Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Scientists Discover Distant Super Galaxy

Astronomers using Nasa's Chandra X-Ray telescope have spotted a gigantic distant galaxy that creates about 740 new stars a year.

Astonishingly, the giant galaxy creates more stars in a day than the Milky Way does in a year.

It rests about 5.7 billion light years away and is in the centre of a recently discovered cluster of galaxies that give the brightest X-ray glow astronomers have ever seen.

It is by far the biggest creation of stars that astronomers have found for this type of galaxy - massive galaxies that are in the centre of clusters.

For its size, type and age, the galaxy should not be producing stars at such a rapid pace, according to the authors of a study published in the journal Nature.

"It's very extreme," said Harvard University astronomer Ryan Foley, co-author of the study. "It pushes the boundaries of what we understand."

The galaxy is also fairly mature, and could be up to six billion years old. Read More

'Terrorists' Attack Pakistani Air Force Base

Suspected Islamist militants armed with guns and rocket launchers have attacked an air force base in central Pakistan, sparking fierce clashes with security forces, officials said.

"One body of a suicide bomber strapped with explosives has been found close to the impact area," the Pakistani air force said in a statement, adding that at least one attacker had been killed.

The assault on the Minhas airfield in Kamra in Punjab Province, 37 miles northwest of Islamabad, took place in the early hours of Thursday.

Officials said special forces responded to the attack on the base, home to the Pakistani Aeronautical Complex where Mirage and JF-17 fighter jets are built.

The air force said "terrorists" had attacked the base and that "intense fire" was being exchanged between the security forces and militants.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Islamist militants linked to the Pakistani Taliban have staged a number of high-profile attacks in the country in recent years, including one in 2009 on army headquarters in Rawalpindi. Read More

5.2 Magnitude Earthquake OFFSHORE EL SALVADOR - 15th August 2012

A magnitude 5.2 earthquake has struck OFFSHORE EL SALVADOR at a depth of 73.1 km (45.4 miles), the quake hit at 23:45:54 UTC Wednesday 15th August 2012
The epicenter was 27 km (16 miles) SSE of La Libertad, El Salvador
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake EASTERN NEW GUINEA REGION, PAPUA NEW GUINEA - 15th August 2012

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck the EASTERN NEW GUINEA REGION, PAPUA NEW GUINEA at a depth of 41.4 km (25.7 miles), the quake hit at 23:23:52 UTC Wednesday 15th August 2012
The epicenter was 28 km (17 miles) SSW of Wau, Papua New Guinea
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.5 Magnitude Earthquake CARLSBERG RIDGE - 15th August 2012

A magnitude 4.5 earthquake has struck the CARLSBERG RIDGE at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the quake hit at 22:12:47 UTC Wednesday 15th August 2012
The epicenter was 469 km (291 miles) Southeast of Tamrida, Yemen
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Assange 'Arrest Threat' Ahead Of Asylum Ruling

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is expected to find out whether Ecuador will grant him asylum later this afternoon.

The announcement follows a dramatic claim by Ecuador's foreign minister that Britain threatened to storm his country's London embassy to arrest Mr Assange.

Ricardo Patino told a news conference that Ecuador had received a written threat from Britain that "it could assault our embassy" if the 41-year-old was not handed over.

Mr Patino released details of a letter he said was delivered through a British embassy official in the capital of the South American country, Quito.

The letter said: "You need to be aware that there is a legal base in the UK, the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, that would allow us to take actions in order to arrest Mr Assange in the current premises of the Embassy.

"We sincerely hope that we do not reach that point, but if you are not capable of resolving this matter of Mr Assange's presence in your premises, this is an open option for us."

But the British Foreign Office has said in a statement: "We have an obligation to extradite Mr Assange and it is only right that we give Ecuador the full picture. Read More

Northeastern China Facing Worst Pest Infestation in a Decade

Will Coal Power Use Up China's Water? (And possibly destroy China itself?)

Israeli Military: Blasts heard in southern city

Explosions rocked the southern Israeli city of Eilat late Wednesday, and the military said it suspected that rockets were fired from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. No casualties or damage were reported.

Eilat is a Red Sea resort next to Sinai, scene of many militant attacks in recent months. On Aug. 5, Sinai militants killed 16 Egyptian soldiers where the borders of Egypt, Israel and Gaza converge. Then they stole Egyptian army vehicles and crashed into Israel, where Israeli forces stopped them with gunfire.

Eilat has been the target of previous rocket attacks, apparently from Sinai. Israel has expressed concern about extremist Islamists and Palestinian militants from Gaza operating there.

The military said rockets were apparently fired from Sinai at Eilat. Soldiers searched the area for several hours after the blasts were heard, but no exploded rockets were found. There was no immediate comment from Egypt. more

Israeli minister warns of 30-day war with Iran

A strike on Iran’s nuclear sites would spark a 30-day war with missile attacks on Israel's cities and as many as 500 dead, according to the Israeli minister responsible for preparing home defences.

