Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Monday, May 16, 2011

Molten radioactive material spotted in Fukushima R1 as nuclear situation worsens; Reactor 2's situation now described as being "shrouded in mystery"

Uranium fuel in at least one of the six reactors at Fukushima has melted, the operator of the crippled nuclear plant has said. The admission effectively torpedoes a plan to flood the overheating fuel with water and bring a quick end to the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) said water levels have fallen at least one metre below fuel rods inside Reactor 1 and that melted fuel has dropped to the bottom of the reactor's containment vessel. Engineers are working inside the reactor building for the first time since the crisis began when a hydrogen explosion blew off its roof following the huge quake and tsunami on 11 March.

Tepco general manager Junichi Matsumoto told reporters in Tokyo that the discovery means its timetable to entomb the containment reactor vessel in water may have to be scrapped. "We can't deny the possibility that a hole in the pressure vessel caused water to leak," Mr Matsumoto said.

Observers fear that Reactor 3, which contains MOX plutonium fuel, may have also suffered a meltdown, and the situation inside Reactor 2 is still shrouded in mystery. (read more)

The hot spots / molten radioactive materials were spotted in the following video taken from a helicopter overflight days after the original disaster:

The following stills were taken from the above film at the :30-:31 mark, and show the hot spots / molten radioactive materials:

US raids civil service pension fund as it hits $14.3 trillion debt limit

The US has suspended payments into a civil service pension fund to free up almost $150bn (£92bn) as the major debtor nation approaches its legal borrowing limit.

Timothy Geithner, the US Treasury Secretary, announced the move in a letter on Monday to Congressional leaders as he explained that the move extends the government's breathing space to August 2 to avoid an unprecedented default on its borrowings.

The US Treasury expected to reach the $14.3 trillion limit on on Monday. Congress needs to raise the legal debt ceiling beyond its current limit, which will require Republicans and Democrats reaching agreement over an issue that bitterly divides them. President Barack Obama warned over the weekend that failure to raise the ceiling risks unravelling the world's financial system.

Given US government debt, or Treasuries as they are known, are considered the safest asset in financial markets and held by investors and central banks around the world, few want to imagine the consequences of a default.

"No one in the Treasury market really expects a default," said Bill O'Donnell, a strategist at UBS. "But people are doing up their seatbelts as the rhetoric will only increase over the summer and it could go right to the wire."

America's debt has become a sharp dividing line between the two parties and will be in next year's presidential election. John Boehner, the Republican leader of the House of Representatives, wants The White House and Democrats in Congress to agree to trillions of dollars in spending cuts before Republicans give the nod to any increase. Joe Biden, the vice-president, has been tasked with leading negotiations between the administration and leaders on both sides of the aisle in Congress. (read more)

World on course for next crisis, warns Gordon Brown

The global economy is heading towards another meltdown despite the lessons of the last financial crisis, Gordon Brown has warned.

The former prime minister said that unless leaders take more action, the recent credit crunch could prove just the "trailer" to a string of crises.

"In 2008, when we were hours away from ATMs running out of money, small businesses being unable to pay their staffs, and schools and hospitals closing down through lack of cash flow, it felt as if the crisis of the century was upon us," he wrote in US magazine Newsweek.

"But if the world continues on its current path, the historians of the future will say that the great financial collapse of three years ago was simply the trailer for a succession of avoidable crises that eroded popular consent for globalisation itself.

"Those who believe that the world has learned from the mistakes that led to the crash are mistaken."

Mr Brown said the "resolve" to act seen immediately after the crisis has been replaced by indecision and vested interest. He urged politicians at the next G20 summit, which takes place in Cannes in November, to take control of a globalised financial system which is still "perilously" unregulated. (read more)

Fernando Aguirre: Preparing for Economic Collapse -- from the mouth of a survivor of the Argentina collapse

Today's contributor is Fernando "FerFAL" Aguirre. Many of our readers have expressed interest in hearing accounts from those who have lived through economic collapse. FerFAL experienced the hyperinflationary destruction of Argentina's economy in 2001 and continues to blog about his experiences and observations of its lingering aftermath. His website and his book Surviving the Economic Collapse offer windows into the probable outcomes to expect during a collapsing economy. Note: Our site's What Should I Do? Guide offers specific guidance relevant to a number of the steps FerFAL recommends below.

“How can I prepare for an economic collapse?” is one of the most common questions I get. It usually takes me a second to start to explain how complex such a question is. It’s like asking an auto mechanic, “Say, how do you build a car?” or asking a computer engineer, “What’s all that stuff inside my laptop?”

I do have some first-hand experience in this matter, though. The economy in my country, Argentina, has gone through various crises, but none as large as when the economy collapsed in 2001 after a decade of apparent prosperity. The currency devaluated, and Argentina defaulted on its USD$132 billion debt, the largest default ever. The middle class took to the streets after bank accounts were frozen, and the president was forced to resign, escaping the presidential building in a helicopter.

