Thursday, February 9, 2012

International 'militarisation' in Syria growing closer, warns US official

The international community may be forced to 'militarise' the crisis in Syria unless president Bashar al-Assad stops the onsalught on his people, a senior US official warned on Wednesday.

The official from the State Department told The Daily Telegraph that while the White House wants to exhaust all its diplomatic options, the debate in Washington has shifted away from diplomacy and towards more robust action since Russia and China blocked a United Nations resolution condemning Syria.

The Pentagon’s Central Command has begun a preliminary internal review of US military capabilities in the region, which one senior official called a “scoping exercise” that would provide options for the president if and when they were requested.

The White House said it was talking to allies about holding a “Friends of Syria” meeting in the near future and was considering delivering humanitarian aid to affected areas in the country. Read More

Cat found on unmanned offshore facility

Personnel working offshore on one of Brunei Shell Petroleum’s platforms, Ampa Platform 6 (AP6), made a surprising discovery onboard the facility which is located 20 kilometres away from land.

Hamdi Adnan, a BSP electrical technician, who was doing some maintenance work at the platform initially saw what looked like a tail whizzing past the corner of his eye.

Upon further investigation with his colleagues, it was revealed that there was a cat in the unmanned complex. However, nobody believed them at first when they informed their superiors and colleagues at the manned Ampa Platform 9 (AP9) about the feline stowaway.

A cat carrier and trap were dispatched to AP6 after the matter was reported to a BSP Panaga Health Centre Environmental Public Health Officer.

The frightened cat proved difficult to capture by hand as it was hiding under the porta-cabin on the unmanned offshore facility. After it was caught with a trap, it was transported to AP9 before being handed over to health officers onshore.

There have been many wild theories as to how the cat ended up on the unmanned platform 20 kilometres away from land.

Some personnel stationed at AP9 believe that the cat may have either swam or “flew in” as a stowaway in a cargo. Read More

The "case" against Hezbollah: The US case linking Lebanese movement with drugs and money-laundering is flawed, say legal experts

The allegations span South American cocaine shipments, US-used car dealerships, money-laundering in West Africa, several money-exchange houses, and end up in a Lebanese bank.

In December the US justice department filed a civil claim [PDF] against certain assets both in Lebanon and in the United States in what is seen as the US government’s latest attack on Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia political movement.

Following an inter-agency investigation said to have been conducted between January 2007 and early 2011, the US justice department claims to have uncovered "a massive, international scheme in which Lebanese financial institutions, including a bank and two exchange houses linked to Hezbollah, used the US financial system to launder narcotics trafficking and other criminal proceeds through West Africa and back into Lebanon."

The in rem forfeiture complaint, filed in the district of New York with the aim of seeking almost half a billion dollars, is said to reveal "a trade-based money laundering scheme involving the purchase of used cars and other vehicles in the United States for shipment and sale abroad, with funds provided by banks, currency exchanges, and individuals associated with, funded by, controlled by, or directed by the Lebanon-based terrorist organization known as Hezbollah". Read More

US foreclosures go sky-high: Iconic skyscraper in Georgia goes under the hammer for a lark as slumping economy continues to strangle property market



The Bank of America Plaza skyscraper in the state of Georgia, the tallest building in the southern US, is just another lamb to the slaughter after it was auctioned off for about half the amount it was worth five years ago.

Once the symbol of the area's booming commercial real-estate market, the tower now represents its widespread failure.

After the housing bubble burst, millions of homes have been foreclosed in the country. Read More

Words matter: Does Israel carefully chooses its words to assert illegal ownership over Jerusalem and Palestine?

Israel's propaganda machine carefully chooses its words to assert illegal ownership over Jerusalem and Palestine.

The words which people use, often unconsciously, can have a critical impact upon the thoughts and attitudes of those who speak and write, as well as those who listen and read. Dangerously misleading terminology remains a major obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace.

It is normal practice for parties to a dispute to use terminology which favours them. In this regard, Israel has been spectacularly successful in imposing its terminology not simply on Israeli consciousness and American usage but even on many Arab parties and commentators. It has done so not simply in obvious ways like use of the terms "terrorism", "security", "Eretz Israel" or "Judea and Samaria" but also in more subtle ways which have had and continue to have a profound negative impact on perceptions of legal realities and other matters of substance.

