Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Stocks plunge, S&P goes negative for year

U.S. stocks plunged on Tuesday as fears about a weak U.S. economy were enflamed after investors got another disappointing economic report - this time on consumer spending.

The selloff was so broad and so deep it pushed the S&P 500 into negative territory for the year and bond yields to their lowest levels in nine months.

"Now that we have solved the debt ceiling issue the market has moved onto the other data, which has taken a significant turn for the worse," said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist with Schaeffer's Investment Research.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) plunged 266 points, or 2.2%, to close at 11,867. The Dow was dragged lower by the industrial and manufacturing heavyweights of the 30-member index: Alcoa (AA, Fortune 500), General Electric (GE, Fortune 500), United Technologies (UTX, Fortune 500) and Boeing (BA, Fortune 500).

This was the eighth-straight day of declines for the Dow -- a losing streak not seen since October 2008, when the financial system was in the depths of the crisis. The Dow has fallen roughly 6.7% since the sell-off began on July 22. (more)

30 killed in ongoing ethnic clashes in southern Pakistan

At least 30 people were killed in Karachi on Monday night and Tuesday, the latest deaths in cycle of ethnic and political violence in Pakistan's commercial capital.

On Sunday, 60 motorcycles and five vehicles were burned in the city, said Murtaza Ali, a Karachi police official.

The violence has killed more than 1,000 people this year, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Nearly 200 people were slain in July alone.

The rampant violence appears to have little to do with the Taliban and other Islamist extremist groups that are viewed by western leaders as Pakistan's most pressing security problem.

Rather, police and government officials say the violence is fueled by bitter ethnic rivalries and political parties vying for power in this mega-melting pot, home to roughly 15 million people from at least a half-a-dozen ethnic groups.

Three political parties are usually at the center of the fight for power in Karachi: the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the Awami National Party (ANP), and Pakistan's People Party (PPP). (more)

4 militants slain in Pakistan drone strikes

A drone strike in Pakistan's tribal region killed four militants Tuesday, two Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The incident occurred in the Mirah Shah area of North Waziristan when two missiles were fired at a militant's vehicle.

The United States does not comment on suspected drone strikes. But it is the only country in the region known to have the ability to launch missiles from drones, which are controlled remotely.

This comes a day after a drone strike in South Waziristan killed six alleged militants.

South and North Waziristan are among the seven districts of Pakistan's volatile tribal region bordering Afghanistan. The overwhelming majority of drone strikes have targeted areas in those regions.

Analysts say the areas are havens for militants fueling the insurgencies in Pakistan and Afghanistan. (source)

Iraq church bombing wounds at least 20

A car bomb exploded outside a Catholic church in central Kirkuk, Iraq, early Tuesday, wounding at least 20 people, authorities said.

The attack took place in Kirkuk's Shatterlo neighborhood around 5:30 a.m. (10:30 p.m. Monday ET), according to a police official who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The wounded included staff from the Holy Family Church and people with homes nearby.

The Interior Ministry said 23 people were injured.

The explosion damaged the church and a number of nearby houses, police said. Kirkuk is an ethnically divided city located about 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Baghdad.

In the past years, extremists have carried out major attacks against churches.

An October 31 attack on the Sayidat al-Nejat Cathedral, or Our Lady of Salvation Church, left 70 people dead and 75 wounded, including 51 congregants and two priests.

The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group that includes a number of Sunni Muslim extremist organizations and has ties to al Qaeda in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the Baghdad church siege. (more)

Gary the Gourmani fish eats nothing but Kit Kat bars -- and now has to go on a diet (but still likes to be petted like a cat)

LONDON aquarium staff have weaned a chocoholic giant gourami on to a healthier menu of grapes and bananas after inheriting the creature raised entirely on Kit Kats.

Staff at the Sea Life London Aquarium were baffled by the four-kilogram fish's refusal to feed, until they learned the gourami, named Gary, 40 centimetres long, had been brought up on chocolate.

So the team stuffed crushed Kit Kat pieces inside grapes to get Gary (left) to ''take a break'' from his daily fix.

''I have never heard of a fish being fed chocolate, let alone being brought up entirely on the stuff,'' said Gary's handler, Rebecca Carter.

''Gouramis usually eat a diet of fruit but Gary doesn't appear to have suffered any ill effects from his chocolate addiction.

''However, we would not recommend feeding fish confectionery of any kind.'' (more)

EU pushes UN to take a stand on Syrian violence

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Monday urged the UN Security Council to take a "clear stand" to end the violence in Syria.

"It is time for the Security Council to take a clear stand on the need to end the violence," Ashton said after the deaths this weekend of more than 100 people in what human rights activists said was the deadliest day of violence in Syria this year.

Ashton's statement also welcomed a decision to hold an emergency session of the UN Security Council later Monday "to address the serious escalation".

She also confirmed European Union sanctions against five Syrians "involved in or associated with the violence."

"I wish to remind the Syrian authorities of their responsibility to protect the population," she said. "The brutal violence creates a serious risk of escalating tension and factional divisions and is not consistent with broad reforms." (source)

France gives millions in Gaddafi funds to rebels

France on Monday said it had given Libyan rebels 259 million dollars (181 million euros) in frozen funds that used to belong to the regime of strongman leader Moamer Kadhafi.

"The NTC (National Transitional Council) will now be able to use these funds for purchases of a humanitarian nature," the French foreign ministry said in a statement.

The NTC's new ambassador to Paris, Mansur Saif al-Nasr, said after meeting French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe that "these are funds that belong to the Libyan people" that will be used to buy "food and medicine."

The Libyan rebel movement installed ambassadors in Paris and London last Thursday, formalising ties with its main allies in the fight to topple Kadhafi from power in Tripoli. (more)

Debt deal: Politicians win, middle class loses

America is on a path to becoming a Greek-style welfare state. Thanks to the Bush-Obama spending binge, the burden of federal spending has climbed to about 25% of national economic output, up from only 18.2% of GDP when Bill Clinton left office.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Because of a combination of demographic forces and poorly designed entitlement programs, federal spending could consume as much as 50% of economic output by the time the baby boom generation is fully retired.

