Friday, December 9, 2011

'Massacre' feared brewing in Syrian city of Homs

Syria's leading opposition movement warned Friday of an impending government "massacre" designed to crush activists in the city of Homs, a metropolis that has emerged as a center of anti-regime unrest.

The Syrian National Council said military troops and vehicles have surrounded the western city and thousands of troops are manning more than 60 checkpoints just inside the city.

"These are all signs of a security crackdown operation that may reach the level of a total invasion of the city," the council said in a news release. It warned that a "massive number of casualties" could occur.

"Evidence received from reports, videos and information obtained by activists on the ground in Homs indicate that the regime is paving the way to commit a massacre in order to extinguish the Revolution in Homs and to discipline, by example, other Syrian cities that have joined the Revolution," the council said.

Homs suffered more deaths on Friday, with at least 18 slain, and at least 19 others were killed during disturbances elsewhere across Syria, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an activist group. It said women, children and dissident soldiers were among those killed. more

5.5 Magnitude Earthquake SEA OF OKHOTSK, JAPAN - 9th Dec 2011

A magnitude 5.5 earthquake has struck the Sea of Okhotsk, Japan at a depth of 380.2 km (236.3miles), the quake hit at 19:42:56 UTC Friday 9th December 2011.
The epicenter was 135 km (84 miles) East of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Syrian protests trigger new deadly clashes, at least 24 more Killed - 9th Dec 2011

At least 24 people have been killed in renewed anti-government protests across Syria, activists say.

Eleven of the deaths were in and around the city of Homs, while five were in the suburbs of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Another activist group, the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), put Friday's death toll at 35.

The UN estimates more than 4,000 people have died in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad since March.

A number of pro-government demonstrations have also been reported across the country, including in the capital Damascus.

Demonstrators regularly take to the streets following Friday prayers.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two of those killed in the central city of Homs were boys, aged 10 and 12. Homs has emerged as the epicentre of the uprising. Read More

Angela Merkel: 'I don't believe David Cameron was ever with us at the table' - 9th Dec 2011

The Germans and French were ready to accommodate Britain's difficulties but were not prepared to write them into a new treaty.

"I have not and have no plans to attend any wife swapping parties," David Cameron said in Brussels shortly before he flew back to Britain, in one of the more startling statements by a British prime minister at an European summit.

His jovial remark stemmed from reports that a French official had said late on Thursday that Britain's attempts to secure concessions in negotiations about the euro were akin to a man going to a wife swapping party without his wife (it turned out that the actual French quote was fruitier).

There was some method to it, designed as it was to show that the prime minister is not alarmed by warnings from across the EU that he has marginalised Britain after vetoing a revision of the Lisbon treaty, paving the way for virtually every other EU member state to agree to a treaty outside the architecture of the EU to underpin tough new rules for the eurozone. Read More

OMG Trampoline, Scotland - 9th Dec 2011

3.4 Magnitude Earthquake WESTERN TEXAS - 9th Dec 2011

A magnitude 3.4 earthquake has struck Western Texas at a depth of 4.1 km (2.5 miles), the quake hit at 18:47:32 UTC Friday 9th December 2011.
The epicenter was 26 km (16 miles) North of Snyder, Texas
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

4.4 Magnitude Earthquake KEPULAUAN BABAR, INDONESIA - 9th Dec 2011

A magnitude 4.4 earthquake has struck Kepulauan, Babar, Indonesia at a depth of 176.6 km (109.7 miles), the quake hit at 18:12:26 UTC Friday 9th December 2011.
The epicenter was 218 km (135 miles) Saumlaki, Kepulauan Tanimbar, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

13-Year-Old Girl Charged After Allegedly Distributing Sleeping Aid To Classmates



Philadelphia police have charged a 13-year-old girl for distributing a sleeping aid to classmates after several students reported feeling ill, according to authorities.

