Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Saturday, July 16, 2011

3 US navy ships welcomed in Da Nang, Vietnam: More trouble with China ahead?

Three US navy ships including USS Chung-Hoon and USS Preble and USNS Safeguard were welcomed Friday morning by Vietnamese navy forces at Tien Sa Port in Da Nang central city for joint training, starting the seven-day friendly visit.

The activity aims at celebrating the 16th anniversary of the two countries’ diplomatic ties.

The two sides will hold exchanges involving navigation and damage control along with dive and salvage training. They will also participate in some community projects in Da Nang city.

Tom Carney, who is leading the naval exchange, told the press conference that the visit is designed to promote friendship and cooperation between the two countries. (more)

Chinese govt. asks U.S. to cancel Obama, Dalai Lama meeting -- By ask, do they mean demand?

The Chinese government on Saturday called on the United States to cancel a planned meeting between President Barack Obama and the Tibetan religious leader the Dalai Lama, warning that it would “damage” relations between both countries.

“The issue regarding Tibet concerns China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and we firmly oppose any foreign official to meet with the Dalai Lama in any form,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said in a statement.

He called on the U.S. government “to immediately withdraw the decision” of arranging the meeting and “to avoid interfering in China’s internal affairs and damaging China-U.S. relations.”

Mr. Obama is scheduled to meet with the Dalai Lama on Saturday in Washington, where the exiled Tibetan religious leader is attending a 11-day Buddhist ritual.

Relations between the U.S. and China soured following Mr. Obama’s last meeting with the Dalai Lama, in February 2010.

While China accuses the Dalai Lama of being a “splittist”, the Tibetan religious leader says he is only seeking “meaningful autonomy” to preserve Tibetans’ religious and cultural traditions.

Mr. Hong said China requested the U.S. “to honour its serious commitment that recognises Tibet as part of China and opposes ‘Tibet independence’”. (more)

Yukari Mihamae Arrested for Groping TSA Agent at Phoenix Airport -- At last, someone willing to stand up for their rights in practice

A Colorado woman was arrested Thursday after she groped a female TSA agent at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, reports.

Yukari Mihamae, 61, reportedly grabbed the left breast of a TSA agent at a checkpoint.

She then reportedly squeezed and twisted the agent's breast with both hands.

Phoenix police tell the website that Mihamae admitted to the crime, but they do not know why she groped the female agent.

The 61-year-old woman was released on her own recognizance Thursday and now faces a felony count of sexual abuse. (source)

Utah Woman Offers Organ Donation, Then Shoots Self

A Utah woman has committed suicide shortly after telling emergency personnel she wanted her organs harvested.

St. George Police Captain Scott Staley says the 57-year-old woman made a call Friday morning to 911 to say she wanted to be an organ donor.

Staley says she then parked outside the emergency room at the Dixie Regional Medical Center, left her vehicle and shot herself in the head around noon. Doctors and nurses in the emergency room heard the gunfire and ran outside. They tried to revive her but were unsuccessful.

Police were informing family members and had not released the woman's name. Staley declined further comment, citing the ongoing investigation. (source)

Ismael Bangs, Yvens Luclaise kidnapped boy, glued mouth shut

Police in Manchester, N.H., say two men held a 15-year-old boy at knifepoint, glued his lips shut and burned him while filming the incident with an iPod.

The men were arraigned Friday and held on $100,000 bail each.

Police found the teen naked under a bed in an apartment Friday. They noted his lips appeared to be glued shut and he had wounds to his arm. Police say 19-year-old Ismael Bangs allegedly burned a robber glove over the boy and let it drip onto him. He also allegedly used a lighter to heat a knife blade and applied it to the boy's shoulder.

Bangs and 25-year-old Yvens Luclaise were charged with kidnapping. Bangs also was charged with multiple counts of criminal threatening and assault. Luclaise was charged with criminal liability. (source)

Alaskans smuggled walrus tusks and polar bear hides

Two Alaskans have pleaded guilty to illegally trading the tusks of about 100 walruses with Eskimo hunters.

The pair were arrested in April with the ivory tusks, along with two polar bear hides.

They had swapped the animal parts with the hunters in exchange for money, guns, cigarettes and at least one snowmobile.

Indigenous Alaskans are allowed to hunt walruses but they are not permitted to sell the tusks.

The state prosecutor declined to comment on whether the hunters would also be charged, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

Prosecutors say this is Alaska's biggest wildlife trafficking case for nearly two decades.

A third defendant is expected to plead guilty to similar charges next week.

The three had obtained about 500 pounds (227kg) of walrus tusks from Yup'ik Eskimo hunters in the village of Savoonga, court documents say.

The pair pleaded guilty under a plea bargain and prosecutors have asked for prison terms of at least five years.

Two of the defendants asked for permission to get married before they are sentenced in November.

They fear that if they are not married, they will not be able to send letters to each other in separate prisons.

The judge said he would try to accommodate their request. (source)

Euro crisis could cause global markets to crash

Markets around the world could crash by more than a third if Europe fails to resolve its debt crisis, Deutsche Bank analysts have warned.

A disorderly end to the turmoil would "inevitably" lead to a global recession, crushing companies' profitability, they believe.

"Global equities could lose up to 35pc of their value if the situation deteriorates into a full-blown financial crisis on the scale of the fallout from the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008," the analysts said in a note.

Even in the "milder" scenario where the crisis does not spill over into the wider economy, would see markets fall by 12pc.

The warning came as EU president Herman Van Rompuy said eurozone nations will hold a special summit in Brussels on Thursday over a second bail-out for Greece.

The announcement came after the International Monetary Fund urged officials to act with a "greater sense of urgency". (more)

Europe's bank stress tests as bad as 1979 Irish driving test

In 1979, the then Irish environment minister, Sylvester Barrett, did an extraordinary thing that was to have ramifications for Ireland’s drivers for decades to come.