The current initiative by Palestine to upgrade its status at the United Nations from "observer entity" to member state or, temporarily failing that, "observer state" is commonly referred to, by both supporters and opponents of this initiative, as an effort to "achieve statehood" or "recognition of statehood" through the United Nations. It is nothing of the sort.

The State of Palestine already exists in accordance with the relevant principles of international law. Read More

The "real" invented people: Who invented a nationality? The Palestinians or the Israelis?

Newt Gingrich's controversial statement begs the question: Who invented a nationality? The Palestinians or the Israelis?

It is hard to believe that anyone who defends Israel's legitimacy as a state would buy into former Speaker Newt Gingrich's argument that Palestine is an "invented nation".

The singular triumph of the Zionist movement is that it invented a state and a people - Israel and the Israelis - from scratch. The first Hebrew-speaking child in 1900 years, Ittamar Ben-Avi, was not born until 1882. His father, the brilliant linguist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, created a modern language for him to speak by improvising from the language of the Bible.

The founder of the Israeli state was Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), an assimilated Viennese writer who was convinced by the Dreyfus trial in France - and the horrendous right-wing anti-Semitism that resulted from it - that Jews had to get out of Europe.

In 1897, he wrote the book that would essentially inaugurate the Zionist movement. It was called Der Judenstaat (meaning "the Jews' state" or "the Jewish State"), which was his proposal for moving the Jews out of Europe and into their own country.

He didn't specify where the Jewish homeland should be. He was more concerned about quickly obtaining territory anywhere for Jews to seek refuge. Read More

Syrians say Lebanon blocking escape

Activists says arrests by neighbouring state's army deterring more injury victims from crossing border for treatment.



Only a handful of Syrians have made it to hospitals in neighbouring Lebanon, after being wounded in the ongoing military campaign in Homs.

Doctors in the northern city of Tripoli expected many more injured Syrians to escape across the border, but Syrian activists say the Lebanese army is arresting anyone trying to cross, regardless of whether they are injured. Read More

Thousands of Maldivians condemn 'coup' ...But US Supports New Leader

Supporters rally in Male to demand Mohamed Nasheed's return to power, a day after he was forced to quit as president.



Thousands of supporters of Mohamed Nasheed, who says he was forced to resign as the president of Maldives, have taken to the streets to protest over what they are calling a coup.

Al Jazeera's Steve Chao, reporting from the capital island of Male on Wednesday, said up to 3,000 people took part in the protests in support of Nasheed and calling for his return to power.

He said police fired tear gas and clashed with protesters as they attempted to push the crowds backwards. In the hours following the protests, there were reports of Nasheed being manhandled by security forces.

Nasheed was only "lightly" injured, according to his supporters, our correspondent reported via Twitter.

Nasheed, the Indian Ocean island nation's first democratically elected leader, stepped down on Tuesday in the wake of a police mutiny and clashes on the streets after weeks of anti-government protests.

In an interview to Al Jazeera's Chao at his family home earlier on Wednesday, Nasheed said he was compelled to resign to prevent bloodshed.

"This is definitely a coup," he said. "By any definition anywhere, this was a coup. This was a bloodless coup because I did not take part in it. I did not want to defend [my position]; that is why there was no blood.” Read More

With Arabs taking control of their fate, is the UN still relevant?

International pressure may have saved some bloodshed in Syria, but a lack thereof will not doom its revolution.

United Nations was not a credible institution, that it is just a "game" in which countries partake. While "credible" may not be the most apt description, certainly not for the entirety of the UN, Assad's questioning of the sanctity of the institution is not as off-key as his political record.

The recent rejection of a UN Security Council proposal to support the Arab League peace initiative for Syria due to Russian and Chinese veto is not as much of a nadir for the Syrian revolution as it is for the UN as an institution.

The UN Security Council stands as a relic of a past age; rather than voicing global concerns, it is a platform for permanent members to confirm the hierarchy of the world order. The five permanent members, those countries that were deemed as the greatest powers at the post-World War II establishment of the UN, each individually have the authority to veto any resolution. Read More

Old Age Security Pension Unsustainable, Says Budget Watchdog: Canada

Image: Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page issued revised projections about Canada's future finances Wednesday and said Old Age Security is an affordable program in the years ahead. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Canada can ride out the wave of retiring baby boomers and their cost to the Old Age Security program with room to spare, a new report by Parliament's budget watchdog released Wednesday suggests.

