Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Batchwiper": New computer virus hitting Iran could be more potent than it looks

A new apparently simple computer virus targeting Iran may be more potent than it appears, according to an Israeli security expert.

The Iranian Maher computer security center said earlier this week it had identified a new malware that creates files on desktop and laptop Windows computers that completely wipe out the data on disk drives.

The malware is “simple in design,” the Iranian group said, but it is “efficient and can wipe disk partitions and user profile directories without being recognized by anti-virus software,” and thus constitutes a major threat to computers in Iran.

The malware, considered a Trojan by security experts because it sits on a hard drive for a period and acts only at a specific trigger point, is being termed Batchwiper in the security community. Victims affected by the Trojan will have drives D: through I: on their computers completely erased, with no chance of restoring files. Those drives are generally used for data and file storage by most Windows users.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/new-computer-virus-hitting-iran-could-be-more-potent-than-it-looks-says-israeli-expert/

Cost of War: UK reveals staggering £17bln price tag for Afghan war

Europe launches major British military satellite

Truck carrying cows flips over and sends the herd flying

Maya denounce doomsday theory

'UN not serious when it comes to Israel'

UFO lovers and mystics await Maya new era

As pockets of anxiety crop up ahead of the day billed as the Maya apocalypse, a motley crew of New Age thrill-seekers, mystics and tourists have gathered at ancient holy sites in Mexico hoping to witness the birth of a new era.

In the Maya Long Calendar, December 21 marks the end of the 13th bak'tun, an epoch lasting roughly 400 years.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/20/us-maya-calendar-idUSBRE8BJ16320121220

Troops gone, U.S. increasingly sidelined in Iraq

When a group of Americans and their heavily armed guards arrived at the Turkish embassy for a party in September, Iraqi police outside blocked their path.

Unless they surrendered the weapons held by their security detail in accordance with embassy policy, the Iraqis said, the delegation of U.S. diplomats would not be allowed in.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/20/us-iraq-usa-idUSBRE8BJ0JN20121220

Republicans push own "fiscal cliff" plan; talks frozen

Republicans in the Congress pushed ahead on Thursday with a "fiscal cliff" plan that stands no chance of becoming law as time runs short to reach a deal with President Barack Obama to avert a Washington-induced economic recession.

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner's "Plan B" to limit income-tax increases to the wealthiest sliver of the population appeared likely to pass the House on Thursday evening after it narrowly cleared a procedural hurdle in the afternoon.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/20/us-usa-fiscal-idUSBRE8A80WV20121220

Indiana legalizes shooting cops for unlawful intrusion (Something the news back in July failed to let us know about)

Hold onto your holsters, folks: shooting a cop dead is now legal in the state of Indiana.

Governor Mitch Daniels, a Republican, has authorized changes to a 2006 legislation that legalizes the use of deadly force on a public servant — including an officer of the law — in cases of “unlawful intrusion.” Proponents of both the Second and Fourth Amendments — those that allow for the ownership of firearms and the security against unlawful searches, respectively — are celebrating the update by saying it ensures that residents are protected from authorities that abuse the powers of the badge.

Others, however, fear that the alleged threat of a police state emergence will be replaced by an all-out warzone in Indiana.

Under the latest changes of the so-called Castle Doctrine, state lawmakers agree “people have a right to defend themselves and third parties from physical harm and crime.” Rather than excluding officers of the law, however, any public servant is now subject to be met with deadly force if they unlawfully enter private property without clear justification.

http://rt.com/usa/news/indiana-shooting-law-state-591/

Matt wonders:
All out war coming in America?

