Monday, December 12, 2011

Verizon: 'Seek shelter immediately due to extreme threat to life': Verizon apologises for sending mass text warning ... without saying it was a test

Verizon Wireless was forced to apologise on Monday for sending out a mass text message warning to thousands of people warning of a 'civil emergency' and an 'extreme threat to life.'

The text urging people to 'take shelter before 1.24pm' was sent out at 12.26pm on Monday to cell phone users in the New Jersey counties of Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris and Ocean.

It led to scores of worried residents calling their local police departments, NJ.com reports.

Many people were panic stricken and in a state of shock and confusion.

About two hours after the mass text was sent out, Verizon issued an apology, saying that it was a 'test emergency notification' that failed to say it was a test. Read More

Jean Say Cut his children's throats to spite wife is jailed for 30 years, London - 12th Dec 2011

A father who slit his son and daughter’s throats to spite his estranged wife was today told he will die behind bars as he was jailed for at least 30 years.

Jean Say, 62, murdered Regina, eight, and her brother Rolls, ten, while they were staying with him for the weekend.

He then phoned his wife Adjoua, 44, and told her: ‘Come and get the bodies’.

Say turned on his children after finding out he was to lose his three-bedroom flat because Mrs Say, who was also known as Antoinette, and the children had moved out.

He also told a 999 operator his wife had accused him of being a ‘raper’ on Facebook, adding: ‘She kill my dignity. I warn her.’

Say, who is originally from the Ivory Coast, was due to stand trial at the Old Bailey but admitted the murder of both children last week.

Today he was given a life sentence and told he will serve a minimum of 30 years before he can be considered for release. Read More

Thousands Are 'Blighted By Risk Of Eviction' - 13th Dec 2011

Nearly one out of every 100 households in the UK faces the threat of eviction by a landlord or mortgage lender.

The figure forms part of new research by the homeless charity Shelter which found the 12 local authorities with the highest risk rates are all in London boroughs.

Barking and Dagenham top the list, followed by Newham and Haringey.

Outside London, Manchester, Slough and Peterborough have the highest eviction risk rates.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: "As Christmas approaches, this research paints a frightening picture of thousands of families living every day with the fear of losing their home hanging over their heads.

"It's sobering to see that so many communities are blighted by the risk of eviction.

"In these unforgiving conditions, it only takes one thing - illness, job loss or relationship breakdown - to lead to things spiralling out of control and into
homelessness.

"This Christmas, we're asking people to help us stop lives from being torn apart by homelessness."

Shelter said the research showed areas with high unemployment were the worst affected. Source

Cutting WELFARE for those who REFUSE to take up jobs 'goes against human rights'...... In that case paying my taxes is going against my Human Rights

Plans to cut the dole for people who refuse to look for work could be contrary to their human rights, MPs warned last night.

Ministers want to impose a condition that those who are able to look for or prepare for work should be required to do so as a condition of receiving benefit – and those who do not should face a financial sanction.

But the parliamentary Human Rights Joint Committee has decided that to do so could put the human rights of the ‘unemployable’ at risk.

They also said that taking away jobseekers’ allowance from these people could plunge some families into destitution – something which would amount to ‘inhuman or degrading treatment’.

The committee also criticised Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s plan to impose a welfare cap of £26,000 a year, to ensure that families on benefits do not receive more than the average worker.

And they said taking sickness benefit away from people after an assessment could also have a ‘discriminatory impact’. Read More

Now Germany bids to seize our skies as it puts in offer for air traffic control - 12th Dec 2011

The Luftwaffe never managed it during the Second World War thanks to the heroism of The Few.

Now, seven decades on, Germany is once again plotting to take control of the skies over Britain… by the altogether more peaceful means of buying our air traffic control service.

Needless to say, this time round any dogfights will be confined to the boardroom, with rival bidders the only enemy.

But with a share in the lucrative handling of the two million-plus flights a year in UK airspace going to the victor, the battle is undoubtedly set to be fierce.

Details of the audacious swoop by Germany’s state-owned air traffic service Deutsche Flugsicherung emerged yesterday as it admitted it is planning a bid for a stake in its British counterpart, National Air Traffic Services. Read More

Clegg in a sulk. The Commons at its most infantile. And Europe led by pygmies. What a way to face a crisis! - 13th Dec 2011

The Commons was at its worst: raucous, cheap, devoid of dignity. Yesterday’s statement by the Prime Minister about Friday’s European Council meeting, followed by a strident, finger-wagging speech by Ed Miliband and questions from the usual suspects of all parties, showed MPs offering their familiar impersonation of pupils at a failed comprehensive.