One symptom of all this excessive spending is that Washington is awash in red ink. We're now in our third consecutive year of trillion-dollar deficits and the politicians just had to increase the nation's $14.3 trillion debt limit.

But it wasn't easy getting there. Just as happened with the "government shutdown" debate in March, Republicans and Democrats had fierce disagreements over the right approach. They bickered until the last minute and then finally agreed to more than $900 billion of supposed spending cuts and the creation of a "supercommittee" charged with proposing another $1.5 trillion of deficit reduction.

So which side won this fight? Republicans are bragging that they got spending cuts today, a promise of spending cuts in the future, and no tax increases. Democrats, meanwhile, are chortling that they took the debt issue off the table until after the 2012 elections, protected their favorite programs and created a supercommittee that will seduce the GOP into a tax increase.

Ignore that bragging. The easy answer is that politicians of both parties were the victors and taxpayers are the ones left in the cold.

In other words, the budget deal was a victory for the political establishment. (more)

All seismic servers go crazy: What The Coming Crisis has been saying all along

Gruesome video shows Syrians throwing bloodied bodies off of bridge while hurling insults


The bloodied bodies lay stuffed and tangled in the back of a pickup like garbage.

Men lifted the bodies one by one and hurled from them from a bridge into a river below as cursing filled the air.

"Brother of a whore!" they shouted as the corpses splashed and the water ran red. "Animals!" "Dogs!"

At one point, a voice asks mockingly, "This is a soldier?"

Report: Syrian army stretched amid uprising

This scene, said to have been shot in Syria, surfaced in a video on YouTube, where images of anti-government ferment and violence have emerged consistently since unrest started in the nation in mid-March.

CNN could not verify the authenticity of the video, but it illustrates the hostility of the nearly five-month-old conflict across Syria between regime forces and anti-government protesters. (more)

Rebels round up Qadhafi’s militia as Libya "war" drags on

Rebels said they arrested dozens of militiamen loyal to Moamer Qadhafi in their eastern bastion but suffered a blow on Monday in Libya’s west, losing a village at the foot of a key mountain range.

At least 63 people were rounded up in an ongoing bid to tighten security in the eastern city of Benghazi, following an hours-long battle with Qadhafi loyalists in the opposition stronghold.

But in western Libya, pro-Qadhafi forces wrested back control of the village of Josh at the foot of the strategic Nafusa Mountains, AFP journalists at the scene said. Josh had been emptied of its residents, the rebels said. The rebels captured the village on Sunday but said they were forced to retreat to the east, half-way along the road to the town of Shakshuka, after several hours of fighting.

The Nafusa region has seen heavy fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Qadhafi since the insurgents launched a major offensive this month in a drive on the capital Tripoli.

An AFP correspondent in Tripoli, meanwhile, said at least eight powerful explosions rocked the eastern suburbs of the Libyan capital on Monday, sending up a plume of black smoke over the Tajura district.

In Benghazi, opposition forces patrolled the streets overnight in a bid to track down more members of the pro-Qadhafi group, a rebel spokesman said, as shoppers stocked up for Ramazan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. (more)

African Union troops, would-be bombers killed in Mogadishu as battles in East Africa continue

Two African Union soldiers and two would-be suicide bombers were killed Monday during a shootout in Mogadishu, an AU force spokesman said.

A firefight erupted between the AU troops and the would-be attackers dressed as government soldiers when they attempted to infiltrate the African forces` frontline in Mogadishu`s Wardhigley district.

African Mission for Somalia (AMISOM) spokesman Paddy Ankunda said the two were "killed before they were able to detonate their suicide vests."

"In an exchange of gunfire with the suicide bombers two AMISOM soldiers were wounded but died later of their injuries," Ankunda said in a statement.

"The extremists are using desperate measures to achieve their ends through their willingness to use brutal violence during the holy month of Ramadan." (more)

Putin says U.S. is "parasite" on global economy

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the United States Monday of living beyond its means "like a parasite" on the global economy and said dollar dominance was a threat to the financial markets.

"They are living beyond their means and shifting a part of the weight of their problems to the world economy," Putin told the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi while touring its lakeside summer camp some five hours drive north of Moscow.

"They are living like parasites off the global economy and their monopoly of the dollar," Putin said at the open-air meeting with admiring young Russians in what looked like early campaigning before parliamentary and presidential polls.

US President Barack Obama earlier announced a last-ditch deal to cut about $2.4 trillion from the U.S. deficit over a decade, avoid a crushing debt default and stave off the risk that the nation's AAA credit rating would be downgraded.

The deal initially soothed anxieties and led Russian stocks to jump to three-month highs, but jitters remained over the possibility of a credit downgrade.

"Thank god," Putin said, "that they had enough common sense and responsibility to make a balanced decision." (more)

Death in seconds: Radiation pockets found at Fukushima plant

Pockets of lethal levels of radiation have been detected at Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in a reminder of the risks faced by workers battling to contain the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) reported on Monday that radiation exceeding 10 sieverts (10,000 millisieverts) per hour was found at the bottom of a ventilation stack standing between two reactors.

Tepco said Tuesday it found another spot on the ventilation stack itself where radiation exceeded 10 sieverts per hour, a level that could lead to incapacitation or death after just several seconds of exposure. (more)

All 50 States See Record Highs in July: US

No state in the union was safe from July's blistering heat wave, according to data from the U.S. National Climatic Data Center.

The horrible July heat wave, lasting weeks in some cities, the entire month in others, affected nearly 200 million people in the United States at some point. Preliminary data show that 2,712 high-temperature records were either tied or broken in July, compared with 1,444 last year, according to the NCDC. At least one weather station in all 50 states set or tied a daily high temperature record at some point during July.

Two weather stations tied for the hottest temperature recorded during July. The Blythe station in Riverside County, Calif., and the Gila Bend station in Maricopa County, Ariz., both hit 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48.9 degrees Celsius) in July.

Even Alaska recorded unusually sweaty temperatures. The temperature at the Northway weather station in Southeast Fairbanks County hit a record 97 F (36.1 C) on July 11.

Newark, N.J., set an all-time high at 108 F (42.2 C) on July 22, breaking the record of 105 F (40.6 C), set in 2001.

