Saturday, September 22, 2012

China Launches Naval Drills and Landing War Games In East China Sea

Greece wrestles with rise in hate crime

Greece's politicians and press are agonising over a wave of attacks on immigrants, and what to do about it.

Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis threatened tougher punishment for ethnic crimes, with sentences of over three years in jail for those who attack migrant workers.

The public order ministry also said it would no longer provide police guards for MPs from the far-right Golden Dawn party, which is seen by many as a key factor contributing to the climate of xenophobia in Greece.

The party, which won 18 seats in parliament in June, blame some of the country's economic problems on illegal immigration.

Hate attacks
Earlier, Javied Aslam, the head of the Migrant Workers' Association in Greece and leader of the Greek Pakistani community, said hundreds had been injured in racially motivated attacks. Read More

Greece's Golden Dawn opens office in New York City



New York - Greece's ultra-nationalist party Golden Dawn (Chrysi Avgi) has inaugurated a new office in New York City, to reach out to the Greek diaspora. A branch of the political party is already operational in Melbourne, Australia.

According to Ekathimerini two polls this weekend have placed Golden Dawn as the third political party in Greece, on nine percent of the vote. Their rise in popularity, which Digital Journal reported as standing at 22 percent, means that the ultra-nationalist party has now overtaken PASOK in public opinion.

Golden Dawn is now reaching out to the Greek diaspora, opening a branch of the political party in New York City. The party's New York website says:

"The Golden Dawn is the only political party in Greece that unapologetically stands for the sovereignty, security, and dignity of the Greek people.The party intends to reverse decades of unlimited third world immigration which has brought crime, unemployment, disease and possibly terrorism to the once peaceful Greek cities. Read More

Thousands demonstrate in Lisbon during political meeting

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake BANDA SEA - 22nd September 2012

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck the BANDA SEA at a depth of 305.6 km (189.9 miles), the quake hit at 20:25:36 UTC Saturday 22nd September 2012
The epicenter was 298 km (185 miles) Northeast from DILI, East Timor
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

15 Executed by Insurgents in Al Raqqa, Syria

France enforces ban against anti-Islam film

4.3 Magnitude Earthquake TIMOR REGION - 22nd September 2012

A magnitude 4.3 earthquake has struck the TIMOR REGION at a depth of 53.9 km (33.5 miles), the quake hit at 19:41:34 UTC Saturday 22nd September 2012
The epicenter was 19 km (11 miles) SSE of Neob, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.5 Magnitude Earthquake OFF THE WEST COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATRA - 22nd September 2012

A magnitude 4.5 earthquake has struck OFF THE WEST COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATRA at a depth of 54.4 km (33.9 miles), the quake hit at 18:07:55 UTC Saturday 22nd September 2012
The epicenter was 115 km (71 miles) Southwest of Banda Aceh, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Rebels hit army HQ in Aleppo

Sept. 22 - Video posted online claims to show Syrian rebels attacks attack an army regiment HQ on the outskirts of Aleppo as the government tightens security in the area. Sunita Rappai reports.

Most Greeks feel new austerity measures are unfair: poll

(Reuters) - An overwhelming majority of Greeks believe new austerity measures the government has promised its international lenders in exchange for more financial aid are unfair and hurt the poorest sections of society, a poll showed on Saturday.

Near-bankrupt Greece needs the European Union and International Monetary Fund's blessing on measures worth nearly 12 billion euros ($16 billion) to unlock its next tranche of aid, without which it faces default and a potential exit from the euro zone.

The conservative-led coalition is struggling to strike a balance between demands from its international lenders and angry voters who see no light at the end of the austerity tunnel.

More than 90 percent of Greeks believe the planned spending cuts and reforms are unfair and burden the poor, a survey by polling agency MRB for Sunday's edition of Realnews showed.

Still, about 67 percent of those polled want Greece to stay in the euro while over 83 percent expected more austerity measures in coming years. Read More

Bounty Offered For Anti-Islam Filmmaker

A Pakistani government minister has put a $100,000 price on the head of the man who made a film mocking Islam, which has sparked protests around the world.

Railways minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour told reporters in the northwestern city of Peshawar: "I announce today that this blasphemer who has abused the holy prophet, if somebody will kill him, I will give that person a prize of $100,000.

"I also invite Taliban and al Qaeda brothers to be partners in this noble deed.

"I also announce that if the government hands this person over to me, my heart says I will finish him with my own hands and then they can hang me."

Protests against the film, Innocence of Muslims, left 21 people dead and more than 200 injured across Pakistan on Friday. Another day of demonstrations by thousands of Pakistanis was largely peaceful.

More than 5,000 protesters marched towards the parliament in the capital Islamabad, including hundreds of women, chanting "We love our Holy Prophet" and "Punishment for those who humiliated our Prophet".

In the eastern city of Lahore. about 1,500 people rallied in front of the US consulate chanting: "The US deserves only one remedy - jihad, jihad". Read More

Mutated bird flu strain emerges in Vietnam

HA NOI (VNS)— A highly-virulent, newly-mutated bird flu H5N1 strain is feared to spreading from North Viet Nam to the South at a menacing pace, warned deputy head of Animal Health Department Pham Van Dong.

