Thursday, June 21, 2012

Afghan police free 18 civilians, hotel siege continues

(Reuters) - Afghan security forces have freed 18 civilians and killed two militants after a Taliban attack on a popular lakeside hotel on the outskirts of the capital Kabul, but a siege was still ongoing and more hostages may be held, the city police chief said on Friday.

"Two terrorists have been killed and we have cleared the second floor of the hotel. We are now clearing the area of the remaining insurgents," Kabul Police Chief Ayoub Salangi told Reuters.

"Our officers have not gone yet to the lake side (of the hotel) and we don't know if there are more terrorists," he said. Source

Twitter suffers sustained outage amid hacker attack

(Reuters) - Two service outages within the course of several hours rocked microblogging platform Twitter on Thursday, as users worldwide reported significant down-time and slow service across both Twitter's website and mobile applications.

Amid speculation that Twitter had been crippled by a hacker attack, the San Francisco-based company blamed the outage - one of its most severe episodes in recent months - on a "cascading bug" in one of its infrastructure components.

"One of the characteristics of such a bug is that it can have a significant impact on all users, worldwide, which was the case today," Mazen Rawashdeh, a Twitter vice president of engineering, wrote in a blog post on Thursday afternoon, after normal service resumed.

"We are currently conducting a comprehensive review to ensure that we can avoid this chain of events in the future," he added.

Twitter's statements came after UgNazi - an emerging hacker outfit that recently gained publicity for breaking into Cloudflare chief executive Matthew Prince's personal Google email account - claimed credit for the service disruption in an email to Reuters, saying it launched a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack against Twitter because of the company's support for the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. Read More

Morgan Stanley down two notches

(Reuters) - Ratings agency Moody's downgraded 15 of the world's biggest banks on Thursday, lowering credit ratings by one to three notches to reflect the risk of losses they face from volatile capital markets activities, but banks criticized the move as backward looking.

Morgan Stanley, one of the most closely watched firms in the much anticipated review, had its long-term debt rating lowered by just two notches, one level less than had been expected, sending its stock up sharply in after-hours trading.

The downgrade left Morgan Stanley more highly rated than Bank of America Corp and Citigroup, but a step below Goldman Sachs Group.

Credit Suisse, which last week was warned about weak capital levels by Switzerland's central bank, was the only bank in the group to suffer a three-notch downgrade. But its new A1 deposit and senior debt ratings still rank higher than many of its peers.

"All of the banks affected by today's actions have significant exposure to the volatility and risk of outsized losses inherent to capital markets activities," Moody's Global Banking Managing Director Greg Bauer said in the announcement. Read More

Wall Street suffers worst loss in three weeks

(Reuters) - Stocks posted the worst day in three weeks on Thursday on mounting evidence that slowing manufacturing growth worldwide threatened corporate profits.

Shares of energy and materials companies led declines as commodity prices fell. U.S. crude futures slipped below $80 a barrel for the first time since October and the S&P energy sector index lost 4 percent. Investors said weak overseas demand was responsible for the decline in those industries.

Stocks' slide was accelerated by a bearish call from Goldman Sachs, which recommended clients build short positions in the broad S&P 500 index on expectations of more economic weakness.

"We are recommending a short position in the S&P 500 index with a target of 1,285," (roughly 5 percent below current levels), Goldman Sachs said in a note.

The investment bank cited the Philly Fed's mid-Atlantic factory index, which fell to minus 16.6 in June, an unexpected contraction in the region's factory activity. Read More

Spanish Aid Plan Is Flawed, Says IMF

MADRID—Spain said its crisis-hit banks will need as much as €62 billion ($78.75 billion) in new capital to absorb losses from a real-estate meltdown, as the International Monetary Fund warned that the euro-zone plan to aid the country may not work.

Spanish lenders have been pummeled by a dive in property prices that hasn't yet bottomed out, as loans to households are going bad amid record-high unemployment. The cost of bailing out the banks will drive up Spain's debt load and threatens to freeze the country out of international markets, which could send shock waves across the euro zone.

The currency bloc has promised Spain as much as €100 billion in aid, but because it will ultimately add to the government's debt load, investors have been dumping the country's bonds, driving up its funding costs.

The IMF, which is a contributor to the European rescue programs and is providing technical assistance for the Spanish bank support, on Thursday came out sharply against the euro zone's insistence that any aid be channeled through the government. Read More

Lianne Smith Guilty and Facing up to 34 Years in Jail

Lianne Smith faces up to 34 years in a Spanish prison after she was last night found guilty of murdering her two children.