The income support program is sustainable and affordable given the federal government's projected revenues and economic growth, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page said.

In a report on fiscal sustainability and elderly benefits, Page revised some of his earlier predictions based on the government's announcement late last year that the Canada Health Transfer would be tied to GDP after 2016-17. Read More

EU Drivers Anxious Over Increasing Oil Prices

Moscow Police Arrest Anti-Putin Protesters

Bank of England poised to restart QE stimulus

Bank of England policy-makers will attempt to inject life into Britain's ailing economy on Thursday by announcing additional stimulus through quantitative easing, economists predict.

The Bank's Monetary Policy Committee is expected to say it will spend a further £50bn on asset purchases when it reveals its monthly policy decision at noon.

It would take the total spent on QE to £325bn, since the beginning of the programme in March 2009. The MPC is expected to leave interest rates unchanged at 0.5pc.

Although there will be little explanation of today's decision until the minutes of the meeting are published in a fortnight, the MPC is likely to justify any increase in QE against a backdrop of falling inflation, a weak economy and uncertain outlook.

There have been a number of upbeat UK economic indicators for January in recent days, but the economy contracted by 0.2pc in the fourth quarter according to official data and the prospect of a return to recession hangs in the balance. Read More

Last surviving veteran of First World War dies aged 110

Florence Green died two weeks before her 111th birthday Photo: Masons

Mrs Green passed away in her sleep at a care home in Norfolk just two weeks before her 111th birthday.

The great-grandmother signed up to the Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) 93 years ago in September 1918, when she was aged just 17.

She was the last surviving person to have served in WWI following the death of British-born sailor Claude Choules in Australia last year.

During the First World War she worked at Narborough Airfield and RAF Marham, Norfolk, as an Officer's Mess steward.

Mrs Green, who was born in London, lived with her daughter May, 90, in King's Lynn, Norfolk, but had moved into Briar House care home shortly before Christmas where she died on Saturday. Read More

Video of 'Eagle Dad' forcing tearful Chinese boy to run in snow sparks uproar

A home video showing a four-year-old Chinese boy being forced by his parents to run almost naked through the snow in bitterly cold New York has sparked an online uproar.



In the video, the little boy runs towards his father, who is filming him, in thick snow with only his shoes and underpants on, at times crying bitterly and pleading with his dad to take him in his arms.

On several occasions, both parents tell their son to lie down in the snow, which he does eventually when his mother presses him.

The film was posted online by the boy's father, who comes from the eastern city of Nanjing, and has been viewed by tens of thousands of people on various video-sharing websites including YouTube.

The father was trying to train his son to be strong, his personal assistant told AFP. Read More

For Greece a tear, for Brussels a blush

Very quickly: some of you will have seen that Greece’s tax revenue from VAT collapsed by 18.7pc in January from a year earlier.

Nobody can seriously blame tax evasion for this. It has happened because 60,000 small firms and family businesses have gone bankrupt since the summer.

The VAT rate for food and drink rose from 13pc to 23pc in September to comply with EU-IMF Troika demands. The revenue effect has been overwhelmed by the contraction of the economy.

Overall tax receipts fell 7pc year-on-year.

This is a damning indictment of the EU-imposed strategy. Greece is chasing its tail. The budget deficit is stuck near 8pc to 9pc of GDP because the economic base is shrinking so fast.

Let me just add that it makes little difference whether or not Lucas Papademos secures triparty agreement today – or soon – for a debt deal.

The Greek parliament still has to vote and there is a sauve qui peut mood among MPs who don’t want to be stoned to death (metaphorically) by the polloi – hoi or otherwise. Read More

Greek economic woes drive suicides up 40%: Buried but not forgotten

The rate of increase in suicides in Greece was the highest in Europe in the first half of 2011, according to figures from the country's health ministry. Experts attribute the rise to the country's economic crisis.

Painful austerity measures and a seemingly endless economic drama is exacting a deadly toll on the nation. Statistics released by the Greek ministry of health show a 40% rise in those taking their own lives between January and May this year compared to the same period in 2010.