Maya Underworld: The Real Doomsday (National Geographic)

5.0 Magnitude Earthquake TONGA - 20th December 2012

Magnitude
5.0
Date-Time
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 19:38:46 UTC
Friday, December 21, 2012 at 09:38:46 AM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones
Location
20.773°S, 174.089°W
Depth
45.1 km (28.0 miles)
Region
TONGA
Distances
108 km (67 miles) NE of `Ohonua, Tonga

Communist Chinese Government Calls For Americans to be Disarmed

The Communist Chinese government, via its state-run media front Xinhua, has called for Americans to be disarmed, arguing that the Sandy Hook school massacre demands “no delay for U.S. gun control.”

Xinhua is virtually the press agency for the Communist Chinese government. The organization, “is subordinate to the State Council and reports to the Communist Party of China’s Propaganda and Public Information Departments.”

In other words, Xinhua represents the pinnacle of Chinese state-run media. Whatever is printed in its editorial pages represents the opinion of the ruling Communist Party leaders.

The article calls on Obama to exploit the tragedy to push his gun control agenda, adding that his lame duck situation represents “the best position to promote it,” while blaming the National Rifle Association for curtailing previous attempts to regulate firearms in the United States.

http://www.infowars.com/communist-chinese-government-calls-for-americans-to-be-disarmed/

Somalia: 55 Refugees Drown In Boat Tragedy

Fifty-five people are dead or presumed drowned after an overcrowded refugee boat capsized off the Somali coast.

Five survivors said that the boat capsized just 15 minutes into its journey from the port of Bosasso in northern Somalia, tipping all those on board into the sea.

The youngest victim was a boy less than four years old.

http://news.sky.com/story/1028313/somalia-55-refugees-drown-in-boat-tragedy

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 20th December 2012

Magnitude
4.8
Date-Time
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 15:31:15 UTC
Friday, December 21, 2012 at 12:31:15 AM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones
Location
37.087°N, 141.147°E
Depth
58.6 km (36.4 miles)
Region
NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
Distances
24 km (14 miles) E of Iwaki, Japan

3.1 Magnitude Earthquake WESTERN MONTANA - 20th December 2012

Magnitude
3.1
Date-Time
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 15:06:19 UTC
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 08:06:19 AM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones
Location
48.206°N, 115.850°W
Depth
1 km (~0.6 mile) (poorly constrained)
Region
WESTERN MONTANA
Distances
18 km (12 miles) NNE (26°) from Heron, MT

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake SALTA, ARGENTINA - 20th December 2012

Magnitude
4.7
Date-Time
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 15:00:18 UTC
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 12:00:18 PM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones
Location
22.805°S, 63.706°W
Depth
525.2 km (326.4 miles)
Region
SALTA, ARGENTINA
Distances
25 km (15 miles) SSE of General Enrique Mosconi, Argentina

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake KEPULAUAN BABAR, INDONESIA - 20th December 2012

Magnitude
4.8
Date-Time
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 13:38:05 UTC
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 10:38:05 PM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones
Location
7.103°S, 129.238°E
Depth
162.1 km (100.7 miles)
Region
KEPULAUAN BABAR, INDONESIA
Distances
247 km (153 miles) WNW of Saumlaki, Indonesia

4.0 Magnitude Earthquake RAJASTHAN, INDIA - 20th December 2012

Magnitude
4.0
Date-Time
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 13:00:42 UTC
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 06:30:42 PM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones
Location
26.726°N, 76.303°E
Depth
10 km (6.2 miles)
Region
RAJASTHAN, INDIA
Distances
17 km (10 miles) S of Dausa, India

3.1 Magnitude Earthquake WESTERN MONTANA - 20th December 2012

Magnitude
3.1
Date-Time
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 12:57:16 UTC
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 05:57:16 AM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones
Location
48.257°N, 115.901°W
Depth
1 km (~0.6 mile) (poorly constrained)
Region
WESTERN MONTANA
Distances
23 km (14 miles) N (11°) from Heron, MT

Gun Facts, Myths, and Information

Download the full info-pack, with charts and so on, here.


A few samples from the download which should peak your interest.

