Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Police threaten CNN journalist at Joplin, Missouri near tornado devestation site -- strangely, they're guarding a "secret morgue" for victims

Insane police brutality at Jefferson Memorial -- behave as they want, or you will be punished

Risking it all: The children river traders of Brazil (Must-watch film, just 25 min)

There is a unique commerce system at work along the narrowest stretch of the Tajaparu River in Amazonia, northern Brazil.

This is where the boats pass close to the shore, and the best place for the little canoes to do business.

Children are seen working the river traffic, weaving in and out among the boats, a ferry's propeller churning fast just below them.

Jesse, 14 and Lisette, 11, are among those who risk death just to make a few pennies selling sweets and jams.

"Be careful. Get on in front. Put this way. Put the rope this side. The swirl's too strong. The canoe will tip over. I'm not going to let it go under," shouts one of the children in a boat alongside a speeding ferry.

The best-selling item is the ingas, a jungle fruit that is only found around this stretch of the river and which is much in demand with the passengers on the ferries.

But it is a dangerous harvest. It is found only at the top of some trees, often more than 30 metres above ground. Four ingas sell for one real, barely $0.25.

About a dozen canoes have attached themselves to the Bom Jesus. The ship's captain Santos maintains speed, but he has a schedule to keep to.

And he is worried about how young some of the children who board his ferry are. (read more)

Libya: Coalition forces prepare two-pronged blitz to finish off Gaddafi as crisis deepens

British, French and other Nato forces were on Saturday night preparing a two-pronged blitz to try to finish off Col Gaddafi as already slender hopes for a peaceful resolution to the Libyan crisis faded.

The first daytime bombing raid on the Libyan capital Tripoli on Saturday morning heralded a new stage in the military campaign against the Gaddafi regime.

It hit a military storage base in the centre of Tripoli that has been subject of repeated raids all week.

But a military spokesman said a separate mission the night before had taken out watchtowers on the leadership's Bab al-Azizia compound and threatened to begin opening up its miles of bleak green-painted concrete walls up by precision bombing.

"Last night's action sends a powerful message to the regime's leadership and to those involved in delivering Colonel Gaddafi's attacks on civilians that they are no longer hidden away from the Libyan people behind high walls," Major-General John Lorimer, spokesman for the chief of defence staff, said.

On Saturday evening, it appeared the regime was attempting to open back-door channels to negotiate with the British government. (read more)

Melon-sized hail that fell during a severe thunderstorm in Norman, Oklahoma?


If a machine can sign for the President, could Sasha, too?

Forget what you learned in civics class back in high school. It turns out a bill doesn't have to be signed by the president to become law. A machine can sign it for him.

Pres. Obama was 3,700 miles from the White House at the G8 Summit in Deauville, France, when Congress voted final passage of a bill to extend the life of three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, provisions deemed important by the president.

There was no way to get the bill signed by Mr. Obama in France before the Thursday midnight deadline, so aides say he authorized his staff secretary to use the "autopen" to sign the bill for him.

"Failure to sign this legislation poses a significant risk to U.S. national security," said Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest. "Congress approved the extension, and the president directed the use of the autopen to sign it."

The "autopen" is a device used by the White House for decades to sign the million Christmas cards a president sends out each year. It's used by political committees to appeal on the president's name for contributions.

But this is the first time that we know of an "autopen" was used to sign legislation into law. And it raises the question: is it legal?

See what Article 1, Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution says:

"Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approves he shall sign it..."

It says "he shall sign it." It doesn't say he can have an aide use a mechanical device to affix a facsimile of his signature to the legislation. (read more)

TSA Thug Grabs Crotch of Wounded Vet

Two injured US military veterans traveling to a ceremony to honor the lives of fallen friends who gave their lives to protect the rights enshrined in the Constitution were harassed by TSA thugs, with one of them having his crotch grabbed, according to David Bellow, an Army National Guardsman and a State Republican Executive Committeeman.

“One of the wounded warriors, a friend of mine who personally told me what happened, has bullet fragments in his leg. The other wounded warrior has shrapnel in his face,” wrote Bellow on the Texas GOP Vote website.

The TSA agents responded to the men having set off metal detectors by interrogating them about what they were hiding in their bodies. “What are you hiding in your face?” screamed one.

“My friend told me that one TSA agent came up to him and asked what he was hiding in his leg, but before my friend could answer he said that the TSA agent grabbed him, without notice, right in the crotch area as if trying to find something hidden,” writes Bellow.

When the TSA goon grabbed his crotch and didn’t let go, the veteran felt inclined to lash out violently but was somehow able to control his fury. (read more)

Utah To Follow Texas Lead In TSA Grope-down Revolt

Utah looks likely to be the next state to follow the example set by Texas in attempting to make TSA grope downs a felony.

Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman has introduced a bill into the Utah House of Representatives that would ensure TSA agents would have to abide by the same Fourth Amendment limits that police do when performing searches on Americans.

“It is a work in progress,” Wimmer told the Utah Daily Herald. “What it would do right now is simply say TSA agents are not exempt from the requirement of reasonable suspicion or probable cause to pat down a citizen.”

Like the bill that was recently unanimously passed in the Texas House, Wimmer’s legislation would make it an offense to touch the private parts of the person on the receiving end of the pat-down.

As we reported yesterday, the man who was instrumental in working with the federal government to sabotage the Texas bill was Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a former CIA agent and establishment insider considered to be the wealthiest man in Texas politics.

The bill stalled in the Texas Senate, after the Department of Justice sent a letter threatening to impose a no fly zone over Texas and shut down Texas airports. The warning was nothing short of a federal blockade and an act of financial terrorism.