Matan Vilnai, who is stepping down as home front defence minister to become ambassador to China, said the country was “ready as never before”.

“The assessments are for a war that will last 30 days on a number of fronts,” he told the Maariv newspaper.

“It could be that there will be less fatalities, but it could be there will be more, that is the scenario that we are preparing for according to the best experts.”

Speculation is growing that Israel is planning a unilateral attack on Iran’s nuclear programme - or that it is using the question to increase pressure on Barack Obama to launch an American strike.

Western governments share the fears about Iran’s nuclear ambitions but oppose military action and want to give more time to diplomacy. more

Neither US nor Israel can destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities, only cause delay

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Tuesday night that he doesn’t believe Israel has made a decision to attack Iran’s nuclear program. “As a sovereign country, they will ultimately make decisions based on what they think is in their national security interest,” he said, but he believed there was “still room to continue to negotiate” and “additional sanctions were beginning to have an additional impact.” The Secretary added that the Israeli prime minister agrees that military action should be the last resort.

At their joint press briefing in Washington, Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: “I am not privy to [Israel’s] planning. So what I’m telling you is based on what I know of their capabilities. And I may not know about all of their capabilities. But I think it’s fair… to say they could delay but not destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities.”

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources say that neither official said anything new.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have reiterated firmly that the government had not reached a decision on whether to attack Iran. They have fully agreed it must be the last, not the first, option. more

Greece seeking TWO Year austerity extension



(Financial Times) -- Greece is seeking a two-year extension of its latest austerity programme aimed at improving the country's debt sustainability and prospects for a return to growth, according to a document obtained by the Financial Times.

Antonis Samaras, the centre-right prime minister, is expected to outline the proposal during talks next week with Angela Merkel, German chancellor, in Berlin and French President François Hollande in Paris.

It comes as Greece struggles to find another €11.5bn of spending cuts -- equivalent to about 5 per cent of national output -- to be implemented in 2013 and 2014 under the current bailout deal with the European Union and International Monetary Fund. Read More

10 Killed as Bitter mining feud erupts in violence, South Africa

X-51A Waverider Fails during Test Flight

A hypersonic aircraft launched by the Air Force Tuesday spiraled out of control and was destroyed before it could reach its goal of speeding to 4,600 mph, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

The third test of the X-51A Waverider was launched Tuesday off the California coast from a B-52 modified bomber aircraft and was to fly for 300 seconds, reaching hypersonic speeds of Mach 6, but only flew for 16 seconds, according to the Air Force.

Officials said a problem with a tail fin caused the missile-like vehicle to fly out of control before the main engine could be ignited, leading researchers to destroy it early.

"A fault was identified with one of the cruiser control fins. Once the X-51 separated from the rocket booster, approximately 15 seconds later, the cruiser was not able to maintain control due to the faulty control fin and was lost," said a statement issued by the Air Force.

It's unclear what, if any, information was gleaned from the test. According to the statement, "Program officials will now begin the process of working through a rigorous evaluation to determine the exact cause of all factors at play." Read More

When are drone killings illegal?

(CNN) -- The Bush and Obama administrations' extraordinary program of targeted killing has resulted in the deaths of as many as 4,400 people to date. Books such as Daniel Klaidman's "Kill or Capture" and David E. Sanger's "Confront and Conceal" are appearing thick and fast, focusing on the program and particularly on the use of drones to carry it out.

The belated scrutiny is welcome. Yet it still fails to critically assess the essential question: Is this killing occurring in war?

Both Presidents Bush and Obama have attempted to justify thousands of drone attacks as part of a "war" or "armed conflict." But is that correct?

The question must be answered in terms of international law. When the United States kills people in foreign, sovereign states, the world looks to international law for the standard of justification. In war, enemy fighters may be killed under a standard of reasonable necessity; outside war, authorities are far more restricted in their right to resort to lethal force.

Independent scholars confirm that many drone attacks are occurring outside war zones. These experts know the legal definition of war, and they understand why it is important to know it: Above all, protecting human rights is different in war than from protecting them in peace. Read More

Standard Chartered sued in US over Iran ties to Lebanon bombing...How much will they have to Pay to get out of this one?

(Reuters) - The estates of the victims of the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut sued Standard Chartered seeking compensation over the bank's concealment of Iran-linked transactions.

The civil lawsuit, filed in U.S. district court in Manhattan, said the bombing victims obtained a $2.6 billion judgment in compensatory damages against Iran in 2007. The court document said the plaintiffs include representatives of the estates of the 241 U.S. servicemen killed in the attack in the Lebanese capital, relatives and heirs and bombing survivors.

