Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Sunday, July 31, 2011

One dead, two wounded in Toronto weekend Caribbean Carnival parade shooting

A 30-year-old man was killed and two people were wounded during a shootout with police at Toronto's Caribbean Carnival parade, medical officials said Sunday. Toronto police told Radio-Canada and CBC television that they were called late Saturday to end a dispute between three men along the parade route, and that shots were fired when they arrived on the scene.

A 22-year-old woman was wounded by several gunshots and had to undergo surgery. Another shot grazed an 18-year-old man's eyebrow.

No further details were provided by police, which launched an investigation. But the participation of Ontario's Special Investigations Unit suggested police took part in the shooting.

About a million people gather each summer in Canada's biggest city to admire participants' extravagant costumes in the annual Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival (previously known as Caribana), considered the biggest such event in North America.

Several previous editions of the parade have seen gunshots fired and knife attacks, especially in the 1990s. (source)

Suicide car bomber kills at least 10 Afghan police officers

Being declared a safe zone may amount to becoming a danger zone.

A powerful Taliban car bomb killed as many as 12 Afghan police officers and a child Sunday in a southern town where Afghan forces took over security responsibilities from Western troops less than two weeks ago.

The suicide attack on an Afghan police headquarters in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, could bode ill for hopes that the Afghan police and army will be able to protect themselves and the civilian population against insurgents without the backing of Western firepower.

Some doubt that Afghan forces are up to the job.

Lashkar Gah was one of seven cities or provinces handed over to the Afghan police and army earlier in July, inaugurating a nationwide transition of security responsibilities away from NATO combat troops that is to be completed in 2014. The Taliban and other insurgent groups have specifically targeted several of the areas affected so far. (more)

Syrian forces attack 4 opposition strongholds

Syrian security forces loyal to the embattled regime of President Bashar Assad launched a major military assault on opposition strongholds Sunday, using tanks and gunfire in authorities' latest attempt to crush a pro-democracy movement that appears to be gathering momentum ahead of the emotionally and religiously charged holy month of Ramadan.

According to sketchy accounts by activists and residents reached by telephone, Syrian security forces violently attacked several of the country's opposition hotspots, including the southern city of Dara and the far eastern city of Dair Alzour, with the most intense attacks centered on Hama, the country's fourth largest city as well as the site of a 1982 massacre by Assad's father.

Syrian security forces also moved to violently crush solidarity protests that broke out all over the country, especially in neighborhoods in Homs, the country's third largest city, and Idleb, in the country's northwest as well as the restive suburbs of Damascus.

At least 70 people were reportedly killed around the country, about 50 of them in Hama, according to activists who warned that the casualty figures were sure to rise.

There were unconfirmed reports of army defections, relatively rare instances where soldiers faltered in their apparently unwavering loyalty to Assad. Unverified video footage showed small groups of soldiers on tanks embraced by activists in Hama. (more)

August Dollar Drive Begins / Weekly Announcements (New posts appear below until midnight)

Donate to The Coming Crisis

Hello everyone:

1. July Dollar Drive results: 19 out of 5000 people made a donation to this month's dollar drive, with total donations coming in at under 10% of the target. We hear the message: it's clear we haven't been working hard enough to fully gain your trust and support, and therefore we will double our efforts in order to earn both of those things. We will continue to strive to bring you stories and information that illuminate the truth, and will begin the August Dollar Drive starting from today. To the 19 that did give, we sincerely appreciate your support, and thank you deeply.

2. The new category of "Heroes": We thought this would be a good category, simply because out of all crises rise heroes and individuals who do good works despite the struggles they face, and they deserve a mention. They teach us how to make it out of bad situations, and remind us that a better world is just a personal action away.

3. Coming Crisis Alerts: We just want people to know that we confer (yes, we actually have a meeting) before posting an alert. We do not post them to make our site exciting or for entertainment value; we post them based on solid facts or solid conclusions we reach and feel the need to share with the world in order to keep you all safe. Heeding them is your choice, but please at least take the time to read them.

Have a great day everyone, and stay safe, elevated, and out of the stock markets.

-- Matt & Lynsey

U.S. President Barack Obama and congressional leaders reach agreement on deal that would extend the federal debt ceiling -- Only delaying inevitable?

Two days before the deadline for a possible U.S. government default, President Barack Obama and congressional leaders reached agreement Sunday on a legislative package that would extend the federal debt ceiling while cutting spending and guaranteeing further deficit-reduction steps.

The proposed $3 trillion deal, which still requires congressional approval, brought some immediate relief to global markets closely watching the situation play out and a nation filled with anger and frustration over partisan political wrangling that threatened further economic harm to an already struggling recovery.

However, there was no guarantee the plan will win enough support to pass both chambers of Congress.

Democratic and Republican leaders in both the House and Senate were briefing their caucuses about the agreement on Sunday night or Monday.

Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, all announced the deal within minutes of each other on Sunday night. (more)

US debt crisis: vote expected but triple-A credit rating still at risk

US Senators are expected to vote within the next few hours on a last-ditch deal to avoid a default, but America is unlikely to avoid a major blow to its economic dominance.

If the deal passes in the Senate it will still need to be passed by the House of Representatives.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was "cautiously optimistic" about prospects for an agreement.

He said: "There are a number of issues yet to be resolved, and we must understand that there's no agreement that has been made. We're optimistic that one can be reached but we're not there yet."

Asked whether the Senate would vote on a deal Sunday, a tight-lipped Reid told thronged reporters: "We hope to."

The deal, which would see the country’s debt ceiling raised and deficit reduced by about $3 trillion (£1.8 trillion) will not be enough for America to preserve the triple-A credit rating that it has enjoyed since the Second World War, according to Pimco, one of the world’s biggest debt investors. (more)

Senate Negotiators Scramble to Finalize Debt Deal After Reid Bill Tanks

Senate leaders scrambled to finalize an emerging compromise on the debt ceiling Sunday, with pressure building to produce a bill that can somehow sail through both chambers in the next two days.

Congress is running out of time for do-overs, with lawmakers facing an Aug. 2 deadline to either raise the debt cap or face the possibility of default.

The Senate, after voting against House Republicans' proposal Friday night, effectively killed Democratic Leader Harry Reid's counterproposal Sunday afternoon. Sixty votes were required to advance the proposal, and it fell far short in a 50-49 roll call. While the test vote was expected to fail, the outcome stressed how important it is for the latest round of talks to produce a viable alternative.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said talks are proceeding at a furious pace, with Vice President Biden deeply involved.