The British mother stared blankly at the floor as the unanimous verdict rang out at Girona Provincial Court, in north-east Spain.

The 45-year-old is now on suicide watch after previously trying to kill herself.

After eight hours’ deliberation, the jury foreman announced the panel of seven men and two women had believed Smith was ‘fully conscious’ and knew what she was doing when she smothered Rebecca, five, and 11-month-old Daniel in their beds in a Costa Brava hotel.

They flatly rejected Smith’s defence claim that she was insane, pronouncing her guilty on both counts of murder.

It means she faces spending the next three decades in a standard Spanish prison cell, as the jury rejected an alternative verdict which would have allowed her to serve her sentence in a psychiatric wing.

Jurors agreed Smith, from Lichfield, Staffordshire, did suffer from an unspecified psychosis and from depression – but ruled she was not criminally insane. Read More

Search for missing in Christmas Island sinking

Rescuers are continuing to search for dozens of people believed to be missing after a boat sank north of Christmas Island.

Ships have so far picked 110 survivors from the sea, but officials believe about 200 people were on the boat. Three bodies have been recovered.

The ship, believed to be carrying asylum-seekers, capsized on Thursday.

Australian patrol vessels, merchant ships and aircraft have been helping with the rescue.

Christmas Island lies off Australia's north-west coast. It is closer to Indonesia than Australia, and is targeted by asylum-seekers hoping to get to Australia, often on boats that are over-loaded and poorly maintained.

'Critical window'
Officials said the boat issued an emergency call and was later found to be in distress by an Australian surveillance plane.

"We're still in that critical window where more lives could be saved," Australia's Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said. Read More

Homes Searched in Indonesian Crash That Killed 11

Rescuers Friday resumed searching burned-out houses struck by an Indonesian air force plane that crashed into the military housing complex and ignited a huge fireball in the capital, killing 11 people.

The dead were two children, their grandmother and an aunt in one of the eight damaged homes, and the seven people on the plane — the pilot, co-pilot and five trainees.

The Fokker F-27 was making a routine training flight when it crashed in a neighborhood in eastern Jakarta about 1.5 kilometers (nearly a mile) from the runway where it was trying to land, the military said.

Raging orange flames jumped several meters into the air and a huge column of black smoke billowed over the homes. Eleven people were injured. Read More

Explosives Found Near Sweden Nuclear Plant SECURITY ALERT RAISED, BUT OFFICIALS SAY NO REAL DANGER

Sweden has raised the security level at its nuclear power plants after explosives were found on a truck at the south-western Ringhals atomic power station.

The government forensic agency said the "explosive materials", which had no igniting device, were found during a routine check at an industrial site near the power plant yesterday.

Police spokesman Tommy Nyman said today that they were investigating possible sabotage but had no suspects.

Sweden has 10 nuclear reactors providing about half of the country's electricity. There are four reactors at Ringhals, which is controlled by energy companies Vattenfall and E.ON. Source

Taliban Attack Lakeside Resort Hotel Near Kabul, Taking Families Hostage

KARGA LAKE, Afghanistan — As families ate a late dinner at a popular lakeside resort hotel here on a warm summer night, at least three Taliban shot their way into the compound, entered the dining room and took an unknown number of hostages, Afghan officials said early Friday.

At dawn there was still gunfire, and Afghan police officers were fighting with the attackers but trying to stage a counterattack so as not to harm the families held hostage, said Gen. Mohammed Zahir, head of the Kabul Criminal Investigation Division.

“The Spozhmai Hotel is not a military facility, it’s a civilian hotel,” General Zahir said. “We still do not know why the Taliban targeted the Spozhmai Hotel.”

Haji Abdul Qadir, the district governor of Paghman, the district of Kabul Province where the resort is, said that the police told him that at least one guard had been killed and another had been wounded, but that there were likely to be other casualties. Read More

Syrian Pilot Granted Asylum in Jordan

Syria’s government was jolted Thursday by the first defection from its elite air force in the 16-month-old uprising, when a colonel commandeered a Soviet-era MIG warplane and flew to neighboring Jordan, where he sought and received political asylum.

The pilot was identified as Col. Hassan al-Mirei Hamadeh, and his defection raised questions about whether fealty to President Bashar al-Assad was fraying in the air force, the military branch regarded as closest to the Assad family, which has controlled Syria for four decades. Mr. Assad’s father, Hafez, was an air force officer.

