Sunday, March 18, 2012

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The price of a life? In Afghanistan, it's $210

(Reuters) - In Afghanistan, if NATO forces kill a member of your family, it is better in terms of money if they come from Germany or Italy than the United States or Britain.

In the cold calculation of how much to pay for victims of the decade-old war, British forces have doled out as little as $210, while German forces have paid as much as $25,000, according to a study by the human rights NGO CIVIC.

Civilian casualties caused by NATO forces hunting insurgents are a major source of friction between the Afghan government and its Western backers - all the more so after a lone U.S. soldier gunned down 16 Afghan villagers at the weekend.

"They have to ask themselves the question how much is one's life worth? You can't put a price on it," Rafi Nabi, 33 and unemployed, said in a market in the Afghan capital.

"If one were to kill an American and offer to compensate their death with money, they wouldn't accept it." Read More

Syrians protest at Damascus blast sites

Mar 18 - Syrian TV broadcasts footage of what is says are Damascus residents protesting over a double bombing that killed at least 27 people in the capital.

Bedouins abduct 2 Brazilian tourists, Egypt says

Cairo (CNN) -- Bedouin tribesmen have kidnapped two Brazilian tourists, their guide and a police officer in Egypt's southern Sinai Peninsula, an Interior Ministry spokesman said Sunday.

The tourists, a woman and a teenage girl, were kidnapped near the Greek Orthodox monastery of St. Catherine's, Interior Ministry spokesman Alaa Mahmoud told CNN. Their kidnappers are demanding the release of Bedouin prisoners jailed under longtime Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak, as well as the cancellation of sentences handed down in absentia. Read More

3.3 Magnitude Earthquake WASHINGTON - 18th Mar 2012

A magnitude 3.3 earthquake has struck Washington at a depth of 42.3 km (26.3 miles), the quake hit at 18:48:45 UTC Sunday 18th March 2012
The epicenter was 19 km (11.8 miles) WSW from Oakville, Washington
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Mount Enta erupts for the Fourth Time this Year

Europe's most active volcano, Mount Etna erupted on Sunday sending a four mile-long plume of smoke and ash into the sky.



The eruption is the fourth of its kind this year sending a lava stream into Sicily's uninhabited valley of Valle del Bove.

Etna, which is 11,000ft high and located 18 miles above the Sicilian town of Catania, often erupts but rarely causes damage. 11,000ft high, sits

Nearby airports remained open and continued operations during the eruption athough authorities shut down two nearby flight paths. Source

Train hits van stalled at crossing in Indonesia; at least 11 members of family killed

TASIKMALAYA, Indonesia — Police say a train has crashed into a minivan that was stalled at a crossing in central Indonesia, killing at least 11 members of a family. Three others are in critical condition.

Local police chief Gupuh Setiyono says the minivan was carrying 14 people when it suddenly stopped Sunday at the unguarded crossing in the West Java town of Tasikmalaya. He says the dead include five children.

Poor safety standards and poorly maintained vehicles claim hundreds of lives in Indonesia each year. Source

More questions than answers in account of American's abduction in Iraq, Noboby even knew was Missing



Baghdad (CNN) -- The murky abduction account of an American, who nobody appeared to know was missing in Iraq until he resurfaced, is raising questions about everything from his name to the circumstances surrounding his reported kidnapping.

A Shiite militia loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced Saturday in a bizarre, pre-taped news conference that it was releasing U.S. soldier Randy Michaels, who one Sadrist lawmaker said was captured in battle nine months earlier.

The man did not identify himself, though he said he was a former soldier who was working as a civilian when he was abducted.

But U.S. officials say all missing soldiers have been accounted for and no civilian was recently reported missing, and even the man's ex-wife said she didn't know he had been kidnapped. Read More

Indianapolis: Gunfire erupts during St Patrick's Day celebrations Injuring 5 Teenagers

Gunfire erupted as throngs were celebrating a mild St Patrick's Day along a popular downtown canal in Indianapolis and at least five teenagers were wounded by shots, two critically, police said.

The shots rang out Saturday night near the Downtown Canal on the west side of this Midwest city shortly after 10pm, police spokeswoman Linda Jackson said in a statement.

