Monday, April 16, 2012

UK Basic Wage Lower Than In 2004

The national minimum wage for British workers is set to be lower for workers in real terms than it was nearly a decade ago, according to a new report.

Even after it is increased later this year inflation means it will be worth less than it did in 2004, a think tank has claimed.

The Resolution Foundation said October's planned 11p an hour rise to £6.19 was the third successive below inflation increase.

The report, written by Professor Alan Manning of the London School of Economics, said that while recent caution on increases was justified, the impact of the minimum wage had now "stalled".

The value of the statutory rate had "flatlined" to just over 50% of median earnings, compared with 60% in other countries including France.

Resolution Foundation senior analyst James Plunkett said: "After 13 years of detailed studies into its impact, the benefits of the national minimum wage are now beyond doubt. Read More

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA - 17th Apr 2012

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck Northern Sumatra, Indonesia at a depth of 41.7 km (25.9 miles), the quake hit at 03:24:24 UTC Tuesday 17th April 2012
The epicenter was 80 km (50 miles) West from Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

James Ibori once a cashier at Wickes in west London before becoming a powerful Nigerian politician will be sentenced later for fraud and embezzlement

A former Wickes cashier who later became one of Nigeria's most powerful politicians will be sentenced later for fraud and embezzlement which could exceed £160m.

James Ibori pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court in February to a series of charges linked to the theft of money from the Delta state and fraud involving state-owned shares in a mobile phone firm.

Ibori was working as a cashier in a branch of a DIY store in Ruislip, Middlesex, when he moved to Nigeria and worked his way up through the political ranks to become a state governor in 1999.

As governor of the state, he was racking up credit card bills of $200,000 (£126,000) per month on a luxury lifestyle, including running a fleet of armoured Range Rovers.

He was trying to buy a plane for £12m at the time he was arrested.

Mr Ibori admitted one count of conspiracy to launder money, five of money laundering and one of obtaining a property transfer by deception over the theft of more than £25m while he was governor of the region.

He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud, conspiracy to make false instruments, and one count of money laundering linked to a $37m (£23.3m) share fraud surrounding the sale of shares in Nigerian company V Mobile. Read More

South Korea supports UN over North Korea rocket launch

South Korea has expressed support for the UN Security Council decision to tighten sanctions on North Korea for its botched rocket launch, and called for Pyongyang to refrain from further provocations. The UN Security Council on Monday ordered tightened sanctions on the communist North over its rocket launch last week and warned of new action if the isolated state stages a nuclear test.

Seoul's foreign ministry, in a statement released late on Monday, said it supported the move and urged the North to "stop provocations that could threaten peace and security of the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia."

"The North should clearly realise that the international community" had adopted "a resolute and unified stance on its (rocket) launch," it said, and also called for Pyongyang to honour existing UN resolutions.

The impoverished but nuclear-armed North, led by its new young ruler Kim Jong-Un, Friday launched what it claimed was a satellite-carrying rocket to mark the centenary of the birth of its late founding president, Kim Il-Sung.

Countries including the US and the South view it as a disguised long-range ballistic missile test banned under UN resolutions. Read More

Gas 'Fracking' To Restart Amid Quake Fears

A controversial gas drilling operation that triggered earthquakes in Britain is set to be restarted, but with tighter controls on the process.

The company involved has accepted stringent recommendations from Government-commissioned experts who say hydraulic fracturing - known as ‘fracking’ - should be allowed to continue at the Preese Hall well in Lancashire.

One of the provisos is that even a tremor too small to be noticed above ground should result in an immediate shutdown, with compulsory remedial action before a resumption of drilling.

The independent report also calls for careful monitoring of the site using arrays of seismic sensors, and steps to ensure excess pressure cannot build up beneath the ground.

Fracking involves injecting high pressure water, sand and chemicals into shale rock to release trapped gas and has made exploitation of previously uneconomical reserves feasible.

