Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Friday, July 22, 2011

11 dead as Kandahar clashes enter 2nd day

Nearly a dozen people, including six suicide bombers, were killed and another 44 injured as clashes between security forces and militants entered a second day in southern Kandahar province on Sunday, officials said.

The insurgents, using heavy and light weapons, on Saturday launched a wave of attacks on government offices at 1pm in Kandahar City. Trade fire between attackers and security forces continued until Sunday morning, with the insurgents firing and throwing hand grenades at the governor's house and other government departments.

A doctor at the Mirwais hospital, wishing anonymity, confirmed receiving two dead bodies and 46 injured people at the hospital. Three seriously injured people died of their wounds at the hospital on Sunday, he said. The dead included three civilians and two security personnel, he said.

Helicopters of foreign troops were seen hovering over the city and firing at trenches of attackers. (more)

Severe Drought Continues to Plague Livestock Farmers in Kenya

Fitch calls default, Greece pledges no let-up on debt

Fitch ratings agency declared Greece would be in temporary default as the result of a second bailout, which Athens said had bought it breathing space.

But the agency pledged to give Greece a higher, "low speculative grade" after its bonds had been exchanged and said Athens now had some hope of tackling its debt mountain, which most economists still expect to force a deeper restructuring in the future.

An emergency summit of leaders of the 17-nation currency area agreed a second rescue package on Thursday with an extra 109 billion euros (96 billion pounds) of government money, plus a contribution by private sector bondholders estimated to total as much as 50 billion euros by mid-2014.

Under the bailout of Greece, which supplements a 110 billion euro rescue plan by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in May last year, banks and insurers will voluntarily swap their Greek bonds for longer maturities at lower rates.

"Fitch considers the nature of private sector involvement... to constitute a restricted default event," said David Riley, Head of Sovereign Ratings at Fitch. (more)

Flood flushes at least five away in South West China

At least five people, including four children, were flushed away by a flash flood Friday morning after continuous torrential rain in Guizhou Province, according to local rescuers.

Witnesses said they saw one adult and four children carried away by the flooded Xiangjiang River in Zunyi City around 11 a.m. Friday.

Rescuers said some locals who were fishing and others near the riverside had been swept away. However, the rescuers could not confirm exactly how many people were missing.

The emergency office of the city government said heavy rain had pounded Zunyi since 4 a.m. Friday. (source)

Euro crisis: How about a 'Eurozone Confederacy'?

Today’s summit will, of course, almost certainly be concluded with an announcement of success. The ministers will declare that, though matters had proceeded to the eleventh hour and negotiations were fraught, they have come to a decisive, large, long-term agreement.

But what will have changed? Will Greece have ceased to be headed towards 170 percent of GDP in debt? Will Greece’s failing to pay these debts (e.g. by extending maturities on its loans) have ceased to be a default? Will Ireland be any less likely to impose losses on bank senior bondholders? Will the banks in France and Germany have any more adequate capital? Will the Spanish housing market be any less problematic? Will Belgium have a government?

Most of the measures being discussed are variants of “more of the same” - the same stupid, misconceived, economically-ignorant, market-hating, ill-directed folly that has characterised policy-making since mid-2007. Most of it is just “one more heave”, good money thrown after bad.

And yet…The draft statement talks of a “Marshall Plan” for Greece, based around the EU structural funds. If that just means raiding EU structural funds to give extra money to the Greek government to spend as it will, putting off decisions on cutting welfare entitlements, extending retirement ages, etc, then it is simply a limited version of the nonsensical transferunion idea that has done the rounds for some time, and will be unacceptable to the Germans, Finns, or Slovakians, and inapplicable (for reasons of scale) to the Spanish or Italians. It surely can’t mean simply the use of existing structural funds, as the UK is a contributor to these and that would mean the UK being a participant in the Greece 2 bailout, which it has been agreed we will not be – and we aren’t even at the summit to change our minds! (more)

For Liberty: Ron Paul 2012 Handout DVD

Corporate Tax Holiday in Debt Ceiling Deal: Where's the Uproar?

Have been meaning to write about this, but I’m increasingly amazed at the overall lack of an uproar about the possibility of the government approving another corporate tax repatriation holiday.

I’ve been in and out of DC a few times in recent weeks and one thing I keep hearing is that there is a growing, and real, possibility that a second “one-time tax holiday” will be approved for corporations as part of whatever sordid deal emerges from the debt-ceiling negotiations.

I passed it off as a bad joke when I first saw news of this a few weeks ago, when it was reported that Wall Street whipping boy Chuck Schumer was seriously considering the idea. Then I read later on that other Senators were jumping on the bandwagon, including North Carolina’s Kay Hagan.

This is what Hagan’s spokesperson said:

Senator Hagan is looking closely at any creative, short-term measures that can get bipartisan support and put people back to work. One such potential initiative is a well-crafted and temporary change to the tax code that encourages American companies to bring money home and put it towards capital, investment, and–most importantly–American jobs.

