Sunday, July 3, 2011
Across America today, people will gather for barbecues in their backyards, parades through their towns and firework displays lighting up the night sky.
They’ll be celebrating Independence Day – the birthday of the United States and the 235th anniversary of shaking off the oppressive yoke of British rule.
On this day in 1776 a group of 13 colonies broke away to found a new nation free to govern itself as it saw fit, pledging that each citizen would have the unalienable right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. A nation, as Americans are apt to declare without equivocation, which became the greatest on the face of the earth.
That’s the good news. On the flip side, however, a country whose hallmark has always been a sense of irrepressible optimism is in the grip of unprecedented uncertainty and self-doubt.
With the United States mired in three foreign wars, beaten down by an economy that shows few signs of emerging from deep recession and deeply disillusioned with President Barack Obama, his Republican challengers and Congress, the mood is dark.
The last comparable Fourth of July was probably in 1980, when there was a recession, skyrocketing petrol prices and an Iranian hostage crisis, with 53 Americans being held in Tehran. (read more)
"The American officials will be tried in Iranian courts in absentia before they are referred to the relevant international tribunals" if Iran's parliament approves the plan, Tehran member of parliament Esmaeel Kowsari said, according to Mashregh News.
He did not name them, but Iran's government-backed Press TV said in May that parliament planned sanctions on Americans including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the current and former commanders of the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
Paul Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator of Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, and Gen. Tommy Franks, who was head of U.S. Central Command during the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, are also on the list.
Kowsari said the American officials will be charged with violations of human rights.
"The true criminals are the same people who pretend to support human rights. The Islamic Republic of Iran will diligently pursue the trials of these American officials and will defend the rights of the downtrodden people of the world," said Kowsari, the deputy chairman of Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee.
The United States imposed a new round of sanctions on Iranian companies and officials in late June, prompting an Iranian complaint to the United Nations. (read more)
"The sovereignty of Greece will be massively limited," Jean-Claude Juncker, who is also prime minister of Luxembourg, told Germany's Focus magazine.
On Saturday finance ministers signed off the release of the latest €12bn (£11bn) tranche of aid, rewarding the Greek government's victory in a parliamentary vote on austerity measures.
These included setting up a privatisation agency at the insistence of the European Union and the IMF.
"For the forthcoming wave of privatisations they will need, for example, a solution based on a model of Germany's "Treuhand agency", said Mr Juncker, referring to the body that sold off 14,000 East German firms in 1990-94.
In comments that are likely to alarm Greeks sensitive to the prospect of foreign interference, he said teams of economic experts from around the eurozone would be heading to Greece. "One cannot be allowed to insult the Greeks. But one has to help them. They have said they are ready to accept expertise from the eurozone," said Mr Juncker. (read more)
War is waged to achieve political objectives, not to kill enemies. In this sense, the United States has lost the ten-year Afghan conflict, its longest war.
Afghanistan remains the “graveyard of empires.”
The US has failed to install an obedient regime in Kabul that controls Afghanistan. It has made foes of the Pashtun majority, and, in pursuing this war, gravely undermined Pakistan. Claims that US forces were in Afghanistan to hunt the late Osama bin Laden were widely disbelieved.
Last Wednesday, President Barack Obama bowed to public opinion, approaching elections, military reality and financial woes by announcing he would withdraw a third of the 100,000 US troops from Afghanistan by the end of next summer. Pentagon brass growled open opposition.
US allies France and Germany announced similar troops reductions. All foreign troops are supposed to quit Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Washington currently spends at least $10 billion monthly on the Afghan war, not counting “black” payments, CIA and NSA operations. The US has poured $18.8 billion in development aid into Afghanistan since 2001 with nothing to show for the effort. Pakistan has been given $20 billion to support the Afghan War. (read more)
To understand how important last week’s Turkish elections were, step back for a moment to 1960 when I was in high school in Switzerland.
A Turkish classmate named Turgut told me, tears in his eyes, “The generals hanged my daddy!” His father had been a cabinet minister.
The 510,000-man Turkish armed forces, NATO’s second biggest after the US, have mounted four military coups since 1950. Turkey’s current constitution was written by the military after its 1980 coup. (read more)
China’s first flattop was supposed to be a big secret. But it’s hard to conceal a 67,500-ton warship. I’ve been watching the carrier being refurbished for years at the Chinese port of Dalian on Manchuria’s Liaodung Peninsula.
Dalian is one of my favorite Chinese cities. I call this beautiful port China’s San Francisco. It’s renowned for excellent seafood and friendly people.
Just 40 km south of this city, which was developed by the Japanese in the early 20th century, is the great fortress and naval base of Port Arthur (today Lushun), epicenter of the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War.
China’s new aircraft carrier was laid down as the “Varyag” during the 1980’s in the Soviet Union, but was never completed. The rusting hulk was sold by Ukraine in 1998 to a Hong Kong-Macau trading company- ostensibly to be transformed into a floating casino. Three years later, it magically reappeared at Dalian.
The ex- “Varyag” is the fourth decommissioned carrier bought by China since 1984. Three others, one British, two Soviet, were minutely poured over before being scrapped. Russia supplied technical help to upgrade “Varyag” and its air component, which may be the navalized Russian SU-33 or a variant. China has run a mocked-up carrier on land since 1985 to train pilots.
