Monday, May 14, 2012

Chen Guangcheng fears for nephew accused of murder

The Chinese activist whose six-day stay at the US embassy in Beijing sparked a diplomatic crisis last month has voiced concern about the fate of his nephew, who has been arrested on charges of attempted homicide.

Speaking to The Independent, Chen Guangcheng, the blind, barefoot lawyer whose escape from 19 months of extra-legal house arrest in Shandong province hit the headlines after he sought refuge in the American embassy, said his relative was being made a scapegoat in an act of revenge by authorities in his hometown.

Talks between US and Chinese officials eventually led to Mr Chen's exit from the embassy. Speaking on his mobile phone from the hospital in Beijing where he is recovering from a foot injury sustained during his escape, Mr Chen said he was very concerned for his nephew, Chen Kegui. "Shandong is mad right now, they are desperate and capable of anything, and this was revenge." Read More

Wang Lijun, Chen Guangcheng and Western Amnesia

Guards stood watch last week outside Chaoyang Hospital in Beijing, where the activist Chen Guangcheng was being treated.

The West expends a lot of energy and time pointing fingers at China and feeling generally morally superior. It happened again in recent weeks, after two well-known Chinese figures — a gun-slinging cop and a blind dissident who’d daringly escaped house arrest — fled to the sanctuary of American diplomatic outposts, figuratively and legally, the sacred soil of the home of the free.

But Western nations would do well to remember that when they were in the midst of their great industrial leaps forward, they were no beacons of freedom or democracy.

Anand Giridharadas makes this argument in his latest Page Two column.

Much of America’s own nation-building was done with little regard for rights and without having to secure a majority’s consent.

After all, nearly 150 years passed between the writing of “all men are created equal” and the extension of the vote to women and 40 further years before African-Americans gained suffrage in earnest. Read More

Greece 'Considered' Leaving Euro

Greece has "seriously considered" leaving the euro, an adviser to the country's former prime minister has told Sky News.

Richard Parker, who advised George Papandreou, the nation's leader until late last year, said the government investigated the prospect of exiting the single currency in some depth even in the early stages of the crisis.

Until now, the country has steadfastly denied that it ever contemplated leaving the euro.

However, Prof Parker, who teaches economics at Harvard University but spent much of 2010 and 2011 in Athens advising on economics policy, said the government ruled out the option on economic grounds. Read More


Stephen Ivens Missing FBI Agent thought to be 'Armed And Suicidal'

A manhunt in the foothills of Los Angeles for a missing FBI agent who is thought to be armed and suicidal has entered a fourth day.

The family of Stephen Ivens, a 35-year-old special agent in national security, reported him missing on Friday morning.

He was last seen the previous evening at his home in Burbank, southern California, where he lives with his wife and one-year-old son.

Local police, FBI agents and trained dogs spent the weekend searching the Verdugo Mountains in Los Angeles County, where Agent Ivens is thought to have headed on foot.

Investigators said his handgun was missing from his home - implying he has it with him - and described him as "despondent".

They said they had found no evidence of a crime related to the disappearance of Agent Ivens, who was described as a keen hiker and runner. Read More

Earth Is A Planet In Crisis As Wildlife Numbers Plummet

Earth is a planet in crisis with wildlife populations declining by more than 30% in the past four decades, conservationists claim.

A new report examined how more than 9,000 populations of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians and fish are faring.

It comes in the face of record over-consumption of natural resources with serious implications for human health, wealth and well-being.

Freshwater creatures in the tropics have seen the worst declines, of around 70%, while tropical species as a whole have seen populations tumble by 60% since 1970.

In Asia, tiger numbers have fallen 70% in just 30 years.

Wildlife is under pressure from ever-growing human demand for resources, the study by WWF, the latest Living Planet report from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global Footprint Network said.

And research into demand for water revealed 2.7 billion people live in areas that suffer severe water shortages for at least one month of the year. Read More

Large city hospitals 'breed and spread' MRSA

Hospitals in large cities are the breeding grounds of the superbug MRSA which then spreads to other hospitals as patients are transferred, researchers believe.

The Edinburgh University team made the discovery by tracking MRSA's movements using its genetic code as a tag.

In the study, the infection started its journey in large city centre hospitals - in London and Glasgow - and then spread to smaller local hospitals.

The work appears in the journal PNAS.

The researchers say this knowledge could help in finding ways to prevent the spread of drug-resistant infections.

For example, patients could be screened and treated for MRSA before transfer from one hospital to another. Currently, this is not a universal policy. Read More

23 Syrian Soldiers Reported Killed by Rebels

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Nearly two dozen Syrian government soldiers were killed in intense clashes with the opposition over control of the central, rebel-held city of Rastan, opposition groups said Monday, deepening questions about the viability of a cease-fire engineered under United Nations auspices.