For those who don’t know about it, tax repatriation is one of the all-time long cons and also one of the most supremely evil achievements of the Washington lobbying community, which has perhaps told more shameless lies about this one topic than about any other in modern history – which is saying a lot, considering the many absurd things that are said and done by lobbyists in our nation’s capital.

Here’s how it works: the tax laws say that companies can avoid paying taxes as long as they keep their profits overseas. Whenever that money comes back to the U.S., the companies have to pay taxes on it. (more)

Ron Paul on Proponents of Raising Debt Ceiling: 'I Think They're Misled'

6.5 million US properties in delinquency or foreclosure

Lender Processing Services Inc. (LPS), a provider of integrated technology, data and analytics to the mortgage and real estate industries, has reported the following "first look" of June 2011 month-end mortgage performance statistics derived from its loan-level database of approximately 40 million mortgage loans.

►Total U.S. loan delinquency rate (loans 30 or more days past due, but not in foreclosure): 8.15 percent

►Number of properties that are 30 or more days delinquent or in foreclosure:

►Month-over-month change in delinquency rate: 2.4 percent

►Year-over-year change in delinquency rate: -14.7 percent

►Total U.S foreclosure pre-sale inventory rate: 4.12 percent

►Month-over-month change in foreclosure presale inventory rate: 0.2 percent

►Year-over-year change in foreclosure presale inventory rate: 12.8 percent

►Number of properties that are 30 or more days past due, but not in foreclosure: 4,285,000

►Number of properties that are 90 or more days delinquent, but not in foreclosure: 1,906,000

►Number of properties in foreclosure pre-sale inventory: 2,167,000

►Number of properties that are 30 or more days delinquent or in foreclosure:
6,452,000 (more)

Norway: Police discover undetonated explosives on island where shooting took place


Oslo Bombing: Why Would “Terrorists” Attack Near-Empty Office Building on Public Holiday?

Daily Mail reports: Fortunately, it is a public holiday in Norway and the offices are less busy than a normal weekday.

Why would “terrorists,” who presumably want to kill as many people as possible, choose to bomb the building on a day when they know it will be almost empty?

Comment from a reader:

I’m from Norway and here are some little reported facts:

1) Fact: A person dressed as a cop has shot and killed at least 5 members of the youth organization of the governing labour party in their convention at Ut√łya. He is now captured.

Comment: False cops? These are professionals. The shootings happened at the same time as the explosion, but far, far away from each other (several houres + you have to take a boat to get to the island).

2) Fact: The explosion took place downdtown in the height of the holliday, with all the surrounding buildings (many important press, union and governmental buildings, including the labour party) being almost empty. At a normal day thousands would have been killed and wounded. Today, only a handful dead and wounded.

Comment: Why would terrorists choose a timing with less impact? Now, if this is a black-operation in order to influence opinion, it makes sense.

3) Fact: My friend’s father is a dynamiter blaster expert by profession. He has worked with explosions for 35 years. He noticed that the ground was raised so that the armouring which had been below the ground now lay above the ground. For this to happen the explosion have had to happen UNDER the ground, like if a gas tube had exploded (there was road/sewer work in the exact area for several days prior to this). When the ground is raised like this, as was apparant on the news, it can not have been a car bomb like the media speculates. People have been smelling sulphur all over downtown.

Comment: Who had the resources to get access underground? Not the fundamentalist simpleton, to be sure.

4) Fact: After less than one hour the police concluded that it was a “bomb”.

Comment: How can they have determined this so quickly? There has been complete chaos, people are evacuated and even corpses was not removed within an hour. How could they determine this so quickly? How could they rule out an accident in the gas pipes? This smells fishy. (more)

Report: China building electromagnetic pulse weapons for use against U.S. carriers

China's military is developing electromagnetic pulse weapons that Beijing plans to use against U.S. aircraft carriers in any future conflict over Taiwan, according to an intelligence report made public on Thursday.

Portions of a National Ground Intelligence Centerstudy on the lethal effects of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and high-powered microwave (HPM) weapons revealed that the arms are part of China’s so-called “assassin’s mace” arsenal - weapons that allow a technologically inferior China to defeat U.S. military forces.

EMP weapons mimic the gamma-ray pulse caused by a nuclear blast that knocks out all electronics, including computers and automobiles, over wide areas. The phenomenon was discovered in 1962 after an aboveground nuclear test in the Pacific disabled electronics in Hawaii.

The declassified intelligence report, obtained by the private National Security Archive, provides details on China’s EMP weapons and plans for their use. Annual Pentagon reports on China's military in the past made only passing references to the arms.

“For use against Taiwan, China could detonate at a much lower altitude (30 to 40 kilometers) … to confine the EMP effects to Taiwan and its immediate vicinity and minimize damage to electronics on the mainland,” the report said.