What I’ll do is, provide five quick foundational steps, based on what I know, for you to follow so as to be better prepared if something like what happened in my country ever happens in yours. (read more -- definitely click this!)

Savers may flee U.S. banks: 'The dominoes are starting to fall,' says Eric Sprott

Eric Sprott, the Canadian money manager who in 2008 predicted banking stocks would collapse, says U.S. savers will eventually pull their money out of banks that are carrying too much leverage on their balance sheets.

Banks are leveraged 20 to one and their portfolios are mainly composed of government bonds and mortgages, the founder of Sprott Asset Management Inc., said Friday at the SALT, or SkyBridge Alternatives, conference here.

"House prices keep going down, the number of people under water keeps getting worse," said Sprott, 66, who is chief executive officer of the Toronto-based firm.

"That leverage is going to work massively against anybody whose lender is in that area. The dominoes are starting to fall."

Sprott said the "ultimate event" is that savers will take their money out of banks and invest in precious metals such as gold, which he says is now the world's reserve currency.

Sprott, who earlier this month predicted gold may climb to $2,000 US an ounce before year's end, said he started buying the metal in 2000.

"If you're in Ireland today, you don't have any money in banks, particularly if you're non-Irish," he said.

"If you're in Greece, you're taking your money out. In Portugal, you probably have concerns. If you have a fear of the banking system, you go to things like gold." (read more)

Stock Market warning signs -- is a crash or crisis imminent?

It is been my belief that stocks and the economy have been locked in a secular bear market since March of 2000. During that period we've had two recessions and two cyclical bear markets. One of those recessions was the worst since the Great Depression and the last bear market in stocks was the second worst in history.

I've said all along that printing money will not cure the problem we've gotten ourselves into. It's never worked in history and it's not going to work this time either. We can't solve a problem of too much debt with more debt. All we will accomplish is to make the problem bigger.

We are now fast approaching the period when the next crisis should arrive.

On average the stock market suffers a major correction about every four years. In a secular bear market that cyclical trough arrives as the economy sinks into recession and a stock market bear bottoms out.

The last four year cycle bottom formed in March of `09. That just happened to be the longest four year cycle in history. I've noted before that long cycles are often followed by a short cycle that compensates for the extended nature or the prior cycle. If that's the case then the next four year cycle low is due sometime in 2012. (My best guess is in the fall).
(read more)

Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad takes over oil ministry temporarily -- and may head OPEC conference

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he has temporarily assumed the duties of the oil ministry, as the oil cartel OPEC prepares for a biannual meeting in Vienna.

"For now, I myself am the caretaker of the oil ministry," Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech late Sunday, without elaborating.

On Saturday, Ahmadinejad dismissed oil minister Masoud Mirkazemi, alongside two other ministers, whose portfolios are expected to be merged with other departments as part of a cabinet streamlining.

Then on Sunday, he appointed caretakers for the industry and social affairs ministries, but did not name anyone for the oil ministry which is to be integrated with the energy portfolio.

His decision to take charge of Iran's most-strategic sector came shortly before the 159th OPEC meeting scheduled for June 8 in Vienna, where the oil producers are represented by their ministers.

Mohammad Ali Khatibi, Iran's representative to OPEC, told AFP on Monday that the president would be eligible to chair the meeting.

"As he is the caretaker of the ministry, he may attend the (ministerial) meeting," he said in a telephone interview. (read more)

The £400 blood test that tells you how long you'll live

A blood test that can show how fast someone is ageing – and offers the tantalising possibility of estimating how long they have left to live – is to go on sale to the general public in Britain later this year.

The controversial test measures vital structures on the tips of a person's chromosomes, called telomeres, which scientists believe are one of the most important and accurate indicators of the speed at which a person is ageing.

Scientists behind the €500 (£435) test said it will be possible to tell whether a person's "biological age", as measured by the length of their telomeres, is older or younger than their actual chronological age.

Medical researchers believe that telomere testing will become widespread within the next five or 10 years, but there are already some scientists who question its value and whether there should be stronger ethical controls over its wider use. In addition to concerns about how people will react to a test for how "old" they really are, some scientists are worried that telomere testing may be hijacked by unscrupulous organisations trying to peddle unproven anti-ageing remedies and other fake elixirs of life. (read more)

McDonald’s to replace workers with robots -- what happened to all those miraculous McJobs?

McDonald’s is to change the way customers order its meals in Europe, partly replacing cashiers and the use of banknotes at its 7,000 fast-food restaurants in the region with touchscreen terminals and swipe cards.

“Ordering food has not changed for 30 or 40 years,” said Steve Easterbrook, president of McDonald’s Europe, in an interview with the Financial Times.

The move is part of the fast-food chain’s efforts to woo cash-strapped customers by making its restaurants more convenient and convivial. It is refurbishing stores, and introducing longer opening hours and new menus.