Well operator Cuadrilla Resources estimates that the Bowland Basin prospect site in Lancashire contains as much as 200trn cubic feet of gas. Read More

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTHERN IRAN - 17th Apr 2012

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck Southern Iran at a depth of 2 km (1.2 miles), the quake hit at 02:37:43 UTC Tuesday 17th April 2012
The epicenter was 52 km (32.2 miles) Southeast of Firuzabad, Iran
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake MID-INDIAN RIDGE - 17th Apr 2012

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck Mid-Indian Ridge at a depth of 10.2 km (6.3 miles), the quake hit at 01:41:26 UTC Tuesday 17th April 2012
The epicenter was 464 km (288 miles) East of Ile Rodrigues, Mauritius
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake MID-INDIAN RIDGE - 16th Apr 2012

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck Mid-Indian Ridge at a depth of 9.6 km (6 miles), the quake hit at 23:53:30 UTC Monday 16th April 2012
The epicenter was 177 km (110 miles) Northeast from Amsterdam Island
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake VANUATU - 16th Apr 2012

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck Vanuatu at a depth of 87 km (53.9 miles), the quake hit at 20:16:42 UTC Monday 16th April 2012
The epicenter was 101 km (68.2 miles) Southeast of Port Vila, Vanuatu
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Loyal dog braves highway to remain by fatally struck dog's side



Los Angeles county animal control officials are heralding the loyalty of a black Labrador retriever that braved traffic to stay by another dog that was fatally struck by a car.

A motorist who saw the dogs on a La Puente street Wednesday morning put down traffic cones to alert other drivers and shot video of the dogs. The video released Saturday showed the female Labrador lying next to a motionless, yellow Labrador as vehicles pass dangerously close to them.

The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control says the 2-year-old dog, who animal shelter staff and volunteers have named Grace, appears to have been well cared for.

However, nobody has come forward to claim her so she is up for adoption. more

Mob of anarchists attack Starbucks in New York



Police say a mob of 25 anarchists fought with officers and tried to use eight-foot-long metal pipes to smash windows of a Starbucks in the East Village on Saturday.

The incident happened around 8:45 p.m. at the Starbucks on the corner of Astor Place and Lafayette Street. Customers were sent diving under tables during the attack.

The mob was unable to smash the thick protective plexiglass windows and there ended up being no damage to the store.

Police arrested Eric Marchese, 24, Alexander Penley, 41 and Nicholas Thommen, 30. All three men face multiple charges. Two officers sustained minor injuries in the melee.

Police said a crowd, some wearing masks, stormed out of an Anarchist Book Fair at Church across the street from Washington Square Park. Many participants at the sixth annual event tipped garbage cans and spray-painted anarchist symbols on businesses in the area. more

Pope turns 85, says is in "last stretch" of his life

Pope Benedict marked his 85th birthday on Monday saying he is now in the "last stretch" of his life but sure that God would help him continue his mission.

Benedict, who has looked tired and drawn recently, is one of history's oldest reigning pontiffs - and already older than his predecessor John Paul II was when he died in 2005.

The pope said a Mass of thanksgiving with German bishops and close aides. Afterwards, children in traditional garb from his native Bavaria danced for him under the frescoes of the Vatican's Clementine Hall.

"I find myself facing the last stretch on the road of my life," Benedict said in German during the early morning Mass in a Vatican chapel.

He said he was confident that God's light would help him "proceed with assurance".

Benedict is now the oldest reigning pope since Leo XIII, who died aged 93 in 1903 after reigning for 25 years. more

Farrakhan Threatens: People Will Kill Their Leaders In A Few Days

Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner: IDF officer videotaped striking an anarchist tells a confidante the leftist struck him first, causing fractures

Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner, the IDF officer videotaped striking a Danish anarchist with his gun, told a confidante Sunday that the leftist struck him first, causing fractures in his hand.

Arik Ben Shimon, who served under Eisner in the past, spoke to him after the incident and heard his version of what happened.

The Deputy Brigade Commander said that the moment taped and published in the internet was preceded by verbal and physical violence that the leftists perpetrated against him and his soldiers.

"You have to understand that this was a confrontation that lasted over two hours and not an event that lasted a few minutes," Ben Shimon told Arutz Sheva. "This was the last line of defense before an area that was declared a 'closed military zone' and the video is obviously edited in a biased way, leaving out the part where that anarchist from Denmark hit Eisner with a stick on his right hand and caused fractures of his hand."

Eisner's hand is bandaged, Ben Shimon said, and yet he has gone back to his unit and continues to command over it.

Ben Shimon said that he has served alongside Eisner in similar events in the past and that he never let himself be provoked by the anarchists, and made sure not to let his soldiers be provoked either. source

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Terrorist freed early after turning supergrass.....HE was back on our streets after serving just 5 years

Saajid Muhammad Badat, 33 from Gloucester, was jailed for 13 years in 2005 but had his sentence cut down to 11 years after providing information on up to 18 terror plots over a six-year period.