Rep. Wimmer, a long time champion of states rights, told the Utah Daily Herald that it is untrue that the federal government has supremacy over the state of Texas in the matter.

“The absolute overbearing audacity of the federal government in threatening Texas while Texas is trying to protect their citizens should really offend any red-blooded American,” Wimmer said, adding that the issue has been transformed from solely a Fourth Amendment concern to an assault on the Tenth Amendment and states rights. (read more)

Hundreds of trafficked children are disappearing from the care system Government and social services departments accused of failing to protect victims

Hundreds of children who have been trafficked into the UK are disappearing each year from the care system, amid allegations that government and local authorities are failing to protect them.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, a government agency, estimates that at least 300 juveniles identified as trafficked have disappeared from local authority care over the past three years.

Collated figures from the NSPCC yesterday showed they had dealt with 549 trafficked children in the past three-and-a-half years, although there was no indication of how many had since disappeared after being delivered into care.

Charities have urged the government to adopt a scheme successfully piloted in Scotland, in which guardians are appointed to act as advocates and points of contact for all children believed to have been trafficked. The government has so far rejected proposals to extend the scheme to England. "Guardianship is an essential cost-effective way to prevent children from going missing from care," said Christine Beddoe, director of child protection charity Ecpat UK.

"It would ensure that victims of child trafficking now in care have access to the safe housing, education and legal support which would prevent them slipping back into the hands of their exploiters."

A policy document by the Conservatives in 2008 estimated that "over half of trafficked children disappear from social services". The document also criticised the absence of "safe accommodation" providing 24-hour care for trafficked children. But concern is growing that the party has little appetite to tackle the issue now it is in power.

Home Office sources have suggested that a forthcoming strategy paper on human trafficking is unlikely to include a specific section on child trafficking, an omission that will infuriate campaigners. "We have worked tirelessly with government officials over the past five years to develop a national action plan and a robust protection framework for child victims of trafficking," said Beddoe.

"To see this washed away almost overnight is a scandal. It's as if the Home Office have shredded all the facts and figures." Read More

A euro debt default 'inevitable' and the crisis could be heading through Spain to France. - 28th May 2011

Former Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee member David "Danny" Blanchflower tells Robert Miller that a failure by the ECB to tackle the debt problems in the Euro zone means a default is inevitable and that the crisis could be heading through Spain to France.


Ibiza forest fire forces Brit tourists to flee the holiday island - 28th May 2011

AS the worst forest fire in Ibiza’s history raged on yesterday, it sparked a mass exodus of tourists from the Spanish holiday island.

Brits are among 800 holidaymakers and locals evacuated from hotels and homes, as 500 firefighters and 15 water-dumping planes continued to battle the blaze, which began on Wednesday.

The inferno has already devastated 5,000 acres of pine forest in the north of the party island. The towns of Sant Joan de Labritja, Portinatx and Cala de Sant Vicent have also been badly hit. So far there are no reported injuries.

A 50-year-old Spanish national is in police custody facing charges of negligence. It is thought the man, originally from Argentina, started the fire with a smoker he was using on a beehive.

A police spokesman said: “A spark fell at the moment that the fire started.” Source

Fact or Fiction: Lights appeared in the sky's of Moldavia, Eastern Europe - UFO's or Lanterns? - 27th May 2011

Angela Hoyte Asked police for protection from ex-boyfriend just four days before she was found murdered - 28th May 2011

A terrified charity worker pleaded with police to protect her from her abusive ex-boyfriend just days before she was killed.

Police have launched a manhunt after Angela Hoyte was found strangled at her Hertfordshire home on Tuesday - four days after the Red Cross worker asked police for a restraining order against Martin Collett.

Canadian Miss Hoyte, 34, who moved to the UK in 1999, had been in an on-off relationship with Mr Collett for several years.

According to the Daily Mirror, she ended their relationship once and for all last week, but was forced to seek help after he allegedly became abusive.

Police broke into Miss Hoyte's home in Hatfield on Tuesday after her twin sister, who lives in Ontario, Canada, became concerned. Detectives say she could have lain dead since Sunday evening.

Officers are now combing woodland around Hatfield House - a short distance from Miss Hoyte's home - in the hope of tracking down Mr Collett. Read More

French Aid Workers Kidnapped In Yemen - 28th May 2011

Three French aid workers are believed to have been kidnapped in southern Yemen, according to reports.

The two women and a man went missing in the country's southern province of Hadramount on Saturday afternoon, a local security official has said.

The French Foreign Ministry has confirmed that the three are missing but has said it is unclear whether they have been abducted.

It said: "We confirm that we are aware of the disappearance of some French citizens in Yemen. We are talking about three people.

"We are not yet in a position to say whether they have been kidnapped."

Security forces are combing the area for the missing workers, who are believed to have been seized after leaving a restaurant.

Kidnappings of Western tourists or workers by tribes seeking ransom or concessions from the government have been frequent in Yemen, one of the poorest Arab countries.

Most of the hostages have been freed unharmed.

The local official said the three work for an organisation called Triangle Generation Humanitaire which has operations in Yemen including aiding Somali refugees and helping provide clean water in the southern port of Aden. Source

Nato forces including RAF Typhoons have successfully targeted Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli - 28th May 2011

Nato forces including RAF Typhoons have carried out air strikes on Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's compound in the capital, Tripoli.

The explosions followed a fifth straight night of air strikes and signal a possible switch in tactics by the forces trying to end Colonel Gaddafi's 41-year reign.

