Saturday, September 8, 2012

Why the euro may have already broken up

At a conference last week for clients of Aberdeen Asset Management the audience was asked at one point whether or not it thought one or more member countries of the euro would drop out of the single currency in the next 12 months.

The audience were from most of the countries where the firm does business —in other words from all over the world — and were largely directors and non-executive directors of companies.

The surprise was that most believed there would be no change in the next 12 months. That’s not the impression you get from most economic commentators. Clearly the view from the real world is rather different.

What you make of this depends on where you stand. The conventional wisdom is that a break-up of the euro would be a disaster causing huge losses and bringing about the freezing up and possible collapse of the banking system, and such chaos in the financial markets that the real economy could not escape the consequences. So in this camp a further 12 months without a break-up will be seen as a plus.

The alternative view is, of course, that the system is unsustainable as weaker countries, most notably Greece, cannot compete with Germany and therefore cannot survive if they are yoked to it. So they might well react with despair to the prospect of a further 12 months of crisis meetings leading to political initiatives which are never quite enough to get ahead of the events, and which they believe are only postponing the inevitable and at ever greater cost. more

War-weary US is numbed to drumbeat of troop deaths

t was another week at war in Afghanistan, another string of American casualties, and another collective shrug by a nation weary of a faraway conflict whose hallmark is its grinding inconclusiveness.

After nearly 11 years, many by now have grown numb to the sting of losing soldiers like Pfc. Shane W. Cantu of Corunna, Mich. He died of shrapnel wounds in the remoteness of eastern Afghanistan, not far from the getaway route that Osama bin Laden took when U.S. forces invaded after Sept. 11, 2001, and began America's longest war.

Cantu was 10 back then.

Nearly every day the Pentagon posts another formulaic death notice, each one brief and unadorned, revealing the barest of facts - name, age and military unit - but no words that might capture the meaning of the loss. more

Gun Sales Surge: An Obama Bounce?

The gun business is booming. The question is, why?

Smith & Wesson stock Friday was zooming, thanks to a stellar earnings report. The firearms maker also boosted its outlook for the rest of the year. Because of the strong business, its backlog of orders more than doubled from the same quarter last year, the company is concentrating on boosting production and building inventory.

“We are underserving the market at this moment, we all know that, and that's a great opportunity going forward for us,” CEO James Debney said in a conference call with analysts.

And another gun maker, Sturm, Ruger & Co., also hit a milestone of sorts in terms of meeting consumer demand. It produced its one-millionth gun of the year…well ahead of last year’s pace.

"It took us nearly all of 2011 to build one million firearms, but in 2012 we accomplished it on August 15th,” said Ruger President and CEO Mike Fifer in a statement.

What’s driving the demand that has gun makers cranking up production?

Speculation has focused on fears of a coming regulatory crackdown on gun ownership. Liberal administrations tend to be anti-gun and so, the thinking goes, an Obama re-election would set the stage for stricter gun purchasing requirements. Hence, people are buying now in anticipation of difficulty later. more

Tornado hits near Coney Island, Rockaways, New York



A tornado swept out of the sea and hit a beachfront neighborhood in New York City on Saturday, hurling debris in the air, knocking out power and startling residents who once thought of twisters as a Midwestern phenomenon.

Firefighters were still assessing the damage Saturday, but an hour after it struck there were still no reported injuries and the area affected by the storm appeared small.

Videos taken by bystanders showed a funnel cloud hurling sand and debris in the air, and possibly small pieces of buildings, as it moved through the Breezy Point section of the Rockaway peninsula in Queens.

"It was crazy," said neighborhood resident Joseph Mure, who was in the shower when the storm hit, and went outside to snap a picture of the retreating funnel. "There were a lot of sirens going off. You could see it twisting." more (as well as more videos)



Taiwanese Girl Trashes FamilyMart: Entitlement "me first" attitude doesn't belong just to the West, but a morally diseased world



A young Taiwanese girl’s rampage inside a FamilyMart chain convenience store has been making the rounds on the Chinese language internet this week. Originally uploaded and viewed by Taiwanese 500,000 times on YouTube (widescreen version), the clip has picked up steam on the mainland as well with nearly 400,000 views on Youku.

