Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Richard Mannington Bowes, Ealing Riot Attack Victim, Dies In Hospital: Police Now on the Hunt

Richard Mannington Bowes, 68, who was set upon as he tried to stamp out a fire during riots in Ealing, west London, has died, Scotland Yard has confirmed.

Mr Bowes, of Haven Green, Ealing, suffered serious head injuries and was placed on a life-support machine following the attack, which took place at around 10.45pm on Monday as violence spread through the capital.

He died just before midnight last night, Scotland Yard said.

His next of kin have been informed and a post mortem examination will be held in due course, police added.

Detective Chief Inspector John McFarlane, of the Met's Homicide and Serious Crime Command, said: "This was a brutal incident that resulted in the senseless killing of an innocent man.

"I still need the assistance of the community who may have witnessed the attack on Richard, to come forward and provide information or images they may have recorded on mobile devices. This information could be crucial in catching his killer." (more)

Please click on the "more" link to view CCTV frames of the suspects, and if you can identify this thug, please call the police immediately and give them your information.

Syria attacks two new towns amid UN warning that crackdown will not let up

Syrian forces killed five people Thursday as they stormed another two towns in pursuit of anti-regime protesters, defying Western calls for action after a "chilling" UN Security Council briefing.

The killings occurred soon after columns of tanks entered the town of Qusayr in the central province of Homs early on Thursday, sending residents fleeing, a rights activist in the town said, reached by telephone from Nicosia.

"Residents fled into the fields and all communications have been cut with the town," the activist said, adding that security forces had later killed at least five residents and wounded 10.

"The security forces opened fire on residents who tried to flee to the Al-Basateen district, killing at least five" said the activist.

Tanks, troop carriers and buses transporting security force members also sped soon after dawn Thursday into the town of Saraqeb in the northwestern Idlib province bordering Turkey, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"Shooting was heard soon afterwards in the town, where protests demanding the fall of the regime have been staged every day after the evening (Muslim) prayers," the Britain-based group said in a statement.

Later the rights advocacy group reported that security forces were "raiding homes and carrying out arrests, rounding up more than 100 people, including 35 children."

"Army troops are smashing the doors of shops owned by activists in search of them, and they have cut off electricity in the town," a statement said. (more)

UK: Gilt yields are signalling a depression

As you can see from the chart below (or perhaps not given the quality of the reproduction, for which apologies), UK government bond yields have fallen to historic lows the depths of which even six months ago would scarcely have been believable – less than 2.5pc on ten year gilts. These are the sort of levels that until recently only ruled in Japan.

Those of us who have been calling the top of the bull market in bonds for the best part of the last two years are left with egg on our faces. I’m hardly alone. Step forward Bill Gross, John Paulson, Jim Rogers and a litany of other self styled market “experts”. And those who got it right? Well I hate to pay him the complement, but among others Paul Krugman, whose religiously preached Keynsian analysis of the crisis has, in this regard at least, been spot on. For this is not just a UK phenomenon. It’s happening just about everywhere, bar the troubled debtor nations of the eurozone, where the very real possibility of default has sent bond prices in the other direction.

If you believe much of the European press, rising bond yields in Italy, Spain and much of the rest of the eurozone even as they plummet virtually everywhere else is all an Anglo Saxon conspiracy designed to sink the euro. (See the excellent blog by my colleague, Ambrose Evans Pritchard, for more on this) Why won’t the bastards lend to us, they ask? It is because you don’t have the natural corrective of a floating exchange rate, is the answer, but Europe’s political class refuses to listen. (more)

Aaron B. Tobey arrested by TSA agents for writing 4th Amendment on chest

Authorities involved in the arrest of a protester who removed his shirt and pants at a security checkpoint at Richmond International Airport were doing their jobs and acted appropriately, a government attorney argued Wednesday in Richmond federal court.

Carlotta P. Wells, an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, argued in favor of a motion to dismiss Aaron B. Tobey's lawsuit, which claims his constitutional rights were violated. Wells said Tobey had made his point by removing his shirt to display words from the Fourth Amendment written on his torso but went too far when he disobeyed a command to pass through a security scanner.

But Anand Agneshwar, an attorney representing Tobey in his lawsuit against airport and federal officials, said the 21-year-old Charlottesville man obeyed the commands of authorities. Agneshwar said it was the authorities who went too far by detaining Tobey for 90 minutes or longer with his hands cuffed behind his back.

"This was one long process to determine if this gentleman was a security risk," Agneshwar told U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson. (more)

SEALs killed in helicopter were sent to stop fleeing Taliban, not to rescue anyone (When will the lies stop?)

The top NATO commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday that the doomed Navy SEALs mission that claimed 30 American lives was intended to stop fleeing Taliban fighters and not necessarily a rescue mission as first reported.

After the crash Saturday, news reports quoted NATO officials as saying commanders dispatched the CH-47 Chinook helicopter with 22 SEALs onboard to rescue an Army Ranger team pinned down by the Taliban.

The huge twin-engine CH-47 was downed by a rocket-propelled grenade as it approached a “hot” landing zone.
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, told Pentagon reporters via a teleconference from Kabul that the mission was to stop Taliban fighters from fleeing in the Wardak province’s Tangi Valley.

“As this mission unfolded, we saw some significant success occurring on the objective itself, but there were elements that were escaping,” Gen. Allen said.

“And in the course of their attempt to depart the objective, we committed a force to contain that element from getting out. And of course, in the process of that, the aircraft was struck by an RPG and crashed.” (more)

Heat-Related Skin Infections On The Rise

For Karrell Johnson of Dallas, a painful brush with a carbuncle started as a seemingly benign knot on his back.

“I went out and played golf, “ said the UNT music instructor, “only nine holes because of the heat, but I wasn’t bothered with it at all.”

But, after a 2,500 mile road trip in the sweltering heat, Johnson says the ‘little knot’ turned into a nasty infection. “It was just huge, and very infected, “ said Johnson.

Often called carbuncles or sebaceous cysts, doctors are seeing a rise in skin infections during this heatwave—as if the weather itself isn’t making us miserable enough.

“It can go on for days or even weeks, looking okay and then all of a sudden for whatever reason—sit for a long time, you get sweaty, you start exercising, and overnight it can turn south on us, “ said Dr. Jeff Goudreau, a Dallas internal medicine physician.

Patients sometimes complain of fever, fatigue, or just a general discomfort. Itching can occur before the carbuncle develops, and then the knot will turn painful and irritated with a white or yellow center. As the infection worsens, the cyst will ‘weep’ and be filled with pus, and form a crust.