"RAF Typhoons, along with other Nato aircraft, last night used precision-guided weapons to bring down guard towers along the walls of Colonel Gaddafi's Bab Al Aziziyah complex in the centre of Tripoli," said Chief of the Defence Staff Strategic Communications Officer, said Major General John Lorimer.

"For decades, Colonel Gaddafi has hidden from the Libyan people behind these walls, spreading terror and crushing opposition.

"The massive compound has not just been his home, but is also a major military barracks and headquarters, and lies at the heart of his network of secret police and intelligence agencies.

"Previous Nato attacks have hit command and control and other military facilities within the complex.

"Last night's action sends a powerful message to the regime's leadership and to those involved in delivering Colonel Gaddafi's attacks on civilians that that they are no longer hidden away from the Libyan people behind high walls. Read More

Beaches Open again Benidorm as More than a Tonne of Dangerous Jellyfish are Removed - 28th May 2011

MADRID - AUTHORITIES in the Spanish tourist hotspot of Benidorm said on Friday they have reopened its beaches to tourists after removing more than a tonne of dangerous jellyfish.

The authorities posted red flags on the beaches on Wednesday after strong currents brought shoals of the creatures close to the shore of the Mediterranean resort.

The head of the city's department of the environment, Mariola Fluvia, said the beaches were reopened after workers removed the jellyfish on Thursday.

'Currents are pushing the jellyfish away from our shores' and municipal authorities 'want to reassure bathers and users of our beaches because we hope that during the day (the jellyfish) will move away completely from our shores,' the municipality said in a statement. Shoals of jellyfish drift close to Spanish Mediterranean shores every year.

Experts say increasing numbers can be a sign of rising water temperatures but that overfishing of their natural predators also plays a part. Source

Report: Some areas in China under martial law after protests -- is China beginning to tear at the seams?

In an apparent response to days of protests, Chinese authorities have declared martial law in parts of the northeast's inner Mongolia autonomous region, according to Amnesty International.

The region has long been the scene of ethnic tension between Mongolians, who have lived in the area for centuries, and the Han people, who arrived in larger numbers after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Han people are the majority ethnic group in China.

In the report released Friday, Amnesty International detailed protests in and around the city of Xilinhot.

CNN contacted officials in the affected areas, but they declined to comment.

According to the human rights organization, 2,000 Mongolian students took to the streets Wednesday in Xilinhot, in a show of solidarity with an ethnic Mongolian herder by the name of "Mergen," who was killed earlier this month when he was hit by a coal truck that was driven by ethnic Hans.

Amnesty reported that the drivers of the coal truck are both in custody of Chinese authorities.

In a clip posted to YouTube that purports to show that same demonstration, a large group of people, many of whom are young people wearing school uniforms, can be seen walking through the streets.

The students were marching toward the building that houses the regional government, shouting, "defend our land and defend our rights, according to the New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center. The group refers to the area as "southern" -- not "inner" -- Mongolia, and would like to see the region achieve independence or merge with Mongolia. (read more)

$500 Million Obama Administration Program Will Help Kids 'Sit Still' in Kindergarten

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told on Wednesday that the administration's new $500 million early learning initiative is designed to deal with children from birth onward to prevent such problems as 5-year olds who "can't sit still" in a kindergarten classroom.

“You really need to look at the range of issues, because if a 5-year-old can’t sit still, it is unlikely that they can do well in a kindergarten class, and it has to be the whole range of issues that go into healthy child development,” Sebelius said during a telephone news conference on Wednesday to announce the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge.

Sebelius and Education Secretary Arne Duncan jointly announced the $500-million program, which will provide competitive grants to states to address issues affecting educational outcomes for children from birth to age 5.

On the conference call, asked: “What were the current problems that were found with the health, social and emotional development for children ages birth to 5?”

Sebelius, adding on to comments from Asst. Education Secretary Joan Lombardi, pointed to studies done in her home state of Kansas, where she served as governor. “When we looked at 5-year olds--and we tested about half the 5-year-olds in a relatively homogeneous state like Kansas -- and found that about half of them were not ready for kindergarten at age 5," Sebelius said.

"And some of those skills were missing: readiness for their math or reading," she said. "A number of children were missing the social and developmental skills which would allow them to sit in a classroom or play with others or listen to a teacher for any period of time. So I think it was an indicator that you couldn’t just test curriculum readiness.” (read more)

Father Riccardo Seppia, in charge of Pope's pedophilia investigation... has been charged with pedophilia

The latest sex-abuse case to rock the Catholic Church is unfolding in the archdiocese of an influential Italian Cardinal who has been working with Pope Benedict XVI on reforms to respond to prior scandals of pedophile priests.

Father Riccardo Seppia, a 51-year-old parish priest in the village of Sastri Ponente, near Genoa, was arrested last Friday, May 13, on pedophilia and drug charges. Investigators say that in tapped mobile-phone conversations, Seppia asked a Moroccan drug dealer to arrange sexual encounters with young and vulnerable boys. "I do not want 16-year-old boys but younger. Fourteen-year-olds are O.K. Look for needy boys who have family issues," he allegedly said. Genoa Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, who is the head of the Italian Bishops Conference, had been working with Benedict to establish a tough new worldwide policy, released this week, on how bishops should handle accusations of priestly sex abuse. (read more)

Derek Lopez, eighth grader, shot dead by cop, Daniel Alvorado, after "scaring the officer"

Between March 2006 and November 2010, Officer Daniel Alvarado of San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District Police was suspended four times. Four times he was informed by supervisors that he faced “immediate termination.” For some reason, when it came time to fire Alvarado, his superiors just couldn’t bring themselves to pull the trigger. Alvarado displayed no similar scruples on November 12, 2010, when he murdered 14-year-old Derek Lopez, who had just taken part in a brief scuffle with another student.