The report, produced in 2005 and once labeled “secret,” stated that Chinese military writings have discussed building low-yield EMP warheads, but “it is not known whether [the Chinese] have actually done so.” (more)

Japan nuclear scare triggers run for radiation checks

Japanese private research labs with radiation testing gear have been flooded with orders for checks on food and soil samples after shipments of contaminated beef deepened public anxiety over radiation leaks from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Private institutions are bearing the brunt of a surge in demand from the public for radiation inspection, with public research facilities already overwhelmed with requests from the central and local governments, schools and farm cooperatives.

"It's totally understandable that people are worried. But we are barely keeping our heads above water with such tasks as pre-shipment checks on farm products," said an official in Fukushima prefecture, where the stricken plant is located.

A 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11 knocked out the cooling functions at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant 240 km (150 miles) north of the capital, triggering the radiation crisis.

The government said last week radioactive cesium three to six times higher than government safety standards was found in beef shipped to Tokyo from a farm near the Fukushima plant. Some of the contaminated meat was sold to consumers.

"We are even receiving orders all the way from western Japan. The distribution of (contaminated) beef has made them realise this is not someone else's problem," said Akira Hanawa, president of Isotope Research Institute in Yokohama, near Tokyo. (more)

Debt To Me: Obama, Geithner Could Face 'Impossibly Difficult' August

f the White House and lawmakers cannot reach an agreement to raise the country’s debt ceiling by the Aug. 2 deadline, it will fall to President Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to determine how Uncle Sam pays his bills -- indeed, which bills the federal government will pay, and which it will set aside -- once the country has no more borrowing power.

Analysts have likened the exercise that the chief executive would be forced to undertake to triage: the frantic, on-the-fly process by which physicians and nurses decide which patients arriving at a hospital's emergency room most urgently require medical attention, and which patients, however great their suffering, must be ignored for the moment.

"Not everything is going to be paid, and someone has to decide what's not going to be paid," said Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "The bills are higher than the income." (more)

Trump: Our leaders are leading us into oblivion

Why would terrorists want to attack Norway?

Senior U.S. officials say they cannot yet ascribe responsibility for Friday's attack on the government building in Oslo.

"What you see is what we know," said a senior administration official, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity.

However, they and others point to several possible connections that could lead officials to consider whether al-Qaida is behind the attacks.

Norwegian special forces have been fighting in Afghanistan for many years and Ayman al Zawahiri, al-Qaida's new leader after the death of Osama bin Laden, has been threatening Norway since 2003, warning that its participation in the U.S.-led military campaign against radical Islam in Afghanistan would result in an attack on the Norwegian homeland. Norwegian special forces operate in central Afghanistan, near Kabul.

On July 9, 2010, three Norwegians were indicted for planning an attack on targets in Oslo, apparently Chinese targets. Two of the three, a Uighur (Chinese Muslim) and an Uzbeki, were arrested in Norway, while a third, an Iraqi with Norwegian residence, was grabbed in Germany. The detentions were coordinated with arrest in New York of Najibulla Zazi, an Afghan-American man who wanted to blow up New York City subways. The two plots were believed to have been put together by al-Qaida’s central command in Pakistan -- Osama Bin Laden and Zawahiri.

Last week, Mullah Krekhar, founder of Ansar al Islam (the first Iraqi group affiliated with al-Qaida), was indicted in Oslo for threatening Norwegian government officials with death if he were to be deported. Krekhar took refuge in Oslo in early part of the last decade and has been seeking asylum. In comments to various news media, he threatened attacks if he was sent abroad, mainly on opposition figures who have long called for his extradition to the U.S. (more)

Tiffany Denise Allen: The McDonald's boss who punched woman with service dog

A McDonald's manager in the Atlanta area is accused of punching a mother after she brought her autistic children and a service dog inside the restaurant, authorities said.

Tiffany Denise Allen is charged with simple battery, simple assault and disorderly conduct, according to a Cobb County warrant.

Jennifer Schwenker entered the McDonald's in Marietta with her twins and service dog on July 12. Allen, who was off-duty at the time, became angry that the dog was inside, the warrant states. Police say Allen followed the mother around the restaurant, then punched her in the face in the parking lot.

Surveillance video shows McDonald's employees trying to restrain their co-worker, police wrote in the warrant.

J.M. and Jan Owens, who operate the store on Bells Ferry Road, said they're cooperating with police.

"At our McDonald's restaurant, we respect and value our customers. Their safety and well-being is always a top priority," they said in a statement to The Associated Press. (more)

Hudson River, Harlem River, part of East River not fit for recreational activity after sewage spill

Don't expect to beat the heat this weekend in a canoe, a kayak or a windsurfing board off Manhattan.

City officials declared the Hudson River, the East River south of the RFK Bridge and the Harlem River unfit for recreational activity due to raw sewage spilled by a treatment plant fire.

"Right now, there's no impact on public beaches," Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Cas Holloway said. "However, you should not be doing contact recreation on the Hudson River."