Here we are, facing two of the gravest crises of our lifetimes — the lesser about Britain’s relationship with the EU, the graver about a threatened collapse of the European financial system. Yet no one who watched yesterday’s Commons proceedings emerged a jot or tittle wiser about what is happening or where we go next.

Perhaps Parliament was like this at other pivotal moments of history, when MPs’ inadequacies were hidden, because they were not televised.

I am more inclined to believe that today’s politicians of all parties simply do not know how to rise to the challenge of conducting themselves in a fashion to match the perils threatening Europe’s stability. They do not understand how to do statesmanship.

Some of the same myopia is apparent outside Westminster. At the weekend, the most hardline eurosceptics gleefully cheered at the notion that a prime minister has at last done the big thing, telling the Frogs and Huns to get stuffed.

At the other end of the spectrum, euro-enthusiasts — including most of the BBC’s commentators — talk as if any responsible British leader must shut his eyes and vote with our 26 partners, even on a day-trip to hell. They are in denial about the ghastly predicament of the whole EU project.

The European financial system is threatened with collapse, which would have a devastating impact on Britain, even though we are not members of the euro.

I have a friend close to the heart of this crisis, who believes the leaders of Europe are making a towering mistake by risking everything to preserve the eurozone. Read More

Over 5,000 Killed In Syria Violence Says UN - 13th Dec 2011

More than 5,000 people have died in the nine-month uprising in Syria, the United Nations has said.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said at least 300 children are among the victims, while thousands remain in detention.

The figures come as thousands of Syrians closed their businesses and kept their children home from school as part of a general strike.

The opposition want the strike to continue until President Bashar Assad ends his bloody crackdown.

They are demanding the army withdraws from cities and that political detainees are released.

Ms Pillay said the death toll had more than doubled since she last briefed the UN Security Council in August. Read More

John Atterberry a Music Executive who has worked on albums with the Spice Girls and Jessica Simpson Fatally Shot in Random Attack in Hollywood

A music executive who has worked on albums with the Spice Girls and Jessica Simpson has died after being shot in a random attack in Hollywood.

John Atterberry died in hospital on Monday after being injured on Friday.

The 40-year-old executive was shot in the face and upper body as he drove his Mercedes-Benz near Vine Street and Sunset Boulevard.

Atterberry was the only seriously injured victim of 26-year-old Tyler Brehm, who police say fired nearly 20 bullets in the air and at cars as he screamed that he wanted to die.

He was killed by police minutes later.

Brehm's ex-girlfriend said they had recently broken up but police have said they are still looking for a motive for the attack.

Brehm walked down the middle of Sunset Boulevard firing on motorists with no clear target and injuring three of them.

He was shot and killed by an off-duty motorcycle officer and an LAPD detective.

In amateur video taken at the scene, the gunman was pacing back and forth firing what appeared to be a handgun.

The officers ordered the suspect to stop and drop his weapon. He was shot when he pointed his weapon at the officers. Read More

4.9 Magnitude WEST CHILE RISE - 13th Dec 2011

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck off the West Chile Rise at a depth of 8.9 km (5.5 miles), the quake hit at 03:21:25 UTC Tuesday 13th December 2011.
The epicenter was 1471 km (914 miles) WSW of San Juan Bautista, Juan Fernandez Island
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

5.3 Magnitude HALMAHERA, INDONESIA - 13th Dec 2011

A magnitude 5.3 earthquake has struck Halmahera, Indonesia at a depth of 110.2 km (68.5 miles), the quake hit at 01:20:45 UTC Tuesday 13th December 2011.
The epicenter was 261 km (162 miles) NNE of Ternate, Moluccas, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

5.0 Magnitude OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 13th Dec 2011

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck off the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 35.3 km (21.9 miles), the quake hit at 00:57:12 UTC Tuesday 13th December 2011.
The epicenter was 242 km (150 miles) ESE of Sendai, Honshu, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Syria denies involvement in Lebanon bombing - 12th Dec 2011

Syria on Monday denied involvement in last week's bombing that wounded French U.N. troops in Lebanon.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry accused France of adopting conspiracy theories about the attack.

The remarks came after French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said it was "probable" that Syria was involved.

Friday's attack was one of several on peacekeepers in the region this year. The bomb went off near a U.N. patrol vehicle in southern Lebanon, wounding five French U.N. troops. A civilian was also wounded, Lebanon's National News Agency reported.

Andrea Tenenti, deputy spokesman for the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, said 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. Read More

Scientists discover more than 200 new Mekong species - 12th Dec 2011

Scientists have identified more than 200 new species in the Greater Mekong region of south-east Asia, a report by conservation group WWF says.

They say that throughout 2010 more than 100 plants, 28 reptiles, 25 fish and seven amphibians were discovered.

But the WWF warns that many are endangered - while others could disappear before they are identified.