Myth: Assault weapons are a serious problem in the U.S.
Fact: In 1994, before the Federal “assault weapons ban,” you were eleven (11) times more likely to be beaten to death than to be killed by an “assault weapon.”

Myth: Guns are not a good deterrent to crime
Fact: Guns prevent an estimated 2.5 million crimes a year or 6,849 every day. Often the gun is never fired and no blood (including the criminal’s) is shed.

Myth: Private ownership of guns is not effective in preventing crime
Fact: Every year, people in the United States use guns to defend themselves against criminals an estimated 2,500,000 times – more than 6,500 people a day, or once every 13 seconds. Of these instances, 15.6% of the people using firearms defensively stated that they “almost certainly” saved their lives by doing so.

Myth: 30,000 people are killed with guns every year.
Fact: 54% of these deaths are suicides(80% in Canada). Numerous studies have shown that the presence or absence of a firearm does not change the overall (i.e., gun plus non-gun) suicide rate.

Myth: The only purpose for a gun is to kill people
Fact: Guns are used for self-defense 2,500,000 times a year in the United States

*****

Matt's thoughts:
Whatever side this information ends up bolstering, to me, the statistic that 54% of 30,000 people, and especially the 80% in Canada, are killed through suicides is a very sad one. I wish they would all come to talk to me first, however impossible that may be.

Minister Attacked, Robbed In Philadelphia, Center City



Philadelphia police are looking for a man who robbed and attacked a minister Wednesday in broad daylight.

The attack happened at about 3:30 p.m. near 11th and Walnut Streets in Center City.

Investigators say the thief used pepper spray on the victim and then stole a money clip containing $125. The suspect then ran away on foot.

Police are asking anyone with information to contact the authorities.

http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2012/12/19/minister-attacked-robbed-in-center-city/

In Mexico, New Agers say end of Mayan calendar will herald 'cosmic dawn,' not end of world

The celebration of the cosmic dawn began with a fumbling of the sacred fire meant to honour Friday's end of the Mayan long count calendar.

Gabriel Lemus, the white-haired guardian of the flame, burned his finger on the kindling and later somebody knocked a burning log out of the ceremonial brazier onto the wooden stage, before he quickly scooped it up.

Still, the white-clad Lemus, like about 1,000 other shamans, seers, stargazers, crystal enthusiasts, yogis, sufis and swamis in a Merida convention centre about an hour and a half from the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, was convinced that it was a good start to the coming "New Era" supposed to begin around 5 a.m. on Friday.

"It is a cosmic dawn," said Lemus. "We will recover the ability to communicate telepathically and levitate objects ... like our ancestors did."

http://news.yahoo.com/mexico-agers-end-mayan-calendar-herald-cosmic-dawn-150016975.html

China airs "V for Vendetta" on national television in shocking move away from censorship

Television audiences across China watched an anarchist antihero rebel against a totalitarian government and persuade the people to rule themselves. Soon the Internet was crackling with quotes of "V for Vendetta's" famous line: "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."

The airing of the movie Friday night on China Central Television stunned viewers and raised hopes that China is loosening censorship.

"V for Vendetta" never appeared in Chinese theaters, but it is unclear whether it was ever banned. An article on the Communist Party's People's Daily website says it was previously prohibited from broadcast, but the spokesman for the agency that approves movies said he was not aware of any ban.

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/A/AS_CHINA_V_FOR_VENDETTA?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2012-12-20-02-00-54

Hampshire village Evacuation As Flood Alerts Spread

Residents of a Hampshire village have been urged to evacuate their homes as heavy rainfall continues to spread across the UK - with more than 270 flood alerts and warnings in place.

The Environment Agency (EA) said a severe flood warning for Wallington prompted the need for an evacuation notice.

http://news.sky.com/story/1028153/village-evacuation-as-flood-alerts-spread

Lethal weather in Ukraine leaves at least 60 Dead

Fear keeps Egypt's Christians away from polls

A campaign of intimidation by Islamists left most Christians in this southern Egyptian province too afraid to participate in last week's referendum on an Islamist-drafted constitution they deeply oppose, residents say. The disenfranchisement is hiking Christians' worries over their future under empowered Muslim conservatives.