Police say just after 9 a.m., seven seventh grade students from the H. A. Brown Elementary School in Kensington were transported to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children after feeling sick. Two of the students have been admitted and will stay overnight.

“My daughter is in their sick. Her heart rate keeps going up and down. She passed out,” said Marisol Cruz, the mother of one of the students admitted to the hospital.

Eyewitnesses say the children looked woozy and had to be assisted outside of the school.

HAZMAT crews, fire officials and medics responded to the scene initially thinking it may have been an environmental issue that sickened the children.

However, police later determined the children ingested Ambien, a sleeping aid, and possibly additional prescription medicine that was allegedly brought in by another unidentified student. more

White House unveils new strategy to combat "homegrown terror"

The White House unveiled a strategy Thursday aimed at battling homegrown terrorism that emphasizes better coordination with local authorities.

The United States has made significant progress in degrading al-Qaeda's capabilities in recent years—President Obama noted today that 22 of the top 30 al-Qaeda operatives have been killed or captured under his watch. Intelligence officials suspect the terror organization is increasingly focused on seeking U.S.-born collaborators to carry out attacks. There have been 33 plots involving homegrown terrorists uncovered since 2009, according to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

"Protecting our nation's communities from violent extremist recruitment and radicalization is a top national security priority," according to the strategic document. "It is an effort that requires creativity, diligence and commitment to our fundamental rights and principles."

The strategy draws broad outlines for fighting extremism and follows up on the White House's National Strategy for Counterterrorism, which was released in June. more

Risk of Israel/U.S. strike on Iran has tripled: Barclays Capital

The chance of a military strike on Iran has roughly tripled in the past year, the senior geopolitical risk analyst at Barclays Capital said on Thursday.

New York-based analyst Helina Croft, writing in a note titled 'Blowback: Assessing the fallout from the Iranian sanctions', said even increased sanctions without an all-out military strike was increasing the risk of a spike in oil prices.

"We still contend that the risk of either an Israeli or US strike on the Iranian nuclear facilities remains low, but it has risen, in our view, from 5-10 percent last year to 25-30% now," Croft said.

"In terms of supply-demand balances for the oil market, an oil embargo or sanctions on the Iranian central bank would essentially lead to a dislocation in trade flows, rather than lost outright production... However, the effect on oil prices could be significantly different."

Croft said increased sanctions from the U.S. and European Union targeting Iran's oil sector and central bank would likely, initially, have the primary effect of driving its oil exports east to Asia. more

'Downloading' new skills into our brains like characters on The Matrix set to become a reality, say scientists - 9th Dec 2011

Learning a martial art, how to fly a plane or how to speak a new language without even being awake is set to become a reality, say researchers.

Scientists at Boston University and ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan, believe that in the future learning a new skill might involve nothing more than sitting in front of a computer screen and waiting for it to ‘upload’.

They have been studying how a functional magnetic resonance machine (FMRI) can ‘induce’ knowledge in someone through their visual cortex by sending signals that change their brain activity pattern.

This process is called Decoded Neurofeedback, or ‘DecNef’. Read More

Is The Pawn Shop The New Spot For Holiday Shopping?

Doing your holiday shopping at the pawn shop? WWJ’s Sandra McNeill reports that’s not so odd anymore.

Tom Blaine owns the Garden City Exchange and says his business though October is already up 49 percent over December of last year. The bad economy means he’s getting people selling new and high-end electronics like iPads and he says the popularity of reality shows mean people aren’t as embarrassed to shop there.

“Sometimes I’m sure they are. They might want to try and make it look as new as possible,” said Blaine. “But, you know, times are tough. People don’t mind as much. They’re looking for a deal more than anything.”

Shopper Jason Miller has no problem buying gifts there.

“Yeah, it’s a good place to shop. You know, you get a good deal on everything,” he said. “My daughter plays video games and everything for like the (Nintendo) Wii. So, if I found some good deals on Wii games I’d come up here and pick ‘em up.” more

Sesame Street Muppet Pitches Government Dependence: Free Food at School

A “food insecure” Muppet is helping to promote a national “Food for Thought” campaign that teaches poor families to seek out nutritious food and to eat on the taxpayers’ tab.