The deal with police and Crown Prosecution Service has been kept secret for more than two years to protect his safety. It means the convicted terrorist has been on the streets since March 2010 without the public being told.

Badat's release was only disclosed because his evidence at a US trial that began yesterday about a plot to carry out a 7/7-style attack on the New York subway is to be made public.

Badat, who had been trained by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan with the shoebomber Richard Reid, was supposed to board a flight at Christmas 2001.

But he pulled out at the last minute and hid the explosive device under his bed at his parents’ home in Gloucester. Read More

Israeli Military Officer Suspended for Striking Activist With Rifle

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military announced the suspension on Monday of a senior officer caught on videotape striking a Danish pro-Palestinian activist in the face with an M-16 rifle during a standoff between soldiers and participants in a bike tour organized to draw attention to the living conditions of Palestinian villagers in the West Bank.

Israeli leaders, from the prime minister on down, expressed shock and condemnation over the video, which was shown repeatedly on Sunday night on a popular Israeli television news program.

In a swift exercise of damage control hours after the video was broadcast, the military suspended the officer, Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner, from his post as deputy commander of the Jordan Valley Brigade and opened an investigation into the confrontation.

The clash took place on Saturday when Israeli soldiers blocked the path of some 200 Palestinians and their supporters who were cycling with flags and banners in the Israeli-controlled portion of the Jordan Valley. The bicycle tour was organized by a Palestinian youth organization with the participation of foreign activists from the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian-led organization that advocates nonviolent direct action against Israeli military rule in the occupied territories. Read More

Chinese children travel down zip-line (flying fox) across abyss to and from school

Joshua Hughes throttled, bound, gagged, beat 17 year old with baseball bat and shot him in the face from point-blank for fun...And he gets 15 months

A teenager was subjected to a sickening attack when he was throttled, bound and gagged, locked in a cupboard, beaten with a baseball bat and then shot at point blank range to the face with a BB gun.

Joshua Hughes, 18, one of two attackers, received 15 months youth detention after he was told by a crown court judge that he had done it 'for fun'.

The 17-year-old victim, who cannot be named, was left with round marks on his face where the plastic pellets had hit him and a teacher at his school thought they were cigarette burns.

Prosecutor Brett Williamson said that the victim was attacked at Hughes’ flat on a Sunday afternoon in October last year. Read More

Israeli soldiers brutally attack Palestinians and ISM activists on bike ride

Bradley McAnulty 16th Birthday Party Trashed when 400 turned up at his house in Poole, Dorset after details appeared on Facebook

A teenager’s home was gatecrashed by 400 revellers after plans for his 16th birthday party were posted on Facebook.

Bradley McAnulty had only intended for about 30 friends to come to the bash at his family home in a residential suburb of Poole, Dorset.

But news of the event was leaked onto Facebook and via Blackberry messenger and the gathering got spectacularly out of hand when hundreds of revellers arrived.

The unruly mob smashed a window, pulled the back door off its hinges, ripped down the lounge curtains, damaged the garden fence and wrecked a children’s outdoor playhouse.

The out-of-control party spilled onto the street and horrified neighbours reported seeing youths jumping on cars, hurling beer cans and tearing up and down the road on scooters. Read More

Britain's bail-out bill could hit £40bn as Osborne agrees to hand IMF another £10billion of our cash amid eurozone crisis

George Osborne is expected to plough another £10billion into the International Monetary Fund to help increase its resources, it emerged today.

The UK has already pledged £29.5bn to the Fund, £5.5bn of which has gone into the eurozone rescue scheme.

But it is thought the Chancellor will agree to add more money to help the IMF go from $400bn (£250bn) to around $1trillion.

The Government is able to commit the extra £10bn without a vote in Parliament but Mr Osborne said the UK will only dish out the extra cash if there were 'no new vehicles or funds specific to the eurozone'.

He also said there would be no deal unless all major non-eurozone countries signed up to give more.

All bar the U.S. after Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, said the U.S. would not pledge any more money until the eurozone added sufficient funds to its bail-out scheme.