Reid said he was "cautiously optimistic," ahead of a meeting with House and Senate Democratic leaders. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said lawmakers are "really, really close to an agreement." (more)

Congo Basin Gorillas facing extinction

Spain's youth battle unemployment: 40% without work

Spain has the highest unemployment rate in Europe, with one in three young people out of work, and there are few sectors of society that have managed to escape the global economic downturn.

Unemployment in the Canary Islands is higher than anywhere else in Spain, and it is particularly difficult for those that are young.

But, despite the lack of opportunities, some are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to find work.

Al Jazeera's Emma Hayward reports from the Spanish island of Gran Canaria. (source)

Any debt deal will have little austerity: America's massive debt will continue to rise

It is clear we must enter an age of austerity," House minority leader Nancy Pelosi mourned as she endorsed Harry Reid's proposal for raising the debt ceiling. Austerity? Really?

The Reid plan would theoretically cut spending by $2.7 trillion over ten years. Even if that were true, it would still allow our national debt to increase by some $10 trillion over the next decade. But, of course, the $2.7 trillion figure is mostly fiction. About $1 trillion of the savings would come from the eventual end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, savings that were going to occur anyway. Senator Reid might just as well have added another $1 trillion in savings by not invading Pakistan.

Another $400 billion comes not from cuts but from assuming reduced interest payments. And, of course, there are $40 billion in unspecified "program-integrity savings," meaning the "waste, fraud, and abuse" that is the last refuge of every phony budget cutter. The plan rejects any changes to Medicare and Social Security, despite the fact that the unfunded liabilities from those two programs could run as high as $110 trillion. But those liabilities generally fall outside the ten-year budget window, so Reid — unlike our children and grandchildren — doesn't have to worry about them. (more)

Pakistani troops aid Bahrain's crackdown

In March, as a government crackdown on pro-democracy protestors intensified in Bahrain, curious advertisements started appearing in Pakistani media.

"Urgent requirement - manpower for Bahrain National Guard," said one.

"For service in Bahrain National Guard, the following categories of people with previous army and police experience are urgently needed," said another, with "previous experience" and "urgent need" underscored.

The categories included: former army drill instructors, anti-riot instructors, retired military police, and former army cooks.

In the following two months, on the back of visits to Islamabad by senior Saudi and Bahraini officials, sources say at least 2,500 former servicemen were recruited by Bahrainis and brought to Manama, increasing the size of their national guard and riot police by as much as 50 per cent.

"We know that continued airplanes are coming to Bahrain and bringing soldiers from Pakistan," Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera.

"We do not know the exact number, but we know that it is much more than 1,500 or 2,000 people."

Recruited into the special forces, the national guard, and the riot police, the Pakistani citizens are tasked with suppressing Shia protesters that are reportedly demanding equal rights after years of alleged oppression at the hands of the royal family, part of Bahrain's Sunni minority.

"Our own Shia cannot join the security forces, but the government recruits from abroad," said Rajab. (more)

Hundreds of thousands join ‘social justice’ rallies in Israel

Demonstrators nationwide call to reduce cost of housing, food and education; protesters take to streets in TA, J'lem, Haifa, Beersheba.

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis took part in protests held in cities across the country on Saturday night, the largest collaborative protest yet in a popular movement over social issues that has swept the country in the past two weeks.

Taking to the streets and to the microphones to protest the high cost of housing, food and raising children, as well as low salaries, people demonstrated in cities that included Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheba, Nazareth, Kiryat Shmona, Modi’in and Ashkelon.

They issued a list of demands that included government price controls; standards for education in the periphery that are the same as those for the center of the country; free education from birth; free university tuition; and quality healthcare for everyone. They also demanded better salaries and benefits for social workers, police and other public servants.

Also, in Tel Aviv at least, the protests seemed to be taking a stronger anti-Netanyahu tone than before, with more and more protestors, chants, and signs calling for the PM's ouster. (more)

David Stockman on our quasi-bankrupt country

The crisis lies in the debt, not the ceiling. Kicking the can with a six months' ceiling increase is the worst possible alternative because it allows the politicians of both parties to continue making the Big Fiscal Lie. The Republican "no tax increase" position is preposterous; we are collecting less than 15% of GDP in taxes, the lowest since 1950, and spending 24% of GDP.

Former Rep. David Stockman

More than half of that is national security and Social Security, and the Republicans don't have a plan to cut a dime from either. Likewise, the Democrats are lying when they say Social Security is not part of the fiscal problem.

Benefits will exceed payroll taxes by $50 billion this year alone, and the red ink only gets deeper with time. Social Security should be subject to a stringent means test on the top 15 million affluent retirees, so that there is something left for the 40 million lower-income elderly who are already on the ragged edge.

Finally, the $800 billion defense and security budget is a relic of the Cold War, which ended 20 years ago, and should be cut by $200 billion. We no longer have any industrial state enemies and we have been fired as the world policeman - so it is time to mothball some carrier battle groups, ground some air wings, drastically reduce our troop strength, end the futility of Afghanistan and stop buying multibillion high-tech weapons that we can't afford and don't need. (more)

Cancer-stricken WTC worker gets $0 settlement check

Cancer-stricken Ground Zero worker Edgar Galvis has finally received a compensation check -- for zero dollars.

The 51-year-old Queens man, who suffered sinus problems and then throat cancer after months of removing toxic debris from the World Financial Center, was relieved to get a check in the mail for his court settlement with Merrill Lynch, whose offices he had cleaned.

But he was stunned when he saw the amount: $0.00.

His award had been $10,005, but his lawyers at the firm Worby, Groner, Edelman & Napoli Bern lopped off $2,579 for unitemized legal expenses.

Then they took a 33.3 percent fee of $2,124.

They also subtracted $352, a fee to the lawyer who referred him.

The remaining $4,950 was withheld for unspecified "liens," the letter says. Galvis thinks this was repayment of workers' compensation for aid.

"I have hit rock bottom," said Galvis, who is jobless and $30,000 in debt. "I was expecting a check, and you can imagine how I felt when I opened it. I couldn't believe it. I thought it was a joke."