The new carrier is nearing completion. But it will take many years for China’s Navy to develop the pilot and seamanship skills to turn the carrier into an effective weapons platform. Having landed on and been catapulted off the attack carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, I know that carrier air operations are the most challenging and demanding of all naval operations. (read more)
Mladic managed to hide in plain sight in Serbia for 16 years, no doubt with aid from the Serb Secret Police, military intelligence, and his old Yugoslav National Army buddies. To many Serbs, he was a national hero.
Having covered the Balkan Wars of the 1990’s, it always amazed me that the man who gloried in massacring Muslim women and children or blowing up mosques never had a price put on his head by any Muslim government. Where were all the so-called defenders of Islam when the Muslims of the Balkans were being murdered, starved, tortured and raped?
As I once told a meeting of the Islamic Conferences, had the victims of Mladic and his Serb fascist allies Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic been Jews, the Israeli Army would have rushed to their rescue and taken the murderers and tortures back in a cage.
The world did not want to know about the eruption of Nazi brutality in the Balkans. From 1989-1991, I wrote a series of newspaper articles warning that violent anti-Muslim hate-mongering and claims of Serb superiority being preached by demagogue Milosevic would eventually provoke war and genocide that would destroy Yugoslavia.
Milosevic, backed by Serbia’s Orthodox Church, fascist paramilitary gangs and, ever so quietly, Greece, lit the fuse that blew apart Yugoslavia. (read more)
Spread to humans from horses, Hendra can lead to fatal respiratory illness and has killed four of the seven people who have contracted it in Australia since it was first documented in 1994.
A fresh outbreak was detected in northern Queensland state in June, with nine people undergoing tests after exposure to a sick animal.
Queensland authorities said they had discovered a second case, about 70 kilometres (40 miles) from the first farm, which had forced two horses to be put down. The outbreaks were not believed to be linked.
"Test results overnight have confirmed this as a case of Hendra virus infection," Biosecurity Queensland said.
"There are eight other horses on the property that are being monitored closely."
Officials said as many as six people may have been exposed to the infected animal.
A third case had also been identified in neighbouring New South Wales state, according to biosecurity officials there, who stressed it was unlikely to be linked to the Queensland outbreaks.
It is only the second time Hendra has been found in New South Wales. (read more)
New video of Rainbow Beach liquifaction sink hole in Queensland, Australia -- Could this be connected to Pacific quake activity?
Some are questioning the apparently hasty mission, however. Joshua Foust, a fellow at the American Security Project and a contributor to The Atlantic, warns that the United States may not accomplish much without a broader strategic framework in Somalia:
There is a very poor understanding of Somalia's politics, which almost by design results in poorly crafted policy. It's why libertarians continue to insist Somalia is some sort of anarchic paradise, rather than the chaotic, violent hellhole it is: they just don't know how or why the country functions the way it does. […]
What we do know, based on past experience both within Somalia and with U.S. foreign policy in a general sense, is that without a strategic framework in place to help guide, inspire, and constrain policy, we really shouldn't expect anything different from the last 20 years of anarchic violence there. Because we won't be working toward anything else. (read more)
Addressed with profanity to "Gringos (D.E.A.)," the unsigned graffiti warned: "We know where you are and we know who you are and where you go. We are going to chop off your (expletive) heads."
Anonymous messages conveying threats and other warnings are common in areas hit hard by Mexico's drug war, but it is rarer for them to threaten U.S. law enforcement. Authorities do not know who left the message, which was removed.
The DEA referred questions to the U.S. State Department. Officials there did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The message was left in the Chihuahua state capital, also called Chihuahua, which is about 220 miles (360 kilometers) from the U.S. border.
In February, suspected Zeta cartel members killed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata and wounded colleague Victor Avila on a highway in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi.
Also on Friday, five copies of a message addressed to Chihuahua Gov. Cesar Duarte were found painted on blankets known as "mantas" in Ciudad Juarez, a city across the border from El Paso, Texas. Those messages, apparently posted by rivals of the Sinaloa drug cartel, accused officials of protecting the Sinaloa organization.
It was not clear if the messages in Chihuahua and Ciudad Juarez were related.
"This sort of message will not stop us from continuing the fight to bring peace back to this state," Chihuahua Interior Secretary Graciela Ortiz said. (read more)
The story goes, "The state is broke. We had a $3 billion deficit. We had to make tough decisions. We had to cut education, universities, technical colleges, local governments, services to the disabled and seniors. We had no choice. We had to put the state back on a sound financial basis."
This sounds adult, even heroic and a little self-sacrificing. There is a small problem: The facts don't support the rhetoric.
If the state was ever broke, it was two years ago. The national economy was losing 700,000 jobs a month. In Wisconsin, we had a $6.6 billion deficit. State revenues were falling like a rock as we sank into the worst recession since the Depression of the 1930s.
This year, jobs are coming back. State revenue is on the upswing. We started the year with $1.5 billion in new estimated revenue; in May, economists added more than half a billion in new estimated revenue.
So with all the new money, why all the turmoil? Why the draconian measures? Why the rollback of longtime Wisconsin traditions? Why the attacks on teachers and public employees this year when two years ago we fixed a much larger deficit, balanced the budget and met our responsibilities without the heated rhetoric and without tearing the fabric of our communities? (read more)
The valuables have an estimated preliminary worth of over 500 billion rupees ($11.2 billion), said Kerala Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar, catapulting the temple into the league of India's richest temples.