At a time when many retail and consumer companies are racking up sluggish or even shrinking sales in Europe, McDonald’s like-for-like sales rose 5.7 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter – the highest growth out of its three main geographic regions.

Mr Easterbrook said that the changes would make life easier for consumers as well as improve efficiency, with average transactions three to four seconds shorter for each customer. McDonald’s European stores serve 2m customers a day.

Weiky Filho, a student enjoying a burger at McDonald’s in Wimbledon, London, was in favour of the changes. “You don’t need to communicate with staff and it would be much quicker,” he said. (read more)

US Treasury to tap pensions to help fund government admit debt ceiling crisis

The Obama administration will begin to tap federal retiree programs to help fund operations after the government loses its ability Monday to borrow more money from the public, adding urgency to efforts in Washington to fashion a compromise over the debt.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has warned for months that the government would soon hit the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling — a legal limit on how much it can borrow. With the government poised to reach that limit Monday, Geithner is undertaking special measures in an effort to postpone the day when he will no longer have enough funds to pay all of the government’s bills.

Geithner, who has already suspended a program that helps state and local government manage their finances, will begin to borrow from retirement funds for federal workers. The measure won’t have an impact on retirees because the Treasury is legally required to reimburse the program.

The maneuver buys Geithner only a few months of time. If Congress does not vote by Aug. 2 to raise the debt limit, Geithner says the government is likely to default on some of its obligations, which he says would cause enormous economic harm and the suspension of government services, including the disbursal of Social Security funds. (read more)

Canadian cosmetics contain heavy metals: report

Many of the makeup products that Canadian women apply every day contain a number of toxic heavy metals – and some contain arsenic and lead levels that exceed Health Canada recommended limits.

That's what the Canadian environmental advocacy group Environmental Defence found when it submitted 49 makeup products to lab testing. The tests revealed heavy metals in all the products -- none of which were listed on the labels.

Almost all the heavy metals found were within limits set out in Health Canada's "Draft Guidance on Heavy Metal Impurities in Cosmetics." But Rick Smith, Environmental Defence's executive director, notes that those guidelines aren't even yet law; instead, they've been "sitting on a shelf" for more than two years.

Smith is now calling on Health Canada to tighten up those regulations and make cosmetic companies list all metals on their product labels because "Canadians deserve to know what is in their cosmetics."

"People shouldn't have to be chemical engineers when they shop for their cosmetics. We need better labelling with these kinds of toxic chemicals," he told CTV's Canada AM Monday morning. (read more)

Dominique Strauss-Kahn 'feared political opponent would pay a woman more than $1m to allege rape' - 16th May 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn feared that one of his political opponents would pay a woman more than $1million to say he raped her, it emerged today.

The extraordinary revelation emerged in Paris as the International Monetary Fund head remained in a New York police cell accused of launching a sex attack on a hotel maid.

A writer in the French capital has also come forward to say that the 62-year-old attempted to rape her a decade ago.

But as Strauss-Kahn faced a 15-year prison sentence - which would signify the end of his ambition to become French president next year - conspiracy theories abounded.

Liberation, the left-wing daily newspaper, published details on off-the-record comments made by Strauss-Kahn as recently as April 28th.

Discussing his plans to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy as Socialist candidate for the presidency in 2012, he said he imagined ‘a woman who had been raped in a car park and who was offered between €500,000 and €1,000,000 to make up such a story.’

Because he was the clear favourite to beat Mr Sarkozy, Strauss-Kahn feared he would be subjected to a smear campaign by the President and his Interior Minister, Glaude Gueant.

Such theories were bolstered by the fact that the first person to break the news of Strauss-Kahn’s arrest was an activist in Mr Sarkozy’s UMP party – who apparently knew about the scandal before it happened.

Jonathan Pinet, a politics student, tweeted the news just before the New York Police Department made it public, although he said that he simply had a ‘friend’ working at the Sofitel where the attack was said to have happened.

The first person to re-tweet Mr Pinet was Arnaud Dassier, a spin doctor who had previously publicised details of multi-millionaire Strauss-Kahn’s luxurious lifestyle in a bid to dent his left wing credentials.

Strauss-Kahn could just as easily been set up by rivals inside the IMF, as well as by rivals within the French political establishment. Read More

Sofyen Belamouadden, 15, Murdered after being 'Hunting down' By 5 Youths at Victoria Station in attack planned on Facebook - 16th May 2011

Five teenagers were facing jail today for the killing of a 15-year-old boy who was 'hunted down' and stabbed at a London Tube station in an attack planned on Facebook.

Rush-hour commuters looked on in horror as Sofyen Belamouadden was chased across a concourse at Victoria station in London by 20 youths charging at him with weapons including a samurai sword.

The schoolboy tumbled down a flight of stairs into an Underground ticket hall where he was surrounded, punched, kicked, and knifed repeatedly as he lay helpless on the floor.

Obi Nwoke, 18, and a 17-year-old youth were convicted of murder and three others found guilty of manslaughter by an Old Bailey jury.