Owing to his own troubled past, Lopez was a student at the Bexar County Juvenile Justice Academy. At around 4:30 PM on the fatal day, Lopez sucker-punched a 13-year-old classmate at a bus stop.

“He just hit me once,” the student later recalled in a sworn deposition. “It wasn’t a fight. It was nothing.”

Unfortunately, Alvarado happened to be prowling the intersection in his patrol car, and witnessed the trivial dust-up.

“Freeze!” Alvarado shouted at Lopez, who bolted from the scene. Alvarado, in his mid-40s, briefly gave token pursuit before relating the first of several self-serving falsehoods.

“I just had one run from me,” wheezed the winded tax-feeder. “I saw an assault in progress. He punched the guy several times.” (Emphasis added.)

A supervisor instructed Alvarado “not [to] do any big search over there” in pursuit of the assailant. “Let’s stay with the victim and see if we can identify [the suspect] that way.”

Rather than doing as he was ordered, Alvarado bundled the “victim” — who was probably more terrified of the armed functionary than of his obnoxious classmate — into the patrol car and went in pursuit of Lopez.

Lopez vaulted a nearby fence and hid in a backyard shed containing Christmas decorations. The homeowner saw the intrusion, and a neighbor flagged down Alvarado’s patrol car. The officer drew his gun “when he came up the driveway,” recalled the homeowner. Within a minute or so, a single gunshot resonated through the neighborhood. When asked by the horrified homeowner what had happened, Alvarado — who reportedly looked “dazed or distant” — replied that Lopez “came at me.”

“The suspect bull rushed his way out of the shed and lunged right at me,” the timorous creature later claimed in an official report. “The suspect was literally inches away from me, and I feared for my own safety.”(Emphasis added.)

Alvarado was lying, of course. An autopsy revealed “no evidence of close range firing [on] the wound,” and no gunpowder stains were found on the victim’s bloody t-shirt. (read more)

Housing Collapse to Spark Second Financial Meltdown?

The housing meltdown hasn’t ended yet, and it could ultimately spark another financial crisis, says renowned bond fund manager Jeffrey Gundlach, CEO of DoubleLine Capital.

“The housing market is dropping . . . and about to go to a new low," he tells CNBC. "I think we're looking at some type of echo in the credit crisis coming up here. That's what I'm afraid of."

He notes that the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index is approaching a new trough. The index measuring prices in 20 major cities dropped 3.3 percent in February from a year earlier, the biggest decline since November 2009.

At 139.27, the index has almost reached its six-year low of 139.26 set in April 2009. And Gundlach isn’t the only one worried about that development.

“There is very little, if any, good news about housing,” David Blitzer, chairman of the Case-Shiller index committee at S&P, said in a statement accompanying the latest report. “The 20-city composite is within a hair’s breadth of a double-dip.”

Another ominous sign: the ABX Index of subprime mortgage securities has slid about 20 percent in the past few months, with most of the drop coming in the last three months, Gundlach says.

In addition to falling prices, the amount of time it takes to sell a foreclosed property has ballooned to 26 months, Gundlach says. That means it will take longer to get out of the mess, he and others point out.

“Housing will continue to lag the recovery until foreclosures abate,” Sal Guatieri, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, tells Bloomberg.

The amount of non-performing mortgage loans remain huge, Gundlach says, with Bank of America, for example, holding $200 billion of bad loans. “If we start talking about recovery rates that are low on $200 billion, you start to say 'Uh-oh.'”

Foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday that sales of homes in some stage of foreclosure declined in the first three months of the year, but they still accounted for 28 percent of all home sales — a share nearly six times higher than what it would be in a healthy housing market. (read more)

"Too poor to eat" -- is the West becoming impoverished?

A heartbreaking BBC documentary, Poor Kids, from the award-winning producer Brian Woods, documents the lives of just a few of the 3.5 million children living in poverty in this country. It shows hungry children going to the fridge, only to be greeted by a single tub of margarine, a half-drunk carton of milk and an open tin of chopped tomatoes.

It made me ashamed of all the times I've said there was nothing to eat in the house. My idea of 'nothing' could easily include multiple jars of gourmet jams, olives, capers, several pristine packets of French unsalted butter, yogurts, a serviceable head of broccoli, juices, oddments of parmesan… The film powerfully brings home that those of us with employment and comfort have little idea how the other half lives.

Take Courtney, an eight-year-old in Bradford. She is the eldest of three girls of a single mother, who really struggles. We see Courtney eating supper: a giant flabby sausage roll. No veg. What did she have for breakfast, the film-makers ask? 'Nowt,' she replies.

One in five families in poverty reports regularly skipping meals, the film says. I suspect the true figure is higher, given the shame involved in confessing you can't feed yourself. Courtney gets free school lunches, but in the holidays her mother often manages just one meal, with the odd jam doughnut in between. Sam, 11, from Leicester, describes what it's like when he's not had lunch. 'I'll go, "Yeah, I'm not hungry," and I'll save up my hunger for when dinner comes.'

Sam is one of the lucky ones in that his father has the skills and motivation to cook regular hot meals. We see him dicing carrots and keeping various pans on the boil. Sam's mother walked out when he was two and, since then, his father has coped alone with Sam and his 16-year-old sister, Kayleigh. Life isn't easy. Kayleigh attempted suicide a couple of years ago and Sam gets bullied at school for wearing his sister's hand-me-down blouses. (read more)

How the euro crisis end game might look

After the fiasco of Collateralised Debt Obligations, anything the clowns of the credit-rating agencies have to say about Europe's sovereign debt crisis deserves to be taken with a sack full of salt.

