Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Al Qaeda's Hand Is Now Detected in Syria Conflict

CAIRO — It is the sort of image that has become a staple of the Syrian revolution, a video of masked men calling themselves the Free Syrian Army and brandishing AK-47s — with one unsettling difference. In the background hang two flags of Al Qaeda, white Arabic writing on a black field.

“We are now forming suicide cells to make jihad in the name of God,” said a speaker in the video using the classical Arabic favored by Al Qaeda.

The video, posted on YouTube, is one more bit of evidence that Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are doing their best to hijack the Syrian revolution, with a growing although still limited success that has American intelligence officials publicly concerned, and Iraqi officials next door openly alarmed.

While leaders of the Syrian political and military opposition continue to deny any role for the extremists, Al Qaeda has helped to change the nature of the conflict, injecting the weapon it perfected in Iraq — suicide bombings — into the battle against President Bashar al-Assad with growing frequency. The evidence is mounting that Syria has become a magnet for Sunni extremists, including those operating under the banner of Al Qaeda. Read More

NASA scientists stunned as satellite pictures show 'unprecedented' melting of Greenland's ice sheet

Unprecedented: These maps show the extent of surface melt over Greenland's ice sheet on July 8 (left) and July 12 (right)

Scientists have raised fears of rising sea levels after pictures showed Greenland's ice sheet has melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations.

Almost the entire ice cover of Greenland has experienced some melting at its surface this month, according to data collected by three independent satellites.

The findings, described as 'unprecedented' by NASA, have stunned scientists, who say only about half of the ice sheet melts naturally during an average summer.

One expert even suspected that the satellites had made a mistake at first, so surprising were the results.

Son Nghiem, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, was analysing radar data from the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) Oceansat-2 satellite last week when he noticed that most of Greenland appeared to have undergone surface melting.

He said: 'This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result - was this real or was it due to a data error?'

Mr Nghiem checked the Oceansat-2's findings against pictures taken by other satellites, belonging to NASA and the US Air Force. Read More

India: Soldiers Kill 5 as Dispute Over Land Explodes in Violence

Troops sent to quell clashes over land rights in northeast India killed five people Tuesday after the government ordered them to shoot suspects on sight.

The killings and the discoveries of more bodies raised the toll from the violence in Assam State to 32 since Friday, according to G. D. Tripathy, the Assam home secretary. An additional 170,000 people have fled to more than 100 relief camps to avoid the fighting between the ethnic Bodo and Muslim settlers, who are mostly Bengali, in the western district of Kokrajhar.

The police have found 27 bodies, most of them hacked with machetes and left in the jungle or beside roads or rivers. About 80 homes were burned down overnight as the violence spread to the neighboring Dhubri and Chirang districts. Residents of the village of Dimol fled Tuesday.

Authorities sent about 5,000 army and paramilitary troops to the region with a mandate to shoot people suspected of arson and rioting on sight, said the Assam chief minister, Tarun Gogoi. Animosity and accusations of land theft have long simmered between Bodos and the settlers, who have clashed sporadically since the 1990s and burned each other’s homes and property. Source

CIA absence from Syria a setback for US, officials say

The lack of a CIA presence in Syria leaves the U.S. with scant details about opposition groups. Critics see a missed opportunity to influence Syrian rebels.

WASHINGTON — Despite a dire need for intelligence about the groups fighting to overthrow the Syrian government, the CIA has little if any presence in the country, seriously limiting its ability to collect information and influence the course of events, according to current and former U.S. officials.

American intelligence agencies have kept tabs on Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles, using spy satellites and other forms of electronic eavesdropping as well as information from allied nations and U.S. personnel in Turkey and other neighboring countries. The CIA also has some understanding of President Bashar Assad's government, officials said.

But more than 16 months into the Syrian uprising, the U.S. government still is struggling for details about who the main opposition groups are and what motivates them, say the current and former officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in discussing covert intelligence activities. Read More

Body Of Missing Teen Recovered From River Avon

Police dive teams have recovered the body of a teenage boy who went missing while swimming in a river.

The 14-year-old was cooling off in a stretch of the River Avon between Bristol and Bath yesterday evening when he disappeared under the water and did not resurface.

A search operation involving the police, fire and ambulance service was launched at around 5.40pm before the body of the youngster, who is yet to be formally identified, was discovered around six hours later.

A spokesman for Avon and and Somerset Constabulary said: "We can confirm that the body of a 14-year-old body was discovered by divers at around 11.30pm last night.

"His next of kin have been informed." Read More

Britain In Longest Double-Dip Since WWII

Britain's longest double-dip recession since the Second World War will be confirmed in official figures out later.

Gross domestic product (GDP) - a broad measure for the total economy - is forecast to have shrunk by around 0.2% between April and June in its third quarter in a row of contraction.

That would mark the longest double-dip recession since quarterly records began in 1955.

The last double-dip recession was in the 1970s, when the economy was hamstrung amid soaring oil prices and a miners' strike, but that only lasted two quarters.

The latest decline is set to have been worsened by the extra bank holiday surrounding the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and record rainfall in April and June.

Recent estimates from the Bank of England said the celebrations could wipe up to 0.5% from output, while its governor Sir Mervyn King has warned the special events including the Jubilee and the Olympics will skew figures this year.

Today's figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) will be a preliminary estimate and be subject to revision. Read More

Fighter Jets Bomb Syria's Second City

Thousands of Syrian troops have pulled out of a strategic plateau in the north western province of Idlib headed for Aleppo, which is under opposition threat, according to activists.

It is claimed goverment fighter jets are targeting Aleppo - Syria's second city - as opposition fighters attempt to seize control of the commercial hub.