In Washington, D.C., Dulles International Airport saw its hottest July on record this year and recorded its highest July temperature of all time at 105 F (40.6 C), on July 22. That same day, water in the nearby Potomac River was the hottest ever recorded at 96 F (35.4 C) (records go back to only 1988), reported the Capital Weather Gang blog. (more)

"End Times? Texas Lake Turns Blood-Red"

A Texas lake that turned blood-red this summer may not be a sign of the End Times, but probably is the end of a popular fishing and recreation spot.

A drought has left the OC Fisher Reservoir in San Angelo State Park in West Texas almost entirely dry. The water that is left is stagnant, full of dead fish — and a deep, opaque red.

The color has some apocalypse believers suggesting that OC Fisher is an early sign of the end of the world, but Texas Parks and Wildlife Inland Fisheries officials say the bloody look is the result of Chromatiaceae bacteria, which thrive in oxygen-deprived water.

"It's just heartbreaking," said Charles Cruz, a fish and wildlife technician with Texas Parks and Wildlife in San Angelo, Tex. (more)

Tennis-ball-sized hail batters Long Island, NY

Auto body shops in Queens and Long Island are overwhelmed with repair calls today, a day after severe summer storms lashed the region, in some places dropping tennis-ball-sized hail that dented cars and smashed windows.

"It's a windfall for me, a catastrophe for others," said Bob Polgar, owner of Tip Top Auto Body in Garden City, N.Y., on Long Island.

The shop got 100 calls Monday night. On a normal day, it gets 15 calls, Polgar said. Most car owners are reporting busted windshields and dents on hoods and roofs.

"They were the size of tennis balls," said Sandy White. "I had to check if any of my windows were broken."

In White's town of New Hyde Park, which straddles Queens and Nassau County, she and her neighbors draped tarps over the gaping holes left in their cars Monday night. (more)

Thelma Carter 'kills her boyfriend with spiked heel to the head'

A woman allegedly beat her boyfriend to death with the spiked heel of a stiletto shoe.

Thelma Carter, 46, struck her live-in boyfriend Robert Higdon, 58, with the shoe at their trailer park home in Augusta, Georgia, police said.

Authorities are unsure how many times Mr Higdon was hit with the shoe before he died.

Carter has been charged with murder.

A post-mortem examination is set to be carried out today at the Augusta Crime Lab.

Investigators believe Mr Higdon was killed sometime on Sunday evening after he and Carter rowed inside their home.

Richmond County sheriff's Captain Scott Peebles told the Augusta Chronicle that police found the body on Monday morning after Carter called them.

She told investigators she had returned home to find Mr Higdon dead. (more)

Police Investigating Rash Of Bike Rack Thefts In Salem, Beverly

Bicycle racks are used to keep your bikes secure. But they may not be so secure themselves.

Authorities told the Eagle-Tribune that they have seen increasing reports of empty bike racks being stolen in Salem and Beverly. Police reports show three bike rack robberies in Salem last week and another two in Beverly last Tuesday.

“It seems to be the new trend all of a sudden,” Salem police prosecutor Lt. Conrad Prosniewski told the paper. “We don’t know if it’s one person or many persons.”

A quick search on shows that bike racks plus accessories can cost up to $1,000.

The Eagle-Tribune also reports that police arrested 21-year-old Luis D. Suarez in Salem, charging him with one of the thefts. Detectives matched the serial number from a victim’s key to the number on a stolen bike rack. (more)

Suburban police in Riverside, Illinois, see a rise in air conditioner thefts

As temperatures rise, so do air conditioner thefts.

Police in west suburban Riverside say more and more of them are going missing in the village, regardless of size. Window units and commercial units alike are being stolen “at an increasingly alarming rate,” according to a Riverside Police Department press release.

Police say the thieves are able to remove commercial-size air conditioners in minutes and likely load them into either large SUVs or box trucks. They park in a regular space to appear as if they are parking for normal business.

The stolen air conditioners do not appear to have been taken for scrap mental, police said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Riverside police at (708) 447-2127. (more)

4-year-old Abigail Krutsinger's lemonade stand shut down by police -- police harassing children becoming a trend?

Police closed down a lemonade stand in Coralville last week, telling its 4-year-old operator and her dad that she didn't have a permit.

An officer told Abigail Krutsinger's father Friday that she couldn't run the stand as RAGBRAI bicyclers poured into Coralville.

A city ordinance says food vendors must apply for a permit and get a health inspection.

Abigail's dad, Dustin Krutsinger, said the ordinance and its enforcers are going too far if they force a 4-year-old to abandon her lemonade stand. (source)

Americans cut spending for first time in 20 months

Americans cut their spending in June for the first time in nearly two years after seeing their incomes grow by the smallest amount in nine months. The latest data offered a troubling sign for an economy that is adding few jobs and barely growing.

Consumer spending dropped 0.2 percent in June, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. It was the first decline since September 2009.

Some of the decline was the result of food and energy prices moderating after sharp increases earlier this year. When excluding spending on those items, consumer spending was flat.

Still, consumers also cut back on big-ticket items, such as cars and appliances, which help drive growth.

Incomes rose 0.1 percent, the smallest gain since September. Many people are also pocketing more of their paychecks. The personal savings rate rose to 5.4 percent of after-tax incomes, the highest level since August 2010.

The data confirmed last week's report that showed the economy expanded at an annual rate of just 1.3 percent in the spring after only 0.4 percent growth in the first three months of the year. It also highlighted that consumer spending softened at the end of the April-June quarter, which could mean the sluggish economy is worsening.

Stocks fell after the report was released. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped more than 100 points in morning trading. Broader indexes also declined. (more)

China begins to build its own aircraft carrier: Pentagon sees Beijing flexing muscle for world

China has begun work on its first aircraft carrier and probably will develop two or more, along with outfitting a former Russian carrier that is set to begin sea trials soon, Pentagon officials said.

“We expect China to build at least one indigenous carrier, probably two or more, but they have not revealed how many they intend to build, what the construction schedule will [be] or what their missions will be,” said a defense official familiar with intelligence assessments.

A second defense official said China regards aircraft carriers as key symbols of global power projection and is unlikely to build just two.