At the National Press Club on Thursday, Lily the Muppet – who worries about her family not having enough money to feed her properly -- pitched free food at school:

“Sometimes we can't always afford to buy all the food that we need,” Lily said. “I mean, but we've been finding lots of ways that we can get help...Yeah, for example, at school I get a free breakfast and a lunch...part of the meal plan." more

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake MOLUCCA SEA, INDONESIA - 9th Dec 2011

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck the Molucca Sea, Indonesia at a depth of 41.4 km (25.7 miles), the quake hit at 17:06:38 UTC Friday 9th December 2011.
The epicenter was 192 km (119 miles) WSW of Ternate, Moluccas, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Chinese madam who ran prostitution slave racket executed by lethal injection

A madam who forced hundreds of women into prostitution has been executed in China.

Wang Ziqi was sentenced to death for luring young women to work in brothels which were disguised as tea houses, beauty salons or hotels.

More than 300 women were victims between 1994 and 2009 of the gang she led, with seven dying in mysterious circumstances, according to Chinese news reports.

They were forced to work even when they had their period or had had forced abortions.

If they refused, they were beaten and put in a dark room for days without food.

Wang and her sister, Wang Wanning, were accused of stealing the women’s identity cards, ruining their reputations with their families and stealing all their earnings.

The gang also arranged for people to teach the women the 'skills' of prostitution.

She was pictured along with associate Gu Mingtao, dressed in thickly padded pajamas, their hands cuffed, in court as their death sentences were upheld. more

Average US Family Lost $21K in 6 Months Due To Property Values, Stock Market

The average US household lost $21,261 of net worth this summer, the largest decline in family wealth in nearly three years.

The drop in the third quarter, tied to falling home values and a cratering stock market, is the second straight quarter of eroding wealth, according to the Federal Reserve's quarterly report, released Thursday.

Prior to the back-to-back quarterly declines in household net worth, which wiped out $2.55 trillion from families' ledgers, Main Street experienced three straight quarters of growth, the report said.

Household net worth is the value of assets like homes, bank accounts and stocks, minus debts like mortgages and credit cards.

Consumers began this year ahead of the game, with overall net worth of $511,224 per household, which dropped to $498,751 as of Sept. 30 -- after an average $9,757 per household gain in the first three months of the year and a $912 decline in quarter two. more

Syrian protests trigger new deadly clashes

At least 10 people have been killed in renewed anti-government protests across Syria, activists says.

Six of those killed were in the flashpoint city of Homs and two in Deraa, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Another activist group, the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), put the death toll at 14.

The UN estimates more than 4,000 people have died in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad since March.

A number of pro-government demonstrations have also been reported across the country, including in the capital Damascus.

Demonstrators regularly take to the streets following Friday prayers.

"Six civilians were killed in the Homs region, two in Deraa, one civilian in Hama and another in Douma near Damascus," the observatory said in a statement. more

'Make-or-break' for middle class

Barack Obama's campaign for re-election has just cranked up a notch.

The US president has gone to Kansas to make a big economic speech, saying this is a make or break moment for the American middle class and that the ongoing debate about tax is "the defining issue of our time".

It sets the stage for a 2012 battle between two very different economic visions.

Mr Obama said the battle would be about "reclaiming American values".

He has condemned his Republican opponents for what he called "you're on your own economics" and said that the trickle-down theory - that when the rich get richer so does everybody else - "has never worked".

His speech was thin on details of anything new but he said it was important "everyone gets a fair shot - plays by the same rules".

Mr Obama deliberately made the speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, to echo Teddy Roosevelt's call for a "New Nationalism" in 1910. more

Eurozone leaders reach new deal without backing of Britain



A majority of European leaders agreed early Friday on a new deal to try to resolve the continent's debt crisis, but Britain refused to back a broader treaty change.