The father of two, who lives in Glendale with his fiancée and her two kids, said he had to sell his car and relies on relatives for rent. "I get collection agencies whenever I open the mail. What little credit I had I don't have anymore," he said. (more)

Iceland’s citizens help draft new constitution via the Internet -- People power + Modern tools

In a possible world-first, Iceland’s citizens have helped draft a new constitution via social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. The draft document has been presented to Iceland’s parliamentary speaker.

A council of 25 ordinary, publicly-elected Icelandic citizens presented a draft constitution to Iceland's parliamentary speaker Asta Ragnheidur Johannesdottir on Friday. This may be the first time that citizens have actively contributed suggestions via the Internet and were able to follow progress on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

The constitution of the island nation of 320,000 people was first instituted in 1944. The Icelandic parliament, known as Althingi, agreed in 2010 that the country's citizens should be involved to include their viewpoint, on the core values of the constitution.

The council began work on the draft constitution in April. During this time, its work was posted on the Internet. Icelanders submitted around 1,600 propositions and comments on the council's website. (more)

'UN must intervene in Somalia,' ex-German UN director says

International relief efforts for the starving people of Somalia are being hindered by tribal conflicts. The former head of the United Nations environment program says it's high time for the UN to intervene.

The United Nations must do more to combat hunger in Somalia and other countries on the horn of Africa suffering from the ongoing drought, Klaus Töpfer, former head of the UN environment program, said Sunday.

"Where is the UN's rapid reaction force?" Töpfer asked in an interview with German weekly Bild am Sonntag.

Töpfer, speaking in his current role as vice president of Germany's food aid organization Welthungerhilfe, said attempts to ease Somalia's famine were being undermined by tribal feuding and Islamist fundamentalism. He demanded military intervention from the UN "as soon as possible" to assist international relief efforts.

"National sovereignty is of great value for all countries, of course, but when people are starving as a result, this is where sovereignty ends." (more)

Bangalore: Human trafficking racket busted, 13 minors rescued

The Bangalore police claimed to have recently busted a human trafficking racket with the arrest of two person and rescued 13 children from their possession.

Acting on a tip off, the police raided a luggage manufacturing unit here and rescued 13 children, including two girls and a three-year-old boy.

The police said that the two accused had been supplying minor children, mainly from Bihar, to industrial establishments. (more)

"China wants more aircraft carriers to compete with India"

A serving Chinese military general is citing India's capabilities in his efforts to edge the government to have more than one aircraft carrier. General Luo Yuan, a senior researcher with the Academy of Military Sciences, said China needs at least three aircraft carriers to defend its interests in the face of neighbors developing their capabilities.

"If we consider our neighbors, India will have three aircraft carriers by 2014 and Japan will have three carriers by 2014," General Luo was quoted as saying by Beijing News. "So I think the number (for China) should not be less than three so we can defend our rights and our maritime interests effectively."

China recently confirmed it was revamping an old Soviet ship to be its first carrier. The state media broadcast footage of its first carrier in a rare public mention of the project. The moves added to worries in the Asian region about Beijing's military expansion and growing assertiveness on territorial issues. (more)

Does NASA Data Show Global Warming Lost in Space?

Has a central tenant of global warming just collapsed?

Climate change forecasts have for years predicted that carbon dioxide would trap heat on Earth, and increases in the gas would lead to a planetwide rise in temperatures, with devastating consequences for the environment.

But long-term data from NASA satellites seems to contradict the predictions dramatically, according to a new study.

“There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans,” said Dr. Roy Spencer, a research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and U.S. science team leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer -- basically a big thermometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

“The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show,” he said. The planet isn't heating up, in other words.

James Taylor, a senior fellow for environment policy at conservative think-tank The Heartland Institute, wrote at Forbes that the meaning of the new research is clear -- and it compromises what he called a "central premise of alarmist global warming theory."

"Real-world measurements … show far less heat is being trapped in the Earth's atmosphere than the alarmist computer models predict, and far more heat is escaping into space than the alarmist computer models predict," Taylor wrote. (more)

U.S. review: Iraq deadlier now than a year ago

Frequent bombings, assassinations and a resurgence in violence by Shiite militias have made Iraq more dangerous now than it was just a year ago, a U.S. government watchdog concludes in a report released Saturday.

The findings come during what U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart W. Bowen Jr. called "a summer of uncertainty" in Baghdad over whether American forces will stay past a year-end withdrawal deadline and continue military aid for the unstable nation.

"Iraq remains an extraordinarily dangerous place to work," Bowen concluded in his 172-page quarterly report to Congress and the Obama administration on progress — and setbacks — in Iraq. "It is less safe, in my judgment, than 12 months ago."

The report cited the deaths of 15 U.S. soldiers in June, the bloodiest month for the U.S. military in Iraq in two years. Nearly all of them were killed in attacks by Shiite militias bent on forcing out American troops on schedule.

It also noted an increase in rockets launched against the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, where government offices and foreign embassies are located, as well as constant assassination attempts against Iraqi political leaders, security forces and judges. (more)

The Federal Income Tax Fraud

Taliban offer talks if US sets pullout date -- So they're setting the terms now?

The Taliban leadership is ready to negotiate peace with the United States right now if Washington indicates its willingness to provide a timetable for complete withdrawal, according to a former Afghan prime minister who set up a secret meeting between a senior Taliban official and a US general two years ago.

They also have no problem with meeting the oft-repeated US demand that the Taliban cut ties completely with al-Qaeda.

Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai, who was acting prime minister of Afghanistan in 1995-96, told IPS in an interview that a group of Taliban officials conveyed the organization's position on starting peace negotiations to him in a meeting in Kabul a few days ago.

"They said once the Americans say 'we are ready to withdraw', they will sit with them," said Ahmadzai.

The former prime minister said Taliban officials made it clear that they were not insisting on any specific date for final withdrawal. "The timetable is up to the Americans," he said. (more)

United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans: Washington Post

Nine years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators.

The system, by far the largest and most technologically sophisticated in the nation's history, collects, stores and analyzes information about thousands of U.S. citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing.

The government's goal is to have every state and local law enforcement agency in the country feed information to Washington to buttress the work of the FBI, which is in charge of terrorism investigations in the United States.

Other democracies - Britain and Israel, to name two - are well acquainted with such domestic security measures. But for the United States, the sum of these new activities represents a new level of governmental scrutiny.