Other defense officials said assessments about the indigenous carriers are based on intelligence showing construction of the first indigenous carrier at the Changxing Island Shipyard in Shanghai.

The carrier appears in satellite photos to be similar in design to the Varyag, a Soviet-era carrier purchased by China that uses a sky-jump style takeoff ramp at the front of the ship.

The carrier program is one aspect of China’s military buildup that is being closely monitored by U.S. military intelligence. (more)

TSA to put Israeli-style checkpoints into effect

Boston’s TSA screeners — part of a security force whose competency has come under fire nationwide — soon will be carrying out sophisticated behavioral inspections under a first-in-the-nation program that’s already raising concerns of racial profiling, harassment of innocent travelers and longer lines.

The training for the Israeli-style screening — a projected $1 billion national program dubbed Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques — kicks off today at Logan International Airport and will be put to use in Terminal A on Aug. 15. It requires screeners to make quick reads of whether passengers pose a danger or a terror threat based on their reactions to a set of routine questions.

But security experts wonder whether Transportation Safety Administration agents are up to the challenge after an embarrassing string of blunders — including patting down a 95-year-old grandmother in Florida and making her remove her adult diaper and frisking a 3-year-old girl who screamed “stop touching me” at a checkpoint in Tennessee.

“I’m not convinced that the TSA has good enough people to make the Israeli approach work on a large scale,” said Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor who has followed the TSA at his blog, (more)

New Victim in Serial Butt Slashing Case in Fair Oaks, Virginia

Police in Fair Oaks reported another woman was slashed in the buttocks by a razor blade in northern Virginia.

According to authorities, the victim was a 21-year-old woman shopping at T.J. Maxx at Fairfax Town Center on June 8.

The woman said that she felt a pinch in her rear area while in the store, and when she turned around, she saw a man behind her picking up clothing from the floor. She told police that initially, she believed she may have been cut by one of the hangers.

The victim told police that when she returned home she discovered cuts in her clothes. She described the suspect as Hispanic, wearing long pants and a short-sleeved shirt.

That description is similar to the suspect in 5 other slashings that have taken place since February. All of the victims have been in their late teens or early 20's. The most recent assault took place at the Forever 21 store inside the Fair Oaks Mall last Monday. (source)

Oak Hill, Florida, eliminates police department... yes, the entire thing

Oak Hill eliminates police department:

In a surprise move Monday night the city of Oak Hill eliminated its entire police department.

The police chief and a few officers were under scrutiny for alleged illegal and odd behavior. The city council was so fed up they simply wiped out the entire department.

The mayor called the special meeting Monday tonight that started with the trashing of the police chief and the mayor called for her termination. But then the board talked about it more and decided to get rid of the entire department.

It came as a shock to the room full of citizens, even the chief. Officers handed in their badges and guns. People hugged the chief and during the meeting just minutes after the vote, a call came in for service.

Officer Manny Perez says the past year working here has been awful. “One of the first things they tell you is this is a thankless job and today that really hits home.” (more)

Skylar Capo, 11-year old aspiring veterainarian, rescues baby woodpecker, then is fined $500 and mother now faces possibly jail time

Eleven-year-old aspiring veterinarian, Skylar Capo, sprang into action the second she learned that a baby woodpecker in her Dad's backyard was about to be eaten by the family cat.

"I've just always loved animals," said Skylar Capo. "I couldn't stand to watch it be eaten."

Skylar couldn't find the woodpecker's mother, so she brought it to her own mother, Alison Capo, who agreed to take it home.

"She was just going to take care of it for a day or two, make sure it was safe and uninjured, and then she was going to let it go," said Capo.

But on the drive home, the Capo family stopped at a Lowes in Fredericksburg and they brought the bird inside because of the heat. That's when they were confronted by a fellow shopper who said she worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"She was really nervous. She was shaking. Then she pulled out a badge," said Capo.

The problem was that the woodpecker is a protected species under the Federal Migratory Bird Act. Therefore, it is illegal to take or transport a baby woodpecker. The Capo family says they had no idea. (more)

Zack Fogle, quadriplegic man, dies in Montana skydiving accident

A quadriplegic man died in a weekend skydiving accident, Flathead County officials said Monday.

Zack Fogle, 27, who had five years of skydiving experience died Saturday afternoon when his parachute did not open during a jump at a skydiving festival in northwestern Montana.

He plunged 18,000 feet to his death because he was unable to manually deploy his parachute, and his emergency chute was not set to automatically release, authorities said.

Mr Fogle had limited mobility in his extremities after being struck by a car in high school, Undersheriff Jordan White said.

But had a custom-built parachute with handles that were located where he could operate them with his hands, he added.

Mr Fogle of Kingston, Wash., had completed more than 125 jumps and had participated in the Lost Prairie Boogie before.

The 44th annual Lost Prairie Boogie, a 10-day skydiving event near Marion, typically draws hundreds of participants.

The accident happened on Fogle's first jump at this year's event, which took place with seven other jumpers.

'He jumped with someone who assisted him out of the airplane,' Undersherriff White said.

Mr Fogle apparently was on his back while he was falling and was unable to get turned around and facing down so he could deploy his chute, White said.

'It was more of a state of being out-of-control in his free fall,' he said. (more)

Apple factory finds answer to worker suicides... replace staff with one million robots

Taiwan's Foxconn Technology Group, known for assembling Apple's iPhones and iPads in China, plans to use more robots, with one report saying the company will use one million of them in the next three years, to cope with rising labour costs.

Foxconn's move highlights an increasing trend toward automation among Chinese companies as labour issues such as high-profile strikes and workers' suicides plague firms in sectors from vehicles to technology.

Contract manufacturers such as Foxconn, which also counts Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Nokia among its clients, are moving parts of their manufacturing to inland Chinese cities or other emerging markets.

They are also boosting research and development investments to lift their thin margins.

‘Workers' wages are increasing so quickly that some companies can't take it longer,’ said Dan Bin, a fund manager at Shenzhen-based Eastern Bay Investment Management, which invests in technology and consumer-related shares in China and Hong Kong. (more)

You'll Be Shocked Just How Close The Final Debt Deal Came To Falling Apart

The markets — and the American people — always assumed Congress and President Barack Obama would reach a deal. But as late as Sunday, the White House considered economic collapse an increasingly likely outcome to months of failed talks.