Unfortunately, continued use of ratings for regulatory and asset allocation purposes ensures they remain as powerful a force as ever.

Having largely failed to warn about the dangers of eurozone debt, Standard & Poor's has upheld a long tradition of making a bad situation worse by putting Italy on negative credit watch, thereby generating a fresh bout of nerves in already dangerously unsettled markets. There were other contributing factors, obviously, but S&P's missive scarcely helped.

To repeatedly – and ridiculously, given that the horse has long since bolted – downgrade Greece, Ireland and Portugal is one thing, but to target Europe's third-largest economy is another entirely. Spain and Italy had been regarded as relatively stable, but both are now being made to look ever more vulnerable. For either of them to be denied access to markets would surely test European appetite for bail-outs to breaking point.

It's no part of a rating agency's job to support the euro, but actually Italy makes an odd choice to be put on negative watch. True enough, the country already has very high net public indebtedness at some 116pc of GDP. The crisis of the past three years has wiped out all the work Italy achieved in the previous decade in managing down its debt.

Yet if the eurozone periphery crisis is seen as essentially a banking crisis which has transmogrified into a sovereign debt crisis, then Italy has little to worry about. Its banking sector is quite small relative both to others and to the size of the Italian economy. (read more)

US debt, if stacked in $1000 bills, would stretch beyond stratosphere

President Ronald Reagan once famously said that a stack of $1,000 bills equivalent to the U.S. government's debt would be about 67 miles high.

That was 1981. Since then, the national debt has climbed to $14.3 trillion. In $1,000 bills, it would now be more than 900 miles tall.

In $1 bills, the pile would reach to the moon and back twice.

The United States hit its legal borrowing limit on Monday, and the Treasury Department has said the U.S. Congress must raise the debt ceiling by August 2 to avoid a default.

The White House is trying to hammer out a deal with lawmakers to cut federal spending in exchange for a debt-limit increase.

Most people have trouble conceptualizing $14.3 trillion.

Stan Collender, a budget expert at Qorvis Communications, said the biggest sum most Americans have ever handled -- in real or play money -- is the $15,140 in the original, standard Monopoly board game.

The United States borrows about 185 times that amount each minute. (read more)

Bacteria 'linked' to Parkinson's disease

The bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers have been linked to Parkinson's disease, according to researchers in the US.

Mice infected with Helicobacter pylori went onto develop Parkinson's like symptoms.

The study, presented at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, argues that infection could play "a significant role".

The charity Parkinson's UK said the results should be treated with caution.

Parkinson's disease affects the brain and results in slow movements and a tremor.

Middle-aged mice, the equivalent of being between 55 and 65 in humans, were infected. Six months later they showed symptoms related to Parkinson's, such as reduced movement and decreased levels of a chemical, dopamine, in the brain. (read more)

Why is America the 'no-vacation nation'? -- but more importantly, what effect is it having on people's wellbeing?

Let's be blunt: If you like to take lots of vacation, the United States is not the place to work.

Besides a handful of national holidays, the typical American worker bee gets two or three precious weeks off out of a whole year to relax and see the world -- much less than what people in many other countries receive.

And even that amount of vacation often comes with strings attached.

Some U.S. companies don't like employees taking off more than one week at a time. Others expect them to be on call or check their e-mail even when they're lounging on the beach or taking a hike in the mountains.

"I really would like to take a real, decent vacation and travel somewhere, but it's almost impossible to take a long vacation and to be out of contact," said Don Brock, a software engineer who lives in suburban Washington.

"I dream of taking a cruise or a trip Europe, but I can't imagine getting away for so long."

The running joke at Brock's company is that a vacation just means you work from somewhere else. So he takes one or two days off at a time and loses some vacation each year. Only 57% of U.S. workers use up all of the days they're entitled to, compared with 89% of workers in France, a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found.

Brock's last long holiday was more than 10 years ago, when he took a two-week drive across the country. (read more)

Mystery surrounds bird deaths - 19th May 2011

Galahs dropping dead and falling from trees in Oxley Park remain a mystery but the possibility of poisoning seems unlikely following an autopsy by a veterinarian.

The vet from Central West Livestock Health and Pest Authority is investigating the deaths of a large number of birds that were found dead under trees throughout the park on Sunday morning. Some were also seen in the grounds of TAFE. The birds did not have any obvious injuries or wounds and were all lying in a spread wing position. Some of the birds will now be sent off to the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute at Menangle for further testing in case any exotic, notifiable disease is the culprit.

Senior LHPA ranger based in Dubbo Lisa Thomas said the bird deaths were a concern, with an autopsy carried out by the vet, who retrieved some of the birds that had been recovered from the scene on Sunday morning. The vet found no evidence of poisoning by mouse baits and no dye discolouration in the crops or stomachs of the birds.

The LHPA works in conjunction with landholders to protect crops from mice but the management includes prevention of poisoning of non-target animals, such as grain-eating birds.

“Perimeter baits are brightly coloured which are not attractive to birds, and the grey-coloured grain used on broadacre crops is applied later in the evening after birds have gone in to roost,” Ms Thomas said.

Warren Shire Council and National Parks and Wildlife were also contacted regarding the deaths. Source

Spanish Killer Cucumber death toll hits 5 as three new E.coli cases are treated in UK

FIVE people have died after eating contaminated cucumber.

And yesterday it was revealed three new cases are being treated in Britain.

The deadly E.coli outbreak began in Germany, with dodgy salad ingredients believed to be imported from Spain.

