Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Monday, August 15, 2011

U.S., South Korea start military exercises involving 530,000 troops

U.S. and South Korean troops began a 10-day military exercise around Seoul on Tuesday, maneuvers the U.S. commander called "defense-oriented" during a period of heightened tensions with the communist North.

The annual "Ulchi Freedom Guardian" exercise involves about 530,000 troops from South Korea, the United States and seven other countries, as well as computer-aided simulations, the U.S. command in Seoul reported. The joint U.N. command has notified its North Korean counterparts of the exercise, American military officials announced.

No peace treaty has formally ended the 1950-1953 Korean War, only an armistice that has left the peninsula split by the world's most heavily fortified border. The secretive, economically stunted North Korea tested nuclear weapons in 2006 and 2009, while sporadic artillery duels and sea clashes still rattle the region.

Last week, South Korea fired at North Korea after it said northern gunners fired three shots close to its maritime border.

No casualties were reported. (more)

Israeli airstrikes wound three in Gaza

At least four airstrikes hit Gaza early Tuesday, leaving two people critically wounded and a third on life support, Palestinian medical and security sources said.

All three injuries occurred in a strike east of Gaza City, where a group of Palestinian militants had gathered, the sources said. The other strikes targeted a training field for the military wing of Hamas, the Palestinian faction that controls Gaza, east of the city, and a site outside Khan Younis that militants recently used to fire rockets out of the territory into Israel, the security sources said.

A fourth strike hit near the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, but no details were immediately known.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military on the strikes, which occurred shortly after 2 a.m. (8 p.m. Monday ET). (more)

Buffett to Congress: Don't 'coddle' me, and tax the rich (But will it ever happen? And is it a good thing?)

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, saying he doesn't want to be "coddled" by Congress, says that wealthier Americans should pay higher taxes, and that higher taxes do not dampen job growth.

Buffett, chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA, Fortune 500), wrote in an op-ed piece published Monday in The New York Times that taxes should be raised on Americans who make at least $1 million per year.

"While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks," wrote Buffett, who has mentioned in past interviews that the rich should pay higher taxes.

On the same day it was published, Buffett's op-ed became an applause line for President Obama, who used it to hammer home his call for higher taxes on the rich.

"You're paying more than that," Obama told the crowd at a town hall meeting in Minnesota. "And -- now I may be wrong, but I think you're a little less wealthy than Warren Buffett. That's just a guess." (more)

4.1 Magnitude Earthquake CENTRAL ALASKA - 16th August 2011

A magnitude 4.1 earthquake has struck Central Alaska at a depth of 88.7 km ( 55.1 miles), the quake hit at 03:18:52 UTC Tuesday 16th August 2011.
The epicenter was 36 km (23 miles) Northwest of Petersville, Alaska
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake TONGA - 16th August 2011

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck Tonga at a depth of 202.2 km ( 125.6 miles), the quake hit at 02:07:43 UTC Tuesday 16th August 2011.
The epicenter was 179 km (111 miles) NNW of Nuku' Alofa, Tonga
No Tsunami Alert Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

4.3 Magnitude Earthquake OFFSHORE CHIAPAS, MEXICO - 16th August 2011

A magnitude 4.3 earthquake has struck offshore Chiapas, Mexico at a depth of 109.6 km ( 68.1 miles), the quake hit at 00:26:15 UTC Tuesday 16th August 2011.
The epicenter was 33 km (22 miles) Southwest of Tonala, Chiapas, Mexico
No Tsunami Alert Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA - 15th August 2011

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck Southern Sumatra, Indonesia at a depth of 53.2 km ( 33.1 miles), the quake hit at 22:24:19 UTC Monday 15th August 2011.
The epicenter was 117 km (72 miles) South of Bengkulu, Sumatra, Indonesia
No Tsunami Alert Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

UK Riots: PC's 'Best Friend' Obi The Dog Injured When Thugs Throw Brick at His Head

A police dog is recovering after being struck by a brick in the Tottenham riots and suffering a fractured skull.

Three-year-old German Shepherd Obi was with trainer Constable Phil Wells in the midst of the violence last weekend when he was hit by one of the many missiles aimed at police.

Constable Wells said the incident was "very emotional" and that seeing Obi struck was like watching his "best friend and colleague" injured.