According to POLITICO, negotiations reached a stalemate on Sunday afternoon over cuts to defense spending, with Republicans demanding less and Vice President Joe Biden telling Speaker of the House John Boehner that “We just can’t give there.”

"With that, a grim Obama contemplated the unthinkable: pulling the plug on a deal and precipitating a global economic crisis. Huddled in the Oval Office, the president and his top aides proceeded to discuss how Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner might step out later that night and prepare the country for the inevitable market crash." (more)

$2.4 Trillion Would Be Largest Debt-Limit Increase in U.S. History

The bill to increase the federal debt limit that has been put before Congress today would increase that limit by up to $2.4 trillion, which would be the largest increase in the debt limit in U.S. history by a margin of half a trillion dollars, according to records published by the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service.

In fact, according to records published by the Congressional Research Service, if the current bill is passed and the debt limit is increased by $2.4 trillion, the two largest debt-limit increases in U.S. history would come in back-to-back years, both during the presidency of Barack Obama.

Up until now, the largest increase in the debt limit was the $1.9 trillion increase passed by Congress and signed by President Obama on Feb. 12, 2010. That law increased the debt limit from $12.394 trillion to $14.294 trillion.

Up until now, the second largest historical increase in the debt limit was enacted on March 27, 2003, when President George W. Bush signed a law that lifted the limit by $984 billion—from $6.400 trillion to $7.384 trillion.

The third largest historical increase in the debt limit was enacted on Nov. 5, 1990, when the senior President George Bush signed a law that lifted the limit by $915 billion—from $3.230 trillion to $4.145 trillion. (more)

Oxygen finally spotted in space

One of astronomy's longest-running "missing persons" investigations has concluded: astronomers have found molecular oxygen in space.

While single atoms of oxygen have been found alone or incorporated into other molecules, the oxygen molecule - the one we breathe - had never been seen.

The Herschel space telescope spotted the molecules in a star-forming region in the constellation of Orion.

The find will be published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Oxygen is the third most abundant element in the cosmos, after hydrogen and helium. Its molecular form, with two atoms joined by a double bond, makes life on Earth possible - but this form had never definitively been seen in space.

A 2007 effort from the Swedish Odin telescope, published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, claimed a discovery of oxygen in a nearby star-forming region, but the discovery could not be independently confirmed.

One possible location for the missing oxygen is locked onto dust grains and incorporated into water ice.

The team chose a star-forming region in the constellation Orion, believing that oxygen would be "baked off" from the ice and dust in a warmer, more turbulent part of space. (more)

Nato sends more troops to Kosovo after border unrest

Nato is sending hundreds of extra troops to Kosovo amid rising tension in the north along its border with Serbia.

The military alliance said the situation had not deteriorated but that reinforcements were needed to relieve troops currently patrolling the north.

Soldiers from Nato's Kosovo Force were deployed after clashes broke out between Kosovo police and ethnic Serbs.

The trouble began when the Kosovan government sent ethnic Albanian police to enforce a ban on Serbian imports.

A border post was torched and demolished and a Kosovo policeman killed after Serbian nationalists reacted angrily to their presence.

Previously, the border posts had been guarded by ethnic Serb police, whom the government in Pristina suspected of turning a blind eye to the ban on imports from Serbia.

The ban was imposed after Belgrade banned imports from Kosovo when it unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Kosovo's 60,000 ethnic Serbs reject Kosovo's independence from Serbia.

Serbia itself has also refused to recognise its former territory's independence. (more)

Ford recalls 1.2m F-series pick-up trucks due to "falling gas tanks"

Ford is recalling 1.2 million pick-up trucks in the United States and Canada because of fears their fuel tanks could fall off and start fires.

The recall affects some versions of the F-150, F-250 and Lincoln Blackwood trucks built between 1997 and 2004 - in certain cold-weather states.

It is feared the straps holding the tanks on can be corroded by road salt.

Ford will advise owners with the affected vehicles to take them to a dealer to have the straps replaced.

The F-series has been one of America's best-selling vehicles.

Ford said this defect has caused eight fires, and one injury. (more)

Syrian forces gun down praying muslims across nation as they leave nightly Ramadan prayers

Syrian forces have fired at pro-democracy protesters after Ramadan prayers across the country, witnesses and activists have said.

It comes as assaults to crush dissent against President Bashar al-Assad intensify during the Muslim fasting month.

Tens of people were wounded when demonstrators in the western Damascus suburb of Muadhamiya, the northeastern city of Hasaka, and the port city of Latakia came under fire after the nightly prayers, known as 'tarawih', they added.

"Ten buses full of 'amn' (security) entered Mouadhamiya. I saw 10 youths falling down as I was running away from the gunfire," said one witness in Muadhamiya.

"Hundreds of parents are in the streets looking for their sons." (more)

5.4 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTH OF THE FIJI ISLANDS - 2nd August 2011

A magnitude 5.4 earthquake has struck South of the Fiji Islands at a depth of 542.4 km ( 337 miles), the quake hit at 19:18:48 UTC Tuesday 2nd August 2011.
The epicenter was 649 km (403 miles) South of Suva, Fiji
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No damage or injuries reported at this time

Obama signs debt limit compromise - 2nd Aug 2011

President Obama signed a hard-fought, last-minute compromise bill to avert economic catastrophe Tuesday, saying the deal to cut spending and increase the nation's $14.3 trillion debt limit marked an "important first step to ensuring that as a nation we live within our means."

The bill, he said, was the outcome of a "long and contentious debate" to avoid a man-made economic disaster that he described as creating "unsettling" economic uncertainty. He said that while voters chose divided government, "they sure didn't vote for dysfunctional government."

"It shouldn't take the risk of default, the risk of economic catastrophe, to get folks in this town to get together and do their jobs," the president said. He added: "Our economy didn't need Washington to come along with a manufactured crisis to make things worse."

Mr. Obama signed the legislation in a closed-door ceremony Tuesday afternoon after making remarks at the White House. It will effectively increase the nation's borrowing authority through the end of next year and promises more than $2 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years.