This localized intelligence apparatus is part of a larger Top Secret America created since the attacks. In July, The Washington Post described an alternative geography of the United States, one that has grown so large, unwieldy and secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs or how many programs exist within it. (more)

Debt Crisis? Bankruptcy Fears? See Jefferson County, Alabama

A few hundred miles north of here, politicians are fighting over debt. It is a spirited debate, full of discussions about what kind of country will be left for future generations and pledges not to kick the can down the road.

But one does not have to go far to see that possible future. Welcome to Jefferson County. This is the end of the road, where the can cannot be kicked any farther.

There are lessons for everyone here, and they are all painful: lessons for those who are not concerned about the prospect of mounting debt, for those who insist that steep cuts can be relatively painless, for those who think the bill for big spending can safely be put off into the future, for those who have blind faith in the market and for those who think the government can always be relied upon to protect the interests of the people.

All of these beliefs have led to a place where the government can no longer borrow and the little cash on hand is being demanded by creditors, where the Sheriff’s Department cannot afford to respond to traffic accidents and hundreds of county workers are sitting at home, temporarily or possibly permanently out of work. They have also led to a widely held conclusion among residents that no one is on their side.

“I get tired of them dumping on the little people,” said Deb Passmore, 58, who had to shut down her Laundromat several years ago when the sewer and water bills reached $500 a month. (more)

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries calls for clampdown on cheap Chinese imports (Hear, hear!)

The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president, Joseph Kanyekanye, has launched at veiled attack on the government's Look East Policy, saying Chinese imports were now the single largest threat to local industries.

He said government should regulate cheap imports from the world's second largest economy to ensure that local industries, still smarting from a decade-long economic crisis that was broken by dollarisation of the economy in 2009 are protected.
Local industries were currently operating at an average of 48 percent but have failed to lift themselves out of the operational quagmire of the past decade due to an influx of cheap imports and lack of capital for the refurbishment and replacement of antiquated machinery.
CZI has observed that there has been an influx of goods particularly from the Chinese and I'm not xenophobic but I feel for my country," Kanyekanye said in his contribution to the Medium Term Plan (MTP) launched by government a fortnight ago.
"So we are suggesting - let there be a crackdown to shut them immediately and let the locals come through. This is an area that government has to look at to ensure that we empower our individuals.

"In terms of policy, this is what Minister (of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment) Savior Kasukuwere subscribes to but on the ground it's not happening. This needs to be sorted out," Kanyekanye charged. (more)

Inside China's high-speed cover-up of weekend disaster

FOR Japan's high-speed rail industry, last weekend's crash in China was no real surprise.

Those behind Japan's Shinkansen, which has not had a single fatality since it began in 1964, had their fingers burned when they took their technology to China.

After collaborating on early projects, they say China stole their technology and froze them out as it looked to establish a vast domestic network as well as an export industry in high-speed rail.

In the wake of this bitter experience, they warned loudly of safety fears and doubts over Chinese operating practices and effectively withdrew from all collaboration in China.

While it looked at the time suspiciously like sour grapes as China surged ahead with its plans to build the world's largest high-speed rail network, last weekend's crash has shown how prescient the fears were. (more)

What the debt ceiling fight won't fix...

The debt ceiling fight has been long and exhausting, but it will have a big payoff. After it's finally resolved — with the Boehner plan or the Reid plan or something else — we will have confronted our budget crisis, made tough choices and forced the federal government to live within its means.

That's right. And I'm Katy Perry.

We have heard a lot lately about plans to slash spending by trillions of dollars. Though these sound like deep cuts, they are not even shallow cuts. Under the plans being discussed in Washington, federal spending would rise, and so would the federal debt — not by a little, but by a lot.

Consider Speaker John Boehner's blueprint, which envisions savings of some $3 trillion over 10 years. The biggest chunk of savings comes from a cap on discretionary outlays, letting them grow as fast as inflation — meaning they would gobble up more dollars every year.

In real terms, they would remain just as high as they are now. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's version likewise allows federal departments to spend more each year to offset the effects of inflation.

All these "cuts" are modest reductions in the growth of outlays envisioned in President Barack Obama's budget, which would boost annual spending by 57 percent over the next decade. Everyone is talking about cutting the overall budget, without actually doing it.

Our leaders are not even saying exactly which programs will be trimmed. Neither party wants to reveal which constituents will lose their spots at the federal trough.

The publicized changes are mere promises to reduce projected spending — by some formula that we don't know, because it has yet to be determined. For that matter, there is no guarantee the cuts will ever happen. (more)

Veterans' homes slip away

After the Second World War, returning veterans were welcomed home to two of the most successful government initiatives ever - the FHA and VA housing programs - which put millions of them into their own homes for the first time.

Today, later generations of veterans are being confronted by much different housing policies - ones that can toss them out of homes they've bought with their life savings.

John Aguiar is a veteran of the Gulf War, a former intelligence analyst for the Army who took part in Operation Desert Storm in 1990 when U.S. forces brought Saddam Hussein to heel after he invaded Kuwait.

Aguiar and his wife, Syrena, built a house in Cape Coral, Fla., after relocating from Chicago to be nearer her parents. Using proceeds from the sale of their Chicago house, they bought a lot in a new subdivision in the Cape, a middle-class suburb across from Fort Myers in southwest Florida.

The house they built reflected their values and way of life. It was nothing fancy: a one-story Cape rancher with three bedrooms, two baths, and a two-car garage. There were no granite countertops, no Jacuzzi - just the basics, in keeping with what they could afford. "We always lived within our means," said Syrena. Nor did they see it as a stepping-stone to something larger. "It was all we wanted, a place to raise our kids," said John. "We wanted to retire there."

But the mortgage, like so many at the time, contained a ticking time bomb. Their bank had given them an adjustable-rate mortgage, one of the products being aggressively promoted by the deregulated mortgage industry, and soon they were struggling when their monthly payments ballooned. Then Aguiar lost his job in a housing-materials firm when his division was shut down. He cashed out a pension plan from a former employer, drained his 401(k) account, and worked part time at a Home Depot. "We did everything we could to try to hold on to the house," he said. But it wasn't enough. (more)

What If Lobbyists Didn’t Exist? (The world would be a better place, perhaps?)