Before the financial crisis first began to bite three years ago, Greece had the lowest suicide rate in Europe at 2.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. It now has almost double that number. Attempted suicides have also increased. While the country's suicide level is still among the lowest in Europe in absolute terms, the ministry's reported rate of increase has come about despite the stigma attached to suicide in a country where the Orthodox church refuses funeral rights for those who take their lives.

"It's never just one thing, but almost always debts, joblessness, the fear of being fired are cited when people phone in to say they are contemplating ending their lives," said Eleni Beikari, a psychiatrist at the non-governmental organisation, Klimaka, which runs a 24-hour suicide hotline.

Klimaka received around 10 calls a day before the crisis; it now gets more than 100 in any 24-hour period. Read More

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake COQUIMBO, CHILE- 10th Feb 2012

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck Coquimbo, Chile at a depth of 52.3 km (32.5 miles), the quake hit at 02:05:22 UTC Friday 10th February 2012
The epicenter was 16 km (9 miles) SSW of Ovalle, Coquimbo, Chile
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

6.0 Magnitude Earthquake FIJI REGION - 10th Feb 2012

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake has struck the Fiji Region at a depth of 575.5 km (357.6 miles), the quake hit at 01:47:34 UTC Friday 10th February 2012
The epicenter was 282 km (175 miles) Southeast of Lambasa, Vanua Levu, Fiji
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 10th Feb 2012

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 50.8 km (31.6 miles), the quake hit at 00:38:39 UTC Friday 10th February 2012
The epicenter was 131 km (81 miles) ESE of Morioka, Honshu, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake EASTERN HONSHU, JAPAN - 9th Feb 2012

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck Eastern Honshu, Japan at a depth of 105.2 km (65.4 miles), the quake hit at 21:52:02 UTC Thursday 9th February 2012
The epicenter was 27 km (16 miles) Northwest of Sendai, Honshu, Japan
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake MACQUARIE ISLAND REGION - 9th Feb 2012

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck the Macquarie Island Region at a depth of 13.8 km (8.6 miles), the quake hit at 19:21:02 UTC Thursday 9th February 2012
The epicenter was 413 km (256 miles) South of of Macquarie Island, Australia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Mass worm deaths after Australian flood (Yes, those writhing masses are all globs of worms)

US recognizes new government of Maldives

WASHINGTON — The United States on Thursday recognized the new government of Maldives President Mohamed Waheed as legitimate and urged him to fulfill a pledge to form a national unity government.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also said Robert Blake, the top US diplomat for south Asia, telephoned former president Mohamed Nasheed to tell him Washington backed a "peaceful resolution" of the crisis on the archipelago.

"We do," Nuland told reporters when asked if Washington recognizes the new government as the legitimate government of the Maldives. She called Waheed the president and Nasheed the former president.

Blake, the assistant secretary of state for south Asian affairs, will travel Saturday to the Maldives to meet with both Waheed and Nasheed, who charges he was ousted in a coup, as well as civil society.

"He will be encouraging this national unity conversation," she added. Read More

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake UTTARANCHAL, INDIA - 9th Feb 2012

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck Uttaranchal, India at a depth of 25.5 km (15.8 miles), the quake hit at 19:17:33 UTC Thursday 9th February 2012
The epicenter was 78 km (48 miles) NNE from Dehra Dun, Uttaranchal, India
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Two killed amid gunfire at Yemen anti-election rally

Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) -- Two people were killed Thursday as hundreds of demonstrators marched in Yemen's southern province of Dhale protesting the upcoming presidential election, eyewitnesses told CNN.

The demonstrators were from the Southern Movement, which is demanding that south Yemen is granted freedom and becomes a separate state because, activists say, the north has oppressed the south and its people.

The movement rejects any government efforts to keep south Yemen under the united Yemen banner.

Gunmen marching within the demonstrators' ranks attacked a government election building, demanding that it be closed down, four eyewitnesses told CNN.

Two security officials in Dhale, who could not be named because they are not authorized to speak to the media, told CNN that two people were killed in the clashes and more than 20 injured. Among those killed was a child who was hit by a stray bullet.