Now that the debt limit fight is effectively over, Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats say they will pivot to a focus on jobs and the economy, which they say should be Congress' top priority. Read More

Duncan Bannatyne offers reward for maiming Tweeter who threatened daughter - 2nd Aug 2011

Dragons' Den star Duncan Bannatyne today shocked Twitter followers by offering £50,000 to anyone who could identify - and break the arms of - a sinister tweeter who threatened to harm his daughter.

The self-made millionaire became embroiled in a row this afternoon after receiving a string of anonymous threats via the micro-blogging service.

The messages threatened to 'bring hurt and pain' to his family unless he handed over £35,000.

And although Mr Bannatyne later withdrew his threat, the entrepreneur said 'I'd gladly do my time' to get revenge on the anonymous tweeter.

The TV star received a series of tweets from someone calling himself Yuri Vasilyev, linking to a message threatening to harm Hollie Bannatyne, 25. Read More

China police kill two suspects in Xinjiang violence -- China's unravelling continues

Chinese police have shot dead two men suspected of mounting a fatal attack in Xinjiang region on Sunday, the state-run Xinhua news agency reports.

The two ethnic Uighur men, Memtieli Tiliwaldi and Turson Hasan, were found hiding in a corn field on the outskirts of the city of Kashgar, Xinhua said.

Six people were killed in an attack at a restaurant in Kashgar. Police shot dead five suspects at the scene.

A weekend of violence left up to 18 people dead in the restive region.

Late on Saturday, two men hijacked a truck and drove it into a crowd of people, killing eight and injuring 28 others, according to the local government.

In the attack on Sunday, an explosion hit a restaurant west of Kashgar's central square.

Five men armed with knives then attacked police and bystanders, officials said. Six bystanders were killed and 12 were injured.

The weekend attacks bring to a close a violent month in Xinjiang. Less than two weeks ago rioters stormed a police station in the south-western city of Hotan, in an attack that left 18 people dead. (more)

Every book wanted by internet pioneer Brewster Kahle

Tucked away in a small warehouse on a dead-end street in Richmond, Calif., an internet pioneer is building a bunker to protect an endangered species: the printed word.

Brewster Kahle, 50, founded the nonprofit Internet Archive in 1996 to save a copy of every web page ever posted. Now the MIT-trained computer scientist and entrepreneur is expanding his effort to safeguard and share knowledge by trying to preserve a physical copy of every book ever published.

"There is always going to be a role for books," said Kahle as he perched on the edge of a shipping container. Each container can hold about 40,000 volumes, the size of a branch library. "We want to see books live forever."

So far, Kahle has gathered about 500,000 books. He thinks the warehouse itself is large enough to hold about a million titles, each one given a barcode that identifies the cardboard box, pallet and shipping container in which it sits.

That's far fewer than the roughly 130 million different books Google engineers involved in that company's book scanning project estimate to exist worldwide. But Kahle says the ease with which they've acquired the first half-million donated texts makes him optimistic about reaching what he sees as a realistic goal of 10 million, the equivalent of a major university library.

"The idea is to be able to collect one copy of every book ever published. We're not going to get there, but that's our goal," he said.

Recently, workers in offices above the warehouse floor unpacked boxes of books and entered information on each title into a database. The books ranged from Moby Dick and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame to The Complete Basic Book of Home Decorating and Costa Rica for Dummies. (more)

World ire mounts toward Syria amid bloody crackdown

Pressure at the United Nations and world capitals mounted on Tuesday on Syria's government as a fierce security crackdown on peaceful protests overnight left dozens of deaths, injuries and arrests.

At least 24 people were killed, dozens were wounded, and more than 150 people have been detained across the country after Ramadan prayers late Monday night, Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of London-based human rights group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.

Those slain include 10 in the western city of Hama, six in the Damascus suburb of Irbeen, three in Homs province, two in Boukamal, two in Latakia on the coast and one in Madamaiya near Damascus, Abdul-Rahman said.

Hama hospitals have been overwhelmed; patients were being treated in hallways and the morgues were overflowing, a doctor in Hama said. The bloodshed follows a violent weekend in the volatile city, where dozens of people were reported killed and hospitals overwhelmed.

Syrian state-run media reported Tuesday that "armed groups" were behind an assault in Hama on Monday.

But activists have consistently said security forces initiated the violence in Hama -- the scene of a brutal military crackdown in 1982 targeting Sunni Muslims by the Alawite-dominated government led by Hafez al-Assad, the father of current president Bashar al-Assad. (more)

Debt ceiling deal won't restart hiring

The deal to raise the debt ceiling may remove the risk of a 2008-like meltdown in financial markets that had made employers very nervous in recent months.

But even if the debt deal is passed by Congress, labor market experts don't expect it to jumpstart hiring growth.

"I would say this will have little effect if any," said Jeff Joerres, Chairman and CEO of staffing firm ManpowerGroup (MAN, Fortune 500). "It's nice to clear one worry off the desk, but there are a lot of other things to worry about.

"At the end of the day, demand trumps all, and right now demand is sluggish, regardless of industry," he said.

The economy added just 43,000 jobs in May and June combined as the debt ceiling debate dragged out in Washington. And economists surveyed by CNNMoney forecast a gain of only 77,000 jobs for July when the latest employment report is released Friday.

A survey last week found many worried about a new recession if Congress failed to reach a deal by the Aug. 2 deadline. (more)

HSBC set to launch hiring spree in Asia (after firing 30,000 people here)

HSBC is planning to hire up to 15,000 people in fast-growing markets in Asia and Latin America over the next three years even after confirmation of the bank's plans to cull jobs elsewhere.

Stuart Gulliver, HSBC chief executive, revealed plans on Monday to cut up to 30,000 jobs by 2013, as HSBC reported stronger-than-expected first-half results.

The cuts, which analysts expect will come mostly in Europe and the US, are part of Mr Gulliver's plan to strip up to $3.5bn from the bank's cost base by 2013.

Of the 5,000 job cuts already identified by the bank, 700 will come from the UK, the same in France and the rest from Middle-East and some parts of its Latin American operations. (more)

Toyota's woes driven by strong yen as Japan's economy continues nosedive

Imagine your paycheck gets slashed by 99.4%.