The infection is highly contagious and patients must take precautions to prevent the spread to other parts of the body , or to family members. And be especially vigilant, doctors say, at the gym. (more)

Rome police arrest Colosseum 'gladiator' gang... for beating up rival gladiators

Italian police have arrested 20 gladiator impersonators in an undercover sting aimed at ending a violent racket operating around Rome's most famous tourist sites, Italian press reported on Thursday.

Police disguised as gladiators, dustbin men and members of the public raided the gang made up of seven families working with five tourist agencies.

The modern gladiators are accused of attacking and intimidating competitors for a lucrative business in which gladiators collect up to 10 euros ($14) for having their picture taken alongside tourists in front of attractions.

The police officers disguised as gladiators were beaten up by the alleged criminal gladiators before other undercover officers swooped in. (more)

56 air conditioners stolen from Illinois State University

Illinois State University police are investigating the theft of more than 50 central air-conditioning units from an ISU warehouse.

ISU facilities management staff contacted campus police about 11:30 a.m. Monday to report the disappearance of the 56 American Standard brand central air units since late-July. If replaced as new, the theft represents a $25,000 loss, said ISU Police Chief Aaron Woodruff.

The units had been used previously by ISU in the Cardinal Courts student apartment complex. Those buildings on Gregory Street were razed this spring to make way for a new complex, set to open in fall 2012.

About 75 air conditioning units were removed, but only 20 were in fair condition and set to be transferred to ISU’s Shelbourne apartments, said Maureen Blair, university housing services director.

The rest of the units had been manufactured at least a decade ago and were deemed unusable by housing services. Those were transferred to ISU’s facilities management office for storage or disposal, said Blair.

The units were being stored outside a warehouse at 2020 N. Warehouse Road when the thefts occurred.

Facilities management staff members reported they first noticed some units were missing during the last weekend in July, and the rest apparently were taken the first weekend in August, according to police.

ISU had planned to transfer the units to the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, which circulates state-owned equipment among various state agencies, said Blair.

On July 25, a worker noticed that since July 22, several units had been removed over the weekend from the top row of air conditioners. No police report was filed then because the worker thought the equipment relocation had begun, said Woodruff.

On Aug. 1, workers arrived to find all the air-conditioning units were gone. After determining no university staff had moved the equipment, workers called ISU police.

Woodruff said there are no suspects at this time.

The units are American Standard Model 7A0018A100A0.

Anyone with information is asked to call McLean County Crime Stoppers at 309-828-1111, or the ISU Police Department at 309-438-8631. (source)

1,000-pound staircase stolen from downstate business in Peoria

Thieves who aren't afraid of a little heavy lifting made off with more than $7,000 worth of galvanized stainless steel.

The theft happened overnight Tuesday at H3 Steel in Peoria.

The items reported stolen Wednesday included a 1,000-pound staircase that was taken from a flatbed trailer, according to a report.

The employee who reported the theft told police it would take several people and a truck to move the items. (source)

'Drunk' man Robert Vietze pees on 11 year old on JetBlue flight

It was plane madness.

Chaos erupted on JetBlue's red-eye flight from Portland, Ore., to JFK yesterday when a drunk allegedly urinated on a sleeping 11-year-old girl.

The youngster was traveling with her sister and dad, and had been left alone for a few minutes while the others used the lavatories.

Robert Vietze, 18, of South Warren Vt., stumbled from his seat five rows behind her and emptied his bladder, a witness said.

"I was drunk, and I did not realize I was pissing on her leg," the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Vietze said, according to law-enforcement sources. He later claimed to have consumed eight alcoholic beverages. (more)

Swedish Child Gets Swastika Tattoo with Fast Food Kids Meal (Yes, the tattoos were made in China)

A Swedish family described their shock Thursday after their eight-year-old son was given a swastika tattoo as a free gift with a fast food meal.

Eddie Hagglund was pleased when he found his kids meal from Swedish fast food chain Frasses in Umea, northeast Sweden, contained a sheet of temporary tattoos, local paper Vasterbottens-Kuriren reported.

But his parents were shocked when they found that there was a swastika among the tattoos.

"We could not believe our eyes. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry," the child's mother Malin Hagglund told the newspaper.

She added, "Eddie is a huge fan of tattoos, but we thought this was a very strange tattoo for a child and that it was a little wrong of the shop to include it."

The owners of Frasses said they regretted the incident. They believe the tattoos were imported from China and the inclusion of the swastika was a mistake. (more)

Marie Kolstad: 83-Year-Old Gets Breast Implants To "Stay Young"

An 83-year-old Santa Ana great-grandmother is making national headlines for having work done on her headlights.

And we’re not talking about her car.

Marie Kolstad, of Orange County, is the mother of four, the grandmother of 12 and great-grandmother to 12.

Last month, Kolstad decided she needed a little boost in her breasts. So she spent $8,000 for a three-hour procedure.

She figured her family wouldn’t approve, so she didn’t tell them about the surgery until a day before she was scheduled to go under the knife.

Kolstad is not unique. The New York Times reports that a growing segment of the population, namely seniors, is opting for age-defying plastic surgery like never before. And Kolstad told the newspaper that her doctor has patients even older than she.

One NY plastic surgeon said nearly ten percent of all procedures involve people over 65.

A fountain of youth, indeed. Apparently 83 is the new 38. (more)

Britain's riots and the new financial crisis

London is burning. The violence and looting have spread to other English cities. Thieves outnumber police. The situation appears to be beyond control and its growth contagious.

Throughout the rest of the world, stock markets are tumbling at a rate not seen since the 2008 global financial crisis.

Are these two phenomena related? If so, what might their relationship say about where we are and where we are headed?

The violence and looting tells us that people are angry, and that in apparently affluent societies, the benefits are not shared in a satisfactory way. Riots throughout history have been driven by grievances which come down to basics: food, security, confidence about survival.

What is happening in London has not been contained to that city. And, I suspect, it won't be restricted to the UK. Unemployment in the US and many European countries is high and refuses to come down. Behind the unemployment figures hide people who are underemployed and others who have just given up looking for work.

This formula suggests the precedent in Britain could be just the beginning for people seeking a way to vent their frustrations.

The collapsing stock markets and the downgrading of the credit rating of the US tell us that the problem is only going to get worse. Investment capital is disappearing from markets, hidden, if it exists, in the deep pockets of terrified individuals and companies. These investors have suddenly seen their net worth collapse again for the second time in four years.