One member of the gang, Samuel Roberts, told the court that he joined in the violence - captured on CCTV - simply because 'everyone else was doing it'.

The 'merciless' attack took just seconds, during which Sofyen was stabbed nine times with such ferocity that one blow cut through his heart and into his spine.

Mark Heywood QC, prosecuting, said: 'He was given no chance of life. So brazen and confident were his killers that they openly carried the various weapons that they used with them as they ran towards him and together hunted him down.'

The violence in March last year was the result of 'simmering tensions' between pupils from two west London schools, the court heard.

Sofyen, from Acton, west London, was targeted in revenge for a boy being given a bloody nose during a skirmish at the station the day before. Read More

Dominique Strauss-Kahn IMF Chief DENIED bail - 16th May

IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been denied bail after appearing in court charged with trying to rape a New York hotel maid.

A New York judge refused his attorney's $1 million bail offer and remanded him in custody.

Strauss-Kahn, a frontrunner for the French presidency, will reappear in court on Friday.

He had been due before the state judge on Sunday evening.

But the hearing was delayed to allow for DNA testing and examinations for other evidence including scratches on his body.

The 62-year-old, said to be looking very tired as he sat in the dock, had his irises scanned on entering the court this afternoon.

The court heard US prosecutors say he "engaged in similar conduct" once before and asked the judge to remand him in custody.

The Defence attorney proposed a $1 million bail but it was denied by the judge.

Strauss-Kahn was seen in New York on Sunday night as two detectives escorted him from a police station to a waiting car.

The 62-year-old, who was wearing handcuffs, was then driven to Manhattan Criminal Court.

The sex assault charges have thrown the IMF into turmoil just as it was trying to ease the growing euro zone debt crisis.

They have also turned the French presidential election campaign on its head after polls showed him to be a clear favourite.

The IMF chief is accused of sexually assaulting a maid at the $3,000-a-night Sofitel Hotel near New York’s Times Square on Saturday afternoon.

He had been staying there before a weekend trip to Europe to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Read More

Stephen Hawking: 'Heaven is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark' - 16th May 2011

Britain's most famous scientist has branded heaven and the afterlife ‘a fairy story’ for people afraid of death.

Stephen Hawking dismissed the idea that life continues after our body shuts down.

His comments came in reference to his own illness, motor neurone disease, which struck him down aged 21, leaving him almost paralysed.

The incurable illness was expected to kill Hawking within a few years of its first symptoms but he has said that it has allowed him to enjoy life more.

‘I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years,' he told The Guardian.

'I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first.

‘I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail.

'There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.’

As well as rejecting the idea of life after death, Hawking, 69, suggested everyone must live life to the fullest while they still have it.

When asked how we should live, he said: ‘We should seek the greatest value of our action.’

Hawking is the latest in a series of high-profile scientists publicly to dismiss the possibility of a deity existing.

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins is perhaps the most controversial.

Last year he had large adverts placed on the sides of London buses that read: 'There's probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy life.' Read More

Unknown disease kills 16, Including 14 Children in eastern Indian state Orissa - 16th May 2011

NEW DELHI, May 16 (Xinhua) -- An unknown disease has struck some villages in eastern Indian state Orissa's Malkangiri district killing at least 16 persons, including 14 children, over the last 10 days, reported the Press Trust of India on Monday.

The report quoted medical officers as saying a medical team has rushed to the area to take stock of the situation.

As the victims are afflicted with lumps on mouth and other parts of the body, the symptoms indicated that the disease could be Anthrax or malnutrition, according to the report.

The area is inaccessible and only link to the place is motor- launch across the Balimela reservoir. In the absence of medical care in the area, people mostly depend upon quacks and herbal treatment of diseases, according to the report. Source

TEPCO admits FULL nuclear meltdown occurred at Fukushima reactor 16 hours after quake -- nearly entire reactor's worth of fuel melted despite lies

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) admitted for the first time on May 15 that most of the fuel in one of its nuclear reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant had melted only about 16 hours after the March 11 earthquake struck a wide swath of northeastern Japan and triggered a devastating tsunami.

According to TEPCO, the operator of the crippled nuclear power plant, the emergency condenser designed to cool the steam inside the pressure vessel of the No. 1 reactor was working properly shortly after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake, but it lost its functions around 3:30 p.m. on March 11 when tsunami waves hit the reactor.

Based on provisional analysis of data on the reactor, the utility concluded that the water level in the pressure vessel began to drop rapidly immediately after the tsunami, and the top of the fuel began to be exposed above the water around 6 p.m. Around 7:30 p.m., the fuel was fully exposed above the water surface and overheated for more than 10 hours. At about 9 p.m., the temperature in the reactor core rose to 2,800 degrees Celsius, the melting point for fuel. At approximately 7:50 p.m., the upper part of the fuel started melting, and at around 6:50 a.m. on March 12, a meltdown occurred.