The thousands of necklaces, coins and precious stones have been kept in at least five underground vaults at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple which is renowned for its intricate sculptures.
"We are yet to open one more secret chamber which has not been opened for nearly 140 years," Jayakumar told AFP.
The actual value of the treasure haul can be ascertained only after it is examined by the archaeological department, said Jayakumar.
The temple, dedicated to Hindu lord Vishnu, was built hundreds of years ago by the king of Travancore and donations by devotees have been kept in the temple's vaults since.
A necklace found on Thursday was 18 feet (six metres) long. Thousands of gold coins have also been found. (read more)
An international aid flotilla is continuing with plans to sail to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip despite a series of setbacks.
Pro-Palestinian activists organizing the aid flotilla say they still intend to challenge Israel's blockade on Gaza, a day after an American boat was intercepted by the Greek coast guard and turned back to Athens. American Greta Berlin, who was on board the vessel, blames Israel and the United States for the setback.
"The Greek government is under a huge amount of pressure from the Israeli government and probably our own government as well," said Berlin.
Israel and the U.S. have urged the flotilla not to violate the Gaza blockade, warning that the mission is dangerous and provocative. Last year ago, Israeli naval commandos intercepted a Gaza aid flotilla, and in the botched raid, nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed. The incident sparked international outrage and raised regional tensions.
The United Nations and European Union have backed the Israeli and U.S. position, which calls for the flotilla to dock in Israeli or Egyptian ports and transfer their cargo to Gaza legally over land.
But activists reject that, charging that the blockade is illegal and immoral. Speaking from Athens, Greta Berlin says the mission to Gaza will go ahead.
"Our intent is to sail; it's always been our intent," Berlin added. "And we don't give up very easily. We will continue to sail until Gaza is free." (read more)
Meltdown: What Really Happened at Fukushima? (And why do workers there say probles started before the tsunami arrived?)
Throughout the months of lies and misinformation, one story has stuck: “The earthquake knocked out the plant’s electric power, halting cooling to its reactors,” as the government spokesman Yukio Edano said at a March 15 press conference in Tokyo. The story, which has been repeated again and again, boils down to this: “after the earthquake, the tsunami – a unique, unforeseeable [the Japanese word is soteigai] event - then washed out the plant’s back-up generators, shutting down all cooling and starting the chain of events that would cause the world’s first triple meltdown to occur.”
But what if recirculation pipes and cooling pipes, burst, snapped, leaked, and broke completely after the earthquake -- long before the tidal wave reached the facilities, long before the electricity went out? This would surprise few people familiar with the 40-year-old Unit 1, the grandfather of the nuclear reactors still operating in Japan.
The authors have spoken to several workers at the plant who recite the same story: Serious damage to piping and at least one of the reactors before the tsunami hit. All have requested anonymity because they are still working at the plant or are connected with TEPCO. One worker, a 27-year-old maintenance engineer who was at the Fukushima complex on March 11, recalls hissing and leaking pipes. “I personally saw pipes that came apart and I assume that there were many more that had been broken throughout the plant. There’s no doubt that the earthquake did a lot of damage inside the plant," he said. "There were definitely leaking pipes, but we don’t know which pipes – that has to be investigated. I also saw that part of the wall of the turbine building for Unit 1 had come away. That crack might have affected the reactor.” (read more)
Week to week, city employees wait to see if officials will scrape together the money to cut their paychecks, creditors breath down the necks of the city's elected leaders and the debt from a failed investment in the city's incinerator now tops $300 million, according to published reports.
And the state is closing in.
Harrisburg has been undergoing Pennsylvania's Act 47 process in order to straighten out its financial future, but the act comes with some state recommendations -- such as selling assets and raising taxes -- that many in Harrisburg don't like. Some city leaders have pushed for the city to declare bankruptcy and keep the legislature out of its finances. The legislature last week passed a bill that makes it harder for third class cities to ignore Act 47.
So what did it mean when York's Mayor Kim Bracey stood alongside Harrisburg's Mayor Linda Thompson last week during a news conference where she opposed the state's additional restrictions on the Act 47 process?
City officials say they know what it didn't mean. York is not in the same boat as Harrisburg, Bracey and her Business Administrator Michael O'Rourke said this week.
The two cities are in the midstate. They're both third class. But the similarities end there, O'Rourke said.
"Their situation is compromised by the incinerator," he said.
The most serious trouble with Harrisburg's incinerator began in 2003, when the city's Harrisburg Authority -- with the backing of Harrisburg, county leaders and bond insurers -- invested in a failed retrofit for the facility that cost far more than the revenue created.
With the authority unable to make the sizeable payments necessary to pay off the failed plan, the debt has ballooned, and now the city and its taxpayers face several multi-million dollar payments each year. (read more)
"The bubble in America was caused by some combination of megalomania, insanity and evil in, I would say, investment banking, mortgage banking," Munger told the audience at a "Morning with Charlie" event.
He also took swipes at the accounting industry, former Lehman Bros. CEO Dick Fuld and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, whom he said had "totally overdosed on Ayn Rand at a young age."
Of course it is not the first time he has spoken bluntly. Earlier this year he said Greek citizens "don't want to pay taxes or do much work." Back in 2009, he called cap and trade "monstrously stupid." (read more)
The austerity measures adopted are indeed harsh and it is not surprising that the country erupted in violence on the day of the first parliamentary vote. The five-year plan put forward by the Greek Socialist government – under immense pressure from the EU and IMF – consists of public spending cuts of €14.32 billion, tax rises worth €14.09 billion and the raising of €50 billion from privatisations.