The gunmen fired hundreds of rounds at government buildings, forcing the march to disperse. Read More

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake NORTHERN XINJIANG, CHINA - 9th Feb 2012

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck Northern Xinjiang, China at a depth of 21.7 km (13.5 miles), the quake hit at 18:57:07 UTC Thursday 9th February 2012
The epicenter was 235 km (146 miles) North from Hami, Xinjiang, China
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

5.8 Magnitude Earthquake MACQUARIE ISLAND REGION - 9th Feb 2012

A magnitude 5.8 earthquake has struck the Macquarie Island Region at a depth of just 3.9 km (2.4 miles), the quake hit at 18:52:47 UTC Thursday 9th February 2012
The epicenter was 432 km (269 miles) South of Macquarie Island, Australia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

West offers words, only, as Syria killing rages

(Reuters) - Syrian government artillery barrages killed dozens of civilians in Homs on Thursday, activists said, as President Bashar al-Assad, bolstered by Russian support, ignored appeals from world leaders to halt the carnage.

The United Nations secretary-general condemned the "appalling brutality" of the operation to stamp out the revolt against Assad, and Turkey's ambassador to the European Union warned of a slide into civil war that could inflame the region.

Diplomats from Western and Arab powers, lining up meetings that could mean some decisions soon, condemned Assad in strong language. But having ruled out military intervention, they were struggling to find a way to convince him to step down.

Syria's powerful ally Russia, meanwhile, said no one should interfere in the country's affairs. Read More

Japan snow death toll rises to 80

Feb. 9 - The death toll from the heavy snow that has blanketed large parts of Japan rises to over 80. Simon Hanna reports.

Turkey vows to help Syrians

Feb. 9 - Turkey vows to help the Syrian refugees fleeing violence across the border. Nick Rowlands reports

U.S. warns French satellite maker over China

(Reuters) - The United States has threatened action that could disrupt a French-led satellite maker's supply chain, spurred by suspicion that it illegally used U.S. know-how or parts in spacecraft launched by Chinese rockets.

The State Department last month quietly warned the company, Thales Alenia Space, that export licenses needed by its U.S. suppliers might be denied, absent greater cooperation in an

investigation of the matter, a department email obtained by Reuters showed.

License refusals could crimp the 2 billion euros ($2.65 billion) in worldwide civil and military sales that the company, known as TAS, posted in 2010.

They also could force a costly product-line revamp and strain U.S. ties with France.

The threat escalates the United States' multi-year push for details on the design and components of a watershed telecommunications satellite that TAS has labeled as free of U.S. parts and therefore exempt from U.S. export controls. Read More

Lawrence Wood Charged With attempted murder after a 12-year-old girl was stabbed in the Back, Wigan

A man has been charged with attempted murder after a 12-year-old girl was stabbed in Wigan, police say.

The girl, who was stabbed twice in the back, was treated for a punctured lung.

Her injuries are not believed to be life threatening and her condition is described as stable.

Greater Manchester Police said the incident took place in the street in the Marsh Green area on Wednesday evening.

Lawrence Wood, 31, is due before Wigan Magistrates' Court on February 10.

Detective Chief Inspector Howard Millington of Wigan CID said: "This incident is understandably going to cause concern in the local community.

"However, I would like to try and reassure people that this was an isolated incident and a man was arrested shortly afterwards.

"He remains in custody where we are continuing to question him.

"There are extra officers patrolling in the area to provide reassurance to residents and if anyone has any concerns or has information they wish to pass to police about this incident, they can either speak directly to these officers or call us."

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 0161 856 7252 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Source

Woolly Mammoth HOAX?....Claims of this Mammoth Spotted in Siberia looks suspiciusly Like a BEAR with a fish hanging out of his mouth..





Jean-Claude Baumgartner: Dragons' Den 'conman blew £230,000 of investors' money on life of luxury instead of satnav for skiers'

A Dragons' Den 'conman' allegedly blew £230,000 on living a life of luxury instead of his satnav for skiers product that wowed the show's judges.

Jean-Claude Baumgartner, 50, is charged with duping Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis into handing over the money as an investment - then spending it on himself.

The Swiss-born businessman, who is understood to be in Germany, was due to appear at Blackfriars Crown Court on Monday but claimed he was snowed in.

The hearing was adjourned until today but he contacted his solicitors overnight to say his bank cards were not working and could not purchase a flight from Cologne.

Prosecutor Mark James-Dawson said: 'Your Honour will see that he is not here.

'A text message was sent this morning saying he had texted his solicitors at half past two and four o'clock, saying his bank cards had failed so he could not travel.

