Monday, January 16, 2012

Capital outflows from Russia "torrential" as Putin shores up power amid suspicious elections

Capital outflows totaled $84.2 billion last year according to data released by the Central Bank on Wednesday, the second-highest figure since 1994 and a big jump from the $33.6 billion that exited Russia in 2010.

The cash exodus crescendoed to $37.4 billion in the final three months of 2011 against a background of mass street protests in Moscow and financial crisis in Europe.

Politicians and central bankers were repeatedly forced to revise their predictions about capital outflow over the course of the year as they were left behind by rising figures. About $19 billion was logged in the third quarter and $7.3 billion in the second quarter.

In what now appears to be a foolish hope, Central Bank Chairman Sergei Ignatyev said in April that inflows were possible during the last eight months of the year. “You can’t have such strong capital outflow for so long,” he said.

The final count of $84.2 billion was higher than the Central Bank’s November estimate of $70 billion and $4.2 billion more than Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s forecast as late as Dec. 26. Read More

More Older People Struggle to Look After Grandchildren

A growing number of Korean children are being looked after by their grandparents because their parents are divorced.

According to a 2010 government survey, 0.4 percent or 69,175 households in the country were headed by grandparents, up 19.1 percent from 2005. Divorce and remarriage of biological parents was the major reason with 53.2 percent, followed by disappearance of biological parents with 14.7 percent.

Because most parents make no financial contribution, many grandparents struggle to make ends meet. Experts believe households headed by grandparents will become a serious structural problem in the near future as the divorce rate soars and the population ages.

These households have more problems than other low-income families. "In addition to financial difficulties, households headed by grandparents have more complex problems such as health and generational conflicts in the family," said Kim Eun-ji of the Korea Women's Development Institute. The average age of grandparents in these setups was 72.6, and that of the grandchildren they looked after 13.3. In many cases no one in the house has a job, either because they are too young or too old, so they rely on benefits from the government and charities. Read More

Iran: We'll Bring the War to Israel, and 'Beyond'

Iran said Thursday that it would respond to Israel's 'cold war' against it - with attacks against Israelis, and possibly Jews worldwide.

Iran is preparing its own answers to the string of assassinations of Iranian scientists, a web site identified with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said Thursday – and those responsible had better start staying awake nights, a senior Iranian official was quoted as saying. Naming Israel specifically, the Rajah News website said that Israel wasn't the only country that could undertake long-distance proxy wars. “We too can send our agents to kill people in their sleep,” the site quoted the unnamed official as saying.

“None of those responsible will escape, none of them should feel safe,” the official told the website. “We will take the war beyond the borders of Iran, and beyond the borders of the region.” Israeli commentators said that the statement was an implied threat that Iran could target American Jews in response to what it perceives is a covert war by Israel to halt Iran's nuclear program. Several months ago, the FBI announced the arrest of a terror gang connected to Iran that had planned to attack synagogues in the U.S., and to blow up the Saudi embassy in Washington. Read More

Working Man's Death: Ukrainian miners dig the last pieces of coal from exhausted mine shafts

We follow Ukrainian miners as they go underground to dig the last pieces of coal from exhausted mine shafts.


Filmmaker: Michael Glawogger

"Work is often difficult to see, and therefore difficult to depict.
Physical labour is probably the only real kind of work."
Michael Glawogger

In today's technological age, is heavy manual labour disappearing or is it just becoming invisible? Read More

Mossad 'posed as CIA to recruit fighters'

Magazine report claims Israeli spies used fake US spy identities to work with Pakistani fighters targeting Iran.


Agents with Israel's spy agency, Mossad, have posed as CIA agents in operations to recruit members of the Pakistani group Jundallah, according to a report in US-based Foreign Policy magazine.

Using US dollars and passports, the agents passed themselves off as members of the US Central Intelligence Agency in the operations, according to memos from 2007 and 2008, said the report which was published on Friday.

It is unclear whether the recruitment programme is ongoing.

"Israel has done this before. I know of a report very widely accepted in the US of Israeli Mossad agents in the United States, actually recruiting American Muslims," Mark Perry, who authored the report, told Al Jazeera.

"I think that there is a general conspiracy theory that we work very closely with Israel, that we're willing to forgive [Israel] ... I don't think that's the case here.

"The United States has been very impatient with these kinds of activities and we won't be tolerant of them."

He also warned of the potential vulnerabilities caused by this kind of secret actions. Read More

"China should take fight to US over Iran"

The US slapped sanctions on China's Zhuhai Zhenrong Company Thursday for engaging in energy deals with Iran. Analysts believe the US was sending a signal to Beijing, after US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner failed to get China's backing on the Iran issue.

China should not bend to US pressure. It needs to come up with deliberate countermeasures, and show deterrence to an arrogant US. The unilateral sanctions were levied under its own amended Iran Sanctions Act, rather than any UN Security Council resolution.

Iran's oil resources and geopolitical value are crucial to China. Chinese companies have the freedom to engage in legal business with Iran's energy sector. It is worth taking on some troubles and even paying a certain price to safeguard this principle.