The tax increases include rises in income tax, a new solidarity levy of between one and five per cent of income on households, higher property taxes, sharp increases in VAT, higher excise taxes on fuel, cigarettes and alcohol and the introduction of special levies on profitable firms, high value properties and people with high incomes.
The spending cuts include a reduction in the public sector wage bill, a severe curtailment on public sector recruitment, the termination of all temporary contracts for public sector employees and huge cuts in the defence, health, education, local government, public investment and social security budgets.
There is no doubt that the huge mess Greece has found itself has been caused by the gross mismanagement and overspending of various Greek governments, both Conservative and Socialist, over the years. For example, the 2004 Athens Olympics cost nearly €7.57 billion, double the initial budget. (read more)
-- Matt & Lynsey
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Scorched on the Fourth of July: Fireworks banned over wildfire fears as America bakes in sizzling holiday temperatures - 3rd July 2011
New Mexico, which is still battling the largest wildfire in its history, has prohibited fireworks on state and private wildlands.
Thousands of Texas families have been left disappointed after fireworks were cancelled in dozens of towns and cities across the state.
And a Georgia county has swept fireworks off its store shelves after banning sales.
Some areas are even outlawing sparklers as drought grips much of the South and South-West.
There has been at least one court challenge over the bans, the LATimes reported today - but with temperatures soaring across the country this holiday weekend, most people are disappointed but compliant.
'They know what could happen if fireworks did go on,' Texas city clerk Sherri Davis told the LATimes.
The heat was scorching in the West today, with a record of 118F baking Phoenix, Arizona, breaking a 10-year record.
A power outtage meant that thousands of homes were suffering in the heat without air conditioning or fans. The Maricopa County Sheriff ordered bags of ice be sent to jails for inmates to use in any way they like - including to sit on, NBC reported. Read More
Manhunt underway for gunman who shot two children dead and injured three others, Philadelphia - 3rd July 2011
Conflicting reports have emerged about the shooting but authorities believe that a five-year-old and two-year-old child suffered fatal gunshot wounds to the head after the slaying in rural Philadelphia late last night.
Another victim was found in nearby woods with three stomach wounds and a face wound.
First Assistant District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said the victims all appear to be from the same family in Douglass Township in Montgomery County.
Three other people were injured and hospitalised. Their conditions weren't immediately known.
A third apparent victim was located in a wooded area near the residence with what reports described as three small-caliber gunshot wounds, two to his back and one to his 'face/mouth area'.
According to Norristwon Patch, emergency medical personnel had trouble transporting the victim from the area due to the difficulty of the terrain and his large size. His condition was not immediately known.
As that victim was being transported, police and county detectives began searching within a gradually widening perimeter that focused first on the residence, and later on two nearby wooded areas.
A Reading-based search helicopter arrived to assist the teams on the ground. Read More
'She sacrificed her child': Prosecutors reduce Casey Anthony to tears on final day of dramatic trial that has gripped America - 3rd July 2011
In a powerful closing statement at Anthony’s first-degree murder trial in Orlando, Florida, prosecutor Jeff Ashton told the court that there was 'conclusive proof' that the party-loving mum suffocated two-year-old Caylee to rid herself of her maternal duties, then left the little girl’s corpse to rot in the woods.
'The evidence in this case proves beyond doubt that Casey Anthony decided on June 16, 2008, that something had to be sacrificed, that the conflict between the life that she wanted and the life that was thrust upon her was simply irreconcilable and something had to give,' he said.
'She chose to sacrifice her child to live the life that she wanted. She took her child, she took her life…and she disposed of her body in a swamp.'
Casey Anthony briefly broke down crying as prosecutors told jurors during closing arguments that she murdered her 2-year-old daughter Caylee because the child prevented her from having a relationship with a club promoter.
Ashton said Anthony wanted a relationship with her boyfriend, to go out with her friends and to live the carefree life she had lived before Caylee's birth.
As Ashton spoke, Anthony appeared mostly stone-faced for about the first 45 minutes, but then she closed her eyes and rested her chin on her hand.
She began to cry when Ashton said that the story that Caylee drowned was also false.
Anthony, 25, faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.
She has pleaded not guilty to the charge, along with other charges of child abuse, manslaughter of a child, and lying to law enforcement. Read More
11-year-old boy charged with murder of his six-year-old brother after 'shooting him in the head' - 3rd July 2011
Andrew Frye died from a single gunshot wound after he was left alone with his older brother at their Indiana home.
Officials said the alleged killer is the youngest person to be charged with murder in the state of Indiana for 90 years.
The two boys were home alone last Thursday when the older boy called emergency services to report the shooting.
When police arrived at their home in Martinsville they found Andrew in a bedroom with a gunshot wound to the head. A .22 rifle was found in the home.
He was taken to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, but died two hours later.
Police initially thought the shooting was accidental,but after interviewing the boy found otherwise.
'Upon further reflection and detective work, forensic work, we sometimes end up with evidence different than we expect and that’s our job as investigators, professionals, is to keep an open mind,' said Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega.
'Murder can be knowingly or intentionally. There is a slight difference. Knowingly means when you engage in conduct you know there is a high probability of the outcome.'
Prosecutors have released few details citing the age of the alleged killer. Read More
Gerard Domond, 49, says the term implies he was 'mating with other men' in his lawsuit against the state.