The sectarian tensions that erupted in Syria also spilled over the border into Lebanon, setting off a third day of gun battles between Sunni Muslims and Alawites in the northern city of Tripoli, according to witnesses and local press reports.

“Where are the monitors?” was the anguished cry of a Syrian man shown on an amateur video from Rastan as one bloody victim of government shellfire after another was rushed into a makeshift clinic.

The United Nations has 189 of an eventual 300 unarmed cease-fire monitors in Syria, as well as about 60 human rights workers. In an attempt to unify the opposition for peace talks, Kofi Annan, the special envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League, was due to preside over a meeting of its leaders in Cairo starting Wednesday. Read More

Greece Weighs forming a Technocratic government

ATHENS—Greek party leaders will get yet another chance to try to break a weeklong political impasse and avert fresh elections, this time to explore the possibility of forming a technocratic government after efforts failed to form a political coalition.

Greek President Karolos Papoulias floated a proposal late Monday to bring the country's squabbling parties together early the next day to form a government of technocrats tasked with ensuring that the cash-strapped country won't be cut off from the international aid it needs to stay afloat and will remain in the euro zone.

But his proposal for an Italian-style technocrat government—made during a meeting with the leaders of the conservative New Democracy, Socialist Pasok and Democratic Left parties—drew mixed reactions and only weak endorsement across the political spectrum, casting doubts that a solution to Greece's political crisis was near.

Such sentiments were already rattling markets throughout the day Monday, as European stocks fell and the euro hit its lowest level against the U.S. dollar since January. Read More

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake MINAHASA, SULAWESI, INDONESIA - 15th May 2012

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck Minahasa, Sulawesi, Indonesia at a depth of 25.3 km (15.7 miles), the quake hit at 01:05:46 UTC Tuesday 15th May 2012
The epicenter was 221 km (137 miles) ENE of Palu, Sulawesi, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake NORTH INDIAN OCEAN - 15th May 2012

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck the North Indian Ocean at a depth of 15 km (9.3 miles), the quake hit at 00:25:41 UTC Tuesday 15th May 2012
The epicenter was 726 km (451 miles) Southwest of Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 15th May 2012

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck off the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 42.6 km (26.5 miles), the quake hit at 00:09:06 UTC Tuesday 15th May 2012
The epicenter was 74 km (45 miles) East of Morioka, Honshu, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

COMING CRISIS ALERT: Greece faces Euro ejection; may be pushed to "the brink of civil war" -- May 14, 2012

UPDATE: May 22, 2012

While much of the news surrounding Europe's economic decline has vanished from the headlines, the situation remains important. Corporations have joined banks in their preparation for a Greek Euro withdrawal. The EU itself has suggested the possibility of allowing Greece to remain inside the Euro club despite defaulting, although Greek politicians abhor such a scenario and the many strings that would likely be attached to it. Right now, the entire debacle appears at a standstill, and so we are lifting the alert for the time being until new information arrives, which could be at any moment, so stay tuned.

UPDATE: May 17, 2012

Banks across the world have begun preparing for the almost inevitable return of the Drachma. A coup is now feared in Greece due to the instability arising from a "messy" Eurozone ejection. Instability is also spreading to other countries, and limited bank runs have begun taking place in Spain. Will the Euro survive? Stay tuned.

UPDATE: May 15, 2012

The situation has gone from bad to worse. Bank runs are taking place across Greece as citizens hoard Euros to hedge against a perceived inevitable return to the Drachma. Current parties are unable to form a government, and a fresh election in the near future will likely produce results even more fractured than what already exists, pushing Greece into ungovernable, and unprecedented territory. Germany continues to make demands that Greece stay the course, which has prompted a surge in Greek nationalism. We will continue to keep an eye on the situation.

Angela Merkel has warned Greece that unless it agrees to EU terms, which at present is an impossibility due to the disunity among Greek political parties regarding forming a new government, it will be ejected from the Euro. 

Already weak from economic collapse, a Greek ejection from the Euro would be the country's financial death blow and send finances spiraling. An outgoing minister has just spoken publicly that the chaos will be so overwhelming that a civil war could easily erupt at any time. Greece's next major debt repayment chunk is due Tuesday, May 15th. What will happen when it cannot pay?

The ramifications of all this are startling. Several other nations, including Portugal, Spain and Italy are also sliding towards the precipice, and a domino effect of Euro ejections may soon follow, which may inevitably lead to the collapse of the European Union itself.