People splashing in the tainted water risk vomiting, diarrhea and fever. The warning to avoid the waterways is in effect through at least Sunday, officials said.

The popular Riverbank State Park, located atop the plant, was shut down until further notice.

The Wednesday night four-alarm fire at the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant forced the city to pump raw sewage into the Hudson.

"There was an explosion and the next thing you saw was a lot of black smoke covering the whole area," said Jaime Vergara, a parking attending who works next to the Harlem plant. (source)

Detroit Begins Rotating Blackouts

The excessive heat and higher electrical demand has led DTE Energy to begin intentional rolling blackouts in one Metro Detroit community, Thursday afternoon, and at least one other area could follow.

Residents in Ferndale, already hit with roughly 5,000 outages due to “system stress”, are now on rolling blackouts for the rest of the day.

“It allows us to make sure that we’re not putting excessive stress on equipment that may already be damaged, which could cause a more serious problem,” said DTE spokesman Len Singer.

“It assures that one batch of customers isn’t burdened with a power outage for the entire period of time,” he said.

Singer said DTE has notified customers in Ferndale that they will rotate outages, with power out for two hours and then on for two hours for customers in problem areas.

Singer said they are also keeping their eye on electrical demand in Warren to determine if rolling blackouts will be necessary there as well. (more)

Boehner: We're no where near reaching a deal on debt ceiling

The Senate on Friday firmly rejected a House Republican bill to slash spending and require a balanced-budget amendment, leaving unresolved with just days to go the urgent issue of increasing the nation's borrowing powers.

The 51-46 Senate vote against the tea party-backed measure—which had been expected in the Democratic-run chamber—came shortly after House Speaker John Boehner told reporters he and President Barack Obama had failed to reach a separate agreement to resolve the debt crisis.

"There was no agreement, publicly, privately, never an agreement, and frankly not close to an agreement," Boehner said. "So I suggest it's going to be a hot weekend here in Washington, D.C."

If progress is to be made over the weekend in the nation's steamy capital, it will have to be made behind closed doors and not in the open.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., canceled planned weekend Senate sessions, increasing the pressure on Obama, Boehner and other top-level negotiators to strike a deal. (more)

Hidden cameras expose privacy problem in Macy's fitting rooms

The next time you try on clothes at a department store, pay attention to the door.

A 10 News undercover investigation revealed customers may be revealing more than expected at Macy's stores all across the country. While it's illegal to secretly videotape inside fitting rooms in Florida, Macy's manages its loss-prevention by installing their privacy doors backward.

That means that any employee - or customer - standing up against the door can see inside. But the person getting changed cannot see out.

Macy's acknowledged installing the doors backward as a loss-prevention method.

"Retailers work hard to strike a balance between preserving the privacy of customers, providing customer service, maintaining customer safety in fitting rooms, and deterring the theft of merchandise," said Melissa Goff, Vice President of Media Relations & Cause Marketing at Macy's.

The company appears to have been installing privacy blinds backward for a number of years all across the country, whenever state law allows it. (more)

Robert Allen Kleman fires gun at girlfriend after she refuses to marry him

A Hobart man allegedly fired a shotgun after his girlfriend turned down his marriage proposal, police said.

Robert Allen Kleman III, 29, was charged with three counts of criminal recklessness through Lake Superior Court.

Police responded to a complaint of shots fired Sunday in the 300 block of North Colorado Street. Kleman at first told police a friend, a member of a biker gang, was at his house. While there, the friend supposedly dropped his gun causing it to discharge, Kleman told police.

Kleman's girlfriend told police he had asked her to marry him and after she turned down his offer, he became angry. She said he then pulled out a gun, pointed it over her head and fired several shots. (more)

Farm Thieves Target Grapes, and Even Bees

Sgt. Walt Reed said he could tell right away that the grapes were stolen. They looked like an ordinary bunch. Except, he said, for the way they were dressed.

“Usually grapes are put into plastic bags,” said Sergeant Reed, a 28-year veteran of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. “But these grapes were just thrown in a Styrofoam box.”

Sergeant Reed — who eventually arrested a suspect after staking out a Kern County vineyard — is just one of dozens of deputies on the front lines of agricultural crime in California, home to the nation’s most productive farms and the people who prey on them. While thievery has long been a fact of life in the country, such crimes are on the rise and fighting them has become harder in many parts of California as many grants for rural law enforcement have withered on the vine.

While other states have their own agricultural intrigue — cattle rustlers in Texas, tomato takers in Florida — few areas can claim a wider variety of farm felons than California, where ambushes on everything from almonds to beehives have been reported in recent years. Then there is the hardware: diesel fuel, tools and truck batteries regularly disappear in the Central Valley, the state’s agricultural powerhouse, where high unemployment, foreclosures and methamphetamine abuse have made criminals more desperate, officials say.