In the video, a young woman sends instant noodle cups, sushi, sandwiches and beverages crashing onto the floor while customers and the clerk watch in disbelief. Sources claim that the girl is 20, married, and has had issues with bipolarism in the past. The woman’s husband has stepped forward to pay for all damages incurred, and the store currently does not plan to press charges. more

Thoughts: Bi-polar my behind.

5.6 Magnitude Earthquake COSTA RICA - 8th September 2012

A magnitude 5.6 earthquake has struck COSTA RICA at a depth of 35.6 km (22.1 miles), the quake hit at 20:29:32 UTC Saturday 8th September 2012
The epicenter was 11 km (6.8 miles) ENE of Hojancha, Costa Rica
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

FBI begins installation of $1 billion face recognition system across America

Birthmarks, be damned: the FBI has officially started rolling out a state-of-the-art face recognition project that will assist in their effort to accumulate and archive information about each and every American at a cost of a billion dollars.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has reached a milestone in the development of their Next Generation Identification (NGI) program and is now implementing the intelligence database in unidentified locales across the country, New Scientist reports in an article this week. The FBI first outlined the project back in 2005, explaining to the Justice Department in an August 2006 document (.pdf) that their new system will eventually serve as an upgrade to the current Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) that keeps track of citizens with criminal records across America .

“The NGI Program is a compilation of initiatives that will either improve or expand existing biometric identification services,” its administrator explained to the Department of Justice at the time, adding that the project, “will accommodate increased information processing and sharing demands in support of anti-terrorism.”

“The NGI Program Office mission is to reduce terrorist and criminal activities by improving and expanding biometric identification and criminal history information services through research, evaluation and implementation of advanced technology within the IAFIS environment.”

The agency insists, “As a result of the NGI initiatives, the FBI will be able to provide services to enhance interoperability between stakeholders at all levels of government, including local, state, federal, and international partners.” In doing as such, though, the government is now going ahead with linking a database of images and personally identifiable information of anyone in their records with departments around the world thanks to technology that makes fingerprint tracking seem like kids' stuff. more

China Sounds Alarm on Global Economy at APEC Summit

China sounded the alarm about the state of the global economy on Saturday and urged countries gathering at an Asia-Pacific summit to protect themselves by forging deeper regional economic ties.

Chinese President Hu Jintao said his country would play a role in helping deepen cooperation between the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) by rebalancing its economy to improve the chances of a global economic recovery.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had also expressed concern about the world economy on Friday, and particularly about Europe's debt crisis, as he prepared to host the annual APEC summit in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok.

"The world economy today is recovering slowly, and there are still some destabilising factors and uncertainties. The underlying impact of the international financial crisis is far from over," Hu told businessmen in a speech before the summit.

"We will work to maintain the balance between keeping steady and robust growth, adjusting the economic structure and managing inflation expectations. We will boost domestic demand and maintain steady and robust growth as well as basic price stability," he said. more

Cheri Dana: It takes a Taser to stop naked knife-wielding woman's rampage

With a yell of “God is here, I’m going to repent,” a woman swung a butcher knife Wednesday afternoon at someone inside Teen Challenge at 3333 Philips Highway, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

She next stabbed a table before stripping down and attacking two cars. She had chased children with the blade before a Taser stopped her rampage, police said.

Cheri Dana, a 42-year-old transient, has been jailed on charges of aggravated assault and criminal mischief. She remains in the Duval County jail on $90,000 bail, according to jail records.

The woman walked into Teen Challenge, an addiction treatment center, just before 1 p.m. and grabbed the knife off a counter, according to the report. Yelling as she swung, she stabbed a table before running to the Jaguar Car Wash at 3366 Philips Highway, stripping as she went. Two men were inside a car there when she stabbed it, but were not injured. more


Hackers Hit 30,000 Oil Company Computers

More than 30,000 computer hard drives belonging to the world's biggest oil company have been damaged in a cyber attack, an investigation has revealed.

According to sources, Saudi Arabia's national oil company was hit after at least one insider with high-level access allegedly assisted hackers to wreak havoc on the company's network last month.

The attack, using a computer virus known as Shamoon against Saudi Aramco, is one of the most destructive cyber strikes conducted against a single business.

Shamoon spread through the company's network and wiped computer hard drives clean.