Speaking in Ha Noi yesterday, Dong, whose department comes under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the outbreak of this strain started in July and has so far attacked seven northern provinces plus the central province of Quang Ngai.

To prevent further spreading south, the ministry has ordered provinces to strengthen inspection and control activities.

In the meantime, live poultry due to be carried from North to South will not pass through the central provinces of Quang Ngai or Kon Tum until the outbreak is completely under control.
The ministry also asked local authorities to clamp down on illegal poultry imports and to tighten inspections of trans-border poultry loads destined for Viet Nam. Read More

Scientists investigate reports of a massive coral die-off on Kauai

HONOLULU —
A mysterious coral die-off on Kauai’s north shore is prompting a team of scientists to take a closer look at what may be killing large areas of coral reef.


Marine biologist Terry Lilley has been monitoring and documenting Kauai's marine environment for the last decade or more.
This summer he was struck at how fast he was seeing something kill off what he estimates are millions of coral colonies.

"Something is damaging the reefs in the whole part of the island so it has to be something relatively big," said Lilley.

Lilley contacted scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey who've determined the diseased coral is different from what killed coral heads in Kaneohe Bay last year. Read More

Florence Carlton School District, Montana: 20 to 30 students home sick with undiagnosed illness

FLORENCE, Mont. -
Administrators at the Florence Carlton School District report that between 20 and 30 students are sick with an undiagnosed illness.


Most of the reports come from younger students between kindergarten and 6th grades. They're reporting symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

It's not unlike what the district dealt with in March. Back then, the schools closed for several days to deal with a strain of the stomach flu.

Right now, Superintendent John McGee says the district is watching and waiting to see what develops.

Ravalli County Health Officials are investigating the causes for the illness. Judy Griffin Ravalli County Health Director says if your child is showing any symptoms of any sickness please take them to your primary physician. Source

Strike on Iran would be suicide for Israel: Iranian general

TEHRAN -- The commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said on Saturday that Israeli officials must be aware that the Zionist regime will be annihilated if it attacks Iran.

“The dark stain, namely the Zionist regime, is seeking to launch a war against us. Meanwhile, they are fanning the flames of war with Iran and are emphasizing the point that ‘We have to attack Iran.’ But they are so stupid and witless that their leaders are stopping them. They are not aware that if such an action is taken, they will meet their end,” Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari stated, the Persian service of the Mehr News Agency reported.

He added, “The Zionist regime regards a war against us as the only option, but they have such an improper understanding of the global and regional situation that their leaders are stopping them.”

“They are not aware that they will be annihilated if they take such an action,” Jafari stated. Read More

Merkel, Hollande EU Unity Pledge Fails to Stretch to Bank Union

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande’s appeal for German-French unity to tackle Europe’s ills lasted all of three hours as they disagreed over closer integration of the region’s banking system.

The two leaders, marking Franco-German reconciliation after World War II, delivered back-to-back speeches in which they hailed their mutual ties, tried out each other’s language and pledged to work together for a more unified Europe to defeat the financial crisis. The bonhomie broke down at a subsequent press conference when they failed to mask their differences on a planned “banking union” meant to achieve that end.

“The earlier, the better,” Hollande told reporters in the German town of Asperg today, saying that banking union is “an important step in our targets” with a goal of implementation by year’s end. Merkel, standing alongside Hollande, declined to set a target date, saying there’s no point doing something fast if it then doesn’t work. Read More

Anti-militia protests show frailty of Libyan state

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — Upheaval in Libya's second largest city raises a collision between Libyans' aspirations for change and the capability of the country's fragile, post-Moammar Gadhafi leadership to bring it. After protests against militias rock Benghazi, leaving at least four dead, residents on Saturday vowed a new "revolution" to rid themselves of armed factions and Islamic extremists.

But authorities tried to stem the popular anger, pleading that with the police and army weak, they need some of those militias to keep security.

Furious assaults by protesters against the compounds of several armed groups in Benghazi in the early hours Saturday were an unprecedented eruption of public frustration. Thousands stormed the headquarters of Ansar al-Shariah, an Islamic extremist group suspected in the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate here. They drove out the Ansar gunmen and set fire to cars in the compound, once a major base for Gadhafi's feared security forces.

The protesters then moved onto the base of a second Islamist militia, the Rafallah Sahati Brigade. Brigade fighters opened fire in rioting with the protesters. The state news agency Saturday said four protesters were killed and 70 injured during the night's turmoil.

On Saturday, the city of 1 million in eastern Libya was brimming with anger, rumors and conspiracy theories. Read More

Project X Haren: Riots in Holland as 3000 Attend Facebook Party

Riot police were forced to break up crowds at a teenager’s 16th birthday party after 3,000 people turned up because she left the Facebook event invitation open.

There were reports of six people hurt, three seriously, as shops were vandalised and looted, a car set on fire and street signs and lampposts were damaged in the northern Dutch town of Haren.