The Domond family want the state to stop calling him an 'inmate' as the term hurts his feelings causing him 'mental anguish.'
Speaking to the New York Post, his sister Marie Domond said the term: 'Implies that our brother is locked up for the purpose of mating with other men.'
Mrs Domond, who is acting as the family's lawyer, added: 'The suggestive nature of the word is disgraceful. This cruel psychological programming has weighed heavily on our emotional and psychological well-being.
'It's something that's bothered me for a long time.
'I couldn't understand why no one recognised that somebody being labelled an inmate, why they wouldn't recognise that.
'To me it just sounded very wrong.'
Gerard was convicted in 1987 after killing a man in a Brooklyn drug deal gone wrong.
Currently at upstate Clinton Correctional Facility, he will be eligible for parole in May 2013. Read More
'Burn the witches!': Pagans find wood piled up outside their door after 'furious Christians try to drive them out of market town' - 3rd July 2011
Two witches descend on an ancient market town - only to be targeted by terrified Christians calling for them to be burned at the stake.
But for father-of-one Albion and his partner Raven, 39, this is no historical event - it is a modern nightmare.
The Pagan couple opened their shop The Whispering Witch in the quaint town of Alcester, Warwickshire, around 15 months ago and claim to have been subjected to a hate campaign ever since.
'People shout 'burn the witches' as they go past and we've had others urinating up the window,' said Albion, 51.
'I found a pile of wood stacked in front of the door one morning.
'We've also had letters quoting extracts from the Bible telling us not to 'promote the work of darkness' in 'their town'.
'I can only assume this is the work of Christians. The handwriting looks as though it's from an adult. It's like living in the 16th century.' Read More
Thrill-seeker fighting for his life after 'tombstoning' into just one metre of water - 3rd July 2011
It is believed the man, in his late 20s and from London, had been drinking before he leapt 40ft into the sea at about 6.30pm yesterday.
He was pulled from the sea at the East Sussex resort and taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital with spinal and head injuries.
His friend who had jumped into the water before him but escaped unhurt, despite the tide being at almost its lowest point
An RNLI lifeboat crew put the semi-conscious man on a floating stretcher in the sea, before carrying him onto the beach where he was taken by ambulance to hospital.
RNLI lifeboat helmsman Mark Bell, who helped pull him onto the beach, said he was bleeding from his mouth and was severely bruised.
He said: 'Jumping from Brighton's Palace Pier is prohibited for a reason - it's incredibly dangerous at any state of the tide.
'Given his fall of 12 metres into one metre of water, it's sadly unsurprising to see the extent of this individual's injuries. Read More
Strauss-Kahn hotel maid 'told police she had been raped after he refused to pay her for sex' - 3rd July 2011
The hotel maid, who has now been accused of working as a prostitute, allegedly performed a sex act on him in his room at the Sofitel in Manhattan.
She originally told police she did not know who the former IMF chief and that he raped her in his suite.
But the case against the millionaire has fallen apart after it emerged the woman had told prosecutors a series of lies.
Sources now claim she was aware of his VIP status and became angry when he refused to pay her for her sexual services.
A source close to the defence investigation told the New York Post: 'She figured he's a rich dude, and she would get paid. She was told by the crew she ran with that this was a gold mine.'
The maid, a West African native, told police that on May 14, while she was cleaning Strauss Kahn's suite, he forced her to perform oral sex on him and violently groped her breasts and vagina, leaving her bruised.
But the source told the Post that the 32-year-old maid regularly got paid for sex at the hotel and she performed oral sex on the Frenchman in exchange for money.
But when they were finished and the woman demanded money from him, Strauss Kahn refused to pay.
'There was an expectation of money after the fact, but he was dismissive,' the source said. 'He turned his back on her and got dressed.
She remained in the room with him while he got dressed for at least nine minutes.'
The humiliating exchange sparked the maid's anger, prosecutors suspect.
Though she told police after she reported the alleged attack that she did not know who Strauss Kahn was - who at the time was being touted as the next President of France - she was reportedly on the phone the following day with a jailed drug dealer talking about a potential windfall if she pursued charges.
A letter from prosecutors also revealed that she lied about what actually happened on the day. Read More
Chinese girl, two, plunges from 10th floor window... and is caught by woman passer-by - 3rd July 2011
Wu Juping, 31, a mother of a seven-month-old baby saw the child dangling from the window of the high-rise apartment block.
The quick-thinking heroine kicked off her high-heeled shoes and ran towards her with her arms outstretched.
The mother was lauded as a heroine on Chinese television, which showed her in a hospital bed recovering from a broken arm after Saturday's accident.
The child, named 'Niu Niu', suffered internal bleeding and remains in a critical condition.
The toddler had been left at home alone when the accident took place, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Read More
Troops are said to be taking up positions at key entrances to Hama, and in the city centre.
There are reports of gunfire and mass arrests taking place.
On Friday the city saw some of the biggest demonstrations yet against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
A day later, Mr Assad sacked the governor of Hama, Ahmad Khaled Abdel Aziz.
Activists say more than 1,350 civilians and 350 security personnel have been killed across Syria since protests began in mid-March.
Rami Abdel-Rahman, president of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said troops took up positions at Hama late on Saturday and "heavy gunfire" was heard in the city overnight.
He told Reuters news agency there had been a number of arrests on the outskirts of the city.