And what will be the effect? No new jobs created; people being made redundant because their companies can't afford to pay them; the government of the wealthiest nation on earth (the US) now virtually insolvent, and unable to stimulate an economy on whose prosperity so many others depend. (more)

Most Americans can't afford a $1,000 emergency expense

When the unexpected strikes, most Americans aren't prepared to pay for it.

A majority, or 64%, of Americans don't have enough cash on hand to handle a $1,000 emergency expense, according to a survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC, released on Wednesday.

Only 36% said they would tap their rainy day funds for an emergency. The rest of the 2,700 people polled said that they would have to go to other extremes to cover an unexpected expense, such as borrowing money or taking out a cash advance on a credit card.

"It's alarming," said Gail Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the Washington, DC-based non-profit. "For consumers who live paycheck to paycheck -- having spent tomorrow's money -- an unplanned expense can truly put them in financial distress," she noted.

That's the case for Allyson Curtis, 35. "I think about it every day," she said.

Curtis was unemployed for only three months last year, but in that time she accumulated $5,000 in credit card debt that she's now struggling to pay down. In the case of an emergency, Curtis said she would likely postpone other payments and pile on additional debt.

She is already putting off $450 in dental work and a car inspection due to a crack in her windshield, which will cost $300 to replace, she said. (more)

Recession 2.0 would hurt worse

The risk of double dip recession is rising.

And while economists disagree on just how likely the U.S. economy is to fall into another downturn, they generally agree on one thing -- a new recession would be worse than the last and very difficult to pull out of.

"Going back into recession now would be scary, because we don't have the resources or the will to respond, and our initial starting point is such a point of weakness," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. "It won't feel like a new recession. It would likely feel like a depression."

Zandi said the recent sell-off in stocks have caused him to raise the odds of a new recession to 33% from 25% only 10 days ago.

Other economists surveyed by CNNMoney are also raising their recession risk estimates. The survey found an average chance of a new recession to be about 25%, up from a 15% chance only three months ago.

Of the 21 economists who responded to the survey, six have joined Zandi in increasing their estimates in just the last few days. The main reason: the huge slide in stocks. Standard & Poor's downgrade of the U.S. credit rating is another concern.

"The correction in equity markets raises the risk of recession due to the negative hit to wealth and confidence," said Sal Guatieri, senior economist for BMO Capital Markets. (more)

U.S. outlook casts shadow over world economy: Reuters poll

The chances of another U.S. recession are rising and Europe's recovery is also at risk, according to the latest Reuters poll, taken during the worst stock market selloff since the nadir of the financial crisis.

The latest survey of more than 200 economists, published four years to the day that credit markets first started to dry up, showed analysts cutting forecasts for U.S. growth, a reflection of widespread concern the global economy is slowing rapidly.

Punishing losses in world financial markets, culminating in widespread carnage in risky assets this week following Standard & Poor's downgrade of U.S. sovereign debt, suggest sentiment has soured -- and decisively.

"The world doesn't look particularly rosy at the moment. There's no question about that," said Mark Miller, senior international economist at Lloyds Banking Group.

"The equity market reaction over the last few days is a particular concern. It doesn't point toward a strong pickup in investment activity, which is needed in many countries." (more)

Syrian security forces 'kill seven in Homs province'

Syrian security forces have reportedly killed seven civilians in a town in the province of Homs, as the authorities try to quell protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

Communications and electricity in Kassir were reported to be cut off.

Security forces are carrying out mass arrests, opposition activists and residents also said.

The violence comes a day after the US Treasury imposed sanctions targeting the financial resources of Mr Assad.

The new measures being taken are against Syria's main commercial bank and its mobile phone operator.

Under-Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said the US was "taking aim at the financial infrastructure that is helping provide support to Assad and his regime's illicit activities".

The move has fuelled expectation that the Obama administration will soon formally call for President Assad to step down.

The White House has so far stopped short, only going as far as to say that Syria would be a "better place without Assad". (more)

Pfizer: Nigeria drug trial victims get compensation

US-based pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has made the first compensation payment to Nigerian families affected by a controversial drug trial 15 years ago.

It paid $175,000 (£108,000) each to four families in the first of a series of payments it is expected to make.

The payouts are part of an out-of-court settlement reached in 2009.

In 1996, 11 children died and dozens were left disabled after Pfizer gave them the experimental anti-meningitis drug, Trovan.

The children were part of a group of 200 given the drug during a meningitis epidemic in the northern city of Kano as part of a medical trial comparing Trovan's effectiveness with the established treatment.

For years Pfizer maintained that meningitis - not the drug - caused the deaths and disabilities.

But after a lengthy and expensive litigation process, it reached a settlement with the Kano government in northern Nigeria. (more)

Details emerge of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's detention: "Close to death"

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei believed he was "close to death" during the more than 80 days he was held in a secret police detention centre, a source close to the artist told the BBC.

Beijing has banned him from speaking to the press since his release.

The source said Mr Ai was hooded when detained, kept under watch with guards inside his cell and subjected to treatment designed to break him.

Mr Ai was detained on charges of tax fraud by the Chinese authorities.

During his detention Ai Weiwei was, we were told, interrogated dozens of times. He was rarely asked about tax issues.

His interrogators focused instead on calls for a Jasmine revolution and claims Mr Ai was trying to "subvert the state", even though our source said the artist had no involvement in the calls and the interrogators had no proof.

The source told the BBC that during his 81 days in detention, Ai Weiwei was held first in one secret prison then moved to another, where he was kept in a windowless cell less than 4m by 4m (170 sq ft) in size.

The only daylight came from a small vent near the ceiling. (more)

How Mexico's deadly gang tactics are spreading

Central American migrants heading north to the United States fear that they are increasingly in danger of being kidnapped and murdered by drug gangs expanding their criminal operations south from Mexico.

"People and body parts were scattered everywhere like stones. There was a torso here, a head there. Even the animals were chopped up."

Salvador, a boatman, is describing the scene at Los Cocos ranch in the region of Peten, in the north of Guatemala, where a gruesome massacre took place on 14 May, blamed on members of a feared Mexican drug gang known as the Zetas.

In this case, those targeted were 27 farm workers, killed in retribution for the farm owner's alleged unpaid drug debt.

But the fear among locals and migrants passing through on their way to the US is that the Zetas are expanding into this remote region.

When Salvador heard about the massacre, he drove there to take a look for himself.

"What I saw at Los Cocos, was just terrible," he says. "I don't want to talk about it a lot because I could get into trouble." (more)

New theories over methane puzzle: Why is it disappearing from atmosphere?

