Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Obama authorizes secret U.S. support for Syrian rebels

President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, U.S. sources familiar with the matter said.
Obama's order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence "finding," broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad.

This and other developments signal a shift toward growing, albeit still circumscribed, support for Assad's armed opponents - a shift that intensified following last month's failure of the U.N. Security Council to agree on tougher sanctions against the Damascus government.

The White House is for now apparently stopping short of giving the rebels lethal weapons, even as some U.S. allies do just that.

But U.S. and European officials have said that there have been noticeable improvements in the coherence and effectiveness of Syrian rebel groups in the past few weeks. That represents a significant change in assessments of the rebels by Western officials, who previously characterized Assad's opponents as a disorganized, almost chaotic, rabble. more

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Homeless People’s Human Waste Clogging Up Bay Area Rapid Transit Escalators

Bay Area Rapid Transit users have all experienced it; escalators that are down at their station. But what’s really behind the maintenance issues for the transit agency?

Officials said one of the main issues is the copious amounts of human excrement found in the escalator’s works, gumming up the wheels and gears. The bottom of BART’s stairwells often act as prime spots for the homeless to take shelter at night and in many cases, relieve themselves.

Last month, work crews opened up the broken BART escalator at San Francisco’s Civic Center Station and found so much human waste that they had to call in a hazardous-materials team.

BART police said there is little they can do about the problem as officers have to witness someone in the act to issue a citation.

Officials have begun the process of meeting with San Francisco leaders about cleaning up the plaza at San Francisco’s 16th Street Station. Currently, five of the nine escalators that aren’t working are located in downtown San Francisco. source

'Bullingdon Club' dolphins form elite societies and cliques, scientists find


Wild bottlenose dolphins bond over their use of tools, with distinct cliques and classes forming over decades as a result of their skills, scientists have found.

The communities, which have been compared with societies such as the Bullingdon Club in humans, mean the aquatic animals share their knowledge only with those in their own circle, passing it down the family line.

The findings mean the traits of “inclusive inheritability” and culture are no longer considered exclusive to human beings.

Observing wild dolphins in Shark Bay, Australia, researchers from Georgetown University used hunting tools as a marker of dolphin societal habits.

Noticing some dolphins in the area used a sponge to protect their beaks while hunting, they attempted to discover why the practice had not spread. more


97 per cent of the world to be destroyed tomorrow! (Or, Climate Change Propaganda Fraud Bullies Onward)

No, not really. It's just my little joke, based on pretending to take people like the BBC's resident climate activists David Shukman, Richard Black and Roger Harrabin seriously.

I'll tell you what doesn't amuse me, though. Here I am in Wales, on my holidays, enjoying the semi-sun, and suddenly I get emails from and Tweets from sensible people on my side of the argument saying: "Help! Help! The BBC has gone mad for this story about the NASA satellite showing that 97 per cent of Greenland has melted and apparently it's 'unprecedented'. What do we do?"

Sigh. The right thing to do on occasions like this, I find, is to head straight for Watts Up With That? Unlike, say, the BBC, or the Guardian, or the Independent or most of the rest of the MSM, WUWT's posts are grounded in actual science and real world data.

And, yep, WUWT makes two very simple points.

1. 97 per cent of Greenland hasn't melted. (If it had we'd be underwater by now)
I’m sure our readers don’t really need to have it pointed out that the melting event did not melt 97% of Greenland’s ice sheet, but rather occurred over 97% of the surface area of the ice sheet and that the melting event has ended. We will undoubtedly be treated to that 97% statistic for a long time to come.

2. "Unprecedented" is not a strictly accurate adjective to describe something that has happened before.

I had to laugh at the title of their press release, where they cite “Unprecedented Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Melt”, then contradict themselves when the main researcher goes on to say “melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889“. Do these guys even read their own press releases? Climatologist Pat Michaels concurs saying: “Apparently NASA should start distributing dictionaries to the authors of its press releases.” more

America hates its Olympic athletes (and taxes them $9,000 per gold medal)

Because conservatives are scrooges, the good folks at Americans for Tax Reform have gone through the fine print to find out what our Olympians will have to cough up to the IRS should they be lucky enough to win any medals in London.