Standard Chartered spokeswoman Julie Gibson said the bank's policy is not to discuss pending litigation.

Standard Chartered Bank and its New York branch are identified as the defendants in the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages and punitive damages.

The bank on Tuesday agreed to pay $340 million to New York State's financial regulator to settle allegations that it concealed Iran-linked transactions worth a total of $250 billion. Read More

Iran earthquake: Two more survivors found

Damascus rocked by rebel bombing

Chile student protesters face new threat

Mohammed Kazi Missing from Smedmore Road area of Leicester.

Police have released a picture of a nine-year-old boy who they are concerned about after he was reported missing from home.

Mohammed Kazi was last seen between 3.30pm and 4pm at his home address in the Smedmore Road area of Leicester.

He was reported missing later in the evening after failing to return home.

Mohammed is described as Asian, of slim build with short dark hair. He was last seen wearing a red hooded top, trousers possibly blue and brown boots.

Sergeant Ben Healy, from Leicestershire Police, said: "Police and his family are growing increasingly concerned for Mohammed.

"He has never been missing before and it is totally out of character for him."

More follows...

Pipeline Wars: Balochistan terror hotbed 'serves power players'

'Unbridled Hypocrisy?' Panetta flies no-fly zone flag over Syria, blasts Iran

Assange Hero to Hated: Dirty truth sparks global manhunt for Assange

Exposed: 'Auschwitz-like' US death camp hospital in Kabul

'Don't expect West to condemn Syria terror attacks'

Journo deaths in Syria: Who profits from reporter killings?

International press freedom group, Reporters Without Borders, have warned the Syrian opposition over the growing number of attacks against journalists.

Rescuers free Chinese boy stuck in balcony frame

Radioactive Sinkhole Forces Evacuation of 150 Homes‎, State of Louisiana

An enormous sinkhole in Louisiana has forced the evacuation of 150 homes and prompted a lawsuit by local residents claiming the opening may contain radioactive material.

Located about 50 miles from Baton Rouge, the sinkhole occurred when an underground salt cavern used by the Texas Brine Co. for waste storage began to collapse.

The sinkhole, measured in early August to be 422 feet deep and 372 feet wide, is filled with salt-water slurry containing diesel fuel and possibly radioactive substances, according to the plaintiffs.

Local residents say Texas Brine, which was storing byproducts of the drilling industry underground, as well as the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, knew the cavern walls were at risk of collapsing as early as January 2011, but failed to warn the public.

The company plans to drill a relief well to determine what happened. But it will take 40 days to do so.

In addition to the evacuated homes, three natural gas pipelines were shut down as a precaution and Highway 70 was temporarily closed. Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency in Assumption Parish. Read More

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake RAT ISLANDS, ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, ALASKA - 15th August 2012

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck the RAT ISLANDS, ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, ALASKA at a depth of 19 km (11.8 miles), the quake hit at 20:41:33 UTC Wednesday 15th August 2012
The epicenter was 451 km (280 miles) ESE from Attu Station, Alaska
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

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Prairie Island shut downs Unit 1 Tuesday after generators were declared inoperable

RED WING, Minn. -- Prairie Island nuclear plant shut down Unit 1 after operators declared its two backup diesel generators inoperable Tuesday.

Staff determined during routine testing that both generators had exhaust leaks, Xcel Energy media relations spokeswoman Mary Sandok confirmed. That deemed them inoperable, and the plant filed an incident report of the safe shutdown with the Nuclear Regulatory Plant.

Prairie Island has other backup protection, including diesel generators and turbine-driven and portable pumps, the company said in the statement issued at 2:30 p.m. There was no radiation leak or danger to the public.

Prairie Island Tribal Council President Johnny Johnson called the loss of both generators “not acceptable.”

“A failure of the back-up diesel generators can affect all other safety features that rely on the electricity that they generate,” he said. Read More

Tropical storm Kai-tak (Helen) may strike Hong Kong as typhoon‎

A strong tropical storm that slammed the northern Philippines has its sights set on the region around Hong Kong.

Named Kai-tak but known as Helen locally, the storm has maximum sustained winds of about 65 mph and was positioned 370 miles east-southeast of Hong Kong at 8 p.m. local time (8 a.m. EDT) in the south China Sea.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center projects the storm’s peak winds to increase to 85 mph in the next day, which would make it a low-end typhoon. Read More

Philippine Death Toll Rises After Tropical Storm Kai-Tak Triggers Mudslides



The second highest storm signal is up in seven provinces in northern Philippines.Tropical storm Kai-Tak battered northern Philippines on Wednesday (August 15), killing seven people and triggering landslides in a mountainous region.