I was curious as to what the world would look like if we didn’t have lobbyists. We are one week away from announcing here the formation of a third party that has just one platform issue, the refusal of our candidates to take money or meet with lobbyists, banks or corporations while campaigning or in office. We understand that we will most likely be outspent in every election we enter, but we also feel America is ready to clean up the cesspool of special interests we call Washington. Having said that, if we can get 5 million Americans to each give us $50, that would be $250 million, enough to run a major campaign successfully. We will make up for our shortage of money with a surplus of American hard work and ingenuity. If Tunisia and Egypt can organize a revolution on the net, we ought to be able to also.

One of Huffington Post’s readers asked a very intuitive question after reading an article we posted that described the new party’s intentions. He asked, if you only have one platform issue, how is one supposed to know where the party stands on all the other important issues facing the country, the debt, the environment, jobs, healthcare, etc.

First of all, the national party will not be taking any positions on these issues. We will leave it to our candidates to take positions and we will leave it to voters, free of special interest influence, to decide if the positions our candidates espouse meet with favor with the electorate. I know this sounds like Democracy 101, but we have gotten so far away from democracy in this country that it needs to be said. If our candidates get off track and don’t represent your interests, you vote them out of office. The new national political party, unlike the Democrats and the Republicans, will not be rewarding our candidates with donations who regurgitate the party’s positions on issues. Then we will have a true democracy reflecting all the people and all the rich diversity of ideas that this country represents. (more)

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake NEW ZEALAND - 1st August 2011 (NZST)

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck New Zealand with a depth of 100 km, the quake hit at 02:07 am (NZST) Monday 1st August 2011.
The epicenter was 50 km Northwest of Te Anau, New Zealand
No damage or injuries reported at this time

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 31st July 2011

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan with a depth of 52.4 km ( 32.6 miles), the quake hit at 19:33:50 UTC Sunday 31st July 2011.
The epicenter was 128 km (80 miles) ENE from Sendai, Honshu, Japan
No Tsunami Waning Issued - No damage or injuries reported at this time

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake BONIN ISLANDS, JAPAN - 31st July 2011

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck Bonin Islands, Japan Region with a depth of 30.8 km ( 19.1 miles), the quake hit at 18:29:40 UTC Sunday 31st July 2011.
The epicenter was 108 km (67 miles) East of Chichi-Shima, Bonin Islands, Japan
No Tsunami Waning Issued - No damage or injuries reported at this time

Mount Etna erupts Again sending Flames and Sparks 250 Metres into the Air - 31st July 2011

There were concerns that the ash could block flights out of nearby Catania airport, but the winds were blowing the ash away from the airport and no flights had been cancelled.

The volcanic activity started on Saturday morning and continued through the day and overnight into Sunday, according to the Italian Institute of Volcanology.

This is the fourth and the biggest eruption in July, after six months of calm, with lava fountains as high as 500 metres.

No casualties or damage to property have been reported.

Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and in the last few decades eruptions have been very frequent and lava flows have often threatened the villages surrounding the crater. Source

Tornado hits city in Russia’s far-east, killing one - 31st july 2011

One person was killed on Sunday when a rare tornado hit the Russian far-eastern city of Blagoveshchensk, officials said. Dozens more were injured.

The tornado hit the city of Blagoveshchensk, which is the administrative center of Amur Oblast in Russia's far-east. Video footage uploaded to YouTube showed how the relatively small tornado roared through parts of the city, causing light flashes and debris being thrown into the air.

The local RIA Novosti news agency reported that several vehicles, including trucks, were overturned by the force of the tornado. Power lines were also destroyed in some areas, causing power outages to parts of the city with a population of nearly 215,000 people.

As a result of the widespread damage, local officials declared a state of emergency. RIA Novosti cited emergency officials as saying that one person was killed while 28 others were injured.

Significant tornadoes in Europe are rare, but there have been several disasters involving tornadoes in Russia in modern history. In June 1904, at least 30 people were killed when two tornadoes moved through Moscow, while three powerful tornadoes in June 1984 killed more than 400 people in Belyanitsky, Ivanovo and Balino in western Russia. Source

5.2 Magnitude Earthquake CATAMARCA, ARGENTINA - 31st July 2011

A magnitude 5.2 earthquake has struck Catamarca, Argentina with a depth of 166.2 km ( 103.3 miles), the quake hit at 17:36:29 UTC Sunday 31st July 2011.
The epicenter was 108 km (67 miles) Northwest from Catamarca, Argentina
No damage or injuries reported at this time

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5.5 Magnitude Earthquake HOKKAIDO, JAPAN REGION - 31st July 2011

A magnitude 5.5 earthquake has struck Hokkaido, Japan Region with a depth of 30.5 km ( 19 miles), the quake hit at 17:35:57 UTC Sunday 31st July 2011.
The epicenter was 130 km (80 miles) SSW of Obihiro, Hokkaido, Japan
No Tsunami Waning Issued - No damage or injuries reported at this time

Five deaths from Joplin tornado linked to fungal infection

Injuries sustained from wood splinters or other materials triggered a rare fungal infection that may have contributed to the deaths of five people in the May 22 tornado in Joplin, Mo., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined.

In all, 13 people contracted the mucormycetes-born illness, the CDC said in a report released Friday. The CDC said it has seen multiple fungal infections of that type after other natural disasters such as hurricanes but never after a tornado.

The May 22 twister killed 160 people in Joplin and destroyed about 30 percent of the city. Jasper County Coroner Rob Chappel and physicians had reported the fungal infections, but the CDC is the first official confirmation of the numbers of victims.

"It's about what we expected," Chappel said Saturday. He said he was glad to learn from the report that none of the fungal infection victims sustained their injuries while cleaning up debris.

Chappel said he is curious whether any investigation finds something unusual about debris in Joplin that caused the infections. The CDC said the fungi in question is typically found in soil, decaying wood or other organic matter. (more)

Government forces, protesters clash in Syria, killing 67 (figure now as high as 120+)

Syrian tanks stormed the flashpoint city of Hama early Sunday in one of several clashes nationwide that left at least 67 dead and more than 100 injured, human rights groups said.

At least 49 people were killed in Hama and 13 in neighboring Deir Ezzour, the London-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights told CNN. Two others were killed in Soran, on the outskirts of Hama. And three people were killed in Daraa province, the group said.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said security forces were responding to "armed groups" in Hama who blocked streets with barricades and terrorized citizens by firing from the rooftops of buildings, while human rights groups described the arrival of tanks as a raid on the city.