The Greater Mekong area includes Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, Vietnam, Laos and Yunnan province of China.

It is one of the world's most bio-diverse areas, home to some of the planet's most endangered wild species including the tiger, the Asian elephant and the Mekong dolphin.

The WWF says that more than 1,000 species have been discovered in the Greater Mekong over the past 10 years.

BBC environment reporter Mark Kinver says that new species are frequently found in the region because of increasing levels of human activity, which is proving to be a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, building roads opens up remote habitats to scientists who can then venture into previously unexplored areas and record the rich diversity of wildlife.

But this can also have a damaging ecological impact, especially if it results in a greater exploitation of the land which destroys these fragile ecosystems, our correspondent adds. Read More

New species of snub-nosed monkey discovered in Myanmar

Image: A digital reconstruction of the Burmese snub-nosed monkey by Dr Thomas Geissmann

A new species of monkey with unusual upturned nostrils has been discovered in north eastern Myanmar.

Scientists surveying in the area initially identified the so-called snub-nosed monkey from skin and skulls obtained from local hunters.

A small population was found separated from the habitat of other species of snub-nosed monkeys by the Mekong and Salween rivers.

The total population has been estimated at just 260-330 individuals.

A team of Burmese and international primatologists identified the new species of snub-nosed monkey during this year's Myanmar Primate Conservation Program.

Local hunters reported the presence of a monkey which did not match any description of species previously identified in the area.

After further investigation in the north eastern state of Kachin, experts found a small population of previously undiscovered black monkeys with white ear tufts and chin beards, prominent lips and wide upturned nostrils. Read More

Terry Joe 'TJ' Volner 'slit throat of boy, four, he was Babysitting before sending trophy photo of his mutilated body to dead child's mother'

A babysitter has been accused of slitting the throat of a four-year-old boy and sending a photo of his mutilated body to his mother to prove that he had killed the boy.

Terry Joe ‘TJ’ Volner took a series of photos after allegedly killing the boy, including one showing the dead boy's chin propped up by a stick.

Prosecutors said the 22-year-old man took the gruesome ‘trophy’ photos to prove to his mother Tina Miller, that he had killed the Dusty Guenther, the only son of Gina Guenther who Volner knew very well.

Police say that he was jealous of Ms Guenther’s new boyfriend, though it is unclear whether or not she and Volner had ever dated.

Volner was arrested after being found in Guenther's home with a self-inflicted stab wounds. Read More

Is oil the future of energy?



For the first time in its history, the Middle East is hosting the World Petroleum Congress. The 5,000 participants gathered in the Qatari capital, Doha, will be talking about the most pressing issues facing the energy sector today.

The last congress was held in Madrid in 2008, and much has changed since then.

With the Middle East undergoing a wave of political upheaval, the emir of Qatar was quick to reassure the world's biggest consumers that energy supplies will continue to flow.

So, are we stuck with high energy prices? And will there be enough to meet global demand years from now?

Inside Story, with presenter Hazem Sika, discusses with guests: Ibrahim Ibrahim, an economic advisor to the emir of Qatar; Jon Clark, an oil and gas analyst for Ernst & Young; and Saadallah al-Fathi, an energy analyst and former head of the energy studies department at the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). more

Horn of Africa Crisis: Drought Zone -- Far from over



The worst drought in 60 years has thrown more than 13 million people across the Horn of Africa into crisis.

In Kenya, those already living in the greatest precarity have been pushed even closer to the edge.

In the arid lands deadly inter-tribal conflict is escalating with pastoralists competing over increasingly scarce resources, as climate change accelerates drought cycles.

Weather patterns become increasingly unpredictable and small scale farmers are struggling to grow enough food. In Nairobi's poorest neighbourhoods, residents are reduced to eating one meal a day, as the price of food spirals out of reach. more

Millions turn to payday loans just to survive

Three million Britons are using payday loans that charge sky-high interest rates, it is estimated.

R3, a body that represents "professionals working with financially troubled individuals and businesses", interviewed 2,000 people and found that 60pc of them were worried about their level of debt.

It said 45pc struggled to make their money last until payday and added that the survey showed that money worries were at the highest level it had ever recorded.

Payday loans are small, short-term unsecured loans designed to tide people over until they are their paid their wages.

The average size of a payday loan is around £300, with two thirds of borrowers having a household income of less than £25,000, according to Consumer Focus, the watchdog.

Charges typically range from £13 to £18 in interest for every £100 borrowed, but can be as high as £30 per £100 for some online providers. This can generate annual percentage rates (APRs) of 1,000pc to 2,000pc, given the short-term nature of the loans. more

The Pearl Harbour anniversary is a reminder that America ignores the Pacific at its peril

If there is any lesson for modern-day America to learn from the 70th anniversary of Japan's devastating attack on Pearl Harbour, it is that it ignores the potential threat of the emerging powers of the Pacific at its peril.