Scientists say that there has been a mysterious decline in the growth of methane in the atmosphere in the last decades of the 20th century.

Researchers writing in the journal Nature have come up with two widely differing theories as to the cause.

One suggests the decline was caused by greater commercial use of natural gas, the other that increased use in Asia of artificial fertiliser was responsible.

Both studies agree that human activities are the key element.

And there are suggestions that methane levels are now on the rise again.

Methane is regarded as one of the most potent greenhouse gases, trapping over 20 times more atmospheric heat than carbon dioxide.

Since the start of the industrial revolution, levels of methane in the atmosphere have more than doubled from a wide variety of sources, including energy production, the burning of forests, and increased numbers of cattle and sheep.

But between 1980 and the turn of the millennium, the growth rate reduced substantially, leaving scientists puzzled as to the cause.

Now, two teams of researchers have arrived at two very different conclusions for the decline. The first study was led by Dr Murat Aydin from the University of California, Irvine.

"We went after ethane - it's another hydrocarbon similar to methane, it has common sources, but is easier to trace. We determined what ethane did during the second half of the 20th century using ancient air that we collected at polar ice sheets.

"We think the trend we see in methane is best explained by dramatic changes in emissions linked to fossil fuel production and use which seem to have declined in the 1980s and 1990s. (more)

UK: 800,000 homeowners in negative equity

Seven per cent of all homeowners with mortgages are now in negative equity – owning houses that are worth less than the loan that they still have against the property.

The Council for Mortgage Lenders said 827,000 homeowners were in negative equity, broadly the same number as in 2008.

Before the credit crunch, the number of people in negative equity was "negligible". Collapsing property values and the availability of high loan-to-value mortgages shortly before the financial crisis helped to fuel the increase.

Loan to value shows how much of a property's value is left to repay on the mortgage or loan – and how much is owned outright by the homeowner. If the value of your property drops, the loan to value ratio becomes higher, until the value of the loan outstrips the worth of the property.

David Hollingworth, of mortgage brokers London & Country, said being in negative equity was only a problem if you tried to remortgage or wanted to sell your property.

He said there wasn’t a correlation between this and having problems paying your mortgage. (more)

Federal Reserve mixes it up and comes up with the worst of all worlds

Ben Bernanke, chairman of the US Federal Reserve, was able to deliver something to turmoil wracked markets; he promised to keep the fed funds rate close to zero until mid-2013, the first time, as far as I am aware, that the Fed has ever pledged to hold rates for such a long, and specific, length of time.

To commit to hold rates at virtually zero for nearly two years is unprecedented, and a mark of just how concerned policymakers have become at the economy’s inability to lift itself out of its funk. It provides markets and business with a degree of certainty on rates that they’ve never had before, and may therefore lift confidence.

But was it enough? The fact that three members of the open markets committee (FOMC) dissented from this promise maintains a strong, hawkish voice on the FOMC that undoubtedly remains fiercely opposed to any further quantitative easing. QE3 was the only thing that would comprehensively have reversed the current market rout, but Mr Bernanke cannot, for the moment at least, deliver it. Undue caution from the Fed combined with continued political paralysis on Capitol Hill does not make for a happy economy.

What committing to two years of zero interest rate policy will certainly do, on the other hand, is further weaken the dollar. Does the Fed know something the rest of us don’t to have taken such an aggressive position on rates. And what does it do if inflation returns? The Chinese, with inflation already at 6.5pc, will be spitting tacks. The Fed has mixed it up and come to a messy compromise which is neither one thing or the other. This was not what we hoped for. (source)

Nation of adults who will write like children? Is handwriting becoming obsolete?

A glance at teen stars Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber's letters to their younger selves makes one thing clear: their handwriting is terrible. In the letters, part of the Habbo Celebrity "Advice to My Teenage Self" book, the content is messy and their cursive signatures are barely legible.

The handwriting of today's teen stars "is so atrocious, it's talked about and recognized through the industry," says Justin King, a Toronto-based paparazzi for Flynet Pictures and independent autograph seller. "With stars ages 30 and above, they generally have a much more full, legible signature. When you deal with these new people like [teen actress] Elle Fanning, you're lucky if you get an E and F and a heart for her signature."

It's just not the teen stars who can't write properly. Most states don't require children to learn cursive writing anymore. Some 46 states have adopted the Common Core Standards, a set of educational guidelines that do not require cursive writing as part of a school's curriculum. The state of Indiana recently announced it would drop a district requirement to teach cursive writing as of this fall. Instead, students must be able to type on keyboards. (more)

A walk through war-torn Mogadishu, Somalia

Paper money worldwide contains bisphenol A

The cash register receipts that people place near paper money in billfolds, purses, and pockets has led to a worldwide contamination of paper money with bisphenol A (BPA) — a potentially toxic substance found in some plastics, thermal paper and other products. The amounts of BPA on dollars, Euros, rubles, yuans, and other currencies, are higher than in house dust, but human intake from currency is at least 10 times less than those from house dust. That's the conclusion of a new study in the ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Kurunthachalam Kannan and Chunyang Liao point out that manufacturers use BPA to make polycarbonate plastics used in some consumer products, including water bottles, sports equipment, and household electronics. Studies indicate that BPA acts as an endocrine disruptor — meaning it mimics the action of the sex hormone estrogen. Exposure to BPA has been linked to a variety of health problems. Although a recent study found traces of BPA in U.S. currency, nobody knew until now about BPA in paper money worldwide.

The scientists' analysis of 156 pieces of paper money from 21 countries found that all contained traces of BPA. The report notes, however, that "estimated daily intake from paper currencies were 10-fold lower than those reported from exposures due to [indoor] dust ingestion in the United States." The highest BPA levels were in paper money from Brazil, the Czech Republic and Australia, while the lowest occurred in paper money from the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Levels in U.S. notes were about average.

Kannan and Liao also found that the most likely source of the BPA in the currency is the thermal paper used in cash register receipts. They showed that receipts can transfer BPA onto cash when placed next to it or when a receipt is touched before handling currency. "Although high levels of BPA were measured in paper currencies, human exposure through dermal [skin] absorption appears to be minor," the article notes. (source)

State report finds Casey Anthony 'responsible' for daughter's death

Casey Anthony is responsible for the 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, a report released Thursday by Florida's Department of Children and Families concludes.

A month after a jury acquitted Anthony on murder and child neglect charges, the state agency found that Anthony "is the caregiver responsible for the verified maltreatments of death, threatened harm and failure to protect" in her daughter's death.

