Monday, July 23, 2012

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake MINDANAO, PHILIPPINES - 24th July 2012

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck MINDANAO, PHILIPPINES at a depth of 78.8 km (49 miles), the quake hit at 03:02:59 UTC Tuesday 24td July 2012
The epicenter was 15 km (9.3 miles) ESE of Kinablangan, Philippines
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTH SANDWICH ISLANDS REGION - 23rd July 2012

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck the SOUTH SANDWICH ISLANDS REGION at a depth of 47.3 km (29.4 miles), the quake hit at 22:58:36 UTC Monday 23rd July 2012
The epicenter was 182 km (113 miles) Northeast of Bristol Island, Antarctica
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

What Do Colorado Shooter James Holmes And Obama Staffer Alex Okrent Have In Common?



Bloggers have been noticing since the Colorado massacre that James Eagan Holmes lacks what is called a “digital footprint”—that is, when one does a normal Google search or even an advanced Google search (using date, filetype, special keywords, etc.) of James Holmes, James Eagan Holmes, or Jimmy Holmes, you get nothing on this individual prior to the shooting.

As anyone who has Googled their own name knows, anyone that walks the face of this Earth is found all over the Internet—schools they went to, clubs, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.

Prior to the shooting, there is absolutely nothing about James Holmes. I personally spent about twelve hours doing extensive searches. Well known private investigator Bill Warner searched Social Security, credit rating, etc. databases and came up with nothing. One calls these kinds of results “off the grid.” Usually these relate to some guy in the middle of the desert living off of solar power, living in a bunker waiting for the end of the world, not a neuroscience Ph.D. grad student like Holmes.

Bill Warner’s theory is that he is part of the anarchist wing of the Occupy movement, the Black Bloc group—i.e., that anarchist tend to not have a digital footprint. Alex Jones over at Infowars thinks Holmes was under U.S. government mind control, and carried out the attack to bolster the Left’s call to sign the upcoming UN small arms treaty in order to disarm Americans.

Whatever the truth is, we are living in strange times. more

Humarock Residents Discuss Seceding From Scituate In Bonfire Dispute (Hear, hear)



The anger hasn’t subsided in Humarock after 4th of July celebrations were cut short due to safety concerns.

The neighborhood met Sunday morning to plan their next move in a quarrel with the Town of Scituate.

Nearly 100 people attended a meeting at the South Humarock Civic Association Clubhouse. At the meeting, some residents went so far as to call Scituate town officials “Fascists,” and say Humarock needs to break away.

The latest aggravation began earlier this month, when residents claim the town was heavy-handed in enforcing a ban on bonfires.

“That was a full military operation… I mean hummers up and down the beach, state police helicopters, horseback, bomb squad, [and] a command post up the center,” said Fred Hayden, who owns a summer home in Humarock. more

Thoughts: Learn from this, rest of America.

Can Skype eavesdrop on its users?

Government agencies have long considered Skype to be a tough nut to crack -- or more importantly, eavesdrop on -- thanks to its peer-to-peer architecture and built-in encryption. In 2008, the company even flat-out said it can't conduct wiretaps due to that potent (and privacy-friendly) one-two punch.

However, Skype recently re-engineered the so-called "supernodes" that form the backbone of the service, placing them on company servers in secure data centers, replacing the former decentralized P2P model that turned Skype users with powerful PCs into supernodes. The Internet instantly began filling with rumors that the update was designed to give law enforcement the ability to monitor Skype calls. Were the rumors true? Can Skype and government agencies now wiretap your VOIP calls?

Skype's response has been a bit… hazy.

After ExtremeTech posted an article about the theoretically wiretap-friendly nature of the supernode update, Mark Gillett, Skype’s Corporate VP of Product Engineering & Operations, contacted the website and said the following:

As part of our ongoing commitment to continually improve the Skype user experience, we developed supernodes which can be located on dedicated servers within secure datacenters. This has not changed the underlying nature of Skype’s peer-to-peer (P2P) architecture, in which supernodes simply allow users to find one another (calls do not pass through supernodes). more


James Holmes's mother suggests ABC News mischaracterized her statement (Is it just me, or does this seem like some sort of weird set up?)


