Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mount Etna eruption closes airports and 'knocks clocks 15 minutes fast'

An eruption by Mount Etna on the Italian island of Sicily left a nearby airport closed and ... locals turning up early for work.

The volcano spewed lava on to its south-eastern slopes on Saturday afternoon and winds swept ash further afield, stopping flights at Catania's Fontanarossa airport.

The strong eruption - Etna's fifth since the beginning of the year - was shortlived, but left the airport closed overnight.

Bemused Sicilians, meanwhile, were quick to blame the volcano after thousands noticed that their clocks were running 15 minutes fast. The fast forward time keeping has affected a wide spectrum of digital clocks and watches - from computers through to alarm clocks.

It was spotted when large numbers of locals started turning up for work early, and a Facebook page was organised for those involved to compare notes. (read and view more, with some incredible pictures)

Reader contributed.

"Food Not Bombs" again faces arrests for trying to feed homeless in Orlando

Reader contributed.

Economic Collapse a Mathematical Certainty: An Interesting Video Discussion

Reader contributed.

Slow progress at Fukushima plant 4 months after disaster

Four months after Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami, operators at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are still grappling with the crisis the disaster unleashed but say they are making slow progress.

The March 11 quake led to meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi's three operating reactors when the tsunami knocked out their coolant systems, causing the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Though nearly 100,000 tons of highly contaminated water remain in the flooded basements and service tunnels around the damaged reactors, the Tokyo Electric Power Company reported Sunday that water levels in the Unit 2 complex have dropped by about 20 centimeters (8 inches). The company began pumping water from the Unit 3 turbine plant to a waste treatment facility Sunday afternoon, while levels at Unit 1 remained unchanged.

And despite periodic setbacks -- including a water leak that shut down operations for several hours Sunday -- the company has managed to set up a decontamination system that filters radioactive material from the water. Some of the treated water is now being circulated back through the reactors, a key step toward keeping the reactors' melted nuclear cores cool on a permanent basis.

But more than 100,000 people have been displaced by the disaster, forced to leave towns around the plant after it spewed massive volumes of radioactive particles -- and it could be January before they know when they will be allowed to return. (read more)

The evils of unregulated capitalism

Just a few years ago, a powerful ideology - the belief in free and unfettered markets - brought the world to the brink of ruin. Even in its hey-day, from the early 1980s until 2007, US-style deregulated capitalism brought greater material well-being only to the very richest in the richest country of the world.

Indeed, over the course of this ideology's 30-year ascendance, most Americans saw their incomes decline or stagnate year after year.

Moreover, output growth in the United States was not economically sustainable. With so much of US national income going to so few, growth could continue only through consumption financed by a mounting pile of debt.

I was among those who hoped that, somehow, the financial crisis would teach Americans (and others) a lesson about the need for greater equality, stronger regulation, and a better balance between the market and government.

Alas, that has not been the case.

On the contrary, a resurgence of right-wing economics, driven, as always, by ideology and special interests, once again threatens the global economy - or at least the economies of Europe and America, where these ideas continue to flourish.

In the US, this right-wing resurgence, whose adherents evidently seek to repeal the basic laws of mathematics and economics, is threatening to force a default on the national debt. If Congress mandates expenditures that exceed revenues, there will be a deficit, and that deficit has to be financed.

Rather than carefully balancing the benefits of each government expenditure program with the costs of raising taxes to finance those benefits, the right seeks to use a sledgehammer - not allowing the national debt to increase forces expenditures to be limited to taxes.

This leaves open the question of which expenditures get priority - and if expenditures to pay interest on the national debt do not, a default is inevitable. Moreover, to cut back expenditures now, in the midst of an ongoing crisis brought on by free-market ideology, would inevitably simply prolong the downturn.

A decade ago, in the midst of an economic boom, the US faced a surplus so large that it threatened to eliminate the national debt. (read more)

"Reagan mythology is leading US off a cliff"

As things stand today, the US is hurtling toward a budget showdown in less than a month. Either President Obama will once again capitulate to extreme Republican budget-slashing demands, making Democrats seem as much of a threat to Medicare as Republicans, and virtually ensuring a GOP electoral sweep in 2012, or the US will default on its debt for the first time in its history, most likely plunging the world economy back into another five-continent recession, also costing Democrats the 2012 elections. These are the options left for a president and a political class completely divorced both from reality, and its own history of how one of the three greatest US presidents of all time steered the country from the brink of collapse eight decades ago

Entirely forgetting the real history of how Franklin D Roosevelt used activist government to save American capitalism from itself, the entire US political establishment is instead hypnotised by the false history woven around its most over-hyped president of all time: Ronald Reagan. Idolatry of Reagan's supposed tax-cutting wonders propels the now widespread economic belief that up is down, that cutting government spending is the way out of - rather than into - a severe recession. At the same time, idolatry of Reagan's supposed political wonders propels GOP extremists to ignore all other considerations.