Even by the standards of our government, the numbers are insane.

For instance: Americans who win bronze will pay a $2 tax on the medal itself. But the bronze comes with a modest prize—$10,000 as an honorarium for devoting your entire life to being the third best athlete on the planet in your chosen discipline. And the IRS will take $3,500 of that, thank you very much.

There are also prizes that accompany each medal: $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze.

Silver medalists will owe $5,385. You win a gold? Timothy Geithner will be standing there with his hand out for $8,986.

So as of this writing, swimmer Missy Franklin—who's a high school student—is already on the hook for almost $14,000. By the time she's done in the pool, her tab could be much higher. (That is, unless she has to decline the prize money to placate the NCAA—the only organization in America whose nuttiness rivals the IRS.) more

French canal threatened by mysterious fungus

Rebels 'execute' regime loyalists in Aleppo

Suicide bombers attempt to disrupt Somali constitution

'Stop robbing us!' Spain turning into Greece?

Assange lawyer: US drawing up case of unprecedented size & scale

US takes orders from Zionists on Iran: Analyst

17 suspected cases of Chikungunya, Bhutan

Samtse & Phuentsholing: The public health laboratory last week received 17 blood samples from Phuentsholing and Samtse to test them for Chikungunya, a viral disease that is spread by mosquitoes.

On Monday, one of the first three samples the laboratory had received tested positive for Chikungunya, making it the first case of the mosquito-borne viral disease in the country, said laboratory officials.

Of the 17, nine samples were sent from Phuentsholing, and the rest from Samtse. The laboratory’s head, microbiologist, Sonam Wangchuk, said the infected or suspected cases are from those, who live in areas close to West Bengal, India. “It’s the first positive case of Chikungunya reported in the country,” Sonam Wangchuk said.

The lab has so far tested seven samples negative for Chikungunya, after the polymerase chain reaction test. To further confirm the existence of any other viruses, all 17 samples were sent to the Armed Force research institute for medical science in Bangkok yesterday.

The Chikungunya virus is transmitted from human to human by the bites of infected female mosquitoes, mostly Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, causing fever, severe joint pain, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. After the bite of an infected mosquito, onset of illness occurs usually between four and eight days, but can range from two to 12 days. The name ‘chikungunya’ means, “to become contorted”, and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain. Read More

Israel to US: Time running out in Iran nuclear dispute

JERUSALEM, Aug 1 (Reuters) - Israel warned visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday that time was running out for a peaceful settlement to the nuclear dispute with Iran, saying sanctions and tough talk over possible military action were failing to sway Tehran.

Speculation is rampant over whether Israel will make a military strike against Iran to halt a nuclear programme that the West suspects is aimed at building an atomic bomb but which Tehran says is entirely peaceful.

Panetta assured Israel the United States would not allow Iran to develop a nuclear bomb. Setting a tough tone, he suggested military action was possible after all other options were exhausted.

"This is not about containment. This is about making very clear that they are never to be able to get an atomic weapon," Panetta said at one point in the day.

"If they make the decision to proceed with a nuclear weapon ... we have options that we are prepared to implement to ensure that that does not happen," he said separately.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signalled that such declarations were of little comfort, noting that Panetta himself had said a few months ago "that when all else fails, America will act".

"However forceful our statements, they have not convinced Iran that we are serious about stopping them," Netanyahu said, standing next to Panetta. Read More

Carole Waugh: Man Held On Suspicion Of Murder

A 47-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murdering missing oil executive Carole Waugh, Scotland Yard said tonight.

The man was originally arrested last night at Luton Airport, where he was an incoming passenger, on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud, and on suspicion of kidnap. He remains in custody at a south London police station.

To date, a total of 10 people have been arrested in connection with the investigation.

Investigating officer DCI John McFarlane of the Homicide and Serious Crime Command, said: "Information has been received which has progressed this inquiry and we are now treating Carole's disappearance as a murder investigation.

"I am unable to go into further detail about the nature of the new information at this time, however, we now believe that Carole has not been seen alive since April 16.

"Since that time, significant plundering of her estate has taken place to the value of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

"In addition to a number of fraudulent transactions associated with Carole's bank account there are also a number of her personal possessions that currently cannot be located.