The 17 members of the eurozone, which share the embattled single currency, reached a deal for a new intergovernmental treaty to deepen the integration of national budgets. Six other EU nations supported the deal.

"We're doing everything we can to save the euro," President Nicolas Sarkozy of France said at a news conference in Brussels following a marathon summit meeting of EU leaders.

But the new plan, which leaders are aiming to have ready by March, did not get the backing of Britain

Three other countries -- the Czech Republic, Hungary and Sweden -- said they are willing to consider the plan after consultations with their Parliaments.

"We would rather have reformed the treaty with 27 members," Sarkozy said. But Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain demanded an "unacceptable" opt out clause related to the financial services sector, Sarkozy said. more

South Sudan on the brink of war with North Sudan

South Sudan's foreign minister has warned his country is on the brink of war with Sudan following days of fierce fighting along the border.

Nhial Deng Nhial told the BBC Sudanese forces had invaded the town of Jau, which was in the south.

He urged the international community to intervene and said he hoped full-scale hostilities could still be avoided.

South Sudan seceded from the north in July following years of civil war in which some 1.5m people died.

The border between the north and south has not yet been officially designated.

Since July Khartoum and Juba have accused each other of supporting rebels in the border areas. more

Toyota Motor halves profit forecast due to Thai floods

Toyota, Japan's largest carmaker, has halved its profit forecast for this year due to disruptions caused by Thailand's floods.

It now expects a net profit of 180bn yen ($2.3bn; £1.5bn) for the year ending 31 March 2012.

The firm issued its previous forecast of a 390bn yen profit in August.

It withdrew the forecast last month after supply disruptions of some crucial parts halted production at factories in 10 countries.

The firm lost output of 215,000 cars globally between 10 October and 25 November.

Japanese auto makers have had a tough year so far, with both the March earthquake and Thailand's disaster affecting their production.

Analysts said Toyota could be set to lose its title as the world's largest carmaker to General Motors and possibly trail behind Volkswagen in terms of output this year.

In its forecast, the company also blamed the yen's strength, which makes its products more expensive overseas, for the downward revision. more

PM's EU Treaty Veto: 'I Did It For Britain' - 9th Dec 2011

Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted he put Britain's interests first by using a veto to avoid signing up to a new European economic treaty.

Mr Cameron has come under fire for leaving the UK isolated while other European Union nations agreed on a closer fiscal union to preserve the euro.

As a result of the veto, 38 years after joining the European economic community, Britain has now taken a big step away from a greater Europe.

After 11 hours of bad-tempered talks in Brussels, Britain has been left standing alone on shaky ground as the other EU members forged ahead.

Mr Cameron told Sky News political editor Adam Boulton: "I said to the people of Britain if I couldn't get a treaty that was good for Britain I wouldn't sign up to it. And I was good to my word.

"What I have done is made sure Britain's national interest is protected. We have the right deal for Britain in Europe." Source

Taiwan dog poo lottery proves a 'big success'

A Taiwanese city is keeping dog mess off its streets by offering prizes to owners who clear up after their pets.

Officials in New Taipei City say that more than 4,000 people have collected 14,500 bags of excrement. For each bag they turned in, they were given a lottery ticket.

A woman in her 50s won the top prize - a gold ingot worth $2,200 (£1,400).

The scheme was due to end in October, but officials said it had been so successful it had been extended.

The BBC's Cindy Sui in Taipei says that it has been credited with halving the amount of dog mess in the city, which is near the capital.

Dog poo is a health hazard because it contains bacteria that can cause severe stomach upsets if ingested, including a roundworm infection called toxocariasis which is especially dangerous to children.

As the scheme - which began in August - grew more successful, more prizes were added.

On Wednesday some of the winners were picked. The woman who won is among a team of neighbourhood volunteers who already helped to clean up the streets, including by picking up dog mess.