Because of this hypnotism, America's political establishment has barely even begun to notice two unconventional possible ways out that remain, neither of which require anything from Congress, but both of which need bold presidential leadership ala FDR.

The first is to ignore the debt ceiling, relying directly on the 14th Amendment's statement that: "the validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned". The second is a proposal from maverick Republican Ron Paul to have the Federal Reserve Board destroy the $1.6 trillion in government bonds that it currently holds, which progressive economist Dean Baker recently wrote, "actually makes a great deal of sense". It might take some arm-twisting on Obama's part, but Congress has no say over the Fed, and central bankers have no great love of spreading financial panic. (read more)

Yet, interestingly, Ronald Reagan was the last time I remember the western world being "happy". Go figure.

In Pictures: Protests suppressed in Malaysia -- the "Arab Spring" continues its spread

Iran: Israel Planning to Kill Nasrallah (which, if true, would spark a war of unimaginable proportions)

An Iranian radio station has accused Israel of planning to kill Hizbullah terrorist chief Hassan Nasrallah. The report, broadcast on the Hebrew-language station “Kol David,” claimed to be based on a report in the Lebanese paper Al-Deir.

The Mossad has a plan to kill Nasrallah, Kol David claimed. “[The report] was approved in 2006 but has been shelved due to American and European pressure to maintain the ceasefire with Lebanon,” according to the report.

However, the station said, “European diplomats' reports based on sources in Tel Aviv determined that the Israeli occupation officials are still determined to murder the head of Hizbullah.”

“The Mossad is trying to prevent any evidence or sign of Israeli involvement in the murder,” the report went on to claim.

Iran is a major financial and political supporter of Hizbullah in Lebanon. Iranian and Hizbullah troops have joined forces to help fight protesters in Syria, and there is concern that both may be planning to use incitement against Israel to ease pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Previously it appeared that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was attempting to goad Israel into war with the increasingly politically powerful Hizbullah terrorist group in order to deflect attention from his own lack of popularity. (read more)

Israel forbids Brazil to sell aircrafts to Venezuela -- Is Venezuela next country on "the list"?

Reader contributed.

Grand Canyon flooding and waterfalls: US

Reader contributed.

Japan 7.1 quake footage: Is Japan in line for another major disaster?

A major earthquake struck off Japan's northeastern coast Sunday, prompting tsunami advisories that were later canceled, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.

Small tsunamis were observed along the coast, measuring between 10 and 20 centimeters, said the JMA.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, according to the Japanese news agency Kyodo.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake struck at 10:57 a.m. at the epicenter, about 130 miles east of Sendai.

The earthquake was more than 20 miles deep and had a magnitude of 7.0, the USGS said.

The JMA measured the magnitude of the quake at 7.1.

Tsunami advisories were issued -- and then canceled --for the coastal regions of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima. The areas were among the hardest hit by this year's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Officials in Ofunato, a city in Iwate, advised residents to evacuate. (read more)

July Dollar Drive / Announcements - July 10, 2011 (New posts appear below until midnight)

Donate to The Coming Crisis

1) Hello everyone, we hope you're all doing well. We're doing our best here to enjoy the summer despite the fact that temperatures are so high that even the website is starting to melt.

2) If you haven't seen this banner before (the Dollar Drive banner), it's for the July Dollar Drive. Each month The Coming Crisis will be holding such a dollar drive; with 200,000 readers a month, we're hoping just 5000 will donate $1 each to help us keep things running and to expand our research (click on the banner above to send your dollar, or to learn more!)

3) We've begun issuing "Coming Crisis Alerts" in order to help spread emergency instructions and information. There are three levels of alert, with the lowest level asking people to remain vigilant. Whenever you see this banner, please click on it to receive more information -- after what happened in Japan, we want to try to reach as many people as possible during a crisis situation. Once the duration of the alert expires, the banner will be removed.