Seeing large numbers of his fellow citizens failing their driving tests, Mr Barrett – in a quick bid for votes – declared that anyone who had taken their test twice and not passed would automatically qualify for a licence.

The consequences were predictable. At any one time, about 40pc of the Irish population were allowed to drive on the roads without ever actually having passed a test. Traffic accidents went up and insurance costs followed.

Andrea Enria, the chairman of the European Banking Authority, may not like the comparison, but the limited bank stress test results he unveiled on Friday are born of a similar motivation that led directly to Ireland’s until only very recently dysfunctional driving test system.

Like the Irish government 32 years ago, the EBA and the European Union are under the impression that their power to pass and fail banks will translate directly into making them better at what they do.

The fallacy of this approach is as obvious as the needlessly ruined lives and extortionate insurance premiums that once-blighted Ireland will attest. (more)

No Matter How Debt Debate Ends, Governors See More Cuts for States

The rancorous debate in Washington over whether to raise the federal debt ceiling is alarming many of the nation’s governors from both parties, who fear that whatever the outcome, much-needed money will almost certainly be drained from their states.

If the federal debt limit is not raised, several governors said as they gathered here on Friday for the semiannual meeting of the National Governors Association, the ensuing default will harm the economy, make it difficult for states to borrow money and delay some of the vital federal payments that states count on for everything from Medicaid to unemployment benefits.

But even if the debt ceiling is raised, as many governors expect it ultimately will be, states could still pay a high price. Both Democrats and Republicans in Washington want to pair any increase in the debt limit with deep new spending cuts — cuts that many governors fear will hurt their states as they are still recovering slowly from the Great Recession.

“If I can use a whitewater analogy here, the two rocks we need to shoot between is, on the one side, being needlessly driven into default, which will kill the jobs recovery,” said Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Commission. “The other rock is massive public sector cuts, by whatever name, that would also kill the jobs recovery.” (more)
Click here for photos, articles and video regarding the ongoing drought crisis in Africa, organized and presented by Al Jazeera News.

Thirty years of the debt ceiling in one graph

The one caveat to this graph is that the colors on the bar showing control of the House of Representatives look to be reversed. But that doesn’t distract from its main point: “Since 1980, the debt ceiling has been raised 39 times. It was raised 17 times under Ronald Reagan, four times under Bill Clinton and seven times under George W. Bush.”

At any given time, the minority party likes to pretend that the debt is all the majority party’s fault. That’s the whole theory behind the McConnell plan. But every president and congress is paying for the decisions of every previous president and congress. This is, and always has been, a bipartisan affair. (source)

Pentagon Wants a Social Media Propaganda Machine

You don’t need to have 5,000 friends of Facebook to know that social media can have a notorious mix of rumor, gossip and just plain disinformation. The Pentagon is looking to build a tool to sniff out social media propaganda campaigns and spit some counter-spin right back at it.

On Thursday, Defense Department extreme technology arm Darpa unveiled its Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program. It’s an attempt to get better at both detecting and conducting propaganda campaigns on social media. SMISC has two goals. First, the program needs to help the military better understand what’s going on in social media in real time — particularly in areas where troops are deployed. Second, Darpa wants SMISC to help the military play the social media propaganda game itself.

This is more than just checking the trending topics on Twitter. The Defense Department wants to deeply grok social media dynamics. So SMISC algorithms will be aimed at discovering and tracking the “formation, development and spread of ideas and concepts (memes)” on social media, according to Darpa’s announcement.

Not all memes, of course. Darpa’s not looking to track the latest twists on foul bachelor frog or see if the Taliban is making propaganda versions of courage wolf. Instead, it wants to see what ideas are bubbling up in among social media users in a particular area — say, where American troops are deployed.

More specifically, SMISC needs to be able to seek out “persuasion campaign structures and influence operations” developing across the social sphere. SMISC is supposed to quickly flag rumors and emerging themes on social media, figure out who’s behind it and what. Moreover, Darpa wants SMISC to be able to actually figure out whether this is a random product of the hivemind or a propaganda operation by an adversary nation or group. (more)

White House admits war with Iran

The United States is engaged in a deadly but seldom mentioned proxy war with Iran. In a rare act of candor, two senior Obama administration defense officials have addressed the open secret of Iran’s active support for insurgent groups fighting U.S. troops overseas.

Earlier this week, during a visit to Iraq, newly confirmed Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta strongly denounced Iranian support for increasingly violent Shiite militia groups in that country. “We are very concerned about Iran and the weapons they are providing to extremists here in Iraq,” he said. “We’re seeing more of those weapons going in from Iran, and they’ve really hurt us.” Mr. Panetta pledged that America would take action against Iran’s provocations. “We cannot sit back and simply allow this to continue to happen,” he said. “This is not something we’re going to walk away from. It’s something we’re going to take on head-on.”

Last week, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, raised the alarm against Iran’s support for insurgents. He told the Pentagon Press Association, “Iran is very directly supporting extremist Shiite groups, which are killing our troops. There is no question they are shipping high-tech weapons in there … that are killing our people. And the forensics prove that.” (more)

'Syria increasing arms shipments to Hezbollah'

ntel officials tell 'The Times' Syria gave Shi'ite group Scud D missiles putting "Israel, Jordan, large parts of Turkey within Hezbollah's range."

Damascus is increasing shipments of advanced missiles and other weapons to Hezbollah amid continuing unrest in Syria, The Times of London reported Friday quoting Western intelligence officials.

The officials said Syria provided Hezbollah with eight Scud D missiles that have a range of 700 kilometers.

The missiles "are accurate to within tens of meters and bring all of Israel, Jordan and large parts of Turkey within Hezbollah's range," the officials were quoted by the newspaper as saying.

They also said that, "This is the first time that a terror organization has obtained a missile of this type," which is considered a "strategic weapon" that "has been held only by national armies."