A landslide, 250 kilometres (155 miles) north of Manila, killed two people and injured another. Heavy rains and landslides prompted authorities to evacuate around 170 families in the region's densely populated commercial hub. Source

Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar urge citizens to begin leaving Lebanon

The warnings came after a Shia Muslim clan in Lebanon began taking Sunni Muslim hostages to force the release of a clan member held by mainly Sunni rebels in neighbouring Syria.

The rebels say the clan member is fighting for the Syrian government.

They say he is a member of the Shia Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.

The official Saudi news agency Spa quoted a foreign ministry official as saying Saudi citizens should avoid "travelling to Lebanon for their own safety".

A UAE foreign ministry official said it issued its alert after the embassy "received information about UAE nationals being targeted and because of the difficult and sensitive circumstances in Lebanon," state news agency Wam reported.

This comes after the powerful al-Meqdad clan in Lebanon said it had abducted a number of Syrians who it said were connected to Syrian rebels. A Turkish national is also reported to be among those seized.

The Shia Muslim al-Meqdads said they had acted to force the release of one of their members captured in the Syrian capital, Damascus. more




West Nile virus prompts public health emergency in Dallas County, Texas - Nine dead, 175 infected

(CNN) - A West Nile virus epidemic has prompted a public health emergency in Dallas County, Texas, where the disease has killed nine people, a judge declared Friday.

The virus there infected 175 people, said Patricia Huston of Dallas County Health and Human Services.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins declared the emergency in his capacity as director of the county's Homeland Security and Emergency Management and instructed the department to file a local disaster declaration with the state.

"This declaration will expand our avenues for assistance in our ongoing battle with West Nile virus," Jenkins said in a statement.

Insecticide spraying by planes will be offered to certain communities hit hard by the virus as long as those local governments request it, Jenkins told reporters.

The aerial spraying would occur from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., when children are inside, Jenkins said. Read More

Two private planes collide on ground at Nashville airport

Over 50 die in Afghan serial bomb attacks

In one of the bloodiest days in Afghanistan's history, suicide attackers, using a remotely-controlled bomb, killed over 50 people across Afghanistan on Tuesday.

The bloodshed came as Afghanistan prepared to celebrate the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramzan, with many of the dead shopping in bazaars for Eid celebrations, police and local government officials said.
Of the 50 deaths, 36 were killed in Afghanistan's southwestern Nimroz province, which lies on the border with Iran.

Ten people were killed in the northern province of Kunduz, after a bomb attached to a motorcycle exploded in the market of Archi district near the border with Tajikistan. Read More

Lebanon Shi'ites abduct more than 20, including Turk, Saudi

Aug 15 (Reuters) - Gunmen belonging to a Lebanese Shi'ite clan captured more than 20 prisoners on Wednesday, including a Turk, a Saudi and several Syrians, in retaliation for the capture of one of their kinsmen in Syria's capital Damascus.

The incident, in an area of Lebanon controlled by Hezbollah Shi'ite militants, raised the prospect of the sectarian violence underlying Syria's conflict spreading to its neighbour, which fought its own civil war on sectarian lines for 15 years.

Saudi Arabia told its citizens to leave Lebanon after the mass kidnapping, which was accompanied by threats to seize more citizens of countries that have backed the uprising against Syria's president Bashar al-Assad.

Members of the Meqdad clan, one of Lebanon's powerful Shi'ite families, said they had abducted more than 20 people in retaliation for the capture of their kinsman Hassan al-Meqdad by the rebel Free Syrian Army in Damascus two days earlier. Read More

US opposes 'provocations' between Japan, neighbors

WASHINGTON — The United States called Wednesday on all sides to avoid "provocations" after Japan arrested pro-China activists who sailed to disputed islands on a sensitive anniversary.

"We expect the claimants to resolve the issue through peaceful means," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. "Any kinds of provocations are not helpful in that regard."

Nuland reiterated that the United States does not take a position on the sovereignty of the archipelago -- known as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China -- in the potentially resource-rich East China Sea

"These guys have got to work this out and we're not going to take a side with it," Nuland said.

Japan made 14 arrests after the activists sailed from Hong Kong and landed on the archipelago with the intention of planting a Chinese flag.

The incident fell on the anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II on August 15, 1945, which remains a sensitive date in East Asia and is celebrated by Koreans as Liberation Day. Read More

Syrian government forces AND Syrian rebels committing war crimes: UN



(Reuters) - Syrian government forces and allied militia have committed war crimes including murder and torture in what appears to be state-directed policy, United Nations investigators said on Wednesday.

Syrian rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad have also committed war crimes but these "did not reach the gravity, frequency and scale" of those carried out by the army and security forces, the investigators said.

The report called for the U.N. Security Council to take "appropriate action" given the gravity of documented violations by all sides. Read More

Israel and Iran: lethal game of bluff

The war drums have been beating – again – in Israel. The latest alarm was started by two usually well-briefed journalists, Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer, who wrote that an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities could come in weeks, rather than months, and before the US presidential election in November.