“All of our ag crimes are up,” said Sergeant Reed, who oversees a unit of two full-time detectives — down from three a year ago — all patrolling a county about eight times the size of Rhode Island. A wet winter and warm summer, after all, have meant healthy crops, he said, and a healthy market means happy thieves. (more)

Thieves target North Texas ambulances

Criminals are now preying on paramedics. News 8 has learned thieves have been breaking into ambulances right outside the doors of North Texas emergency rooms.

Seconds matter for paramedics. They have to act quickly to save lives, which is hard to do if someone has stolen critical equipment or medications from their ambulance.

“If you call us about your child, you call us about your grandmothers, we want to be prepared, and it does us absolutely no good for us to turn around and something to be missing," said Lewisville Fire Chief Richard Lasky.

Someone is walking right up to emergency rooms where ambulances are parked and taking what they can.

"One person jumps out and goes into the back of the medic and removes items from the back of the ambulance," said Capt Kevin Deaver. "Generally, it takes less than 30 seconds."

The Coppell Fire Department lost a defibrillator that cost $35,000. The Lewisville Fire Department had a bag full of medicines stolen and now at least five fire departments are reporting ambulance break-ins in the last few days. (more)

Thieves Snatching Sacremento Storm Drain Grates

Suspects have stolen more than 100 storm drain grates in Sacramento in recent weeks, forcing city workers to rush to replace them and leaving residents at a loss to explain by the culprits’ motives.

Natomas residents said at least 13 of the cast iron grates went missing overnight Wednesday, and city workers have begun welding the replacement grates in place.

The covers cost about $63 each to replace, but it is unlikely that thieves snatched the metal to sell for scrap. Although prices for recycled copper have jumped to about $3.25 a pound, cast iron can only sell for about a penny if you can find a recycler willing to pay for it.

At least one cover disappears a night, according to city officials, but suspects take as many as 15 in other nights.

The city of Sacramento has already paid at least $5,300 in materials alone. (source)

Federal Reserve starts planning for US debt default

The Federal Reserve has started making contingency plans should the US government default on its debt as talks over raising the debt ceiling continue to drag on.

The United States will not be able to pay all its bills unless the $US14.3 trillion ($13.2 trillion) ceiling is raised by August 2. Financial regulators are working through the possible consequences, a Federal Reserve official said.

''We are in contingency planning mode,'' Charles Plosser, president of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank, told Reuters. ''We are all engaged … It's a very active process.''
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Despite repeated warnings of the financial disruption that is likely to follow a default, the White House, and both parties in Congress, appeared no closer to striking a deal as the week drew to an end.

On Thursday the President, Barack Obama, and the House Speaker, John Boehner, rushed to strike agreement on a far-reaching plan to reduce the national debt but faced a revolt from Democrats furious that the accord appeared to include no provision to raise taxes.

With 12 days left until the Treasury begins to run short of cash, Mr Obama and Mr Boehner were closing in on the most ambitious plan to restrain the national debt in at least 20 years. Talks focused on cuts in agency spending and politically painful changes to cherished health and retirement programs aimed at saving roughly $3 trillion over the next decade. (more)

Notes on the US social crisis

The economic crisis manifests itself in virtually every facet of working class living conditions in the US. New state budgets include devastating cuts to basic social programs, even as the job and housing markets continue to worsen and need grows.
17,000 apply for 1,800 jobs in Louisville, Kentucky

In the span of a few days, 16,837 people lined up at the Kentucky Office of Employment & Training last week to apply for 1,800 openings at Ford’s Louisville Assembly Plant. The company will select applications to review through a lottery process.

The positions, many nightshift line jobs assembling the Escape SUV beginning in the fall, will pay only $15.51 per hour—half that previously earned by autoworkers in the US. Benefits will not begin for new hires until after eight months on the job.

Steven Stone, the United Auto Workers chairman at the Louisville plant, defended the wages. He commented to the Louisville Courier-Journal, “Those are good jobs even though they are ‘two tier.’ ” The Louisville plant is among the first in the country to implement the two-tier system.

The line-up is similar to a 2009 run on job openings at General Electric’s Louisville plant, when 10,000 applicants vied for 90 positions. Kentucky is attractive to corporations concentrated in the Midwest because of its “business friendly” tax structure and low wages. Louisville has higher than 10 percent unemployment and widespread poverty.

“Nobody’s working. You stand in the unemployment line, and you’re there for hours. It’s unbelievable,” one resident told local channel WDRB Fox 41. After being unemployed for a year, he explained, “I’m behind on everything. The bank’s after me. I’m just barely making it.” (more)

Europe's Contagion Effect: Prepare for a Global Economic Collapse

Europe is on the brink of a major financial disaster. Moody’s has downgraded Irish and Portuguese debt to junk, a status until now reserved for Greece. This in turn has led interest rates on Spanish and Italian debt to spike. Contagion of these two major economies is now imminent. If it happens, the global economy will plunge into a crisis that will make the 2008 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers look like a cakewalk.