There now appears to be a general consensus that the Pearl Harbour attack happened because American President Franklin D Roosevelt ignored intelligence warnings that Japan, which was then the emerging power in the Far East, was preparing an attack on America's Pacific fleet.

Fast forward 70 years and it is China, rather than Japan, that is emerging as the region's dominant power. And while – for the moment, at least – there is little evidence to suggest China has aggressive intentions towards America, the emergence of a rival superpower on the other side of the Pacific Ocean is bound to be a cause of friction at some point in the future. Certainly the Chinese authorities think this is a realistic possibility, which no doubt explains why they are investing billions of dollars in building a new fleet of Chinese aircraft carriers.

The U.S., on the other hand, is so broke that the American military now looks set to cut a mind-boggling trillion dollars from its defence budget during the next decade (which is more than ten times the size of Britain's entire spending on defence). more

Payday loans: legal loan-sharking or a better bet than the banks? -- A comment on our financial system?

Wonga is one of many payday loan providers to argue that unauthorised bank overdrafts are more expensive.

Wonga, the short-term loan business, has long argued that it is more transparent than the banks.

Earlier this year Errol Damelin, the founder of the company, told The Telegraph that customers could not compare the cost of borrowing money in the short term when the most common way of doing it was through a bank overdraft.

Wonga is forced to display a representative annual percentage rate (APR) for its loans of 4,214pc. However, Mr Damelin said that, because it offered loans limited to 30 days, the APR was not relevant, and the loan was often cheaper than unauthorised bank charges for the same amount.

"There is a place for an APR, but we don't offer a loan that rolls up for a year so you are comparing an impossible product," he said. "Also, it is not used by the banks so customers cannot compare in a normative way."

It warned that there were no effective price comparison services for current accounts. It added that some experts believed companies "design complex tariffs and pricing structures to decrease the ability of consumers to compare prices". more

Taiwan spy agency denies 'magnetic' attack

Taiwan's intelligence agency on Tuesday flatly rejected allegations that it had launched "electromagnetic wave" attacks against the running mate of an opposition presidential candidate.

"The National Security Bureau has not owned the alleged technologies, nor have we used equipment to harass the alleged targeted person," the bureau said in a statement.

Lin Ruey-shiung, the running mate of independent candidate James Soong, surprised the public last week when he claimed to have been subjected to "electromagnetic wave" attacks by the bureau on September 20 outside his home and over the following three days.

"If I hadn't quickly moved out (of my home), I would have lost my mind," he told reporters.

Lin, an epidemiologist, was chosen by Soong as his running mate in a move seen as aimed at securing support from Taiwan's rich and influential medical circles.

Soong is considered unlikely to win in the January 14 polls, but observers said he could threaten the incumbent Ma Ying-jeou, who is locked in a tight race against Tsai Ing-wen of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party. more

Zakaria: How China can be a real superpower



Watching the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Hawaii last week, I had a feeling we were entering a new phase of Asian geopolitics. For decades now, those summits have been occasions for Asian countries to worry about U.S. commitment to Asia. How strong is it? Who does Washington back? Will we stay engaged?

The Obama Administration has made clear that America is in Asia for good and that it might actually increase its presence in the region. But the real concerns are no longer about Washington but rather about Beijing.

Countries in Asia and around the world are worrying about China.

In 2010, as China asserted its sovereignty over disputed waters and islands in the South China Sea, it rattled neighbors from Japan to South Korea to Vietnam. As these countries watch China's military modernization, they worry more.

It's not just in Asia, of course. Take a look at Africa, where China's investments and activities are now becoming part of those countries' domestic politics. The recent elections in Zambia, for example, were won by a candidate who promised to take on the Chinese. By some accounts, the Chinese have virtual control over that country's economy. This is because Zambia is a huge copper exporter and Chinese state-owned companies are deeply involved in that business. And it is a sign of China's power that that candidate, who is now president, has had to make nice with the Chinese and threw a lunch for Chinese investors last week. This might explain it: Copper exports produce two-thirds of the government’s revenues. more

NASA Shuttle Mission STS-127 - Unidentified Object with Flightpath Trace Enhancement

Moving Right Along: Newt Gingrich's infidelities and quips -- the right man for America?

In austere times, world needs a climate change 'Plan B'

As world leaders struggle to prevent the global economy tipping into further economic crisis, negotiators from 195 nations are in Durban, South Africa at the U.N. Climate Change Conference. They are working to avoid the far greater economic and social meltdown threatened by climate change.

Whilst few dispute the serious risks climate change poses, there are legitimate concerns that the deal in discussion cannot be agreed, let alone effectively implemented.

