Wednesday, June 20, 2012

U.S. to slap "terrorist" label on Nigerian militants

(Reuters) - The U.S. government is expected to formally apply a "foreign terrorist" label on Thursday to three alleged leading figures of the violent Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, officials said.

The action by the State and Treasury departments follows growing pressure on the Obama Administration to take stronger action against Boko Haram. The group, which says it wants to establish an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria, has stepped up attacks on Christian places of worship this year.

Thursday's anticipated action, officials said, involves applying the "terrorist" designation to three men presumed to be central figures in the group.

The three individuals, an official said, are Abubakar Shekau, aged around 43, described as a Boko Haram leader who allegedly aligned himself with al Qaeda in a video message; Abubakar Adam Kambar, aged roughly 35; and Khalid al Barnawi, aged approximately 36. All three are native Nigerians.

The expected action will freeze any assets they have in the United States, and bar U.S. persons from any transactions with them. Read More

Religious Violence Increases Despite Curfews in Nigeria

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — A curfew in a religiously volatile Nigerian state has failed to stop days of violence in which almost 100 people have died, an official said Wednesday. Residents of a besieged city in another state said a curfew imposed there had left them trapped in their homes.

The official, who works in rescue services, said more than 98 people had died since Sunday after three church bombings incited reprisal killings in the religiously volatile state, Kaduna, in northern Nigeria. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to journalists.

A radical sect known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for attacks on the churches in the cities of Zaria and Kaduna, setting off violence that eclipsed the original attacks. Read More

Merkel Balks at Sovereign Debt Purchases to Overcome Crisis

German Chancellor Angela Merkel balked at committing to direct sovereign debt purchases through the euro-area bailout fund, pushing back on calls by the bloc’s leaders who backed the measure as a way to ease the crisis.

Such a move, while legally possible, “is not up for debate” at present, Merkel said yesterday in Berlin. French President Francois Hollande championed the idea of using the European Stability Mechanism to purchase indebted countries’ bonds as a way to counter rising yields. Just returned from the Group of 20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, Merkel said: “I haven’t heard about such things.”

“There is no concrete planning that I know about, but there is the possibility of purchasing sovereign bonds on the secondary market,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin after meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “But this is a purely theoretical statement about the legal situation.”

Merkel’s non-committal stance on the measure opens a fresh conflict as euro finance ministers meet today and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti hosts a four-way summit in Rome tomorrow. Read More

US Urged to Confront Iran on Nuclear Work

WASHINGTON — With high-stakes negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program at an impasse, the Obama administration is under mounting pressure to rethink a diplomatic exercise that many argue is simply stringing along the rest of the world.

After two days of fruitless talks in Moscow, negotiators for the United States and other major powers did not even schedule another high-level meeting with Iran, committing only to a lower-level session in July to go over the technical details of a proposal to suspend the enrichment of uranium that Iran has already rejected in principle.

Dennis B. Ross, a former senior White House adviser on Iran, said he believed the negotiations had become a trap, allowing Iran to continue enriching nuclear fuel while the two sides fail to agree on even interim measures to slow the Iranian program. The major powers, he said, should scrap the step-by-step approach in favor of a comprehensive deal that would test Iran’s sincerity, but could also hasten a military confrontation. Read More

James Nolan: Body Believed To Be Missing Football Fan

A body found floating in a canal in Poland by police is believed to be that of Irish football fan James Nolan who was there for the European championships, officials have said.

They said his documents were discovered on the corpse and Mr Nolan's relatives are travelling to the country to make a formal identification.

The 21-year-old, of Blessington, County Wicklow, disappeared early on Sunday in the northern city of Bydgoszcz, sparking a huge search operation in the city.

Police divers found the corpse and authorities are awaiting the arrival of Nolan's father, Jimmy, and other family members.

Deputy chief prosecutor Wlodzimierz Marszalkowski said there were no obvious signs of violence.

Robbery did not appear to be the motive since 600 zlotys (£127) and a credit card were found on the body, he said.

The clothing on the body matched a description given by friends of what Mr Nolan was wearing when he went missing, Mr Marszalkowski added.

Mr Nolan was reported missing on Sunday afternoon when he failed to return to his hotel, after breaking off from a group of friends during a night out drinking and watching football.

Police later drafted in more than 100 officers and specialist divers to carry out the search. Read More

Egypt: Presidential Election Result Delayed

The official result of Egypt's presidential election - in which both candidates have claimed victory - has been delayed, adding to the tension over the vote.

The outcome was due to be announced on Thursday but election officials now say they need more time to consider a swathe of appeals which could influence the outcome.

Some 400 complaints over "irregularities" have been filed by the candidates and other organisations.

No new date has been set for the announcement and an election official indicated it would only happen when "all the representations had been heard".

The Muslim Brotherhood claims its candidate, Dr Mohamed Morsi, has secured almost 52% of the vote.