China should be confident. The US, facing a tough economy and the coming presidential election, cannot afford a trade war with China. It is not set on having a showdown with China just to impose sanctions on Iran. China has adopted anti-sanction measures against the US before, and this time China should demonstrate the same toughness.

This may lead to anger on Washington's part. But let's see how Washington ultimately reacts, given the massive trade volume between the two nations and China's status as the largest holder of US treasury bonds. Read More

Election 2012: How rich are these guys?

Certain 2012 candidates are worth hundreds of millions, others far less.
Total net worth: $85 to $264 million

With no regular day job, Romney still earns a tidy income in the form of dividends and interest from his investments, and records filed with the Federal Election Commission show that the former Massachusetts governor commands between $20,000 and $68,000 on the speaking circuit.

Much of Romney's wealth is tied up in a blind trust, but some assets remain under his control -- including a few quirky items. For example, the FEC lists between $250,000 and $500,000 in horses, an asset the campaign says belongs to the candidate's wife. He owns another $250,000 to $500,000 in gold. Read More

Beijing Hourly Air Pollution Readings Now Posted on Internet

Kill the compensation culture and cut the cost of insurance

Fraudulent claims – mostly for hard-to-assess "whiplash" injuries – add about £40 a year to every honest driver's motor insurance costs but Parliament will struggle to reduce this while some doctors, lawyers and police fail to act.

Following MPs’ latest inquiry into the high and rising cost of what many still regard as a ‘victimless crime’, Simon Douglas, a director of AA Insurance, was inclined to emphasise the positive. He said: “We must kill the compensation culture that has sharply driven up car insurance premiums. The recommendations from the Transport Committee are a positive step towards doing that.”

Insurance costs were rising by 40pc at one point last year but here are 10 tips to cut the cost of motor cover. The Transport Committee reported that the number of personal injury claims continues to rise despite a sharp fall in the number of collisions on Britain’s roads; and that about 70pc of these claims are for ‘whiplash’ injuries.

For example, one driver reversed into a space in a narrow street to allow an oncoming lorry to pass. In the process, she lightly clipped a parked car outside a shop. She sought the owner of the car who was inside the shop and details for the minor damage caused exchanged. The customer’s insurance company subsequently received a claim for £12,600 compensation for whiplash injuries suffered by ‘three people’ in the car. Read More

Scotland's sterling issue makes independence highly problematic

Danny Alexander and George Osborne have raised what is perhaps the key issue from an economic perspective facing Scottish independence – what on earth would Scotland do about its currency?

Initially, Alex Salmond had favoured the euro for an independent Scotland, but unsurprisingly, support for this idea has plummeted as a result of the finacial crisis. Not many Scots would now welcome the euro, so Mr Salmond has been forced to shift his position and now advocates continued currency union with the rest of Britain, at least initially.

Yet if there is one thing that the single currency crisis has demonstrated beyond debate it is that you cannot have crisis free monetary union without matching fiscal union. Mr Salmond appears to have no convincing answer to this farely obvious flaw in his strategy. Nor has he even remotely begun to articulate how monetary union between two states operating independent fiscal policies would work. To have one country pursuing fiscal austerity while the other engages in the sort of fiscal expansionism favoured by the SNP would plainly be completely unsustainable. Read More

Rally row: Does the Dakar damage a delicate environment?

It's a breathtaking scenario. Hundreds of petrol-heads roaring across some of South America's most stunning landscapes in a grueling two-week endurance race where the competitors are at the mercy of treacherous terrain.

The Dakar Rally's 465 competitors speed through the daunting sand dunes of Atacama desert one day, and traverse the snow-capped Andes mountain range the next in a 9,000-kilometer coast-to-coast marathon taking in Argentina, Chile and, this year, Peru.

But environmentalists are worried about the effect the event -- which attracts millions of spectators -- has on a continent that is home to a wealth of fragile ecosystems.

Argentine ecological group FUNAM has accused officials of failing to conduct the necessary environmental impact assessments before ratifying the route of the race, which ends on Sunday.

"The first issue to be analyzed is regulation," FUNAM president Dr. Raul Montenegro told CNN. "In Argentina, for the last rally, a lot of regulations were not accomplished by the race organizers and even local government. Read More

US Doctors found cheating on exams: Surprised?



For years, doctors around the country taking an exam to become board certified in radiology have cheated by memorizing test questions, creating sophisticated banks of what are known as "recalls," a CNN investigation has found.

The recall exams are meticulously compiled by radiology residents, who write down the questions after taking the test, in radiology programs around the country, including some of the most prestigious programs in the U.S.

"It's been going on a long time, I know, but I can't give you a date," said Dr. Gary Becker, executive director of the American Board of Radiology (ABR), which oversees the exam that certifies radiologists.

Asked if this were considered cheating, Becker told CNN, "We would call it cheating, and our exam security policy would call it cheating, yes." Read More

Business Slows Amid Nigerian Protests

Oil lobby's financial pressure on Obama over Keystone XL pipeline revealed

Study shows money flowing to oil lobby ahead of decision on tar sands pipeline in the November elections.