What's being discussed is a global deal involving binding commitments by wealthier nations to reduce carbon emissions. The deal also involves these nations footing a large part of the bill for financing action in poorer countries to reduce emissions and support communities hurt by climate change.

This plan is, frankly, unlikely to be agreed because of conflicts over the numbers -- who does what, and who pays whom, how much, and for what.

But soldiering on valiantly may not be the best way to proceed -- a "Plan B" may be in order. Right now, there is no coherent alternative under discussion. The current default is a free-for-all where what counts is political muscle aligned to narrow business and economic interests -- that will not get the job done either. more

Hotter, drier, meaner: Trends point to a planet increasingly hostile to agriculture

To get a glimpse of the future, look to East Africa today.

The Horn of Africa is in the midst of its worst drought in 60 years: Crop failures have left up to 10 million at risk of famine; social order has broken down in Somalia, with thousands of refugees streaming into Kenya; British Aid alone is feeding 2.4 million people across the region.

That's a taste of what's to come, say scientists mapping the impact of a warming planet on agriculture and civilization.

"We think we're going to have continued dryness, at least for the next 10 or 15 years, over East Africa," said Chris Funk, a geographer at the U.S. Geological Survey and founding member of the Climate Hazard Group at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Funk and other experts at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco cautioned that East Africa is just one example. Many recent events – discoveries from sediment cores of New York marshes, drought in Australia and the western United States, data from increasingly sophisticated computer models – lead to a conclusion that the weather driving many of the globe's great breadbaskets will become hotter, drier and more unpredictable.

Even the northeastern United States – a region normally omitted from any serious talk about domestic drought – is at risk, said Dorothy Peteet, a senior research scientist with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

A series of sediment cores drilled from New York marshes confirm that mega droughts can grip the region: One spanned from 850 to 1350 A.D., Peteet said. And shorter, more intense droughts have driven sea water far up the Hudson River, past towns such as Poughkeepsie that depend on the river for drinking supplies.

"We're just beginning to map the extent, but we know it was pervasive," she said. "There are hints of drought all the way up to Maine."

Of course, climate change can't be blamed for all the food shortages and social unrest, several researchers cautioned. Landscape changes such as deforestation can trigger droughts, while policy choices exacerbate impacts. more

Dog Rescues Kittens Left For Dead On Roadside (They were even run over)

 

In a heroic story beyond reason, a yellow lab named Reagan made a discovery on an Iowa roadside that saved two precious lives.

Two kittens had been sealed into a bag of Meow Mix, left on a roadside and run over by traffic on a rural Iowa highway about three months ago, WHOTV.com reports.

It was Reagan the dog who dragged the bag home and whined until his owner opened it. Reagan's owner discovered two kittens barely hanging onto life, while the rest of the litter hadn't survived, prompting a call to the Raccoon Valley Animal Sanctuary.

"There was a litter of four or five of them and you couldn't tell if there were two or three [in the bag]...they had been run over by a vehicle. It was not a pretty sight," Linda Blakely of the animal shelter told WHOTV.com.

The Raccoon Valley Animal Sanctuary is now housing the two kittens -- Skipper and Tipper -- who weren't originally expected to live through the ordeal. The two were bottled-fed every two hours and are now back to their normal lively selves, the news outlet reports.

Thanks to Reagan, both kittens are now up for adoption through the Raccoon Valley Animal Sanctuary. source

Marine Predators Decline, As Overfishing Takes Toll: University Of British Columbia Study

Overfishing is taking a heavy toll on marine predators such as sharks, tuna and swordfish, says a new study by scientists at the University of British Columbia.

The study, published online Monday in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, says predator species in north Pacific and Atlantic waters have dropped by more than 90 per cent since the 1950s.

The study found that predator species are also experiencing a dramatic decline in the south seas as those species are caught and sent to northern markets for consumption.

"It's important because fish are the last food we harvest from the wild at any type of scale," said lead author Laura Tremblay-Boyer. "When you eat fish, it's usually a predator fish. Whether it's a fish stick or you're at the restaurant, it most likely comes from another country."

Tremblay-Boyer, now a PhD student at UBC, said she conducted the research while finishing her master's degree.

Because it's impossible to count fish in the world's oceans, Tremblay-Boyer and her fellow researchers developed a model that analyzed data such as ocean temperature, the presence of algae, and the distance in the food chain that predator species were to the algae, much like a food pyramid. more

Discovery of Fastest-Rotating Massive Star Ever Recorded

An international team of scientists has found the fastest-rotating massive star ever recorded. The star spins around its axis at the speed of 600 kilometers per second at the equator, a rotational velocity so high that the star is nearly tearing apart due to centrifugal forces.