On the reason why it took over two months after the earthquake to reveal the information, TEPCO said it had only been able to start obtaining detailed data on the temperature and pressure in the reactor for analysis in early May.

Junichiro Matsumoto, a senior TEPCO official, said, "Because there is similar damage to the fuel rods at the No. 2 and 3 reactors, the bottoms of their pressure vessels could also have been damaged." He said the utility would carry out similar analysis on the two reactors. (read more)

Japan Meteorological Agency raises volcanic on Mount Aso to Level 2 - 16th May 2011

Link(image) Mount Aso is the Largest Active Volcano in Japan

Visitors to Japan have been told not to go within one kilometre of Mount Naka, after the volcanic activity at Mount Aso was raised from level one to level two.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), is concerned that debris from the active volcano could be launched from Mount Naka as well, the Associated Press reports.

Earlier today (May 16th), a small eruption was recorded, with a 500-metre high plume of volcanic smoke observed in the skies during the morning.

Mount Naka and Mount Aso are situated on Kyushu, Japan's third-largest island, and are they part of a range of five peaks in the central cone group.

The nearby Mount Nakadake is a popular tourist spot, but is often closed off due to the volcanic gases it emits from time to time, so travellers with respiratory problems are not recommended to visit this site. Source

Snow in May? - Rare May snowstorm sets back California cycling race - 16th May 2011

(Image) A snowman holds a sign along the route that would have been the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California cycling race.

A rare mid-May snowstorm forced organizers to cancel the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California cycling race on Sunday and move the start location of the second leg on Monday.

The beginning of the second stage Monday will now be in Nevada City, California, instead of Squaw Valley, organizers reported on their website.

The Amgen Tour of California is described as a Tour de France-type event and the largest cycling race in the country. The world's top cycling teams compete.

Officials changed the stage two start point after the snow forced the closure of the Donner Pass on Highway 80, the only exit from the High Sierra to California's Central Valley and a key section of the original stage two route, reported.

Race organizers canceled the first stage of the tour on Sunday when the storm dumped up to 7 inches of snow over some parts of the Lake Tahoe and Truckee areas, the reported.

Cyclists weren't the only ones with weather-related headaches.

About 1,800 Pacific Gas and Electric customers lost power on Sunday, the reported.

The area could see more snow down to the 2,400-foot level Monday night into Tuesday, Kathy Hoxie, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Sacramento, told the Union.

To the west, even the Bay Area saw snow from Sunday's storm. About three-quarters of an inch covered the top of 4,200-foot Mount Hamilton, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Source

US reaches $14 trillion debt ceiling and has now begun urgent move to cut spending to avoid breaching the limit: BREAKING NEWS

The US has reached its debt limit of $14.3 trillion (£8.6tn) and is taking measures to cut spending to avoid breaching it.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said that he will suspend investing into two large government pension funds.

This delays any breaching of the limit to 2 August.

Congress is currently negotiating an increase to the limit, without which the US risks defaulting on its debt.

"I have written to Congress on previous occasions regarding the importance of timely action to increase the debt limit in order to protect the full faith and credit of the United States and avoid catastrophic economic consequences for citizens," Mr Geithner said in a letter to Congress.

"I again urge Congress to act to increase the statutory debt limit as soon as possible." (read more)

China's Forbidden City now a club for the rich

Chinese officials have denied the Beijing palace that was once home to China's emperors is being used as a club for the rich.

Chinese media reports claim wealthy people can buy access to a restored section of the Forbidden City to entertain family and friends.

The reports have led to widespread criticism on the internet.

This is more bad publicity for the palace, following a break-in last week in which valuable items were stolen.

Media reports suggest wealthy people can buy membership to the exclusive club for $150,000 (£92,600).

This allows them access to the Forbidden City's Jianfu Palace, which translates as Palace of Established Happiness.

The Jianfu Palace was originally built in 1740 by the Emperor Qianlong. This section of the Chinese emperors' former home was destroyed in 1923 by fire started in mysterious circumstances.

It was painstakingly restored six years ago using money donated by a Hong Kong businessman. (read more)

Canada offered to aid Iraq invasion, then lied about it to people: WikiLeaks

The same day Canada publicly refused to join the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, a high-ranking Canadian official was secretly promising the Americans clandestine military support for the fiercely controversial operation.

The revelation that Canadian forces may have secretly participated in the invasion of Iraq is contained in a classified U.S. diplomatic memo obtained exclusively by CBC News from the whistleblower website WikiLeaks.

On March 17, 2003, two days before U.S. warplanes launched their attack on Baghdad, prime minister Jean Chrétien told the House of Commons that Canadian forces would not be joining what the administration of then U.S. president George W. Bush dubbed the "coalition of the willing."

Chrétien's apparent refusal to back the Bush administration's invasion, purportedly launched to seize weapons of mass destruction possessed by Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein (which were never found), was hugely popular in Canada, widely hailed as nothing less than a defining moment of national sovereignty.