It is important to keep in mind that the EU is more a financial union than a political one; most of its political ambitions have failed or attempted to bend democracy unsuccessfully. Without a central binding agent between the nations of the union, that is, a strong, stable Euro currency, the reason d'etre for the Union itself is rendered void. In addition, history has shown that a major, binding currency has never faced collapse without an armed conflict erupting between a portion of, or all of its former users. Something to keep in mind.

Will Greece's forced exit from the Euro take place, and will it cause a collapse of the Euro, or even the Union? Is this a major event or simply a financial bump in the road that's overblown? What will become of the world should this event(s) take place? Things are hazy at present. If we were to put things on a percentile scale of events heading in the direction of people's worst fears, we'd say there is at least a 60% chance of this happening based on our analysis. In truth, things are worse globally than they have ever been in the financial realm.

EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Consider an immediate sale of all Euro-based assets due to an inevitable drop. Consult with your financial planner for the best advice.

2. If you are in Greece, it would be wise to have an exit plan should social disorder erupt. If you are unable to leave Greece, stay close to a radio, TV and the Coming Crisis for more information as the situation develops. Stay clear of protests, and be on the lookout for armed gangs. Preemptive exits are always safer than panicked ones.


Dozens killed in south Yemen offensive

Hollande threatens to rip Europe austerity deal-The Real Deal-05-13-2012

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'US conspires to destabilize Middle East in favor of Israel'

US sees Yemen as war laboratory: Mark Glenn

Syrian troops 'killed' in Rastan clashes

Bangladesh textile workers struggle to survive

Radical Islam terror cells fuel deadly Syria conflict fire

NATO killings whitewashed: Civilian bombing raid victims ignored

Porpoise deaths raise alarms about health of Puget Sound

WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. - Three dead porpoises have washed ashore on Whidbey Island in a matter of days, and now some experts are wondering if the animals were ill - or the cause of their deaths is something worse.

One of the porpoises was found a few yards away from the iconic Admiralty Lighthouse on Whidbey Island, and Susan Berta is hoping to find answers that will shed light on the mystery.

"What we find in our marine mammals tells us about the health of the ocean," says Berta, who is with the Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

The dead harbor porpoise found near the lighthouse is the third one she has investigated this week.

Just as concerning is what happened north of here, along the San Juan Islands. In early May, over a seven-day stretch, eight porpoises were found dead along the shoreline.

Berta says it's too late to perform a necropsy that could possibly reveal what happened.

"Unfortunately, when they're this far gone, the organs aren't any good," she explains. Read More

Despite Germany, euro zone sinks towards recession

(Reuters) - Strong production in Germany could not make up for a slump across the rest of the euro zone in March with declining output at factories falling and signaling an oncoming recession may not be as mild as policymakers hope.

Industrial production in the 17 countries sharing the euro fell 0.3 percent in March from February, the EU's statistics office Eurostat said on Monday.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 0.4 percent increase overall.

The figures stood in contrast with German data showing output in the euro zone's largest economy up 1.3 percent for the month, according to Eurostat, 2.8 percent when energy and construction are included.

"With the debt crisis, rising unemployment and inflation above 2 percent, household demand is weak and globally economic conditions are sluggish, so that is making people very reluctant to spend and invest," said Joost Beaumont, a senior economist at ABN Amro in Amsterdam. Read More

European leaders and financial markets braced for Greece exit from euro

Return to drachma nears amid political impasse in Athens and open discussion in Brussels of possible end of single currency.

Financial markets are hastily making preparations for a Greek exit from the euro after a day of political and economic turmoil ended with Europe's policy elite admitting for the first time that it may prove impossible to keep the single currency intact.

With attempts in Athens to form a government after last week's election looking increasingly doomed, European leaders abandoned their taboo on talking about the possibility that Greece might have to leave the euro.

Shares, oil, and the euro were all sold heavily on Monday in anticipation that anti-austerity parties would garner increased support in a second Greek election likely to be held next month, bringing the row between Greece and its European creditors to a climax.

Amid claims in the markets that politicians in Athens were playing a dangerous game of bluff, a potential schism in the monetary union saw borrowing costs for Spain and Italy rise over fears that contagion could spread from Greece through southern Europe. The City's FTSE 100 Index lost almost 2% of its value, dropping more than 100 points, and there were big falls in share prices in Paris, Frankfurt, Madrid and Athens. Read More

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake MOLUCCA SEA - 14th May 2012

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck the Molucca Sea at a depth of 5 km (3.1 miles), the quake hit at 19:28:43 UTC Monday 14th May 2012
The epicenter was 117 km (72.5 miles) Northwest of Ternate, Moluccas, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Russia's Intrusion into the Americas is a Wake-Up call for the United States

Russian – Latin American relations are relatively warm these days, especially when it comes to a number of seemingly left-leaning countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. Nonetheless, Washington’s indifference to these countries may have pushed these governments further into Moscow’s diplomatic embrace.