For the past two years, the EU has treated the debt crisis in its periphery as a liquidity problem. As Greece, Ireland, and Portugal were forced out of the credit markets by high interest rates, the EU has stepped in, lending them more money. By 2014, Greek, Irish and Portuguese debt is projected to reach, respectively, 180 percent, 145 percent and 135 percent of GDP. At the same time, EU bailout plans have forced troubled countries to implement severe austerity measures that produced recessionary spirals, decreasing the chances that they will be able to meet skyrocketing obligations. Today, Europe's periphery is all but insolvent.

The EU’s approach to the crisis has failed. If Greece, Ireland, and Portugal do not restructure their debt in an orderly fashion they will ultimately have to default unilaterally. In fact, the longer EU leaders put off negotiating a coordinated restructuring, the more likely a disorderly default becomes. Financial markets understand this, which is why these countries have been unable to borrow normally. Now, investors fear the same fate will befall Spain and Italy, two of the largest economies in Europe, with a combined GDP around four times the size of the Greek, Irish, and Portuguese economies combined.

If Greece, Ireland, and Portugal are too big to fail, Spain and Italy are too big to save. Europe is fast approaching the moment of truth that will reveal whether it can solve the crisis or be consumed by it. (more)

A positive approach to a US government default

Who can honestly say that he is not enjoying the show?

Clowns to the left of us, jokers to the right…it’s fun, isn’t it?

Yesterday, the Dow fell and gold rose above $1,600 to a new record high. The euro fell, but against the dollar it is still more than 50% higher than it was when it was introduced 10 years ago.

In Europe, the world’s leading bankers and financial policymakers try to figure out how to avoid doing what comes naturally – going broke.

And in America, politicians scramble to raise the debt ceiling level before it is too late.

The big question is: who will default first? The Europeans? Or the Americans?

Larry Summers, former US Treasury Secretary, warned on TV that failing to raise the debt limit would be worse than after the Lehman bankruptcy in 2008. Ben Bernanke told Congress the same thing.

In Europe, the IMF and the rest of the financial elite have the same message. Don’t let Greece default, or there is a serious risk of “contagion,” and financial catastrophe. Larry Summers even crossed the ocean to give bad advice to the Europeans:

“No big financial institution in any country [should] be allowed to fail." (more)

Asian investors stricken by gold fever on record price

Gold fever is gripping Asian investors and could spread to central banks as global growth uncertainties tarnish the appeal of other assets, putting bullion on course for more gains but also provoking fears about supply.

Spot gold surged more than $100 in 11 straight days to Tuesday, its longest winning streak in four decades, hitting a record $1,609.51 an ounce, as debt default fears in the United States and Europe drove investors to seek safety.

Gold stayed above $1,600 on Thursday as market watchers remained cautious about the debt situation on both sides of the Atlantic.

Asian giants India and China, the world's two biggest consumers of the precious metal, expect to see demand continue to climb for the rest of the year, as growing wealth and stubbornly high inflation make bullion an attractive asset.

"Record high prices won't scare away investors," said Shi Heqing, an analyst at Antaike, a state-backed metals consultancy based in Beijing. (more)

Toxic seaweed on French coast sparks health fears after two wild boar were found dead on a beach - 22nd July 2011

Fears in Brittany over the health risks of toxic seaweed have been re-ignited after two wild boar were found dead on a beach and the amount of the foul-smelling green algae collected from western French shores has doubled in a year.

Conservationists say that toxic seaweed has now spread to more than 200 sites along the Atlantic coast from southern Brittany to the beaches of Normandy.

Bays popular with Britons from La Baule, a top summer beach destination in southern Brittany, to Granville in the Cotentin are now struggling to dispose of thousands of tons of Ulva lactuca – more commonly known as sea lettuce.

Experts have warned that the algae poses a health risk as when it rots it produces hydrogen sylphide, which if trapped under a seaweed crust and suddenly released can prove as deadly as cyanide.

Anses, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety, has just issued guidelines for dealing with the green sludge, saying it must be picked up within 48 hours of reaching the beach before it can start producing gas. If not, in the worst cases, it can cause "loss of consciousness with cardiac arrest or coma".

The seaweed has been multiplying abnormally fast due to the use of huge amounts of nitrates in intensive pig and poultry farming that seep into the region's rivers and water tables and end up in the sea. Source

Four killed, 200,000 stranded in Bangladesh floods - 22nd July 2011

At least four people were killed and more than 200,000 stranded after three days of heavy rains triggered flash floods and landslides in southeastern Bangladesh, officials said Friday.

The government's flood forecasting and warning centre said more than 49 centimetres (19 inches) of rain had pounded the worst-hit Cox's Bazaar district since Wednesday, flooding at least 200 villages in the hilly region.

"One child was buried under mud due to landslide and three more people were washed away in the huge torrents of water," Cox's Bazaar chief district administrator Zainul Bari told AFP.

