Thursday, May 31, 2012

Republic of Ireland votes on EU fiscal pact – and polls indicate early lead for 'Yes' camp

If the opinion polls in the Republic of Ireland are correct, there will be a victory for the Yes campaign when the votes cast in yesterday’s referendum on the European fiscal treaty are counted today.

But a random sample of voters in the border town of Dundalk yesterday indicated that while Yes supporters may have the stronger vote, those in the No camp still hold strong emotions.

“We're not a country like Greece for going out to riot and all that kind of thing,” said Dundalk health worker Andrew Carroll. “But I'm voting No to give two fingers up to the government.” Read More

US slams on Russia on Syria stance

The US is heaping new pressure on Russia to change course and support international action in Syria, warning that intransigence by Moscow may lead to open civil war that could spill across the Middle East with devastating consequences.

Speaking in Denmark, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton slammed the Russian government for continuing to support Syrian president Bashar Assad, even after last week's massacre of more than 100 people in the town of Houla.

She said Russia's position "is going to help contribute to a civil war" and rejected Russian officials' insistence that their stance actually is helping to ease the crisis.
On the first stop of a European tour, Mrs Clinton said Russia and China would have to be on board before the US and other nations might engage in what could become a protracted conflict in support of a disorganised rebel force.

Russia, along with China, has twice vetoed UN Security Council sanctions against Syria. Russia is Syria's closest ally other than isolated Iran, and Mrs Clinton said that without its support the international community is essentially frozen from taking concrete steps to end the violence.

"The Russians keep telling us they want to do everything they can to avoid a civil war because they believe that the violence would be catastrophic," Mrs Clinton said, noting that they are "vociferous in their claim that they are providing a stabilising influence". Read More

4.1 Magnitude Earthquake FIJI REGION - 1st June 2012

A magnitude 4.1 earthquake has struck the Fiji Region at a depth of 463.8 km (288.2 miles), the quake hit at 02:51:46 UTC Friday 1st June 2012
The epicenter was 261 km (162 miles) ESE of Lambasa, Vanua Levu, Fiji
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.1 Magnitude Earthquake VANCOUVER ISLAND, CANADA REGION - 1st June 2012

A magnitude 4.1 earthquake has struck Vancouver Island, Canada Region at a depth of 20.1 km (12.5 miles), the quake hit at 01:49:49 UTC Friday 1st June 2012
The epicenter was 204 km (126 miles) SSW of Port Hardy, British Columbia, Canada
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

5.5 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE NORTH COAST OF PAPUA, INDONESIA - 31st May 2012

A magnitude 5.5 earthquake has struck near the North Coast of Papua, Indonesia at a depth of 31.5 km (19.6 miles), the quake hit at 23:01:01 UTC Thursday 31st May 2012
The epicenter was 101 km (62 miles) West of Manokwari, Papua, Indonesia
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

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America has raised the possibility of intervening in Syria without United Nations approval

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, bluntly criticised Russia's continued backing for President Bashar al-Assad's regime yesterday. This support was illustrated last night by the disclosure that a Russian cargo ship carrying weapons had docked in Syria last Saturday, one day after the massacre in Houla which claimed at least 108 civilian lives.

Addressing students in Denmark, Mrs Clinton urged Russia to use its influence on Mr Assad to curb the fighting.

"The Syrians are not going to listen to us. They will listen - maybe - to the Russians, so we have to keep pushing them," she said.

Russian officials, added Mrs Clinton, "are telling me they don't want to see a civil war. I have been telling them their policy is going help to contribute to a civil war." Western governments believe that diplomatic cover afforded by the Kremlin has emboldened Mr Assad and encouraged him to resist pressure to negotiate a settlement of the conflict.

Earlier, Susan Rice, the American ambassador to the UN, said that Russia's veto-wielding membership of the Security Council would not necessarily prevent international action. If the violence worsened and the peace plan proposed by Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general, made no progress, some countries would consider whether to bypass Russian and Chinese opposition in the UN. more

Greek conservatives warn of euro exit nightmare

(Reuters) - If Greece rejects the 130-billion-euro rescue package meant to dig it out of a debt crisis the country will be plunged into a nightmare that it cannot control, Greece's conservative leader Antonis Samaras said on Thursday.

Samaras, whose New Democracy party has regained a tentative lead in polls ahead of a June 17 parliamentary election that may determine the country's future in the single currency, has often criticized the terms of the international bailout that saved Greece from bankruptcy.

Promising to jump-start growth in the country's recession-mired economy and to not impose new taxes, he said his proposals would keep Greece in the euro while allowing it to have a more palatable austerity programme.

"Denouncing the bailout will lead to an exit from the euro and Greek living standards will drop by a third in very little time. It will be a real nightmare," Samaras told supporters, outlining his 18-point economic policy platform.