It was a blow to IMF managing director Christine Lagarde who told The Telegraph last week that she was 'hopeful we will make progress' this week. Read More

Sobbing Woman Suffers Obama TSA Patdown

Wigan Youths abuse McDonalds staff

5.3 Magnitude Earthquake SULAWESI, INDONESIA - 16th Apr 2012

A magnitude 5.3 earthquake has struck Sulawesi, Indonesia at a depth of 40 km (24.8 miles), the quake hit at 18:01:19 UTC Monday 16th April 2012
The epicenter was 178 km (110.6 miles) Northwest of Kendari, Sulawesi, Indonesia
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.2 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTHWESTERN SIBERIA, RUSSIA - 16th Apr 2012

A magnitude 4.2 earthquake has struck Southwestern Siberia, Russia at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the quake hit at 17:04:24 UTC Monday 16th April 2012
The epicenter was 42 km (26 miles) East of Saryg-sep, Siberia, Russia
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Supergrass 'shoebomber' secretly freed from British jail after he agreed to testify against Al Qaeda terrorists in return for shorter sentence

A would-be shoe bomber has become the first terrorist in the UK to have his sentence cut after agreeing to testify against al Qaida suspects in a US terror trial.

Saajid Muhammad Badat had his 13 year sentence cut to 11 and was out of jail in March 2010 after the secret agreement with prosecutors, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

Badat was jailed in 2005 after he admitted plotting to explode a shoebomb on a transatlantic flight in December 2001 at the same time as fellow shoebomber Richard Reid, but changed his mind and decided not to go through with it.

Sue Hemming, head of the CPS special crime and counter terrorism division, said the agreement had not been entered into lightly.

It will see Badat give evidence in the US trial, which opens in Brooklyn today, of Adis Medunjanin over an al Qaida plot to bomb the New York subway. Read More

Cradle of Libya revolt seeks autonomy

(Reuters) - It is the cradle of Libya's revolution: the Benghazi square where protesters just over a year ago first demanded the fall of Muammar Gaddafi and waved the black, green and red flag that came to symbolize their rebellion.

Last month demonstrators were back at the same spot, now part of a Libya free of Gaddafi. This time they also waved another flag, with a white star and crescent etched on a black background - the flag of eastern Libya.

This flag has become the banner of a push for regional autonomy that has enraged Libya's new leadership and raised questions about whether the country, focus of huge optimism after it forced out Gaddafi, can hold together now he has gone.

Eastern Libya, with Benghazi as its main city, has historical reasons for being suspicious of central rule.

Under the Ottoman empire it was the province of Cyrenaica, separate from Tripolitania to the west where the Libyan capital now lies. Colonial Italy brought the provinces together, eventually reviving the classical name "Libya" in the 1930s. Read More

Brazilian prison riot: Inmates hold 131 hostages

Protest: Relatives and police officers speak to prisoners standing on a roof of the prison in Brazil where inmates armed with knives and rifles were holding 131 people hostage yesterday. Picture: AFP

INMATES armed with knives and three rifles were yesterday holding 131 people hostage.
The hostages were being detained in a prison in northeastern Brazil after an uprising over the weekend, police told the local press.

About 400 prisoners at the Advogado Jacinto Filho de Arcaju prison in Sergipe state mutinied on Sunday morning during visiting hours over complaints about mistreatment by guards.

Prisoners appeared on the roof of the prison as family members who massed outside the facility appealed to them to end the uprising, the G1 news website said.

All but three of the hostages were relatives of the prisoners, including many women and children, who were visiting when the uprising broke out. Three guards also were among the hostages, police said.

The prisoners have turned over a list of guards accused of being abusive, and were demanding better food. Read More

US Doctor Named As New World Bank Head

The World Bank has named US doctor Jim Yong Kim its next president.

The appointment came as Mr Kim's only rival, Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, lashed out at Washington's perennial lock on the job.

The US nominee faced a challenge for the first time ever.

But there was little doubt that the Bank's most powerful shareholders - the United States, Europe and Japan - would support the Korean-American for the powerful job doling out money to developing countries.