Arlene Holmes, the mother of Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes, has suggested that ABC News mischaracterized her when it reported that her initial statement to the reporter, "you have the right person," was a reference to her son.

"This statement is to clarify a statement made by ABC media. I was awakened by a call from a reporter by ABC on July 20 about 5:45 in the morning. I did not know anything about a shooting in Aurora at that time," Holmes said in a statement this afternoon, read to the national press by attorney Lisa Damiani. "He asked if I was Arlene Holmes and if my son was James Holmes who lives in Aurora, Colorado. I answered yes, you have the right person. I was referring to myself."

(See also: Full coverage Colorado theater shooting)

"I asked him to tell me why he was calling and he told me about a shooting in Aurora," she continues. "He asked for a comment. I told him I could not comment because I did not know if the person he was talking about was my son, and I would need to find out."

In the first paragraph of its initial report on Friday, ABC News reported that it had identified the correct James Holmes because his mother "told ABC News her son was likely the alleged culprit, saying, 'You have the right person.'"

If Arlene Holmes' latest statement is true, it means that she did not tell ABC News her son was likely the alleged culprit, calling into question the reporting of a network that has already been marred by one inaccuracy. more

Belgium Shia mosque bombing & the Salafi threat

Israel looks for excuse to attack Iran

Spain probes executives' role in bank collapse

Milky Protest: Farmers fight EU corporations with dairy demos

Super-rich Rabbit Hole: Wealthy stash $21 tn in offshore havens

Hill's execution, another example of US travesty of justice: Abayomi Azikiwe

5.0 Magnitude Earthquake KERMADEC ISLANDS, NEW ZEALAND - 23rd July 2012

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck the KERMADEC ISLANDS, NEW ZEALAND at a depth of 3.7 km (2.3 miles), the quake hit at 19:47:09 UTC Monday 23rd July 2012
The epicenter was 153 km (95 miles) SSE from Raoul Island, Kermadec Islands
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

FSA finds six guilty of insider dealing

The Financial Services Authority has convicted six people of insider dealing in the longest case in its history.

The six obtained information from the London printers of Swiss bank UBS and UK brokerage JP Morgan Cazenove on takeovers by firms such as Reuters.

They then used the confidential data to place spread bets which generated £732,000 ($1.1m) between 2006 and 2008.

Ali Mustafa, Pardip Saini, Paresh Shah, Neten Shah, Bijal Shah, and Truptesh Patel will be sentenced on Friday.

The six were convicted of offences relating to the obtaining and trading on information on six companies: Reuters, Vega Group, Premier Oil, Thus and Enodis. Read More

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake EASTERN UZBEKISTAN - 23rd July 2012

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck EASTERN UZBEKISTAN at a depth of 6 km (3.7 miles), the quake hit at 18:32:20 UTC Monday 23rd July 2012
The epicenter was 14 km (8.6 miles) Southwest of Samarkand, Uzbekistan
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

'Pay up or die': Thousands of Australians receive death threat text message

(CNN) -- Police agencies across Australia put out alerts Monday declaring as fake text messages and emails sent to thousands of Australians that said they had two days to pay $5,000 or die.

"Do not respond," said Detective Superintendent Brian Hay of the Queensland Police Service. "Delete it immediately and don't panic, because that's what they prey upon."

The messages started assaulting mobile phones and email accounts Sunday. Police did not provide an exact figure but said they were surprised by the scope of the scam.

"What is extraordinary in these circumstances is the extent of contact across the Australian landscape," Hay said. "We've never seen this before. I've never seen this before."

While authorities are still investigating, past hoaxes have originated in west Africa, typically Nigeria, he said.

The message reads: "Sum1 paid me to kill you. Get spared, 48hrs to pay $5000. If you inform the police or anybody, death is promised." It then directs the recipient to contact them at a Yahoo email account.