"The Department of Children and Families concludes that the actions or the lack of actions by the alleged perpetrator ultimately resulted or contributed in the death of the child," said the report. The report was signed by officials within the department Wednesday.

Anthony is free now. While she was cleared on murder and aggravated child abuse charges, the 25-year-old Orlando woman was convicted on four counts related to misleading law enforcement authorities. She was sentenced to four years in jail on those convictions, but was given credit for the time she had already served between her arrest and the end of the seven-week trial and was released from jail in mid-July. Prosecutors cannot appeal the acquittals. (more)

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 11th August 2011

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 16 km (9.9 miles), the quake hit at 19:37:44 UTC Thursday 11th August 2011.
The epicenter 43 km (26 miles) Southeast of Hamamatsu, Honshu, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued, No Reports of Damage or Injuries

6.4 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 11th August 2011

A magnitude 6.4 earthquake has struck near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 38 km ( 23.6 miles), the quake hit at 18:22:04 UTC Thursday 11th August 2011.
The epicenter was 18 km (11 miles) ESE of Iwaki, Honshu, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued, No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Japanese Seismic report >>>>

Anonymous Denies Claims that they are going to Destroy Facebook - 11th Aug 2011

Mark Zuckerberg and the millions of people that use his social networking site Facebook can breathe a sigh of relief, because hacker collective Anonymous don’t want to destroy it after all.

The secretive group had seemingly pledged to wipe it out on November 5 this year – Guy Fawkes Night – using a video uploaded to YouTube to issue its warning.

However, a member of Anonymous has issued a status update – that the whole thing has been a misunderstanding and that it only ever wanted to help people by drawing attention to the privacy issues surrounding Facebook.

News of the apparent plot to destroy Facebook surfaced last month when the group - infamous for its attacks on the U.S government - created a Twitter account and posted a YouTube video called 'Message from Anonymous: Operation Facebook, Nov 5 2011', to highlight its intention to delete the network in protest at its privacy policies.

A chilling computerised voice said: ‘Your medium of communication you all so dearly adore will be destroyed.

‘The riots are under way. It is not a battle over the future of privacy and publicity. It is a battle for choice and informed consent.'

But a member of the group called Speakeasy has told Gawker that the main purpose of ‘Operation Facebook’ was simply to ‘bring awareness to Facebook keeping data even after you delete an account’. Read More

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake NORTHERN QINGHAI, CHINA - 11th August 2011

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck Northern Qinghai, China at a depth of 33.1 km ( 20.6 miles), the quake hit at 17:06:18 UTC Thursday 11th August 2011.
The epicenter was 39 km (24 miles) ESE of Da Qaidam, Qinghai, China
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Skeletal remains of man dressed in a suit found dumped in windsurfing bag in residential street - 11th Aug 2011

The skeletal remains of a man wearing a suit were found tied up in a windsurfing bag, according to a man who saw the body.

The remains of the five feet tall man found in Lewisham, south east London are thought to have been placed there between Friday afternoon and the early hours of yesterday.

Scotland Yard said the body had been placed at the scene sometime in the past week.

A force spokesman confirmed it had been found outside, but no further information was available about the exact location.

Police would not reveal the specific location of the body, but it is thought to have been discovered by dog walkers in bushes early yesterday morning.

The residential street in south east London, Lovelinch Close is two roads away from Millwall FC's stadium, The New Den. Read More

Verizon picketer places daughter in front of oncoming truck, video shows

Somali famine: Families 'flee child conscription'

Some Somalis have fled to Ethiopia for fear their children may be forcibly conscripted by Islamist insurgents, a UN refugee official has told the BBC.

The UNHCR's Alison Oman said some mothers at refugee camps in Ethiopia told her they left Somalia as they had nothing left to buy-off the militants.

Al-Shabab controls most of south and central Somalia, including two large regions worst affected by the famine.

The group banned many aid agencies from its territory two years ago.

An estimated 12 million people in the Horn of Africa have been affected by the region's worst drought in 60 years.

Somalia has been worst hit, with tens of thousands of people fleeing to the capital, Mogadishu, controlled by the weak interim government, or to refugee camps in neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia. (more)

Era of the PC 'coming to a close'

PCs are going the way of typewriters, vinyl records and vacuum tubes, one of the engineers who worked on the original machine has said.

The claim was made in a blog post commemorating 30 years since the launch of the first IBM personal computer.

No longer, said Dr Mark Dean, are PCs the leading edge of computing.

No single device has taken the PC's place, he said, instead it has been replaced by the socially-mediated innovation it has fostered.

While IBM was not the first to produce a personal computer, the launch of the 5150 on 12 August 1981 established standards and a design around which many desktop machines have since been built. (more)

10 possible explanations of the UK Riots

Sir Max Hastings, in an article for the Daily Mail, focused on "a perverted social ethos, which elevates personal freedom to an absolute, and denies the underclass the discipline - tough love - which alone might enable some of its members to escape from the swamp of dependency in which they live".

There is a culture of entitlement in the UK, says David Wilson, professor of criminology at Birmingham City University and a former prison governor.

"But it's not just about the underclass - it's about politicians, it's about bankers, it's about footballers.

"It's not just about a particular class, it permeates all levels of society. When we see politicians claiming for flat-screen TVs and getting jailed for fiddling their expenses, it's clear that young people of all classes aren't being given appropriate leadership." (more)

U.S. to call for Syrian president Assad's resignation: Libya, the sequel?

U.S. President Barack Obama is preparing to explicitly call for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, fresh on the heels of new sanctions against the troubled country, White House officials say.

The moves are a direct response to Assad's decision to escalate the crackdown by sending the army into opposition hotbeds.

The White House has never said the Syrian strongman must go, instead saying that he is "on the wrong side of history and his people" and that his crackdown on protesters is "horrifying."

Britain's Guardian newspaper said the stronger tone from the U.S. could come as early as Thursday.

A flurry of foreign diplomats have rolled through Damascus urging Assad to end the five-month campaign of killing that rights groups say has left about 1,700 dead since mid-March.

The new sanctions affect the state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria and its Lebanon-based subsidiary, the Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank, for what the U.S. says are their links to human rights abuses and to illegal weapons trade with North Korea.

Mobile phone company Syriatel was targeted because it is controlled by "one of the regime's most corrupt insiders," said David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

The action freezes any assets the firms have in U.S. jurisdictions and bans Americans from doing business with them. But they may not have much immediate economic impact because the U.S. already severely limits trade and economic ties with Syria. (more)

Canada: Government wants to beef up digital surveillance powers

"Stop spying."