"Those who talk of denouncing the bailout are like little children playing with matches in a gunpowder warehouse and they are driving us towards an isolated Greece." Read More

Almost €100bn pulled out of Spain as investors beat a hasty retreat

Almost €100bn (£80.2bn) of cash was pulled out of Spain in the first three months of the year by private and corporate investors fleeing the advancing financial and political crisis.

The Bank of Spain said €66.2bn was withdrawn in March alone – the fastest rate since records began in 1990 – taking the total to €97bn for the first quarter.

Experts warned that the chaotic state-rescue of Bankia is likely to have speeded up the capital flight, compounding the already critical instability of the banks.

Foreign investors have also rapidly withdrawn their support for Spanish government funding. According to figures from Barclays Capital, foreigners accounted for just 30pc of the holders of Spanish sovereign debt in March, down from 40pc at the same time last year.

In a bid to plug the draining confidence, Spain on Friday launched a diplomatic offensive in the US and Germany in a bid to win support for its banks but still stave off a bail-out. Read More

Eurozone is 'unsustainable' warns Mario Draghi, head of the European Central Bank

The head of the European Central Bank hit out at the political paralysis gripping the region as he warned the eurozone's set-up was "unsustainable".

Mario Draghi said the central bank could not "fill the vacuum" left by member states' lack of action as it was claimed the zone is on the point of "disintegration".

Amid escalating talk of a potential bail-out for Spain, the president of the ECB said the central bank was powerless to stop the debt tornado. "It's not our duty, it's not in our mandate" to "fill the vacuum left by the lack of action by national governments on the fiscal front," he said.

Olli Rehn, the EU's top economic official, called for urgent action to "avoid a disintegration of the eurozone." The economic affairs commissioner said that politicians had made progress but it had been "uneven and seemingly inefficient."
Underling the fears gripping many investors, the FTSE closed down 7.5pc in May, suffering its worst month since February 2009 when the banking crisis was at its height. Read More

Farage: I owe no allegiance to the EU flag

Illinois Rep Mike Bost explodes over the tyrannical system of US government

Nigel Farage: We Went to WAR to have Democracy, Freedom and Freedom of Speech

Nigel Farage on the "EU Titanic" and the "Rebirth of National Socialism in Europe" May 9th 2012

EU Costing British Taxpayers £50 Million Per Day! 31/05/2012

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UN officials acknowledge armed gangs' role in Syria unrest

Indian anger over economic woes

'Ireland year away from Greek devastation unless austerity stopped'

Immortal Technique: US govt at war with people who say 'no'

Keiser Report: Unelected Officials

'Rebels behind Houla massacre, US plan to destabilize & save Syria in full swing'

Euro-crisis to deepen due to bad banking

Crisis forces Merkel to re-examine euro taboos

(Reuters) - How far is Germany prepared to go to save the euro zone?

With Greece's future in the single currency bloc in doubt, Spain scrambling to get a grip on its ailing banks and the euro itself in freefall, the question that has preoccupied crisis watchers for over two years is back in focus like never before.

As in previous "crunch" moments during the crisis, coming up with a clear picture of Berlin's intentions is difficult.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has looked increasingly isolated since the victory of Socialist Francois Hollande in France's presidential vote, is keeping her cards close to her chest in the run-up to a pivotal EU summit one month from now.

Much will depend on the outcome of Greece's June 17 election, where a victory for the radical-left could catapult the bloc into an even deeper abyss, forcing Merkel and her partners to decide whether they can cope with a Greek exit and the contagion that would bring. Read More

The Euro Is Already 'Kaput'

To the naked eye, the euro is still alive. From a financial perspective, on the other hand, it is already pretty much kaput.

In just the same way as the currency union was preceded by an invisible rise in financial integration across the euro area, its demise is already being prefigured by financial disintegration throughout the eurozone.

Up until relatively recently, the banks and investors responsible for the financial plumbing throughout Europe would tend to treat euros as euros. So, if you lent money to a Greek business it was entirely sensible to balance that out with a deposit from Germany or France. There really was a single market for finance – and this was one of the most important component parts of the monetary area.

What’s happening at present – silently but swiftly – is that banks have realised that some euros are more equal than others. A German euro is not a Greek euro, and so on. Not only have they started to carry out “war games” to work out how their balance sheet would be affected if, suddenly, all those Greek assets were redenominated in drachmas, and were thus worth only half their previous value, they are also taking action.

Banks from around the world are attempting to ensure that any assets they have in Greece are matched against liabilities in Greece. The same goes for all of the embattled periphery countries, and even for other euro members. Read More

Taliban vows to kill bin Laden doctor



Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- The Pakistani Taliban vowed on Thursday to kill Shakeel Afridi, the jailed Pakistani doctor accused of helping the CIA in the search for Osama bin Laden, a spokesman for the militant group told CNN.