Police say seniors and those not familiar with the Internet are most likely to get scammed. Read More

Fury after 37 killed in Beijing floods

(Hong Kong) (CNN) -- What has been described as the "heaviest rain in six decades" left at least 37 people dead and raised criticism about Beijing's infrastructure and the government's response to disasters.

The torrential downpour lasted 10 hours over the weekend, producing gusty winds and a tornado in one suburb, according to local media.

The deluge was the largest since 1951, when the state weather record was established, according to Beijing Morning Post, bringing about 6.7 inches of rain in some parts of Beijing, and as much as 18 inches in the suburban Fangshan district.

Twenty-five people drowned, reported Xinhua. Another six were killed in collapsing houses, five were electrocuted, and one was hit by lightning, the agency reported, citing the municipal government. Read More

Final Fukushima report damns TEPCO

Tokyo (CNN) -- A Japanese government report Monday heaped fresh criticism on the operator of the nuclear power plant where a disastrous accident was set off last year by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the country.

The measures taken by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the plant operator, and the Japanese nuclear regulator to prepare for disasters were "insufficient," the report by a government-formed panel of investigators said, and the response to the crisis was "inadequate."

The crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant spewed radiation and displaced tens of thousands of residents from the surrounding area in the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine.

Even now, more than one year after the disaster began, TEPCO does not seem aggressive enough in examining the causes of the accident at the plant to prevent a recurrence, the 10-member panel, led by Tokyo University engineering professor Yotaro Hatamura, said in the report Monday. Read More

Iran arrests suspects in 2011 killing of nuclear scientist

Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- Iran has arrested suspects in connection with the July 2011 killing of a nuclear scientist, semiofficial media reported, citing Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi.

Moslehi made the announcement Sunday at an event marking the first anniversary of the death of 35-year-old physicist Daryoush Rezaie.

In addition to the suspected "terrorists" who shot and killed Rezaie outside his Tehran home on July 23, 2011, "two groups in charge of training terrorists were arrested inside and outside Iran," Moslehi said, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency. Moslehi did not provide details.

Rezaie taught at Mohaqeq Ardebili Technical College, in the northwestern city of Ardebil, according to the semiofficial Mehr news agency. Read More

Damascus Military hospital under fire

James Holmes appears dazed in court

Thousands flee violence in India's Assam, 19 killed

(Reuters) - Thousands of people have fled their homes in India's northeastern Assam state after fighting between indigenous tribes and Muslim settlers killed at least 19 people, wounded many more, and left villages in flames, police said on Monday.

Police were forced to fire warning shots to disperse armed groups that were moving between jungle hamlets on Monday, setting fire to bamboo houses, police and aid workers in the area told Reuters. Soldiers and federal paramilitary forces were patrolling remote districts.

"We saw miscreants burning down village after village on Monday," said a senior police officer who asked not to be identified. "It's total madness going on here. People have lost their senses." Read More

Pilot Found After Gliders Collide In Mid-Air

A pilot has been found and brought to safety after his glider was involved in a mid-air collision with another during a competition.

The wreckage of the two aircraft was found near Snailwell in Cambridgeshire, near Newmarket on the border with Suffolk.

One of the pilots parachuted to safety, while a hunt was launched for the other who was briefly unaccounted for.

Police and paramedics were called to the scene at about 4pm, including an air ambulance, and the Air Accidents Investigation Branch had been informed.

Lorna Marsh, spokeswoman for the East of England Ambulance Service, said both pilots had now been found in a field on the east side of Newmarket gallops.

"One sustained no injuries and the other was initially unconscious but regained consciousness and did not suffer any traumatic injuries," she said.

"That patient was taken to Addenbrooke's Hospital by land ambulance," she added. Read More

Syria: US Warns Assad Over Chemical Weapons

The US has warned Syria not to even consider using chemical weapons after the regime suggested its arsenal might be employed against "external aggression".

It is the first time that the Syrian government has openly admitted possessing unconventional weapons.

Foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi told a news conference in Damascus that they would not be used against Syrians but said they could be used in the case of "external aggression".

