.

"Of course I'm a goddamn journalist," he responded with affected frustration when a moderator of the conference asked if he was a member of the profession.

He said his written record spoke for itself and argued that the only reason people kept asking him if he was a journalist was because the United States' government wanted to silence him.

"The United States government does not want legal protection for us," he said, referring to a US Justice Department investigation into his whistle-blower website for releasing secret diplomatic and military documents. more

Many Americans with HIV go untreated: study

Nearly three quarters of the 1.2 million Americans with HIV do not have their infection under control, raising the risk of death from AIDS and transmission to others, said a US study on Tuesday.

One in five people with human immunodeficiency virus are unaware that they have the disease, added the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1.

Among people who know their HIV status is positive, only about half (51 percent) get ongoing medical treatment, said the CDC's Vital Signs report.

Of all people in the United States who have HIV, whether they know it or not, 36 percent take antiretroviral therapy and 28 percent have a low amount of the virus in their body.

"The HIV crisis in America is far from over," Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, told reporters.

"Today's Vital Signs shows that closing the gaps in testing, care and treatment will all be essential to slowing or reversing the US HIV epidemic." more

The New Story of Stuff: Can We Consume Less?

Will rich societies start consuming less? Could wealth go green? Might parsimony become the new luxury? Heresy, surely, you would say. But it might just be possible.

Take Britain. A new study finds that the country that invented the industrial revolution two centuries ago reached “peak stuff” between 2001 and 2003. In the past decade, Britain has been consuming less water, building materials, paper, food (especially meat), cars, textiles, fertilizers and much else. Travel is down; so is energy production. The country produces less waste, too.

This analysis is not the product of data juggling by a free-market think tank. The author of the study is Chris Goodall, a fully-paid-up environmental activist and parliamentary candidate for Britain’s Green Party, but also a stat guzzler who once worked for McKinsey & Company. His books include How to Live a Low-Carbon Life.

The stats hold true even when you allow for the ecological footprint from the manufacture of imported goods. And, while the decline in resource use in Britain has accelerated since the economic crisis in 2008, the trend started long before the banking crisis. There was a decline in overall materials use of 4 percent between 2000 and 2007. So it cannot be attributed entirely to recession, and can be expected to survive economic recovery.

Brits still get through about 30 tons of stuff each per year. But the total is now back to the level in 1989. Goodall says economic growth in the UK over the past generation has not resulted in any increase in pollution. “The environment movement’s belief that growth makes all ecological problems worse may need to be re-examined,” he says. more

Antibiotics in Swine Feed Encourage Gene Exchange

A study to be published in the online journal mBio® on Nov. 29 shows that adding antibiotics to swine feed causes microorganisms in the guts of these animals to start sharing genes that could spread antibiotic resistance.

Livestock farms use antibiotic drugs regularly, and not just for curing sick animals. Antimicrobial drugs are used as feed additives to boost animal growth, a profitable but controversial practice that is now banned in the European Union and under scrutiny here in the United States. Using antibiotics in animal feed saves farms money, but opponents argue the practice encourages antimicrobial resistance among bacteria that could well be consumed by humans. Today, livestock producers in the U.S. use an estimated 24.6 million pounds of antimicrobials for nontherapeutic purposes every year. The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently urged the federal government to follow up on plans to evaluate the impacts of the use of antibiotics as growth promoters.

The study by Heather Allen and her colleagues at the USDA National Animal Disease Center (NaDC) in Ames, Iowa, adds to the sum of knowledge about what happens to the microorganisms that populate animal digestive tracts when they are exposed to low, persistent levels of antibiotics. The researchers studied how two in-feed antibiotic formulations affect prophages, segments of DNA found in bacteria that can encode antibiotic resistance genes and other genes that bacteria may use.

Prophages can cut themselves out of the larger chromosome of bacterial DNA in a process called induction, then replicate and package themselves as viruses. These viruses explode the cell from the inside then move on to infect other organisms and deliver their genes. more

A quarter of world's farmlands highly degraded, says UN

The United Nations has completed the first-ever global assessment of the state of the planet's land resources, finding in a report today that a quarter of all farmland is highly degraded and warning the trend must be reversed if the world's growing population is to be fed.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that farmers will have to produce 70 per cent more food by 2050 to meet the needs of the world's expected nine billion-strong population.