Their story contained a caveat: if the decision to attack were up to Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak alone. Because plainly, it is not.

The enthusiasm of Israel's prime minister and defence minister for an air strike on Iran appears to have united their country's defence and security establishment against them, including Israel's new minister for homeland security. The two have yet even to convince their own inner cabinet. But the report was taken so seriously that Barnea amended it on Monday by speculating that Barak, the thinly disguised source, may be trying to cover his own back, in the knowledge that such an attack will never be launched. Barak's reasoning depends only partially on Iran's alleged actions, and the latest US intelligence assessment that Tehran now possesses 170 kilograms of medium-enriched uranium, from which it is relatively easy to produce bomb-grade material. Barak is worried that so many centrifuges are being hidden underground that they will soon be out of Israel's military reach. After that point, Israel will have to rely on a US president it suspects will never order an attack .

Barak's case for an airstrike now is peppered with inconsistencies – not least the calculation that if Israel attacked, Iran would be rational enough not to retaliate against US military targets in the Gulf and hence the regional war everyone feared would not materialise. Read More

Galaxy cluster's 'starburst' surprises astronomers

Astronomers have seen a huge galaxy cluster doing what until now was only theorised to happen: making new stars.

Most galaxy clusters - the largest structures in the Universe - are "red and dead", having long since produced all the stars they can make.

But cluster formation should, according to theory, include a cooling phase, resulting in blue light from new stars.

Writing in Nature, researchers say they have seen evidence that the enormous Phoenix cluster makes 740 stars a year.

The cluster, some seven billion light-years away, is formally called SPT-CLJ2344-4243 but the researchers have renamed it for the constellation in which it lies.

It contains the mass equivalent to more than a million billion Suns, still a bit short of "El Gordo" - the Fat One - the largest known distant galaxy cluster, announced at an astronomy conference in January. Read More

Find 'backbone' to punish Standard Chartered, US senator tells regulator

A leading US senator has asked other regulators to find the "backbone" to take action against Standard Chartered following the London-based bank's $340m (£220m) settlement in New York over sanctions breaches with Iran.

Carl Levin said on Wednesday that the steps taken by the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) that forced Standard Chartered to agree to the civil penalty showed that it was not necessary to go through years of negotiation.

"The agency also showed that holding a bank accountable for past misconduct doesn't need to take years of negotiation over the size of the penalty; it simply requires a regulator with backbone to act," said Levin, who last month accused HSBC of a "pervasively polluted" culture in laundering money for drug cartels and terrorists in a gruelling public hearing.

Standard Chartered's share price rose on the FTSE 100 on Wednesday even as the bank attempted to broker a settlement with other regulators. It could face further fines from the US justice department and the US treasury, which are both investigating sanctions breaches that allegedly took place between 2001 and 2007. Settlements could come as soon as next week. Read More

Baroness Coach crash

Two people on a tour bus used by the US band Baroness were badly injured when the vehicle they were in fell 30ft (10m) from a viaduct near Bath.

Emergency services were called to Brassknocker Hill, in Monkton Combe, on the B3108 at its junction with the A36 Warminster Road at 11:30 BST.

Two of those of board suffered multiple fractures and had to be freed by firefighters. Seven had minor injuries.

All remaining dates of the band's European tour have been cancelled.

The group played at The Fleece in Bristol on Tuesday evening and had been due to appear in Southampton later.

Baroness's tour promoter said: "It is with great regret that we have to inform you that Baroness were involved in a very serious road accident earlier today and will not be able to perform at Talking Heads tonight.

"Our thoughts are with the band at this time and we wish them and their crew a speedy recovery." Read More

5.3 Magnitude Earthquake NORTHWESTERN IRAN - 15th August 2012

A magnitude 5.3 earthquake has struck NORTHWESTERN IRAN at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the quake hit at 17:49:06 UTC Wednesday 15th August 2012
The epicenter was 49 km (30 miles) Northeast from Tabriz, Iran
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Reuters blogging platform hacked AGAIN!!, false Saudi blog posted

(Reuters) - The blogging platform of the Reuters News website was hacked and a false posting saying Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal had died was illegally posted on a Reuters journalist's blog, the company said on Wednesday.

"Reuters did not report the false story and the post was immediately deleted. We are working to address the problem," Barb Burg, director of global communications at Reuters News, said in a statement.

Reuters had no immediate information on who was behind the hacking, the second time this month that the blogging platform of Reuters.com has been compromised.

On August 3, Reuters was forced to shut the platform temporarily after the appearance of unauthorized, and false, reports citing military reverses for rebels in Syria. Read More

Wildfires rage in the Northwest U.S.