But even as Chrétien told the Commons that Canada wouldn't participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Canadian diplomats were secretly telling their U.S. counterparts something entirely different.

The classified U.S. document obtained from WikiLeaks shows senior Canadian officials met that same day with high-ranking American and British diplomats at Foreign Affairs headquarters in Ottawa. (read more)

27 decapitated bodies found at a Guatemalan farm as drug war violence escalates in Latin America

Security forces in Guatemala have found 27 bodies, the majority of which were decapitated, at a farm in the northern region of Peten, Col. Rony Urizar, an army spokesman, said Sunday.

Among the victims were two women and 25 men, he said.

Peten is the northernmost part of Guatemala, which borders Mexico.

Urizar declined to say what might be behind the killings, but did not rule out the possibility they could be related to drug trafficking.

He said the military is assisting police in the investigation.

Guatemala has seen a significant spike in drug violence, including clashes between authorities and members of the Zetas drug cartel, Guatemalan Interior Minister Carlos Menocal told CNN en Espanol last year.

In December, the government declared a state of siege and sent hundred of troops to Alta Verapaz where officials say the Mexican drug gang is overtaking towns and threatening residents. Alta Verapaz is the region directly south of Peten.

More than 200,000 people have been killed in Guatemala since 1970, mostly as a result of organized crime, drug-trade violence and a 36-year civil war that ended in 1996.

The vast majority of murders in the country are never solved. (Source)

Chinese Children taken under guise of one-child policy and sent to be adopted abroad: The Real China #10

Forty-seven year old Yang Li Bing puffs on a cigarette as he shuffles through photos of a daughter he hasn’t seen in seven years.

“After she was taken in 2004, I could hardly sleep and I asked my wife if we could have another. But losing Yang Ling was too difficult," he says. "My wife left me.”

Yang is one of many poor farmers in the remote village of Gao Ping in China's Hunan province, where residents say the family-planning officials who enforce the country's one-child policy have seized at least 20 babies and sent them to orphanages to be adopted abroad.

Yang says he has little faith in the Communist Party’s ability to investigate misconduct by the local officials. After Yang went public with his story, other farmers came forward. The incidents all happened between 2002 and 2005. (read more)

Lifeguards in California earn $200,000 and $100,000 pensions -- despite having disastrous debt loads

High pay and benefits for lifeguards in Newport Beach is the latest example of frustrating levels of compensation for public employees. More than half the city’s full-time lifeguards are paid a salary of over $100,000 and all but one of them collect more than $100,000 in total compensation including benefits.

When thinking about career options with high salaries, lifeguarding is probably not one of the first jobs to come to mind. But it apparently should. In one of Orange County’s most desirable beach destinations, Newport Beach, lifeguards are compensated all too well; especially compared with the county annual median household income of $71,735.

It might be time for a career change.

According to a city report on lifeguard pay for the calendar year 2010, of the 14 full-time lifeguards, 13 collected more than $120,000 in total compensation; one lifeguard collected $98,160.65. More than half the lifeguards collected more than $150,000 for 2010 with the two highest-paid collecting $211,451 and $203,481 in total compensation respectively. Even excluding benefits like health care and pension, more than half the lifeguards receive a total salary, including overtime pay, exceeding $100,000. And they also receive an annual allowance of $400 for “Sun Protection.” Many work four days a week, 10 hours a day. (read more)

NASA Considers Lasers To Battle Space Junk

“Space junk” or debris has become an increasing threat to commercial satellites along with spacecraft and the International Space Station. Now NASA scientists may have a new option for reducing debris.

Collisions with debris, and the resulting damage, have the potential for being costly and difficult to repair.

During missions, astronauts aboard the International Space Station have had to take refuge in an escape capsule because they knew they were going to have a close encounter with space debris.

NASA scientists propose using a mid-power laser that could move the objects from their collision course. Unlike lasers that have been used in the past, this new laser would not be able to vaporize debris.

“Those lasers, when you shoot them all into space, are not capable of vaporizing or melting anything,” said scientist Creon Levit of the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View. “What they are capable of doing is giving a gentle push to space debris.”

This gentle push could move a piece of space debris about 650 feet a day, enough to avoid a collision.

Levit said 33 years ago, a NASA astronomer predicted we would be in this situation. He said most of the space junk is from earlier space launches when no one was concerned about debris control.

Levit says it is now the exact opposite.

“Nowadays when you launch something into space,” says Levit. “You have to have a debris mitigation plan.” (read more)

Global capitalism and 21st century fascism

The crisis of global capitalism is unprecedented, given its magnitude, its global reach, the extent of ecological degradation and social deterioration, and the scale of the means of violence. We truly face a crisis of humanity. The stakes have never been higher; our very survival is at risk. We have entered into a period of great upheavals and uncertainties, of momentous changes, fraught with dangers - if also opportunities.

I want to discuss here the crisis of global capitalism and the notion of distinct political responses to the crisis, with a focus on the far-right response and the danger of what I refer to as 21st century fascism, particularly in the United States.