It appeared to be a propaganda victory for the Syrian rebel movement. Colonel Hamadeh, like most Syrian pilots, belongs to the Sunni Muslim majority, which forms the backbone of resistance to Mr. Assad and his governing Alawite sect. Nearly all commanding officers in the air force are Alawites, and the defection generated speculation that Sunni pilots would face new restrictions on any flying missions. Read More

Julian Assange 'abandoned by Australia'

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange says he has sought refuge in the Ecuador's London embassy because his native Australia abandoned him.

Mr Assange is seeking diplomatic asylum to prevent him being sent to Sweden to answer accusations of rape and assault, which he denies.

In his first interview since entering the embassy, Mr Assange admitted there was no guarantee his bid would succeed.

Ecuador's president said the country was examining the case for asylum.

Mr Assange fears if he is sent to Sweden it could lead to him being sent to the United States to face charges over Wikileaks and that he could face the death penalty.

His Wikileaks website published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments and international businesses. Read More

Euro's big four seek way out of crisis in Rome

ROME, June 22 (Reuters) - The leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Spain will try to find common ground in Rome on Friday to restore confidence in the euro zone ahead of a full EU summit next week, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel likely to be outnumbered.

Dangerously high borrowing costs for Spain and Italy have eased a little on market hopes for policy initiatives at the Brussels summit on June 28/29. If it falls short, both countries may be pushed closer to eventually needing sovereign bailouts.

Friday's meeting will search for ways to achieve fiscal and banking union in the euro zone and, more urgently, it may also be the occasion for Spain to formally request assistance of up to 100 billion euros for its struggling banks.

An audit released on Thursday found Spanish banks would need up to 62 billion euros in extra capital to weather adverse circumstances.

Merkel is expected to resist any pressure from Monti, French President Francois Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy for less stringent euro zone fiscal policies or the issuance of common euro zone bonds. Read More

George Zimmerman Re-Enacts Fight



The man who shot dead an unarmed black teenager has re-enacted their fight, claiming the 17-year-old said "you're going to die" and reached for his gun.

In a police video, neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman gave his most detailed account yet of what led him to open fire on Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.

The recording, made a day after the February 26 shooting, was released by the defendant's lawyers about a week before his second bail hearing. Read More

UK Banks Slapped With Credit Downgrades



Home owners and businesses face the prospect of higher interest rates after Britain's biggest banks had their status downgraded.

The credit ratings agency Moody's has slashed its assessments of 15 major world banks - among them RBS, Barclays and Lloyds in the UK and JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup in the US.

The downward move, which the agency announced it was considering in February, reflects fears that the banks' growth and profit prospects are declining. Read More

5.7 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTH OF THE KERMADEC ISLANDS, NEW ZEALAND - 22nd June 2012

A magnitude 5.7 earthquake has struck SOUTH OF THE KERMADEC ISLANDS, NEW ZEALAND at a depth of 23.6 km (14.7 miles), the quake hit at 02:20:09 UTC Friday 22nd June 2012
The epicenter was 154 km (95 miles) SSE of L'Esperance Rock, New Zealand
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTH OF THE KERMADEC ISLANDS, NEW ZEALAND - 22nd June 2012

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck SOUTH OF THE KERMADEC ISLANDS, NEW ZEALAND at a depth of 35.1 km (21.8 miles), the quake hit at 00:03:12 UTC Friday 22nd June 2012
The epicenter was 194 km (120 miles) SSW of L'Esperance Rock, New Zealand
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

5.2 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTH OF THE KERMADEC ISLANDS, NEW ZEALAND - 21st June 2012

A magnitude 5.2 earthquake has struck SOUTH OF THE KERMADEC ISLANDS, NEW ZEALAND at a depth of 37.4 km (23.2 miles), the quake hit at 23:52:56 UTC Thursday 21st June 2012
The epicenter was 163 km (101 miles) south of L'Esperance Rock, New Zealand
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake FIJI REGION - 21st June 2012

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck the FIJI REGION at a depth of 545.7 km (339.1 miles), the quake hit at 22:34:38 UTC Thursday 21st June 2012
The epicenter was 312 km (193 miles) ESE of Lambasa, Fiji
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake CENTRAL PERU - 21st June 2012

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck CENTRAL PERU at a depth of 38.3 km (23.8 miles), the quake hit at 22:17:11 UTC Thursday 21st June 2012
The epicenter was 23 km (14 miles) WNW of Morococha, Peru
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

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

A magnitude 5.4 earthquake has struck OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN at a depth of 33.1 km (20.6 miles), the quake hit at 20:32:50 UTC Thursday 21st June 2012
The epicenter was 119 km (73 miles) East of Yamada, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Beware of Chinese spies in YOUR neighbourhood


15 banks downgraded by Credit Suisse as financial crisis deepens

Credit Suisse Group AG’s credit rating was cut three levels by Moody’s Investors Service, Morgan Stanley was reduced two levels and 13 other banks were downgraded in moves that may shake up competition among Wall Street’s biggest firms.