Aug 15 - Thousands of acres in the Pacific Northwest have been destroyed by wildfires. Julie Noce reports

No quid without pro quo for German economy minister

Aug. 15 - We need a strong Europe and a strong currency, but it has to be give and take, and reforms and budget discipline have to be the focus, says Germany's Economy Minister Philipp Roesler.

Sell Facebook! Shares heading to $12!

Aug. 15 - CBOE options trader Andrew Keene sees bearish sentiment toward Facebook ahead of the expiration of its lockup period and has a $12 price target on the stock.

Syrian air raid kills 30 in rebel-held town: activists

(Reuters) - A Syrian air raid killed 30 people in the rebel-held northern border town of Azaz on Wednesday, a local doctor said, and a bomb went off near U.N. and military sites in the capital Damascus, wounding three.

The doctor, Mohammad Lakhini, said at a hospital in Azaz that scores of people were wounded in the air strike. It reduced several houses in the town to rubble and dozens of men clawed through the concrete and metal debris looking for survivors.

As the violence intensified, U.N. human rights investigators accused forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

They said rebels had also committed war crimes, but the violations "did not reach the gravity, frequency and scale" of those by state forces and the pro-Assad shabbiha militia. Read More

Dishonorable Disclosures

Dishonorable Disclosures: Obama Stop leaking our Nations Highest Secrets

Nicholas Kutner and Rakesh Bhayani Charged with the Murder of Carole Waugh

Two people have been charged with the murder of former oil executive Carole Waugh, Scotland Yard has said.

Rakesh Bhayani, 40, and Nicholas Kutner, 47, who have already been charged with fraud offences linked to the disappearance of the 50-year-old, are due to appear at Croydon Magistrates' Court on Thursday.

Ms Waugh's body was found with a single stab wound inside a car at a garage in Lime Court, New Malden, south-west London, on August 2.

Originally from Durham, but living in London, she had not been seen by her family since mid-April.

She was reported missing by her family on May 7. Read More

4.0 Magnitude Earthquake OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE - 15th August 2012

A magnitude 4.0 earthquake has struck OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE at a depth of 31 km (19.2 miles), the quake hit at 16:03:40 UTC Wednesday 15th August 2012
The epicenter was 60 km (37.2 miles) Southwest from Cañete, Chile
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

'Crimes By All Sides' In Syria Conflict

Syrian military forces and rebel fighters have both committed crimes against humanity during the 17-month uprising against President Bashar al Assad's rule, UN investigators have concluded.

The panel appointed by the UN Human Rights Council said that anti-government groups had carried out murders, extrajudicial killings and torture but with less "gravity, frequency and scale" than regime loyalists.

It also blamed the government and its Shabiha militia for the deaths of more than 100 civilians, many of them children, in the village of Houla in May.

The findings of the investigation were released as the rebels clashed with Syrian troops in Damascus, just hours after a bomb exploded near a hotel used by UN observers, wounding at least three people. Read More

4.1 Magnitude Earthquake POTOSI, BOLIVIA - 15th August 2012

A magnitude 4.1 earthquake has struck POTOSI, BOLIVIA at a depth of 218 km (135.1 miles), the quake hit at 00:21:33 UTC Wednesday 15th August 2012
The epicenter was 135 km (83.7 miles) Southwest of Uyuni, Bolivia
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

The Immortals: Masked German Neo-Nazis

A German neo-Nazi group is using modern technology to organise and showcase terrifying protests that have a chilling resemblance to the fascist torch rallies of the 1930s.

In one, hundreds of black-clad figures with white masks converged without warning on the streets of Bauzen, Germany, carrying torches and placards with extreme nationalist slogans.

The march, which took place on May 1, was disturbingly similar to the days of The Third Reich which saw the Nazi SA hold night rallies to honour Hitler. Read More



Scientists investigate 'mad snake disease' which makes captive pythons tie themselves in knots

A mysterious 'mad snake disease' that causes pythons to tie themselves up in knots may be caused by a rodent virus, scientists believe.

The fatal condition, called Inclusion Body Disease (IBD), strikes captive pythons and boa constrictors causing them to display strange behaviour, such as 'stargazing' - staring upwards for long periods of time.

Other symptoms include appearing drunk and getting into a legless tangle.

'They tie themselves in a knot and they can't get out of it,' said snake expert Professor Michael Buchmeier, from the University of California at Irvine. Read More

Appeal judges are forced to REDUCE jail sentence of 'dangerous' paedophile Simon Crisp to just 18 months.

Judges have expressed 'great concern' after being forced to overturn the indefinite sentence imposed on a dangerous paedophile who will now serve just 18 months behind bars.

Simon Crisp twice tried to convince a 15-year-old boy to perform a sex act online and shared sickening images of children with other perverts, London’s Appeal Court heard.