That would make me, and pretty much everyone I know, weep with sadness.

Well, that’s essentially what Toyota says has happened to its net income for the period between April and June this year - the first full quarter after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11.

Dressed in a dark business suit and detailing the even darker financial storm the world’s largest automaker faces, Toyota’s Senior Managing Officer, Takahiko Ijichi, blamed the income and revenue challenges on the continued supply chain and energy problems in the aftermath of the disaster.

But he says there’s a bigger problem facing all Japanese corporations: a surging yen and weak dollar.

Ijichi, in unusually blunt fashion, says 77 yen, which is where the yen stands versus the U.S. dollar as I write this blog, is too strong for companies to make money.

With every 1 yen move up versus the U.S. dollar, Toyota estimates it loses approximately U.S. $385 million. In the last month, the yen has ticked upwards of 4 to the dollar, eating out more than a billion dollars out of Toyota’s books.

Toyota, as one of Japan’s largest exporters, feels the currency and domestic disaster problems acutely, though its misery certainly has company. (more)

First Nations children still taken from parents: Canada

John Beaucage has given the heartbreak he sees around him a name: the Millennium Scoop.

The First Nations leader was recently hired by the Ontario government to look into aboriginal child welfare and what he found -- not just in Ontario, but across the country -- was despair.

After decades of wrestling with the impact of the residential school system -- and then with the "Sixties Scoop" that placed so many aboriginal children in non-aboriginal homes -- First Nations are now facing another tragedy of lost children in the new millennium.

There are more First Nations children in care right now than at the height of the residential school system. That system was a national disgrace that prompted Prime Minister Stephen Harper to apologize for its catastrophic impact on natives.

Instead of being at home with their parents, brothers and sisters, tens of thousands of First Nations children are in foster homes, staying with distant relatives or living in institutions.

"It's a culmination of decades worth of social ills," Beaucage says.

A disheartening mix of poverty, addiction, history and politics has conspired to separate First Nations children from their parents. (more)

Philippine capital Manila hit by massive floods

At least one person has drowned in waist-deep floods that swamped the streets of the Philippine capital after a night of monsoon rains in Manila closed down schools and government offices.

Nearly 800 people evacuated their homes Tuesday along one of Manila's rivers as waters rose to dangerous levels. The Marikina River is notorious for flooding and residents voluntarily took shelter in schools.

Massive traffic jams slowed down movement in many sections of the capital.

The northern Philippines has been battered by back-to-back storms that killed more than 60 people in the last two weeks, and forecasters are warning of two more days of rain.

Nearly 1,000 people died in and around Manila in 2009 during the heaviest rainfall in decades following several powerful typhoons. (more)

Markets fret over U.S. economy despite debt deal

Global stock markets tumbled Tuesday after downbeat U.S. data fuelled fears the world's largest economy might be sliding back into recession.

Oil prices fell to near $94 a barrel on expectations slowing global economic growth will reduce demand for crude.

In Europe, Germany's DAX opened down 0.5 percent. France's CAC-40 shed 0.2 per cent and London's FTSE was down 0.3 per cent.

Wall Street was poised to fall. Dow futures were off 0.3 per cent at 12,001.

Japan's Nikkei 225 closed down 1.2 percent to 9,844.59 and China's Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.9 per cent to 2,976.26. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 1.1 per cent to 22,421.46. Seoul, Taipei, Sydney, Singapore and Mumbai also fell.

The declines came despite an agreement by U.S. lawmakers to raise Washington's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling and followed the release Monday of a disappointing survey of American manufacturing activity.

The Institute for Supply Management's index for July dropped to 50.9 from the previous month's 55.3, indicating a slowdown. (more)

Indonesians lie on train rails for 'therapy'

Ignoring the red-and-white danger sign, Sri Mulyati walks slowly to the train tracks outside Indonesia's bustling capital, lies down and stretches her body across the rails to seek electric therapy.

Like the nearly dozen others lined up along the track, the 50-year-old diabetes patient has all but given up on doctors and can't afford the expensive medicines they prescribe.

In her mind, it is only option left.

"I'll keep doing this until I'm completely cured," said Mulyati, twitching visibly as an oncoming passenger train sends an extra rush of current racing through her body.

She leaps from tracks as it approaches and then, after the last carriage rattles slowly by, climbs back into position.

Medical experts say there is no evidence lying on the rails does any good.

But Mulyati insists it provides more relief for her symptoms — high-blood pressure, sleeplessness and high cholesterol — than any doctor has since she was first diagnosed with diabetes 13 years ago.

She turned to train track therapy last year after hearing a rumour about an ethnic Chinese man who was partially paralyzed by a stroke going to the tracks to kill himself, but instead finding himself cured. (more)

Eating Disorders In Almost 100 Under Sevens: UK

Just under 600 were aged 12 or under, with 98 aged between five and seven, 99 aged eight or nine and almost 400 between 10 and 12.

The figures came from 35 NHS trusts in England and were released as part of a Freedom of Information request.

Johanna Harrison is a recovering anorexic who was diagnosed at 15.

She said: "I had an emotional and negative relationship with food for a long time. I remember being secretive about eating at seven, eight and nine.

She said she was shocked, but not surprised by the figures.

"It is important not to belittle the fact that younger and younger children are starting to develop eating disorders," she said.

"It is hard to give one prescriptive piece of advice for parents, because it is different for each child.

"Be there for your child, listen to them, watch them.

"If they are struggling, let them know you love them and you are there for them.

"If necessary, march them to the doctor."

Francis Burrows from eating disorder charity Beat said the figures were a "sad statistic", but that it only represented those people being treated in hospital. (more)

Syria Violence: 'No Lines Regime Won't Cross' -- Who will save the Syrians?

For all the international condemnation, the calls for restraint and the threats of increased sanctions, the Syrian regime is still attacking and killing its own people.

Syria Violence: 'No Lines Regime Won't Cross'


10:00pm UK, Monday August 01, 2011

Emma Hurd, Middle East correspondent
For all the international condemnation, the calls for restraint and the threats of increased sanctions, the Syrian regime is still attacking and killing its own people.