In addition to the five fatalities, 300 are in hospital as German medics brace themselves for a wave of new admissions. Many of the victims, mostly women, are fighting for ther lives in intensive care.

Those being treated here are all Germans who have travelled from their homeland and fallen ill after entering the UK.

It is understood the suspect cucumbers, and other salad items, which may have been contaminated during shipment, have not been sold in Britain. But the UK Health Protection Agency said checks are continuing.

A spokesman warned anyone travelling to Germany, especially the Hamburg area, to avoid eating raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce.

Ten other cases have been reported in Sweden, four in Denmark, and one in the Netherlands. Authorities warned people who have recently visited Germany to seek urgent help for symptoms such as bloody diarrhoea.

In extreme cases the bug can result in renal failure, strokes, coma and death.

Manchester University researchers have identified the E.coli strain as HUSEC 41 – one of 42 types that have emerged since 1996.

They are now working on a test to tell immediately if someone is infected as Spanish health chiefs try to find the source of the outbreak.

A spokesman for the European Commission said last night: “We are keeping a very close watch on the situation.” Source

Explosion Heard In Central Tripoli - 28th May 2011

An explosion has been heard in the centre of Libya's capital city, according to Sky News correspondent Lisa Holland.

Speaking from Tripoli, she said: "We've heard of two bombs this morning in the last half hour.

"The first didn't appear to detonate. The second was in the general vicinity of Colonel Gaddafi's compound - that's not to say that the compound was actually hit - but it was in the north-west direction of central Tripoli.

"The blast comes after three explosions late last night, one in the same area and two to the west of Tripoli - further out.

"It's the first time, as far as I'm aware, that we've had a day-time explosion here in Tripoli, air strikes previously have been at night. So perhaps there could be some sort of a change of tactics although it's still too early to judge.

"One thing we can say for sure is the military intervention continues." Source

California releases 450 'violent and dangerous' criminals after computer glitch sets them free - 27th May 2011

Hundreds of violent and dangerous prisoners have been released on unsupervised parole in California because of a computer glitch, according to the state's inspector general.

Software errors led prison officials to mistakenly release some 450 inmates deemed to have a 'high risk for violence', as part of a programme meant to ease overcrowding in the state's jails.

And more than 1,000 additional convicts said to present a high risk of committing drugs crimes, property crimes and other offences were also freed.

The news comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California's prisons are dangerously overcrowded, and upheld a ruling giving the state two years to slash prisoner numbers.

No attempt has since been made to return any of the offenders to prison or to put them on supervised parole schemes, inspector general spokesman Renee Hansen told the LA Times.

All of the released prisoners have been placed on so-called 'non-revocable parole' - meaning that they do not have to report to parole officers and can only be sent back to prison if they are caught committing another crime.

Inmates who are gang members, sex criminals or violent criminals are determined to pose a risk of re-offending and are not thought to be suitable for the scheme.

But a report by the inspector general found that the computer programme that officials used to make their assessments does not access inmates' disciplinary histories.

The inspector general also found that the programme relies on a Department of Justice database that records arrests, but which is missing conviction information for nearly half California's 16.4million arrest records.

The inspector general's office made their shocking findings after a review of the case files of 200 of the 10,134 prisoners on non-revocable parole in July last year.

The inspector general found that of those released 31 were ineligible - a 15 per cent error rate - and nine of those were thought to be at high risk of committing violent crime. Read More

Dam floodwaters are killing hundreds of thousands of fish EVERY DAY - 27th may 2011

Affected: up to 100,000 fish are dying a day due to nitrogen poisoning.

Fish are dying in their hundreds of thousands after authorities increased the water flow at a Washington state dam.

The fish are being poisoned by an excess of nitrogen gas in the Columbia river, down stream from the Grand Coulee Dam.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which runs the dam, has been forced to increase the flow rate after a large winter snow melt swelled water levels.

The increase in water flow has resulted in a 130 per cent rise in nitrogen down stream of the dam, causing the fish to die of the bends.

The painful condition can occur when scuba divers surface too quickly, causing the air they breathe from tanks to form painful and sometimes fatal bubbles in the blood.

Speaking to the Seattle Times, fish farmer Bill Clark said: 'We've easily got hundreds of thousands of dead fish.'

Pacific Seafood, a parent company of Mr Clark's employers, says it is losing 100,000 fish a day from the poisoning.

John Bielka, who works for partner firm Pacific Aquaculture, said: 'They're basically sterilising this entire stretch of river.

'That's going to wipe out not only the fish in our farm, but also the bull trout, the lamprey, the sturgeon and every other wild thing.'

Bosses at the firm are now concerned for the remaining 2.7 million fish still alive 20 miles south of the Grand Coulee dam.

Despite knowing about the issue, bureau officials have confirmed the problem will get worse.

Officials added that wild fish should not suffer as much as the farmed varieties because they can dive deeper to avoid the excess gasses.

Speaking to the paper, Charles Hudson of the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission, said: 'In a normal year, this wouldn't be a big problem. But Mother Nature is running the Columbia River right now.' Source

Casey Anthony's father testifies: 'It's a smell you never forget' - he smelled a dead body and found maggots in the trunk of his daughter's car

Parents: George Anthony testified for the third time today against his daughter. Her mother Cindy was the one who called police to report Caylee missing.

The father of Casey Anthony testified today that he found maggots and smelled a dead body in the trunk of his daughter's car a month after his granddaughter went missing.

Anthony's car has again become the focus of her trial after a day of witnesses who testified about her 'happy' demeanour and party-girl lifestyle in the days after she allegedly killed her daughter.