That amounts to 1 billion tonnes more wheat, rice and other cereals and 200 million more tons of cow and other livestock.
Advertisement: Story continues below

But as it is, most available farmland is already being farmed, and in ways that actually decrease its productivity through practices that lead to soil erosion and wasting of water.

That means that to meet the world's future food needs, a major "sustainable intensification" of agricultural productivity on existing farmland will be necessary, the FAO said in "State of the World's Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture".

The report was released today, as delegates from around the world meet in Durban, South Africa, for a two-week UN climate change conference aimed at breaking the deadlock on how to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. more

Atrazine in water tied to menstrual irregularities, low hormones

Women who drink water contaminated with low levels of the weed-killer atrazine may be more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles and low estrogen levels, scientists concluded in a new study.

The most widely used herbicide in the United States, atrazine is frequently detected in surface and ground water, particularly in agricultural areas of the Midwest. Approximately 75 percent of all U.S. cornfields are treated with atrazine each year.

The newest research, which compared women in Illinois to women in Vermont, adds to the growing scientific evidence linking atrazine to altered hormones.

The women from Illinois farm towns were nearly five times more likely to report irregular periods than the Vermont women, and more than six times as likely to go more than six weeks between periods. In addition, the Illinois women had significantly lower levels of estrogen during an important part of the menstrual cycle.

Tap water in the Illinois communities had double the concentration of atrazine in the Vermont communities’ water. Nevertheless, the water in both states was far below the federal drinking water standard currently enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. more

Families face 'lost decade' as spending power suffers biggest fall since 1950s

British families' disposable income will have fallen by 4.7pc between 2009 and 2012 - by far the biggest three-year drop since records began in the mid 1950s, the Insitute of Fiscal Studies said in its analysis of George Osborne's Autumn Statement.

Average real earnings will fall by nearly 3pc in 2011 and will fall again in 2012, the Institute said on Wednesday.

Real average household incomes will be no higher in 2015-16 than in 2002-03, meaning middle-income families will have worked for more than a decade without any increase in living standards.

That is largely due to a "whopping" drop in real median household incomes between 2009 and 2013 of 7.4pc - a collapse in families' earnings not seen since the period 1974-77.

The poorest were hit hardest in yesterday's statement, the IFS said. The reversal of previous decisions to increase child tax credits will increase child poverty, while cancelling increases in fuel duties will benefit middle-income families.

The OBR's prediction that the economy will be 3.5pc smaller in 2016 than thought in March will force the Chancellor to cut spending six years in a row to meet his deficit reduction targets. more

Could lack of sleep be a cause of childhood obesity?

Many culprits have been blamed for the alarming rise in childhood obesity in recent years. Video games. Fast food. Portion sizes. Television and computer screens. A decline in home cooking. The vanishing of school playing-fields.

Here's another worry to throw into the mix: sleep. An eye-opening study from New Zealand was published in the British Medical Journal earlier this year. Researchers studied 244 children, following them from the age of three to seven.

They found that reduced sleep significantly increased the likelihood of excessive weight gain. The children who slept longer aged three to five were 61 per cent less likely to be overweight aged seven.

'But wait!' you say. 'I bet the households where children slept less were neglectful and poor. Probably they watched more television and ate a bad diet, too.' Well, actually, no. One of the things that makes this study so striking is that the researchers took account of many 'confounders' such as household income, fruit and vegetable intake, television watching and the mother's education.

The link between lack of sleep and increased obesity held good even when all these variables were allowed for. Each additional hour of sleep aged three to five reduced the BMI (body mass index) at the age of seven by 0.49. more

New Zealand's invasive ants mysteriously vanish

If only all ecological pests were so easily dispatched. The Argentine ant (Linepithema humile), one of the world's worst invasive species, is disappearing from New Zealand – without any human intervention.

The alien ant arrived in New Zealand in 1990 and has since marched across the nation's two main islands. Dealing with the pest was projected to cost NZ$68 million (£33 million) per year.

Perhaps no longer. Phil Lester and colleagues at the Victoria University of Wellington say that alien ant colonies in 60 locations are collapsing on their own. Lester thinks low genetic diversity, which is associated with reduced disease resistance, is the most likely reason for the ant's demise.