The comments prompted a swift response from the Pentagon, with a spokesman saying Syria should not "think one iota" about using the weapons.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the suggestion the regime would use its chemical weapons was "unacceptable" under any circumstances.

UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon expressed concern that Syria might be tempted to use weapons of mass destruction if it felt threatened by foreign intervention. He said their deployment would be "reprehensible". Read More

'First Light' pictures capture spectacular view of 'Sombrero' galaxy

A powerful new telescope perched high on the Mogollon Rim in Arizona has shown off its power with a set of unforgettable images of distant galaxies - including the aptly named Sombrero galaxy.

The Sombrero Galaxy is 28 million light years from Earth - and gets its hat-like appearance from a central bulge and unusually large dust lane at its rim.

The Discovery Channel Telescope is the fifth-largest telescope in continental America, and has taken 10 years of planning and cost $53 million.

The Lowell Observatory is named after Percival Lowell who discovered Pluto.

The new telescope will allow the Observatory to continue cutting-edge observations of the galaxy.

The 4.3 metre telescope unveiled its first images at a 'First Light' party this weekend attended by Neil Armstrong. The first images are 16 megapixels, but the camera will upgrade its iamger shortly.

'With this cutting-edge telescope, Lowell Observatory will continue its 118-year history of astronomical research; with the Discovery Channel as a partner, we expand the opportunity for education and outreach to a global audience,' says the University.

'The DCT will be Lowell’s flagship research telescope. Through our programming and online content, we’ll bring you an ongoing, inside look at the DCT and its fascinating science.' Read More

Texas crash after pickup carrying 26 illegal immigrants smashed into trees - 13 Killed 10 Injured

Authorities say a pickup truck has crashed in South Texas, killing at least 13 people in the vehicle and injuring 10 others.

Louann Presas, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, says the crash occurred about 7pm on Sunday near Berclair when the truck ran off the highway and crashed into some trees.

Presas says all the victims were in the same Ford F-250 pickup.

At least 23 people were crammed into the bed and cab of the pickup truck when it veered off a highway and crashed into trees on Sunday evening in Berclair, about 100 miles southeast of San Antonio.

Border Patrol agents are assisting the Department of Public Safety in the investigation into the crash in Goliad County.

It was not clear if those involved were illegal immigrants.

The Department of Public Safety said early on Monday that two injured people died overnight at hospitals in Corpus Christi and San Antonio. Read More

Penn State hit with unprecedented $60MILLION fine, four-year postseason ban and stripped of ALL wins from 1998-2011 in wake of Sandusky Sex scandal

Penn State has been forced to surrender $60million in fines, serve a four-year ban on appearing in bowl games and must surrender all wins between 1998 and 2011 following months of turmoil resulting from the appalling Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal.

The punishments against the football team by the NCAA stunned the PSU campus, where students could be seen in shock while watching the announcement on TV.

The NCAA's actions also include a five-year probation and a reduction of scholarships for the next four, NCAA president Mark Emmert announced during a press conference in Indianapolis.

Ed Ray, the chairman of the NCAA executive committee, called the Penn State scandal a 'stern wake up call for everyone involved in college sports.'

The university’s storied football programme is now marred by decades of Sandusky's sexual abuse of young boys, some of which had occurred in Penn State facilities the like locker room showers. Read More

James Holmes: Colorado Massacre gunman' appears wide-eyed and unemotional in first court appearance as prosecutors seek death penalty

Wide-eyed, swaying and despondent - the gunman suspected of brutally slaying 12 people during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado has appeared in court for the first time.

James Holmes, 24, who has dyed his hair red in a reported bid to look like The Joker, sat silently and looked straight ahead in Arapahoe County Courthouse as the judge advised him of the case.

Holmes is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder after he shot dead 12 cinema-goers and wounded 58 in a horrifying shooting spree just after midnight on Friday morning.

The judge ordered the suspected gunman to have no contact with any surviving victims or their relatives. The formal charges will be filed against him next Monday morning.