Around a week before the vote, some 50,000 Islamists marched through the provincial capital, Assiut, chanting that Egypt will be "Islamic, Islamic, despite the Christians." At their head rode several bearded men on horseback with swords in scabbards on their hips, evoking images of early Muslims conquering Christian Egypt in the 7th Century.

They made sure to go through mainly Christian districts of the city, where residents, fearing attacks, shuttered down their stores and stayed in their homes, witnesses said.

http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/fear-keeps-egypt-s-christians-away-from-polls-1.1086437

NASA denies world's end as queries skyrocket

If there's one US government body really looking forward to December 22, it's NASA. The space agency said it had been flooded with calls and emails from people asking about the purported end of the world - which, as the doomsday myth goes, is apparently set to take place on December 21.

The myth may have originated with the Mayan calendar, but in the age of the internet and social media it proliferated online, raising questions and concerns among people around the world who turned to NASA for answers.

An agency spokesman, Dwayne Brown, said NASA usually received about 90 calls or emails a week with questions from the public. But in recent weeks the number had rocketed, and between 200 and 300 people a day had been contacting NASA to ask about the end of the world. ''Who's the first agency you would call?'' he said. ''You're going to call NASA.''

http://www.smh.com.au/world/spaced-out-nasa-denies-worlds-end-as-queries-skyrocket-20121220-2bpfm.html

Torrential rain leaves south-west England flooded

Several people have been rescued from their vehicles and trains have been cancelled after torrential rain.

Trains between Liskeard and Looe in Cornwall and between Bournemouth and Brockenhurst in Hampshire are affected.

The Cornish villages of Polbathic, Altarnun, St Keverne, Gunwalloe, Gorran Haven and Mevagissey are also flooded.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-20786462

Israeli attacks on journalists in Gaza 'violated the laws of war'...So why is nothing being done about it?

Four Israeli attacks on journalists and media facilities in Gaza during the November 2012 conflict violated the laws of war by targeting civilians and civilian objects, says a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW). It has made a detailed investigation into the incidents.

In the attacks, two Palestinian cameramen were killed, at least 10 media workers were wounded and four media offices were badly damaged. A two-year-old boy was killed in one shelling.

HRW says it found no evidence to support the contention by the Israeli government that each of the four attacks was on a legitimate military target.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2012/dec/20/gaza-israel

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stalled US budget talks send shares lower, BoJ eases

World shares held near 17-month highs on Thursday, ending a week-long rally, while oil fell as the latest setback in talks to avert a U.S. fiscal crisis kept buyers away.

In the currency market, the Bank of Japan's widely expected decision to ease policy for a third time in four months encouraged traders who had sold the yen ahead of the move to take profits, sending the dollar and euro up.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/20/markets-global-idUSL5E8NK30Q20121220

China Knife Attacks: Pupils Taught To Combat Threat

Chinese schools are teaching young students how to fight off knife-wielding attackers following a string of stabbings aimed at children.

Twenty-seven people have been killed and more than 80 injured since March in a spate of knife attacks that have alarmed the public.

The most recent school attack, on Friday, saw Min Yongjun stab and slash 22 students at a primary school in the central Chinese province of Henan.

http://news.sky.com/story/1027992/knife-attacks-pupils-taught-to-combat-threat

Eagle Prank Video: Students Admit Trickery

Three students from Canada have admitted creating a fake video that appears to show an eagle snatching a child.

In the first 24 hours it was online, the clip of the eagle swooping and lifting the toddler off the ground was watched more than five million times.

