Wednesday, July 18, 2012

US Post Office Nears First Default in Its History

While lawmakers continue to fight over how to fix the ailing U.S. Postal Service, the agency's money problems are only growing worse.

The Postal Service repeated on Wednesday that without congressional action, it will default—a first in its long history, a spokesman said—on a legally required annual $5.5 billion payment, due Aug. 1, into a health-benefits fund for future retirees. Action in Congress isn't likely, as the House prepares to leave for its August recess.

The agency said a default on the payment, for 2011, wouldn't directly affect service or its ability to pay employees and suppliers. But "these ongoing liquidity issues unnecessarily undermine confidence in the viability of the Postal Service among our customers," said spokesman David Partenheimer.

The agency says it will default on its 2012 retiree health payment as well—also roughly $5.5 billion, due Sept. 30—if there is no legislative action by then.

Most everyone agrees the Postal Service needs an overhaul. It had a loss of $3.2 billion in the second quarter of this fiscal year; it is to report third-quarter results on Aug. 9. The agency blames factors including declining mail volumes and the unusual 2006 mandate by Congress that it annually set aside billions for future retirees. But while the Senate has passed legislation to overhaul the agency, the House says it doesn't expect to take up its own proposal until after August.

The two sides remain far apart. Senators voted in April, on a bipartisan basis, for legislation that largely shores up the agency's finances by returning an estimated $10.9 billion overpayment made into the federal employee pension system. The legislation limits the agency's ability to close postal branches and stop Saturday delivery. more

Naked Teen Found Lying In Street Yelling ‘Bad Drugs’: Florida

A seriously injured teenager was found lying naked in the road while yelling “bad drugs.”

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office told WPTV that a 17-year-old boy was found early Sunday morning lying in the street in Oakland Park.

The station reports that the naked teen was “rolling on the ground” and yelling “bad drugs” and “take me.” Authorities believe he was hit by a car and was taken to North Broward Medical Center.

“The doctor said it was possible he was hit by a car,” Dani Moschella, sheriff’s office spokeswoman, told the Sun-Sentinel. “Deputies found his clothes nearby.”

The unidentified teenager sustained a collapsed lung, fractured left ankle and broken left collarbone, according to WPTV.

The case is under investigation. source

Burger King employee believed to be in disturbing lettuce picture is fired

The Burger King employee involved in the disturbing picture showing someone standing with shoes on a container of shredded lettuce was fired by the owner of the local franchise, the company said in a statement to Fox8.com.

Many details of the picture that was posted on 4chan.org, a social networking website, remain unclear, but the anonymous user reportedly posted the picture along with a comment that said, "This is the lettuce you eat at Burger King."

According to a HyperVocal.com report, an aggravated 4chan user tracked the image’s geo-tagging to locate the employee. The photo was tagged back to Ohio. A Burger King spokeswoman would not confirm the precise location the picture was taken. more

Tomas Schuman (Yuri Bezmenov) offers a glimpse inside the Soviet Propaganda machine (And boy, does it ever feel familiar)




View whole playlist of this entire gathering here:

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=A6C3EE7F4E9EFB07

Meteorite lights up Ostrobothnia sky, Finland

An exceptional bright light phenomenon was observed in many parts of Ostobothnia, western Finland, just after 5pm on Tuesday.

According to the Ursa astronomical association, this was a meteorite which had passed through the Earth’s upper atmosphere before hitting the ground.

According to Esko Lyytinen of Ursa, the object definitely made it to the ground. He speculated it could be as heavy as dozens of kilograms. The object’s final explosion occurred probably between the towns of Kalajoki and Ylivieska.

Several observations of the object were made by Ursa at locations across Ostrobothnia. The subsonic blast was heard over a wide area.

Amateur astronomers are now eager to find the heavenly body which lies somewhere in the area of Ylivieska and Kalajoki. Read More

4.4 Magnitude Earthquake CRETE, GREECE - 18th July 2012

A magnitude 4.4 earthquake has struck CRETE, GREECE at a depth of 40 km (24.8 miles), the quake hit at 19:37:21 UTC Wednesday 18th July 2012
The epicenter was 94 km (58.2 miles) South PĂ­rgos, Crete, Greece
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta says its time for Assad to step down

Security breach that led to Damascus bombing may have been an 'inside job'

'West stole Arab world revolution'

Security Relay: FBI to boost crumbling London defense

Video: NATO supply convoy torched by massive fuel truck fireball

CrossTalk: Massacre Marketing

IMF urges action as eurozone enters 'critical' phase

The eurozone is in “critical” danger and the European Central Bank must do more to drag it from the depths of the crisis, the International Monetary Fund has warned.