George Anthony told the court that when he went to pick up his 25-year-old daughter's car, he smelled 'something that you would never forget' and said a quick prayer that he would not find the body of his daughter or granddaughter when he opened the trunk.

Instead he found maggots and a bag of rubbish.

This is the third time Mr Anthony has testified in his daughter's trial, who is accused of murdering two-year-old Caylee Anthony.

The child's remains were found wrapped in a Winnie the Pooh blanket, stuffed in plastic bags. The prosecution claims she died from three pieces of duct tape on her nose and mouth, although the medical examiner was never able to determine a cause of death.

The defence claims the girl accidentally drowned on June 16, 2008, and that Casey never told anyone. If convicted, she could face the death penalty. Read More

It's not just Detroit...over 13% of population ABANDON parts of Michigan's Upper peninsula - 27th May 2011

With abandoned buildings and a dwindling population, Detroit has become a byword for decay and recession.

But Census Bureau results show Michigan's rural Upper Peninsula is suffering just as much as its big city rival.

The Upper Peninsula, hundreds of miles northward and a world apart in geographical and cultural terms, lost two per cent of its residents, which by comparison seems almost inconsequential.

Yet the numbers bring gloomy tidings for the U.P., a sprawling tapestry of forests, waterways and small towns that accounts for nearly one-third of Michigan's land area but only 3 percent of its population.

Twelve of the peninsula's 15 counties declined over the decade, according to the census. Growth was confined to Houghton and Marquette counties, which have universities, and Baraga County, home to a maximum-security prison.

One such town is Ontonagon. It is struggling to hold on after years of economic setbacks, including closure of a copper mine, a shipyard and most recently its last big employer, the Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. paper mill.

The extent of the damage is reflected in Ontonagon County's dubious distinction of having Michigan's highest countywide attrition rate over the past 10 years, when its population dropped 13.3 percent to 6,780 — a stark illustration of troubled times in the isolated Upper Peninsula. Read More

High suicide rates related to anti-smoking drug Chantix were 'left out of crucial safety review' - 28th May 2011

Hundreds of reports of suicides and violent reactions tied to the stop-smoking drug Chantix were left out of a crucial government safety review.

The reports were missing because the drug’s manufacturer Pfizer Inc. submitted years of data through 'improper channels', according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Serious problems such as people killing themselves, trying to kill themselves, depression and unprovoked attacks on others were mixed among 26,000 records of non-serious side effects such as nausea and rashes dating back to 2006, the year Chantix, or varenicline, was approved.

Cases of 150 suicides, more than doubling those previously known, were among 589 delayed reports of severe issues uncovered in new analysis by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP).

Thomas J Moore, the senior scientist who analysed the data for the non-profit ISMP, said: 'It’s really chilling. This seems to unleash something in people. It can be violence to anything around. We’ve had a major breakdown in safety surveillance.'

His analysis echoes previous horror stories that Chantix can induce extreme reactions in people trying to quit cigarettes, including vivid nightmares, crippling depression and violent outbursts. Read More

Roxanne Taylor, 58 AKA 'Granny Bandit' shot DEAD after a police chase that began at a Wendy's drive thru - 28th May 2011

A robber nicknamed the 'Grandma Bandit' was killed by Atlanta police on Friday morning, one day after they issued a warrant for her arrest.

Roxanne Taylor, 58, of Atlanta, Georgia, was wanted after she robbed multiple drug stores over the past two weeks, most recently on Tuesday.

Ms. Taylor was spotted in a Wendy's drive-thru by an unidentified person who then called the police.

Officers then tried to stop Ms Taylor as she exited the fast food driveway, but instead she fled in a her gold Jeep Liberty, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

After she was involved in a minor traffic accident officers heard a gunshot, returned fire and killed her with multiple bullet wounds.

No police were injured.

Witnesses saw two bullet holes in the Jeep's windshield and a blown out driver's side window, and a shattered rear window, reports the AJC.

Over the past few weeks Taylor had repeatedly been seen on CCTV cameras across Georgia entering pharmacies, taking out a hand gun and demanding money from cashiers.

As a suspect she was described as being between 60 and 70 years old, 5ft 6 inches tall, and weighing between 120 and 130lbs.

She wore sunglasses beneath a black University of Georgia baseball cap during the robberies and has puffy, swollen cheeks.

The Grandma Bandit's latest hit was at a Rite Aid pharmacy on Howell Mill Road in Atlanta just before 10am on Tuesday.

Police said she strode into the store before revealing her gun, demanding money and fleeing in a tan or gold Jeep Liberty.

She was also wanted for the recent early morning robberies of another Rite Aid in the area, a Walgreens and a CVS Pharmacy on May 12, 14 and last Friday. Source

The galactic wreck that predicts our future... in five billion years - 27th May 2011

Astronomers have created a 'galactic train wreck' atlas image depicting how a variety of galaxies around Earth will collide in five billion years time.

The collision between the Milky Way - Earth's galaxy - and the Andromeda Galaxy is predicted to take place in between three and five billion years.

The 'train wreck' style merger of galaxies, is said by experts to reveal 'how galaxies form, grow and evolve'.

The atlas of galaxy collision was created using data from NASA's Spitzer and Galex space telescopes.

The Galex (Galaxy Evolution Explorer) telescope observes in ultraviolet light, which captures emission from hot young stars.

Spitzer sees the infrared emission from warm dust heated by those stars, as well as from stellar surfaces.

Some galaxies, such as the NGC 935 and the IC 1801, have already begun their galactic 'smash-up'.

But the collision between Earth's Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy is not expected to take place for several billion years.

The collision is likely to trigger the birth of stars from smashed together clouds of cosmic gas and dust.