But a university in Montreal has since confirmed the video was made as part of a 3D animation course and that both the eagle and the child are fake.

http://news.sky.com/story/1028056/eagle-prank-video-students-admit-trickery

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake HOKKAIDO, JAPAN REGION - 20th December 2012

Magnitude
4.7
Date-Time
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 10:54:27 UTC
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 07:54:27 PM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones
Location
42.179°N, 142.622°E
Depth
9.8 km (6.1 miles)
Region
HOKKAIDO, JAPAN REGION
Distances
26 km (16 miles) SE of Shizunai, Japan

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 20th December 2012

Magnitude
4.8
Date-Time
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 09:31:40 UTC
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 07:31:40 PM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones
Location
37.910°N, 143.856°E
Depth
33.5 km (20.8 miles)
Region
OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
Distances
227 km (141 miles) SE of Ofunato, Japan

4.4 Magnitude Earthquake MINDANAO, PHILIPPINES - 20th December 2012

Magnitude M 4.4
Region MINDANAO, PHILIPPINES
Date time 2012-12-20 09:22:22.5 UTC
Location 5.08 N ; 125.66 E
Depth 178 km
Distances 41 km SE Sarangani, Philippines

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR ISLANDS, ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, ALASKA - 20th December 2012

Magnitude M 4.8
Region NEAR ISLANDS, ALEUTIAN ISLANDS
Date time 2012-12-20 09:03:16.0 UTC
Location 53.23 N ; 170.98 E
Depth 10 km
Distances 822 km E Petropavlovsk-kamchatskiy

Mother in court over toddler's 'I am a bomb' shirt

The mother and uncle of a three-year old named Jihad, who was born on September 11, are due in a French court in March for sending him to school in a top with "I am a bomb" written on it.

Mayan apocalypse: Cold war bunker hosts doomsday party in Moscow

Italy waits as Monti decides whether to run in 2013 election

Palestinian refugees in Syria face displacement

Reporters Without Borders: 2012 is deadliest year on record for journalists

This year has been the deadliest for journalists in the field since monitoring began 17 years ago, according to an annual report released Wednesday by Reporters Without Borders.

Eighty-eight journalists lost their lives while reporting in the middle of wars and bombings, or were killed on orders by corrupt governments, organized crime tied to drug trafficking and by Islamist militias, the report said.

This is a 33% rise in journalist deaths since just last year.

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/12/19/world/journalist-deaths-2012/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

4.3 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF KAMCHATKA, RUSSIA - 20th December 2012

Magnitude
4.3
Date-Time
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 07:18:02 UTC
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 07:18:02 PM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones
Location
55.243°N, 161.671°E
Depth
66.1 km (41.1 miles)
Region
NEAR THE EAST COAST OF KAMCHATKA, RUSSIA
Distances
121 km (75 miles) SSW of Ust'-Kamchatsk Staryy, Russia

Doomsday 'cult' arrests top 800 in China

CHINA has arrested more than 800 people in a crackdown on a Christian sect which spread doomsday rumours and challenged the ruling Communist party.

The Christian-inspired group "Almighty God" has been accused of spreading doomsday rumours apparently linked to the ancient Mayan calendar and urging followers to slay the "red dragon" of communism, state media reports said today.

More than 800 followers of the sect, which state-run media labels an "evil cult"

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/world/china-doomsday-cult-arrests-top-800/story-fnd134gw-1226541306332

UN demands Israel stops settlement expansion

The UN has demanded an immediate halt to Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Further expansion has been announced in response to the UN’s recent decision to grant Palestinians the status of observer state.

All Security Council members except the US demanded the building stop, along with the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who said:“This is clearly a violation of international law and it is a violation of Quartet guidelines and it is an obstruction of the Middle East peace process. I’m urging the Israeli government to refrain from taking any measures of establishing settlements”

http://www.euronews.com/2012/12/20/un-demands-israel-stops-settlement-expansion/

8-UBS traders charged, bank fined $1.5 bln in Libor scandal

.S. prosecutors charged two former UBS traders with taking part in a multi-year scheme to manipulate Libor and other benchmark interest rates, making them the first individuals to be criminally accused in the international scandal.