Two police officers were killed in clashes in Hama, SANA said, and "armed terrorist groups" had taken to the streets in Deir Ezzour, attacking police headquarters and stealing weapons.

"The law-enforcement forces are still pursuing these armed groups and deal with the situation there in suitable ways," the government news agency said.

In Hama, throngs of residents to take to the streets in an attempt to block the tanks, a local activist said. More than 100 were injured in the city, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria.

Tanks rolling near the border met fierce resistance from residents, said Omar al Habbal, a member of the committees, an affiliation of groups that reports on protests in the nation. (more)

India 'Slutwalk' sex harassment protest held in Delhi

A rally has taken place in India's capital inspired by the "Slutwalk" protests held in a number of countries.

The protest is to challenge the notion that the way a woman looks can excuse sexual abuse or taunting - "Eve teasing" as it is known in India.

Hundreds took part in Delhi, though there was little of the skimpy dressing that has marked protests elsewhere.

The protests originated in Canada after a policeman said women could avoid rape by not dressing like "sluts".

The BBC's Mark Dummett in Delhi says the organisers are trying to challenge the mindset that the victims of sexual violence are to blame for the crimes committed against them.

He says Delhi can be a very difficult city for women, with sexual harassment commonplace, and rapes and abduction all too frequent.

And according to a recent survey, India remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women. (more)

When Does A Great Recession Become a Full-Fledged Depression?

Economists have their standard definitions. They work their numbers and proclaim when we are in a recession, out of a recession, when an economic recovery is taking place, and when that recovery is merely hitting a “soft patch.”

But really, who but the media, government officials, and economists themselves take these definitions seriously anymore when it comes to reflecting reality as experienced by most Americans? These days, not many people.

For most Americans, the recession didn’t end two years ago, economist definition notwithstanding. A recovery did not begin then. And the “soft patches” that have been occurring regularly in the last two years are not natural and unavoidable dips on the road back to traditional American economic well-being.

The country is still wallowing in recession. Unemployment has been vacillating between awful and getting more awful. Employment itself, except for those in the top economic rung, is not leading to any improvement in economic lifestyles, but rather a slow contraction of these lifestyles.

Given these realities, and the curiously detached mode of economist reportage, it is unlikely we will hear the “D” word uttered soon by these bean counters, or the media and public officials who employ economist terminology in their own economic descriptions. From them you won’t hear that we are on the lip of of full-fledged depression. But we are. (more)

Thousands forcibly 'disappeared' by Syrian regime, says action group

A 14-year-old male student last seen two months ago being beaten and dragged into a white van by Syrian security forces; a 13-year-old boy arrested with his friends and bleeding badly from his ears, nose and mouth when they last saw him; a mother who says her two youngest sons were arrested but the security forces claim no knowledge.

These are just a few examples of Syria's "disappeared," provided by global campaign group Avaaz, which claims that nearly 3,000 Syrians have been arrested by the government's security forces since the start of the uprising on March 15, whose whereabouts remain unknown.

"We have 2,918 names and each of them has a different story," said Wissam Tarif, a human rights activist working for Avaaz, who coordinated the organization's research in Syria.

The group launched a campaign Thursday to draw international attention to the enforced disappearances. It includes a wall of profiles on of missing people. (more)

NATO bombs Libyan state TV transmitters "to help Libyan people"

NATO warplanes bombed three Libyan state TV satellite transmitters in Tripoli overnight, targeting facilities that have been used to incite violence and threaten civilians, the military alliance said Saturday.

A series of loud explosions echoed across the capital before dawn. There was no immediate comment from Libyan officials on what had been hit, but state TV was still on the air in Tripoli as of Saturday morning.

NATO said the airstrikes aimed to degrade Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s “use of satellite television as a means to intimidate the Libyan people and incite acts of violence against them.”

“Striking specifically these critical satellite dishes will reduce the regime’s ability to oppress civilians while [preserving] television broadcast infrastructure that will be needed after the conflict,” the alliance said in a statement posted on its website.

It said Gadhafi’s inflammatory TV broadcasts were intended to mobilize his supporters.

In addition to the three TV transmitters, during the past 24 hours alliance aircraft targeted military vehicles, radars, ammunition dumps, anti-aircraft guns, and command centers near the front lines in the east and west, NATO said in a statement. (more)

"Do you speak Christian?"

Can you speak Christian?

Have you told anyone “I’m born again?” Have you “walked the aisle” to “pray the prayer?”

Did you ever “name and claim” something and, after getting it, announce, “I’m highly blessed and favored?”

Many Americans are bilingual. They speak a secular language of sports talk, celebrity gossip and current events. But mention religion and some become armchair preachers who pepper their conversations with popular Christian words and trendy theological phrases.

If this is you, some Christian pastors and scholars have some bad news: You may not know what you’re talking about. They say that many contemporary Christians have become pious parrots. They constantly repeat Christian phrases that they don’t understand or distort.

Marcus Borg, an Episcopal theologian, calls this practice “speaking Christian.” He says he heard so many people misusing terms such as “born again” and “salvation” that he wrote a book about the practice.

People who speak Christian aren’t just mangling religious terminology, he says. They’re also inventing counterfeit Christian terms such as “the rapture” as if they were a part of essential church teaching. (more)

Poll: 52 percent approve of God’s job performance

f you think voters are in cranky mood over politics, a new poll suggests that some of the dissatisfaction may run deeper.

God’s job performance has trouble measuring up to many Americans' expectations, according to a poll by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm based in North Carolina.

Only 52 percent of Americans approve of God’s job performance, the survey found, though just 9 percent disapprove.

The polling question that prompted this curious response was, "If God exists, do you approve or disapprove of its performance?"

"When asked to evaluate God on some of the issues it is responsible for, voters give God its best rating on creating the universe, 71-5," the polling report said. "They also approve of its handling of the animal kingdom 56-11, and even its handling of natural disasters 50-13." (more)

Iran courts post-Mubarak Egypt, worrying allies

One of Egypt's ruling generals took great pains this week to reassure his American audience: the military-led caretaker government has no intention of mending ties with Iran, a longtime foe and regional rival.

But once an elected government takes over from Egypt's interim rulers in coming months, it would have to be responsive to public opinion, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Al-Assar said in a speech to a think tank in Washington, suggesting that a different course is then possible.