"The authorities seem to have opted for a military solution to subdue the city," he said. (read more)
"The tribunal was established for an obvious political goal, and no one is allowed to investigate Israel," he said on Lebanese TV Saturday, explaining his position on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon's indictments in connection with the 2005 attack, which left Rafik Hariri and 22 others dead.
"Instead of investigating with Israel, they cooperated with Israel."
The tribunal submitted to Lebanese authorities a sealed indictment and arrest warrants this week for an unknown number of suspects. A highly placed source in the Lebanese Army told CNN the four include Mustafa Badreddine, Hasan Oneisa, Salim Ayyah and Asad Sabra -- all Hezbollah members.
Many Lebanese believe the killing revolved around the controversies over Syria's role in Lebanon, occupied at the time by Syrian troops, and the Damascus government's strong political influence in Lebanon. (read more)
The street, known as "La Pasarela," or "The Catwalk," is quiet now, thanks to an operation that freed 62 victims of a forced-prostitution ring, including two teenagers. But before, it was a hotbed of activity -- a center of sexual exploitation that prayed on the young and vulnerable.
"They were forced into this activity through threats and by the constant fear that their handlers would hurt them or their families, including their children," said Juana Camila Bautista, the city's prosecutor for sex crimes. "Of course (it's slavery)."
Five men and two women who police say ran the ring were arrested in May and are currently in custody pending an investigation into alleged human trafficking, pimping, corruption of minors and organized crime.
Authorities say two brothers, Manuel and Armando Rodriguez Mejia, controlled the organization. Manuel has been arrested, while Armado remains at large. (read more)
About 200 Canadian Forces personnel have been deployed to the town to help build up its defences for the expected crest of the Souris River on Tuesday. Some dikes may have to be raised to a height of nearly four metres, according to officials.
Souris Mayor Darryl Jackson said he made the appeal for the military's help because the town, about 220 kilometres west of Winnipeg, is also threatened in the west by Plum Creek, which flows into the Souris and could spill its banks.
"We just were not going to have time to get those dikes armoured," Jackson told CBC News on Sunday morning. "The soldiers came in yesterday. They were put right to work there."
The river rose another 15 centimetres overnight, Jackson said, which forced health-care and fire officials to make arrangements in case the bridge needs to be closed.
"We have certainly been alerted to that possibility," he said. "Our doctors all live on this side of the river, not the hospital side, so I'm sure they're making plans for at least one of the doctors to be on site at the hospital when the water is close." (read more)
But the gas may not be as easy and cheap to extract from shale formations deep underground as the companies are saying, according to hundreds of industry e-mails and internal documents and an analysis of data from thousands of wells.
In the e-mails, energy executives, industry lawyers, state geologists and market analysts voice skepticism about lofty forecasts and question whether companies are intentionally, and even illegally, overstating the productivity of their wells and the size of their reserves. Many of these e-mails also suggest a view that is in stark contrast to more bullish public comments made by the industry, in much the same way that insiders have raised doubts about previous financial bubbles.
“Money is pouring in” from investors even though shale gas is “inherently unprofitable,” an analyst from PNC Wealth Management, an investment company, . “Reminds you of dot-coms.” to a contractor in a February e-mail(read more)
The US commander in South Korea said Monday that North Korea is likely to launch more military attacks against the South, but Seoul and Washington are better prepared to counter the threat.
"While the Kim (Jong-Il) regime has proven a willingness to escalate in order to obtain what it wants, I am convinced that the ROK (South Korea)-US alliance is prepared," General Walter Sharp told a forum.
"Our counter-provocation planning and combined exercises are stronger than ever.... In the past year, we have worked hard to develop a hostile counter-provocation plan that more adequately addresses the full spectrum of conflict."
The South's defence minister Kim Kwan-Jin said last week the North is increasingly likely to launch a "surprise provocation" following a series of strongly worded threats.
Tensions have been high for more than a year, since the South accused the North of torpedoing the Cheonan warship near the disputed Yellow Sea border in March 2010, with the loss of 46 lives.
The North denied involvement in the sinking, but killed four people with an artillery bombardment of a South Korean island last November. The same month it disclosed a uranium enrichment plant which could give it a second way to make atomic weapons.
In recent weeks, the regime has announced it will no longer deal with the South's conservative government.
Its military threatened an attack after some South Korean military units used photos of the Kim dynasty as rifle-range targets, a practice now banned. (read more)
Now the capricious deity threatens to claim even more victims, as U.S. housing prices fall to new post-bubble lows and the backlog of foreclosed properties builds ominously.The next domino likely to topple is the so-called private-mortgage-insurance industry, which permits buyers to purchase homes without making a full 20% down payment. Private mortgage insurance covers the first 25% of a mortgage's value against default, plus accrued interest. (read more)
In earlier eras, this soldier probably would have been dead, but in modern war, improvements in protective gear are saving so many lives like his. The head injuries sustained by this soldier are a common kind of residual damage. They even have a medical name, Traumatic Brain Injuries, or TBIs—which leave members of our military with debilitating migraine headaches that go on long after they return to civilian life.