Smaller gold ingots, worth several hundred dollars, were given to four other prizewinners. A total of 85 people won prizes, including household appliances. more

Life on Earth: Is our planet special?

For Greek philosophers like Aristotle, Earth lay at the centre of a small universe and the idea of alien life was unthinkable.

Since then the tide of opinion has turned. Astronomers have shown that Earth may be just one of myriad habitable worlds.

Meanwhile biologists have shed light on how life might have originated here, and therefore on other planets too.

Far from being unique, many now regard Earth as an ordinary lump of space rock and believe that life "out there" is almost inevitable. But could the truth be somewhat more complex?

On Friday, top scientists are meeting at the Geological Society in London to debate this very issue, posing the question: "Is the Earth special?". What emerges is that aspects of our planet and its evolution are remarkably strange. more

Household wealth takes biggest hit since '08

Household wealth took its biggest hit since the height of the 2008 financial meltdown during the third quarter, weakened by a downturn in stocks, according to a report issued Thursday.

The Federal Reserve said the net worth of households fell by $2.2 trillion, or 4.1%, to end at $57.4 trillion. The decline comes to about $7,800 for every U.S. resident.

It's the biggest decline since the $5.6 trillion loss suffered in the fourth quarter of 2008.

The drop in stocks in the quarter more than explained the overall decline in net worth, as the value of stocks held directly or indirectly fell by $3.2 trillion, or 17%.

That's a bit worse than the 14% decline in the blue-chip Standard & Poor's 500 index during the quarter. The period included the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating by S&P, along with rising worries about the risk of a new U.S. recession and a new meltdown in the financial sector due to the European debt crisis.

But U.S. stocks have performed well since the end of the third quarter, with the S&P 500 rebounding by 10.1% so far. So household net worth might be poised for a nice rebound. more

Brian Stewart: The covert war in Iran

If you listen closely, there are eerie similarities between the sabre rattling now being heard over Iran and that cacophony of war-hawk voices that helped propel the U.S. into the Iraq war in 2003.

This time, the raised voices revolve more around the need to support Israel, should it attack Iran's supposed nuclear weapons sites, and they are being heard more urgently in the Republican leadership debates and by the familiar hardliners in Washington's neo-conservative circles.

Some of the same over-the-top rhetoric is back in play. Newt Gingrich, who currently leads the Republican presidential field, claimed recently that the U.S. "could break Iran in a year."

Where have we heard that kind of bluster before?

But there are important differences as well from the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld period. For one, military action is a much harder sell these days given the widespread war-weariness that has followed the grinding combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While it's true some polls suggest that roughly half of Americans would support military action in Iran, should sanctions fail, overall large numbers still favour diplomacy as the first option.

Even that big rattling noise from the right today does not equate to the war fever that possessed Washington eight years ago. more

NASA audit finds hundreds of space samples missing

Astronauts may have had the 'right stuff' to go to the moon, but when it comes to keeping track of what they brought back, NASA seems to have misplaced some of the stuff.

In a report issued by the agency's inspector general on Thursday, NASA concedes that more than 500 pieces of moon rocks, meteorites, comet chunks and other space material were stolen or have been missing since 1970. That includes 218 moon samples that were stolen and later returned and about two dozen moon rocks and chunks of lunar soil that were reported lost last year.

NASA, which has lent more than 26,000 samples, needs to keep better track of what is sent to researchers and museums, the report said. The lack of sufficient controls "increases the risk that these unique resources may be lost," the report concluded.

After last year's case of a missing moon sample loaned to a Delaware astronomical observatory, which the astronomers there claimed they returned to NASA, the agency's inspector general decided to audit about one quarter of the thousands of samples of moon rocks, lunar dust, meteorites, and other space material that the agency loaned.