The canal with its pedestrian pathway and restaurants dotting the area is a popular gathering place and had been thronged during the weekend, reports said.

Police said patrolling officers were already downtown and had gone to check on a report of young people fighting when they suddenly heard gunfire nearby, according to the statement.

Indianapolis Public Safety Director Frank Staub was quoted by The Indianapolis Star as initially saying that the sound of gunfire sent people scrambling and that police had stopped a car afterward. Read More

Robert Bales" From 9/11 volunteer to a 'monster': How He gave up finance career to enlist after attacks and ended up 'killing children as they Slept'

The soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians was committed to his career as a stock trader until the 9/11 attacks when he gave it all up and enlisted in the army.

Army Captain Chris Alexander, who spent three years as Robert Bales' platoon leader, spoke out in praise of Bales' life-changing decision to volunteer: 'I've always admired him for that - he had a good thing going, and he dropped it to serve his country.'

While Bales, 38, sat in an isolated cell at Fort Leavenworth's military prison, Alexander described him as ‘outstanding soldier’ who saved the lives of others and someone who could always be relied upon to get missions carried out effectively.

Joining the forces just two months after 9/11 Robert Bales served as an army sniper with the 3rd Stryker Brigade based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

In April 2008, after two tours in Iraq, he progressed to become a staff sergeant and was deployed to Iraq once again.

Alexander, who served with Bales during his second deployment to Iraq, described the soldier as ‘one of the best guys I ever worked with.’ Read More

4.5 Magnitude Earthquake KEPULAUAN TALAUD, INDONESIA - 18th Mar 2012

A magnitude 4.5 earthquake has struck Kepulauan Talaud, Indonesia at a depth of 55.8 km (34.7 miles), the quake hit at 15:13:29 UTC Sunday 18th March 2012
The epicenter was 296 km (184 miles) North from Ternate, Moluccas, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

U.K. adds solar storms, volcanoes to national threat list

LONDON — Britain has added volcanoes and solar storms to floods, flu and terrorism on a list of threats to national security.

The highest-priority risks to Britain are pandemic influenza, coastal flooding, terrorist attacks and - a new addition - volcanic eruptions in countries like Iceland, according to the recently published 2012 edition of the government's National Risk Register for Civil Emergencies.

"Severe space weather" poses a threat to communications systems, electronic circuits and power grids, the list said. Solar storms - eruptions of magnetic energy and charged particles - are part of the sun's normal 11-year cycle, which is expected to reach a peak next year.

The storms can't hurt people, but can disturb electric grids, GPS systems and satellites. In 1989, a strong solar storm knocked out the power grid in Quebec, cutting electricity to 6 million people. Last week, the strongest solar storm since 2004 passed without major disruptions.

Last month, Parliament's defence committee called on the government to prepare for disruptions to electrical supplies and satellites from electromagnetic pulses -- whether caused by the sun or by a nuclear weapon exploded in space.

Space war is not included on the British government's risk register. Read More

Simone Farrow arrested in Australia after a month on the run

A fugitive international swimsuit model accused of being the head of a global drugs ring has been arrested.

Former men's magazine pin-up Simone Farrow was found hiding out in a cheap motel on Queensland’s Gold Coast. She is expected to appear in court this week after being extradited from to Sydney.

Farrow, 37, is accused of trafficking the drug meths in bags of bath salts from a posh apartment in Hollywood and police claim she has at least 19 aliases.

She has been on the run for a month, fleeing $160,000 bail, which she claims was because ‘someone was trying to murder me’.

Court documents reveal an extraordinary alleged life of crime behind the glamour of the modelling world which had set up blonde Farrow, voted one of FHM magazine's ‘sexiest women in the world’, for a jet-setting life of luxury. Read More

FBI threaten to step in on Met's investigation into Rupert Murdoch's empire in case Scotland Yard 'drops the ball'

The FBI has vowed to step in if the Met Police 'drop the ball' in its investigation into illegal activity within the Murdoch empire, it has been revealed.

The U.S. Bureau already has access to all the evidence handed over by News Corporation to Scotland Yard and the company apparently has a legal team of 'big guns' ready to handle inquiries from detectives.