'My application will be for a warrant not backed for bail.

'He wasn't here on Monday. He said his flight had been cancelled.'

The lawyer said Baumgartner, who is on unconditional bail, has family in Germany and Switzerland. Read More

Giant Snowball Rolled downhill into busy main road by Gang of Yobs, Kent, England

Yobs as young as 10 rolled a monster snowball into a busy main road as they terrorised passing drivers and pedestrians.

The 20-strong gang pelted cars, buses and vans with snowballs and were confronted by outraged motorists and residents in Gravesend, Kent.

Police are now studying CCTV footage taken from an Arriva bus to nail a thug who forced open the doors and hurled snowballs at terrified passengers on Sunday. Read More

New satellite data reveals that Himalayan glaciers are melting far more SLOWLY than predicted

Himalayan glaciers are melting far more slowly than predicted, according to a new satellite study from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Previous estimates of ice loss in the high Asia mountains have ranged up to 50 billion tons a year, said the university's Professor John Wahr.

The actual figure is a mere four billion tonnes, according to a survey using data from Nasa satellites.

Previously, it had been claimed that Himalayan glaciers would have melted to a fifth of current levels by 2035, leading to sea level rises and drought.

Those predictions used ground-based measurements, whereas the new study measured the effect of gravity on twin Nasa satellites to give an accurate measure of the mass of ice being lost.

‘The results in this region really were a surprise,’ said Wahr.

‘One possible explanation is that previous estimates were based on measurements taken primarily from some of the lower, more accessible glaciers in Asia and were extrapolated to infer the behavior of higher glaciers.' Read More

Dr Clive Blackburn the Unilever scientist who helped develop Slimfast drinks throws himself from roof of work HQ after being made redundant

A top food scientist jumped to his death from the roof of his work laboratory just hours after being made redundant, an inquest has heard.

Dr Clive Blackburn - who developed products for big brand names including Slimfast and Lipton Tea - could not cope with losing his position at food giant Unilever, so meticulously planned his death.

He went to the deserted Unilever building on a Saturday - the day after finishing work for the last time - and duped security staff by saying he was collecting personal belongings.

The 48-year-old planned his suicide even adding the date of his death and the length of his employment at the Unilever development laboratories on a social networking site the day before he died.

He had not been able to handle being made redundant and saw his GP on several occasions leading up to his death complaining of depression.

Coroner David Morris told the inquest: 'He was made redundant with his last working day on November 11. Read More

Ilyas and Tallat Ashar Trafficked 10 year old Deaf Girl to Britain to keep as sex slave in Cellar for the past 10 Years

A deaf girl of 10 was trafficked into the UK, repeatedly raped, kept in a cellar and treated as a virtual slave for almost a decade, a court heard today.

The orphaned youngster from Pakistan, who is profoundly deaf and has no speech, was locked in a cellar each night where she would sleep on a concrete floor and by day was forced to work for no money and was sexually assaulted, Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester was told.

Her alleged abusers were Ilyas Ashar, 83, and his wife, Tallat Ashar, 66, who deny charges of false imprisonment, human trafficking, sexual offences, violence and benefit fraud. Read More

Five dead as man-eating leopard stalks Nepal village

KATHMANDU — A leopard dragged away and devoured a 14-year-old girl in western Nepal in what is thought to be the fifth deadly attack by the same animal in just two months, police said on Thursday.

The youngster was cutting grass in the forest near her home in Baitadi district, on the border with India, when she was attacked by the animal, said Bishnu Bahadur Karki, a local deputy superintendent of police.

"The locals found the body torn into pieces and eaten below the neck at the forest area yesterday," he told AFP.

Karki said three young girls and a 35-year-old pregnant woman had been killed in the weeks leading up to Wednesday's attack and police believed the same animal was responsible for all the deaths.

"The leopard has continuously been victimising and terrorising the people of Pancheshwor village. We requested the district forest office to allow us to kill it but they refused, saying that the law does not provide such permission," Karki told AFP.

"Our request to have the leopard handed over to a zoo has also been rejected. The villagers and police are trying hard to take that leopard into custody."