Of those cases, 19 per cent of the researchers either could not account for the samples or they had material that NASA records indicated had been destroyed or loaned to someone else. That included 22 meteorites and two comet samples from a daring mission that grabbed comet chunks. more

Howling winds, snow batter Newfoundland and Labrador: Canada

High winds tore through Newfoundland and Labrador overnight Thursday and into Friday, knocking out power in many parts of the province, cancelling ferries and closing a section of the Trans-Canada Highway.

Winds gusted to more than 150 km/h per hour in some parts of the province, and in Labrador some residents had to contend with more than 40 centimetres of snow as well.

Homes and businesses on the Baie Verte Peninsula have been without electricity since Thursday evening.

In Castor River South, on the Northern Peninsula, half a dozen homes were flooded and fishing boats were flipped over during the storm.

Residents told CBC News that a river that runs through the town overflowed due to heavy seas caused by storm surges.

On Friday morning both Newfoundland Power and Hydro crews were out trying to fix outages in many parts of the province, but the wind was impeding their work. more

Sea ice loss in Canada's north, 1968-2010

The amount of ice covering Canadian Arctic waters in summer declined in all sea ice regions from 1968-2010, according to a new Statistics Canada report. The map below shows the ice loss per decade and overall in each sea ice region as well as along two major shipping routes. Click here to view interactive map

Bomb wounds French peacekeepers in Lebanon

A bomb went off near a U.N. patrol vehicle in southern Lebanon Friday, wounding five French U.N. troops in the latest attack on peacekeepers in the region this year.

The soldiers received treatment on the scene before being evacuated for further medical attention, said Andrea Tenenti, deputy spokesman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, which monitors the cessation of hostilities between Lebanon and Israel. Tenenti said that the injuries suffered were light.

French and Lebanese officials roundly condemned the strike, which occurred east of the city of Tyre and near the town of Burj Al Shamali.

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said such incidents are aimed at putting pressure on peacekeepers to pull out of Lebanon and open the way for the return of terrorist activity. Prime Minister Najib Mikati said the attacks "do not only target UNIFIL troops only but also target Lebanon's security and stability, as well of the security of all Lebanese."

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said his country "demands that light be shed on the attack. We call Lebanese authorities to make every effort to ensure that those responsible are prosecuted." more

At least 89 killed in fire in India



Investigators have arrested six staff members after a fire that killed at least 89 people in a hospital Friday in eastern India.

The six worked at a five-story hospital in the city of Kolkata, said Javed Ahmed Khan, the West Bengal Fire and Emergency Services minister.

They were arrested for negligence, Khan said.

A "majority" of the bed-ridden patients were abandoned by most of the staff on duty, he said.

Video of the scene broadcast by CNN affiliate CNN-IBN showed crowds of people wearing face masks and rushing patients out onto the street in stretchers.

One child, apparently unconscious, was lowered by a rope from a higher floor of the hospital by rescuers.

A mass of people stood outside the hospital talking on cell phones and holding each other. Some who were trapped inside had broken windows to let the smoke out, and the hospital remained hot and smoky, CNN-IBN reported.

A doctor and two attendants were among the dead, he said. The other victims were all patients. Kolkata police said another 60 were injured. more

Mexico police: 14 killed in Juarez attacks

Authorities in this violence-plagued border city Thursday were investigating a series of attacks the day before that left 14 people dead, including four people who were slain aboard an ambulance.

Among the attacks Wednesday, gunmen ambushed an ambulance that was transporting two dialysis patients to a hospital in Juarez, police said. The driver of the ambulance and another person traveling with the group also died in the attack.

Photos from the scene showed a dusty white ambulance with the passenger-side window shot out, blood smeared across the car door and bullet marks on the windshield.

The ambulance traveled to Juarez from the city of Nuevo Casas Grandes, about 170 miles away, police said.

Juarez, one of Mexico's most violent cities, shares a border with El Paso, Texas.