The original Met phone hacking investigation, launched in December 2005, resulted in the News of the World’s royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire being jailed for intercepting voicemail messages.

But no action was taken against any other reporters and the inquiry failed to identify hundreds of victims.

One source close to the U.S. investigation told the Independent on Sunday: 'The FBI made it perfectly clear that if the British police drop the ball on this they will pick it up and run with it.' Read More

Indian call centres selling YOUR credit card details and medical records for just TWO PENCE

Confidential personal data on hundreds of thousands of Britons is being touted by corrupt Indian call centre workers, an undercover investigation has discovered.

Credit card information, medical and financial records are being offered for sale to criminals and marketing firms for as little as 2p.

Two ‘consultants’, claiming to be IT workers at several call centres, met undercover reporters from The Sunday Times and boasted of having 45 different sets of personal information on nearly 500,000 Britons.

Data included names, addresses, and phone numbers of credit card holders, start and expiry dates as well as the three-digit security verification codes.

The information – much of which related to customers at major financial companies, including HSBC and NatWest - would be a goldmine for criminals, allowing fraudsters to syphon thousands of pounds from bank accounts within minutes.

IT consultant Naresh Singh met the undercover reporters in a hotel room in Gurgaon, a town near Delhi, carrying a laptop full of data.

He told them: ‘These [pieces of data] are ones that have been sold to somebody already. This is Barclays, this is Halifax, this is Lloyds TSB. We’ve been dealing so long we can tell the bank by just the card number.’

He said that much of the data would be less than 72 hours old, adding: ‘They would just have got the credit card and not only credit cards, that would be debit card as well.’

Other information being hawked around by unscrupulous workers was sensitive material about mortgages, loans, insurance, mobile phone contracts, Sky Television subscriptions, according to The Sunday Times sting. Read More

Man fatally stabbed at Herbie Hide's home in Norwich

A man was fatally stabbed during a private party at the Norwich home of former world heavyweight boxer Herbie Hide, police said.

Officers were called to Long Lane, Bawburgh, at 00:07 GMT after reports that a man, thought to be in his 20s, had been assaulted.

He was pronounced dead at the scene at 00:45. A murder inquiry has started.

More than 100 people are thought to have been at the party at the time of the stabbing.

Mr Hide and his family have relocated as investigations continue.

Confirming identity
A cordon is in place as crime scene investigators examine the site.

Officers have spent the night speaking to witnesses, Norfolk police said. Read More

Syrian city of Aleppo hit by car bomb

Several people reported dead after explosion close to security office in country's second city

A car bomb has hit Syria's second city, Aleppo, a day after 27 people were killed when blasts rocked Damascus.

The car bombing came as security forces arrested and beat activists at a rare anti-government protest in the centre of the capital.

The British-based opposition group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least three people had been killed and 25 wounded by the explosion close to a state security office in Aleppo.

The state news channel Syria TV said the "terrorist" attack had been between two residential buildings in the al-Suleimaniya district, behind a post office building.

It showed building fronts blasted open, masonry littering the street and a blood-spattered street corner.

Activists and the government traded blame for the explosion, as they have over previous bombings. Read More

Note: Are these the same activists that were interviewed in their bomb Factory several months ago?

Article Feb 2012: With Syria's Rebels: A Visit to a Bombmaker's Factory

Original Source

4.5 Magnitude Earthquake FIJI REGION - 18th Mar 2012

A magnitude 4.5 earthquake has struck the Fiji Region at a depth of 571.3 km (355 miles), the quake hit at 12:21:57 UTC Sunday 18th March 2012
The epicenter was 263 km (163 miles) NNE of Ndoi Island, Fiji
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake HALMAHERA, INDONESIA - 18th Mar 2012

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck Halmahera, Indonesia at a depth of 68 km (42.3 miles), the quake hit at 10:43:55 UTC Sunday 18th March 2012
The epicenter was 204 km (126 miles) Northeast of Ternate, Moluccas, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake ALASKA PENINSULA - 18th Mar 2012

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck the Alaska, Peninsula at a depth of 54.7 km (34 miles), the quake hit at 10:37:56 UTC Sunday 18th March 2012
The epicenter was 15 km (9 miles) East of Sand Point, Alaska
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Dutch Authorities Detect Bird Flu at Turkey Farm in Limburg, The Netherlands

The turkeys at a Farm in Limburg where the bird flu virus has been found, will be Culled this afternoon. A total of 42,700 turkeys will at 12.00 be gassed by employees of the Food and Wares Authority.