Facing the crisis calls for an analysis of the capitalist system, which has undergone restructuring and transformation in recent decades. The current moment involves a qualitatively new transnational or global phase of world capitalism that can be traced back to the 1970s, and is characterised by the rise of truly transnational capital and a transnational capitalist class, or TCC. Transnational capital has been able to break free of nation-state constraints to accumulation beyond the previous epoch, and with it, to shift the correlation of class and social forces worldwide sharply in its favour - and to undercut the strength of popular and working class movements around the world, in the wake of the global rebellions of the 1960s and the 1970s.

Emergent transnational capital underwent a major expansion in the 1980s and 1990s, involving hyper-accumulation through new technologies such as computers and informatics, through neo-liberal policies, and through new modalities of mobilising and exploiting the global labour force - including a massive new round of primitive accumulation, uprooting, and displacing hundreds of millions of people - especially in the third world countryside, who have become internal and transnational migrants.

We face a system that is now much more integrated, and dominant groups that have accumulated an extraordinary amount of transnational power and control over global resources and institutions. (read more)

The Planned-opolis: environmentally-friendly urban planning or tool of fascism?

Shale gas drilling 'contaminates drinking water': Study -- Naaah, really?

Shale gas drilling operations increase the risk of nearby drinking water becoming contaminated with methane, a study has suggested.

Researchers found, on average, methane concentrations 17 times above normal in samples taken near drilling sites.

Growing demand for energy has led to a sharp increase in shale gas extraction around the globe, prompting concerns about the impact of the technology.

The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We found surprising levels of methane in home-owners' wells that were close to natural gas wells, " co-author Rob Jackson, Nicholas Professor of Global Change at Duke University, North Carolina, explained.

"We found that within a kilometre of an active gas well, you were much more likely to have high methane concentrations," he told BBC News.

The team from Duke University collected samples from 68 private water wells in the north-eastern states of Pennsylvania and New York.

"We found some extremely high concentrations of methane: 64 milligrams of methane per litre of drinking water, compared with a normal level of one milligram or lower," Professor Jackson observed.

"That sort of concentration is up at a level where people worry about an explosion hazard."

Videos are available on the web that appear to show people setting fire to water pouring out of a tap, and Professor Jackson said that he had witnessed such an spectacle himself. (read more)

Danilo Restivo, 39 with fetish for cutting women's hair ‘murdered and mutilated mother-of-two with a knife and left body for children to find’

A man with a hair fetish murdered and mutilated a seamstress with the same 'hallmark' method he used to kill a teenager in Italy, a court heard today.

Italian national Danilo Restivo, 39, is alleged to have entered the flat of his neighbour Heather Barnett in Bournemouth, Dorset, in 2002, bludgeoned her with a hammer and cut her throat down to the spinal column.

He then cut off the breasts of Mrs Barnett, 48, and put them by her head, while leaving a clump of someone else's hair in her right hand and some of her own underneath her left hand, Winchester Crown Court heard.

The jury was told the manner in which Mrs Barnett was murdered could be considered Restivo's hallmark, and linked the killing to the murder of 16-year-old Elisa Claps in Potenza, Italy, in 1993.

Michael Bowes QC, prosecuting, explained that Restivo, who then lived in Potenza, had arranged to meet Miss Claps at the Most Holy Trinity Church on September 12, 1993. The teenager was never seen again. Her body was discovered in a loft of the church almost 17 years later on March 17 last year.

The barrister said that there were 'a number of striking similarities' between the two murders.

'In particular, next to her body there were locks of her own hair which had been cut from her head shortly after her death,' Mr Bowes said.

'In addition, Elisa Clap's trousers and pants were lowered to the same level as those of Heather Barnett and Elisa Clap's bra was cut or broken at the front in the same way as Heather Barnett's bra.'

Mr Bowes explained to the jury that they did not have to establish Restivo's guilt of the murder of Miss Claps but the similarities provided 'powerful evidence' that he was the person who murdered Mrs Barnett. Read More

Deyan Valentinov Deyanov had a Warrant Issued for his Arrest THREE DAYS before he Beheaded Jennifer Mills-Westley - 16th May 2011

A maniac who beheaded a British grandmother in Tenerife was wanted by police at the time of the horrific attack, it emerged today.

An arrest warrant for Deyan Deyanov, 28, had been issued three days before he brutally murdered Jennifer Mills-Westley, 60, in a shop in the resort of Los Cristianos.

A magistrate said he should be detained for examination by a psychiatrist after a previous attack on a shop security guard.

But police officers failed to bring in the killer, who was well-known on the streets of the resort, before he pursued and brutally murdered Mrs Mills-Westley.

The mayor of the region even said Deyanov should have been locked up earlier. Jose Albert Gonzalez Reveron said: 'This person was well known to police and had been involved in very many altercations.

'I don't dare to talk about police negligence, but everyone would like him to have been detained earlier.