4) From now on, the announcements posts (like this one) will remain on top for the entire day on Sundays, in order for everyone to get a chance to read them. New posts will appear below, and then at midnight the posting flow will return to normal.

Take care and stay aware, everyone --

Matt & Lynsey

Over 1,400 arrested, tear gas fired in Malaysia protest

Malaysian police fired repeated rounds of tear gas and detained over 1,400 people in the capital on Saturday as thousands of activists evaded roadblocks and barbed wire to hold a street protest against Prime Minister Najib Razak's government.

At least a dozen people were hurt in the demonstration for electoral reform in downtown Kuala Lumpur. There were no reports of serious injuries but some analysts said the police action was excessive and would dent Najib's image.

"We are not criminals, we are just asking for free and fair elections," opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's daughter, Nurul Izzah Anwar, told reporters after her father was knocked down and hurt in a melee when he and his supporters were tear gassed.

"Many innocent people were injured. We condemn this act of cruelty by UMNO and Barisan Nasional," she said, referring to Najib's party and the ruling coalition. (read more)

This Time, Japan’s Economic Gloom Runs Deeper

TRADERS here are fond of joking that no one has lost money betting against Japan since the collapse of the bubble economy of the 1980s.

More than two decades later, the Nikkei 225 stock index is still three-quarters off of its peak. And the economy has been hit by blow after blow, from sagging property prices to mounting debts and intensifying competition from China.

Add an aging population, a lack of jobs for college graduates and persistent deflation and you can see why Japan’s so-called lost decade is a misnomer. Japan has lost decades — plural, not singular.

Natural disasters could be added to the list of economic shocks, notably the earthquake that leveled Kobe in 1995, and, in March, the earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan and the nuclear crisis in Fukushima that followed.

In a perverse way, after suppressing growth initially, Japan’s catastrophes have repeatedly jump-started the economy. But such good times generally have not lasted. Japan’s economy rebounded in late 1995 and 1996, for example, before tax increases and the Asian financial crisis plunged the country back into recession, a roller-coaster ride that I covered as a reporter here. (read more)

Job seekers in Portugal giving up hope

Antonio speaks four languages fluently and used to work as a baker and pizza chef in the US.

He is now in an early morning queue at the resort of Albufeira on the Algarve coast, trying to register for Portuguese state help.

He is fast losing hope of working again.

"As I told the social security people, I'm looking for any sort of work, as long as it's legal," he says.

"The situation is really bad here. I see so many unemployed people."

He estimates that about 50% of the people he sees do not have jobs.

"And it's not real work - anything like cleaning a house for a day. But that's it - only short term".

Asked what he thinks when he sees well-off tourists enjoying the beaches and restaurants only a few blocks away, Antonio laughs and says he thinks they are lucky; proof that things must be better elsewhere in Europe.

The Portuguese are used to being worse off than their fellow EU citizens.

But most thought they had left behind the levels of poverty that are making an unwelcome return. (read more)

Iceland's Euro Bid Hinges On Greek Crisis Outcome, Central Banker Says -- Wait, they're trying to get *into* the Euro!?

Policymakers in Reykjavik are closely watching the unfolding of the Greek debt crisis, for its outcome will be a key element of Iceland's decision to join the euro, the head of the country's central bank, Sedlabanki said, as he urged the currency bloc to improve its economic governance.

"The outcome of the Greek crisis will affect the attractiveness of being a member of the euro area," Mar Gudmundsson told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview here late Friday. "A monetary union needs much more economic integration, some elements of common economic and fiscal policy and a common financial stability framework. One needs to match an economic union with the monetary union for it to work," he added.

The European Union and Iceland began talks in earnest June 27 over Iceland's bid to join the 27-nation bloc. Iceland applied to join the EU in July 2009, while the country was still suffering from the global financial crisis that hit it especially hard.

The well-known long-standing issue between Iceland and the EU is the fishing industry. But privately, EU diplomats have warned in recent months that Iceland was wavering on its commitment to join the Union as its economy starts growing again--by 2.2% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund--for the first time since the crisis.

The sovereign-debt crisis roiling the monetary union could make the 320,000- people nation even more cautious about adopting the euro, outweighing advantages stemming from a less-volatile currency environment.