This confirms a prediction put forward by astrophysicist Matteo Cantiello, a postdoctoral fellow with UC Santa Barbara's Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, who contributed to the discovery published this week in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The observations were made at the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, at the Paranal Observatory in Chile, as part of a survey of the heaviest and brightest stars in a region called the Tarantula Nebula. The Tarantula Nebula is a region of star formation located in a neighboring galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud, about 160,000 light-years from Earth.

The reported star, VFTS 102, is extremely hot and luminous, shining about 100,000 times more brightly than the Sun. According to the research team, this star had a violent past and was ejected from a double star system by its exploding companion star. more

Saudi may join nuclear arms race: ex-spy chief

Saudi Arabia may consider acquiring nuclear weapons to match regional rivals Israel and Iran, its former intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal said on Monday.

"Our efforts and those of the world have failed to convince Israel to abandon its weapons of mass destruction, as well as Iran... therefore it is our duty towards our nation and people to consider all possible options, including the possession of these weapons," Faisal told a security forum in Riyadh.

"A (nuclear) disaster befalling one of us would affect us all," said Faisal.

Israel is widely held to possess hundreds of nuclear missiles, which it neither confirms nor denies, while the West accuses Iran of seeking an atomic bomb, a charge the Islamic republic rejects.

Riyadh, which has repeatedly voiced fears about the nuclear threat posed by Shiite-dominated Iran and denounced Israel's atomic capacity, has stepped up efforts to develop its own nuclear power for "peaceful use." more

Stinky frogs are a treasure trove of antibiotic substances

Some of the nastiest smelling creatures on Earth have skin that produces the greatest known variety of anti-bacterial substances that hold promise for becoming new weapons in the battle against antibiotic-resistant infections, scientists are reporting.

Their research on amphibians so smelly (like rotten fish, for instance) that scientists term them "odorous frogs" appears in ACS' Journal of Proteome Research.

Yun Zhang, Wen-Hui Lee and Xinwang Yang explain that scientists long have recognized frogs' skin as a rich potential source of new antibiotics.

Frogs live in warm, wet places where bacteria thrive and have adapted skin that secretes chemicals, known as peptides, to protect themselves from infections.

Zhang's group wanted to identify the specific antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), and the most potent to give scientists clues for developing new antibiotics.

They identified more than 700 of these substances from nine species of odorous frogs and concluded that the AMPs account for almost one-third of all AMPs found in the world, the greatest known diversity of these germ-killing chemicals. more

Swiss Re estimates Thai floods cost at $600 million

Reinsurance giant Swiss Re on Tuesday said that Thailand's worst flooding in decades would cost it around $600 million, but warned that the estimate could be revised.

"Water levels remain high in certain regions, making it difficult to correctly estimate the losses," the company said in a statement.

"The impact of the floods on the Thai economy and on businesses active there is likely to be big and could last for a certain amount of time," said Brian Gray, chief underwriting officer at the Swiss company.

The floods had forced several important industrial complexes to close, with factories under several metres of water for weeks and unable to produce key components for automakers and electronics manufacturers, he said.

Some 1,500 industrial sites were affected by the floods, the firm added.

Three months of unusually heavy monsoon rains have inundated large swathes of Thailand, killing at least 675 people and affecting the homes and livelihoods of millions. source

WHITE OUT New reports identify impacts of climate change on world's highest mountains

Findings from the most comprehensive assessment to date on climate change, snow and glacier melt in Asia's mountainous Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region - site of Mount Everest and many of the world's tallest peaks - highlight the region's extreme vulnerability to climate change, as rising temperatures disturb the balance of snow, ice and water, threatening millions of mountain people and 1.3 billion people living downstream in Asia's major river basins.

The findings, published in three reports by the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), were released last week during Mountain Day, a convening of mountain experts, policy makers, and climate change negotiators on the sidelines of UN climate talks.

The three reports published by ICIMOD provide the most up-to-date compilation of information on the current status of climate change in the HKH region and the first authoritative data on the number and extent of glaciers and the patterns of snowfall in the world's most mountainous region.

"The Hindu Kush-Himalayan region is like a gentle giant. While physically imposing, it is one of the most ecologically sensitive areas in the world," said David Molden, director general of ICIMOD.

"We must meet the intensity of climate change in these mountains with an equal intensity of will to mitigate and to adapt to the impacts." more

Indian government threatens action against Facebook and Twitter

The Indian government has threatened action against Facebook, Twitter and other internet companies if they do not remove "offensive" and "derogatory" material from their sites.

India's Telecom and Information Technology minister Kapil Sibal summoned the companies and representatives of Google and Yahoo to a series of meetings to complain about "offensive" material published against his Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi and the prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

He said they should be "sensitive to Indian sensibilities," but the move has brought accusations of censorship.