Credit Suisse, the second-largest Swiss bank, received the maximum reduction that Moody’s said in February it may make during a review of global banks with capital markets operations. Morgan Stanley and UBS AG (UBSN), the other firms singled out for such a steep cut, were lowered two steps instead.

“All of the banks affected by today’s actions have significant exposure to the volatility and risk of outsized losses inherent to capital-markets activities” Moody’s Global Banking Managing Director Greg Bauer said today in a statement.

The downgrades may force banks to post additional collateral to trading partners in derivatives deals while boosting the companies’ borrowing costs. Moody’s said when it announced the review that it was seeking to reflect the banks’ reliance on fragile confidence in funding markets and increased pressures from regulation and a difficult market environment.

The ratings firm said Feb. 15 it was reviewing grades for 17 banks. Moody’s cut Macquarie Group Ltd. (MQG) and Nomura Holdings Inc. (8604) one level each in March. It also started a review of lenders in more than a dozen European nations and already has reduced grades in Spain, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Austria and Denmark. more

'UN must take action against Israel'

Sarkozy's immunity ends, legal troubles begin

US and Israel behind cyber attack on Iran

China calls for flexibility over Iran nuclear program

Spanish stage anti-austerity protests

Clemency With a Catch: UK, US luring Assad into stepping down

CrossTalk: Tehran Countdown

CIA agents are helping anti-government armed gangs in Syria in their fight against the Damascus government, a report says

Syria activists using U.S. tech to beat curbs

(Reuters) - U.S. technologies that may include a mobile phone "panic button" and an "internet suitcase" are being used by activists in Syria and other authoritarian countries to override government communications controls, a U.S. official said on Thursday.

Alec Ross, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's senior adviser for innovation, said the United States was working on between 10 and 20 classified technologies that could be used by protesters and others facing communications curbs.

He also described how Facebook and other social networks could be used to challenge propaganda spread online by what he called the "Syrian Electronic Army".

"They're (some of the new technologies) being used in Syria. A number of the organizations that have benefited from our training include Syrian citizens," Ross told reporters in London, declining to specify which of the technologies were being used. Read More

Iran says detected "massive cyber attack:" state TV

(Reuters) - Iran has detected a planned "massive cyber attack" against its nuclear facilities, state television said on Thursday, after talks with major powers this week failed to resolve a row over Tehran's disputed nuclear activities.

Iran's Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi said the country's arch enemies the United States and Israel, along with Britain, had planned the attack.

"Based on obtained information, America and the Zionist regime (Israel) along with the MI6 planned an operation to launch a massive cyber attack against Iran's facilities following the meeting between Iran and the P5+1 in Moscow," Iran's English-language Press TV quoted him as saying.

"They still seek to carry out the plan, but we have taken necessary measures," he added, without elaborating.

Security experts said last month a highly sophisticated computer virus, dubbed "Flame", had infected computers in Iran and other Middle Eastern countries. Read More

Spain borrowing costs soar as EU ponders bank aid

(Reuters) - Spain's medium-term borrowing costs spiraled to a euro-era record on Thursday and independent auditors said Spanish banks may need up to 62 billion euros ($78 billion) in extra capital, to be filled mostly by a euro zone bailout.

Euro zone finance ministers met in Luxembourg to discuss how to channel up to 100 billion euros ($126 billion) in rescue aid to Spanish lenders weighed down by bad debts from a burst property bubble.

Many in the markets see the package as a mere prelude to a full program for the Spanish state, which Madrid vehemently denies it will need.

"We have already started working on the design of the aid with the Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund," Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos told reporters as he arrived for the talks. "We will present the request in the next few days." Read More

Shabir Ahmed Named as the Rochdale paedophile gangleader

A sexual predator who led a gang of Asian men in grooming young white girls for sex was named today after he was convicted of 30 child rape charges.

Shabir Ahmed, 59, was jailed for 19 years last month after running a ring of paedophiles in Rochdale and Oldham, but could not be named while he was awaiting a separate child abuse trial.