New analysis of oil industry contributions to members of Congress has revealed the level of the oil lobby's financial firepower that Barack Obama can expect to face in the November elections if he refuses to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Obama has until 21 February to make a decision on whether to approve the pipeline, under a compromise tax measure approved late last year. America's top oil lobbyist warned last week that the president would face "huge political consequences" if he did not sign off on the project to pump tar sands crude across the American heartland to refineries on the Texas coast.

The Canadian government is also on the offensive, with an attack this week on "jet-setting celebrities" opposed to tar sands pipelines. At the same time, TransCanada executives have embarked on a letter-writing campaign. Read More

Power plants main global warming culprits

WASHINGTON (AP) — The most detailed data yet on emissions of heat-trapping gases show that U.S. power plants are responsible for the bulk of the pollution blamed for global warming.

Power plants released 72 percent of the greenhouse gases reported to the Environmental Protection Agency for 2010, according to information released Wednesday that was the first catalog of global warming pollution by facility. The data include more than 6,700 of the largest industrial sources of greenhouse gases, or about 80 percent of total U.S. emissions.

According to an Associated Press analysis of the data, 20 mostly coal-fired power plants in 15 states account for the top-releasing facilities.

Gina McCarthy, the top air official at the EPA, said the database marked "a major milestone" in the agency's work to address climate change. She said it would help industry, states and the federal government identify ways to reduce greenhouse gases. Read More

A Fine for Not Using a Biofuel That Doesn’t Exist

WASHINGTON — When the companies that supply motor fuel close the books on 2011, they will pay about $6.8 million in penalties to the Treasury because they failed to mix a special type of biofuel into their gasoline and diesel as required by law.

But there was none to be had. Outside a handful of laboratories and workshops, the ingredient, cellulosic biofuel, does not exist.

In 2012, the oil companies expect to pay even higher penalties for failing to blend in the fuel, which is made from wood chips or the inedible parts of plants like corncobs. Refiners were required to blend 6.6 million gallons into gasoline and diesel in 2011 and face a quota of 8.65 million gallons this year.

“It belies logic,” Charles T. Drevna, the president of the National Petrochemicals and Refiners Association, said of the 2011 quota. And raising the quota for 2012 when there is no production makes even less sense, he said. Read More

Francesco Schettino Refused to Return to the Ship to Supervise Evacuation of the Passengers

The captain of a cruise liner that capsized after crashing off the Italian coast ignored an order to return on board, according to 'black box' recordings.

Taped telephone conversations released by authorities suggest Francesco Schettino was evasive when ordered by a port official to supervise the rescue.

A total of 29 people remain missing and six have been confirmed dead after the Costa Concordia cruise liner collided into a reef off the Tuscan coast near the island of Giglio.

The number of those still being sought - 25 passengers and four crew members - rose after authorities revealed some of those previously counted as safe had still not contacted family members.

And while coast guard official Marco Brusco said he held a "glimmer of hope" that more survivors may still be found, Giglio Mayor Sergio Ortelli said earlier that hopes of finding any of them alive were minimal.

Schettino is due to face manslaughter charges in court on Tuesday charged with manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing a shipwreck - all of which he denies.

A transcript of the conversation between the captain and a coastguard official was recorded on one of the ship's 'black boxes'.

"Now you go to the bow, you climb up the emergency ladder and coordinate the evacuation," the official reportedly tells him.

"You must tell us how many people, children, women and passengers are there and the exact number of each category.

"What are you doing? Are you abandoning the rescue? Captain, this is an order, I am the one in charge now. You have declared abandoning ship, There are already bodies." Read More

Wikipedia Blackout In Anti-Piracy Law Protest

Wikipedia will black out its English-language site for 24 hours in protest at proposed US anti-piracy legislation.

If passed the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) would give content owners and the US government the power to request court orders to shut down websites associated with piracy.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said the act threatens the future of the internet and has said the online encyclopedia site will be shut down from 5am GMT on Wednesday.

Visitors to the site will only be able to see information about Sopa and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (Pipa).

The information will urge Wikipedia readers to contact their local congressman to vote against the bills. Read More

Syrian City Divided Over Assad Support


Homs is not a city under siege, but it is a city divided, and parts of it are besieged.

Under government supervision we were taken to Homs to see the side of the Syria story it prefers to show.

We can only report what what we saw, but we can speculate on what we were not allowed to see, and why we weren't allowed to see it.

We passed numerous heavily-armed and sandbagged checkpoints in urban areas, most manned by army personnel checking cars.

In order to get from one part of town to another we were driven miles in the wrong direction.
The probability is that the direct routes passed through districts controlled by the opposition militia. Read More

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake EASTERN HONSHU, JAPAN - 17th Jan 2012

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck Eastern Honshu, Japan at a depth of 57.3 km (35.6 miles), the quake hit at 03:30:16 UTC Tuesday 17th January 2012
The epicenter was 38 km (23 miles) North of Tokyo, Japan
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.