The charges against the two traders, Tom Hayes and Roger Darin, resulted from a broad investigation into the activities of more than a dozen banks in the setting of prices for Libor and related rates.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/20/ubs-libor-idUSL5E8NJ25N20121220

GM to buy stake from Treasury; government may lose billions

The U.S. Treasury plans to sell its stake in General Motors Co (GM.N) over the coming year, all but assuring a multibillion-dollar loss in a move that will end the automaker's "Government Motors" era.

Treasury's plan - a two-step process that includes a $5.5 billion stock sale to GM - is part of a broader push to wind down the controversial financial bailout under the Troubled Asset Relief (TARP) program. TARP was created by former president George W. Bush to prevent the collapse of the U.S. banking industry during the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/19/us-gm-treasury-idUSBRE8BI0Q020121219

Rebels seize towns in central Syria

Syrian rebels have captured at least six towns in the central province of Hama, activists say, in an operation aimed at putting pressure on President Bashar al-Assad from the north as insurgents close in on the capital from its southern suburbs.

The rebel gains came as the United Nations on Wednesday launched what it said was its "largest short-term humanitarian appeal ever", for $1.5 billion to help millions of Syrians suffering a "dramatically deteriorating" humanitarian situation.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/19/us-syria-crisis-idUSBRE8AJ1FK20121219

Wall Street falls as "cliff" talks sour, but hopes remain

U.S. stocks sold off late in the day to close at session lows on Wednesday as talks to avert a year-end fiscal crisis turned sour, even as investors still expect a deal.

The S&P 500 slipped after a two-day rally that took the benchmark index to its highest close in two months. Defensive-oriented shares led the decliners, including health care and consumer staples.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/19/us-markets-stocks-idUSBRE8BG0D620121219

Loved and loathed, Park talks tough after victory

South Korea's President-elect, Park Geun-hye, used her first major speech on Thursday to warn of the risks posed by a hostile North Korea and also fired a political shot across the bows of Japan's incoming Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Speaking after a visit to the country's national cemetery, which included a poignant homage at the graves of her assassinated father and mother, South Korea's first female leader pledged to spread wealth more evenly.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/20/us-korea-election-legacy-idUSBRE8BI1MU20121220

Al Qaeda grows powerful in Syria as endgame nears

Having seen its star wane in Iraq, al Qaeda has staged a comeback in neighbouring Syria, posing a dilemma for the opposition fighting to remove President Bashar al-Assad and making the West balk at military backing for the revolt.

The rise of al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra Front, which the United States designated a terrorist organisation last week, could usher in a long and deadly confrontation with the West, and perhaps Israel.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/20/us-syria-crisis-qaeda-idUSBRE8BJ06B20121220

3.2 Magnitude Earthquake NORTHERN CALIFORNIA - 20th December 2012

Magnitude
3.2
Date-Time
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 08:17:39 UTC
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 12:17:39 AM at epicenter
Location
40.682°N, 123.903°W
Depth
23.9 km (14.9 miles)
Region
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
Distances
22 km (13 miles) NE (46°) from Hydesville, CA

Massive Texas dust storm whipped up by 55mph winds causes chain-reaction car crashes leaving one dead and 17 injured

A dust storm in West Texas triggered a series of accidents Wednesday that killed one person and injured at least 17 others.

Authorities were forced to close part of Interstate 27 north of Lubbock, a spokesman with the Texas Department of Public Safety said.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2250915/Massive-Texas-dust-storm-causes-chain-reaction-car-crashes-killing-1-injuring-17-others.html

Australian mum finds SEVEN deadly vipers in her three-year-old son's wardrobe where he had put some eggs he'd found in the garden

A three-year-old boy had a lucky escape after his mother found a box of seven deadly snakes in his wardrobe.