"We will cut him into pieces when we find him," Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told CNN by phone. "He spied for the U.S. to hunt down our hero Osama bin Laden."
Pakistani officials say Afridi is being held in a prison in the city of Peshawar in northwest Pakistan.

Last week a court in Pakistan's tribal region sentenced Afridi to 33 years in prison but a copy of the court order obtained by CNN shows Afridi was sentenced for alleged connections to the militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, not for helping Americans in the search for bin Laden.

Even so, the Pakistani Taliban says Afridi is the number-one target on its hit list. Read More

U.S. draws up military options in Syria... Have they not spoken with Hillary today?



Washington (CNN) -- Diplomacy remains the favored option as the U.S. grapples with how best to deal with Syria, but the U.S. military has drawn up plans to use if diplomacy fails.

Officials issued fresh reminders of its military alternatives this week as world outrage mounted over last week's massacre that left more than 100 people dead in the town of Houla.

"As you know, my job is to provide the commander-in-chief with options," said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "I think the military option should be considered."

Actions under discussion include sending in troops to protect Syria's chemical and biological weapons and providing massive humanitarian assistance, according to a U.S. official and other officials in the region.

U.S., British, Jordanian and Israeli military officials have been discussing what to do if Syria falls apart, the sources say.

Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the United States has the resources for robust action against President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Read More

Syria: Regime not responsible for Houla massacre



(CNN) -- A Syrian government investigation determined that security forces had nothing to do with the Houla massacre and blamed the act on terrorists, officials said Thursday.

The massacre, which left more than 100 people dead last weekend, sparked outrage across the globe and prompted loud calls for action against the Bashar al-Assad regime.
But Syria attributed the latest violence to "armed terrorist groups," the vague entities that the regime has blamed all along for violence during the nearly 15 months of unrest.

"The goal of the armed operation was to completely terminate the presence of the state in the area and to make it one that is out of the control of the state," Qasim Jamal Sleiman, head of the investigative panel, said in remarks aired on television.

"All of the martyrs are from peaceful families who refused to stand against the state and have never demonstrated or carried weapons against the state. They were in disagreement with the armed terrorist groups, which confirms that there was a goal and an interest to kill them." Read More

Is Syria becoming the new Iraq?


(CNN) -- For four decades, consecutive generations of the Assad family -- Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father as Syrian president in 2000 -- have interfered in Lebanon to the west, and Iraq to the east. Syrian agents assassinated rivals and pumped in fighters.

Now, the irony is that with every passing week, Syria increasingly resembles its war-torn neighbors. The government is hemorrhaging cash, Damascus is scarred with suicide bombings, and sectarian enmities are worse than ever. Syria is a lot better off than Lebanon in 1975 or Iraq in 2007, but it might not stay that way.

What makes Syria particularly volatile is its complex sectarian and ethnic makeup. Sunni Muslims comprise three-quarters of Syria's 22 million people. Christians make up another tenth, and the Druze a few percent. But it's the Alawite sect of the Assad family -- a syncretic offshoot of Shia Islam -- that, despite being only 12 percent of the population, has dominated the state since the 1960s.

It's reported that 70% of Syria's full-time soldiers, 80% of officers, and the entirety of some elite units, are Alawite. The Shabiha (from the Arabic for "ghosts"), locally recruited Alawite militias, have also been crucial over the last year. Shabiha from neighboring villages -- allegedly with "Shia slogans" on the foreheads -- were likely responsible for last week's Houla massacre. Read More

Tourists stranded after landslides in Sikkim, India

GANGTOK: Landslides triggered by rains have snapped the road link between Gangtok and Tsomgo Lake, leaving about 4000 tourists stranded near 15 Mile, en route to Tsomgo Lake and Nathu la in Sikkim.

Officials said that visitors from all over the country on way to the lake and Nathu La have been put up in shelters provided by the Army at their bases beyond 15 Mile.

The tourists were stuck after boulders fell on the main Jawaharlal Nehru Road, the link between Gangtok and Tsomgo Lake, yesterday.

Lukendra Rasaily, president, Travel Agents Association of Sikkim (TAAS) said the boulders started falling on the road after 2 pm yesterday and at around 4 pm it got totally blocked after another landslide struck above 15 Mile. Read More

Clinton argues against Syria military intervention

(Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday laid out arguments against armed intervention in Syria despite last week's massacre in the town of Houla.

Speaking to Danish students, Clinton got tough questions on what might motivate the United States and other nations to take military action in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad is battling a 14-month-old anti-government uprising.

Friday's massacre of more than 100 civilians, many of them children, in Houla has triggered calls for the West to take more robust action in Syria, despite Russian and Chinese opposition.

However, Clinton rehearsed U.S. arguments against armed intervention for now in contrast with Libya, where Western-led air strikes last year helped end Muammar Gaddafi's rule.

Clinton said Syria had a more diverse society with greater ethnic divisions, no unified opposition, stronger air defences and a much more capable military than Libya's. Read More