It comes as prosecutors said they are seeking the death penalty for the suspected shooter, a former PhD student described as an outsider who is believed to have recently gone through a break up. Read More

Gliders Collide During Competition, Pilot Missing

A pilot is missing after two gliders clashed with one another during a competition.

More to follow...

China Sends Troops to Disputed Islands

BEIJING – The Central Military Commission, China’s most powerful military body, has approved the deployment of a garrison of soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army to guard islands claimed by China in the South China Sea, the state-run Xinhua news agency said Sunday.

The announcement came as Chinese authorities told state media that 45 legislators elected over the weekend to govern the 1,100 people who live on the island groups of the Spratlys, the Paracels and the Macclesfield Bank — known in Chinese as the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands — met for the first time on Monday.

The new legislators would not only govern the island groups, many of them consisting of rocks and atolls, but also two million square kilometers of the South China Sea over which China claims jurisdiction, according to state media. Read More

EXCLUSIVE: Iran in "open war" with Israel

Iran is in an "open war" with Israel, President Shimon Peres said Monday, as he pointed the finger at Iran and Hezbollah for last week's bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israelis.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Peres said Israel would act to prevent further attacks.

Peres said Israel had "enough" hard intelligence to link the Bulgaria attack to Iran and its proxy Hezbollah and believes more attacks are being planned as part of what he called an "open war against Israel."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Iran and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah movement were responsible for a number of attacks and attempted attacks against Israeli targets in Thailand, Georgia, India, Greece, Cyprus and other countries. Read More

Fires in Spain kill four, Croatia evacuates tourists

MADRID (Reuters) - Two big forest fires raging in the border area between France and northern Catalonia in Spain have killed a fourth person, the authorities said on Monday, as erratic winds hindered efforts to control the blaze.

The fires broke out on Sunday, affecting Spain's Costa Brava, one of the country's most popular beach destinations, as well as major motorways used by holidaymakers driving to and from southern France. Ash from the blaze has also begun to reach the Barcelona area.

Wildfires have broken out in other parts of southern Europe in the past few days.

On Monday, Croatia evacuated tourists near a coastal village and thick smoke forced the closure of the main coastal road linking the northern and central Adriatic. Last week, fire swept through forests near Athens, and villagers had to be evacuated from their homes on the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira.

The fires in the Spanish province of Girona, Catalonia, are the area's most devastating in well over 20 years, the local government said, and Environment Ministry data show 2012 is already the worst year for forest fires in Spain for more than a decade.

All four victims were French, the government of Catalonia and the fire service said. The fourth victim was a 64-year-old man who died of burns on Monday. Read More

NATO says 3 Western advisers killed in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan – The three civilian police training contractors killed by an Afghan policeman over the weekend have been identified as two Americans and a British citizen, Afghan and NATO officials said Monday.

The shooting took place at a training academy in western Afghanistan, the officials said.

There were several other violent incidents around the country, some involving NATO forces, underlining the continuing volatility of Afghanistan as foreign forces prepare to wrap up their combat role by the end of 2014.

In one incident, a NATO service member was killed in an insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan. No details were released, but the death brought the number of foreign forces killed this month to 33 and a total of 248 this year.

Also, the NATO official said two service members with the U.S.-led coalition were wounded on Monday when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them in northern Afghanistan.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the two incidents are still under investigation. Read More

Anaheim police 'kill another man', cops filmed firing on women & children

Mexico protest: Over 30,000 march against new president

@Govt follows you: Twitter feeds info to US police state

Naples and Palermo among 10 Italian cities going broke as pressure grows on Europe's third-largest economy

Italy’s economic woes refuse to go away with ten cities including Naples and Palermo reportedly struggling to manage their own finances.

The country has taken steps to try and sure up its economy on a national level in recent weeks, but the report by daily newspaper La Stampa today highlights growing concerns about the state of local finances.

According to the newspaper unnamed government specialists say the euro zone's third largest economy is under severe stress at a regional level.

Last week Prime Minister Mario Monti raised concerns that the autonomous area of Sicily was on the cusp of defaulting on its debt.