Lori Lach at the University of Western Australia, Perth, warns that other alien species won't be so easily dealt with. "For thousands of other invasive species around the world we've seen no such collapse," she says. source

Having More Than 7 Days Of Food Makes You A Suspected Terrorist

At least 23 dead in intensifying Syria violence - 3rd Dec 2011

At least 23 people were reported killed in Syria on Saturday as violence intensified in the eighth month of unrest against President Bashar al-Assad, pushing the death toll close to 4,600, according to a leading activist group.

In a three-hour, night-time battle in the north-western city of Idlib near the Turkish border, seven members of the security forces, five army rebels and three civilians were killed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.

Five civilians were shot dead by security forces in central Homs province, and a man's body was returned to his family five days after he had been arrested.

The United Nations' top human rights forum has condemned Syria for "gross and systematic" violations by its forces, including executions and the imprisonment of some 14,000 people.

Syrian authorities say they are fighting foreign-backed "terrorist groups" trying to spark civil war who have killed some 1,100 soldiers and police since March. Read More

China leader warns about unrest due to economy - 3rd Dec

The Chinese leadership's law-and-order czar is warning that the country is ill-prepared to handle social unrest amid a changing economy, in the latest sign Beijing is worried about flagging growth.

State media reported Saturday that Politburo member Zhou Yongkang told a meeting of provincial officials that the government needs new methods for dealing with what he called the negative effects of the market economy. Zhou said coming up with better ways to manage social change is an urgent task.

Zhou's remarks underscore government uneasiness about an economic slowdown and the social unrest it might bring. Strikes and other job actions have increased recently as factories retrench in response to higher labor costs and reduced demand for exports from the West. Source

Hunt for twisted thug who fed kitten to python in sick video - 'These are the actions of a sadistic human being'

A hunt has been launched for a sadistic pet owner who filmed himself feeding a kitten to a python.

The vile video, entitled Python Christmas, shows a man in his 20s carrying the kitten called Jasmine into a bedroom in a Santa hat and then placed on a bed.

Lurking half-hidden under a pillow lay a yellow Burmese python, which can grow up to 19ft long and is one of the largest snakes in the world.

Jasmine is seen slowly walking across the bed until the thug distracts her and she fatally turns her back on the danger.

The snake pounces, wrapping the kitten in its coils as it squeezes the life out of the playful animal.

Once the kitten's tail stops moving the snake swallows her whole — head first. Its cries of agony are drowned out by the Christmas song Little Drummer Boy playing in the background of the video. Read More

Video available on Daily Mail - Warning Graphic Content >>>>>>

One-month-old baby with every rib broken fighting for its life after man and woman are arrested for rape and battery

...AND THEY SAY WE DO NOT NEED THE DEATH PENALTY!! - They released these sick evil people on bail?

A man and a woman have been arrested after one-month-old baby was allegedly raped and battered.

The tiny child had a heart attack brought on by his injuries and is fighting for his life.

He was rushed to Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent, on Thursday at 7am, but was transferred to London's King's College Hospital after having a cardiac arrest there.

It is believed the boy suffered a broken arm, collar bone, punctured lungs and fractures to every rib.

There were also a sexual injury and serious internal injuries suggesting rape, according to the Sun.

The baby boy currently battling to stay alive with the help of a life support machine.

His condition was critical, but he is showing signs of improvement today, said police. Read More

Daniel Crook a British soldier jailed for stabbing 10-year-old Afghan boy - 3rd Dec 2011

A British soldier has been jailed for stabbing a 10-year-old boy after getting drunk on vodka while serving in Afghanistan.

Grenadier Guardsman Daniel Crook was jailed for 18 months and dismissed from the Army in June for stabbing Ghulam Nabi in the kidney with a bayonet in Helmand Province.

Details of the incident emerged in a court martial, which heard that the soldier stabbed the boy who had been pestering Crook for chocolate.

The incident took place in March last year after Crook had drunk a bottle of vodka sent in a disguised container from a friend in England. The soldier had been so drunk that prior to the patrol he needed treatment from medics, court martial was told.