He was jailed indefinitely for public protection - which is almost identical to a life sentence - at Preston Crown Court in March, after computer equipment was seized by police from his home in Fleetwood, Lancashire.

The 36-year-old admitted three counts of trying to incite a child to engage in sexual activity, six of making, nine of distributing and five of possessing indecent images of children, and one of having an extreme pornographic image.

But his open-ended sentence has now been quashed at London’s Criminal Appeal Court and replaced with a conventional jail term of three years.

Judges said that, while they were deeply anxious about the outcome, the law on indeterminate sentences laid down by Parliament left them with ‘no alternative’ but to quash Crisp’s IPP.

The decision means that, instead of remaining behind bars until the Parole Board concludes it is safe to release him, Crisp will now be automatically released after serving half of the three-year term. Read More

Part-time Britain: Record EIGHT MILLION people working fewer than 25 hours a week amid struggle to find full-time jobs

Record numbers of Britons are working part-time after those struggling to find full-time positions pushed the figure above the eight-million mark for the first time.

Official figures show that 8.07 million people toil for fewer than 25 hours a week - the highest figure since records began in 1992.

One in seven of them would like to work longer but can't find the job, while others only remain in part-time employment because they can't afford to retire.

The grim figures came amid warnings that the so-called 'Olympic effect' - which has helped overall unemployment fall in recent months - will end after the summer.

Union bosses said the booming numbers of part-time workers only reflected soaring levels 'despair and waste of human talent' and they called for George Osborne to be axed as Chancellor. Read More

School leavers face worst outlook for 20 years as one in five can't find work after youth unemployment stays above a million

A generation of Britons could be left on the scrapheap as one million young people are still out of work, official figures revealed today.

The situation is at 'crisis point' as one in five 16 to 25-year-olds cannot find a job and many have been looking for years, unions have said.

At least half the one million unemployed youths have been searching for work for six months or more.

And as youngsters collect their A-Levels this week they are being warned their future job prospects look bleak in the toughest jobs market for 20 years.

Despite a slight fall of 4,000 youngsters dropping off the dole queue in the last three months, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: 'If this continues we could lose a generation of talented, highly qualified youngsters to blighted careers, debt and under-achievement.

'Students looking to start their careers or continue in their education next month are facing the toughest climate for nearly 20 years. Read More

Pennsylvania judge declines to block voter identification law, denies preliminary injunction sought by civil rights groups (Reuters)


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Julian Assange Granted asylum, says official

Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, has agreed to grant Julian Assange asylum, officials within Ecuador's government have said. The WikiLeaks founder has been holed up at Ecuador's London embassy since 19 June, when he officially requested political asylum.

"Ecuador will grant asylum to Julian Assange," said an official in the Ecuadorean capital, Quito, who is familiar with the government discussions.

On Monday, Correa told state-run ECTV that he would decide this week whether to grant asylum to Assange. Correa said a large amount of material about international law had to be examined to make a responsible, informed decision.

Ecuador's foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, indicated that the president would reveal his answer once the Olympic Games were over. But it remains unclear if Assange will be allowed to leave Britain and fly to Ecuador, or amounts to little more than a symbolic gesture.

At the moment he faces arrest as soon as he leaves the embassy for breaching his bail conditions.

"For Mr Assange to leave England, he should have a safe pass from the British [government]. Will that be possible? That's an issue we have to take into account," Patiño told Reuters on Tuesday. Read More

MEP reveals the disturbing contempt for democracy at the heart of the EU...No Shit!

Over 13 years as an MEP, Daniel Hannan has witnessed first hand how Brussels works. Now he has written a forensic analysis of why it’s rotten to the core. His devastating critique should be required reading for every politician.

There is a popular joke in Brussels that if the European Union were a country applying to join itself, it would be rejected on the grounds of being undemocratic.

It’s absolutely true - and, believe me, it isn’t funny. Or, if it is, then the laugh is on you and me.

Democracy is not simply a periodic right to mark a cross on a ballot paper.

It also depends upon a relationship between government and governed, on a sense of common affinity and allegiance.

It requires what the political philosophers of Ancient Greece called a ‘demos’, a unit with which we the people can identify.

Take away the demos and you are left only with the ‘kratos’ - a state that must compel by force of law what it cannot ask in the name of patriotism.

In the absence of a demos, governments are even likelier than usual to purchase votes through public works schemes and sinecures.

Lacking any natural loyalty, they have to buy the support of their electorates.

And that is precisely what is happening in the EU.

One way to think of the EU is as a massive vehicle for the redistribution of wealth - though not in a way that many of us would consider fair or beneficial.

Taxpayers in all the states contribute money to Brussels through their national taxes.