The sites, including one called "We Hate Sonia Gandhi," criticises her Italian origin and suggests she is tainted by corruption scandals which have afflicted the Congress-led government.

They feature satirical mocked-up photographs depicting Mrs Gandhi and India's prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh as newly-weds, Madonna and Child and pet-owner and poodle.

The companies were summoned again on Monday this week to a meeting at which Mr Sibal demanded they screen material for offensive content before it is posted online, but his request was rejected by the companies who said they applied American standards to moderate their sites. more

Pensioners contribute £2,000 a year in unpaid work

Britain’s 12 million pensioners contribute £2,000 each to the economy every year though unpaid childcare, voluntary and charity work, a report found yesterday.

A report by MGM Advantage, a pensions company, found that retired people contribute £25billion a year to the economy yet a third of them feel unappreciated.

The report described the low regard in which pensioners are held as an "indictment of society" and called on the Government to appoint a Minister for Retirement to represent their views.

A survey of over 2,000 people aged 65 and over found that a third of pensioners think that wider society treats them badly. Meanwhile almost all retired people said that they dislike the label ‘old age pensioners’ or OAPs, with a third preferring the term ‘senior citizen’.

Craig Fazzini-Jones, executive director at MGM Advantage, said that retired people “deserve respect and attention for the contribution they make” to society.

The report said that with the number of retired people set to get even bigger over the medium term, “more should be done to challenge the pre-conceived notion of retirement”. This year 658,000 people reached 65, an increase of 12,000 on 2010, taking the total number of retired people to 11.8 million. Next year, 806,000 people will reach 65, further swelling the number of retired people. This trend will continue as the baby boomer generation grows older. more

'Half black, half white and almost everything it does stinks': Racism row erupts as Tea Party calls Obama a skunk - 12th Dec 2011

An ultra-conservative 'Tea Party' group has defended its depiction of President Barack Obama as a skunk as satirical - after it was accused of being racist.

The Kansas-based Patriot Freedom Alliance came under fire for posting a photo of a skunk on its website.

The caption above it read: 'The skunk has replaced the eagle as the new symbol for the president. It is half black, it is half white, and almost everything it does, stinks.'

Area president of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) Darrell Pope called the depiction a 'blatant statement of racism'.

He said: 'As far as I'm concerned it's proof of the kind of organisation that they are, which I felt it always had racial overtones in the first place. Read More

Flu jab gave our six-year-old son narcolepsy: Boy slept for up to 19 HOURS a day after reaction to vaccine - 12th Dec 2011

The parents of a schoolboy who was struck down with narcolepsy after receiving a flu vaccine, said the Government should have carried out more tests before issuing the drug.

Josh Hadfield, 6, lost muscle control and started sleeping for up to 19 hours every day just three weeks after getting the swine flu vaccine Pandemrix.

He would fall asleep up to every five minutes - even when he was walking, eating and swimming - and suffer sudden bouts of cataplexy (loss of muscle tone) when he laughed.

Now nearly two years later his mother Caroline, 41, said he was still suffering from the after effects of the controversial jab.

'I’m up with him around four times each night to feed him snacks and also comfort him because he has horrendous nightmares,' she said.

'He used to be sent home from school every time he fell asleep but now they have set aside an area in his classroom where he can take a nap.'

He is being treated with Ritalin and anti-depressants but has never returned to the happy-go-lucky boy he once was. Read More

Saudi Arabia Woman convicted of 'sorcery' is beheaded in Saudi Arabia - 12th Dec 2011

A woman convicted of practising magic and sorcery has been executed by Saudi authorities.

The Saudi Interior Ministry says in a statement that the woman was beheaded today, but gave no details of her crime.

The London-based al-Hayat daily, however, quoted Abdullah al-Mohsen, chief of the religious police who arrested the woman, as saying she had tricked people into thinking she could treat illnesses, charging them $800 (£500) per session.

The newspaper said a female investigator followed the case up, and the woman was arrested in April 2009 and later convicted in a Saudi court.

It did not give the woman's name, but said she was in her 60s.

The execution brings the total to 76 this year in Saudi Arabia.

At least three have been women, and 11 were foreign nationals.

In September, a Sudanese man, Abdul Hamid bin Hussain bin Moustafa al-Fakki, was also put to death in Saudi Arabia for sorcery. Read More

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake MONTENEGRO - 12th Dec 2011

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck Montenegro at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the quake hit at 17:04:45 UTC Monday 12th December 2011.
The epicenter was 6 km (3.7 miles) South of Pljevlja, Montenegro
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

"Britain could never have voted for a treaty that condemns much of Europe to depression"

In all the hullabaloo over Britain's use of the veto, and whether the UK has once more cut itself adrift from the rest of Europe, it seems to have been forgotten what was actually being voted on here – an almost wholly inappropriate set of treaty changes which in themselves will do absolutely nothing to prop up the euro or save Europe from a crippling recession.