Prior to the patrol in the Nad e’Ali area of central Helmand, Crook’s rifle had been confiscated but the soldier had armed himself with a bayonet and two hand grenades.

The prosecution said he came across two Afghans riding bikes – one of them was Ghulam, who had been sent out to collect a bottle of yoghurt and who then pestered Crook for chocolate.

In response, the soldier “took hold of the boy’s shoulder and stabbed him in the region of his kidneys with his bayonet”.

Afterwards, Crook caught up with the patrol and admitted what he had done. When questioned by military police he could not explain why he had stabbed the boy.

The boy’s father, Haji Shah Zada, 72, told the Guardian newspaper that he could not understand why his son was attacked and had received no apology from the British forces.

The shopkeeper and farmer said his son was still suffering and has not yet been back to school. Read More

France withdraws embassy staff from Iran - 3rd Dec 2011

France is repatriating a number of diplomats and their families from Iran following an attack on the British embassy in Tehran.

French officials said the move was a temporary security measure.

Britain expelled 25 Iranian diplomats following Tuesday's attack, when hundreds stormed the British embassy.

British officials say the attack probably had the tacit support of Iran's leaders. All UK diplomatic staff in Tehran have been evacuated.

'Young revolutionaries'

On Saturday, a senior Iranian cleric condemned the attack.

"There is no doubt that Britain is one of the oldest enemies of Iran... but young revolutionaries should not go beyond the law," Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi told the state-run Irna news agency. Read More

Katla Volcano Threatens Mass Disruption, Iceland - 3rd Dec 2011

A huge Icelandic volcano long overdue an eruption is showing signs of activity - threatening disruption to air traffic, experts have said.

There have been more than 500 tremors at Katla in the south of the country in just the last month.

An increase in activity at the site since July has also been causing volcanologists concern, when increasing temperatures and seismic activity caused a flood, washing away a road bridge.

The last major eruption at the volcano was in 1918, and caused such a large glacier meltdown that icebergs were swept byLink the resulting floods into the ocean.

Significant activity at Katla - which has a huge 6.2 mile (10km) crater - usually occurs every 40 to 80 years.

It is feared when it does eventually erupt, it could be the most powerful activity the country has seen in almost a century.

Catastrophic flooding could result as the frozen surface of the volcano melts, sending vast amounts of water into the Atlantic Ocean.

Volcano expert Andy Hooper, from Delft University, said although there had been increased activity at the site, it was difficult to predict if and when Katla would erupt. Read More

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE NORTH COAST OF PAPUA, INDONESIA - 3rd Dec 2011

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck near the North Coast of Papua, Indonesia at a depth of 35 km (21.7 miles), the quake hit at 12:26:19 UTC Saturday 3rd December 2011.
The epicenter was 75 km (46 miles) ENE of Sorong, Papua, Indonesia
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

New Zealand 5.7 Magnitude Earthquake shatters windows, forces evacuations - 3rd Dec 2011

Highrise windows shattered, apartments were evacuated and houses shook as a 5.7 magnitude earthquake rocked Wellington, Marlborough and much of central New Zealand.

GNS Science says the quake at 7.19pm tonight was centred 30 kilometres east of Picton at a depth of 60 kilometres. It was 30 km north-east of Blenheim and 40 km west of Wellington.

It was felt strongly in the Marlborough and Wellington areas, GNS said.

Police say there has been damage to louvres and windows broken on the Meridian Building on Custom Quay Street in central Wellington. Some of the louvres have come loose and are hanging precariously.

The Quay Apartments in Picton had to be evacuated as a hot water cylinder burst and set off the fire alarms. Two other cylinders were also damaged in the town, according to the Fire Service.

Supermarkets in Wellington say they felt the quake but it was not strong enough for things to fall off shelves.

However, Janet Enge of Eastbourne posted on Facebook that she was in the local Four Square store and "stuff came off the shelves."

Nelson police said the quake was felt there but they have had no reports of damage or injury. Read More

3.1 Magnitude Earthquake VIRGINIA - 3rd Dec 2011

A magnitude 3.1 earthquake has struck Virginia at a depth of 5 km (3.1 miles), the quake hit at 11:12:50 UTC Saturday 3rd December 2011.
The epicenter was 6 km (4 miles) SSE from Claypool Hill, Virginia
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time