Monday, January 2, 2012

Obama administration secretly preparing options for aiding the Syrian opposition

As the violence in Syria spirals out of control, top officials in President Barack Obama's administration are quietly preparing options for how to assist the Syrian opposition, including gaming out the unlikely option of setting up a no-fly zone in Syria and preparing for another major diplomatic initiative.

Critics on Capitol Hill accuse the Obama administration of being slow to react to the quickening deterioration of the security situation in Syria, where over 5,000 have died, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. Many lawmakers say the White House is once again "leading from behind," while the Turks, the French, and the Arab League -- which sent an observer mission to Syria this week - take the initiative to pursue more aggressive strategies for pressuring the Assad regime. But U.S. officials said that they are moving cautiously in order to avoid destabilizing Syria further, and to make sure they know as much as possible about the country's complex dynamics before getting more involved.

But the administration does see the status quo in Syria as unsustainable. The Bashar al Assad regime is a "dead man walking," State Department official Fred Hof said this month. So the administration is now ramping up its policymaking machinery on the issue. Read More

Human Remains Found in woodlands on the Royal Family's Sandringham estate

A walker has found human remains in woodlands on the Royal Family's Sandringham estate, according to police.

"Detectives from Norfolk Constabulary have launched an investigation following the discovery of human remains in an area of woodland at Anmer, near King's Lynn," a police spokesman said.

"The remains were found by a member of the public who reported the incident to police on Sunday, 1 January, shortly after 4pm."

The area was sealed off by police before they started a detailed search.

No indication of the age or gender of the remains was released by police.

It is not known how long the remains have been hidden on the Sandringham estate.

Anmer is a small village on the tract of land, which stretches over several thousand acres.

Buckingham Palace said it had no comment to make as it was "a matter for Norfolk police".

Officers said no further information would be released until later today. Source

Met Warns Severe Storms Set To Batter Britain - 3rd Jan 2012

Fierce storms are set to batter Britain with winds of up to 85mph and heavy rain expected to cause traffic chaos as commuters return to work and school.

The latest round of unsettled weather will add more misery to the January blues as people return to work after the Christmas and New Year holidays.

The Met Office has issued severe weather warnings across nearly every region of the UK and said that powerful gusts of wind could cause travel disruption during the morning rush hour.

Transport minister Keith Brown said travellers should make the necessary preparations and follow police advice.

Forecasters have told those living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to be prepared, while localised flooding and a marked drop in temperature is expected for parts of Wales and north west England.

Scotland is braced for the harshest weather conditions, with the Met Office issuing warnings for both snow and wind. But it is unlikely that any area will escape higher winds than normal.

"Overnight a deep area of low pressure will head in off the Atlantic and this will bring stormy conditions to the UK," said Sky weather presenter Nazaneen Ghaffar.

"The rain looks to be very heavy in places with exceptionally high rainfall totals. Read More

More power cuts possible as heatwave continues: Australia

South Australia is sweltering with the hottest start to the year in more than a century as a hot air mass which can sear vegetation moves across the state and into Victoria.

The weather system is dragging heat from central Australia with it and causing humidity to plummet.

Weather conditions are so extreme that South Australia's power distributor cut electricity to some communities to prevent bushfires yesterday, and it has not ruled out doing the same again today.

Yesterday's power cuts meant that South Australia's holiday haven towns on the state's southern coast sweated through the soaring temperatures without the comfort of power to provide some relief.

ETSA Utilities (Electricity Trust of South Australia) has defended the decision to cut off power to Victor Harbour and surrounding areas.

Spokesman Paul Roberts says ETSA has the legislative authority to cut power supplies when winds and heat combine to form a bushfire threat.

"We take very seriously the decision to turn off power," he said. more

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 2nd Jan 2012

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 60 km (37.2 miles), the quake hit at 19:35:01 UTC Monday 2nd January 2012
The epicenter was 107 km (66.4 miles) East of Hitachi, Honshu, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Iranian border guards detained in Pakistan

Pakistani security forces detained three Iranian border guards Monday after officials say they illegally entered Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan province and opened fire on a vehicle, killing one person.

"The Iranians entered Pakistan in pursuit of a vehicle belonging to drug smugglers," said a security official, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

The person killed was a Pakistani national, according to Saeed Ahmed Jamali, the deputy commissioner of Washuk district. One other person was injured in the shooting.

Jamali said the Iranians breached the Pakistani border by three kilometers, or roughly two miles. Source

Syrian man 'assassinated' in Germany... sparking fears Damascus is 'hunting down its critics in Europe'

A Syrian man has been killed 'execution-style' in Germany as fears grow that the Damascus regime is actively hunting down its critics in Europe.