This is a different kind of headache—a type that originates in nerves damaged by the twisting and shearing action of combat or by "overpressure," blast waves that come off bombs at twice the speed of sound and compress everything in their wake. The problem is surprisingly common: About one-third of returning soldiers say they have migraine pain in the first months after coming home. In 2009, there were almost 23,000 active-duty soldiers with TBI. These highly disabling migraines represent the most common reason for service women and men to seek a neurologist's care. Yet these headaches are often poorly understood by friends and family—and medical professionals often don't know how to treat them. (read more)
But look again, and this clearly isn’t Italy. It’s too clean, too new. There are too few tourists. There are hardly any people at all, actually. Which only makes it all the more improbable that Lavasa is, in fact, in India—land of auto rickshaws and slum dogs, of sweat and dust and litter. With only a handful of residents, Lavasa is a city-in-waiting. But its corporate backers believe it will soon represent nothing less than a new model of urban development and governance in India—a country where the phrase city planning has long been a contradiction in terms.
Lavasa sits in the Western Ghats, some 130 miles southeast of Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment capital, and 40 miles west of Pune, a growing hub for software programming and computer animation. If all goes according to its master plan, Lavasa will eventually house more than 300,000 people in five distinct “towns.” It will also have a world-class medical campus, luxury hotels, boarding schools, sports academies, a Nick Faldo–designed golf course, a space camp, and, its developers hope, animation and film studios, software-development companies, biotech labs, and law and architectural firms—in short, all of the knowledge industries at the heart of the “new India.” Those industries have yet to buy in, but residential sales have been brisk: in Dasve, the first of Lavasa’s five towns, scheduled to be completed this year, the houses are almost sold out.
Lavasa is the brainchild of Ajit Gulabchand, the jovial, silver-haired chairman of Hindustan Construction Company, an Indian conglomerate known for mega-projects like bridges and dams. He acquired land along the remote hills that slope down to Warasgaon Lake, a 12-mile-long reservoir that supplies water to Pune, from a group of investors hoping to make a little money selling vacation homes—a vision that proved decidedly too small for a man who occasionally commutes by helicopter. (read more)
A trio of Florida fishermen, out for a day of fishing in the Atlantic Ocean, made a once-in-a-lifetime discovery when they spotted a giant squid floating in the water 12-miles off the Jensen Beach coast in Martin County.
Mount Soputan in North Sulawesi province, Indonesia's Most Active Volcano Erupts Sending Ash 5000 Metres into the Air - 3rd July 2011
Mount Soputan in North Sulawesi province erupted at around 6:03 am (2203 GMT Saturday) but people living in the sparsely populated area have not been evacuated, Iing Kusnadi, a scientist at the volcano's monitoring post told AFP.
"The volcano erupted this morning. Besides spewing ash and dust particles, it also spewed hot gas but that's limited to around its crater," he said.
"The recommended evacuation zone is set at a six-kilometre radius around the volcano but there's only forest in that range," he added.
"At the moment, it is still a safe distance from people but we'll continue to monitor the activity," he added.
The nearest village is eight kilometres away on the western side of the volcano, which towers 1,783 metres (5,800 feet) over North Sulawesi province.
Soputan, one of Sulawesi's most active volcanoes, last erupted in 2008 with no fatalities recorded.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where continental plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. The archipelago nation is home to 129 active volcanoes, including 21 on Java. Source
Successive droughts have left people without access to water and food, killed livestock, and led to a surge in food prices. Concern staff on the ground in Somalia report that people are travelling for weeks with no possessions in order to reach help in urban areas and neighboring countries.
“People who have lost everything have arrived in Mogadishu for assistance, but for some it’s too late,” warns Sarah Robinson, from Concern Worldwide, Somalia.
“A combination of hunger and despair mean that many people simply go to sleep and do not have the energy to wake up. This has potential to be as bad as anything since 1991,” she added, referring to a major famine which killed an estimated 250,000 people and left two million displaced.
In a press release issued on Wednesday, the humanitarian agency said malnutrition levels are among the highest in the world with 30 per cent of children suffering from malnutrition in many areas of the south. Concern is reporting outbreaks of measles and diarrhoea which, added to malnutrition, are leading to deaths of many children in the areas where they work.
With 25 years’ experience in Somalia, Concern is one of the few international agencies currently working on the ground. Concern has been responding to the needs of this drought emergency since its onset in late 2010 reaching over 100,000 people with clean water, food and nutritional care. Source
Iran smuggling weapons to U.S. ENEMIES in Iraq and Afghanistan to destabilize the region - 3rd July 2011
The paper quotes senior U.S. officials, who say Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has been sending weapons to militia allies in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent months.
The Revolutionary Guard has smuggled rocket-assisted exploding projectiles to Iraq, officials told the paper, and these weapons have resulted in the deaths of American troops.
Iranians have also reportedly sent long-range rockets to the Taliban in Afghanistan, who continue to battle U.S. and coalition forces.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Iran's arms shipments 'escalate the shadow competition for influence playing out between Tehran and Washington across the Middle East and North Africa'.
The U.S. has been preparing to draw down troops from Afghanistan after nearly a decade of conflict in the country, but hopes to leave stable, pro-Western governments there and in Iraq.
Maj. Gen. James Buchanan, the U.S. military's top spokesman in Iraq, told the Wall Street Journal: 'I think we are likely to see these Iranian-backed groups continue to maintain high attack levels' as the exit date nears.
'But they are not going to deter us from doing everything we can to help the Iraqi security forces', he said.
NYPD blow up 5,000lbs of illegal fireworks after massive city-wide crackdown ahead of Fourth of July celebrations - 2nd July 2011
NYPD officers carried out the controlled explosion on the huge haul of fireworks, ranging from sparklers to professional pyrotechnics.