That's the message from, a Vancouver-based internet advocacy group, to government and law enforcement officials. They've set up an online petition at to protest something called "lawful access legislation."

I'll admit, it's an unfortunate name. When you say "lawful access legislation" out loud, it sounds like pretty much the most boring thing ever. But it's not. I promise.

When Parliament resumes in September, the debate surrounding this controversial legislation will start to heat up, and it's well worth paying attention.

In a nutshell, lawful access has to do with how law enforcement can access your communications. That includes activities like wiretapping, and obtaining access to your email or your web surfing history.

Of course, right now, police can get access to any of that stuff, but it requires legal authority (like a warrant) and reasonable grounds to believe you've done something wrong. But proposed new lawful access legislation could change things, making it easier for police to get detailed information about you from your internet service provider, your social networking accounts, or from your cellphone company (in some cases, without a warrant or without reasonable grounds to believe you've done something wrong).

Understandably, these proposed changes freak some people out. (more)

SETI raises $200,000 and will come back online in September! Yahoo!

Earthlings' search for extraterrestrial life will soon be back on!

The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute announced this week it has raised enough money to bring the Allen Telescope Array, a group of 42 large dish antennas that scan the cosmos for radio signals, back online.

"We believe we will be back on the air in September," Tom Pierson, a co-founder of the SETI Institute, told the Los Angeles Times.

The telescope array, which SETI operates in a partnership with the Radio Astronomy Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, had not been working since April. A funding shortfall forced to university to put its Hat Creek Observatory, which houses the telescope array, into hibernation, meaning the facility was maintained by minimum staff and could not be used for observations.

SETI, through a program it dubbed SETIstars, sought the public's help in raising money to get the array back on line. The SETIstars website reports Wednesday that more than $206,000 has been raised, 103% of the group's goal. Almost 2,300 individual donations were made, according to the website. (more)

'Silent crisis' as food prices fuel hunger in Kenya

As the Horn of Africa struggles to deal with its worst drought in more than half a century, rising food prices are adding to growing hunger in Kenya.

Wolfgang Fengler, the World Bank's lead economist for Kenya, describes increasing food prices as a "silent crisis" that has been building up.

"It's a crisis because this region is still a poor region where half the population and more live below $2 a day," says Fengler. "They spend on average half of their income on food. And obviously if prices go up, then they reduce the food intake."

Last week, data released by The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics showed that the country's inflation increased for the ninth consecutive month in July to 15.53% year-on-year, compared to 14.49% in June. (more)

Gold breaks $1,800 level

Ding! Gold broke yet another record Wednesday, reaching as high as $1,801 an ounce, as investors keep fleeing from the volatile stock and currency markets.

In midday trading, the precious metal surged $58 to $1,801 per ounce, before retreating slightly to settle at a record high of $1,788.30 on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

It marked the first time ever gold has exceeded $1,800 in intra-day trading.

In less than a month, it has surged more than $200 amid worries about the debt ceiling, the S&P downgrade, Europe's sovereign debt woes and weakness in the U.S. economy.

Those fears were amplified this week amid wild swings from stocks and a gloomier economic outlook from the Federal Reserve yesterday.

Typically viewed as a safe haven, gold often performs well in times of instability.

"We're seeing traders are starting to get tired from the whipsaws in the currency markets and want to have a tangible asset that is gold," said Adam Klopfenstein, senior market strategist with MF Global. "Everyone wants a ticket to the show." (more)

Trading volumes hit record levels as markets panic

Trading in equities and derivatives has hit record levels this week as investors traded frantically in response to a tumult of factors such as the US Federal Reserve’s decision to stick with near-zero interest rates until 2013, fears over the US’s credit rating and the eurozone debt crisis.

Trading in currencies and gold, seen by many investors as a “safe haven” alternative to dollars, have spiked as central banks in the US, Europe and Japan have intervened to attempt to pump liquidity into currency, equity and sovereign debt markets.

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“A lot of the selling is being driven by uncertainty,” said John Schlitz, head US market technician at Instinet. “It’s panic versus greed, and panic generates higher volume than greed.

CME Group, the world’s largest futures market, reported an all-time volume record on Tuesday, beating the last peak of activity hit during the “flash crash” last year in the US, when markets gyrated wildly.

On the CME, there were 25.7m contracts traded across all asset classes, with individual market records being hit in gold and Australian dollars.

“With all this volatility and uncertainty, people might be nervous about making big, long-term bets on stocks. The leverage built in to derivatives contracts allows investors to benefit from smaller, shorter-term trades,” said Justin Schack, managing director at Rosenblatt Securities. (more)

China slows down high-speed trains amid safety concern: Quality, unlike everything else there, can't be imitated

The Chinese government has announced measures to slow down bullet trains nationwide and halt approval for new construction, a move that comes amid increasing public scrutiny on the country's railway safety following a crash last month that killed at least 40 people.

Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday also ordered railway authorities, who had planned to invest over $400 billion into new projects in the next five years, to conduct thorough safety inspections on all high-speed rail lines both in operation and under construction, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

"Right now we are checking and eliminating all potential safety vulnerabilities," railway minister Sheng Guangzu said in Thursday's edition of the People's Rail newspaper. "Down the road we want to strengthen our management to ensure rail operations be safe, sustainable and stable."

Sheng said bullet trains would run 40 to 50 kilometers below their top design speed, which currently stands at 350 kilometers per hour (217 mph), and ticket prices would be reduced accordingly. (more)

N. Korea urges S. Korea, US to cancel joint drill

North Korea Monday urged South Korea and the United States to cancel their upcoming annual joint exercise if they want to see a thaw in relations as well as denuclearisation.

The exercise is preparation for "a war of aggression" against the North and will involve "nuclear war manoeuvres", its military said in an open letter published by the official news agency.

The US and South Korea "should show their willingness to denuclearise the peninsula in the eyes of the world by cancelling the projected nuclear war exercises", it said.

The 10-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise from August 16 is an annual computer-assisted simulation command-post exercise.

US and South Korean officials described it as defensive and routine but the North habitually terms such joint drills a rehearsal for invasion.

The letter said Seoul and Washington should show their willingness for denuclearisation by making "a bold policy decision" to cancel the exercise.

Denuclearisation includes the removal of nuclear threats to North Korea, it said, warning that the US and South Korea would not remain safe in case of a new war.

"If the other party launches a nuclear war, the DPRK (North Korea) is ready to counter it with nukes. It is its solemn declaration." (more)

Economics behind Britain's fires?

Large portions of London and other British cities are continuing scenes of raging, mindless violence amid the worst wave of rioting in recent European history.