He said: "Obi is trained in public order, and that may be dispersing a crowd or pushing them back.

"We were on a stationary point when we came under heavy bombardment. There were lots of missiles coming at us, bottles, bricks, petrol bombs, street furniture, too many to count and one hit Obi on the top of the head.

"Initially he was a bit shocked but I gave him a checkover and tried to avoid any further injuries and after the initial shock he seemed fine so we carried on for another couple of hours.

"Afterwards he was assessed and was showing signs he needed veterinary help. He was lethargic and was bleeding from the left nostril which could be a sign of head trauma so he was taken to the vets and assessed and the vet was not happy about the impact he had had so he was transferred to the Royal Veterinary School in Cambridge for a CT scan.

"That showed he had a fractured skull above the left eye socket."

Obi was treated for his injuries and is now on medication, and signed off work, until he recovers. (more)

Total Disrespect: Video Released Of Riot Cops Being Run Over in UK

Dramatic CCTV footage of two police officers being knocked down by a car as they chased looters during last week's riots has been released.

The pair were hit by a green Citroen travelling at high speed in Waltham Forest, north east London - and one was struck so hard that his body armour came off.

Detectives investigating the attempted murder of the policemen said the footage has been released to encourage people to come forward and identify those responsible.

The officers were hit as they responded to reports of a group looting a clothing store at around 1am on August 8.

One of the policemen suffered knee and leg injuries and the other sustained shoulder injuries. (click here to watch the video)

Chelsea Muff, pregnant woman, told baby was alive two weeks after being told she had suffered a miscarriage: Why aren't doctors doing their jobs?

A pregnant woman who was advised to have a termination after an NHS ultrasound indicated she had suffered a miscarriage only found out her baby was still alive after requesting another scan.

Chelsea Muff, 32, spent two weeks grieving after a sonographer told her she had lost the child following an ultrasound scan.

But the mother-of-two requested a second scan two weeks later and her child was found to be still alive.

She has now told how she is trying to cope with the knowledge that she could have inadvertently terminated the baby.

Now almost four months pregnant, Miss Muff, mother to 14-year-old Corey and 11-year-old Destiny, said: "She said there was an empty sac – she said it had gone. I was shocked and upset.

"After the first scan a consultant came in and confirmed that I had miscarried and gave me the option to book in for an evacuation procedure, take a tablet there and then that would bring labour, or wait for it to come away naturally.

"I chose to wait. If I had taken the tablet I could have terminated my baby and never known."

Miss Muff, of Bradford, West Yorks., was seven weeks pregnant when she suffered a small bleed on June 24. She attended A&E at Bradford Royal Infirmary and was given an early appointment two days later.

It was here she was given the abdominal ultrasound scan which appeared to show she had miscarried. She later discovered because the pregnancy was so early, she should have been offered an internal ultrasound.

She was booked in for a vacuum suction on July 8 but never attended because she was still upset. She then rang to ask if they could carry out a second scan.

It was at this scan on July 15 that she discovered she was still pregnant and heard her baby's heartbeat for the first time.

She said: "The member of staff was shocked but really pleased for me. She said 'you have a live baby'. I didn't believe it. I had been so upset and couldn't believe this could have happened.

"I was really happy at that point. It was only later, after discussing it with my partner, who was really mad about what I had been put through, that I realised I could have killed my baby by taking the tablet." (more)

International student swept over Niagara Falls after trying to take a picture; 2 others also get into peril

Over the course of one day, during the height of the Niagara Falls tourism season, three incidents have reminded visitors that the famous horseshoe can prove dangerous and deadly.

A 19-year-old international student visiting Toronto is missing and presumed dead after being swept over Niagara Falls Sunday evening. Police are working with the Japanese consulate to notify her family. No names have been released.

Police say the woman and her friend were taking pictures at Table Rock, near the top of the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side.

Surveillance footage from the nearby visitors’ centre shows that around 8:30 p.m., one of the women climbed over the railing while holding an umbrella and sat on a block pillar with her legs straddling the rail.

When she stood up to climb down, she lost her footing and fell over into the Niagara River. It is believed the river’s swift current carried her over the side of the Falls.

Niagara Parks Police Chief Doug Kane warned the public that the falls’ beauty can also be fatal. (more)

Liberia seizes 'worrisome' amount of arms, ammunition

Liberia has seized a "worrisome" amount of arms and ammunition in the south of the country near the border with Ivory Coast, an official told a press conference Wednesday.