The 35-year-old man was killed after he stopped in his Volkswagen car at a set of traffic lights in Sarstedt, near Hanover, and two men opened the doors and fired inside.

The two assassins then fled the scene. The victim died from head wounds and a special murder squad has been formed at Hildesheim, where he lived.

Police made no speculation whether his murder was linked to the unrest in Syria that has been continuing since March last year.

The victim's name, in accordance with German media laws, was not released. Read More

Benjamin Colton Barnes: Body found believed that of Mt. Rainier gunman

MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash. — Police said a body believed to be that of a gunman suspected in the shooting death of a park ranger has been found, but the identity has not yet been confirmed. Public Information Officer Guy Gill said that police searching Mount Rainier National Park have located the body of a white male face down in the snow with no heat signature. It is believed to be that of homicide suspect Benjamin C. Barnes, but that has not been confirmed yet.

Barnes, a 24-year-old Iraq War veteran, was a person of interest in the Sunday morning killing of Margaret Anderson. Police said he was also a suspect in a prior shooting at a house party in Skyway, Wash., that left four people wounded.

Parks spokesman Kevin Bacher said the speculation was that Barnes came to the park to get away.

About 150 officers converged on the mountain park after Anderson was shot to death Sunday morning, and searchers used an aircraft with heat-sensing capabilities to hunt from the skies.

About 125 tourists were evacuated from the park's visitors center as tactical teams searched the snowy terrain for the gunman. Read More

Collapse of the eurozone 'will start this year' as countries pull out of the single currency, leading think tank warns

The stricken eurozone will start disintegrating this year and will almost certainly collapse within the next decade, a think tank warned today.

At least one country will quit before the end of the year and there is a 99 per cent chance of a break-up in the next ten years, forecasters at the Centre For Economics And Business Research (CEBR) claimed.

They added that 'it now looks as though 2012 will be the year when the euro starts to break up'.

Professor Douglas McWilliams, chief executive of the CEBR, said: 'It is not a done deal yet - we are only forecasting a 60 per cent probability - but one forecast is that by the end of the year at least one country, and probably more, will leave.' Read More

20 Tonnes of Dead Herring found on Norwegian Beach - 2nd Jan 2012

Thousands of dead herring have been discovered washed up on a north Norwegian beach - prompting Doomsday predictors to hail it as another sign the world is set to end.

More than 20 tonnes of the fish is currently carpeting the beach of Kvaenes, in Nordreisa, with experts views differing on how they have come to be there. One thing is for sure, it will provide welcome ammunition to those believing the Mayan prophecy that 2012 will bring the end of Earth.

Jan-Petter Jorgensen, 44, was walking with his dog Molly when he found the stinky haul.

He said: 'People say that something similar happened in the 80s. Maybe the fish have been caught in a deprived oxygen environment, and then died of fresh water?'

Experts have said the school could have been trapped by tidal waters after predatory fish - such as coalfish - chased them towards the shoreline.

Another theory is that the fish were washed ashore during a recent storm, or trapped in shallow waters and affected by freshwater from a river that flows into the bay.

Jens Christian Holst, of the Institute of Marine Research, said several factors could have come together at once. And he said he hoped they would be able to conduct tests on the dead fish to see if they had died of a disease. Source

Original Source Norway >>>>>>>>>>

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 2nd Jan 2012

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 40 km (24.8 miles), the quake hit at 18:28:27 UTC Monday 2nd January 2012
The epicenter was 110 km (68.2 miles) East of Hitachi, Honshu, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Katla Volcano: Locals still fear Eruption

Santiago, Chile battles 3 huge wildfires; 1 killed, tourists evacuated, losses in millions

Firefighters in Chile battled three huge wildfires Monday that have burned about 90 square miles (23,000 hectares) of forest, destroyed more than 100 homes and have driven away thousands of tourists while causing millions of dollars in losses.

The fires also claimed their first victim: an elderly man who refused warnings to leave his home.

Chile’s normally rainy southern regions are suffering from a nationwide heat wave, on top of a drought that makes fires increasingly likely. The country was battling 48 separate fires on Sunday alone, and red alerts were declared for the regions of Magallanes, Bio Bio and Maule.

“We have a situation of extreme vulnerability,” said President Sebastian Pinera, who called for toughening sentences for arson.