The restriction was lifted after Ahmed was found guilty by a jury in Liverpool of raping and sexually abusing a young Asian girl for more than a decade.

Ahmed used extreme violence and treated his victim as his possession who he raped almost weekly. Source

Greek bailout wish-list sets up showdown with Europe

(Reuters) - Greece's new government promised on Thursday to renegotiate the terms of the country's bailout without endangering its future in the euro, responding to intense pressure to ease mounting social tensions but also risking a showdown with European powers.

The three-party coalition called for changes to the deal that is helping Greece avoid bankruptcy after the announcement of an 18-member cabinet dominated by the conservative New Democracy party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

National Bank Chairman Vassilis Rapanos was named finance minister and New Democracy deputy leader Dimitris Avramopoulos became foreign minister.

Once jailed for fighting Greece's 1967-74 military dictatorship, Rapanos must now cure its sick public finances while negotiating with euro zone leaders who are losing patience with Athens after two multi-billion euro bailouts since 2010 that have failed to end the crisis. Read More

Lianne Smith Guilty Of Killing Her Son And Daughter

A British mother who killed her young son and daughter in a Spanish hotel room has been found guilty of their "abominable" murders.

More to follow...

"It's unfair to be white" (Brb, banging head against wall)



The University of Minnesota - Duluth (UMD) is now sponsoring an ad-campaign designed to achieve "racial justice" by raising awareness of "white privilege."

The project disseminates its message, that "society was setup for us [whites]" and as such is "unfair," through an aggressive campaign of online videos, billboards, and lectures. The ads feature a number of Caucasians confessing their guilt for the supposed "privilege" that comes along with their fair features. more

Karen Klein Bullied by Children on Bus



A 68-year-old school bus superviser who was mercilessly bullied by teenage students has said she hopes her tormentor's parents will view the viral video of the abuse and talk to their children about their behaviour.

Earlier this week, a 10-minute mobile phone recording of Karen Klein being verbally taunted was posted on YouTube by one of the students on the bus.

By Thursday morning, it had been viewed over 1.5 million times.

It shows Mrs Klein trying to ignore the insults, swearing and threats being hurled at her from at least four year seven and year eight boys who had gathered around her bus seat.

At one point the relentless abuse makes her cry. Read More

Spanish Banks Need Up To 62bn Euros Bailout



The Spanish government has announced that up to 62 billion euros will be needed to recapitalise its struggling banks.

A figure of 100 billion euros has already been pledged by eurozone leaders.
The audit of their balance sheets was carried out by two independent consulting firms, Oliver Wyman and Roland Berger.

Earlier this month Spain's government asked the EU for money to help prop up its beleaguered financial sector. Read more

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake TARAPACA, CHILE - 21st June 2012

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck TARAPACA, CHILE at a depth of 94.6 km (58.8 miles), the quake hit at 16:22:47 UTC Thursday 21st June 2012
The epicenter was 109 km (67 miles) ESE of Iquique, Chile
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR SOUTH COAST OF PAPUA, INDONESIA - 21st June 2012

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck NEAR SOUTH COAST OF PAPUA, INDONESIA at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the quake hit at 15:30:58 UTC Thursday 21st June 2012
The epicenter was 134 km (83 miles) Southeast of Nabire, Papua Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Charles Baker: Latest zombie attack sees man under the influence gets naked, bites off chunk of man's arm



The latest in a string of “zombie” like attacks happened in a Manatee County home Wednesday night after a man under the influence went into a fit of rage and bit a piece of someone’s arm off during a visit with his children.
Much like the Miami face-eating attack, 26-year-old Charles Baker got naked, ate human flesh and wouldn’t go down without a fight, according to a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office report.

Authorities say Baker went to his girlfriend’s home on 25th St in Palmetto to visit his kids at 10:15 p.m. They say he was high on an unknown substance when he knocked on the door, then barged in, began yelling and taking off his clothes.

He was screaming and wouldn’t calm down, then began throwing furniture around the home.

Jeffery Blake, who lives in the home, attempted to restrain Baker, but the suspect bit him, taking a chunk of his flesh from his bicep. more

Canadian military mulls options over Syria

The Canadian military is drawing up contingency plans in case the Harper government chooses to join any international intervention in the Syrian crisis.

Defence sources say the work recently got underway when it became evident that UN-led peace efforts were unravelling and that unarmed observers have suspended patrols amid escalating violence.

The sources emphasized the effort is a normal part of military planning, is not the result of government direction, and is intended to give cabinet "a range of options depending on the international circumstances."