Up to 600 riot police were on the scene and at least 20 arrests were made, media reports said on Friday night. Read More



David Villalobos is in critical condition after he leapt into the tiger den at the Bronx Zoo in an apparent suicide attempt

A man was viciously mauled by a 400-pound tiger after leaping into the animal's den at New York's Bronx Zoo yesterday afternoon in an bizarre suicide attempt.

David Villalobos, 25, of Mahopac, New York, is in critical condition after being attacked by Bachuta, an 11-year-old male Amur tiger.

Villalobos also had his back bitten, where a fang punctured his lung, and his body clawed, after throwing himself from a moving monorail over a protective fence into the tiger's enclosure.

The man was alone with the tiger for about 10 minutes before he was rescued by zoo officials, who used a fire extinguisher to chase Bachuta away.

As well as suffering bites and punctures on his arms, legs, shoulders and back, Villalobos broke an arm and a leg, possibly in the 16-foot-plus fall. Read More

David Silverstein and his girlfriend are jailed for claiming $2,000-a-month in welfare for EIGHT YEARS while living in their $1.2m home

A wealthy chiropractor and his long-time girlfriend are swapping their $1.2 million waterfront home for prison.

The Seattle couple were discovered to be collecting almost $2,000-a-month welfare benefits and even food stamps while living in the luxury property, driving a Jaguar and travelling the world.

A federal judge sentenced chiropractor David Silverstein, 60, and Lyudmila Shimonova, 53, to 18 months in prison Friday.

Silverstein also must pay a criminal fine of $30,000, which comes on top of the $334,000 he’s already paid in restitution and civil penalties. Shimonova was ordered to pay $261,000 in restitution.

Prosecutors say Silverstein pretended he was Shimonova's landlord at a home on Lake Washington that she occupied with her two children. In reality, Silverstein was living there too. Read More

4.0 Magnitude Earthquake SPAIN - 22nd September 2012

A magnitude 4.0 earthquake has struck SPAIN at a depth of 8 km (5 miles), the quake hit at 16:28:49 UTC Saturday 22nd September 2012
The epicenter was 9 km (5.6 miles) Northeast of Villablino, Spain
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Protesters storm Islamist militia group headquarters

Sept. 21 - Protesters stormed Ansar al-Sharia's headquarters, the Islamist militia group linked to the attack that killed four American diplomats. Deborah Gembara reports

Brazilians march against anti-Islam film

Sept. 22 - Brazilians of all religious faiths hold peaceful march in protest of an anti-Islam film. Julie Noce reports.

Zoo director defends tiger after mauling

Sept. 21 - Bronx Zoo director says his Siberian tiger, which mauled a man who jumped into its enclosure, did "nothing wrong", while praising staff for saving the man. Sunita Rappai reports.a

U.S. bans 20 Iran officials from travel to U.N. assembly: report

(Reuters) - The United States has denied visas to about 20 Iranian government officials hoping to attend next week's U.N. General Assembly, including two ministers, Iran's Fars news agency reported on Saturday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a regular at the assembly since he took office in 2005, will give his final speech there on Wednesday and will address a meeting on the "rule of law" on Monday.

But of the 160-or-so visas requested by the Iranian delegation two months ago, about 20 were turned down, Fars said.

It gave no reason, but many Iranian officials are subject to travel bans under sanctions related to Iran's nuclear program.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department had no immediate comment on the matter.

Fars did not name the two ministers who were denied visas and said Ahmadinejad would be accompanied by his chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. Read More

3.4 Magnitude Earthquake ONTARIO, CANADA - 22nd September 2012

A magnitude 3.4 earthquake has struck ONTARIO, CANADA at a depth of 5 km (3.1 miles), the quake hit at 16:10:39 UTC Saturday 22nd September 2012
The epicenter was 50 km (31 miles) NNE of Chapleau, Canada
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Israeli and Iranian troops staring one another down across Lebanese / Syrian borders

Details forthcoming.

Washington’s Iran war game vs. real Iranian, Israeli war preparations

Ill-assorted figures this week cited 2013 as the year in which the United States was expected to go to war on Iran. Among them was Iran’s atomic commission director Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, and players in the US-Iranian war game staged at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington, whose heads are close to US President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

This apparent US-Iranian concord was unusual but not fortuitous, say debkafile analysts.
On the part of Washington, it had a distinct purpose, which was to demonstrate to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that an Israeli attack before the US presidential election would be superfluous.

The message was played out in the Saban institute’s war game: The player representing Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the Americans are tired of the fight and they are led by a weak man with no stomach for the struggle.

The script then proves him wrong: On July 6, 2013, Iranian agents coming in from Venezuela blow up a hotel on the Caribbean island of Aruba killing 137 people, many of them American holidaymakers including nuclear physicists. It was clearly a revenge attack for the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists.