In the Bio Bio region, the timber industry is threatened by a fire that destroyed an Arauco company mill. Shares in Arauco’s parent company, Copec SA, dropped nearly 4 percent before recovering in Monday trading. One of the Bio Bio fires also killed a 75-year-old man who refused to evacuate. Hundreds of others who did leave their homes were forced to relocate yet again early Monday as the flames advanced. Read More

Iran missile test seen as warning to west

Iran launched a long-range missile during a naval exercise in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, a move regarded as Tehran’s warning to the west over imposing oil sanctions because of its nuclear programme.

Iranian state television showed footage of Ghader, a ground-to-sea missile, which was test-fired on Monday and hit the supposed targets. The missile, said to have a range of 200km, is considered by Iran as long-range. However, such a range for a cruise missile is generally regarded as medium.

Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, head of Iran’s navy, told the state television on Monday the exercise showed the country’s “defensive and pre-emptive prowess … despite 33 years of sanctions”.

“Security of the Strait of Hormuz is completely under our [Iran] authority. The control of the Strait of Hormuz is completely under our authority [too],” Mr Sayyari said and added Iran’s armed forces and the elite revolutionary guards would not let “any enemy [the US and its European allies as well as Israel] to put our interests in danger”.

In a show of might, Iran has begun test-firing missiles, such as Mehrab and Nour, since Sunday.
Tensions rose last week as Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which one-third of the world’s seaborne oil trade passes, should the west impose oil sanctions on Tehran.

In a clear warning by the Islamic regime to the west of its capability to disrupt the world economy through stopping the oil trade traffic through the waterway, Tehran began the 10-day naval exercise. Read More

3.1 Magnitude Earthquake SYRIA - 2nd Jan 2012

A magnitude 3.1 earthquake has struck Syria at a depth of just 5 km (3.1 miles), the quake hit at 17:12:11 UTC Monday 2nd January 2012
The epicenter was 28 km (17.4 miles) South of Al-hasakah, Syria
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Hybrid sharks found off Australia

Image: The hybrid shark contains DNA from both the Australian blacktip shark and the common blacktip shark, researchers say.

The world's first hybrid sharks have been discovered in substantial numbers off the coast of Australia, and scientists say it may be an indication the creatures are adapting to climate change.

Australian researchers say they've found 57 animals that are a cross between the Australian blacktip shark and the common blacktip shark, two closely related but genetically distinct species.

"Hybridization could enable the sharks to adapt to environmental change as the smaller Australian black tip currently favors tropical waters in the north while the larger common black tip is more abundant in sub-tropical and temperate waters along the south-eastern Australian coastline," researcher Jennifer Ovenden of the University of Queensland said in a press release.

Ovenden said the discovery is a first for sharks, and it could indicate that other shark and ray species may interbreed in reaction to climate change.

The findings were confirmed using DNA testing and measurements. Scientists from the University of Queensland, James Cook University's Fishing and Fisheries Research Center, the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, and the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries will conduct further studies to determine the fitness of the new hybrids, according to the press release.

The hybrids were found along a 2,000-kilometer (1,243-mile) stretch of the eastern Australian coast from Queensland to New South Wales. The breadth of their distribution and their numbers impressed researchers. Read More

New York Islamic Center Attacked

A Molotov cocktail was tossed at an Islamic center in one of three attacks in New York City, authorities said early Monday.

The three attacks in Queens were at the Islamic center, a bodega, and a private house on Sunday night, officials said.

Molotov cocktails were used in all the attacks, resulting in some damage but no injuries, the New York Police Department said.

In a fourth incident, a fire damaged part of house, but it was too early to tell whether it was a result of a Molotov cocktail and was related to the other incidents, police said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo condemned the attacks in a statement Monday, saying such acts "go against everything we stand for as New Yorkers and Americans."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations called for police to increase security around mosques. Read More

Islamist militants in Nigeria warn Christians to leave north within 3 days

The militant Islamist group Boko Haram has issued an ultimatum giving Christians living in northern Nigeria three days to leave the area amid a rising tide of violence there.

A Boko Haram spokesman, Abul Qaqa, also said late Sunday that Boko Haram fighters are ready to confront soldiers sent to the area under a state of emergency declared in parts of four states by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday.

"We will confront them squarely to protect our brothers," Abul Qaqa said during a telephone call with local media. He also called on Muslims living in southern Nigeria to "come back to the north because we have evidence they will be attacked."

Recent weeks have seen an escalation in clashes between Boko Haram and security forces in the north-eastern states of Borno and Yobe, as well as attacks on churches and assassinations. Nearly 30 people were killed on Christmas Day at a Catholic church near the federal capital, Abuja -- a sign that Boko Haram is prepared to strike beyond its heartland. Read More

Why Iran feels cornered in the Strait of Hormuz

Iran is using what is normally a quiet holiday lull in the West to make the most of its military manoeuvres in the Strait of Hormuz, which have concluded after 10 days. The navy test-fired two types of long-range missiles, following the launch of medium-range devices on New Year’s Day.