The Islamist movement's supporters began celebrating their "victory" just hours after the polls closed on Sunday night.

An independent group of Egyptian lawyers who were monitoring the election have conducted their own count of returns from polling stations and confirmed a win for Dr Morsi by more than 800,000 votes. Read More

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake PAKISTAN - 21st June 2012

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck PAKISTAN at a depth of 23.4 km (14.5 miles), the quake hit at 02:00:21 UTC Thursday 21st June 2012
The epicenter was 12 km (7.4 miles) ENE of Bela, Pakistan
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 21st June 2012

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN at a depth of 32.7 km (20.3 miles), the quake hit at 02:00:03 UTC Thursday 21st June 2012
The epicenter was 112 km (69 miles) East of Yamada, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 20th June 2012

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN at a depth of 35.1 km (21.8 miles), the quake hit at 23:56:32 UTC Wednesday 20th June 2012
The epicenter was 23 km (14 miles) Southeast of Iwaki, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

5.2 Magnitude Earthquake SOLOMON ISLANDS - 20th June 2012

A magnitude 5.2 earthquake has struck the SOLOMON ISLANDS at a depth of 14.2 km (8.8 miles), the quake hit at 23:20:56 UTC Wednesday 20th June 2012
The epicenter was 70 km (43 miles) SSE of Gizo, Solomon Islands
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

5.4 Magnitude MINAHASA, SULAWESI, INDONESIA - 20th June 2012

A magnitude 5.4 earthquake has struck MINAHASA, SULAWESI, INDONESIA at a depth of 134.8 km (83.8 miles), the quake hit at 21:55:52 UTC Wednesday 20th June 2012
The epicenter was 46 km (28 miles) SSE of Bilungala, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Air Force Completes Killer Micro-Drone Project

The Air Force Research Laboratory set out in 2008 to build the ultimate assassination robot: a tiny, armed drone for U.S. special forces to employ in terminating “high-value targets.” The military won’t say exactly what happened to this Project Anubis, named after a jackal-headed god of the dead in Egyptian mythology. But military budget documents note that Air Force engineers were successful in “develop[ing] a Micro-Air Vehicle (MAV) with innovative seeker/tracking sensor algorithms that can engage maneuvering high-value targets.”

We have seen in recent years increased strikes by larger Predator and Reaper drones using Hellfire missiles against terrorist-leadership targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But these have three significant drawbacks.

First, you can never be quite sure of what you hit. In 2002′s notorious “Tall Man incident,” CIA operatives unleashed a Hellfire at an individual near Zhawar Kili in Afghanistan’s Paktia province. His unusual height convinced the drone controllers that the man was Bin Laden (who stands 6 feet, 5 inches). In fact, he was merely an innocent (if overgrown) Afghan peasant. more

Chimp vs baby! Watch at your own peril!



Happy-drama-mask-Matt: "The meeting of the species show the magic of life's earliest bonds that unfortunately find themselves whittled away by time."

Sad-drama-mask-Matt: "Is this not a metaphor for the child's future? For one is a slave, while the other is groomed to be so."

Acxiom Corp: The 'faceless organization that knows everything about you'

When you think of the surveillance state, you usually think of snoopy alphabet-soup government agencies like the FBI, IRS, DEA, NSA, or TSA, or cyber-snoops at Facebook or Google, says Natasha Singer in The New York Times. But there's a company you've probably never heard of that "peers deeper into American life," and probably knows more about you than any of those groups: Little Rock–based Acxiom Corp. Jeffrey Chester at the Center for Digital Democracy has dubbed Acxiom "Big Brother in Arkansas," while Gizmodo's Jamie Condliffe calls it the "faceless organization that knows everything about you." Here's what you should know about the company:

What is Acxiom Corp., and what does it do?
The company fits into a category called database marketing. It started in 1969 as an outfit called Demographics Inc., using phone books and other notably low-tech tools, as well as one computer, to amass information on voters and consumers for direct marketing. Almost 40 years later, Acxiom has detailed entries for more than 190 million people and 126 million households in the U.S., and about 500 million active consumers worldwide. More than 23,000 servers in Conway, just north of Little Rock, collect and analyze more than 50 trillion data 'transactions' a year. "In essence, it's as if the ore of our data-driven lives were being mined, refined, and sold to the highest bidder, usually without our knowledge," says The Times' Singer.

What kind of data does it have?
"If you are an American adult," says Singer, "the odds are that it knows things like your age, race, sex, weight, height, marital status, education level, politics, buying habits, household health worries, vacation dreams — and on and on." It does more than collect that information, though. It uses it to pigeonhole people into one of 70 very specific socioeconomic clusters in an attempt to predict how they'll act, what they'll buy, and how companies can persuade them to buy their products. It gathers its data trove from public records, surveys you've filled out, your online behavior, and other disparate sources of information, then sells it to banks, retailers, and other buyers. more