The slaughter in Hama on the eve of Ramadan, when the government sent in tanks to try to crush the rebellion, shows that President Bashar al Assad is not listening.

It also suggests there are no red lines that the regime will not cross as it attempts to silence dissent.

Even at the start of the holiest month of fasting for Muslims, even in Hama where his father slaughtered tens of thousands in a 1982 massacre, the army is using heavy weapons on residents.

But still the protests continue and not just in Hama.

The growing brutality is answered with ever bigger crowds taking to the streets, as people refuse to be terrorised into abandoning their demands for change.

So the regime is searching for new tools to stay in control. (more)

South Korea buys gold as safe haven, first time since 1998

South Korea's central bank has confirmed it has made its first purchase of gold in 13 years.

The purchase of 25 tonnes of gold shows the bank is diversifying its foreign exchange reserves away from the US dollar.

Gold is seen as a safe haven investment when other forms of investment like shares and currencies are more volatile.

It is the first gold purchase by the bank since the Asian financial crisis.

The weakness of the global economic recovery and the debt problems in Europe and the US are both factors boosting the appeal of gold.

In a statement the Bank of Korea said it bought the gold on the global market between June and July bringing its total gold reserves to 39.4 tonnes. (source)

Israel 'ready to negotiate borders with Palestinians'

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has bowed to US pressure by agreeing for the first time that a Palestinian state should roughly follow the contours of the 1967 ceasefire lines separating the West Bank from Israel.

The offer, which emerged tonight appeared to represent a major climb-down by Mr Netanyahu, who has consistently refused to discuss specific borders of a future state.

A government official in Jerusalem told The Daily Telegraph the offer was dependent on the Palestinians dropping their campaign for statehood at the United Nations next month and accepting Israel as a Jewish state.

The offer appears to cross Palestinian red lines, and it seemed likely to be rejected — although the onus is now likely to be placed on the Palestinians to present a counter offer.

Mr Netanyahu reacted angrily when the 1967 proposal was made by Barack Obama in May but was now said to be offering to trade Israeli territory on its side of the line for West Bank land where its main settlements were located.

“We are willing in a framework of restarting the peace talks to accept a proposal that would contain elements that would be difficult for Israel and we would find very difficult to endorse,” said an official, answering a question about the Obama proposal. (more)

Osama Bin Laden: mission was to shoot to kill from the start (and the story changes yet again, but is it too late?)

The raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan was a mission to kill him, and there was “never any question” he would be captured alive, one of those directly involved has claimed.

The most detailed account so far of the assassination of the world’s most wanted man describes the May 1 operation in Abbottabad as a “covert mission into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden”.

Published in The New Yorker magazine, it presents the strongest challenge yet to the Obama’s administration’s insistence that the al-Qaeda chief, codenamed “Crankshaft”, could have been captured if he had “conspicuously surrendered”.

An unnamed US special operations officer, said to be “deeply familiar with the bin Laden raid”, told the magazine that the 23 Navy Seals were clear that this was not the case.

“There was never any question of detaining or capturing him,” the officer said. “It wasn’t a split-second decision. No one wanted detainees.”

The plan, according to the article’s author, Nicholas Schmidle, was for the Seals to “overpower bin Laden’s guards, shoot and kill him at close range, and then take the corpse back to Afghanistan”.

In May, John Brennan, Mr Obama’s counter-terrorism chief, said the commandos would not have killed him if they were confident he was not wearing an “improvised explosive device on his body” or “some type of hidden weapon”.

Schmidle reports the first Seal to find bin Laden believed one or both of the wives guarding him were wearing suicide vests. He shot one in the calf before rugby tackling them to save two colleagues. Neither turned out to be wearing explosives. (more)

Italy in eye of the storm as cash runs low

Fears of a double-dip downturn on both sides of the Atlantic have set off fresh mayhem in Southern European bond markets, dashing hopes that Europe's summit deal in late July would contain the escalating crisis.

Italy's 10-year yields spiked through 6pc in wild trading and hit a record post-EMU spread over German Bunds, snuffing out a brief relief rally following Washington's debt deal. Spain's yields once again flirted with danger at 6.2pc.

"The markets know that the EU's bail-out find (EFSF) won't be able to buy Italian and Spanish bonds on the secondary market for another three or four months because the deal has to be ratified by national parliaments," said David Owen from Jefferies Fixed Income.

The summit accord did not increase the EFSF's firepower above €440bn (£380bn), leaving it unclear how EU leaders expect to cope as contagion engulfs the eurozone's bigger players. The fund has just €275bn left after pledges to Greece, Ireland, and Portugal. City analysts say it may take €2 trillion and a clearer German commitment to halt the panic.

"The longer this paralysis goes on, the more investors fear a break-up scenario where the core countries pull out and leave the rest with the euro," Mr Owen said.

JP Morgan warned clients that Italy has a thin margin of safety and risks running out of cash to cover spending as soon as September. "Italy and Spain will run out of cash in September and February respectively, if they lose access to funding markets," said the bank's fixed income team of Pavan Wadhwa and Gianluca Salford. Worries about Italy's immediate cash level risks leading to "a self-fulfilling negative spiral." (more)

What's left to trust in the world of money?

America's inability to address its fiscal challenges – Sunday night's "bipartisan debt deal" offers only a temporary, sticking plaster solution – has raised afresh an old conundrum.

If even US Treasuries are now regarded as a credit risk, is there anything left at all in the world of money that can be trusted?

The answer to this question is almost certainly no, but far from being a calamitous conclusion to reach, this might be viewed as a positive development which will in time restore market disciplines to a global monetary system which became based on make believe.

In fact, the idea of the sovereign as a "risk free asset" is a comparatively recent development which has no basis in historical experience. Even in a country such as Britain with no history of default (we'll ignore the case of war loans, which is arguable), government bonds have hardly proved a reliable form of investment.

True enough, coupons have been paid and maturities honoured, but the currency and inflation risks have proved extreme. On any medium to long term view, you would have done much better out of property and equities.

Among members of the eurozone, the concept of the sovereign as a safe haven asset is an even shorter lived phenomenon. The widening of spreads we've seen in the past year and a half of financial crisis is as nothing compared to the way it was before the single currency was launched. (more)