The Times also quoted an Israeli intelligence official who said Syria "was engaged in a serious arms build-up," adding that the weapons transfers started after the revolution began in Egypt. (more)

Phosphate: A Critical Resource Misused and Now Running Low

Phosphate has been essential to feeding the world since the Green Revolution, but its excessive use as a fertilizer has led to widespread pollution and eutrophication. Now, many of the world’s remaining reserves are starting to be depleted.

If you wanted to really mess with the world’s food production, a good place to start would be Bou Craa, located in the desert miles from anywhere in the Western Sahara. They don’t grow much here, but Bou Craa is a mine containing one of the world’s largest reserves of phosphate rock. Most of us, most days, will eat some food grown on fields fertilized by phosphate rock from this mine. And there is no substitute.

The Western Sahara is an occupied territory. In 1976, when Spanish colonialists left, its neighbor Morocco invaded, and has held it ever since. Most observers believe the vast phosphate deposits were the major reason that Morocco took an interest. Whatever the truth, the Polisario Front, a rebel movement the UN recognizes as the rightful representatives of the territory, would like it back.

Not many people would call phosphate a critical issue or one with serious environmental consequences. But even leaving aside the resource politics of the Sahara, it is an absolutely vital resource for feeding the world. It is also a resource that could start running low within a couple of decades — and one we grossly misuse, pouring it across the planet and recycling virtually none of it. (more)

Nike, Adidas, Puma 'using suppliers pouring toxic chemicals into China's rivers'

Some of the world's most famous clothing brands, including Nike, Adidas Puma, and H&M are using suppliers that pour toxic chemicals into China's rivers, the environmental pressure group Greenpeace has claimed.

In a year-long investigation, undercover activists collected water samples from discharge pipes at factories belonging to two of China's largest textile manufacturers which tested positive for dangerous chemicals, including hormone-disrupting alkylphenols that are banned in Europe.

The organisation named a host of international brands in a 115-page report titled "Dirty Laundry", including Abercrombie & Fitch, Converse, Lacoste, Calvin Klein and Chinese sports giant Li Ning, as having business links with the two textile processing plants.

More than 70 per cent of China's rivers and lakes are polluted as a result of China's three decades of economic boom, and Greenpeace campaigners called on major brands to use their influence to force the industry to clean up its act. (more)

Path appears clear for oil pipeline from Canada -- with total disregard of the environmental consquences

At a town hall meeting in Pennsylvania in early April, President Obama was asked about a bitter fight between industry and environmentalists over a proposed $7-billion, 2,000-mile pipeline to ship crude from Alberta's oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.

Because the pipeline crosses the U.S.-Canadian border, a decision on a permit is pending at the State Department. Obama avowed neutrality: "If it looks like I'm putting my fingers on the scale before the science is done, then people may question the merits of the decision later on."

But a 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa suggests the scale may have already been tipped.

The cable, obtained by WikiLeaks, describes the State Department's then-energy envoy, David Goldwyn, as having "alleviated" Canadian officials' concerns about getting their crude into the U.S. It also said he had instructed them in improving "oil sands messaging," including "increasing visibility and accessibility of more positive news stories."

Goldwyn now works on Canadian oil sands issues at Sutherland, a Washington lobbying firm, and recently testified before Congress in favor of building the 36-inch underground pipeline, Keystone XL. (more)

Air pollution linked to depression, forgetfulness

Research done on rats at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles suggests that several genes associated with common brain tumors and degenerative brain diseases are more active in rats exposed to freeway pollution.

The Ohio State research team, however, wanted to know how the pollution affects mental health.

They took samples of ambient air in Columbus, Ohio, and concentrated it seven times. Groups of mice breathed the air six hours a day, five days a week for 10 months. The air was five times worse than the average for Mira Loma, a community in northwest Riverside County that has among the worst fine-particle pollution in the nation.

When run through memory and learning tests, the exposed mice couldn't think as well as those supplied with clean, filtered air.

In one exercise, mice were put in a brightly lit circular maze and subjected to irritating noise from a fan, said Laura Fonken, the lead author of the study, published last week in the scientific journal Molecular Psychiatry. Only one of several holes along the perimeter offered escape to a quiet, dark and secure area. The animals exposed to bad air took longer to find the escape hole and, in subsequent tests, were less likely to remember the hole's location.

The mice were tested for depression with what Fonken call a "forced swimming test." Each mouse was placed in a bucket of water and timed to determine how long it took for the animal give up swimming and start floating.

Mice exposed to air pollution swam on average for about 90 seconds, while mice that had breathed clean air swam for 145 seconds. (more)

Global Warming: Nature Can't Save Us From Ourselves

The notion that nature itself will act as a check on the atmospheric excesses of humanity has long held a fair amount of appeal, not least because it draws on a nugget of high-school science that most people can quickly comprehend. Plants inhale carbon dioxide, after all -- they need it to grow. Add more CO2 to the air, as human civilization has been doing in copious amounts since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, and the result will surely be thicker, more expansive biomass.

More trees, plants and crops, the thinking goes, means that more and more carbon dioxide will be naturally absorbed from the atmosphere, and ... voila! The climate problem is elegantly solved!

It's a conviction readily embraced by climate skeptics, and one enthusiastically peddled in some scientific cul-de-sacs like the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, a pet project of Sherwood B. Idso, a former research physicist with the Department of Agriculture, and his two sons, Craig and Keith.

From the center's Web site:

For years environmentalists have warned us about how fragile earth's biosphere is; and in many cases dealing with specific species or ecosystems, they have been correct. In its totality, however, the biosphere is much more resilient than most people give it credit for being. As atmospheric CO2 -- the lifeblood of the planet -- has gradually risen over the course of the Industrial Revolution, for example, the biosphere has begun to reveal its true strength, with the plants of the planet growing ever more robustly and profusely, as they expand their ranges over the face of the earth and extract ever greater quantities of CO2 from the air and sequester its carbon in their tissues and the soil into which they sink their roots. (more)

1879 American grade 4 math test: Can you do it?

Dan Insdorf has issued a challenge: Can you complete this math test that was once presented to fourth graders? Is there any correlation between American's declining educational standards and its loss of the science and technology races to India and China?