"Being a member of the euro-area would result in a more stable economy," Gudmundsson said. But, on the other hand, "There are design failures in both the EU and the euro zone, and they were revealed by the crisis," he said.

Gudmundsson's outlook was fairly optimistic, but he admitted that a high amount of uncertainty hangs on the future. A disaster, he said, can't be ruled out, yet. (read more)

Consumer, out of money, borrowing more than ever just to make ends meet

Americans took on more debt in May and used their credit cards more for only the second time in nearly three years. Consumers stepped up their borrowing just as the economy began to slump and hiring slowed.

The Federal Reserve said Friday that consumer borrowing rose $5.1 billion in May, the eighth straight monthly increase. It followed a revised gain of $5.7 billion in April. Borrowing in the category that covers credit cards increased, as did borrowing in the category for auto and student loans.

The overall increase pushed consumer borrowing to a seasonally adjusted annual level of $2.43 trillion in May. That was just 1.7 percent higher than the nearly four-year low of $2.39 trillion hit in September.

Borrowing is a sign of confidence in the economy. Consumers tend to take on more debt when they feel wealthier. That boosts consumer spending. Ultimately, it gives businesses more faith to expand and hire. But an increase in credit card debt can also be a sign of people falling on harder times.

The economy added just 18,000 jobs in June, the fewest in nine months, the Labor Department said Friday. It was the second straight month of feeble job growth. The unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent, the highest rate of the year.

Economists have said that temporary factors, in part, have forced some employers to scale back hiring plans. High gas prices have cut into consumer spending, which fuels 70 percent of economic activity. And supply-chain disruptions stemming from the Japan crisis have slowed U.S. manufacturing production.

The increase in credit card borrowing marked only the second monthly gain since August 2008. Households began borrowing less and saving more when unemployment spiked during the Great Recession. Many have resisted pulling out their credit cards in the two years since the downturn ended. Even with the May increase in credit card debt, this category is down 4.4 percent over the past year and 18.5 percent from its peak in August 2008. (read more)

US State and local governments bleeding jobs

U.S. state and local governments cut thousands of jobs in June, pushing their payrolls down to the lowest in five years, according to Labor Department data released on Friday, and analysts do not expect the losses to end any time soon.

Local governments shed 18,000 jobs and state governments cut 7,000 in June. The level of local government employment -- 14.143 million employees -- is the lowest since June 2006. State government employment is the lowest since August 2006.

"Today's employment report reflects continued belt-tightening at the state and local level and the trend we have previously noted, a trickle-down in budget cuts from the state to the local level," wrote Natalie Cohen, senior analyst at Wells Fargo Securities, in a research note.

The National League of Cities, which represents civic officials, foresees further job cuts for at least the next 18 months. In a statement commenting on the Labor Department report, the group voiced concerns that continued public job losses will also dampen job growth in the private sector.

Altogether, nonfarm payrolls rose by 18,000 in June, and the unemployment rate notched up to 9.2 percent. (read more)

In Minnesota, little urgency to end government shutdown

Instead of sending Minnesota's elected leaders into a frenzy of activity, the nation's only state government shutdown has deepened the political paralysis that led them to their budget standoff. Top Democrats and Republicans have given no sign when they will talk again about how to resolve the stalemate.

After blowing May and June deadlines to agree on a budget, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders have met only twice - once for less than 30 minutes - and have made no apparent progress since most of state government closed July 1. There's little sense of urgency, even with 22,000 state employees idled, 100 road projects stopped, 66 state parks barricaded, an assortment of services discontinued and the state's top credit rating tarnished.

The lack of action contrasts with what's been happening in Washington, where an Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling has lawmakers scrambling for a deal that would keep the U.S. from a potential default on its debt. President Barack Obama has summoned leaders for a rare weekend session and aides are trading proposals behind the scenes. (read more)

New Australian law to make Muslims lift veils

Muslim women would have to remove veils and show their faces to police on request or risk a prison sentence under proposed new laws in Australia's most populous state that have drawn criticism as culturally insensitive.

A vigorous debate that the proposal has triggered reflects the cultural clashes being ignited by the growing influx of Muslim immigrants and the unease that visible symbols of Islam are causing in predominantly white Christian Australia since 1973 when the government relaxed its immigration policy.

Under the law proposed by the government of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, a woman who defies police by refusing to remove her face veil could be sentenced to a year in prison and fined 5,500 Australian dollars ($5,900).