The next chapter of this scenario had President Obama, portrayed as reelected in November, ordering Iranian Revolutionary Guards headquarters in eastern Iran to be bombed, 40 Iranian security installations shut down by cyber warfare and Tehran warned that US intelligence had the names of Iranian agents in 38 countries and their lives were at risk. more

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTHERN MID-ATLANTIC RIDGE - 22nd September 2012

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck the SOUTHERN MID-ATLANTIC RIDGE at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the quake hit at 14:38:07 UTC Saturday 22nd September 2012
The epicenter was 552 km (342 miles) NNW of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, Saint Helena
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake NEW BRITAIN REGION, PAPUA NEW GUINEA - 22nd September 2012

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck the NEW BRITAIN REGION, PAPUA NEW GUINEA at a depth of 59 km (36.7 miles), the quake hit at 13:31:04 UTC Saturday 22nd September 2012
The epicenter was 133 km (82 miles) Southeast of Kimbe, Papua New Guinea
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Antonio Barbeau and Nathan Paape Charged as Adults after they Killed one of their great-grandmothers with a HATCHET and HAMMER

Two troubled 13-year-old boys from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, are accused of murdering the 78-year-old great-grandmother of one of the suspects using a hatchet and hammer before ransacking her house in search of valuables.

The teens, identified as Antonio Barbeau and Nathan Paape, were arrested and charged as adults of first-degree intentional homicide for allegedly killing Barbara Olsen, whose body was found in a pool of blood at her home on Wednesday.

According to a criminal complaint, Paape told police that on Monday, his friend-turned-accomplice told him that they would go to the home of his great-grandmother, kill her and get some money. Read More

5.4 Magnitude Earthquake OAXACA, MEXICO - 22nd September 2012

A magnitude 5.4 earthquake has struck OAXACA, MEXICO at a depth of 35.7 km (22.2 miles), the quake hit at 12:30:01 UTC Saturday 22nd September 2012
The epicenter was 12 km (7 miles) SSE of San Pedro Amuzgos, Mexico
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.0 Magnitude Earthquake OFFSHORE OAXACA, MEXICO - 22nd September 2012

A magnitude 4.0 earthquake has struck OFFSHORE OAXACA, MEXICO at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the quake hit at 12:05:27 UTC Saturday 22nd September 2012
The epicenter was 104 km (64 miles) South of Santa Maria Huazolotitlan, Mexico
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake PHILIPPINE ISLANDS REGION - 22nd September 2012

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck the PHILIPPINE ISLANDS REGION at a depth of 31.1 km (19.3 miles), the quake hit at 11:45:37 UTC Saturday 22nd September 2012
The epicenter was 104 km (64 miles) ENE of San Isidro, Philippines
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

U.S. meltdowns: History lessons for the euro

(Reuters) - In the early 1870s, property prices in Vienna, Berlin and Paris soared on the back of a state-promoted building boom fuelled by easy credit extended against the collateral of unbuilt or unfinished houses.

The crash that followed parallels what has happened more recently and may, with other lessons from U.S. history, provide pointers for the euro zone crisis.

As the property prices soared, Europe's world was turned upside down. Thanks to grain elevators, conveyor belts and huge steamships, American farmers opening up the fertile Midwest were able to export vast quantities of wheat and then processed food.

Grain producers from Russia and central Europe simply could not compete with what came to be known as the American Commercial Invasion.

The crash came in central Europe in May 1873 as the low costs of the new industrial superpower exposed long-held growth assumptions as unrealistic. Continental banks collapsed, prompting British lenders to hold back their capital, unsure who was most exposed to souring mortgages. Interbank rates rocketed.

The banking crisis soon spread to the United States. Railway companies were among the first casualties, burdened by complex financial instruments that promised investors a fixed return. Read More

Iran's Revolutionary Guard says expects Israel to launch war

(Reuters) - Israel will eventually go beyond threats and will attack Iran, the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards was quoted as saying on Saturday.

As speculation mounts that Israel could launch air strikes on Iran before U.S. elections in November, Mohammad Ali Jafari told a news conference that the Jewish state would be destroyed if it took such a step.

"Their threats only prove that their enmity with Islam and the revolution is serious, and eventually this enmity will lead to physical conflict," Jafari said when asked about Israeli threats to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) reported.

"We are making all efforts to increase our defensive capabilities so that if there is an attack ... we could defend ourselves and other countries that need our help with high defensive capabilities."

Jafari's comments, made at an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) military exhibition, come as Israeli leaders have increased their rhetoric against Iran.

"A war will occur, but it's not clear where or when it will be," Jafari was quoted as saying on Saturday. "Israel seeks war with us, but it's not clear when the war will occur."

"Right now they see war as the only method of confrontation," he said. Read More

Rebels down fighter jet in northern Syria: witness

(Reuters) - Rebel fighters trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad shot down a fighter jet as it flew over the northern Syrian town of Atarib in Idlib province, a witness said.

The witness, an independent journalist who asked to remain anonymous, said rebel fighters were attacking a military base near the town when the jet flew over and rebels shot it down with anti-aircraft guns.

Vastly outgunned, rebels say they need surface-to-air missiles to take down planes and helicopters used by the Syrian military to bombard opposition strongholds.

Fighters use outdated anti-aircraft machine guns that are welded to pickup trucks but they are inaccurate and useless if the military aircraft fly above a certain altitude.