If you can do it, mail your answers to:

PO Box 1847 Mt. Dora fl. 32756
(or email them to us at The Coming Crisis and we'll forward them to him)

A drawing will be held and the winner will be given a prize to be announced!

Humpback Whale Puts On Show For Men Who Saved Her

When Michael Fishbach set out for his day of boating around the beautiful waters of the Sea of Cortez, he probably didn't think that it would be the day he and his friends would become wildlife heroes. As luck would have it, that's exactly what happened.

The group came upon a stranded humpback whale who was so tangled in a mesh of nylon netting that she was beginning to drown, and as Fishbach noted in this video, was possibly an hour from death. The crew worked tirelessly for more than an hour to free the stranded whale and, to their elation, eventually succeeded. Then, magic happened.

For miles on their ride home, the whale put on a beautiful show -- perhaps to say "thank you" to her rescuers?

Fishbach has co-founded The Great Whale Conservancy to help protect whales. This week, the Associated Press reported that the International Whaling Commission held their annual talks to discuss the large dispute between anti-whaling nations and the handful of countries who hunt whales, despite a 1986 moratorium. (more)

Arctic may be ice-free within 30 years

Sea ice in the Arctic is melting at a record pace this year, suggesting warming at the north pole is speeding up and a largely ice-free Arctic can be expected in summer months within 30 years.

The area of the Arctic ocean at least 15% covered in ice is this week about 8.5m sq kilometres – lower than the previous record low set in 2007 – according to satellite monitoring by the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado. In addition, new data from the University of Washington Polar Science Centre, shows that the thickness of Arctic ice this year is also the lowest on record.

In the past 10 days, the Arctic ocean has been losing as much as 150,000 square kilometres of sea a day, said Mark Serreze, director of the NSIDC.

"The extent [of the ice cover] is going down, but it is also thinning. So a weather pattern that formerly would melt some ice, now gets rid of much more. There will be ups and downs, but we are on track to see an ice-free summer by 2030. It is an overall downward spiral."

Global warming has been melting Arctic sea ice for the past 30 years at a rate of about 3% per decade on average. But the two new data sets suggest that, if current trends continue, a largely ice-free Arctic in summer months is likely within 30 years. That is up to 40 years earlier than was anticipated in the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report.

Sea ice, which is at its maximum extent in March and its lowest in September each year, is widely considered to be one of the "canaries in the mine" for climate change, because the poles are heating up faster than anywhere else on Earth. According to NSIDC, air temperatures for June 2011 were between 1 and 4C warmer than average over most of the Arctic Ocean. (more)

Loss of Top Predators Has More Far-Reaching Effects than Thought

Sea otters eat sea urchins and sea urchins eat kelp. When sea otters are present, the coastal kelp forests maintain a healthy balance. But when the fur trade wiped out the otters in the Aleutian Islands in the 1990s, sea urchins grew wildly, devouring kelp, and the kelp forest collapsed, along with everything that depended on it. Fish populations declined. Bald eagles, which feed on fish, altered their food habits. Dwindled kelp supplies sucked up less carbon dioxide, and atmospheric carbon dioxide increased.

The animal that sits at the top of the food chain matters, and its loss has large, complex effects on the structure and function of its ecosystem, according to an article published on Thursday in the online issue of the journal, Science.

That the presence or loss of an ecosystem's top predator is linked to surges and crashes in the food chain is nothing new. The term for the phenomenon is "trophic cascade," and it's been applied to coastal sea otters, as well as the gray wolves in Yellowstone and the mountain lions in Zion National Park, to name just a few. (more)

As CO2 levels rise, land becomes less able to curb warming: study

Wetlands, forests and farmlands soak up large amounts of carbon dioxide but rising amounts of the gas in the atmosphere mean these carbon "sinks" could become less effective at fighting climate change.

Scientists say land ecosystems are an essential brake on the pace of climate change because plants soak up large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) as they grow. This also boosts the level of carbon in soils.

But in a study published in the British journal Nature on Thursday, scientists say rising levels of planet-warming CO2 will trigger an increased release of two other far more potent greenhouse gases from soils, rice paddies and wetlands.

"Our results suggest that the capacity of land ecosystems to slow climate warming has been overstated," the authors, led by Kees Jan van Groenigen of Northern Arizona University in the United States, conclude.

Scientists say many plants will grow faster as CO2 levels rise, leading to more CO2 mopped up from the atmosphere. But rising levels of nitrous oxide and methane offsets some of the benefit. (more)

The Bacon Uprising: How China's Top-Secret Strategic Pork Reserve Is Burning Down The Amazon

Since Deng Xiaoping, China’s leaders have been obsessed with “food security” the same way America’s are haunted by not having enough oil. And as Chinese diets become more meat centric, fears of the dangers in the fluctuation of pork prices led China to establish a top-secret “strategic pork reserve” in 2007, the only one of its kind. But maintaining all those pigs has led to a massive dependence on corn and soybean imports for animal feed, which in turn is leading China’s agribusinesses to fan out abroad in a quest to control the means of production. China's attempts to control the means of production in other countries just rising out of developing world is causing tension with its natural allies, and could be just the first step in an ever-escalating series of resource-based conflicts.

In 2006, a fatal outbreak of PRRS (aka porcine blue-ear disease) devastated China’s swineherds, killing millions of pigs. The losses comprised just a tiniest fraction of its total herd of 660 million--more than the next 43 largest producers combined--but even the slight shortfall led to soaring pork prices a year later. Hence, the pork reserve, which would allow Beijing to move quickly to keep its citizens in ribs should there be another interruption in production.

China’s strategic pork reserve is the direct consequence of an emerging, meat-eating middle class and a government determined to feed them. As the sociologist Mindi Schneider points out, Deng’s economic reforms in the late 1970s privileged industrial farms over small plots to guarantee a steady supply of cheap pork. As a result, the average citizen’s meat consumption has quadrupled since 1980, while pork consumption has doubled in the last two decades. And China’s meat packers are just getting started--only 22% of China’s pork production takes place in industrial feedlots, compared to 97% of America’s. In the future, it will always be the Year of the Pig. (more)

Have jellyfish come to rule the waves?