The border city has become a symbol of the brutal realities of the nation's drug war, which has claimed about 43,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon declared a crackdown on cartels in December 2006. more

Letter bomb explodes at Rome tax office, one wounded - 9th Dec 2011

A letter bomb blamed on anarchists injured the chief of a state tax collection agency in Rome on Friday, two days after a similar device addressed to a top banker was intercepted in Germany.

The bomb exploded at the headquarters of Equitalia, which collects overdue taxes and fines, police said. Italian news agency AGI said the agency's director-general, Marco Cuccagna, had lost part of one finger, but his life was not in danger.

Rome police chief Francesco Tagliente told reporters the bomb could have arrived at the offices as early as Tuesday.

"As of now, we have received nothing from anyone claiming responsibility, but we do not rule out that an analysis of the explosive could lead us to those responsible," he added. Read More

Tensions rise between Egyptian military and Muslim Brotherhood: Is civil war a possibility in Egypt?



The military council that runs Egypt and an Islamist party that has done well in parliamentary elections accused each other Thursday of plotting a dictatorship.

Leaders also sparred over plans for drafting Egypt's constitution, a key battlefront in the nation's political future.

"We will not allow a dictatorship and we do not want to remain in power, but we do want a civil government representing all Egyptians without marginalizing any minorities," said Lt. Col. Amr Imam, a spokesman for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has run the country since a popular uprising ousted former President Hosni Mubarak in February.

Imam said the first-round results do not "represent all factions of the society, like the Coptics for example," in reference to the country's largest Christian sect. more

Robert Levinson: Video surfaces of American who vanished in Iran



Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent who went missing in Iran nearly five years ago, appeared in a video that his family posted online Friday.

Levinson said he is not in very good health and has been running out of diabetes medication.

"I have been treated well," said Levinson, from Coral Springs, Florida. "But I need the help of the United States government to answer the requests of the group that has held me for three and a half years."

"Thirty-three years of service to the United States deserves something," said Levinson, who wore a white shirt and spoke with a gray wall in the backdrop. "Please help me."

In March, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the United States had received indications that he was being held somewhere in southwest Asia, but the video marks the first publicly known evidence that Levinson is alive.

It is not clear where and when the video was shot. But there's an indication that the video possibly could have been recorded in late 2010 because Levinson went missing on Iran's Kish Island in March 2007 and said has been held for three and a half years. more

Austerity drives Greeks into the streets

Russians fight Twitter and Facebook battles over Putin election - 9th Dec 2011

Protests against president's party escalate across social media with flood of automated counterattacks and alleged hacking.

Russians have flooded Facebook and Twitter as they organise unprecedented protests against Vladimir Putin's United Russia party. But they are not alone. Thousands of Twitter accounts appear to have been created with the sole purpose of drowning out opposition voices by flooding the service's hashtag search function.

The automated attacks have dumped a blizzard of meaningless tweets with hashtags such as #Navalny, on which tweets about Alexei Navalny are collated, making it impossible to follow the flow of news about the arrested opposition leader. Many of the so-called "Twitter bots" have now been shut down.

The flood of fake tweets came after liberal websites, including the LiveJournal blogging platform, the website for radio station Ekho Moskvy and weekly journal Bolshoi Gorod , were shut down by distributed denial of service attacks on Sunday, the day of Russia's disputed parliamentary vote. Read More

Tobias Day, a police inspector, stabbed his wife and seven-year-old daughter to death before killing himself just days after he was sacked

Day, 37, butchered his family after a row at the family's semi-detached home in Melton Mowbray, Leics., on Thursday afternoon.

He attacked his family with a knife, killing his wife Samantha, 38, a nursery nurse, and their seven-year-old daughter Genevieve before taking his own life.

Day's other children, Kimberly, 15, and son Adam, 13, managed to scramble to safety and raise the alarm at nearby Swallowdale Primary School.

Armed police rushed to the house on Robin Crescent in Melton Mowbray, just after 4.30pm.

Officers used battering rams to force their way into the house and discovered Day, Samantha and Genevieve suffering from stab wounds.

All three died soon after of their injuries.