But ahead of the meeting of Bank directors, Ms Okonjo-Iweala, herself a veteran of the institution, blasted the way the United States has held a lock on the position since the Bank was launched. Read More

4.4 Magnitude Earthquake MOLUCCA SEA, INDONESIA - 16th Apr 2012

A magnitude 4.4 earthquake has struck the Molucca Sea, Indonesia at a depth of 38.6 km (24 miles), the quake hit at 16:55:11 UTC Monday 16th April 2012
The epicenter was 102 km (64 miles) West from Ternate, Moluccas, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake OFF THE WEST COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATRA - 16th Apr 2012

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck off the West Coast of Northern Sumatra, Indonesia at a depth of 14.5 km (9 miles), the quake hit at 16:05:54 UTC Monday 16th April 2012
The epicenter was 684 km (425 miles) SSW from Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTHERN GREECE - 16th Apr 2012

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck Southern Greece at a depth of 40.7 km (25.3 miles), the quake hit at 15:06:54 UTC Monday 16th April 2012
The epicenter was 52 km (32 miles) Southwest of Kalamata, Greece
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.3 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTH OF THE FIJI ISLANDS - 16th Apr 2012

A magnitude 4.3 earthquake has struck South of the Fiji Islands at a depth of 422.6 km (262.6 miles), the quake hit at 13:02:05 UTC Monday 16th April 2012
The epicenter was 451 km (280 miles) NNW of Raoul Island, Kermadec Island
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

250 feared trapped under debris in factory building collapse in Punjab, India

ALANDHAR: At least 250 people were feared trapped under the debris of a blanket factory building that collapsed late on Sunday night in Focal Point area near here, police said.

Efforts are underway to rescue the people trapped beneath the debris, they said.

According to eye-witnesses, the entire factory building collapsed after an explosion in the boiler and it is estimated that around 250 to 300 people were present inside the building at the time of the incident.

District Magistrate and senior police officials have rushed to the factory site to take stock of the situation. Source

4.2 Magnitude Earthquake OFF THE WEST COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATRA - 16th Apr 2012

A magnitude 4.2 earthquake has struck off the West Coast of Northern Sumatra, Indonesia at a depth of 14.4 km (8.9 miles), the quake hit at 12:57:44 UTC Monday 16th April 2012
The epicenter was 508 km (316 miles) Southwest from Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.0 Magnitude Earthquake WESTERN TURKEY - 16th Apr 2012

A magnitude 4.5 earthquake has struck Western Turkey at a depth of 5 km (3.1 miles), the quake hit at 12:19:02 UTC Monday 16th April 2012
The epicenter was 15 km (9.3 miles) Northwest from Saphane, Turkey
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Snow leopard shot dead by villagers in Kashmir‎

MIRPUR (AJK): A scared cat climbs up a tree, is spotted by an innocent child and consequently rescued by local heroes – an anecdote of human compassion often narrated in children’s books.

However, in the remote town of Rawalkot in Azad Kashmir, when a snow leopard, an endangered species, climbed up a tree in fear, the villagers shot it down.

Kashmir is home to two of the world’s big cats, the common leopard (Panthera pardus) and the snow leopard (Uncia uncia), a cat so secretive few have been privileged enough to get a glimpse of it in the wild.

A businessman of the area, Waseem Khursheed, is a witness to the killing. “A snow leopard climbed up a tree and remained there for eight hours in the town of Banjosa, some 18 kilometres from Rawalkot.”

Locals informed Deputy Commissioner Sohail Azam about the animal which had left its habitat and ventured near the settled areas. The deputy commissioner asked the villagers to scare the leopard through firecrackers, but finding the steps inadequate, they decided to kill it instead. Read More

Baby manatee found dead in Intracoastal Waterway in Daytona Beach

DAYTONA BEACH -- State wildlife officials responded after a dead baby manatee was found Friday afternoon floating in the Intracoastal Waterway in Daytona Beach.

The manatee was reported at Beach Street and Wilder Boulevard, said Joy Hill, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Deaths are often reported among newborn and very young manatees. Through April 6, 14 such deaths, which fall into a category known as perinatal, have been reported in Florida, including one in Volusia County, according to wildlife commission records. Last year, there were 13 perinatal manatee deaths reported in Volusia and none in Flagler.

Statewide, there were 77 perinatal deaths reported last year, the third largest category behind cold stress and undetermined causes. Source

Small eruptions are recorded on Cleveland Volcano, Alaska

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded two small eruptions of the Cleveland Volcano on Friday detected by changes in air pressure.

The agency says neither explosion produced an ash cloud that could be detected in satellite images.

Sudden explosions of blocks and ash are likely while the volcano remains active.