On August 27 fighters shot down a helicopter on the outskirts of Damascus and three days later rebels said they had brought down a jet in Idlib, near the Turkish border. Read More

4.2 Magnitude Earthquake NICARAGUA - 22nd September 2012

A magnitude 4.2 earthquake has struck NICARAGUA at a depth of 84.5 km (52.5 miles), the quake hit at 09:57:51 UTC Saturday 22nd September 2012
The epicenter was 13 km (8 miles) Southeast of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

European army backed

GERMANY, France and nine of Europe's most powerful countries have called for an elected European Union president and an end to Britain's veto over defence policy, in a radical blueprint for the continent's future.

In a document released following a meeting between 11 foreign ministers in Warsaw, the bloc charted a vision for the ''future of Europe''.
As well as calling for a single, elected head of state for Europe, the bloc demanded a new defence policy, under the control of a pan-EU foreign ministry commanded by Baroness Ashton, which ''could eventually involve a European army''.

In order to ''prevent one single member state from being able to obstruct initiatives'', a reference to British opposition to a European army, the German-led group demanded an end to existing national vetoes over foreign and defence policy. This would give the EU the power to impose a decision on Britain if it was supported by a majority of other countries.

The bloc also called for a new European police force patrolling the external borders of the Schengen passport-free zone and a single European visa. Read More

5.2 Magnitude Earthquake SAKHALIN, RUSSIA - 22nd September 2012

A magnitude 5.2 earthquake has struck SAKHALIN, RUSSIA at a depth of 325.1 km (202 miles), the quake hit at 09:37:01 UTC Saturday 22nd September 2012
The epicenter was 43 km (26 miles) SSE of Shebunino, Russia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.3 Magnitude Earthquake HINDU KUSH REGION, AFGHANISTAN - 22nd September 2012

A magnitude 4.3 earthquake has struck the HINDU KUSH REGION, AFGHANISTAN at a depth of 200 km (124 miles), the quake hit at 08:46:31 UTC Saturday 22nd September 2012
The epicenter was 25 km (15.5 miles) East of Farh_ar, Afghanistan
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Euro Crisis Fuels Shadow Economy

The informal, or shadow, economy is growing in the European Union (EU) due to the economic crisis. It ranges from eight per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Switzerland and Austria to more than 30 per cent in some Central and Eastern European countries, such as Bulgaria, Croatia or Romania. Curtailing this “other” marketplace is a challenge for both state governments and the EU, as the transformation of undeclared work into formal work can be an important step towards the fulfilment of the EU employment targets set out in the Commission strategy “Europe 2020”.

Known under a broad variety of different names such as “grey and black”, “unrecorded”, “illegal” or “underground”, the hidden economy has as many facets and meanings as names. This recalls the French expression “system D” of “d├ębrouillards” which depicts particularly effective and resourceful people who start doing business on their own, without registering or being monitored by the bureaucracy – a concept sculpted by the history of the former French colonies in Africa. Read More

Libyan fighters in Syria admit al Qaeda supporters among rebel forces, call for intervention

The calls for foreign intervention amongst the armed rebel forces in Syria have never ceased despite the United States directly assisting the rebels in obtaining funding to get their hands on heavy weaponry on top of carrying out intelligence operations in concert with Turkey and other Western nations.

The support for such actions has also seemed to remain intact in some sectors despite the fact that al Qaeda openly supports the rebels and the rebels themselves have no qualms about engaging in terrorism and carrying out “human rights and humanitarian law abuses.”

It is imperative to point out that even if members of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) aren’t members of al Qaeda, or any other Islamic terrorist organization for that matter, they are still engaged in terrorist activities and thus when it comes down to it the religious aspect isn’t all that important.

That being said, it is not wrong to be concerned about how groups with a clear ideological motivation will act after their political goals have been met, especially when there are chemical weapons in the equation. In Libya, the results have been nothing short of horrific. Read More

The World Bank Wants Eastern Europeans Above-Ground and Paying Taxes

The World Bank has clued in to the fact that many Eastern Europeans prefer to work in the "shadow economy" — that is, off the books and out of sight of tax men, inspectors and other assorted bureaucrats. This has the World Bank very concerned, for a variety of reasons — some convincing, and others, not so much. 

Coincidentally, that's exactly how the World Bank's policy recommendations for bringing workers in from the shadows shake out — some convincing, and others, not so much. Overall, the report comes off as soft-selling some desperately needed tax-and-regulation-cutting policy changes to a primarily political audience.

In From the Shadow: Integrating Europe's Informal Labor gives us its rationale as to why we should care that people choose to work off the books. The reasons boil down to:

Working off the books cuts people off from social insurance (not necessarily true, as the report itself outlines later) and private insurance (also not necessarily true, though it probably makes securing coverage more difficult).