Saudi Aramco said damage was limited to office computers and did not affect systems software that might harm technical operations. Read More

Nicaragua volcano belches ash cloud, residents evacuated

(Reuters) - Nicaragua's tallest volcano belched an ash plume up to 2 1/2 miles into the atmosphere on Saturday, prompting the evacuation of hundreds of nearby residents who heard eruptions emanating from its crater.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, authorities said.

The 5,725-foot (1,745-meter) San Cristobal volcano, located about 95 miles north of the capital Managua in the country's volcano-dotted northwest, has been active in recent years, and stirred in mid-2008, when it expelled gas and rumbled with a series of small eruptions.

The government expects to evacuate about 3,000 people from around San Cristobal, though numerous families already have done so on their own, said Guillermo Gonzalez, who heads Sinapred, a government emergency and disaster relief agency.

"We already have nearly the entire apparatus underway," Gonzalez said. "A response plan exists for volcano eruptions and every community has clearly defined places for people to go to once they are evacuated," he said.

A gas and ash plume stretched between 2 and 2 1/2 miles into the atmosphere, Gonzalez said. Read More

O.J. Simpson attorney tampered with glove Claims Ex-prosecutor

Sept. 8 - Nearly 17 years after O.J. Simpson walked away from his murder trial a free man, a prosecutor alleges that the defense tampered with evidence. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.

Rescuers told to keep at it after China quake kills 80

(Reuters) - Rescuers in southwestern China tried on Saturday to reach remote communities rocked by earthquakes that killed at least 80 people and damaged thousands of buildings, state media reported.

Shallow 5.6 magnitude quakes struck an impoverished, mountainous part of the country with poor infrastructure and communications on Friday and the death toll could rise as news trickles in from cut-off areas, the Xinhua news agency said.

The quakes cut off electricity and triggered landslides that blocked roads, hampering rescue efforts. Adding to rescuers' difficulties was rain which forecasters said was expected for the next three days.

"I was extremely scared when it started to shake. After it shook the first, second and third times, it was moving and I was extremely scared," said 56-year-old Zhou Weiping, a resident of the township of Guohui in Yiliang county, near the epicenter.

"We panicked and quickly ran out," she said. Read More

Lufthansa union makes strike threat before mediation

(Reuters) - Lufthansa's cabin crew union UFO threatened further strikes if mediation talks scheduled for next week fail to yield a result, German weekly magazine Focus said on Saturday.

Lufthansa and union representatives on Friday agreed to begin a formal mediation procedure set for next Wednesday, after the airline offered permanent contracts to some temporary cabin crew.

If talks are abandoned, the cabin crew staff can go on strike "every four days, or fortnight or every three weeks," union head Nicoley Baublies told Focus, according to an advance excerpt of its Monday edition.

The union has 20 years worth of membership fees to fall back on to fund industrial action, Baublies told the magazine.

Previous talks broke down and strikes forced Lufthansa to cancel over 1,000 flights, after 13 months of negotiations over pay and working conditions. Read More

Syrian troops storm Damascus refugee area, chase rebels

(Reuters) - Syrian government troops stormed an area of Damascus populated by Palestinian refugees on Saturday after a four-day artillery assault on the southern suburb where rebels have been sheltering, opposition activists said.

President Bashar al-Assad's forces have largely preferred to use air power and artillery to hit areas where rebels are dug in, deploying infantry only once many have fled. Activists said the new ground onslaught put civilians at risk.

The almost 18-month-old conflict also spilled further over borders when three rockets fired from Syria crashed into an Iraqi frontier town, killing a 5-year-old girl, according to local inhabitants and Iraqi officials.

Anxious to end the bloodshed, European Union diplomats said on Saturday the 27-nation bloc might impose new sanctions on the Syrian government as soon as next month.

Speaking after visiting a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he saw "the first signs of erosion in the regime of Assad".

"It is necessary we isolate the regime of Bashar al-Assad," he told a news conference. Read More
(Reuters) - European Union officials pushed on Saturday to accelerate moves to stem the bloc's long debt crisis as Italian premier Mario Monti warned that economic suffering was fuelling divisive nationalism on the continent.

Monti had proposed an EU summit in Rome to discuss the rise of anti-European populism, divisions between north and south and nationalistic prejudices that have been fostered by resentment against austerity measures, he told journalists at an economic conference in northern Italy.