Iran has been strongly courting Egypt since the February fall of Hosni Mubarak, seeking to break its isolation and extend its influence in the Middle East. The prospect has alarmed Egypt's allies — particularly Saudi Arabia and the Arab countries of the Gulf, as well as Israel, all of which fear increasing Iranian power in the Middle East.

With its own suspicions of Iran and wary of alienating its allies, Egypt is unlikely to run into an embrace with Iran. But how much it does improve ties will be a major indicator of how far its future government will take a more independent foreign policy after decades under Mubarak, who stuck closely to the United States' line in the region.

"What we might be witnessing in the next few months is a struggle within Egypt to define and redefine Egyptian foreign policy," said Fawaz Gerges, head of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics.

There is strong popular support in Egypt for a foreign policy that does not so strongly mirror Washington's, which proponents argue will help restore the country's clout as a regional leader. For most Egyptians, the top priority is to back off from the close cooperation that the Mubarak regime had with Israel on economic and security issues.

But it could also mean an easing of Mubarak's staunchly anti-Iran stance. One of the leading contenders for the Egyptian presidency, ex-Arab League chief Amr Moussa, argues that Egypt would gain from peaceful or less tense relations with Iran. (more)

Chicago Budget Gap Widens to $635.7 Million, Emanuel Says

Chicago’s budget deficit for fiscal 2012 is projected to be $635.7 million, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said today, and could approach $800 million by 2014.

The gap is almost $50 million wider than the city’s estimate of $587 million when Emanuel became mayor of the nation’s third-largest city in May.

“We have a structural problem, and the moment of truth has arrived,” Emanuel said at a City Hall news conference. “An economic recovery will not solve this problem for us.”

Chicago’s budget for the current year is $3.2 billion. Emanuel is scheduled to present his fiscal plan for 2012 in October.

The city has projected a budget deficit every year since 2001, reflecting a “structural” problem with city finances, he said. The mayor said that while he won’t reduce the city’s police force, he will seek work-rule change from employees. He again ruled out tax increases for people who “feel nickeled and dimed.”

“I can’t ask people to pay more into a system that needs fundamental restructuring,” he said.

AFSCME Council 31, which represents 4,000 city employees, said in a statement that Chicago “is at a crossroads” and that the union is ready to work with Emanuel, to a point. (more)

"USA Is 'AAA' in Label Only"

Sovereigns that bailed out banks are saddled with much greater government debt than before the crisis. In the spring of 2007, the Fed and the U.K.'s FSA reported that the degree of leverage in the global financial system was less than at the time of Long Term Capital Management, but in reality it was much greater. Global regulators are now repeating their mistakes. The risks in the interconnected global banking system have moved to currency trading and currency derivatives (remember the contribution of knock-in options to the 1995 currency crisis), leveraged loans, credit derivatives, market-linked derivatives, speculation in commodities, and both foreign and domestic government debt. Winston Churchill said we must alert somnolent authority to novel dangers; but our regulators are complacent, and the dangers are not novel.

With respect to the recent crisis, highly leveraged fixed income assets posed perils to the global banking system. When excessive leverage is combined with fixed income assets acquired at par, there is extreme risk. If the assets decline in value and liquidity becomes tight, it can cause a vicious cycle of selling that feeds on itself. If one combines that with foreign currency risk, one adds to the potential pain. If that is further accompanied by a price reduction that is due to a permanent or at least sustained price decline in underlying assets, it is virtually impossible for an undercapitalized overleveraged entity to recover from even a temporary liquidity shock. If a country cannot quickly refinance (roll financing), the collapse is quick and brutal. This isn't a new discovery, this is simply a fact. (more)

"No Growth, No Jobs, and No Help From Washington"

While Washington sets itself on fire, the economy is frozen stiff. GDP has grown 1.6% in the last year, a third lower than analysts had thought as early as yesterday. Between January and March this year, it grew by 0.4%, which means it practically stopped. If you're wondering why there are no new jobs, you can probably stop wondering. There is no real recovery.

Meanwhile, Washington is debating whether or not to shut down government borrowing. It goes without saying -- or, I hope it goes without saying -- that there couldn't be a worse time to shut down Washington, fire government workers, or front-load spending cuts. The end of stimulus has already resulted in the firing of so many state and local government workers that total government employment has now declined by more than the private sector in Obama's term.

A national economy is complicated. But what's hurting us is simple. Incomes and spending aren't growing for the vast majority of workers. The San Francisco Fed found that typical consumer is spending $2,000 less this year than he would be if pre-recession growth had continued. The other components of GDP -- business investment, exports and government spending -- aren't strong enough to compensate for that basic, central weakness.

The debate in Washington over the debt ceiling is about improving our fiscal health. But the chief indicator of fiscal health is our debt-to-GDP ratio. Debt as a share of the economy is the only thing that matters. If the economy isn't growing, it does not matter how small your deficits are. The ratio won't decline, and your fiscal health won't improve. (more)

US Senators Spending More On Travel Despite Budget Cuts

A Channel 2 Action News investigation found U.S. senators spending more tax dollars traveling the globe than ever before. Despite fierce budget cuts, congressional records show elected officials are racking up record expenses on flights, food, fuel and sometimes alcohol.

Just after the eighth anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss traveled there to visit metro-area troops on the front lines and share Thanksgiving dinner. Documents show one of several overseas trips Chambliss has made since early 2009. The costs of the trips totals more than $38,000.

The same documents show Georgia's other senator, Johnny Isakson, has traveled to Afghanistan, too. He also traveled to Germany, Kenya and Tanzania.

According to the records, Georgia senators aren't alone. Other senators have sipped cocktails at the Eiffel Tower and visited Greece, London and China. Some spent time at the luxurious Conrad Hotel in Brussels, which boasts spa service and an in-house restaurant specializing in shrimp croquettes, king prawns and French apricot tarts.

Channel 2's Scott MacFarlane found it is difficult to get the information. Much of it is only available in a small office on Capitol Hill. He found it on one set of computers in an old-fashioned database. It showed that senators spent at least $10 million on traveling over the past two years. (more)

Germany blames Chinese land buys for Africa drought

Germany's Africa policy coordinator on Thursday blamed China's practice of buying up land in the Horn of Africa for contributing to the devastating drought ravaging the region.

Guenter Nooke told the daily Frankfurter Rundschau it was clear that "this catastrophe is also man-made".