Villagers claim three more people have been killed by the leopard in nearby settlements on the Indian side of the border. Read More

Stock Exchange Bomb Plotters Are Jailed

Nine members of an al Qaeda-inspired terror group that plotted to bomb the London Stock Exchange and build a terrorist training camp have been jailed.

The group also planned to send five bombs through the post to various targets in the run up to Christmas 2010 and discussed carrying out a "Mumbai-style" attack.

Three members of the group, who planned to raise funds for the camp in Pakistan and recruit Britons to attend it, received indeterminate sentences for public protection at London's Woolwich Crown Court.

Mohammed Shahjahan 27, was jailed for a minimum term of eight years and 10 months, while fellow Stoke-on-Trent-based extremists Usman Khan, 20, and Nazam Hussain, 26, were ordered to serve at least eight years behind bars.

The group were not members of al Qaeda but were inspired by the terrorist network and its former Yemeni leader, Anwar al Awlaki, who was killed in a drone strike last year.

Andrew Edis QC, for the prosecution, said the men "were implementing the published strategy of AQAP (Al Qaeda In The Arabian Peninsula)".

A hand-written target list was found at one of the defendant's homes listed the names and addresses of London Mayor Boris Johnson, two rabbis, the US Embassy and the London Stock Exchange. Read More

Man arrested after stabbing 12 year old Girl in the Back in Wigan

A man has been arrested after a 12-year-old girl was stabbed in Wigan, police say.

The girl, who had been stabbed twice in the back, was treated for a punctured lung. Her injuries are not believed to be life threatening and her condition is described as stable.

Greater Manchester Police said the incident took place in the Marsh Green area on Wednesday evening and a 31-year-old man was arrested shortly afterwards.

Detective Chief Inspector Howard Millington of Wigan CID said: "This incident is understandably going to cause concern in the local community.

"However, I would like to try and reassure people that this was an isolated incident and a man was arrested shortly afterwards. He remains in custody where we are continuing to question him.

"There are extra officers patrolling in the area to provide reassurance to residents and if anyone has any concerns or has information they wish to pass to police about this incident, they can either speak directly to these officers or call us."

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 0161 856 7252 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

More to follow...

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake PAPUA REGION, INDONESIA - 9th Feb 2012


A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck the Papua Region, Indonesia at a depth of 15.1 km (9.4 miles), the quake hit at 15:18:11 UTC Thursday 9th February 2012
The epicenter was 85 km (53 miles) North of Jayapura, Irian Jaya, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

650 Indians and others hit by food poisoning after attending campaign rally in Mexico

MEXICO CITY — Officials of a Mexican political party are apologizing to 650 Indians and other people who suffered food poisoning after attending a campaign rally in southern Mexico.

But the leader of the Institutional Revolutionary Party in Guerrero state also says that blame goes to the candidate who held the event. Party leader Victor Valencia says it’s not the fault of the former ruling party.

Authorities in the indigenous town of Chilapa had to open an auditorium Wednesday to treat people who became sick after eating rice tacos and eggs handed out by former mayor Sergio Dolores, who is running for congress.

Guerrero state civil protection officials say adults and children were fainting, throwing up and suffering from diarrhea. Source

Hemorrhagic Fever Alert in Bolivian Department‎

La Paz, Feb 8 (Prensa Latina) The alert for increased cases of dengue and hemorrhagic fever was declared on Wednesday in the Bolivian department of Beni.

The head of epidemiology at the Departmental Health Service (Sedes), Wilfredo Camargo, said that this year there were registered four deaths from dengue and two from hemorrhagic fever.

Of the 636 suspected dengue cases reported, 100 were positive, while the number of hemorrhagic fever cases reaches 36, all this in the province of Mamore.

In this situation, the representatives of the institutions that make up the Emergency Operations Center (COE) in the department decided to declare the alert in Beni and allocate financial resources to address the emergency.

The general secretary of the Interior, Juan Carlos Zambrana, said that all the facilities and public and private resources will be activated to protect the health of the population.

The EOC Director was also authorized to negotiate with the national, departmental, municipal and international agencies the resources necessary to meet the emergency. Source

Gannet Alpha platform Evacuated after Leak was detected

An oil platform was partially evacuated earlier this week when a gas leak was detected, Shell has said.

Of the 76 staff on the Gannet Alpha platform in the North Sea, 48 were returned to shore by helicopter while the leak was investigated.