"Old stereotypes and old tensions have re-emerged," Monti said. "There are many manifestations of populism that are aimed at disunity in nearly all the member states."

Monti's remarks at a joint news conference with European Council president Herman van Rompuy underlined the urgency of overcoming a crisis that has lasted close to three years.

Van Rompuy said he supported Monti's idea and favored bringing forward a meeting to foster European integration from its originally scheduled date in late 2014. Read More

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake MOLUCCA SEA - 8th September 2012

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck the MOLUCCA SEA at a depth of 35 km (21.7 miles), the quake hit at 16:27:39 UTC Saturday 8th September 2012
The epicenter was 160 km (99 miles) WNW of Tobelo, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Hizballah, Israel "close to clash"

The first US-Turkish backed steps for creating safe havens in Syria and possible strategic bombardment of the Syrian army have brought the Middle East close to two dangerous junctures: The Syrian army’s use of chemical weapons, and an outbreak of hostilities between Hizballah and Israel, debkafile’s military sources report.  The creeping Western involvement in the Syrian conflict was not previously acknowledged and the Lebanese Shiite Hizballah rarely figured publicly as a fighting prop of the Assad regime.

That is until the dam burst Friday and Saturday, Sept 7-8.


The United States then admitted that US officials and intelligence agents were training and aiding Syrian rebels from positions on the Turkish border – and therefore directly intervening in their operations.


This admission came on the heels of the debkafile disclosure of Sept. 6 that Turkish officers backed by US agents had taken command of two Syrian rebel brigades.


Britain and France came next to report they were sending aid directly to the Syrian opposition, a more cautious admission than the American reference to officials and agents, but clearly on the same track, which adds up to their direct intervention in Syria for the creation of safe havens.


French and British foreign ministers attending a European Union meeting in Cyprus called Friday night for sanctions against Hizballah, meaning that mounting Western pressure on Assad has been extended to his Lebanese ally.


But the big event thus portended is still to come. more

Possible tornado forming in Brooklyn, New York

Firefighters are responding to a beachfront neighborhood in New York City after reports of a possible tornado strike.

A Fire Department spokesman said there were reports of power lines down and possibly other damage in the Point Breeze section of the Rockaway peninsula in Queens.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Queens and Brooklyn as a line of strong thunderstorms moved through the city.

The service said radar detected a "strong rotation" in the storm, but there was no immediate confirmation that a twister actually formed. source


Jarrod Wyatt who Cut Out Man's Heart And Tongue is Facing 50 Years in Jail

A mixed-martial artist who cut out his friend's heart and removed his tongue while the two were on hallucinogenic drugs faces 50 years behind bars.

Jarrod Wyatt, 29, attacked his sparring partner Taylor Powell in March 2010.

When police arrived at his home in Klamath, California, they found him naked and covered in blood. He told the officers: "I killed him."

The officers found Powell's body on the couch. His chest was cut open, and his heart, tongue and the skin of his face were gone. His heart was later found charred in a wood-burning stove.

A post-mortem examination found that the organs had been removed while Powell was still alive. Read More

Kabul Suicide Bomber Kills SIX Children

A suicide bomber has blown himself up near Nato's headquarters in Kabul, killing at least six children, according to police in Afghanistan.

The blast happened in the city's diplomatic quarter, where the American and Italian embassies are located, as well as the presidential palace.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the bombing was carried out by a 28-year-old militant from Logar province, south of Kabul.

But Kabul deputy police chief Daud Amin said eyewitnesses reported seeing a teenage boy walking in the area carrying a bag.

A police spokesman said the dead and wounded were all street sellers and odd jobs boys aged between 12 and 17.

Sky’s Stuart Ramsay, who is in Kabul, said: "It was a pretty big explosion. The sound resonated around us here, I must admit that initially it sounded like a missile.

"What we do know is that there has been an alert for a number of suicide bombers in the vicinity of Kabul, as many as seven to 10, we are told. Read More

Pakistan: Christian 'Blasphemy' Girl Freed

A Christian girl accused of blasphemy in Pakistan has been released on bail after more than three weeks in prison.

Rimsha Masih, 14, was arrested on August 16 for allegedly burning pages containing verses from the Koran but was released from a prison in Rawalpindi after a court on Friday accepted her bail application.

Paul Bhatti, Pakistan's minister for national harmony, said Rimsha was flown by helicopter to be reunited with her family.