Bigger, established firms are overtaxed to make up for what's lost to the informal sector (not proven — there is likely a cap on what the state can extract without driving more firms underground or overseas) and informal firms have difficulty expanding (probably true). Read More

Pedro Schwartz on the creation of money out of thin air

Bioterrorism and the New World Order

An outbreak of an obscure and fast-spreading decease – a pulmonary syndrome caused by hantavirus – was reported in the US Yosemite National Park. No specific cure for hantavirus being on record up to date, three people are already dead and around 8,000 guests are thought to be at risk of having contracted it during their stays in the park's tent cabins in June-August. According to USA Today and other sources, the threat actually hangs over 22,000 tourists including 2,500 foreign nationals from 40 countries, who visited the Yosemite National Park last summer. The disease is known to be rodent-born and, supposedly, can be passed from human to human.

The US health authorities estimate lethality due to hantavirus at 36%, which is considerably higher than the 2-3% for Spanish flue in the early XX century and marginally comparable to the 30-60% for plague absent any medical treatment… Due to the long incubation period – two to four weeks after exposure – hantavirus tends to evade timely diagnosing, with the initial signs of illness being mostly flu-like and no specifically-targeted vaccine available.

It may seem strange that the park administration neither closed the grounds following the September 1 fatality reports nor issued any warnings to alert potential visitors. In fact, at the moment the park is open and hosts thousands of travelers. Questions arise in the context such as where the infected rodents could be from, whether there was any chance that hantavirus escaped from the US armed forces' secret laboratories, and was the timing of the outbreak – shortly ahead of the US presidential elections – attributable to a mere coincidence.

While the origin of most viruses may be hard to track, quite a few are, by credible accounts, human-made. “Outbreak”, a 1995 American disaster film starring Dustin Hoffman, was based on a fictional story of a lethal virus originally discovered overseas and, much later, surfacing in the US, where, as it transpires, a design exists to use it in biological warfare. The US army quarantines the town affected and ultimately intends to bomb it to cover up the weapons plan. The virus is then found to be passed around by a monkey illegally brought to the US from Africa, and the movie starts to inch towards a happy end. Read More

France will push for GM ban if cancer threat confirmed

France will seek an immediate EU ban on imports of a genetically-modified corn made by Monsanto if a study linking it to cancer in rats is deemed credible, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Thursday

But the French scientist leading the study said he would not let the European Union's food safety watchdog, EFSA, verify his results because it had approved the NK603 corn in the first place.

Scientists at France's University of Caen found that rats fed on NK603 or exposed to the weedkiller Roundup used with it, also made by Monsanto, developed tumours.

The authors of the study billed the findings as "extremely worrying," but their methodology and results and their relevance to humans have been questioned by other experts in the field.

"I've demanded a rapid procedure, in the order of a few weeks, which will allow us to establish the scientific validity of this study," Ayrault said.

"If the results are confirmed (agriculture minister) Stephane Le Foll will seek a European ban on these GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)." Read More

21 Facts About America's Decaying Infrastructure That Will Blow Your Mind

You can tell a lot about a nation by the condition of the infrastructure. So what does our infrastructure say about us? It says that we are in a very advanced state of decay. At this point, much of America is being held together with spit, duct tape and prayers. Our roads are crumbling and thousands of our bridges look like they could collapse at any moment. Our power grid is ancient and over a trillion gallons of untreated sewage is leaking from our aging sewer systems each year. 

 Our airports and our seaports are clogged with far more traffic than they were ever designed to carry. Approximately a third of all of the dam failures that have taken place in the United States since 1874 have happened during the past decade. Our national parks and recreation areas have been terribly neglected and our railroads are a bad joke. Hurricane Katrina showed how vulnerable our levees are, and drinking water systems all over the country are badly outdated. Sadly, at a time when we could use significant new investment in infrastructure, our spending on infrastructure is actually way down. Back during the 50s and the 60s, the U.S. was spending between 3 and 4 percent of GDP on infrastructure. Today, that figure is down to about 2.4 percent.

 But of course we don't have any extra money to spend on infrastructure because of our reckless spending and because of the massive amount of debt that we have accumulated. While the Obama administration is spending more than half a million dollars to figure out why chimpanzees throw poop, our national infrastructure is literally falling apart all around us. Once upon a time nobody else on the planet could match our infrastructure, and now we are in the process of becoming a joke to the rest of the world.

The following are 21 facts about America's failing infrastructure that will blow your mind....

#1 The American Society of Civil Engineers has given America's crumbling infrastructure an overall grade of D.

#2 There are simply not enough roads in the United States today. Each year, traffic jams cost the commuters of America 4.2 billion hours and about 2.8 million gallons of gasoline.

#3 It is being projected that Americans will spend an average of 160 hours stuck in traffic annually by the year 2035.

#4 Approximately one-third of all roads in the United States are in substandard condition.

#5 Close to a third of all highway fatalities are due "to substandard road conditions, obsolete road designs, or roadside hazards."

#6 One out of every four bridges in America either carries more traffic than originally intended or is in need of repair.

#7 Repairing all of the bridges in the United States that need repair would take approximately 140 billion dollars.

#8 According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, our decaying transportation system costs the U.S. economy about 78 billion dollars annually in lost time and fuel.