The news comes in the wake of Spanish reports that six regional authorities are on the brink of following the Vatican’s request for financial aid, as they struggle to keep afloat. Read More

Euro exit talk risks self-fulfilling prophecy

(Reuters) - To understand the impact of a potential Greek exit from the euro zone, imagine an operating theater inside a betting shop.

As surgeons prepare to amputate a gangrened foot to prevent infection spreading to healthier parts of the body, gamblers on the sidelines lay bets on which limb will be next for the chop.

Talk of a possible Greek exit has already sapped investors' confidence in the 17-nation single currency area and contributed to higher borrowing costs for Spain and Italy. It is making a planned return to market funding next year harder for Ireland and Portugal, which are implementing tough bailout programs.

Some European politicians and central bankers clearly see jettisoning a delinquent member as a salutory lesson to others not to abuse club privileges. Like the English in Voltaire's philosophical novel Candide, they believe "it's a good thing to execute an admiral from time to time, to encourage the others".

Other policymakers and market participants fear that pushing Greece towards the exit would start a chain reaction, materializing huge costs for investors and taxpayers and perhaps triggering a break-up of the euro. Read More

Syria says could use chemical arms against foreign intervention

(Reuters) - Syria acknowledged for the first time on Monday that it had chemical and biological weapons, saying they could be used if the country faced foreign intervention.

International pressure on President Bashar al-Assad has escalated dramatically in the last week with a rebel offensive in the two biggest cities and a devastating bomb attack which killed four members of his inner circle in Damascus.

Assad's forces have launched fierce counter-offensives, reflecting his determination to hold on to power even at great cost and he has dismissed an Arab offer to grant him a safe exit in return for a swift step down.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said the army would not use chemical weapons to crush rebels but they could be used against forces from outside the country.

"Any chemical or bacterial weapons will never be used ... during the crisis in Syria regardless of the developments," Makdissi said.

"These weapons are stored and secured by Syrian military forces and under its direct supervision and will never be used unless Syria faces external aggression." Read More

U.S. stock markets open over 2 percent in the red

Iraq Insurgents Kill Nearly 100 After Declaring New Offensive

BAGHDAD — In a coordinated display intended to show they remain a viable force, Iraqi insurgents launched at least 37 separate attacks on Monday morning, setting off car bombs, storming a military base and ambushing checkpoints, Iraqi authorities said.

It was the single bloodiest day this year, with at least 97 people killed and more than 300 wounded in preliminary totals, according to local Iraqi officials in the many areas where attacks took place. The toll could rise still further as reports of more strikes continued to come in from provinces in northern and central Iraq well into the afternoon.

The attacks were predicted Sunday in an audio message attributed to the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Bakir Al Baghdadi, and posted on the group’s Web site. The message promised that a new offensive, which it called Breaking Down Walls, would begin soon.

In sheer number of attacks, the offensive was without precedent this year and was sure to raise concerns about the government’s ability to contain the violence six months after the last American troops left the country. Read More

Raging Forest Fires In Spain Kill Four People


Forest fires raging in Spain's north eastern region of Catalonia have killed four people, officials have said.

The area is close to the border with France and includes the Costa Brava, one of the most popular beach destinations in Spain.

A 64-year-old man died on Monday at a Barcelona hospital having suffered 80% burns after his car became engulfed in flames.

A father and his 15-year-old daughter lost their lives after jumping into the sea off a cliff. His wife and two other children survived as the family was forced to abandon their car to flee wildfires approaching the coastal town of Portbou on Sunday.

A 75-year-old man died of a heart attack as he watched his house consumed by flames in the further inland town of Llers, near La Junquera, Girona. All four victims are French nationals.

Strong winds of up to 55 miles an hour are hindering efforts to control the blaze which has injured at least a further 23 people and has so far ravaged up to 32,000 acres of land.

Hundreds of firefighters, backed by up to a dozen water bombing aircraft, are continuing to battle the wildfires - the area's most devastating for 20 years. Read More

Syria Issues Warning Over Chemical Weapons

Syria's foreign ministry has issued a veiled threat over foreign intervention in the country - warning it would only use chemical weapons if it faced "external aggression".

Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said any chemical or bacterial weapons were securely stored by the armed forces.

"The ministry wants to re-affirm the stance of the Syrian Arab Republic that any chemical or bacterial weapon will never be used - and I repeat will never be used - during the crisis in Syria regardless of the developments," he said.

"These weapons are stored and secured by Syrian military forces and under its direct supervision and will never be used unless Syria faces external aggression."

The statement comes as Syrian rebels remain in control of the town of Azaz in the country's north, where they won a significant victory against government forces.

Fighting rages across Syria despite claims by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) that President Bashar al Assad's regime is "collapsing".

There were huge celebrations in Azaz, 20 miles to the north of Syria's largest city of Aleppo, after it fell into rebel hands on Thursday. Read More

'Sexiest Refugee' Contest Apology from Zoo Weekly magazine, Australia

An Australian lad's magazine has apologised for a stunt encouraging "sexy" asylum seekers to take part in a photo shoot.

Zoo Weekly magazine printed a two-page article on "sexiest boat people" including a competition asking: "Are you Australia’s hottest asylum seeker?"

Australia is currently debating how best to manage scores of asylum seekers heading to the country in rickety boats which often get into difficulties. Scores of people recently died as their vessel sank on its way to the country.

The magazine asked: "Are you a refugee not even the immigration minister could refuse? Then we want to see you! We're looking for Oz's hottest asylum seeker, so if you've swapped persecution for sexiness, we want to shoot you (with a camera - relax!)."

An online petition started by refugee worker Matt Darvas encouraged people to complain about the article and within a day it had collected thousands of signatures.

Now the editor of Zoo Weekly, Tim Keen, has issued an apology via the publication’s website which reads: "Zoo Weekly regrets any offence caused to any of our readers, and to any asylum seeker or refugee and their families and supporters, by the article 'Sexiest Boat People' on pages 32 and 33 of the July 16th 2012 issue of Zoo Weekly. Read More

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake ANDREANOF ISLANDS, ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, ALASKA - 23rd July 2012

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck the ANDREANOF ISLANDS, ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, ALASKA at a depth of 65.4 km (40.6 miles), the quake hit at 08:57:44 UTC Monday 23rd July 2012
The epicenter was 27 km (16 miles) Southeast of Atka, Alaska
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake HINDU KUSH REGION, AFGHANISTAN - 23rd July 2012

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck the HINDU KUSH REGION, AFGHANISTAN at a depth of 12.7 km (7.9 miles), the quake hit at 12:10:30 UTC Monday 23rd July 2012
The epicenter was 2 km (1.2 miles) Northeast of Nahrin, Afghanistan
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake KURIL ISLANDS - 23rd July 2012

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck the KURIL ISLANDS at a depth of 58.6 km (36.4 miles), the quake hit at 10:44:47 UTC Monday 23rd July 2012
The epicenter was 383 km (237 miles) ESE of Vostok, Russia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Spain Hammered As Investors Flee

Spanish 10-year bond yields have shot up to as much as 7.56%, as markets in Europe and Asia come under increasing strain amid the eurozone debt crisis.

The Spanish Ibex stock exchange was down by as much as 5% in early Monday trading, and the Greek market plunged by 6%.

Spain's economy minister Luis de Guindos ruled out that the country could need a full-scale bailout, as the yield rates - the government borrowing cost - reached the highest level since creation of the euro.

Asked about this possibility on the sidelines of a congress hearing about the European aid to ailing Spanish lenders, Mr De Guindos said: "Absolutely not."

Although German officials tried to calm markets its finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble then announced a decision to meet Mr de Guindos on Tuesday.

The market strain comes as the Bank of Spain said the country's economy contracted by 0.4% on a quarterly basis in the three months from April to June, having contracted by 0.3% in the first quarter of the year.

In a monthly report the central bank also estimated the economy contracted by 1.0% on an annual basis, compared with a fall of 0.4% in the preceding quarter. Read More