Kyle Cumming had found the snake eggs in his garden in Townsville in Queensland, Australia and was given a takeaway container to put them in.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2250888/Deadly-playmates-Boy-hides-seven-lethal-snakes-wardrobe.html

Clermont girl, 8, stole decoy packages from doorsteps

When residents in Clermont, Florida noticed packages were vanishing, they decided to lure the thief with a fake parcel and capture it on surveillance camera. But they were stunned to find the culprit was an eight-year-old girl who stole the packages after getting off the bus from elementary school. Another resident snapped the girl through a peephole (left). Police are now presenting the case to the state attorney's office.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2250752/Girl-8-caught-camera-stealing-neighbours-packages.html

Two of the guns found at the scene of shootout between Mexican drug cartel and state officials were linked to Fast and Furious scandal

Two of the guns found at the scene of a recent Mexican drug cartel shoot out- where a beauty queen was found to have both fired at military officers and been used as a shield- were a part of the Fast and Furious gunwalking scandal.

CBS News reports that two of the guns that were found at the scene of the fatal shooting in Sinaloa, Mexico last month can be traced to Fast and Furious exchanges, as one was purchased by an American agent involved in the case and another was brought in by a suspect.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2250823/Two-guns-scene-shootout-Mexican-drug-cartel-state-officials-linked-Fast-Furious-scandal.html

Noah Pozner Site: Scammer preys on Sandy Hook victim's families setting up fake donation website

The family of Noah Pozner was mourning the 6-year-old, killed in the Newtown school massacre, when outrage compounded their sorrow.

Someone they didn't know was soliciting donations in Noah's memory, claiming that they'd send any cards, packages and money collected to his parents and siblings.

An official-looking website had been set up, with Noah's name as the address, even including petitions on gun control.

Noah's uncle, Alexis Haller, called on law enforcement authorities to seek out ‘these despicable people.’

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2250910/Noah-Pozner-site-Scammer-preys-Sandy-Hook-victims-families-setting-fake-donation-website.html

4.4 Magnitude Earthquake BANDA SEA - 20th December 2012

Magnitude
4.4
Date-Time
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 07:01:12 UTC
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 04:01:12 PM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones
Location
6.598°S, 129.987°E
Depth
163.4 km (101.5 miles)
Region
BANDA SEA
Distances
209 km (129 miles) NW of Saumlaki, Indonesia

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake MYANMAR - 20th December 2012

Magnitude
4.7
Date-Time
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 05:56:04 UTC
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 12:26:04 PM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones
Location
22.925°N, 96.103°E
Depth
9.7 km (6.0 miles)
Region
MYANMAR
Distances
41 km (25 miles) W of Mogok, Myanmar

Systemic failures in Benghazi

Long Island Expressway Crash kills one, injures 33

An accident involving 35 vehicles on the Long Island Expressway in New York Wednesday afternoon left one woman dead and 33 other people injured and closed the expressway in both directions, Suffolk County police said.

Raymond Simoneau, 42, of Rockingham, Vermont, was driving a tractor-trailer eastbound when it struck several cars, causing a chain-reaction crash in the town of Shirley, located about 70 miles east of New York City.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/20/us-usa-newyork-crash-idUSBRE8BJ04N20121220

US condemns 'provocative' Israel settlement building

The Obama administration called Israel's settlement-building programme "provocative" and a threat to peace in one of its harshest condemnations yet of Benjamin Netanyahu's policy.

Israel rebuffed the criticism however, by announcing plans for 3,600 homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank on land claimed as part of a future Palestinian state.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/9756199/US-condemns-provocative-Israel-settlement-building.html

Suspected bird flu victim in Semarang, Indonesia

The Central Java Health Agency says it has received a report of a suspected case of bird flu in the province.

The 54-year-old man, a resident of the Sambiroto subdistrict, was currently under treatment at St. Elisabeth Hospital in Semarang, officials said.