Lauranne Lanz of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said: 'This atlas is the first step in reading the story of how galaxies form, grow, and evolve. Read More

Jenna Burns beaten senseless by three hoodies in a random attack as she walked home - 27th May 2011

These pictures show pretty Jenna Burns - before and after she was beaten unconscious in a senseless random attack.

Three young men set upon the trainee hairdresser as she walked back home on May 20.

Terrified Jenna, 17, stood helplessly as one of the thugs knocked her to the floor with a single punch.

As she lay unconscious the man battered her with kicks to her face and body - leaving her with a broken nose and two chipped teeth.

The horrific incident in Hemel Hempstead, Herts, was captured on CCTV.

Police are now searching for the three thugs who left Jenna lying in a pool of blood in the road.

Jenna's father, Carl Burns, today appealed for information about the 'cowardly' thugs who attacked his 'beautiful daughter'.

He said: 'She has been very shaken up by the attack and won't leave the house on her own. I have been driving her everywhere.

'She is very nervous and in complete shock. Jenna was with a friend and had popped into town to see if any of their friends were out.

'They didn't meet anyone so started walking back. Jenna remembers seeing three young guys coming towards her on bicycles.

'They started verbally abusing her and the next thing she remembers is waking up in the ambulance.

'The first punch knocked her unconscious and then she was kicked as she lay on the road.

'My beautiful daughter was left her lying in the middle of the road in a pool of blood, she could have been run over. I am eternally grateful to the people who helped her.

'I can't understand what sort of cowardly person would do this to a young girl.' Read More

Al Qaeda is as dangerous as ever, claims former CIA director as Pakistan allows forensics team in to examine Bin Laden compound - 28th May 2011

The West is losing the war against Al Qaeda despite the recent killing of Osama bin Laden, a former high-ranking CIA officer has warned.

Former CIA chief Michael Scheuer, who led a team dedicated to hunting down bin Laden during the 1990s, claimed the West simply does not understand the conflict.

He said that although the killing of the Al Qaeda founder was 'very important' the organisation was as strong as ever and is far more connected than many believe.

Mr Scheuer, now a teacher at Georgetown University, told the Times newspaper: 'In 2001 [Al Qaeda] was overwhelmingly based in Afghanistan.

'It still has a part of Afghanistan. It now has a big part of Pakistan [and is] firmly established in Yemen and recovering in Iraq.'

Mr Scheuer warned that with recent events in Libya the organisation could grow in that region and that Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan might all become hotspots.

He says he believes the leadership of Al-Qaeda will probably pass to Abu Yahya al-Libi who escaped a US prison in Afghanistan in 2006.

Mr Scheuer also rejected president Obama's claim that the recent uprisings in Arab countries were a 'rebuke to the world view of Al Qaeda'. Read More

Robert Brown a BA Pilot persuades court 'stress' made him kill his wealthy wife, her family ask: 'How could any jury believe our Jo wasn't murdered?'

Had it not been for the half-term holiday, events might have unfolded differently that day.

Had Joanna Brown’s children not had a break with their father, she would have had no need to open the security gates of her lovingly restored mock Tudor cottage, allowing her killer to drive in with the youngsters in the back of his car.

These are the thoughts — the ‘what-ifs’ — that torment Joanna’s anguished family every day.

After an increasingly bitter three-year divorce wrangle, Jo was so terrified of her husband Robert that she had taken the precaution of installing a hidden camera in her home in Ascot, Berkshire, and forbidden him from entering the house.

But that day her defences were down, with her thoughts only of welcoming home her children.

‘The day he killed her was the only time she was on her own,’ says Jo’s mother Diana Parkes, 72.

‘Every other time we’d made sure someone was with her when he dropped off the children, but that day her friend was delayed.’

What happened on October 31, 2010, at Tun Cottage is almost too horrific to describe.

Events could not have unfolded more perfectly for Brown, who arrived with a camping mallet, length of plastic sheeting and the type of white paper suit worn by police forensics officers to prevent contamination.

An argument flared and Brown picked up the mallet and hit his wife not once, but at least 14 times, around the head while his children — a girl aged nine and boy aged 11 — cowered out of sight in their playroom.

When Joanna was dead (her body bore no sign of defence injuries; she didn’t stand a chance), he wrapped her in the plastic sheeting, put a biLinknliner over her head to avoid leaving bloodstains on the carpet and placed her in the boot of his Volvo 4x4.

He put the children into the back seat and drove off, later burying his wife in a crate inside a grave he had already dug in Windsor Great Park. Read More

Sharon Shoesmith set for huge payout after High Court win - but still won't say sorry for Baby P - 28th May 2011

Sharon Shoesmith said she was ‘thrilled’ yesterday after winning a court appeal against her sacking over the Baby P scandal.

The ruling leaves her free to claim an estimated payout of £1million.

And the disgraced former children’s services chief even said she hoped to revive her career in child welfare.

Judges ruled that her dismissal from her £133,000-a-year post was ‘procedurally unfair’ because she was not allowed the chance to defend herself.

This came despite a damning report in 2008 which found her department at Haringey Council in north London had allowed baby Peter Connelly to die with over 50 injuries.

In an astonishing performance outside the Royal Courts of Justice after the result was announced, a triumphant Miss Shoesmith smiled as she declared: ‘I’m over the moon. Absolutely thrilled. It’s been long and arduous.’

Miss Shoesmith, 58, has spoken of her ‘sorrow’ for Baby P but has never apologised for her role in what happened. Yesterday’s ruling prompted bitter complaints that she, of all people, should be held accountable for the tragedy. Read More