The bill - to be voted on by the state parliament in August - has been condemned by civil libertarians and many Muslims as an overreaction to a traffic offense case involving a Muslim woman driver in a "niqab," or a veil that reveals only the eyes.

The government says the law would require motorists and criminal suspects to remove any head coverings so that police can identify them.

Critics say the bill smacks of anti-Muslim bias given how few women in Australia wear burqas. In a population of 23 million, only about 400,000 Australians are Muslim. Community advocates estimate that fewer than 2,000 women wear face veils, and it is likely that even a smaller percentage drives.

"It does seem to be very heavy handed, and there doesn't seem to be a need," said Australian Council for Civil Liberties spokesman David Bernie. "It shows some cultural insensitivity."

The controversy over the veils is similar to the debate in other Western countries over whether Muslim women should be allowed to wear garments that hide their faces in public. France and Belgium have banned face-covering veils in public. Typical arguments are that there is a need to prevent women from being forced into wearing veils by their families or that public security requires people to be identifiable. (read more)

China's inflation now at highest level in 3 years... and rising

The pace of growth of imports to China slowed down in June as the government's efforts to rein in growth hit domestic demand.

Imports to China grew by 19.3% in June, compared with a year ago, a sharp decline from the 28.4% surge in May, latest government data showed.

Meanwhile exports rose by 17.9%, a slowdown compared to the 19.4% rise in the previous month.

China is the world's second largest economy and the biggest exporter.

The weaker-than-expected numbers resulted in a trade surplus of $22.3bn (£13.8bn) in June.

"Imports were below expectations," said David Cohen of Action Economics in Singapore.

"We are perhaps seeing some reflection of loss of momentum in China's growth," he added.

Mr Cohen said that the recent measures by China to tighten its monetary policy were starting to have an impact on the pace of growth in the country.

"The numbers are consistent with decelerating growth, with the soft landing that many people are looking for," he said.

Analysts are concerned that domestic demand is also being hit by rising consumer prices in the country.

Data out on Saturday showed that inflation in China hit its highest level in three years as prices rose by 6.4% in June, compared with a year ago. (read more)

Older interns signal gloomy labor market (And by the way, 48% of interns are also unpaid)

Elizabeth Romanaux puts a brave face on working as an intern at the age of 55.

A media relations manager until she joined the millions of unemployed Americans two years ago, Romanaux spent the spring building contact lists and fetching lunches as she tried to keep alive her chances of resuming full employment.

"You have to suck it up sometimes and do what a 17-year-old would happily do and be happy about it," she said of her recent stint with a public relations firm in New Jersey.

Once the domain of high school and college students, internships are more common among older Americans who are struggling to find jobs and keep their skills up to date in the worst labor market in decades.

"A lot of adults who are either returning to the workforce or have been laid off in the recession are looking for places and ways to build a resume and fill a gap between jobs," said Margo Rose, founder of HireFriday, an online job search advice website.

"The last thing you want to do is look the interviewer in the eye with a blank stare when they ask you, 'What have you been doing for the last year?'" (read more)

D-FOX -- Please contact us if you can read this.

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5.3 Magnitude Earthquake Fiji Region - 10th July 2011

A magnitude 5.3 earthquake has struck the Fiji Region at a depth of 1.3 km ( -0.8 miles), the quake hit at 18:47:13 UTC Sunday 10th July 2011.
The epicenter was 246 km (152 miles) South of Mata'Utu, Ile Uvea, Wallis and Futuna

No tsunami watch, warning or advisory is in effect. No reports of Damage as yet.

Gypsy gang 'deliberately drowned' elderly pony in lake in front of horrified families - 10th July 2011

A gang of gypsies deliberately drowned an elderly pony in a lake - in front of horrified fishermen and families.

The group killed the animal by pushing its trap deeper and deeper into a popular Hampshire lake until it was completely submerged.

A brave fisherman dived into the water to try and save the thrashing animal - but was kicked unconscious in the head by the pony and had to be rescued by bystanders, before being taken to hospital.

Police are now hunting the group who drove off in two other pony and traps.

A dozen travellers arrived at Hawkley Lake in Pinewood Park, near Yateley in Hampshire, at around 5pm on Saturday.

Stunned witnesses told police the group suddenly surrounded the tragic pony, which was harnessed and tethered between the traces so that it was firmly attached to the trap.