The bureaucrats then use this huge revenue to purchase the allegiance of consultants, contractors, big landowners, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), corporations, charities and municipalities.
In other words, all the articulate and powerful groups they rely on to keep themselves in employment.

Unsurprisingly, the people running the EU have little time for the concept of representative government.

The (unelected) President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, argues that nation states are dangerous precisely because they are excessively democratic.

‘Decisions taken by the most democratic institutions in the world are very often wrong,’ he claims, without a hint of irony.

The plain fact is that the EU is contemptuous of public opinion — not by some oversight, but as an inevitable consequence of its supra-national nature.

The EU is run, extraordinarily, by a body that combines legislative and executive power. The European Commission is not only the EU’s ‘government’, it is also the only body that can propose legislation in most fields of policy.

Such a concentration of power is itself objectionable enough. But what is even more terrifying is that the 27 Commissioners are unelected. Many supporters of the EU acknowledge this flaw — the ‘democratic deficit’, as they call it — and vaguely admit that something ought to be done about it.

But the democratic deficit isn’t an accidental design flaw: it is intrinsic to the whole project.

The EU’s founding fathers had mixed feelings about democracy — especially the populist strain that came into vogue between the two World Wars. In their minds, too much democracy was associated with demagoguery and fascism.

They prided themselves on creating a model where supreme power would be in the hands of ‘experts’ — disinterested technocrats immune to the ballot box.

They understood very well that their audacious scheme to merge Europe’s ancient kingdoms and republics into a single state would never succeed if each successive transfer of power from the national capitals to Brussels had to be approved by the voters.

They were unapologetic about designing a system in which public opinion would come second to deals stuck by a bureau of wise men.The EU’s diffidence about representative government continues to this day.

When referendums go the ‘wrong’ way, Eurocrats simply swat the results aside.

Denmark voted against the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, Ireland against the Nice Treaty in 2001 and Ireland (again) against the Lisbon Treaty in 2008. Their governments were all told just to go away and try again.

When France and the Netherlands voted against the European Constitution in 2005, the verdict was simply disregarded. Read More

China and South Korea demand Japan face up to war past

TOKYO — China and South Korea on Wednesday pressed Japan to face up to its wartime past, as festering territorial disputes flared and Asia marked the anniversary of Tokyo's World War II surrender.

Both countries demanded Japan do more to atone for the brutal expansionism of the 20th century, while in Tokyo cabinet ministers paid tribute to fallen Japanese, including top war criminals, at a controversial shrine.

Beijing said the key issue was "whether Japan can really look in the mirror of history, heeding its lessons, holding hands with Asian people to face the future".

"The power is in the hands of Japan itself," it added. "We hope Japan can keep its promise to deal with and reflect on its invasion history and take concrete measures to safeguard China-Japan relations."

In Seoul, President Lee Myung-Bak, whose visit to disputed islands last week sent relations with Tokyo into virtual freefall, said Japan had to make amends for the sexual slavery it forced on women in its former colony. Read More

A36 Bath Coach Crash: All NINE Passengers Freed as Coach Falls From Viaduct

Two people trapped after a coach fell 30ft (10 metres) from a viaduct in Bath have been rescued by emergency services.

An Avon Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: "A coach has left the road close to Limpley Stoke Bridge and fallen around 30ft."

"It is understood there were nine people on board the coach, two of whom were trapped."

The fire service said those trapped were released using hydraulic cutting equipment.

All nine people on the single-decker coach were taken to hospital, according to the Great Western Ambulance Service.

The road was closed at the junction of Brassknocker Hill, a steep road to the southeast of Bath, and the A36 following the incident. Read More

Brassknocker Hill Coach Crash: Passengers Feared Trapped, A36 Bath

Three people are feared trapped and two seriously injured after a coach crashed off the road in Bath.

Police, firefighters and paramedics were at the scene at the junction of Brassknocker Hill and the A36.

The road has been closed while emergency services work to free the passengers and motorists have been asked to avoid the area.

Avon and Somerset Police said nine people were on the coach at the time of the crash.

Police appealed for witnesses and urged anyone with information to call police on 101.

More to follow... Source

Stuart Hazell Charged With Tia Sharp's Murder

Stuart Hazell has appeared at the Old Bailey via video-link charged with the murder of Tia Sharp.

The defendant, from New Addington, south London, is accused of killing the 12-year-old schoolgirl between August 2 and 11.

No application for bail was made.

Hazell, 37, appeared via video-link from Belmarsh prison in south east London, wearing an orange T-shirt and sitting next to a prison officer.

He was remanded in custody and will appear for a plea and case management hearing at the same court on November 19.

Tia's body was found at her grandmother Christine Sharp's home in New Addington last Friday, a week after she was reported missing. Read More

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Birds are Falling from the Sky Again!: New Jersey neighborhood were shocked when birds started falling from the sky and dying. KYW reports.