A broad set of scenarios are under consideration, one high-ranking official at National Defence told The Canadian Press.

Another source said the different commands have not yet been asked to identify units for inclusion in any mission.

A complicating factor is the speed with which events are unfolding, notably the deployment of two Russian amphibious assault ships and 1,000 Russian marines to protect the country's naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus, and a proposal by the Red Cross to evacuate wounded people from the embattled city of Homs. more


House panel recommends Holder contempt citation



Washington (CNN) -- Voting on strictly partisan lines, a House committee recommended Wednesday that Attorney General Eric Holder be cited for contempt of Congress for failing to turn over documents relating to the botched Fast and Furious weapons sting operation.

The vote ended an extraordinary daylong hearing that took place after President Barack Obama asserted executive privilege over some documents sought by the panel investigating Fast and Furious. The White House move means the Department of Justice can withhold some of the documents. Read More

Moody's To Announce Bank Downgrades



Sky sources understand the credit ratings agency Moody's will announce downgrades to major world banks, including UK lenders, as early as tonight.

City editor Mark Kleinman has learned that confirmation is expected shortly after the US markets close for business this evening - potentially adding billions of pounds to the funding costs of the institutions affected.

He believed RBS, Barclays and HSBC were among the banks under scrutiny amid the pressure facing the industry from the effects of the global financial crisis. Read More

PRECIOUS-Gold prices fall more than 1 pct as Fed disappoints

LONDON, June 21 (Reuters) - Gold fell more than 1 percent on Thursday after the Federal Reserve disappointed gold bulls by failing to announce more aggressive monetary stimulus, lifting the dollar and bringing forward expectations for a rise in U.S. interest rates.

After a policy meeting ending Wednesday, the Fed said it would extend an existing bond programme aimed at bringing down long-term borrowing costs and stimulating growth, dubbed Operation Twist, but held fire on a new round of quantitative easing that some investors had hoped for.

Traders said the decision not to embark on a new programme of outright bond purchases means the Fed is likely to start raising rates earlier than its own guidance suggests.

Gold had risen as high as $1,640.50 an ounce earlier this month on hopes that the Fed would unveil fresh quantitative easing measures to stimulate growth after a spate of disappointing economic data.

Further monetary easing would have maintained pressure on long-term interest rates, keeping the opportunity cost of holding gold at rock bottom, and may have pressured the dollar. Read More

Olympic scams investigated

Con artists posing as police officers plus pickpockets and fake ticket and accommodation websites are some of the Olympic scams being investigated by Scotland Yard.

Detectives have made four arrests from the same Eastern European gang who have posed as bogus officers targeting people, particularly those from overseas, who do not know how plain-clothed officers work.

Detective Sergeant Nick Downing, who is leading the British police's fight against organised crime exploiting the Games known as Podium, said: "It is theft.
  • "No officer will make any demand for money.
  • "They would not take your money from you.
  • "They would not take you to a cashpoint and ask you to take your money out.
  • "They do not need to know your pin number.
  • "If in any doubt of the validity of an officer, call 999 and ask a uniformed officer to attend."
Some people have been sucked in by the money-spinning scam because they are from cultures which have a strong respect for people in authority, Mr Downing said. Read More

Note: Anyone being ripped off by these scams, please write all complaints to the European Courts of Human Rights that have made it Possible for these gangs to continue to operate in the UK or Theresa May who seems to be Powerless to rid of foreign Criminals in the UK

Anders Behring Breivik: Prosecutors in Norway call for Breivik insanity verdict

Prosecutors in Norway have called for self-confessed mass killer Anders Behring Breivik to be considered insane in their closing argument at his trial.

Prosecutor Svein Holden said there were still doubts about his insanity but he should be placed in psychiatric care, not sent to prison.

Judges in the trial in Oslo are due to deliver their verdict in the trial in July or August.

Breivik killed 77 people and injured 242 on 22 July of last year.

He bombed government buildings in Oslo before shooting young Labour Party supporters at an island camp.

Breivik sought to justify his attacks by saying they were necessary to stop the "Islamisation" of Norway. Read More

Plans for David Cameron and senior ministers to disclose their tax returns set to be ABANDONED.....Hypocrites!!

Ministers are not closed to idea of disclosing their tax details but it is 'not a very near-future thing', says No 10

Downing Street has suggested it is preparing to abandon plans for David Cameron and senior ministers to disclose their tax returns, amid allegations of hypocrisy over the prime minister's decision to comment on Jimmy Carr's tax affairs.