Hampshire Police spokesman Alan Smith said: 'The witnesses have told officers how they saw the group of men then deliberately push the pony and trap into the lake until the animal was submerged.

'We know that the men, youths and boys made an attempt to push a second pony into the water as well but this failed.

'The animal broke free but the men later caught it and re-tethered it to the trap.

'They all then clambered aboard the two remaining traps and cantered off from the lake onto Minley Road and headed off towards Yateley village.' Read More

Up to 100 feared dead after cruise ships sinks in storm on Russia's River Volga - 10th July 2011

At least one person died and 97 were missing todaay after a cruise ship carrying more than 180 people sank in a heavy storm on Russia's Volga River.

A total of 84 people were rescued from the MS Bulgaria, which was carrying 182 tourists and crew members when it sank in the central Russian republic of Tatarstan, Emergency Ministry spokeswoman Irina Andrianova said.

'There were 182 people on board. We have saved 84 people,' Andrianova said. One person died. Search and rescue operations are continuing.'

The accident happened at around 2pm (1000 GMT) two miles) from shore, with the Bulgaria now lying 66 feet deep on the riverbed.

Local reports said the boat sank within eight minutes, claiming the lives of 423 people.

State television reported that the two-deck Bulgaria was built in 1955 in what was then Czechoslovakia.

The double-deck cruise ship went down near the village of Syukeevo in the Kansko-Ustinovsky district near the region's capital, Kazan.

The director of a school in Syukeevo told RIA Novosti news agency that the Bulgaria sank in a heavy storm. Read More

Mount etna Eruption - 9th July 2011

Hailstorm Kills Cows In Mbarara, Uganda - 10th July 2011

Cattle keepers and farmers in Bubaare, in Mbarara district are counting losses after a strong hailstorm destroyed their crops and killed some animals yesterday.

The storm destroyed bananas, maize and cassava plantations among others.

The most affected villages were Bubaare, Rwenshaku I and Rwenshaku II

Patrick Byaruhanga, the LC5 councilor representing Bubaare to Mbarara district council says there was no human death reported in the abrupt hailstorm. Source

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake Negros, Philippines - 10th July 2011

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck Negros, Philippines at a depth of 38.4 km ( 23.9 miles), the quake hit at 16:43:01 UTC Sunday 10th July 2011.
The epicenter was 122 km (75 miles) West of Dumaguete, Negros, Philippines

No tsunami watch, warning or advisory is in effect. No reports of Damage as yet.

Earlier at 16:24:16 UTC Sunday 10th July 2011 A earthquake of 4.5 Magnitude hit the Negros area in the Philippines at a depth of 35.6 km (22.1 miles) The Epicenter was 109 km (68 Miles) West of Dumaguete, Negros, Philippines

4.3 Magnitude Earthquake OAXACA, MEXICO - 10th July 2011

A magnitude 4.3 earthquake has struck Oaxaca, Mexico at a depth of 111.1 km ( 69 miles), the quake hit at 15:19:19 UTC Sunday 10th July 2011.
The epicenter was 20 km (12 miles) ENE from Ixetepec, Oaxaca, Mexico

No reports of Damage as yet.

Top US Military Officer: China now a world power

The top U.S. military officer declared Sunday that China "has arrived as a world power," and that previous U.S. descriptions of China as a "rising power" are now a thing of the past.

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen made the remarks during an address at a university in Beijing at the start of a four-day visit.

"China today is a different country than it was 10 years ago, and it certainly will continue to change over the next 10 years," Mullen told the audience at Renmin University. "It is no longer a rising power. It has, in fact, arrived as a world power."

In January, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described China as a "rising power."

"The United States is changing as well," Mullen added in his remarks, "as are the context and global order in which both our countries operate. I believe that our dialogue needs to keep pace with these changes. It needs to move from working out the particular issues and conditions of our bilateral relationship to working together to meet broader -- and common -- goals we share."

The chairman touched on some specific concerns, including the growing territorial disputes over the South China Sea and its potentially huge reserves of oil and natural gas. (read more)

U.S. House Republicans reject $4-trillion debt deal

U.S. House Republican budget negotiators have abandoned plans to pursue a massive $4 trillion, 10-year deficit reduction package in the face of stiff GOP opposition to any plan that would increase taxes as part of the deal.

House Speaker John Boehner informed U.S. President Barack Obama Saturday that a smaller agreement of about $2 trillion was more realistic.