He said two more people were missing and more than 200,000 had been marooned by the floods, forcing 3,200 families to take shelter in schools, cyclone shelters and on high ground.

Local authorities have distributed emergency relief to those most in need.

Southeastern Bangladesh is prone to deadly flash floods as tens of thousands of people live in makeshift houses on deforested, muddy slopes along the hills.

Earlier this month, at least 17 people died in adjoining Chittagong district from a rain-triggered landslide.

At least 53 people were killed in June last year when heavy rains caused landslides and flash floods in large swathes of Cox's Bazaar district, home to the world's largest unbroken beach. Source

Floods displace 800 in Eastern region, Ghana - 22nd July 2011

The National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) has dispatched a team to the Eastern Region as more communities get flooded by rivers which have broken their banks following torrential rains.

Parts of the Kade constituency have been cut off due to severe flooding.

About eight communities have been flooded after the Birim River broke its banks following hours of rainfall last Monday.

According to NADMO, about eight hundred people have so far been displaced by the floods.

The worst affected communities include Jejeti, Anyinam, and Mampong in the Atiwa district and Osino and Juaso in the Fanteakwa district. Large tracts of farmland have also been submerged.

Speaking to Citi News, the Eastern Regional NADMO coordinator, Ransford Boakye, said NADMO has been able to deal with the floods at Fanteakwa district but is struggling to deal with the floods in the Atiwa district.

“As for Fanteakwa for now I think it is okay but we have torment at Atiwa District and I have just had reports from my district coordinator that parts of Kade are on the waters…and there is no movement for now”. Read More

Tornado hits Waipu, New Zealand - 22nd July 2011

A tornado in the Northland town of Waipu has destroyed caravans and sheds in its path.. Heavy rain has also caused flooding in Whangarei.

Waipu chief fire officer Trevor Vaile says the tornado came off the sea and struck a property half way between Waipu and Waipu Cove at about 4.30pm on Friday.

Mr Vaile says it picked up a caravan and tossed it about 50m, destroying it.

He says the tornado went on to take out a shelter belt of pine trees before picking up another caravan and then destroying a third caravan and a cabin.

Mr Vaile says debris were spread across the nearby road and paddocks.

He says witnesses told him the tornado was an amazing sight.

"They just couldn't believe it, you know, a massive and noise from it as it came across the estuary. The most startling thing I have heard from everybody was how it picked up the swans and was the swans around."

Mr Vaile says fortunately no one was injured.

Whangarei flooding

Heavy rain in the Whangarei area has caused a series of floods.

Whangarei District Council says several traffic problems were reported, including man holes popping open.

The council is advising people to take great care on the district's roads over the next few days and to avoid travelling in flooded areas.

It says the downpours on Friday afternoon also caused a sewage spill at the Hatea Pump Station in Whangarei.

Weather warnings

MetService is warning of severe weather in parts of New Zealand this weekend.

It says rivers and streams could rise rapidly as a result of heavy rain in Gisborne and Hawke's Bay. Read More

Kizimen volcano on Russian Kamchatka Peninsula Eruption Continues - 22nd July 2011

Plumes of ash and hot gas jetting out of Kizimen volcano on Russian Kamchatka Peninsula have spread more than 15 km eastward as eruption continues.

Giant columns of steam and ash shot up to 500 meters above the crater. Ash plumes have spread more than 15 km eastward of the volcano.

Ash plumes, poisonous to human and animals, can also pose threats to aviation as fallen ash particles may cause mechanical problems and bring down airplanes.

Kizimen is one of 29 active volcanoes in Kamchatka. Source

'Depraved' mother who helped paedophile rape her own schoolgirl daughter before going shopping is jailed - 22nd July 2011

A 'depraved' mother who helped a paedophile rape her own daughter and then went shopping while he did it has been locked up.

The sick mum, who cannot be named for legal reasons, lured her daughter to where sex-pest Michael Hunt was waiting - and ordered her to have sex with him.

And despite seeing that the girl was too scared to move, the mum ignored her child's desperate cries for help - and went SHOPPING, a court heard.

Even when the 14-year-old contacted police, the mother attempted to 'emotionally blackmail' her into dropping the charges.

At Grimsby Crown Court on Wednesday Judge David Tremberg blasted the pair, saying the case 'beggars belief'.

Sentencing 40-year-old Hunt to nine years' imprisonment and the woman to five-and-a-half years' behind bars, he told the girls' mother: 'You facilitated her rape by Hunt.

'It almost beggars belief any mother would be so depraved to behave this way with her own flesh and blood.

'How does a child come to terms with such a devastating betrayal of trust?

'You told her that he wanted to do something sexual to her.

She said she was not happy with that, but you told her she would be all right and left her to her fate.

'In interview, you told the police that you could see she was too scared to move. Read More

First line of defence: The robotic jet ski that can see underwater when patrolling harbours for terrorists - 22nd July 2011

Protecting moored ships from terrorists has proved a heavy load on the mind of naval commanders over the last decade.