Production was stopped at the station on Monday when the leaking gas was detected underneath the platform. The oil firm said staffing will remain reduced until the investigation is complete.

A Shell spokeswoman said: "The problem was identified when staff noticed a shimmering under the platform on Monday afternoon. The platform was successfully down-manned of all non-essential personnel as a precaution."

According to the spokeswoman, the gas was a "one-off release" and all relevant authorities, including the Health and Safety Executive and the coastguard, have been notified.

In August more than 200 tonnes of oil spilled into the North Sea from a leak in the flowline to Gannet Alpha, about 112 miles east of Aberdeen. It was the worst oil spill in the region in more than a decade.

Shell said Monday's gas leak is not related to the spillage in August and took place on a different line. Read More

10-foot tiger shark has attacked a swimmer off a remote beach in Australia's third attack this month

SYDNEY (AP) — A 10-foot tiger shark has attacked a swimmer off a remote beach in Australia's third attack this month. That's as many attacks as the country generally sees in an entire year.

Western Australia Police Sgt. Gerry Cassidy says the man was swimming in a lagoon at Western Australia's Coral Bay on Thursday when the shark bit the man's arm. The attack left the swimmer with severe lacerations.

Royal Flying Doctor Service spokeswoman Joanne Hill says a doctor was assessing the 26-year-old man, but his injuries were not life-threatening and he was in a stable condition.

The attack comes one day after a surfer was bitten by a shark at a beach off Australia's east coast. Another surfer was attacked at a beach north of Sydney on Jan. 3rd. Source

Suspected bird flu patient dies in Bandung

After being isolated for more than 30 hours, a 37-year-old paperboy, SA, suspected of being infected with bird flu died on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. in the isolation room of Hasan Sadikin Hospital in Bandung, West Java.

The spokesman for avian flu control with the hospital, Primal Sudjana, said SA suffered respiratory failure on Tuesday and the team decided to apply life support.

"We've done according to standard procedure [to handle bird flu suspect] by using a ventilator and Tamiflu. Unfortunately, his condition was too severe already," Primal said.

According to the family's statement taken by the team, SA along with his wife and two children had the flu, but SA had the worst symptoms. SA's wife said that SA had no record of direct contact with birds, but their neighbors did have ducks.

Primal said that samples of SA's blood and mucus had been taken and sent to the Health Ministry's lab in Jakarta.

Separately, the hospital's medical director, Rudi Kadarsyah, declined to confirm SA's cause of the death at this time.

Rudi said he was waiting for the lab results, noting that the team of doctors only suspected the patient had contracted the bird flu virus, as he demonstrated the symptoms of the disease. Read More

Under the radar, bird flu arrives back in Egypt

CAIRO: With all eyes on Egypt’s new parliament in January, 13 cases of the H5N1, or bird flu, were reported in Egypt, highlighting that the deadly virus was making a return to the North African country.

According to the health ministry in Egypt, Mansoura – a Delta city north of Cairo – suspected at least 13 case of people being infected with bird flu and were held at the Mansoura Chest Hospital for precaution.

Two of those cases were confirmed as being bird flu as tests on the remaining patients is ongoing.

All those suspected to be infected have been quarantined and removed from the general hospital population as a safeguard, medical officials told Bikyamasr.com.

The resulting infections has caused both the health ministry and the agricultural ministry to begin preparations for a nationwide campaign to fight against the virus and inform Egyptians on how to prevent the disease from spreading. Read More

100 dead pigeons 18 Days after bird flu culling in India's Meghalaya's East Garo Hills

Shillong, Feb 9 (PTI) Eighteen days after culling of bird-flu affected poultry ended in Meghalaya's East Garo Hills, residents of a locality and government officials were in a tizzy after more than 100 pigeons died in the past one week here.

State veterinary officials rushed to the spot today to pick up the dead birds for sampling and to aware the residents of the possible bird-flu virus afflicting the birds. "We have rushed veterinary doctors to Keatinge Road locality to initiate remedial measures and to take samples of the dead birds for testing," State Veterinary Director L Lyngwa told PTI. He said, "We are sending the samples to Assam-based Regional Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (RRDL) for a detailed testing tomorrow before we can take decision on what to do next.

The officials have directed the families rearing those pigeons not to touch the dead birds with bare hands and to dispose them off properly. Read More