In a statement issued Saturday evening, Boehner said: "Despite good-faith efforts to find common ground, the White House will not pursue a bigger debt reduction agreement without tax hikes."

The White House responded that Obama will continue to push to make as much progress on deficit reduction as possible.

Boehner's statement came a day before he and seven of the top House and Senate leaders were scheduled to meet at the White House in a negotiating session and lay out their remaining differences.

A deficit reduction deal is crucial to win Republican support for an increase in the nation's debt ceiling. The government's borrowing capacity is currently capped at $14.3 trillion and administration officials say it will go into default without action by Aug. 2. (read more)

Waging war on India's tiger poachers

Orange lobsters fascinate St. John's supermarket

A trio of brilliant orange lobsters — each one a rarity from the ocean depths — has caused quite a buzz at a St. John's supermarket where customers have come to take a look at the curiosities.

"It's a pretty strange thing to happen. I've never seen anything like this before," said Brian Hewitt, an employee at a Sobeys supermarket that took delivery Thursday of a load of lobster caught off Cape Breton, including three rarities.

"They're albino, and there's a one in 10 million chance that you can get one lobster like this, and we have three of them."

The company that supplies Sobeys said it only sees one orange lobster per season, and this year more than 80 have been caught.

Sobeys seafood manager D.J. Ralph says the Department of Fisheries and Oceans told him that orange lobsters often do not survive long enough to be caught.

"They told me they're so rare because, where they are red [or] orange, predators see them a lot easier than the dark ones," Ralph said. (read more)

U.S. suspends $800M in Pakistan aid as rift grows

The United States is suspending some $800 million in military aid to Pakistan amid increased tensions between between the two countries since the raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

U.S. President Barack Obama's chief of staff William Daley confirmed the move in a Sunday television interview, saying his country's relationship with Pakistan is "difficult" and must be made "to work over time."

"Until we get through these difficulties, we will hold back some of the money that the American taxpayers have committed to give them," Daley told ABC's This Week.

Pakistan receives some $1.3 billion from the United States in aid every year. But the New York Times reported senior U.S. officials as saying the Obama administration is upset with Pakistan for expelling American military trainers and wants tougher action against the Taliban and others fighting American soldiers in Afghanistan. (read more)

Cholera resurfaces in Haiti, stretches relief efforts

A deadly cholera outbreak that swept the country last fall has returned, fuelled by weeks of heavy rains that have helped spread the waterborne bacteria that has flouirshed in rivers and rice fields.

The treatment centre in Mirebalais, a town lying about an hour's drive north of the capital, Port-au-Prince, is again seeing dozens of new patients a day, many arriving at the edge of death from dehydration.

The centre saw a fivefold jump from April to May and it hasn't let up since, said Louise Ivers, senior health and policy adviser to the U.S.-based Partners in Health, which runs the clinic in association with the Health Ministry.

"When people come here, they're in critical condition, ready to die," said Francole Adonis, who registers the new arrivals at the centre. "They're collapsing in the yard. The situation is horrible."

The number of new cases each day spiked to 1,700 a day in mid-June, three times as many as sought treatment in March, according to the Health Ministry. The daily average dropped back down to about 1,000 a day by the end of June but could surge again as the rainy season develops. (read more)

Heatstroke surge feared in Japan as people save power

As the mercury rises to levels unseen in decades and amid the nationwide power-saving drive, health experts are warning the public of the risk of heatstroke if they refrain too much from using air conditioning.

The elderly, people with illnesses and small children are particularly susceptible, the experts said, adding that while raising the temperature setting in refrigerators saves power, it increases the risk of food poisoning.

While the government has asked the public to set air conditioners to 28 degrees, "it would make the actual temperature inside reach 30, too high for elderly people who are susceptible to dehydration," said Ritsuko Momose, chief of staff at a home for the elderly in Suginami Ward, Tokyo.

Momose sets the temperature at the Nanyo-en nursing home, which takes care of around 250 elderly people including some who are bedridden, at around 26 degrees.

Bracing for possible power outages, the facility has installed an emergency power generator and bought medical pillows filled with coolant gel. It also plans to apply heat-insulation coating materials to windows to make its air conditioners more efficient.

"Some of the measures run counter to the power-saving drive, but the lives of the elderly are at stake," Momose said.