"In the case of Ethiopia there is a suspicion that the large-scale land purchases by foreign companies, or states such as China which want to carry out industrial agriculture there, are very attractive for a small (African) elite," he said.

"It would be of more use to the broader population if the government focused its efforts on building up its own farming system."

He said that the Chinese investments were focused on farming for export which he said can lead to "major social conflicts in Africa when small farmers have their land und thus their livelihoods taken away." (more)

Growth anemic, debt row poses recession risk: US

The economy stumbled badly in the first half of 2011 and came dangerously close to contracting in the January-March period, raising the risk of a recession if a standoff over the nation's debt does not end quickly.

Output increased at a 1.3 percent annual pace in the second quarter as consumer spending barely rose, the Commerce Department said on Friday. In the first three months of the year, the economy advanced just 0.4 percent, a sharp downward revision from the previously reported 1.9 percent gain.

"The economy essentially came to a grinding halt in the first half of this year," said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody's Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania. "We did get side-swiped by some temporary factors which are fading, but it raises some concerns about the sustainability the recovery."

The weaker-than-expected second-quarter reading and downward revisions extending into last year underscored the frail state of the recovery, which economists said could fall off the rails if lawmakers do not raise the nation's $14.3 trillion borrowing limit and avoid a government default.

Consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, decelerated sharply in the second quarter, advancing at only a 0.1 percent rate -- the weakest since the recession ended two years ago.

Stocks on Wall Street fell on the data and the debt impasse on Friday, to record their worst week in a year. Prices for government debt rallied, while the dollar fell broadly. (more)

'Grandpa Wen' left helpless as internet drives wave of unrest through China

Whenever China suffers a major disaster, a visit from Wen Jiabao, or "Grandpa Wen", is usually enough to comfort the victims and reassure the country that its Communist leaders are looking after them.

So five days after two Chinese bullet trains collided in the south of the country, killing at least 39 and injuring more than 200, Mr Wen duly arrived at the scene.

Standing on a patch of gravel on Thursday that had been cleared of the wreckage, the Chinese premier promised to "get to the bottom" of what had gone wrong and apologised for not arriving sooner, blaming an 11-day illness and doctor's orders to rest.

In the past, that might have been the end of it. But on Thursday, Mr Wen succeeded only in ratcheting up public anger a notch.

Within hours, photographs of him in seemingly perfect health at various functions over the past week had been posted on the internet and Mr Wen was accused of being a liar. His tears at the sites of various disasters over the years had already earned him the mocking title of China's "Best Actor".

What has changed over the past year is partly the growing inability of China's leaders to control free speech, both in the traditional media and over the internet. (more)

US accuses Tehran of deal with al-Qaeda

In a significant escalation in the battle of rhetoric against Iran, the United States Treasury Department on Thursday accused Tehran of having forged a "secret deal" with al-Qaeda to allow it to use Iranian territory to transport money and operatives to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The statement marked the first on-the-record accusation by a senior administration official under President Barack Obama that the Islamic Republic has a specific agreement with the terrorist group.

At the same time, one government official stressed, the statement did not assert that Tehran is directly providing support to al-Qaeda. Nor did it impose sanctions on any Iranian official, as it did on the six-member Al-Qaeda network that it alleged is using

Nonetheless, the statement is almost certain to increase pressure from neo-conservatives and other hawks, especially Republicans in the US Congress, to take stronger action against Tehran, according to some observers here who noted that allegations that tied Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda was a critical element in rallying the US public behind war with Iraq eight years ago.

The Treasury statement, which imposed financial sanctions against six alleged al-Qaeda activists living in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Qatar and Kuwait, charged that they constituted a network headed by Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil that "serves as the core pipeline through which al-Qaeda moves money, facilitators and operatives from across the Middle East to South Asia". (more)

Famine in East Africa in Photos (Very sad, be forewarned)

With East Africa facing its worst drought in 60 years, affecting more than 11 million people, the United Nations has declared a famine in the region for the first time in a generation. Overcrowded refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia are receiving some 3,000 new refugees every day, as families flee from famine-stricken and war-torn areas. The meager food and water that used to support millions in the Horn of Africa is disappearing rapidly, and families strong enough to flee for survival must travel up to a hundred miles, often on foot, hoping to make it to a refugee center, seeking food and aid. Many do not survive the trip. Officials warn that 800,000 children could die of malnutrition across the East African nations of Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Kenya. Aid agencies are frustrated by many crippling situations: the slow response of Western governments, local governments and terrorist groups blocking access, terrorist and bandit attacks, and anti-terrorism laws that restrict who the aid groups can deal with -- not to mention the massive scale of the current crisis. Below are a few images from the past several weeks in East Africa. One immediate way to help is to text "FOOD" to UNICEF (864233) to donate $10, enough to feed a child for 10 days, more ways to help listed here. (more)

Norway: Homegrown terror still threatens

The sometimes overlooked danger of domestic terrorism hit home last week when a man went on a killing spree that left 76 people dead.

Anders Behring Breivik, whom authorities said confessed to the shootings, was no convert to militant Islamism, no follower of deceased al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, no throwback to the Marxist terrorists of the '60s and '70s or adherent of a non-Europe "ism."

Instead, his cause is perhaps one as old as the human race -- protecting one's own from the outsider.

In this case: Muslims immigrants to Norway and their resultant "impact" on Norwegian society.

"Marxist multiculturalism," he reportedly wrote in a personal manifesto, had led to moral decay and a creeping Muslim colonization of his country and Europe.

His method to awaken society and set off a nationalist uprising was to set off a bomb in Norway's capital and make his way to a nearby holiday island used by the ruling Labor Party and methodically gun down scores of young people. (more)

Eve Shreve Set Fire With Foreclosure Documents after attempting to kill child, herself -- Is the financial crisis taking a big toll?

Police say a northwestern Pennsylvania woman tried to smother her adult son then attempted suicide after setting fire to her home with a foreclosure notice.

The Erie Times-News reports 47-year-old Eve Shreve was arraigned Tuesday on charges including attempted homicide and arson in the March 18 fire in Corry.

Police say Shreve's husband told officers his wife had admitted setting the fire using foreclosure papers received the day before and then attempted to kill herself. Investigators say medical records support their case.

Corry Police Chief Fred Corbett says authorities also determined the two small fires were intentionally set.

Shreve was released on $5,000 bail. A phone call to her attorney rang unanswered early Wednesday. (source)