#9 All over America, asphalt roads are being ground up and are being replaced with gravel roads because they are cheaper to maintain. The state of South Dakota has transformed over 100 miles of asphalt roads into gravel roads, and 38 out of the 83 counties in the state of Michigan have transformed at least some of their asphalt roads into gravel roads.

#10 There are 4,095 dams in the United States that are at risk of failure. That number has risen by more than 100 percent since 1999.

#11 Of all the dam failures that have happened in the United States since 1874, a third of them have happened during the past decade.

#12 Close to half of all U.S. households do not have access to bus or rail transit.

#13 Our aging sewer systems spill more than a trillion gallons of untreated sewage every single year. The cost of cleaning up that sewage each year is estimated to be greater than 50 billion dollars.

#14 It is estimated that rolling blackouts and inefficiencies in the U.S. electrical grid cost the U.S. economy approximately 80 billion dollars a year.

#15 It is being projected that by the year 2020 every single major container port in the United States will be handling at least double the volume that it was originally designed to handle.

#16 All across the United States, conditions at many of our state parks, recreation areas and historic sites are deplorable at best. Some states have backlogs of repair projects that are now over a billion dollars long....

More than a dozen states estimate that their backlogs are at least $100 million. Massachusetts and New York's are at least $1 billion. Hawaii officials called park conditions "deplorable" in a December report asking for $50 million per year for five years to tackle a $240 million backlog that covers parks, trails and harbors.

#17 Today, the U.S. spends about 2.4 percent of GDP on infrastructure. Meanwhile, China spends about 9 percent of GDP on infrastructure.

#18 In the United States today, approximately 16 percent of our construction workers are unemployed.

#19 China has plans to build 55,000 miles of highways by the year 2020. If all of those roads were put end to end, it would be longer than the total length of the entire U.S. interstate system.

#20 The World Economic Forum ranks U.S. infrastructure 23rd in the world, and we fall a little bit farther behind the rest of the developed world every single day.

#21 It has been projected that it would take 2.2 trillion dollars over the next 5 years just to repair our existing infrastructure. That does not even include a single penny for badly needed new infrastructure. Read More

America's Debt: $70 trillion and counting: An independent tries to change the debt debate

At times during his 90-minute talk, David Walker sounded like a Tea Party activist. At other times, he sounded like a radical progressive.

If his package of ideas – combining cuts to Medicare and Social Security with campaign-finance reform and universal health care – doesn't fit neatly in today's left-vs.-right political taxonomy, that's exactly his point. Walker, a former U.S. comptroller general, is crisscrossing the country during election season, but he is not talking about candidates or parties.

Rather, he's trying to focus audiences' attention on a 14-digit electronic display that shares the stage with him. He calls it the Burden Barometer, and it read $70 trillion, $579 billion, $104 million and change when he brought it to Washington University on Tuesday.

The better-known National Debt Clock is only at $16 trillion and counting, but Walker says it understates the government's debt problem. To get to $70 trillion, he adds unfunded liabilities of Medicare, Social Security and other programs.

Walker calls his cross-country journey the $10 Million A Minute Tour, and by the time he was done speaking at Washington University, the debt tally had jumped by more than $800 million. Read More

''David Stockman on Federal Reserve Arrogance and Monetary Mission Creep!''

Boeing wins $1.9 billion deal for U.S. surveillance planes

(Reuters) - Boeing Co (BA.N) has won a $1.9 billion contract to build 11 more P-8 maritime surveillance planes for the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Defense Department said Friday.

About three-quarters of the work on the P-8A Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft will be performed in Seattle, Washington under the U.S. Navy contract, the Pentagon said in its daily contract digest.

This is the third batch of low-rate, production planes bought by the Navy, bringing the total number of P-8 planes under contract to 24, out of a total of 117 that the Navy plans to buy overall, Boeing spokesman Chick Ramey said.

Boeing has delivered three of the new production planes to a Navy air base in Jacksonville, Florida and will deliver two more by the end of the year, Ramey said. Read More

Deadly gunbattle near Israel-Egypt border

Sept. 21 - One Israeli soldier and three gunmen were killed in a gun battle near the Israeli-Egypt border. Deborah Gembara reports

Senate passes funding bill to avoid October 1 government shutdown

(Reuters) - A deeply divided and unproductive Congress wrapped up its final business before November's elections early on Saturday as the U.S. Senate passed a stopgap measure to fund federal programs and avoid an October 1 government shutdown.

The 62-30 vote on the funding bill, which now moves to President Barack Obama's desk to be signed into law, was delayed by days of partisan bickering over votes on unrelated measures aimed at boosting both Democrats' and Republicans' political fortunes.

For the new fiscal year which begins on October 1, the $524 billion measure slightly raises discretionary spending - which funds government agencies and everything from defense to national parks - from current levels.

It was needed because Congress' normal process of appropriating money for government operations broke down amid disagreements between Democrat and Republicans over spending levels and funding was due to run out after September 30. Read More

Ann Romney’s Plane Makes Emergency Landing

LAS VEGAS – Ann Romney’s plane made an emergency landing today in Colorado after smoke filled the cabin because of an apparent electrical fire.