The United States appears to have calculatedly severed any sort of close relations with these left-leaning nations, and has been prone to criticize them with the same degree of careless indifference as it has of Russia itself.

In addition, these resident dynamics have provided the region with a growing autonomy; as Argentinean president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner aptly stated, “the world has changed, Latin America is nobody’s backyard.” This represents a full shift from Cold War politics, when the U.S. supported authoritarian regimes throughout the region in order to act as a firewall to contain Soviet influence within the hemisphere. In fact, much of the ever-growing presence of Russia in Latin America is due to Moscow’s aspirations to return to global preeminence, coinciding with Washington’s increasingly unsympathetic view toward a number of these left-leaning Latin American countries. Read More

State Dept Whining for More Money for Their Arab Spring Trouble-making

“On the one hand, we could disengage, and wait, and see what happens. On the other hand, we could engage pro-actively and seek to shape outcomes that are more favorable to our interests.”

[To pretend that we are serving democracy and furthering human rights, while all we are really doing is taking control of events and shaping them to US advantage is hypocritical and completely immoral. If we were really interested in the people's rights and not in our self-declared right to intervene in the affairs of foreign states, then we would be seeking to protect those interests and not to further our own. Diplomats have an uncanny knack for making the most foul-smelling lies appear to be as savory as sugar.]

American influence in the Middle East will dwindle to Iran’s benefit if the United States responds to the Arab Spring upheaval by pulling government aid, the Obama administration’s top diplomat for the region told Congress Wednesday.

Instead, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman testified that lawmakers should approve the administration’s request to create a $770 million incentive fund to support democratic and free-market reforms in the region. The fund would address the root causes of the upheaval, Feltman said, while “lack of these reforms will continue to undermine our interests across the board.” Read More

Top scientists urge governments to solve environmental 'dilemmas'

Demand for water and energy, natural disasters and measuring carbon dioxide must be prioritised, leading institutions say

The world's leading scientific institutions have urged governments to focus on three "global dilemmas": growing demands for water and energy, natural disasters and measuring carbon dioxide.

In a series of statements, the scientists recommended that governments should "engage the international research community in developing systematic, innovative solutions" to these pressing problems.

The heads of the national science academies of 15 countries, including the UK, the US, China, Germany, Russia and India, signed the statements, which are timed to be considered by governments at the forthcoming G8 meeting of the world's biggest industrialised economies, in the US.

They recommended that governments should prioritise the three areas they had identified, and work with scientists in order to develop ways of solving the problems. Read More

More EU Bank Bailouts Are Inevitable

Spain rescued real estate lender Bankia, and more such bailouts will likely follow, says Christopher Whalen, Senior Managing Director of Tangent Capital Partners in New York.

Spanish newspaper El País reports Bankia and its parent, Banco Financiero y de Ahorros (BFA), which holds most of the troubled loans, need the euro equivalent of $13 billion in government cash injections to clean up distressed assets from the property sector.

Like the U.S., Spain got caught up in the real estate boom, but the Spanish banking system and broader economy suffered much more than that of the U.S., home to a much larger and much more diverse economy.

"Spain is an agricultural country. They don't really have the resources to support the debt that they have. I think you will have to see debt reduction, you'll have to see restructuring. Spanish banks are the worst in the whole E.U.," Whalen tells Newsmax TV. Read More

Oil Wars on the Horizon

There has been much discussion recently about the Obama administration’s “pivot” from the Greater Middle East to Asia: the 250 Marines sent to Darwin, Australia, the littoral combat ships for Singapore, the support for Burmese “democracy,” war games in the Philippines (and a drone strike there as well), and so on. The U.S. is definitely going offshore in Asian waters, or put another way, after a decade-long hiatus-cum-debacle on the Eurasian continent, the Great Game v. China is back on.

While true, however, the importance of this policy change has been exaggerated. At the moment, as it happens, the greatest game isn’t in Asia at all; it’s in the Persian Gulf where, off the coast of Iran and in bases around the region, the U.S. is engaged in a staggering build-up of naval and air power. Most people would have little idea that this was even going on, since it rarely makes its way into the mainstream and even less often onto front pages or into the headlines. The Washington Times, for instance, has been alone in reporting that, for the U.S. military, “war planning for Iran is now the most pressing scenario.” It adds that the “U.S. Central Command believes it can destroy or significantly degrade Iran’s conventional armed forces in about three weeks using air and sea strikes.”

Most of the time, however, you have to be a genuine news jockey or read specialist sites to notice the scale of what’s going on, even though the build-up in the Gulf is little short of monumental and evidently not close to finished. Read More