"The Bureau of Immigration with maximum support from the Ministry of Justice was successful in retrieving a cache of arms and ammunition through the cooperation of some ex-combatants," Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization commissioner Chris Massaquoi told journalists.

He did not give details about the former combatants who he said collaborated with state security authorities to find the weapons.

But he added: "This discovery of weapons is worrisome".

The weapons were found in the counties of River Gee, Maryland, Grand Gedeh and Nimba.

Some of the weapons were displayed during the press conference.

They included rockets, machine guns and assault rifles and a large amount of ammunition. (more)

S. Korea Activists launch leaflets across N. Korea border

South Korean activists on Friday launched helium balloons across the North's border carrying millions of leaflets calling for the overthrow of leader Kim Jong-Il.

A conservative group called National Action for Freedom and Democracy in Korea said it sent up 63 large balloons with some 3.6 million leaflets, which also contained news of the Arab uprisings.

The launch came with tensions running high after the North on Wednesday twice fired shells along the disputed Yellow Sea border and the South responded with warning shots.

The balloons were set off in Yeoncheon, 55 kilometres (35 miles) north of Seoul, with timing devices attached to scatter the bundles in the isolated communist state, the group said.

Experts say the regime has tightened its blockade of outside information following the Arab uprisings, fearing copycat disturbances against the ruling Kim dynasty.

The North has reacted angrily to leaflet launches, threatening to open fire to halt what it calls a smear campaign. (source)

Kadhafi unable to launch offensive: NATO commander

Forces loyal to Moamer Kadhafi are no longer able to launch a credible military offensive, NATO's top Libya commander told AFP Thursday, as rebels look to gain momentum in overthrowing the strongman.

"The Kadhafi regime's forces continue to be weakened, both in strength and their will to fight," Canada's Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard said, speaking from his Italy headquarters, as rebel troops made new advances.

"They are no longer able to launch a credible offensive," he added.

NATO was authorized in March by UN Security Council resolution 1973 to defend Libya's civilian population from attacks by Colonel Kadhafi's regime, which faces a popular revolt after 42 years in power.

As NATO-led airstrikes have helped the rebels on the ground without managing to decisively turn the tide in the conflict, Bouchard said Kadhafi has brought in fighters from other African countries to bolster his embattled forces.

"We're seeing lots of mercenaries, ruthless mercenaries that come from other countries and are enlisted by Kadhafi's forces to inflict extreme violence on men, women and children," Bouchard said.

"The recruiting of these mercenaries continues," he said. (more)

US drone war kills up to 168 children in Pakistan, as well as thousands of civillians

America's covert drone war on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban has killed up to 168 children in Pakistan over the last seven years, according to an independent study released Thursday.

The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism said its research showed there had been many more CIA attacks on alleged militant targets, leading to far more deaths than previously reported.

It said 291 CIA drone strikes had taken place in Pakistan since 2004, eight percent more than previously reported, and that under President Barack Obama there had been 236 strikes -- one every four days.

The Bureau said most of the 2,292 to 2,863 people reported to have died were low-ranking militants, but that only 126 fighters had been named.

It said it had credible reports of at least 385 civilians and a possible upper limit of 775 civilians being killed. It said there were reports of at least 164 children being killed and possibly up to 168. (more)

China aircraft carrier should handle disputes: Chinese report (Wait, wasn't it acquired for "research?")

A news website run by China's defence ministry said Thursday the nation's aircraft carrier should handle territorial disputes, despite government assurances the vessel posed no threat to its neighbours.

The comments came a day after the 300-metre (990-foot) vessel embarked on its maiden sea trial, prompting a worried United States to demand China explain why it needs an aircraft carrier, amid concerns over Beijing's military aims.

China has repeatedly insisted the carrier -- an old Soviet ship that is being refitted in the northeast of the country -- will be used mainly for training and research, and does not change Beijing's defensive military policy.

But in a comment piece published on, Guo Jianyue, a senior reporter at the top state-run military newspaper PLA Daily, said the carrier should be brought out for disputes. The website is an offshoot of the main PLA Daily site.

"Why did we build it if we don't have the courage and willingness to use the aircraft carrier to handle territorial disputes?" he asked in the article.