Romney, wife of the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, was not harmed in the incident, spokeswoman Sarah Haley said.
Haley tweeted following the incident, “Don’t need any caffeine to wake me up now! #adventure ”

“A HUGE thank you to the crew and first responders for keeping us safe today!” she wrote.
The flight was heading from Omaha, Neb., where Mrs. Romney had attended fundraisers this afternoon, to Santa Monica, Calif.

In a recorded conversation between the plane and Denver International Airport’s flight tower, a man’s voice could be heard saying, “We have an electrical issue here and we’re going to declare an emergency.”

“We’ll probably need assistance here,” he said. “We got smoke in the cabin.” Read More

What's missing from this dollar bill?

In this age of debate about the value, or non-value, of the dollar, we've encountered a little something from the past that you probably don't see every day unless you're a currency collector -- a 1935 series U.S. dollar silver certificate.

Peter Gorenstein, executive producer for The Daily Ticker and Breakout, found one in his change. If you've not come across one of these in person before, you might at first think it's counterfeit, but it is real, and you can certainly buy things with it. Compare the 1935 certificate to a modern, 2009 series, Federal Reserve note below:


Among several different features that stand out between the two is a very prominent one: The promise on the old bill below George Washington's portrait that the certificate is equivalent to "One Dollar In Silver Payable To The Bearer On Demand." We know that some of our readers love the idea of investing in hard assets and of hard assets backing the U.S. currency. But despite what this dollar says, you can't get silver for it from the government. Your ability to redeem the certificates for silver with the U.S. Treasury came to an end in 1968.

Now have a look at the back. Notice anything missing from the old one on top?

The phrase "In God We Trust" is absent. The 1935 series certificate was the last paper currency in the nation whose run began without the language....Read More

Klein Michael Thaxton - PITTSBURGH hostage-taking: Facebook posts worry police

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Pittsburgh police said they had serious concerns when an armed man took a business owner hostage in a downtown high-rise office building -- and not just because he had a knife.

The suspect, 22-year-old Klein Michael Thaxton, made Facebook posts during the five-hour ordeal Friday, authorities said, and they feared that responses from friends, family and others might goad him into violence.

In the end, police say, Thaxton surrendered peacefully and released businessman Charles Breitsman.

Now police believe that Thaxton might have chosen Breitsman because he spotted a smartphone and computer in his office and saw a high-profile opportunity to express himself on the social networking site, Chief Nathan Harper said.

Thaxton was arraigned early Saturday on felony charges of kidnapping, aggravated assault and making terroristic threats. He remains jailed on $1 million bail. Read More

Rebel forces can't win, says Assad

Syrian president Bashar Assad has insisted his regime will not fall and also lashed out at Gulf countries, which he accused of using their enormous oil wealth to try to drive him from power.

Mr Assad's comments came as an opposition group, the National Co-ordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, accused the regime of being behind the disappearance of two of its leaders.
Abdul-Aziz al-Kheir and Ayas Ayyash were expected to take part in a conference on Sunday in Damascus by some 20 Syrian groups that are calling for Mr Assad to step down. But they disappeared yesterday with a friend who had picked them up at Damascus International Airport, the group said.

In the interview with the Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram Al-Arabi, Mr Assad said the rebels "will not succeed" and that a foreign military intervention such as the one that helped topple Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi will "not be repeated" in Syria. Read More

Pakistanis can debunk myths about Islam peacefully

Karachi, Pakistan (CNN) -- Most Pakistanis have rejected the defamatory attacks on the profile of Prophet of Islam Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) in the movie "Innocence of Muslims," which has triggered intensive protests and anger in Pakistan along with Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

The government in Pakistan was the first to announce a public holiday and banned YouTube as a mark of protest. But this failed to calm the violent demonstrations and resulting violent mob actions.

The country's big problem is that it suffers from natural disasters, terrorism, crime, poor living conditions and corrupt sociopolitical systems -- but there is little public debate. Erfan Aziz, an academician from Karachi, observed that "the public in Pakistan has remained much oppressed in the past. Even the genuine issues of society were not allowed to be discussed in public.

Notifications such as 'avoid political conversations' still may be seen in some public areas."

Many in Pakistan are seeking to convey a message to the international community by promoting mutual respect for each other's faiths. Kulsoom Shah, a Fulbright student, for example says young people must come up with creative ideas to register the hurt feelings that the movie provoked -- but peacefully. Shah said she applauded French students who distributed copies of the Quran in non-Muslim communities.

In this way, productive ways to register feelings can help in debunking myths about Islam and promote it as a religion of peace. The present situation is sensitive indeed and cannot be dealt with in isolation. Islamic scholars seeking a modest approach should be brought forward on the popular media to calm people's resentment, while less coverage should be given to more hard-line political parties and public figures.

Lindsey Boyle, from Ohio University, condemns the movie's offense and its overgeneralized tone. For one, the film does not represent popular U.S. opinion; second, the U.S. government has condemned the movie, so burning the American flag is not necessarily a reasonable reaction. Read More