To the contrary, the pro-cyclical fiscal austerity which is now being hardwired into European law through the balanced budget requirement seems to condemn much of the European periphery to prolonged depression. Not in a month of Sundays would Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, advocate such an absurdly inappropriate policy for the UK, yet he seems to think it perfectly acceptable for the UK to sanction it in Europe. His condemnation of Cameron's use of the veto therefore amounts to almost comical opportunism.

(UPDATE: I've had a complaint from Mr Balls' office since first publishing this blog to say that I've misrepresented his view. I have to admit that they've got a point. Yes, Mr Balls does criticise Mr Cameron, but not just because he failed to secure the narrow British interest of safeguards to the single market and the City, but also because the British prime minister walked away when crucially there was no convincing plan to resolve the crisis. Perhaps we agree more than I had thought. In any case, you can read his views by clicking here)

Now of course there is an argument for saying that Britain should allow the eurozone to do what it wants, however insane, provided it doesn't directly affect Britain. And of course it would be silly to pretend that the UK used its veto because it disapproved of the economics of what eurozone leaders were doing. In fact it was because the eurozone (and we are really talking about Nicolas Sarkozy here) petulantly wouldn't allow single market and City safeguards by way of recompense. It may also be true that the UK gained absolutely nothing by refusing to participate. Key changes affecting the City and the single market will go ahead anyway, but with little input from the UK. more

Police to test laser that 'blinds rioters'

A shoulder-mounted laser that emits a blinding wall of light capable of repelling rioters is to be trialled by police under preparations to prevent a repeat of this summer's looting and arson.

The technology, developed by a former Royal Marine commando, temporarily impairs the vision of anyone who looks towards the source.

It has impressed a division of the Home Office which is testing a new range of devices because of the growing number of violent situations facing the police.

The developer, British-based Photonic Security Systems, hopes to offer the device to shipping companies to deter pirates. Similar devices have been used by ISAF troops in Afghanistan to protect convoys from insurgents.

The laser, resembling a rifle and known as an SMU 100, can dazzle and incapacitate targets up to 500m away with a wall of light up to three metres squared. It costs £25,000 and has an infrared scope to spot looters in poor visibility.

Looking at the intense beam causes a short-lived effect similar to staring at the sun, forcing the target to turn away. more

Iran to 'reverse engineer' US drone

Iran claimed that it had begun exploiting a US drone equipped with the latest radar evading technology on Monday as officials warned that the downed machine could be shared with America's rivals.

Parviz Sorouri, an MP on parliament's foreign policy committee, said that Iranian experts were in the final stages of recovering the data from the surveillance drone, which was captured on Iranian territory last week.

Tehran has paraded the loss of the drone as a blow to the US and claimed it plans to reproduce the technology. It said its security forces had shot the drone down using previously secret air defence systems.

The drone, which is made from the latest 'stealth' technology, has been presented as a valuable windfall for its defence scientists.

"Our next action will be to reverse-engineer the aircraft," Mr Sorouri said. "In the near future, we will be able to mass produce it. Iranian engineers will soon build an aircraft superior to the American (drone) using reverse engineering."

Other Iranian officials have hinted that it could allow American rivals such as China the opportunity to acquire the technology. American officials used diplomatic pressure to recover similar technology on helicopter that crashed in Pakistan during the raid to kill Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader. more

179 journalists jailed worldwide - 2011 Prison Census

Click on a country name to see summaries of individual cases.

Telegraph.co.uk hacked by "Syrian Electronic Army" -- Breaking News

From the people of Syria to the people of Peace-loving European
We did not want to hack your site, but we no longer have the means to
bringing the truth forward to you but through hacking your sites,
because of the policies of your governments which imposed sanctions on
the people of Syria, particularly the blocking of Syrian Media from
you by preventing our TV channels from broadcasting on satellite
Hotbird, about the situation in Syria


Clear here to view hacked page before it's taken down!

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake MINAHASA, SULAWESI, INDONESIA - 12th Dec 2011

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck Minahasa, Sulawesi, Indonesia at a depth of 147.2 km (91.5 miles), the quake hit at 15:43:38 UTC Monday 12th December 2011.
The epicenter was 69 km (42 miles) SSE of Gorontalo, Sulawesi, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake HINDU KUSH REGION, AFGHANISTAN - 12th Dec 2011

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck near the Hindu Kush Region, Afghanistan at a depth of 137.6 km (85.5 miles), the quake hit at 15:02:20 UTC Monday 12th December 2011.
The epicenter was 87 km (54 miles) Northwest of Chitral, Pakistan
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time