"It is reasonable to use the aircraft carrier or other warships to handle disputes if there is any need.

"The reason why we built a carrier is to safeguard China's maritime rights and interests more efficiently. We will be more confident and have more determination to defend our territorial integrity after we have carriers." (more)

U.S. steps up Obama's secret war in Yemen

Three days after U.S. Navy SEALs assassinated Osama bin Laden in May, the Americans mounted a major air operation in Yemen to kill a U.S.-born Muslim cleric they've branded one of al-Qaida's most dangerous leaders.

Anwar al-Awlaki just escaped the missiles fired from several U.S. aircraft but the operation marked a significant escalation in the secret war against the jihadists in Yemen, known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Awlaki's importance as a target can be measured by the forces sent to eliminate him: U.S. Marine Corps Harrier fighters, a Special Operations aircraft armed with short-range Griffin air-to-ground missiles and a Predator unmanned aerial vehicles carrying AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

The multi-aircraft strike May 5, during which U.S. fliers chased a pickup truck supposedly carrying Awlaki across rocky terrain, was part of a significant escalation in the largely secret U.S. campaign against AQAP, currently deemed the most dangerous jihadist group on the planet.

"This marks a major escalation in Washington's fight against the group, which is widely considered the most threatening to the U.S. homeland of all al-Qaida's affiliate," observed IPS Washington analyst Jim Lobe. (more)

Brazil seeks firmer grip on favelas: Poor people always get in the way, don't they?

Brazil plans to clean up its notorious favela slum dwellings in Rio de Janeiro and other cities as part of a major security augmentation program before the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

The government is actively improving security in the favelas, sometimes with bloodshed, before the World Cup and Olympic Games, the latest Brazil Defense and Security Report for the fourth quarter of 2011 said.

In advance of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the government is actively working to improve security in the favelas in the city which, according to the municipal government, are home to 1 million people out of Rio's population of 6 million, said the report published by Research and Markets, Dublin, Ireland.

"Headlines in the mainstream media highlight that the authorities are using three measures to end the control of the favelas by rival drug gangs. Police and troops have undertaken military-style occupations of favelas, in some instances, with blood being shed," the report said.

The security forces' crackdown in the slum dwellings is one of the least reported developments in Brazil's effort to improve national image before the two major sport events. (more)

New Shellfish Poison Found In U.S. Waters Caused By Algal Bloom

The bright red skull-and-crossbones signs are hard to miss and increasingly common on Pacific Northwest beaches. A whole new fleet just popped up along the shores of a small bay between the Pacific Ocean and Puget Sound.

On Friday, Washington State health officials reported the first U.S. illnesses linked to one particular strain of toxin triggered by an algal bloom. Three people came down with Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP) after eating mussels from Sequim Bay, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The bay is now closed to shellfish harvesting.

Although the culprit biotoxin hadn't been previously detected at unsafe levels in U.S. shellfish, thousands of people in Europe, Asia and South America have reportedly suffered its unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms in recent years. The long-term health effects from DSP are not yet clear; some experts think they might include an increased risk of cancer.

"Whether this is really the first case of poisoning here, we don't know," said Vera Trainer, program manager of the Marine Biotoxin Group at NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. "But it certainly looks to me like things are getting worse." (more)

Navajo Aquifer Concerns May Prove True as Black Mesa Strip Mine Takes Its Toll

For years, Native opponents of a massive strip mine on Black Mesa in northern Arizona have said longstanding extractive practices of Peabody Energy Corp. (formerly Peabody Western Coal Co.) have depleted a major aquifer on which they depend and a recent analysis seems to bear them out.

“The mining-related impacts on the aquifer are more significant than have been recognized or acknowledged,” said Dr. Daniel Higgins, who performed the analysis as part of Arid Lands Resource Studies, graduate interdisciplinary programs, University of Arizona, Tucson.

His findings were hailed by several Hopi and Navajo organizations, including Black Mesa Water Coalition, Dine’ CARE (Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment), and To’Nizhoni Ani (“Beautiful Water Speaks”), as well as the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club.

The report “comes at a critical time while OSM (Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement) is preparing an environmental assessment to analyze the impacts of the Kayenta Mine,” Nicole Horseherder of To’ Nizhoni Ani said in a prepared statement. “OSM officials now need to address and respond to this report before they let Peabody off the hook for damage to the Navajo aquifer (N-Aquifer).”