"Today I am releasing images of items of Cartier jewellery, identical to that worn by Carole, which are amongst items missing from her personal possessions.

"The jewellery that is missing is as follows: a Cartier ring, a white gold bracelet; a yellow gold bracelet and a yellow gold necklace, which are all in the same style.

"Carole wore the jewellery regularly and I appeal to anyone may have been offered such jewellery or has any knowledge of its whereabouts to contact us with information." Read More

Pennsylvania teen unearths a Word War II-era mortar in his backyard

Drought disaster zones declared in U.S.

(CNN) -- More than half of all U.S. counties have been designated disaster zones, the Department of Agriculture reported, blaming excessive heat and a devastating drought that's spread across the Corn Belt and contributed to rising food prices.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday declared disaster zone designations for an additional 218 counties in 12 states because of damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat.

The states are Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming.

Nearly three-quarters of the nation's cattle acreage is now inside a drought-stricken area, as is about two-thirds of the country's hay acreage, the agency reported.

USDA researchers added that an average of 37% of the nation's soybeans were last week ranked from very poor to poor, the lowest quality recorded since a massive drought in 1988.

Nearly half of America's corn crop was also rated very poor to poor, while 57% of its pastures and range land were similarly graded.

This year's harsh conditions suggest food prices next year could surge by as much as 4.5%, the agency reported. Read More

Al-Assad orders army to restore order to Syria

(CNN) -- Syria's president exhorted his country's armed forces Wednesday to restore stability to his nation, which is reeling from a growing grass-roots armed resistance and mounting deaths.

"The enemy is among us and is using inside agents to destabilize the country and the security of its citizens," President Bashar al-Assad said, according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency.

Al-Assad made his remarks during a crucial stage in the nearly 17-month-long national uprising: the battle for control of Aleppo, the country's most populous city and commercial hub.

More than 14 people were killed in Aleppo on Wednesday, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said. Read More

Second Israeli dies in self-immolation welfare protest

(Reuters) - An Israeli who set himself on fire in protest at economic difficulties has died of his injuries, the hospital treating him said on Wednesday, the second such death in a few days.

Akiva Mafi, a 45-year-old, wheelchair-bound army veteran, doused his body in petrol and lit it at a bus station on July 22, after what friends described as a debilitating battle for welfare benefits.

He was the second such fatality after Moshe Silman, a debt-ridden member of a grassroots movement calling for lower living costs, self-immolated during a July 14 demonstration in Tel Aviv and died two weeks later.

Silman, 57, left a note accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative government of "taking from the poor and giving to the rich". Local media reported similar suicide bids among others suffering economic hardship.

In response to the deaths, activists announced plans to hold a demonstration in Tel Aviv later this week "as a shout-out against economic hardship leading some to suicide." Read More

Carole Waugh Murder: Man Arrested On Suspicion Of Murder

A 47-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murdering missing oil executive Carole Waugh, Scotland Yard said tonight.

The 50 year old, originally from Durham, went missing earlier this year.

More follows...

Syrians suffering from food shortages

Aug. 1 - Syrians waited in long lines for bread in Idlib while the country's 17-month insurgency prompted Turkey to deploy tanks to the border. Deborah Gembara reports.


4.2 Magnitude Earthquake SERAM, INDONESIA - 1st August 2012

A magnitude 4.2 earthquake has struck SERAM, INDONESIA at a depth of 53.1 km (33 miles), the quake hit at 16:41:23 UTC Wednesday 1st August 2012
The epicenter was 249 km (155 miles) ENE from Ambon, Moluccas, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Torrential rains from Typhoon Saola batter Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – Torrential rains from an approaching typhoon battered eastern Taiwan on Wednesday after killing at least 14 people and displacing 154,000 in the Philippines.

At least one death in Taiwan was reported. Local media said a falling tree killed a woman near the southern city of Kaohsiung.

Typhoon Saola was about 100 miles east of the coastal city of Hualien in the afternoon and had sustained winds of 86 mph and gusts of 109 mph. It was moving slowly but growing stronger and was expected to continue to strengthen.

Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau predicted it would skirt the island's northeast tip early Thursday afternoon. Read More