Kimberly, who had been due to perform in a school panto that evening, and her brother Adam were rushed to the Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham with life-threatening injuries.

The killings come just days after Day was sacked from Leicestershire Police following a disciplinary hearing. Read More

Austerity drives Greeks into the Street - 9th Dec 2011

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake MINDORO, PHILIPPINES - 9th Dec 2011

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck Mindoro, Philippines at a depth of 132.9 km (82.6 miles), the quake hit at 10:02:37 UTC Friday 9th December 2011.
The epicenter was 32 km (19 miles) WSW of Batangas, Luzon, Philippines
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Surveillance Video of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, New York Hotel Maid Aired - 8th Dec 2011

Russia, China work on advanced nuclear - 8th Dec 2011

Russia and China have held their first meeting for cooperation in the development of marine nuclear energy for floating power plants and potentially for propulsion of large ships.

While hundreds of nuclear reactors have been employed in the military navies of China, France, Russia, the UK and USA for decades, only Russia has maintained a fleet of civil nuclear ships: the icebreakers that work the country's Arctic ports and one freighter. Other countries' forays into civil marine nuclear power - the NS Savannah, the Otto Hahn and the Mutsu - did not continue in the long term due to various social, economic or technical factors. Russia went on to expand its leadership in this area with the adaptation of the KLT-40S small reactor for installation in pairs on a barge. This vessel could be docked in remote places to supply power and heat either to the local population or new industry. The first such floating nuclear power plant, the Akademic Lomonosov, is at an advanced stage of construction at the Baltiysky Zavod shipyard. The barge is completed and afloat, with main power systems already fitted. Read More

Jean Francis Say: 'I have killed your children, come and get the bodies': Chilling phone call father made to his ex-wife, South East London

A father woke his two children and slit their throats while they desperately tried to fight him off before calling his ex-wife to say: 'I have killed your children'.

Jean Francis Say, 62, murdered his eight-year-old daughter Regina and son Rolls, 10, to 'spite' his estranged wife Adjoua, 44, after he was told he was to be evicted from their three-bedroom flat.

Adjoua, who is known as Antoinette, had moved out with the children six months previously and Say was no longer entitled to the flat they once shared in Southwark, south east London.

Today at the Old Bailey Say, originally from the Ivory Coast, pleaded guilty to the double murders through an interpreter. He is due to be sentenced on Monday afternoon. Read More

Thousands Without Power After Scotland Storms - 9th Dec 2011

Engineers are battling to restore power to more than 70,000 homes in Scotland after hurricane-force winds battered northern Britain.

Scottish Hydro said that workers were being hampered by the severe weather conditions, particularly in remote areas.

Scottish Power said it had reconnected about 40,000 homes overnight.

Gusts on Thursday reached 165mph, but are expected to peak at around 70mph today.

Sky News weather presenter Nazaneen Ghaffar said: "Northeast Scotland will see the strongest winds today as the area of low pressure that gave us the gusty winds yesterday is still very close.

"We've seens gusts of around 60mph this morning and will probably see gusts near to that strength through out the day. By tonight the winds should gradually ease down." Read More

Japan funding whaling hunt with disaster budget - 9th Dec 2011

Japan is spending 2.3 billion yen ($29 million) from its supplementary budget for tsunami reconstruction to fund the country's annual whaling hunt in the Antarctic Ocean, a fisheries official confirmed Thursday.

Tatsuya Nakaoku, a Fisheries Agency official in charge of whaling, defended the move, saying the funding helps support Japan's whaling industry as a whole, including some whaling towns along the devastated northeastern coast. One ship on the hunt is based in Ishinomaki, a town hit badly by the March 11 tsunami, he said.

The budget request was made to beef up security and maintain the "stable operation" of Japan's research whaling, he said, which has faced increasingly aggressive interference from boats with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Conservationist group Greepeace blasted the funding move, claiming it was siphoning money away from disaster victims. Read More