Gone for good is the image of Britain as a particularly civil society where cups of tea and polite discourse solved all.

Debris from looted stores, broken shop windows, vehicles set alight and buildings torched are the current image of London. And mobs of hooded youths tossing Molotov cocktails, bricks and stones are others.

London's Metropolitan Police are rushing in reinforcements from outside the city to swell their numbers from 6,000 to 16,000 and are considering using rubber bullets for the first time.

Armored vehicles have taken to the streets to break up mobs of rioters and looters whose numbers grow steadily.

By tradition, rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons aren't used by British police but amid the scale and breadth of violence since Sunday tradition may fall to the wayside.

"We'll do everything necessary to restore order on Britain's streets and to make them safe for law-abiding citizens," said British Prime Minister David Cameron, who cut short a vacation to return to London. "This is criminality pure and simple and it has to be confronted and stopped." (more)

Thousands struggle in Ethiopia's "green drought"

Shundure Tekamo faces a tough choice -- stay with her severely malnourished son in hospital, or return home in the desperate search for food for her five other children.

"I cannot think of anything, because I want only to save my child," she said, standing by the bedside of her baby son Berhanu in an emergency feeding centre.

"But I am worried because I left my other children," she added sadly.

This is the second time Berhanu has been in hospital for malnutrition since December, as his frail body struggles from a lack of food.

Some 4.5 million people in Ethiopia need assistance from the worst drought to hit the region in decades, according to the UN, with 12 million across the Horn of Africa affected.

Repeated years of erratic rains in Ethiopia's densely populated Southern Nations region have damaged or delayed crops, leaving thousands hungry. (more)

Moscow warns NATO against extending missile shield

Russia cautioned the US and its NATO allies Monday against plans to extend an anti-missile shield into northern European seas.

On a visit to Norway, Russia's ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin deplored the lack of any firm guarantees from the alliance that American ships fitted with anti-missile technology would not be deployed in northern waters.

"The very fact of deploying US military missile defence infrastructure in the Northern seas is a real provocation with regard to the process of nuclear disarmament", said Rogozin at a press conference.

"Why is no one giving guarantees that a US fleet equipped with Aegis interceptor systems won't be deployed in the Northern seas?" he said.

"I'm sure that if there were no such plans in reality, then I would have been given a very definite negative answer. I didn't get any firm answer to this question", he said, adding that Russia had repeatedly asked the US for answers. (more)

China awash with counterfeit vintage wine (but hey, that's alright)

Long known for its fake designer handbags and watches, China is now battling a flood of counterfeit vintage wine amid a growing zest for bottles from famed wineries as a sign of social standing.

With average consumption just one litre per person per year, China may not have an age-old wine tradition, but it is catching up fast and is expected to become the world's sixth largest wine consumer by 2014.

"A good wine shows that a person has a high social status," explains Wang Li, who is taking wine tasting lessons in Beijing.

"A famous brand and a high price are two important elements for choosing wine here," he said. Colour is also a factor -- among China's wine-drinking classes, whites are looked down on as drinks only for women.

Wine from France is considered top notch. Last year, China and Hong Kong became the largest consumers of Bordeaux wines, while Chinese investors have bought several wineries in the area over the past three years.

Many rich Chinese are willing to dish out as much as 50,000 yuan ($7,800) for a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1982, from the Bordeaux winery of the same name, which is hugely popular in China.

Counterfeiters have jumped onto this lucrative market and French wine has become one of the main victims of China's growing love for a tipple.

Fakes are "everywhere -- from bottom- to top-of-the-range," said Romain Vandevoorde, head of wine importer Le Baron. (more)

Hong Kong teachers lash out at China patriotism lessons -- consider them "brainwashing"

Hong Kong's biggest teachers' union on Wednesday called on city officials to block a proposal to usher in mandatory classes about Chinese patriotism.

Earlier this year, the city's top education officials proposed making the controversial classes compulsory for school children, sparking fears of political brainwashing.

James Hon, a spokesman for the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union, rejected the proposal outright.

"This is clearly political interference (in our education system)," he said, adding that it would be "detrimental to students' all-rounded development".

The former British colony, which returned to China in 1997, is a semi-autonomous territory which maintains its own political and legal system, with civil liberties not seen on the mainland.

Protests against Beijing are a regular fixture in the city, which has a population of seven million.

Under the proposal students would take 50 hours of lessons a year focusing on "building national harmony, identity and unity among individuals".

There would be no exams, but classes would assess if pupils "feel happy to be Chinese" or "consider the needs of the country when planning their future", according to guidelines posted on the website of the Education Bureau.

Advocates said it would help students "develop a sense of belonging to the motherland", "support national sports teams" and "appreciate Chinese culture".

The union, which has a membership of 80,000 -- 90 percent of the city's teachers -- recently released a survey which found 70 percent of its members opposed the classes.

The survey showed 67 percent were "worried" or "very worried" the subject could brainwash students. (more)

Iran: West trapped in Libya impasse

The West has reached an impasse with its military intervention in Libya, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi says.

Salehi, speaking during a news conference Saturday with Beninese Minister of Foreign Affairs Nassirou Arifari Bako, said NATO countries seeking the ouster of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi have become bogged down in the face of his regime's continuing strong resistance.

"The West has reached an impasse in Libya and has completely destroyed the country and acted against the U.N. Security Council," Salehi said in a report by the official Mehr news agency.

He added that the loss of life in Libya from NATO airstrikes has been significant -- including the deaths of women and children.

"Now they (the Westerners) have come to the conclusion that they have been following a wrong path regarding Libya," Salehi added. (more)

Iraq's Sadr tells US troops to go home to families... or else

Radical anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has called for US forces to return home to their families in a rare English message that threatens violence but also appeals to Christian sentiment.

"Go forth from our holy land and go back to your families who are waiting for your arrival impatiently, that you and we, as well, lead a peaceful life together," Sadr said in the message addressed to US troops, which was posted on the website of the political committee of his movement on Monday night.

It is the third message from Sadr since Saturday calling on US forces to go, following an agreement by Iraqi political leaders on Wednesday to start negotiations with Washington on a US military mission to train Iraqi security forces.

Unresolved issues remain over the size of the force, the duration of its stay, and whether its members would be immune from Iraqi prosecution.

"Is the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, pleased with degradation, invasion and oppression? Or are the heavenly revealed laws and divine prophets pleased therewith?" Sadr said in the message.