Cameron said in April that he expected information about his finances to be made public, and was relaxed about the prospect. But on Thursday No 10 said there were no current plans to do so.

Privately, senior Tories are concerned that Cameron's comments on Carr, who issued an unreserved apology for using an aggressive tax scheme, were a tactical mistake because they gave journalists a green light to investigate the tax affairs of Conservative ministers, MPs and donors.

The prime minister's spokeswoman said the proposal for ministers to reveal their tax details was still being "looked into". Ministers were "not closed to the idea", but it was "not a very near-future thing", the aide said. Read More

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake CELEBES SEA - 21st June 2012

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck the CELEBES SEA at a depth of 461 km (286.5 miles), the quake hit at 12:22:18 UTC Thursday 21st June 2012
The epicenter was 202 km (125 miles) North of Boroko, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.3 Magnitude Earthquake SERAM, INDONESIA - 21st June 2012

A magnitude 4.3 earthquake has struck SERAM, INDONESIA at a depth of 41.4 km (25.7 miles), the quake hit at 11:52:30 UTC Thursday 21st June 2012
The epicenter was 107 km (66 miles) ENE of Amahai, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake HALMAHERA, INDONESIA - 21st June 2012

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck HALMAHERA, INDONESIA at a depth of 114.7 km (71.3 miles), the quake hit at 11:40:34 UTC Thursday 21st June 2012
The epicenter was 105 km (65 miles) NNE of Tobelo, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

BALI BOMBMAKER UMAR PATEK JAILED FOR 20 YEARS

4.3 Magnitude Earthquake OFFSHORE EL SALVADOR - 21st June 2012

A magnitude 4.3 earthquake has struck OFFSHORE EL SALVADOR at a depth of 64.2 km (39.9 miles), the quake hit at 10:51:40 UTC Thursday 21st June 2012
The epicenter was 63 km (39 miles) South of Intipuca, El Salvador
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

REUTERS: JORDANIAN MINISTER SAYS SYRIAN PILOT OF JET THAT LANDED IN NORTHERN AIR BASE ASKS FOR POLITICAL ASYLUM

France, Belgium risk billions on bailed-out bank

(Reuters) - With tens of billions of euros lent to the public sector in Spain and Italy, bailed-out lender Dexia may be dead as an investment but as a threat to the budgets of guarantors Belgium and France, it is very much alive.

Dexia, the first bank to require a rescue during the euro zone crisis, risks becoming a prime example of contagion from the troubled countries on the region's southern periphery to the more stable ones at its northern core.

The Franco-Belgian group, which at its height was the world's largest municipal lender, with business across Europe and a large U.S. empire, was seen as too important to fall and was rescued for a second time in three years last October.

Already stripped of most of its businesses, it now faces a future as a holding of bonds and loans in run-off, with state guarantees to support its funding and prevent a Lehman-like collapse and domino effect.

But this is not the end. Officials say it will likely need yet another injection of taxpayers' money that would sink French and Belgian public finances further into the red. Read More

Court issues arrest warrant for Pakistani prime minister nominee

(Reuters) - A court has issued an arrest warrant for the ruling party veteran poised to replace Pakistan's ousted prime minister, local television stations reported on Thursday, deepening political uncertainty in the strategic U.S. ally.

Pakistan's president had nominated Makhdoom Shahabuddin as the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) candidate in an apparent bid for continuity ahead of elections due early next year.

Shahabuddin, the textiles minister, filed his nomination papers on Thursday. The ruling coalition has a comfortable majority in parliament, which meets on Friday in an extraordinary session to elect a new prime minister.

In an unexpected twist to Pakistan's latest political saga, an anti-narcotics court issued an arrest warrant for Shahabuddin in connection with a case of violated quota limits for the export of ephedrine while he was health minister.

That case allegedly involved Gilani's son, Ali Musa Gilani, who is accused by anti-narcotics investigators of violating the quotas. Gilani and Shahabuddin have denied any wrongdoing. Read More

Outlook darkens as Europe sinks, China struggles

(Reuters) - The downturn in the euro zone's private sector is becoming entrenched and Chinese factories are finding the going increasingly tough, business surveys showed on Thursday, painting a darker outlook for the world economy.

June was the fifth consecutive month that activity across the euro zone has declined, dragging down heavyweights Germany and France and putting pressure on the European Central Bank to take further action to support the economy.