Last year I began to wonder, this year doubt is seeping away, to be replaced with a rising fear. Could it really have happened? Could the fishing industry have achieved the remarkable feat of destroying the last great stock?

Until 2010, mackerel were the one reliable catch in Cardigan Bay in west Wales. Though I took to the water dozens of times, there wasn't a day in 2008 or 2009 when I failed to take 10 or more. Once every three or four trips I would hit a major shoal, and bring in 100 or 200 fish: enough, across the season, to fill the freezer and supply much of our protein for the year. Those were thrilling moments: pulling up strings of fish amid whirling flocks of shearwaters, gannets pluming into the water beside my kayak, dolphins breaching and blowing. It was, or so it seemed, the most sustainable of all the easy means of harvesting animal protein.

Even those days were nothing by comparison to what the older residents remembered: weeks on end when the sea was so thick with fish that you could fill a bucket with mackerel just by picking them off the sand, as they flung themselves through and beyond the breaking waves while pursuing their prey.

Last year it all changed. From the end of May to the end of October I scoured the bay, on one occasion paddling six or seven miles from land – the furthest I've ever been – to try to find the fish. With the exception of a day on which I caught 20, I brought them back in ones or twos, if at all. There were many days on which I caught nothing at all.

There were as many explanations as there were fishermen: the dolphins had driven them away, the north-westerlies had broken up the shoals, a monstrous fishmeal ship was stationed in the Irish Sea, hoovering up 500 tonnes a day with a fiendish new vacuum device. (Despite a wealth of detail on this story I soon discovered that no such ship existed. But that's fishermen for you).

I spoke to a number of fisheries officials and scientists, and was shocked to discover that not only did they have no explanation, they had no data either. (more)

‘Whites Only’ Sign Posted At Hotel Parking Lot in Wildwood, New Jersey: Are racial tensions on the rise?

Wildwood bills itself as a family friendly resort on the Jersey Shore, but suddenly, it’s a city dealing with an incident of racism.

“I thought maybe someone thought this is prank,” says Uyvonne Robinson, “but it’s not a prank to us. This is our livelihood.”

On Wednesday morning, someone posted a sign outside Nana’s Apartments that read “Parking for whites only.” Robinson and her husband have owned the motel for eleven years, but they have never seen anything like this. (more)

Iran ready to give Syria $5.8 billion: report

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini backs offering $5.8 billion in aid to Syria to bolster its economy, a French newspaper said Friday, citing a report by a Tehran think-tank linked to Iran's leadership.

Damascus has long been Tehran's main ally among otherwise mainly hostile Arab states. After four months of popular unrest, Syria's economy is reeling under the weight of strikes, reduced oil exports, scaled-back trade and international sanctions.

Its troubles have prompted Iran's leadership to consider offering $5.8 billion in financial help, including a three-month loan worth $1.5 billion to be made available immediately, French business daily Les Echos said.

It added that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has backed the idea of the aid, which was outlined in a secret report by the Center for Strategic Research, a think tank linked to the Iranian leadership.

It was not possible to verify the report Friday.

Iran, Les Echos said, could also provide 290,000 barrels of oil to Syria each day over the next month while helping to boost border controls to stop Syrians from fleeing the country for Lebanon with cash. (more)

Iran says it can block 'Internet in a suitcase'

Iran's intelligence minister said Friday that his country has found a way to block the so-called "Internet in a suitcase," a program reportedly developed by the U.S. to bring online access to dissidents around the world.

The minister, Heidar Moslehi, told Muslim worshippers that Iran was aware of the program from the start. "We prepared a solution for it," he said in a speech broadcast live on state radio. He did not elaborate.

Iran has alleged that the program, first reported by The New York Times last month, is largely aimed at the Islamic Republic.

Earlier this month, Iran's telecommunications minister, Reza Taqipour, said Iran is taking technical measures to combat the the program. Taqipour was quoted by state media as saying that the program is part of a "cultural invasion" by Iran's enemies aimed at promoting dissent and undermining Iran's ruling system.

During widespread anti-government protests following disputed June 2009 presidential elections, the government slowed Internet connections to a crawl and shut down cell phone services to stifle dissent. (source)

Osama Hit List: President Obama, Petraeus, Major U.S. Sporting Event

U.S. officials say that Osama Bin Laden wanted to assemble a team to attack America on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and had a hit list that included President Obama, General David Petraeus and a major U.S. sporting event.

The hit list was discovered in the "treasure trove" of information seized from Osama bin Laden's Pakistan compound after the Navy SEAL raid that killed him in May. Officials say he was intent on an attack on the upcoming 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, though the plot was only in the "discussion phase." He also remained obsessed with using aircraft to kill.

Officials tell ABC News that bin Laden wanted to fly a small plane into a sporting event to cause mass casualties.

"We have so many small airports, you could fly below radar," said Brad Garrett, former FBI special agent and now an ABC News consultant. "That's possibly doable.'

The primary target on bin Laden's hit list was President Obama. Officials tell ABC News that bin Laden was trying to hatch a plan to kill President Obama by shooting down Air Force One or Marine One, the president's plane and helicopter. (more)

Federal Court Rules That TSA ‘Naked Scans’ Are Constitutional

Last weekend, a Tennessee woman was arrested at the Nashville airport for disorderly conduct after she refused TSA security measures for her children. The woman didn’t want her two children to have to go through a whole-body-imaging scanner. When a Transportation Security Administration officer told her the machines were safe, she said, “I still don’t want someone to see our bodies naked.”

She won’t be pleased with a ruling then out of the D.C. Circuit today. This morning, the federal court ruled that the “naked scans” of air travelers do not violate Americans’ constitutional rights. Privacy rights group EPIC had sued the Department of Homeland Security, alleging violations of innocent passengers’ Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches. The court says that argument doesn’t fly.