"She has been freed from the jail and was transported by a helicopter to a safe place. Her family members received her."

A Pakistan television channel broadcast footage of the girl wearing a traditional baggy green shirt and dark green trousers stepping out of an armoured vehicle and sitting in a helicopter.

Her lawyer, Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, confirmed her release after two people submitted a surety bond guaranteeing that the girl would reappear before court at a specified time.

Under Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws, burning a sacred text is punishable with life imprisonment. Read More

Saad al Hilli's Home Searched in Claygate, Surrey

British police have begun examining the home of the Alps murder victims and have been joined by French officers in the hunt for clues.

Police placed a tent in the driveway of Saad al Hilli's house in Claygate, Surrey, and also took evidence gathering material, including boxes and bags, into the property as well as photographing the exterior.

Several French detectives have gone to the UK as part of their investigation, as they look for a motive for the murders of four people.

Police from the Haute-Savoie region are working with British officers following Wednesday's shootings.

French investigators also plan to interview Mr al Hilli's brother - who has approached UK police to deny any feud between the siblings over money.

Iraqi-born Saad al Hilli, 50, was shot dead in his BMW alongside his dentist wife Iqbal while on holiday close to Lake Annecy. Read More

6.1 Magnitude Earthquake PAPUA, INDONESIA - 8th September 2012

A magnitude 6.1 earthquake has struck PAPUA, INDONESIA at a depth of 14.1 km (8.8 miles), the quake hit at 10:51:43 UTC Saturday 8th September 2012
The epicenter was 153 km (95 miles) WNW from Enarotali, Irian Jaya, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

5.6 Magnitude Earthquake MARIANA ISLANDS REGION - 8th September 2012

A magnitude 5.6 earthquake has struck the MARIANA ISLANDS REGION at a depth of 29.1 km (18.1 miles), the quake hit at 06:54:22 UTC Saturday 8th September 2012
The epicenter was 155 km (96 miles) Northeast of Farallon de Pajaros, Northern Mariana Islands
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Are you better off? Just 96,000 jobs added in August as 368,000 people LEAVE the workforce in bleak employment report dealing blow to Obama re-election hopes

Just 96,000 American jobs were added in August in a bleak monthly jobs report as 368,000 left the workforce, bringing labour market participation down to its lowest level for 31 years and dealing a blow to President Barack Obama’s re-election chances.

The national unemployment rate dropped to 8.1 per cent, down from 8.2 per cent, but this was only because so many people gave up looking for work. If the participation rate had not dropped so precipitously, unemployment would have risen to 8.4 per cent.

Factory employment fell by the most in two years and temporary-help companies eliminated positions for the first time in five months. The 69.9 per cent labor force participation rate for men is at lowest level recorded since the US government began tracking it in 1948.

According to James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute, the unemployment rate would be 11.2 per cent if the labour force participation rate had remained what it was when Obama took office in January 2009. The U.S. Labour Department also said that 41,000 fewer jobs were created in June and July than previously reported.

President Barack Obama was made aware of the figures before he took the stage to deliver his prime-time address at the Democratic convention on Thursday night, which could account for his sometimes grim demeanour as he spoke. Read More

Jeremy Hunt becomes latest Tory to be booed by Paralympic crowd

New Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt became the third cabinet member to be booed by the Paralympic crowd today.

The former Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport was met with loud jeers when he presented Britain’s Rachel Morris with a bronze in the women’s cycling road race.

Earlier this week, Chancellor George Osborne and Home Secretary Theresa May were greeted in the same manner when presenting medals to Paralympic winners.

Mr Hunt, who was promoted to his new role in this week’s Cabinet reshuffle, seemed unfazed by hostile reception and smiled when he handed out the medals at the Brands Hatch track in Longfield, Kent. Read More

Iconic Moose Hit by Mysterious Virus in Sweden

STOCKHOLM, Sweden—The Swedish province of Blekinge has been the site of a curious and unexplained disease that has killed multiple moose over the past months.

The mysterious disease has left the iconic large mammals emaciated, apathetic, and paralyzed. One stricken moose was found blind and another suffered from severe hair loss.

The moose that were found in Blekinge in southern Sweden were between 2 and 7 years old—an age at which they normally should have been in top shape. The total number of moose found so far is 15, but it’s unclear how many more might be dead in the wild.