The Fund said that attempts to stabilise the region’s economy and banks had so far failed and a determined move towards a more complete banking and fiscal union was necessary to protect the future of the single currency.

“The immediate priority for the eurozone is to establish a banking union and move toward more fiscal integration,” said Mahmood Pradhan, mission chief for the eurozone.

“These moves would help stem the decline in confidence engulfing the region, lower borrowing costs for countries facing severe market pressure, break the downward spiral between sovereigns and banks, and reduce the risk of contagion across the euro area.”

The IMF staff report said that a clear timetable for action should be laid out, to restore faith and credibility among member states. Read More

US warns Syria is 'spinning out of control'

Washington warned that Syria was "spinning out of control" on Wednesday, as Barack Obama telephoned Vladimir Putin to urge him to support efforts for political transition.

The US president urged his Russian counterpart, who is Syria's key ally, to back a British-drafted resolution at the United Nations that would threaten Bashar al-Assad's regime with strong global sanctions.

Remarks by Mr Putin's press secretary after the conversation suggested that the Kremlin may at last be edging away from Mr Assad.

"As a whole the existing exchange of opinions shows that the appraisals of the situation in Syria and final goals of regulating [violence] for both sides coincide," said Dmitry Peskov.

"Together with that, differences in approaches regarding the practical means of reaching a regulation [of violence] still exist," he said.

The White House said that with the rebellion gaining strength the "window is closing" for a peaceful solution in Syria. Read More

Bulgaria Bus Explosion Death toll 6, 32 injured

Six people have been killed and 32 injured in an explosion on a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria.

The blast, which Bulgaria's interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said was a deliberate attack, happened in a bus close to the airport in the town of Bargas.

It is thought that the bus was carrying about 40 passengers who had just landed at the Black Sea port.

The Bulgarian ministry of foreign affairs said five people died at the scene and one died later in hospital. Of those injured, 32 were admitted to hospital. Three of them are in intensive care.

Images seen on Israeli TV showed smoke billowing from the scene - a carpark outside the airport. Read More

For the First Time, Canadians Now Richer Than Americans (We be ballin')

While Americans might enjoy throwing politically-charged barbs at their neighbors to the north, Canadians now have at least one reason to be smug.

For the first time in recent history, the average Canadian is richer than the average American, according to a report cited in Toronto's Globe and Mail.

And not just by a little. Currently, the average Canadian household is more than $40,000 richer than the average American household. The net worth of the average Canadian household in 2011 was $363,202, compared to around $320,000 for Americans.

[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

If you're thinking the Canadian advantage must be due to exchange rates, think again. The Canadian dollar has actually caught up to the U.S. dollar in recent years.

"These are not 60-cent dollars, but Canadian dollars more or less at par with the U.S. greenback," Globe and Mail's Michael Adams writes.

To add insult to injury, not only are Canadians comparatively better-off than Americans, they're also more likely to be employed. The unemployment rate is 7.2 percent—and dropping—in Canada, while the U.S. is stuck with a stubbornly high rate of 8.2 percent. more

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake OFFSHORE TARAPACA, CHILE - 18th July 2012

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck OFFSHORE TARAPACA, CHILE at a depth of 18.4 km (11.4 miles), the quake hit at 18:24:09 UTC Wednesday 18th July 2012
The epicenter was 67 km (42 miles) Southwest from Iquique, Chile
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

22 NATO supply trucks destroyed in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban detonated a bomb on a fuel tanker Wednesday and then opened fire on other NATO supply trucks, destroying 22 vehicles loaded with fuel and other goods for U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Elsewhere in the country, a suicide bomber killed three Afghan soldiers at a checkpoint in the east, while militants killed nine more government troops in an ambush in the south. Three NATO service members were also killed in insurgent attacks.

The violence comes as Afghan forces are taking charge of security in more areas across the country ahead of the planned withdrawal of the U.S.-led coalition's combat forces by the end of 2014. To show they remain a resilient force, insurgents are conducting targeted attacks, even in relatively peaceful parts of the country.

One of the places is Samangan province in the north, where the Taliban said they attacked NATO supply trucks parked overnight in the Rabatak area. Read More

Israeli prime minister blames Iran for Bulgaria bomb

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday blamed Iran for a bomb blast which killed at least three people in the Bulgarian resort of Burgas and said Israel would respond.