The government said around 6,880 people suffering heatstroke were taken to hospitals by ambulance in June, more than three times the number a year earlier. Fifteen of them died after reaching a hospital. People aged 65 or older accounted for 52 percent of the total. (read more)

Eerily Silent Summer Nights: Dead Crickets and Poisoned California Water

I was in downtown Santa Fe eating gelato a few evenings ago when a man—wearing a bike helmet spiked with a Mickey-the-Sorcerer statuette—stopped to chat. He introduced himself as “Mud Man” and went on to tell me that he met a woman online and moved to Sacramento to be with her, but recently moved back because he missed the sound of crickets at night. Attempting not to judge this bizarre encounter, I remembered recently reading an article about the top pesticide source that is disrupting aquatic life in the Sacramento San Joaquim Delta, which supplies water to 23 million Californians.

The culprits are Pyrethroids, a common synthetic pesticide that researchers first suspected entered the water cycle with agricultural runoff. But the largest quantities actually flow from urban Sacramento and cities in surrounding counties, either from an excessive use of shampoos to eliminate lice and fleas, or from people pouring leftover household pesticides down their drains.

Pyrethroids are linked to neurological and thyroid damage as well as hormonal disruption, and they’re extremely harmful to beneficial insects, including bees. In the article, Paul Towers, the state director of Pesticide Watch, noted, “Ultimately, if we took better steps to keep pests from entering our homes, or redefined what our landscapes looked like, we wouldn’t have to use these chemicals.” (read more)

Tracing America's "Too Big To Fail" Crisis

Most call it one of the biggest financial crises in living memory. Others call it one great big Ponzi scheme. Whatever you want to call it, a bunch of people lost a bunch of money and the world of high finance may never be the same. But don’t worry – that doesn’t mean that we’ve fixed all these problems or punished the people responsible. It just means that next time you can’t get a loan or a higher credit limit, the banks will have an excuse.

Our “most unwanted” list includes guys like Martin Feldstein. He was an economics professor at a little school called Harvard (maybe you’ve heard of it) and served as Ronald Reagan’s Chief Economic Advisor. He was a major architect in Reagan’s deregulation scheme (which is either the best thing ever in the world to some political views, or the worst thing in the world to others).

Alan Greenspan is also responsible, some believe. He was paid $40,000 to testify on behalf of extreme bank looter Charles Keating. Greenspan spoke of his “sound business plans” and “expertise.” Of course, these kind words didn’t come for free. (read more)

Arlington Police Department hopes to use drones in "emergency situations" by January

The Arlington Police Department is in the first part of its experiment in using unmanned aircraft to assist in law enforcement.

The department has been testing and evaluating two battery-operated, remote-controlled aircraft over a small, restricted airspace near Lake Arlington Dam, away from populated areas.

The aircraft are flown only for daylight operations and within a small, restricted airspace. The aircraft have to remain within the pilot's line of sight and fly 400 feet above the ground level.

Pilots obtain the same license as a commercial aircraft pilot.

Arlington hopes to demonstrate the aircraft's potential law enforcement uses. All flight data is recorded and sent to the Federal Aviation Administration for evaluation.

"All of the U.S. and the FAA is depending on our testing and experiment, our experimentation to create a model for law enforcement usage of these vehicles," Police Chief Theron Bowman said.

Arlington was the first agency in a densely populated urban area approved by the FAA to fly unmanned aircraft.

The drones look like nothing more than model helicopters. But at 11 pounds and 20 inches long, the unmanned aircraft would be a powerful asset to the city, Bowman said. (read more)

FDIC: 'Living Wills' For Financial Firms May Be Required

The largest U.S. financial firms could be required by early next year to provide regulators a road map for how they can be wound down in the event of another financial crisis, the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Thursday.

The FDIC is scheduled next week to consider a final rule requiring the firms to submit to resolution plans, also known as "living wills," with regular updates, to regulators. The resolution plans are intended to give regulators a plan to follow if one of the nation's most-complex financial firms runs into trouble.

"I'm pushing to get something done before I leave," the agency's chairman, Sheila Bair, told reporters after a Senate Banking Committee hearing. Bair steps down from the agency on July 8, at the end of her five-year term.

A draft rule approved in March would give firms 180 days to submit their first plan after the rule is formally adopted by regulators. However, the timing of when those plans will need to be filed is still under discussion, Bair said. (read more)