In a significant escalation of the conflict, the regime has reportedly unleashed warplanes and helicopter gunships to "drop bombs" in a bid to regain control of neighbourhoods in Aleppo and the capital Damascus.

Residents and local activists say Syrian troops and President Bashar al Assad's intelligence services are battling opposition fighters around Aleppo's Old City.

"The rebels have moved to try and liberate downtown after taking over the neighbourhoods of al Sakhour, Masaken Hanano, Tariq al Bab, al Sheikh Najajr and al Ard al Hamra in the east and Saladin in the west," an opposition activist in Majed al Nour said. Read More

Dorset Beach Landslide: Rescuers Find Body of a Young Woman

Emergency workers searching for a young woman following a landslide at a beach in Dorset have discovered a body.

Search crews had been hunting for the woman after 400 tonnes of rock fell on top of her as she sat on Burton Bradstock beach with her family yesterday afternoon.

Dorset Police confirmed the body of a 22-year-old was located at around 9.40pm.

Next of kin have been informed and the search operation has been stood down, the force added.

Emergency services believe the heavy rain over the last few weeks combined with the recent heatwave caused the landslip.

Witness Len Muggeridge said he was fishing off Burton Rocks when he heard "a large thunder-like sound".

"We looked up and half of the cliff towards Freshwater had fallen down," he told Sky News.

"Within 20 minutes there were people tramping over the top of it and then a second fall occurred."

Mr Muggeridge said there had been two or three big falls over the last 15 years and regular smaller falls.

"That cliff could come down at any time," he said. Read More

6.4 Magnitude Earthquake OFF WEST COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA - 25th July 2012

A magnitude 6.4 earthquake has struck OFF WEST COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA at a depth of 22 km (13.7 miles), the quake hit at 00:27:45 UTC Wednesday 25th July 2012
The epicenter was 28 km (17 miles) Northwest of Sinabang, Indonesia
Tsunami Warning Issued - Risk of Local a Tsunami - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

AN EARTHQUAKE HAS OCCURRED WITH THESE PRELIMINARY PARAMETERS

ORIGIN TIME - 0028Z 25 JUL 2012
COORDINATES - 2.5 NORTH 95.8 EAST
LOCATION - OFF W COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATRA
MAGNITUDE - 6.6

EVALUATION

A DESTRUCTIVE WIDESPREAD TSUNAMI THREAT DOES NOT EXIST BASED ON
HISTORICAL EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI DATA.

HOWEVER - THERE IS A VERY SMALL POSSIBILITY OF A LOCAL TSUNAMI
THAT COULD AFFECT COASTS LOCATED USUALLY NO MORE THAN A HUNDRED
KILOMETERS FROM THE EARTHQUAKE EPICENTER. AUTHORITIES IN THE
REGION NEAR THE EPICENTER SHOULD BE MADE AWARE OF THIS
POSSIBILITY.

4.5 Magnitude Earthquake EASTERN TURKEY - 24th July 2012

A magnitude 4.5 earthquake has struck EASTERN TURKEY at a depth of 10.2 km (6.3 miles), the quake hit at 22:53:41 UTC Tuesday 24th July 2012
The epicenter was 17 km (10 miles) North of Van, Turkey
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake CRETE, GREECE - 24th July 2012

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck KORYAKIA, RUSSIA at a depth of 17.2 km (10.7 miles), the quake hit at 21:25:04 UTC Tuesday 24th July 2012
The epicenter was 236 km (146 miles) Northeast from Il'pyrskiy, Russia
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.5 Magnitude Earthquake CRETE, GREECE - 24th July 2012

A magnitude 4.5 earthquake has struck CRETE, GREECE at a depth of 33.5 km (20.8 miles), the quake hit at 20:19:42 UTC Tuesday 24th July 2012
The epicenter was 36 km (22 miles) Southwest of Palaiochora, Greece
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

N.Korea Stations Deploys Helicopters Near Sea Border (along with other equipment in apparent "preparation for invasion of islands")

North Korea has deployed around 20 helicopters at two bases near South Korea's Baeknyeong Island in the West Sea, according to a government source here. They include attack helicopters that are capable of engaging targets on the ground.

Baeknyeong Island is South Korea's northernmost island that lies just south of the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border with North Korea. The North has deployed the attack and transport helicopters at air bases since May, the source said. "They seem to have been put there independently of any military exercises," the source added.

The choppers are upgraded versions of Mi-2s as well as Mi-4 and Mi-8 troop carriers. But some are armed with heavy machine guns and rockets.

The deployment is believed to be part of a strategy targeting the South Korean islands that would also involve hydrofoils.

After Kim Jong-un took power at the end of last year, North Korea deployed rocket launchers, hydrofoils, Mi-2 helicopters and fighter jets on the western coastline and conducted military drills which appeared to prepare for an invasion of the South Korean islands. The deployment of the helicopters seems to be a response to South Korea deploying AH-1S Cobra attack helicopters and multiple launch rocket systems on the West Sea islands.

The South Korean military is ready to strike back with Cheonma surface-to-air-missiles or deploy KF-16 fighter jets if the North mobilizes a large number of choppers. more

New York house explosion‎: 6 Hurt 1 Missing

WILSON, N.Y. — Authorities say four family members have been injured and a 12-year-old girl is missing after an explosion leveled a home in western New York.

The Niagara County Sheriff's Office tells local media outlets that Tuesday morning's explosion occurred at a home in the rural town of Wilson, on Lake Ontario about 30 miles north of Buffalo.

Deputies say a mother, father and two children have been injured and firefighters are searching the smoking rubble of the home for the missing girl. Police say two other people who lived in the house weren't home when the blast occurred around 6:15 a.m.

The injured have been taken to hospitals. Information on their conditions isn't available.

Images posted on Buffalo media websites show smoking debris where the house stood. Source