"We are at the point where the economy is increasingly losing traction and it's hard at this stage to see what will give us a lift. The ECB will do more, that will probably involve a rate cut - which is symbolic - but is action," said Peter Dixon at Commerzbank. Read More

New EU states struggle to spend Brussels billions

(Reuters) - It was meant to be one of the great rewards of membership. As the European Union expanded eastward over the past decade, Brussels set aside billions of euros to improve infrastructure - especially the fading communist-era railways - in 10 new member states.

But a Reuters investigation has found that just one in 10 euros up for grabs since 2007 has been used, raising questions about Europe's grand plans to stimulate economic growth, reduce traffic deaths and cut carbon emissions.

Infrastructure spending has always been one of the carrots to lure countries into the European Union. Brussels spent billions in Spain, Portugal and Greece in the 1980s and ‘90s. When the former eastern bloc countries joined the EU in 2004 and 2007, they too were promised a cash injection. Read More

Greek coalition parties to seek two-year extension until 2016 to meet bailout targets

Toulouse gunman not al-Qaeda

A disturbing atmosphere of “déjà vu” possessed the city of Toulouse for seven hours on Wednesday after an armed man claiming to belong to al-Qaeda seized hostages in a bank close to the scene of the Mohamed Merah siege in March.

Although the 26-year-old claimed to be part of al-Qaeda, his family said he was a schizophrenic with no particular interest in religion or politics. It appeared, however, that he had targeted the Côte Pavée area of eastern Toulouse because of its associations with Merah.

The young man seized four hostages on Wednesday morning in a CIC bank branch about 200 metres from the flat where Merah was cornered in March after murdering seven people, including three Jewish children. After a 32-hour siege, Merah was killed by police.

Wednesday's hostage-taker was shot in the leg when an elite gendarmerie force entered the bank in late afternoon. The two remaining hostages, including the bank manager, were freed unharmed. Two other women hostages had been released by the gunman earlier in the day in exchange for water and food.

The man gave his name as “Boumaza”. He had originally attempted to hold up the bank but later ordered police negotiators to announce that he was motivated by religion, not money. Read More

Rockets land in Israel after cease-fire announced

(CNN) -- Rockets from Gaza came down in Israel overnight, according to the Israeli military. This comes on the heels of a cease-fire announcement Hamas made toward the Jewish state late Wednesday local time.

Nine rockets were fired from Gaza, eight of which landed "in open areas," an Israeli military spokesman said. "The ninth has been intercepted by the 'Iron Dome' over Ashkalon. No one was injured."

"Iron Dome" refers to an Israeli missile defense system.

On its website, Hamas' military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, acknowledged firing eight rockets just before midnight Wednesday at an Israeli military base as a retaliatory measure.

Another independent militant group admitted to firing one rocket into Israel at 12:45 a.m. Thursday (5:45 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday), also citing retaliation.

Gaza has remained quiet since the rockets were fired, but Israeli aircraft can be heard flying overhead, a CNN producer in Gaza said. Read More

Syria crisis: Homs shelling stalls evacuation

Continued shelling in the Syrian city of Homs is stopping Red Cross teams from evacuating scores of civilians.

Government forces and rebel fighters agreed on Wednesday to a two-hour ceasefire to allow aid workers into the worst affected areas.

However, correspondents say it may be hours or days before they can enter.

Meanwhile, a Syrian Mig 21 fighter jet made an emergency landing in neighbouring Jordan, at the Mafraq base in the north of the country.

Syrian state TV earlier announced that contact had been lost with a fighter plane that was on a training mission.

In other developments, reports in the British media say the UK and US could grant Syrian President Bashar al-Assad clemency if he joins peace talks. Read More

FIRE BRIGADES UNION SAYS FIREFIGHTERS IN ESSEX TO STAGE FIVE STRIKES IN A ROW OVER CUTS

Boat carrying 200 capsizes between Indonesia and Australia

(Reuters) - A boat carrying about 200 suspected asylum seekers has capsized in Indonesian waters 120 nautical miles north of Australia's Christmas Island and many are feared drowned, authorities said on Thursday.

Australian police said a military aircraft saw some 40 people standing on the upturned hull of the boat.

"We know from what we have been hearing from the aircraft there are not 200 life jackets on board," Western Australian police commissioner Karl O'Callaghan told local television.

He said at least 75 people were feared to have drowned.

An Australian customs spokesman said border protection had detected what was believed to be a people-smuggling boat in distress earlier on Thursday.

"Indonesian navy ships are on their way there now," Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) spokesman Gagah Prakoso told Reuters.