"Nay, your laws and principles will never be pleased whatsoever. If you claim you have come to free us, spare us of your claims and release us of your wrongdoing," he said. (more)

Israel deploys drones over offshore gas fields

Israel has deployed drones to keep watch on gas fields off its northern coast, fearing attack by the Hezbollah militia from neighbouring Lebanon, the Jerusalem Post daily reported on Tuesday.

The fields lie in a part of the Mediterranean that is claimed by Israel for gas exploration and production, but Lebanon says the fields lie within its territorial waters.

"The decision to deploy drones was made in order to maintain a 24-hour presence over the site," the paper said, adding that the air force was equipped with the locally made Heron drone, which has special electro-optics designed for maritime work.

The Israeli military would not confirm or deny the Post report to AFP.

The paper said that the air force started aerial surveillance after a warning last month from Hezbollah, which in 2006 fought a deadly war with the Jewish state in which it used anti-ship missiles.

"The Israeli enemy cannot drill a single metre in these waters to search for gas and oil if the zone is disputed... No company can carry out prospecting work in waters whose sovereignty is contested," the Shiite group said. (more)

A Comet Collision to Come?

A telegram was issued on July 10th by the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams of the International Astronomical Union announcing that the Earth got impacted for a few hours by a stream of dust from a potentially dangerous comet last February 4.

"This particular shower happens only once or twice every sixty years," says discoverer Dr. Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute and NASA Ames. "The stream of dust is always there, but quite invisible just outside of Earth's orbit. Only when the planets steer the dust in Earth's path do we get to know it is there." (more)

Climate change leads to rising subsidence risks in Europe

Subsidence caused by drought now costliest natural hazard in some parts of Europe

News reports on climate change have focused on dire predictions of more hurricanes and increasing flooding due to rising sea levels.

But subsidence caused by drought, which has already become a major problem across Europe, will also become much worse due to global warming.

Subsidence is one of the costliest but least known property risks. Unlike a roaring storm, the damage wreaked by subsidence takes years rather than hours, but it can be serious.

In some parts of Europe, subsidence claims are now the costliest natural hazard, comparable to serious flooding, says Swiss Re in its report "The hidden risks of climate change: An increase in property damage from drought and soil subsidence in Europe". In France, subsidence-related claims have risen by more than 50% in the past 20 years, costing the affected regions €340 million every year on average.

"As our climate continues to change, the risk of property damage from soil subsidence is not only increasing but also spreading to new regions in Europe," says Matt Weber, Head of Property & Specialty Underwriting at Swiss Re. (more)

Colorado Officials Investigating Hydrogen Sulfide Reports At Oil And Gas Drilling Sites

When it comes to oil and gas news, it's hard to beat 'fracking' for a more buzz-worthy topic. Add 'hydrogen sulfide gas' to the headline, though, and and expect eyebrows to rise.

A Sunday report in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent presented evidence the toxic gas, which can cause severe respiratory distress and death, has been documented in various concentrations at oil and gas drilling sites in Colorado.

Exposure to the gas at low concentrations can cause headache, dizziness, and upset stomach. At higher concentrations, gas inhalation triggers unconsciousness and death through respiratory paralysis.

A 2006 study titled 'Hydrogen Sulfide, Oil and Gas, and People's Health,' notes hydrogen sulfide develops naturally in conjunction with crude oil and natural gas, with 15 to 25 percent of U.S. gas wells likely 'soured.'

Established processes for removing the gas in processing facilities have been demonstrated effective, though homeowners near wells report feeling ill. Additionally, several workers have also grown ill after documented safety violations.

The reports have triggered Global Community Monitor to launch the 'Bucket Brigade' project, a community-led air monitoring program. Residents who live near oil and gas operations in Colorado and New Mexico gather air samples and submit them for lab analysis. A report published in July tested nine of the samples and found 22 toxic chemicals, including four carcinogens at levels ranging from 3 to 3,000 times higher than established safety limits.

A sample by the Bucket Brigade contained hydrogen sulfide gas at levels 185 times higher than a threshold set by the EPA as posing long-term health risks to humans. (more)

Russian forests burn for second successive year

Only a year ago Russia was overwhelmed by an exceptional heat wave, triggering hundreds of fires that destroyed thousands of hectares of woodland. Burning peat bogs around Moscow stifled the city in a thick cloud of bitter smoke.

Now, Russia is burning again. Since the beginning of this year more than 1m hectares of forest have gone up in flames, or are still burning, outstripping the disastrous record of 2010. But the affected areas are more sparsely populated and far fewer people have been evacuated.

The far north of Russia is among the areas that have suffered the most. During the last week of July, Arkhangelsk and the Komi republic had temperatures exceeding 35C. More than 80 fire outbreaks were reported.

The far east has suffered too. At the beginning of August about 50 fires were raging, especially around Khabarovsk, Yakutsk and the island of Sakhalin. Southern Russia has not escaped: several villages have been evacuated around Rostov-on-Don and Volgograd, where temperatures rose above 40C in July.

In a country that is 97% forest or woodland, fires are an inevitable hazard. But the scale of last year's disaster drew attention to the poor job the Russian authorities were doing to prevent and combat fires. (more)

In Drought-Stricken Texas, They're Drinking Water Recycled From Urine

Would you drink recycled urine? Residents of Big Spring, Texas may not have a choice--the local water district is breaking ground this year on a $13 million treatment plant that will direct 2 million gallons per day of thoroughly cleaned sewage back into the regular water system. It's a practical solution for a drought-stricken state that is hunting for water wherever it can.

It's not as if wastewater recycling is a new idea. Texas has, in fact, used reclaimed water for over a century. But generally, the recycled water doesn't go to the tap; it's used in parks, golf courses, outdoor fountains, and more. The state has plenty of indirect sewage recycling plants--one of the newer plants filters wastewater through a wetland before sending it out to the facilities that want this so-called "raw water".

In contrast, the Big Spring plant will use sewage that has already gone through a traditional wastewater treatment plant, clean it out further, and combine it in a pipeline with lake water before sending it out to be used by residents in their sinks, toilets, and showers. This is, according to KDAF-TV, the first plant of its kind in the state--and one of the only plants like it in the country.

Los Angeles, another drought-prone city, is working on a similar system--a $700 million plan to purify up to 30,000 acre-feet of treated wastewater each year, or 5% of the city's annual water use. Orange County already has a "toilet to tap" system in place, and Singapore actually sells bottled water that comes from its treated wastewater plants. Delicious.

These projects will become increasingly common as droughts increase. So you might as well get used to it; you're going to be drinking pee soon. Recycled wastewater is coming to a tap near you--if it isn't there already. (source)