'He should have been in a psychiatric hospital.' The mayor described the murder as 'The most tragic and horrific crime we've seen here in the last 30 years.'

He spoke out after CCTV of the Deyanov emerged of the vagrant asking for a knife and explaining what he was about to do in a Tenerife store.

It shows a wild-eyed Deyanov holding his hands wide apart and saying: ‘I want a knife this big – I’m going to kill someone.’

Unable to obtain a knife, he left and went to a Chinese souvenir shop where, 20 minutes later, he snatched a knife from the shelf and attacked Mrs Mills-Westley. Read More

The final countdown: Endeavour prepares for blastoff on last ever mission - 16th May 2011

Space Shuttle Endeavour is being prepared to blast off on it's final mission today - after a heater problem delayed launch two weeks ago.

If all goes to plan the shuttle should set off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida to the International Space Station at just after 8.56am (1.56pm UK time).

It is to be Endeavour's 25th and final mission. After returning to earth in 16 days time she will be retired to a Los Angeles museum.

But it's no routine mission. Endeavour will be carrying her most expensive payload ever - a $2billion particle physics experiment known as the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) designed to probe the unknown reaches of space and help us understand the secrets of the universe.

The seven-ton machine, which was built through a collaboration of 16 nations, will carry out a comprehensive survey of cosmic rays as it studies the universe with, scientists hope, far more detail than is possible from earth.

The AMS project involved 600 physicists in 60 research organizations around the world and is spearheaded by Nobel laureate Samuel Ting of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

It will test the long-standing Big Bang theory - by checking for any large quantities of anti-matter - which theorists suspect was created when the universe was born.

It will also be used to examine the nature of dark matter, the material that makes up most of the universe.

Scientists hope it might help them to understand how the Universe came into being and how it is constructed? Read More

Live TV : Ustream

Hunt for the cat killer: Mystery as 12 pets are slaughtered or kidnapped in quiet cul-de-sac - 16th May 2011

Police and RSPCA officers are hunting a serial cat poisoner who is believed to have killed 12 pets in a quiet residential cul-de-sac.

Nine cats have been poisoned, one has been kicked to death, and two are missing presumed dead in the cul-de-sac in Harleston, Norfolk.

Most owners are now too scared to let their cats leave home, with one animal lover even moving house, while a poster campaign has been launched to warn the killer off.

Cat lover Shirley Wilson, 61, began the campaign after her beloved pet Fudge died from injuries which a vet described as a 'brutal kick'.

She said: 'Some people hate cats with a vengeance, but how twisted must you be to use poison? At least ten died a horrific death and others have gone missing.

'A vet carried out autopsies on four of them and diagnosed anti-freeze poisoning.

'We have our suspicions as to who is responsible and they definitely aren't natural deaths.

'I have told the police and I'm putting up posters around the area. We don't want to point a finger but people need to be warned.

Everyone is too scared to let their cats roam free now - my neighbours are keeping theirs indoors and I wouldn't risk getting another while I live here.'

Shirley has used pictures of the nine most recently killed cats to create a warning poster which she has stuck to trees and lampposts along the road.

She claims that someone is deliberately poisoning the cats which have all died along the quiet, leafy road of just thirty homes. Read More

Christopher Pearce, 68, 'I raped a child hundreds of times' - Ex-prison officer walks up to policeman to confess 20 YEARS after attacks -16th May 2011

A former prison officer has been jailed after confessing to raping a girl hundreds of times 20 years ago.

Christopher Pearce, 68, began indecently assaulting the child from the age of six and then began raping her from the age of 10, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

Now, two decades on and after finding out that the woman had tried to kill herself that this year he decided to confess.

On January 2 this year he walked up to a police car in Amble, Northumberland, and told officers: 'I want to confess to child abuse 20 years ago.'

He admitted to between 100 and 200 rapes and a series of indecent assaults.

Pearce, of North Broomhill, Northumberland was a respected member of the community and worked at Acklington Prison, in Northumberland during his career.


In a statement setting out the effect of the abuse, the victim, now an adult, said: 'This has affected my whole life.

'I have had this secret for my whole life and I'm not able to have a proper relationship with a man.'

Pearce hung his head as he listened to the case outlined against him in court.

As well as the abuse he also made her watch pornography. After speaking to the victim on New Year's Day and finding out she had taken an overdose, Pearce decided it was time to confess.

He then told his wife then went out looking for a policeman to hand himself in.

Amanda Ripon, prosecuting, said: 'He found a police car going about its business in the street in Amble, near where he lived.

'He said, "I want to confess to child abuse 20 years ago" and said he had raped her.

'He accepted he must have raped her 100 to 200 times over about five or six years. He couldn't explain his actions but said he needed to confess to make sure she got closure.'

Jailing him up for 12 years, Judge Esmond Faulks said as a former prison officer, Pearce's time inside would be particularly onerous.

The judge said: 'As an ex-prison officer going to prison will make life difficult for you.' Read More