Samples have been taken and a whole moose has been sent in for examination to the National Veterinary Institute in Uppsala, roughly 350 miles further north.

”We have received a 7-year-old moose that was emaciated,” said Henrik Uhlhorn, assistant state veterinarian at Sweden’s National Veterinary Institute. Preliminary tests showed the moose to have a parasitic worm infection in its stomach. Read More

'Dozens killed' as Sudan's army and rebels clash

Sudan's army and rebels say they have clashed on two fronts, reportedly leaving dozens of people dead.

The army says it killed 32 insurgents who attacked a village in the western Darfur region. The rebels claim they drove government troops out.

Separately, Khartoum says 45 rebels were killed in a village in South Kordofan, near South Sudan's border.

The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels said they liberated the village, killing at least one soldier.

Casualty claims in the fighting, which happened on Thursday, have not been independently verified because of restricted access to both Darfur and South Kordofan.

Last year, rebel groups in the two states and also in Blue Nile state formed an alliance with the aim of toppling the government of President Omar al-Bashir.

Khartoum accuses South Sudan of backing the insurgents. Read More

China sounds alarm on global economy at APEC summit

(Reuters) - China sounded the alarm about the state of the global economy on Saturday and urged countries gathering at an Asia-Pacific summit to protect themselves by forging deeper regional economic ties.

Chinese President Hu Jintao said his country would play a role in helping deepen cooperation between the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) by rebalancing its economy to improve the chances of a global economic recovery.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had also expressed concern about the world economy on Friday, and particularly about Europe's debt crisis, as he prepared to host the annual APEC summit in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok.

"The world economy today is recovering slowly, and there are still some destabilising factors and uncertainties. The underlying impact of the international financial crisis is far from over," Hu told businessmen in a speech before the summit.

"We will work to maintain the balance between keeping steady and robust growth, adjusting the economic structure and managing inflation expectations. We will boost domestic demand and maintain steady and robust growth as well as basic price stability," he said. Read More

'Soup Kitchen' for Struggling European Banks?

The European Central Bank’s decision to relax bank funding rules to mirror conditions last seen after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s collapse signals hard times for lenders.

“The soup kitchen for impoverished euro-zone banks is re- opening,” said Simon Maughan, a strategist at Olivetree Securities Ltd. in London. The easing shows “some peripheral banks have run out of collateral and so we need to widen the bounds of acceptability to accommodate them.”

ECB President Mario Draghi said yesterday the central bank will lend against assets in dollars, pounds and Japanese yen, as well as in euros, reopening a program that ran for two years following the September 2008 bankruptcy of the U.S. investment bank. The ECB also eased borrowing against government-issued or guaranteed assets by dropping rating requirements. Read More

Iran slams Canada for breaking off relations

TEHRAN: Iran hit out at Canada's decision to break off diplomatic ties, with foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast accusing the Canadian government of being "under the influence of the Zionist regime."

Canada closed its Tehran embassy on Friday and ordered Iranian diplomats be expelled, in a severance of ties in which it accused the Islamic Republic of being the biggest threat to world peace.

Mehmanparast, quoted by the ISNA news agency, retorted: "Canada's current government is an extremist government ... influenced by the Zionist regime (Israel), which takes measures to put pressure on the Iranian people and create problems for nationals of our country."

The spokesman added that Iran would give an "adequate reply" to Canada's decision, which was accompanied by a strongly worded attack on Tehran's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's pariah regime and Iran's "incitement to genocide" against Israel. Read More

China steps up earthquake rescue efforts; 80 dead

BEIJING (AP) — Authorities poured aid into a remote mountainous area of southwestern China and rescue workers with sniffer dogs searched for survivors Saturday after twin earthquakes killed at least 80 people.

More than 100,000 residents were evacuated after Friday's quakes toppled thousands of homes and sent boulders cascading across roads in a region of small farms and mines where some of China's poorest people live.

The damage was preventing rescuers from reaching outlying towns, and communications were disrupted after the midday quakes hit along the borders of Guizhou and Yunnan provinces. But state television said Saturday that a road into the worst-hit area that had been blocked with fallen boulders was cleared, allowing workers and assistance in.

Still, weather forecasts said there was a chance of rain over the next three days, which could hamper rescue work. Read More