Around 14.00 this afternoon the dead animals will be removed. It is certain that they have the H5 variant of bird flu. Research is ongoing to exactly what type the turkeys have, it is probably a mild variant.

Yesterday it was announced that the virus was found at the company Kelpen-Oler. The contamination came to light in a periodic standard control.

Movement ban

Since midnight a zone of three kilometers around the company was put in place to restrict transport of poultry, eggs and poultry manure. There are about 25 farms in the zone between Weert and Roermond.

Avian influenza is a highly contagious viral disease that is transmissible to poultry and other birds. In very rare cases, people become infected with the virus. The past year bird flu has been found in the Netherlands four times, including at the Veluwe, Zeeland and Flevoland. Source

NASA images show Aurora Borealis over North America.

NASA releases video compiled of images captured from the International Space Station showing the Aurora Borealis over North America.

Mexico arrests suspected killers

Mar 18 - Three men suspected of involvement in deadly attacks on police and troops in Mexico are arrested. Paul Chapman report

Occupy Wall Street arrests

Mar 18 - Dozens have been arrested during a day of protests to mark the six-month anniversary of the Occupy movement. Paul Chapman reports

Assange to run for Australian Senate

(CNN) -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has decided to run for a seat in the Australian Senate, WikiLeaks announced on its Twitter page Saturday.

The group, which facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information, said it discovered it is possible for Assange to run while living in England under house arrest. Assange was born in Australia and grew up there.

Since the summer of 2010, he has become a household name and a pop culture fixture. He's an internationally controversial figure who has cast himself as a champion of free speech by distributing classified documents.

Assange is also a suspect in a Swedish sex crimes investigation. He's been fighting extradition before Britain's Supreme Court, which is weighing whether he should be sent to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault lodged by two women in the country. Read More

Chaos inside Pakistan Parliament as Pakistan debates future U.S. engagement

Protesters in Morocco demand reform of rape laws after teen girl's suicide

Rabat, Morocco (CNN) -- Demonstrators rallied Saturday in Morocco's capital, demanding the North African nation reform its rape laws following a teenage girl's suicide after her father said a judge mandated that she marry her alleged rapist -- allowing him to stay out of jail.

Amina Filali, 16, died suddenly last week in Larache, a city in northwestern Morocco along the Atlantic coast. Her father, Lahcen Filali, told CNN that she was with her new husband when she "fell into street (and) started vomiting."

By the time an ambulance arrived, the father said, "It was already too late."

The girl died hours later at a Larache hospital.

The state-run MAP news agency reported that Amina Filali had committed suicide, the stark nature of her life and death spurring hundreds to turn out for Saturday's protest in front of the nation's parliament.

Lahcen Filali told Moroccan newspaper Hona Press that his daughter had ingested rat poison, doing so after her husband had severely beaten her.

Police told CNN only that they were investigating the teenager's death, but didn't provide further details. Read More

Villagers want accused soldier returned



(CNN) -- Afghans continued to grieve, and continued to fume, as a new day dawned on Sunday, exactly one week after a U.S. soldier -- described by some who knew him as "happy" and a "nice guy" -- allegedly went house to house, shooting dead 16 villagers (INCLUDING 9 CHILDREN).

Much to the villagers' disgust, decorated combat veteran Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is more than 7,000 miles away from where he is suspected of single-handedly carrying out the grisly attack.

Attorney Emma Scanlan said in a statement late Saturday that she and two other members of Bales' defense team plan "to spend several days meeting" with their client next week.

She said others have accurately cast Bales "as a level-headed, experienced soldier." Read More

Gunmen kill American teacher in Yemen

(CNN) -- Gunmen shot dead an American teacher in the Yemeni province of Taez on Sunday, two defense ministry officials said.