In the opinion [pdf] from the D.C. Circuit Court (the Volokh Conspiracy), Judge Douglas Ginsburg writes that the advance imaging technology is not unreasonable given the security concerns on airplanes, and that people have the option to opt out for a pleasurable patdown. The court notes that some “have complained that the resulting patdown was unnecessarily aggressive,” but the judges don’t seem overly concerned about that. Ginsburg writes:

"On the other side of the balance, we must acknowledge the steps the TSA has already taken to protect passenger privacy, in particular distorting the image created using AIT and deleting it as soon as the passenger has been cleared. More telling, any passenger may opt-out of AIT screening in favor of a patdown, which allows him to decide which of the two options for detecting a concealed, nonmetallic weapon or explosive is least invasive." (more)

Chavez surprises with plan to get chemo in Cuba: Will US be sizing up Venezuela next?

President Hugo Chavez's fight against cancer has taken another surprising turn, with Venezuela's leftist leader announcing plans to fly back to Cuba on Saturday to begin chemotherapy.

Chavez has kept a close lid on information about his health problems over the past month but has made headlines with unexpected announcements and appearances.

The latest came Friday after Chavez met with Peruvian President-elect Ollanta Humala, when Chavez said he was asking permission from lawmakers to return to Havana. That's where he spent much of June undergoing surgeries to remove an abscess and a cancerous tumor in his pelvic region before making a surprise return home July 4.

"This second phase will begin in the next days with the application of chemotherapy, scientifically planned, in detail," Chavez said on the steps of the presidential palace. "I am sure, I repeat, that the second stage will contribute to following the path to the recuperation of my health."

It was not clear how long Chavez planned to remain in Cuba. (more)

Georgia police shut down girls' lemonade stand: "You need a permit"

Police in Georgia have shut down a lemonade stand run by three girls trying to save up for a trip to a water park, saying they didn't have a business license or the required permits.

Midway Police Chief Kelly Morningstar says police also didn't know how the lemonade was made, who made it or what was in it.

The girls had been operating for one day when Morningstar and another officer cruised by.

The girls needed a business license, peddler's permit and food permit to operate, even on residential property. The permits cost $50 a day or $180 per year.

One girl, 14-year-old Casity Dixon, says the three had to listen to police and shut down.

The girls are now doing chores and yard work to make money. (source)

United States recognizes Libya rebels as government (despite not knowing who they are, want they want, or what they're up to)

Rebel leaders won recognition as the legitimate government of Libya from the United States and other world powers on Friday in a major boost to the rebels' faltering campaign to oust Muammar Gaddafi.

Western nations said they also planned to increase the military pressure on Gaddafi's forces to press him to give up power after 41 years at the head of the North African state.

Recognition of the rebels, announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a meeting in Turkey of the international contact group on Libya, is an important diplomatic step which could unlock billions of dollars in frozen Libyan funds.

The decision comes as reports are circulating Gaddafi has sent out emissaries seeking a negotiated end to the conflict, although he remains defiant in his public utterance.

In a speech broadcast as thousands of loyalists rallied in a street demonstration, Gaddafi rejected international recognition of the rebels.

"Trample on those recognitions, trample on them under your feet," he told his supporters. "They are worthless." (more)

"Contagion": More swine / avian flu propaganda, now through Hollywood?

Obama: 80% of Americans think a tax hike is a good idea -- His next campaign stop: Reality

President Obama on Friday kept up the pressure on Republicans to agree to revenue increases in a deal to raise the debt ceiling, claiming 80 percent of the public supports Democrats' demand for tax increases.

"The American people are sold," Obama said. "The problem is members of Congress are dug in ideologically."

Throughout the press conference, Obama blasted Republicans for ignoring what he said is the will of the American people by rejecting tax increases that would balance out spending cuts in a debt package.

"This is not an issue of salesmanship to the American people," Obama said.

"I hope [Republicans are] not just listening to lobbyists and special interests ... I hope they're listening to the American people as well," Obama said, citing "poll after poll" showing Republican voters, as well as Democrats, believe in taking "a balanced approach" — including both increased revenues and spending cuts in a plan to cut the deficit.

Obama repeated his warning that the country is "running out of time" to avert a financial “Armageddon.” (more)

Dead Horse Lands At JFK Airport -- Abuse? Neglect? Something else?

Dead Horse Lands At JFK Airport:

A horse arrived dead at Kennedy Airport Friday morning aboard a cargo plane owned by El Al, according to the airline.

The dead animal was aboard Flight 831 which originated in Tel Aviv Thursday and stopped in Belgium before flying into JFK.

El Al flights originate in Ben Gurion International Airport. Flight 831 stopped at Liege Airport -- a cargo airport in Belgium, according to the El Al website.

SkyFoxHD checked out the scene at about 10:30 a.m. where several horses could be seen being walked off a plane and onto the tarmac. It's not clear if the dead horse was aboard the same plane.

USDA has arrived on scene and will be transporting the horse for an necropsy.

There are unconfirmed reports the dead horse was of 'high value' and is a show horse. (source)

Skyler Ninham, Anthony Stewart rob elderly man... for 7 cents

Two Syracuse teenagers were convicted this week – one by guilty plea and the other by a jury verdict – in the armed robbery of an elderly man that netted them a total of seven cents.

Skyler Ninham, 16, of Grace St., pleaded guilty before County Judge William Walsh Friday afternoon to a felony count of first-degree robbery.

Anthony Stewart, 15, of West Onondaga Street, was found guilty by a County Court jury Wednesday of the same first-degree robbery charge following a trial.

Walsh said the evidence showed the two youths ran up from behind a 73-year-old man on his way to a neighborhood store Dec. 22 and knocked the victim into a snowbank.

While the victim was on the ground, Ninham kicked him in the head and Stewart punched him in the face, breaking his glasses, the judge said.