"All the signs lead to Iran. Only in the past few months we have seen Iranian attempts to attack Israelis in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, Cyprus and other places," Netanyahu said in a statement.

"Eighteen years exactly after the blast at the Jewish community center in Argentina, murderous Iranian terror continues to hit innocent people. This is an Iranian terror attack that is spreading throughout the entire world. Israel will react powerfully against Iranian terror," he said. Source

4.3 Magnitude Earthquake NORTHWEST OF THE KURIL ISLANDS - 18th July 2012

A magnitude 4.3 earthquake has struck NORTHWEST OF THE KURIL ISLANDS at a depth of 175.3 km (108.9 miles), the quake hit at 15:30:25 UTC Wednesday 18th July 2012
The epicenter was 86 km (53 miles) Northwest of Severo-Kuril'sk, Russia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

U.S. can defeat any Iranian effort to block oil shipping: Panetta

(Reuters) - The United States has the military capacity to defeat any Iranian attempt to shut down sea commerce in the oil-rich Gulf region and will hold Tehran directly responsible for shipping disruptions, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Wednesday.

"The United States is fully prepared for all contingencies here," Panetta told a Pentagon news conference. "We've invested in capabilities to ensure that the Iranian attempt to close down shipping in the Gulf is something that we are going to be able to defeat, if they make a decision to do that."

Panetta's comments came amid rising tensions in the region over Iran's nuclear program and its threats to close the vital Strait of Hormuz unless the international community revokes sanctions imposed on Iranian oil shipments.

A security team aboard a U.S. Navy oiler opened fire with a .50 caliber machine gun on a small boat off the United Arab Emirates this week after it failed to heed warnings to alter its course. An Indian fisherman was killed and three others were wounded in the incident, which is under investigation. Read More

Airport Immigration Staff Vote To Strike

Home Office staff - including UK Border Agency workers - have voted in favour of industrial action.

PCS trade union members voted in favour of either strike action or some other form of industrial action in a ballot, the union said.

Members are angry about jobs cuts across the civil service, particularly at the UK Border Agency (UKBA), which the PCS says have resulted in "chaos at the borders and queues at airports".

The union also says it is disputing the Government's plans to cap pay rises at 1% and privatise work currently done by civil servants.

Only 20% of the union's members voted. Of those, 57.2% supported a strike, and 75.8% voted for different industrial action.

Possible dates of the industrial action - and forms it could take - will be announced on Thursday, but it is possible that a strike could coincide with the Olympics.

Sky's chief political correspondent Jon Craig said: "This is serious.

"We're not talking Whitehall pen pushers here - we're talking about Border Agency staff, where there are already those massive queues at Heathrow."

He said the news would come as yet another blow to the Home Secretary.

"As if things weren't bad enough for Theresa May with the G4S crisis, she faces the possibility of a strike by border agency staff - and other staff like passport office staff and criminal records staff as well," he said. Read More

Bulgaria Bus Bomb Explosion killing at Least 3 people Injuring many More

Three people have reportedly been killed and many more injured in an explosion on a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria.

The blast happened in a passenger bus at an airport in the town of Bargas, the interior ministry said, while local media reported that the vehicle had Israeli tourists on board.

"I can only confirm that there was an explosion at Burgas airport," interior ministry spokeswoman Vanya Vulkova said.

State BNR radio reported that the explosions rocked as many as three buses packed with Israeli tourists, causing casualties, whose number remained unknown.

More to follow...

Syria: Bomb Kills Core Assad Regime Officials

The brother-in-law of Syrian president Bashar al Assad and his defence minister are among three senior officials killed in a Damascus bomb attack.

Assef Shawkat and defence chief Daoud Rajha died in the blast at a meeting of senior security and government figures in the capital.

Syrian general Hassan Turkmani, a former defence minister and senior military official, was also killed.

The attack, which sparked celebrations in some areas of the city, is by far the most serious on the president's inner circle and some analysts believe it marks the "beginning of the end" for the Assad regime.

The bomb, at a national security building in central Damascus not far from the presidential palace, came on the fourth day of intense fighting between rebels and soldiers in the capital.

There were conflicting reports about whether it was suicide device or had been planted in a meeting room beforehand.