Two men in a motorcycle fired eight shots at the teacher who was on his way to work at a Swedish language center in the provincial capital, the officials said.

Authorities identified the victim as Joel Sharm, and said he had been working at the center since 2010.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- the terror network's affiliate in Yemen -- claimed responsibility for the killing.

In a text message sent to Yemeni media outlets, the group said the victim was spreading Christianity to the Yemeni people, calling him one of the biggest missionaries in the country.

Authorities have not said who killed the teacher. Read More

Syrian regime staged deadly attacks in Damascus, rebel captain says

(CNN) -- A Syrian rebel leader vehemently refuted the government's claim that so-called "terrorists" -- not the regime itself -- launched a series of explosions in Damascus that killed dozens.

"This is the regime's game. This is how they play their dirty tricks. They carry out these types of explosions from time to time to get more international support and compassion," Capt. Ammar al-Wawi of the rebel Syrian Free Army said Sunday. "They are desperately trying to prove to the world that they are fighting against armed gangs, but the reality is they are the ones who are doing all the killings."

Two explosions rocked parts of Damascus on Saturday, including Syrian government facilities, state-run media reported.

The Syrian Arab News Agency said 27 people were killed after two "booby-trapped" cars exploded in crowded areas in the capital. The blasts also injured 140 people and caused serious damage to surrounding buildings, SANA said. Read More

Wild black-footed cat: Test-tube kitten born in US

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Several endangered black-footed cats have been born recently in the U.S. and researchers say Crystal's birth is the rarest -- the first ever born from an embryo fertilized in a lab dish, frozen, and later implanted in a housecat's womb.

The black-footed cat is Africa's smallest wildcat and one of the world's smallest felines -- smaller even than a domestic cat.

Earle Pope, interim director of the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species, says Crystal was born Feb. 6 at the New Orleans complex. He says Crystal is proof that embryos of this dwindling species can be successfully implanted into domestic cats.

Only an estimated 10,000 of these cats, which get their name from their distinctive black foot pads, still live in the wild in southern Africa. Source

Occupy protest anniversary ends with police sweep

NEW YORK (AP) -- Protesters chanted and cheered down Wall Street to mark six months of the Occupy movement, ending the day with a police confrontation and numerous arrests at the park where the nationwide demonstrations against economic inequality began.

Some protesters locked arms and sat down in Zuccotti Park after police announced just before midnight that the park was closed. Officers poured in, forcing out most of the crowd and surrounding a small group that stayed behind.

Several people were arrested, police said. A bus carried away about a dozen demonstrators in plastic handcuffs.

New York Police Det. Brian Sessa said the tipping point came when the protesters started breaking the park rules.

"They set up tents. They had sleeping bags," he said.

One female under arrest had difficulty breathing and was taken away in an ambulance.

Hours earlier, hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan. Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore made an appearance. Read More

North Korea vows to go ahead with rocket launch plans

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) -- North Korea says it will go ahead with plans to launch an observation satellite into space and that criticism of it is provocative.

North Korea said Friday it would launch the satellite on a rocket next month. The U.S., South Korea and Japan condemn the plan as a disguised test of military missiles because the same type of rocket is used to launch long-range missiles.

Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency said Sunday such criticism is a "sinister" provocation by "hostile forces."

It says North Korea has a right to peaceful development in space.

The North says the hostile forces are "sadly mistaken" if they think it will cancel the launch plans.

Pyongyang said Saturday it has notified international agencies of its plans. Source

3 divers die in waters off Oita, Japan, empty air tanks found

OITA (Kyodo) -- Three divers engaged in the removal of submerged concrete blocks at a marine farm died Saturday after they were found unconscious in the sea off Tsukumi, Oita Prefecture, the Japan Coast Guard said.

Mitsuru Shiotsuki, 45, Satoru Yuge, 37, and Taizo Yokoyama, 31, went into the water at around 9:30 a.m., each equipped with a 12-liter or 14-liter compressed air tank, but no air was left in any of their tanks when they were found at around 10 a.m., the coast guard said.

The coast guard believes there were problems with work procedures, and will conduct autopsies on Sunday to determine the cause of death. Source