The victim testified the youths were both armed with guns, one appeared to be a revolver and the other a shotgun, the judge said. Stewart claimed in a confession that the weapons were BB guns. (more)

Binge drinking 'can damage memory skills' in teen girl -- Thank you, Science, for letting us know

Teenagers - especially girls - who binge drink could be damaging the part of their brain which controls memory and spatial awareness, say Californian researchers.

Young women's brains are particularly vulnerable to harm from alcohol because they develop earlier than men's.

Tests on 95 adolescents aged 16 to 19 were carried out by researchers at several US universities.

The study is published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Researchers recruited 27 binge-drinking males and 13 females and gave them neurophsychological tests and "spatial working memory" tests to complete.

Binge-drinking young women were defined as those drinking more than three pints of beer or more than four glasses of wine at one sitting. Binge-drinking men drank four pints of beer or a bottle of wine.

The same tests were then carried out on 31 males and 24 females who did not have episodes of drinking heavily and the results compared.

Using MRI scans, the study team found that female teenage heavy drinkers had less brain activation in several brain regions than female non-drinking teens when doing the same spatial task. (more)

Mexico prisoners in mass jail break in Nuevo Laredo, resulting in running battles, deaths

Seven prisoners have been killed and 59 others have escaped after a riot at a jail in northern Mexico near the US border, officials say.

Five guards are also missing and are believed to have aided the mass prison breakout in Nuevo Laredo town.

Mexican police say the majority of those on the run are drug traffickers and members of armed gangs.

The prison system is struggling to cope with an influx of offenders arrested in a campaign against drugs cartels.

Correspondents say prison breakouts are not uncommon in northern Mexico, where more than 400 inmates have escaped since January 2010.

Nuevo Laredo, in Tamaulipas state, lies just across the border from Laredo, Texas.

The largest jail break so far was last December when more than 140 prisoners escaped from the same prison.

According to a statement from the Tamaulipas state government, the riot began on Friday morning in Nuevo Laredo's Sanctions Enforcement Centre, which houses an estimated 1,200 prisoners. (more)

6.1 Magnitude Earthquake ALASKA PENINSULA - 16th July 2011

LinkA magnitude 6.1 earthquake has struck the Alaska Peninsula at a depth of 48.2 km ( 30 miles), the quake hit at 19:59:14 UTC Saturday 16th July 2011.
The epicenter was 70 km (43 miles) from South West of Sand Point, Alaska
No Tsunami warning issued and no damage or injuries reported at this time.

5.7 Magnitude Earthquake LAKE BAYKAL REGION, RUSSIA - 16th July 2011

A magnitude 5.6 earthquake has struck Lake Baykal Region, Russia at a depth of 16.2 km ( 10.1 miles), the quake hit at 18:38:52 UTC Saturday 16th July 2011.
The epicenter was 122 km (76 miles) from Ulan-Ude, Russia
No Tsunami warning issued and no damage or injuries reported at this time.

UPDATE: This earthquake was later upgraded to a 5.7 Magnitude and much shallower than first recorded - Depth 8.8 km (5.5 miles)

5.5 Magnitude Earthquake VANUATU- 16th July 2011

A magnitude 5.5 earthquake has struck Vanuatu at a depth of 247 km ( 153.3 miles), the quake hit at 18:09:41 UTC Saturday 16th July 2011.
The epicenter was 76 km (47 miles) North of Isangel, Tanna, Vanuatu
No Tsunami warning issued and no damage or injuries reported at this time.

5.8 Magnitude Earthquake KEPULAUAN BARAT DAYA, INDONESIA - 16th July 2011

A magnitude 5.8 earthquake has struck Kepulauan Barat Daya, Indonesia at a depth of 246.2 km ( 153 miles), the quake hit at 17:06:39 UTC Saturday 16th July 2011.
The epicenter was 272 km (169 miles) from Dili, East Timor
No Tsunami warning issued and no damage or injuries reported at this time.

Six police officers and an RSPCA team called out to capture giant ostrich - 16th July 2011

When this ostrich decided to make a bid for freedom, little did it realise the trouble it would cause.

The 6ft albino bird was spotted roaming through a Dover street early in the morning by a startled scaffolder who was driving to work.

It was only eventually captured thanks to the efforts of six police officers and a team from the RSPCA.

Wayne McLester, speaking to the Daily Mirror, said he "got the fright of his life" when the bird sprinted past him while he was driving to work at 6.30am.

The 21-year-old said: 'It just stopped in front of my van and stared at me.

'I was about to try to catch it when I remembered a wildlife show which said ostriches could kill a lion with a kick, so I stayed in my van.'

Before calling the emergency services the scaffolder used his van to herd the bird into a car park.

He then took these pictures and watched six police officers nervously surround it.

'They waited a good hour trying to contain the ostrich before the RSPCA arrived and took it away,' said Mr McLester.

It is not known where the ostrich escaped from.

But as there are breeders in the area supplying ostrich meat to a growing market, it seems it made a sensible decision in making a bid for freedom. Source

Royal Navy loses 2,000lb World War Two mine off Essex coast after trying to blow it up - 16th July 2011

Image: Discovery: The mine, thought to be similar to this one which washed up on the Suffolk coast in 1946, was misplaced before crews could destroy it.

The Royal Navy today lost a 2,000lb Second World War mine during attempts to destroy it with a controlled explosion.

The device was originally picked up by a dredger eight nautical miles off the coast of Essex yesterday morning.

A Royal Navy diving unit went on board, but the mine went missing as they tried to put it on to a flotation device to take it away from the dredger and detonate it.

An Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokeswoman said: 'They were lowering it down, the conditions were quite poor and the bomb became mislaid. Read More

Note; by the sound of it, It didn't go missing they dropped it

Four firefighters trapped inside lift after refusing to use stairs during flat blaze - 16th July 2011

Four firemen were admitted to hospital after being trapped in an inferno - because they used the lift in a burning tower block.

The unlucky firefighters got stuck in the lift after they disobeyed one of the basic rules of fire safety: in case of fire, use the stairs.