Now scientists may have found the answer - a robotic jet ski that can see underwater and travel at speeds of up to 40mph.

The Blackfish craft is 10ft-long and can either be remote-controlled from a distance of up to one kilometre away or travel on pre-programmed routes.

It is designed to prevent a suicide attack similar to Al-Qaeda's 2000 offensive on the U.S.S. Cole while it was docked in Yemen, an assault that claimed 17 lives.

Navy ships are particularly vulnerable to small boats and swimmers and it is this Achilles' Heel that scientists at British defence contractor QinetiQ hope the Blackfish will protect.

Mark Hewitt, a spokesman for QinetiQ North America, told Discovery: 'In both domestic and foreign ports, there’s great concern about swimmers approaching the boats underwater.

'The Navy has been working on the problem for some time.'

Engineers constructed the Blackfish by sawing the top half off a jet ski and equipping it with a video camera, underwater sonar and a surface radar - and possibly weapons sometime soon. Read More

Taxpayers foot $125,000 bill for Casey Anthony's legal defence... while she gets hundreds of housing and job offers - 22nd July 2011

Taxpayers will foot a $125,000 bill to help fund Casey Anthony’s legal defence team because she ran out of money.

The 'world's most hated mother', 25, of Orlando, Florida, was acquitted earlier this month of murdering her two-year-old daughter Caylee in 2008.

Her lawyers, who have been reimbursed for most expenses by the state, say she is safe and receiving hundreds of job and housing offers.

The $537 balance from her jail canteen fund after her release on Sunday is hardly enough to live on, but she seems to be managing fine.

Taxpayers began picking up Anthony's legal expenses in March 2010 after she ran out of money and was declared indigent by the courts.

So far, the state has reimbursed her lawyers for $119,000, the Justice Administrative Commission said, with another $5,800 bill pending.

Prosecutors have not finalised their overall expenses but have identified at least $91,000 in costs, a State Attorney’s Office spokesman said.

Still being calculated are the costs of the huge three-year police investigation that began in July 2008 when Caylee was reported missing.

Anthony falsely claimed her daughter had been kidnapped by a nanny. The toddler's skeletal remains were found in December 2008. Read More

Juliette Dunn 'ordered her four-year-old to chug a beer in a playground after forcing cocaine on her baby' - 22nd July 2011

A mother has been charged with forcing her four-year-old son to drink beer in a playground and giving her ten-month-old daughter cocaine.

Juliette Dunn, 29, was arrested after she was allegedly seen ordering her son to chug a 40-ounce bottle of beer in a public park and officers found a baby bottle that smelt of alcohol next to her daughter.

When questioned by social workers, the four-year-old boy said that he liked Natural Ice beer and Budweiser, but does not like the taste of Dog-Bite beer.

Both children tested positive for alcohol and the ten-month-old girl also had cocaine in her system.

According to police, officers were waved down by a concerned neighbour in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on June 28 after she saw that a mother was feeding her children beer in the playground. Read More

Jeff Seale died Two weeks after being bitten 19 times by a black widow spider - 22nd July 2011

A man has died after being bitten 19 times by a black widow spider.

Jeff Seale, 40, from Erie, Colorado noticed the bites on his foot two weeks ago, but only complained of feeling shortly before he died on Sunday.

Speaking to Fox News, his sister Stephanie Baum said Mr Seale worked at a horse stable and speculated he may have picked up the spider there.

Speaking to Fox News Denver, Mrs Baum said: 'I think it's definitely related.

'He was in really good health up until that point [that he died].'

'He worked at a horse stable in the evenings, and he very well could have brought one of the spiders home in his things, or picked up some stuff from one of the horse sheds and brought one of the things home.'

The station reported the former high-school baseball star 'became obsessed' with the spiders after being bitten, even resorting to having his house gassed to try and eliminate the insects.

According to Boulder County Coroner's Office it could be 4 to 6 weeks before an official cause of death is announced. Read More

Enrico Luciano Mascaro 'shot childhood friend who was due to go to college and dumped her in his trunk' - 22nd July 2011

The body of a girl found in the trunk of a car was shot dead by her childhood friend and dumped there, police say.

Danielle Dennis-Towne, 18, from Illinois, was said to have died from a single gun shot wound to the head at the hands of her friend Enrico Mascaro.

Mascaro, 19, has been charged with her murder.

The pair were originally reported missing from the family's home in North Carolina on Friday.

Speaking about Danielle, who was due to go to college in the fall, Mascaro's family spoke of their heartbreak saying they 'loved her like a daughter'.

They said in a statement: 'We just want the public to know that we absolutely loved Danielle. No words can take back the tragedy that has enveloped both our and Danielle's family.

'What started as a harmless visit of old friends turned into a misfortune that broke the hearts of many — friends and family.'

On the same day they were reported missing, authorities in North Carolina received a tip about items which were later traced to the pair found in a wooded area. Read More