Police had seized cases worth over $25,000 ahead of the Fourth of July holiday weekend following a city-wide crackdown in New York.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned that fireworks in the hands of amateurs can be extremely dangerous and illegal.
Mayor Bloomberg said: 'We've worked to aggressively crackdown on the use of illegal fireworks and the transporting of illegal fireworks into the city.'
The footage shows a spectacular minute-long pyrotechnics display as the mountain of fireworks are lit at the NYPD firing range in the Bronx.
The warning video was released jointly by Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano as a reminder to New Yorkers of the dangerous consequences of transporting, buying, selling or using fireworks.
FDNY Fire Marshals in the Firework Enforcement Unit say they have made 20 arrests, and have seized 300 fireworks cases worth more than $25,000 during the crackdown. Read More
Residents have been evacuated from homes close to the leak near the city of Laurel due to concerns about possible explosions and the overpowering fumes.
ExxonMobil, which operates the pipelines, said that it ruptured late on Friday and leaked for half-an-hour. It is not known how much oil was spilled.
Two teams of emergency workers are taking part in the clean-up operation along the river and an additional 100 contractors are expected to arrive from Washington to help in the effort.
Responders are using absorbent pads and booms in an attempt to leach up the oil from the river banks.
Brent Peters, the fire chief for the city of Laurel about 12 miles east of Billings, said the break in the 12-inch diameter pipe occurred about a mile south of Laurel.
He said about 140 people were evacuated in the area starting about 12:15am on Saturday.
Glenn Wells said he and his wife were asked to evacuate their home at 2:30 am.
'I still smell like oil,' he said. 'My whole house smells like diesel fuel. It was everywhere on the river - an oil slick on Billings' West End.'
'The river will never be the same,' he told the Billings Gazette.
A spokesman for ExxonMobil said: 'We regret the release.' Read More
Nuclear disaster averted... but the area around Los Alamos laboratory still looks post-apocalyptic after record fire - 2nd July 2011
But the scorched lands surrounding the country's premier nuclear weapons laboratory still looked post-apocalyptic today after New Mexico's largest wildfire.
Officials at the nation's premier nuclear weapons laboratory and in the surrounding city are today planning for the return of thousands of evacuated employees and residents.
The blaze was several miles up hill today Saturday from Los Alamos National Laboratory, boosting confidence that it no longer posed an immediate threat to the facility.
Thousands of experiments, including those on two supercomputers and studies on extending the life of 1960s-era nuclear bombs, have been put on hold because of the fire.
Hundreds of employees began returning to the lab today to begin the process of getting things ready for scientists, technicians and other employees to return to work.
Employees were checking filters in air handling systems to ensure they weren't affected by smoke from the fire, utilities were operational, as well as restarting computer systems shutdown when the lab closed.
'Once we start operation phases for the laboratory, it will take about two days to bring everyone back and have the laboratory fully operations,' Lab Director Charles McMillan said. 'I'd like to continue to ask the employees of the laboratory to continue to be patient.' Read More
Cassidy Cartwright, 10 Bitten TWICE by shark in just three feet of water... and doctors have to pull tooth out of her leg, North Carolina - 1st July
The shark bit Cassidy twice, plunging its jaws in so deeply doctors had to remove one of its teeth from her leg.
The terrifying attack happened on Topsail Beach, North Carolina, just one day after she and her family arrived from Pennsylvania on vacation.
Cassidy was happily playing with her body board in the shallows, which are only about three-feet deep, when she suddenly felt something pulling on her leg.
She told MyFox8: 'It didn't hurt at first. It pulled me down, and it hurt. I thought it was somebody messing around and then I found out that it wasn't.'
It bit her once then let go, before coming back and biting her again. Read More
The extraordinary photograph of a lone bear lumbering up a hill, oblivious to the stunned human nearby, was identified as a grizzly on Friday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Hiker Joe Sebille snapped the image on his cell phone in October.
The Mount Vernon man says he was hiking near the community of Marblemount when he saw the bear and quickly took the picture.
Friends persuaded him to share the photo with North Cascades National Park officials.
Naturally within hours of the experts' ruling, a Twitter account had been created in the name of the North Cascades grizzly bear.
A member of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, Becki Heath, says it's a significant event in the recovery of the bear.
'Although grizzly bears once occupied the North Cascades, the current population appears to be at very low levels,' Heath said.
'We rarely have evidence of their presence in the ecosystem.'
Fewer than 20 grizzlies are believed to live in Washington's North Cascades. The bears are protected under state and federal law. Source
Roy Whiting was attacked with a sharpened pen at top-security Wakefield Prison in West Yorkshire, sources said.
The 51-year-old paedophile is believed to have been treated in the prison’s hospital wing before being taken under guard to Pinderfields General Hospital in Wakefield.
He was treated there for several hours before being taken back to jail.
A Prison Service spokesman said: ‘A prisoner at HMP Wakefield was assaulted and received an eye injury. He was treated in the prison’s healthcare wing.
‘The bravery and speedy response of staff ensured that this incident was dealt with swiftly and effectively.’
Whiting was jailed for life and must serve 50 years for the murder of eight-year-old Sarah near Littlehampton, West Sussex, in 2000.
He abducted Sarah as she played in a field near her grandparents’ home.
Her body was found 16 days later in a shallow grave in nearby Pulborough. Read More