They were called to the 17-storey building when a fire broke out on the fourth floor. Over 100 residents were evacuated in a two-hour operation to bring the fire under control.

A source slammed the firefighters' error, according to the Sun: 'It beggars belief firemen used the lift. Everyone has it drilled into them to use the stairs - even in a fire drill.'

In total, 75 firemen were needed to tackle the blaze, which started around three o'clock yesterday morning at the Salamanca Tower in Lambeth, south London.

Nine residents closest to the inferno had to be rescued via ladders, though most others were led down through the stairwells.

The building was only built three years ago, but it suffered 'extensive damage' in the blaze, according to a fire service spokesman. Read More

Where did summer go? Severe weather warnings issued as Britain is battered by heavy downpours and 30mph winds - 16th July 2011

The middle of July may normally see the sun shine and temperatures soar, but it seemed a long way from the height of summer today as heavy downpours hit Britain.

The prospect of a barbecue summer was put on hold nationwide over the weekend as forecasters warned the wet weather is likely to last into next week.

Heavy showers, thunder and windy conditions battered western and northern England, as well as the South-East, including The Open golf championship at Royal St George's in Kent.

Many families will hope that, with school holidays just a week away, Britain defies the ancient St Swithin's Day folklore promising rain for a further 40 days.

But the prospect of sunny spells looks uncertain as forecasters said the wind and rain is expected to last at least until Monday.

Further wet spells are expected well into next week across large parts of the country, with the Met Office saying some parts of the UK might not see settled sunnier spells until the last week of July. Read More

4.3 Magnitude earthquake SERBIA - 16th July 2011

A magnitude 5.3 earthquake has struck Serbia at a depth of 17.4 km ( 16 miles), the quake hit at 16:09:18 UTC Saturday 16th July 2011.
The epicenter was 27 km (16 miles) WSW of Nis, Serbia

No reports of damage or injuries at this time.

European stress tests: banks set for 'chaos Monday' after nine fail

European banks are set for a day of “chaos” on Monday as investors and analysts derided the latest round of industry stress tests as “inadequate”.

The nine banks that failed the European Banking Authority’s (EBA) stress tests will have to raise just €2.5bn (£2.2bn) between them to meet their capital shortfall.

City analysts and investors said the criteria used by the EBA were overly optimistic and failed to capture the severity of the current sovereign debt crisis sweeping across the eurozone.

“If the European Union could monetise the value of the credibility it has destroyed it would be richest organisation on earth,” said one major credit manager.

The detail provided by the banks is far greater than in last year’s stress tests and the fear now is that with so much information fund managers and bank analysts will be able to make their own judgments on how much extra capital will be required by the 90 banks covered by the tests.

“I think next week could see chaos. It’s clear the tests the EBA has done are inadequate. We now have the weekend to work out what the banks really need,” said one analyst at a major European bank. (more)

Libya: military action will intensify while UN presses for end to conflict

Military action against Muammar Gaddafi's government will be intensifed while a UN envoy presses for negotiations to end the conflict in Libya, William Hague said.

Mr Hague, the foreign secretary, said the UN secretary-general's special envoy to Libya, Abdul Elah Al-Khatib, would be authorised to present terms for Gaddafi to leave power and bring an end to the bloodshed that began with a popular uprising against his 41-year rule in February.

"He (special envoy) has taken a central role in this contact group meeting and we see him as the channel for negotiations and for political settlement, while the military pressure on the regime will continue to intensify," Mr Hague said in an interview with Reuters during an international Libya contact group meeting in Istanbul.

Alain Juppe, France's foreign minister, said that the military action will continue through Ramadan unless Gaddafi submits to demands to step down.

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State and Baroness Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, were among more than a dozen foreign ministers attending the Istanbul talks, along with heads of NATO, the Arab League and other regional organisations. More than 30 governments and international organisations were attending the one-day meeting.

The Libya contact group today recognised the rebel National Transitional Council as the country's "legitimate governmental authority". (more)

Just what is Manhattanhenge?

New Yorkers have witnessed an urban solar phenomenon, with the Sun setting in alignment with the city's skyscrapers and giving an effect fans say is reminiscent of Wiltshire's Stonehenge. Welcome to Manhattanhenge.

Twice every year amateur photographers gather in carefully-selected spots to set up tripods and wait to capture the ultimate sunset.

On Wednesday night at 2025 local time (0125 BST), the east-west lying streets of the city's famous grid system neatly framed the setting sun, creating golden glows New Yorkers rarely see.

During the phenomenon, the Sun appears to be nestled perfectly between the skyscraper corridors, illuminating the north and south sides of the streets. (read more)

Coca-Cola, KFC may enter North Korea

Some 10 executives from the companies visited Pyongyang from July 5-9 on the invitation of the North’s Korea Taepung International Investment Group, a major channel for attracting foreign investment.

Sources said their branches will be established as early as in September.

The North’s decision to accept the symbols of capitalism and American culture is the latest in the poverty-stricken country’s moves to open up to the outside world.

North Korea recently agreed with the Associated Press to open a permanent bureau in its capital. It also signed a video supply agreement with Thomson Reuters. (source)

Mumbai bomb blast death toll rises to 19

The death toll from this week's bombings in India's financial capital rose to 19 as Mumbai police continued Saturday to systematically sift through the evidence gathered from the site of the three blasts.

A police official said teams of investigators had fanned out to at least three different cities in the country to probe the existence of groups that may have links to the bombings.

The death toll in the blasts climbed to 19 when two injured men succumbed to their wounds, another police official said Saturday.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

More than 100 people were still in hospitals in Mumbai being treated for wounds sustained when the bombs went off Wednesday evening.

No group has claimed responsibility for the bombings, and investigators have not named any suspects.

The teams of investigators were questioning suspected members of militant organizations in the southern cities of Bangalore and Hyderabad and the eastern cities of Ranchi and Kolkata, one of the police officials said. (more)