The agency says it's possible for associated ash clouds to exceed 20,000 feet above sea level. Source

Underground water in eastern Shasta County mysteriously disappears

Stephen Wolf thinks something strange is happening underground in eastern Shasta County and it is draining water wells and maybe even causing sinkholes and subsiding pavement.

A retired marine geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Wolf said he has seen what is happening in eastern Shasta County before. After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, water well levels in the area of the quake fell significantly, he said.

Following the 6.9 magnitude quake in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Wolf wrote a paper for the USGS about the effects the quake had on surface and groundwater.

"The correlation is there. The behavior is identical," said Wolf, who has lived in the tiny eastern Shasta County community of Cassel since 2001.

Back in October, 131 earthquakes hit the Lassen Peak area. Most were less than 2.0 in magnitude. But since then the water table has fallen significantly, Wolf said. Read More

Virgin aircraft in emergency landing at Gatwick Airport

Flights in and out of Gatwick Airport have been suspended after a plane was forced to make an emergency landing after smoke was reported in the cabin.

Virgin flight VS027 had left the West Sussex airport and was bound for Orlando in the US when it had to return to make the landing on Monday.

Passengers were being evacuated by emergency services, an airport spokeswoman said.

A Gatwick Airport spokeswoman said: "It has made a safe emergency landing."

She added: "The emergency services are on the scene and the aircraft is safe and passengers are being disembarked."

A statement from Virgin Atlantic confirmed the flight had returned to the airport and been evacuated. Read More

Kabul attacks show Nato intelligence failure says Hamid Karzai

Coordinated attacks by Taliban insurgents across Afghanistan showed an intelligence failure on the part of both Afghan and Nato forces, President Hamid Karzai declared.

“The terrorists’ infiltration in Kabul and other provinces is an intelligence failure for us and especially for Nato and should be seriously investigated,” Mr Karzai said in a statement.
The president however praised the “bravery and sacrifice of the security forces who quickly and timely reacted to contain the terrorists”.

“Afghan security forces proved to the people that they can defend their country successfully,” he said.

The attacks in Kabul and neighbouring provinces on Sunday and overnight killed 11 members of the security forces and four civilians and wounded 32 civilians and around 42 security personnel, Karzai said.

The siege ended when Afghan soldiers stormed a half-built tower block after heavy dawn fighting and killed six Taliban fighters, ending a brazen assault which heralded the start of their spring offensive. Read More

No simple answer to Europe's growth puzzle

(Reuters) - Fierce debate is growing in Europe over whether austerity or growth offers the best strategy to overcome the continent's sovereign debt crisis. As if it were that simple.

As the euro zone hovers on the brink of its second recession in three years, the battle launched in academic journals, blogs and the financial press has spread to the hustings in France, Greece and soon in EU economic powerhouse Germany too.

"Europe can't cut and grow," Sony Kapoor, head of the Re-Define think-tank, and Peter Bofinger, a member of the German Council of Economic Advisers, said in an article before European Union leaders adopted a budget discipline pact last month.

"The EU needs a growth compact, not a fiscal one. Swift action on tax and jobs is the way out of the crisis."

The growth camp argues that synchronized austerity across Europe will only aggravate economic contraction, swell the ranks of the unemployed and make it harder for debt-laden countries to reduce their deficits and restore market confidence. Read More

As shells fall, U.N. few say can save Syria truce

(Reuters) - A handful of soldiers in blue caps put a tentative United Nations presence on the ground in Syria on Monday, predicting success for their mission to stabilize a shaky four-day-old ceasefire even as shells continued to fall.

Charged with overseeing an end to 13 months of violence, the unarmed multinational squad of six professed their optimism.

"We are going to organize ourselves in order to be ready to do our task as soon as possible," the leader of the advance guard, Colonel Ahmed Himmiche of Morocco, told reporters at a Damascus hotel before meeting Syrian officials in the capital.

"All peacekeepers are optimistic," he added when asked if he was hopeful an observer mission that will be expanded to 250 could cement a truce that has been marked by persistent, sporadic violence.

Activists trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad said his army was still shelling targets in the battered city of Homs and rounding up opponents, despite its promise to U.N. peace envoy Kofi Annan to withdraw from cities.

Security forces in armored vehicles stormed the village of Khattab in Hama province and carried out raids, the activist Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported, and dozens of people were detained. Read More