Sky News has spoken to someone who was inside the building at the time. Sky's Foreign Editor Tim Marshall said: "They heard a muffled bang... they then heard gunfire. Read More

4.3 Magnitude Earthquake TURKMENISTAN - 18th July 2012

A magnitude 4.3 earthquake has struck TURKMENISTAN at a depth of 100 km (62 miles), the quake hit at 13:35:32 UTC Wednesday 18th July 2012
The epicenter was 51 km (31.6 miles) Northwest from Khazar, Turkmenistan
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake OFF EAST COAST OF THE NORTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND - 18th July 2012

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck the TIMOR REGION, INDONESIA at a depth of 53.9 km (33.5 miles), the quake hit at 13:13:47 UTC Wednesday 18th July 2012
The epicenter was 166 km (103 miles) Northeast of Gisborne, New Zealand
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Bulgaria Bus Explosion: 'Three Dead'

4.4 Magnitude Earthquake TIMOR REGION, INDONESIA - 18th July 2012

A magnitude 4.4 earthquake has struck the TIMOR REGION, INDONESIA at a depth of 121.8 km (75.7 miles), the quake hit at 10:55:56 UTC Wednesday 18th July 2012
The epicenter was 52 km (32 miles) Northwest of Naisano Dua, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Assad's Brother-In-Law 'Killed' By Bomb

The brother-in-law of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the country's defence minister are among several senior officials killed in a suicide bomb attack in Damascus, it has been reported.

State TV said the blast had "seriously wounded" a number of government officials. The Lebanon-based news channel Al-Mayadeen later said some had died.

The attack on a security building in the capital came amid reports that at least 60 soldiers have been killed in the city in the last 48 hours.

The violence comes ahead of a vote on a new Syrian resolution this afternoon.

Columns of black smoke rose over the Syrian capital after clashes between President Bashar al-Assad's troops and the Free Syrian Army.

The fighting, with tanks and helicopter gunships, raged amid reports that two Syrian brigadier generals crossed into Turkey overnight. Read More

Forest fires on Spain's Canary Islands

July 17 - Fires rage in Tenerife and edge into the Teide National Park in the Canary Islands in Spain.

Taking to the streets against budget cuts in Spain

July 17 - Civil servants facing salary cuts demonstrate as Spain's economy says limiting public spending is the only way forward.

Liwa al-Islam, Syrian rebel Islamist group, claims responsibility for Damascus Bomb explosion

Somali pirate kingpins enjoy "impunity": U.N.

(Reuters) - Somalia's president has shielded a top pirate leader from arrest by issuing him a diplomatic passport, according to a United Nations investigation which criticizes the "climate of impunity" enjoyed by pirate kingpins in Somalia and abroad.

The U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia said in a report to the Security Council, seen by Reuters, that senior pirate leaders were benefitting from high level protection from Somali authorities and were not being sufficiently targeted for arrest or sanction by international authorities.

The Group said it had obtained evidence a diplomatic passport had been provided "with the authorization of Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed" to pirate leader Mohamed Abdi Hassan "Afweyne", who presented it to authorities in Malaysia on a trip there in April.

Questioned by Malaysian immigration, Afweyne provided a document issued by the Somali presidency stating he was involved in counter-piracy activities, the report said. It said that Somalia's President Ahmed had told the Group the passport was "one of several inducements" for Afweyne aimed at obtaining the dismantling of his pirate network. Read More

Report berates Vatican bank, urges serious reform

(Reuters) - A European report on Wednesday identified serious failings in the Vatican's scandal-plagued bank, sharply criticizing its management and giving it a negative rating in almost half the most important transparency-related assessment criteria.

The report, by Moneyval, a department of the Council of Europe, suggests the Vatican still has a long way to go before it can be included on an international "white list" of countries that abide by global norms on combating money laundering, the financing of terrorism and tax evasion.

It was particularly pointed in its criticism of the management of the Vatican bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), and "strongly recommended" it be "independently supervised by a prudential supervisor in the near future". Read More

Syrian defense minister and Assad's brother-in-law killed in bomb attack; interior minister wounded: TV reports

BlackRock profit falls 11 percent

(Reuters) - BlackRock Inc, the world's largest money manager, said its second-quarter profit had fallen 11 percent as tumultuous market conditions cut into fee income.

Net income at New York-based BlackRock fell to $554 million, or $3.08 per share, from $619 million, or $3.21 per share, a year earlier.

Assets under management on June 30 totaled $3.56 trillion, down 3 percent during the quarter and down 3 percent from a year earlier. Read More