“The man has been suffering from a cough, a cold and a high fever, with temperature above 38 degrees Celsius,” Rorry Hartono, the agency's disease control and environmental health division chief, said on Wednesday.

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/12/19/suspected-bird-flu-victim-semarang.html

Coal mine collapse and blast kills 8 in Iran

Iran's official news agency says a collapse and explosion in a coal mine has killed eight workers in the country's east.

IRNA on Wednesday quoted Ahmad Talebian Moqadam, who is governor of Tabas city near where the accident occurred, as saying that a tunnel in the mine collapsed, leading to an accumulation of gas and an explosion. He said five bodies were recovered on Tuesday, the day of the accident, and three more the next day.

http://seattletimes.com/html/nationworld/2019931400_apmliranmineblast.html

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales: Army Seeks Death Penalty In Afghan Massacre

The US Army has said it will seek the death penalty for a soldier charged in the killing of 16 Afghan villagers during a pre-dawn raid.

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is accused of going on a shooting rampage in two southern Afghanistan villages on March 11.

Wednesday's announcement followed Bales' pre-trial hearing last month, during which several witnesses testified from Afghanistan via video conference.

http://news.sky.com/story/1027784/army-seeks-death-penalty-in-afghan-massacre

Nasa Shares Rare View Of Saturn's Rings

Nasa's Cassini spacecraft, which has been in orbit around Saturn for more than eight years, has delivered a rare backlit view of the planet and its rings.

The image was taken during Cassini's 174th orbit around the gas giant when it was deliberately positioned within Saturn's shadow.

The US space agency said on its website: "It was the perfect location from which to look in the direction of the sun and take a backlit view of the rings and the dark side of the planet.

http://news.sky.com/story/1027803/nasa-shares-rare-view-of-saturns-rings

Body Of Endangered Whale Washes Up On Beach, Northeast Florida

One of the most endangered whales in the world has washed up dead on a beach in northeast Florida.

Officials said the 26ft-long (8 metre) North Atlantic right whale washed up overnight on a beach near Palm Coast.

Federal marine spokesman Barb Zoodsma says biologists are not sure what caused the death.

http://news.sky.com/story/1027899/body-of-endangered-whale-washes-up-on-beach

'Free Darwin' Protest In Toronto

A rally has taken to place to demand a pet monkey found wandering in an Ikea car park in Canada is returned to his owner.

Yasmin Nakhuda has launched a legal battle to get her pet, Darwin, back from the animal control officials she claims have illegally taken him.

She and 15 supporters held a protest on Wednesday outside Toronto Animal Services, where they could be heard chanting "free Darwin".

http://news.sky.com/story/1027895/ikea-monkey-darwin-owner-in-custody-battle

Oz Customs Staff Held Over Drug Smuggling

An alleged major drug smuggling operation involving a network of customs officials has been uncovered at Australia's biggest airport.

Eight people have been arrested - with more expected - after police swooped on Sydney Airport following a two-year corruption probe.

It is claimed large quantities of drugs were smuggled through the airport in backpacks and suitcases, with corrupt officials using their knowledge of security systems to allow the narcotics to pass through the international terminal undetected.

http://news.sky.com/story/1027915/oz-customs-staff-held-over-drug-smuggling

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 20th December 2012

Magnitude
4.9
Date-Time
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 03:17:04 UTC
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 01:17:04 PM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones
Location
37.467°N, 143.765°E
Depth
27.9 km (17.3 miles)
Region
OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
Distances
241 km (149 miles) ESE of Ishinomaki, Japan

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake KEPULAUAN BARAT DAYA, INDONESIA - 20th December 2012

Magnitude
4.6
Date-Time
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 02:11:19 UTC
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 11:11:19 AM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones
Location
7.494°S, 128.677°E
Depth
151.4 km (94.1 miles)
Region
KEPULAUAN BARAT DAYA, INDONESIA
Distances
295 km (183 miles) W of Saumlaki, Indonesia