From afar, it would appear that Iran is throwing its trump cards on the table very early in this standoff with the United States, the European Union and the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar).

But analysts say the Iranian government sees it differently. The latest round of sanctions from Washington – built into the U.S. defense bill – among other things targets Iran’s central bank. This is similar to the strategy used by the European Union with its sanctions against Syria. If action is taken to cut off the arteries of a country’s financial system, then it becomes very difficult for it to trade any of its assets – most importantly oil in Iran’s case.

This explains the sudden plunge in Iran’s currency, the rial, to a record low after U.S. President Barrack Obama signed the legislation. The spread between the official central bank rate of 11,179 rials against the dollar and the public exchange rate widened by nearly 5,000 rials, according to IRNA, the Iranian state news agency. A sustained plunge in the currency could drive up the cost of imported goods and spark inflation.

Mehdi Varzi, a veteran energy strategist and now president of the consultancy Varzi Energy, says Iran is feeling boxed in and is therefore lashing out with military manoeuvres and the test-firing of missiles. “Iran is trying to react to something that is being threatened by the West,” says Varzi. “It is a very real and dangerous threat to the country.”

Military manoeuvres, strategists suggest, are a warning not only to the U.S. and Europe but to the GCC. In its final communique at their summit last month, the six members of the GCC called on Iran to stop meddling in internal affairs and attempts to "instigate sectarian strife." Saudi Arabia’s $30 billion military order, approved by Washington after that GCC communiqué, also seemed to raise tensions before Iran’s military exercises started. Read More

Britons 'In Denial' About Obesity

Britain is a nation in denial about obesity, according to a new survey.

Just under a quarter of the UK population is officially obese, but only 6% of people believe their weight problem is severe enough to warrant that description, the National Slimming Survey suggested.

Now the Government is launching a healthy eating campaign called Supermeals, which offers help with planning meals as well as discounts on ingredients.

Recipe packs are being distributed to four million homes. Everyone else can take part online.

Public Health Minister Anne Milton said: "Over 60% of adults are either overweight or obese and we have to turn that around. Read More

'Abducted Woman' Found Dead In Abandoned Car one Hour Later, Brownlow Road, Hackney, East London

A woman thought to have been abducted from a house in east London has been found dead an hour later in an abandoned car.

Police said the 20-year-old had died from stab wounds.

Initial investigations suggest a male suspect kidnapped the woman from a home in Brownlow Road, Hackney, following a disturbance around 7am.

Just over an hour later she was discovered dead inside the getaway car - a grey Fiat Stilo - just 1.6 miles away in an alleyway at Ryder Mews.

Police and London Ambulance Service were called to the residential adress where two other people were also injured.

A 22-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman were taken to hospital suffering stab wounds. The man remains in a stable condition while the woman was treated for a minor injury before being discharged.

A police spokesman said the deceased woman has not been formally identified but is believed to be the same person who was taken from Brownlow Road.

He added: "A post-mortem examination will take place in due course."

Police revealed no further details of the suspect but said inquiries are ongoing to trace him. Read More

Laacher See, Germany's Super Volcano is NOT “Ready to Blow”, are the Press playing on 2012 for Fearmongering?

The Daily Mail is running an article about a Super volcano in Germany (Laacher See), insinuating that it could erupt. In truth, any volcano could erupt at any time: it has only just been discovered that rather than taking 500 years for a dormant volcano to wake, it could happen in as quick as just 80 days.

Regarding the article in the Daily Mail this morning, there is no alarm regarding this Volcano. If there was, wouldn't it be mentioned in the news in Germany?

Not ONE word has been mentioned for weeks in the German news about this Super Volcano.

The Laacher See is Classed as a Super Volcano and is situated close to the Cities of Koblenz (24km) and Bonn (37km). The Caldera which has a surface area of 3.3km2 lies just 8 km from the River Rhine.

The last known eruption was 12,900 years ago and was larger than the Colossal 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.

Although the Laacher See is a potential active volcano with seismic activity and carbon dioxide gas and magma being detected at the Southeastern Shore, there has been NO indication that this volcano is about to erupt.

Scientists do believe that a new eruption could happen any time, but then again they say this about pretty much all volcanoes. In the past several weeks there has been no activity in that area or even a mention of Laacher See in the German News.... so please don't panic (yet).