The organizations have submitted the study to OSM for review in connection with a delayed permit that would have allowed Peabody to expand its area of operations on some 100 square miles of Hopi and Navajo lands including Kayenta Mine, which supplies coal via an 83-mile rail line to the Navajo Generating Station near Page, Arizona.

“Despite what these models predicted years ago, I think any reasonable person who looks at the data would conclude that the rates of water level decline at Kayenta and spring discharge decline at Moenkopi are directly related to Peabody’s groundwater withdrawals,” Higgins is quoted as saying in the organizations’ press release. (more)

Taiwan developing new 'aircraft carrier killer'

Taiwan is developing a new mobile version of its supersonic "aircraft carrier killer" missile, a legislator said Sunday, after China sparked regional concerns with sea trials of its first carrier.

Research on the development of the land-based missile, a variant of the existing Hsiungfeng (Brave Wind) III, is underway, Lin Yu-fang, a legislator who sits on the national defence committee, told AFP.

"The new land-based version will have a longer range and carry a heavier warhead," Lin said, comparing it to existing navy ship-to-ship weaponry.

He said the new missile would be deployed on mobile launchers to give it a higher chance of escaping Chinese bombing raids in the event of war.

Journalists were last week allowed their first close look at the original Hsiungfeng III ahead of the 2011 Taipei Aerospace and Defence Technology Exhibition which closed Sunday.

The rare public display of the weapon which researchers have dubbed the "aircraft carrier killer" was the focus of attention as China's first aircraft carrier embarked on its inaugural sea trial. (more)

Japan calls for China to explain aircraft carrier

Japan's defence minister called on China Friday to explain why it needs an aircraft carrier, after Beijing sparked increased concerns over its military expansion by starting sea trials for the vessel.

"As an aircraft carrier, it is of a highly maneuverable and offensive nature. We want China to explain the reasons why it needs it," Toshimi Kitazawa told reporters.

"There is no doubt that it will have a big impact on the region," he added.

China put the revamped Soviet-built aircraft carrier Varyag to sea on Wednesday, prompting the United States to call for an explanation.

Beijing has sought to play down the vessel's capability, saying it will mainly be used for training and "research". (more)

Repressing the Internet, Western-Style

Technology has empowered all sides in the London skirmish: the rioters, the vigilantes and the government.

Did the youthful rioters who roamed the streets of London, Manchester and other British cities expect to see their photos scrutinized by angry Internet users, keen to identify the miscreants? In the immediate aftermath of the riots, many cyber-vigilantes turned to Facebook, Flickr and other social networking sites to study pictures of the violence. Some computer-savvy members even volunteered to automate the process by using software to compare rioters' faces with faces pictured elsewhere on the Internet.

The rioting youths were not exactly Luddites either. They used BlackBerrys to send their messages, avoiding more visible platforms like Facebook and Twitter. It's telling that they looted many stores selling fancy electronics. The path is short, it would seem, from "digital natives" to "digital restives." (more)

Heavy Rain Caused Problems for Drivers, Power Outages: Washington

Heavy Rain Caused Problems for Drivers, Power Outages:

Heavy rain and thunderstorms caused problems for drivers in our area Sunday.

In Montgomery County, several people were stranded by high water and had to climb on top of their cars near Frederick Avenue in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Pepco, Dominion Power and BGE all reported power outages.

More showers and thunderstorms are likely Monday afternoon and into the evening.

Rain is also expected for much of the day Tuesday.

Train service was fully restored around 9:30 a.m., about three hours after it had to be suspended.

Metro officials initially halted service because water in the area was above the height of the rails trains run on. (source)

New York breaks city's rainfall record with nearly eight inches soaking city

New York broke an all-time record for a one-day rainfall Sunday as up to 8 inches of water soaked the city, snarling trains and flooding roadways.

By 9 p.m., 7.7 inches of rain had fallen at Kennedy Airport.

It was the most recorded there in a single day since the National Weather Service began keeping records 116 years ago.

PHOTOS: New York City drenched by record rainfall

The heavy tropical rain is expected to continue Monday, and a flash flood warning is in effect until 9 p.m.

The normal rainfall for all of August in New York is 4 inches - which means the city was socked with two months worth of rain in a single day.

"This is what you would expect in a major hurricane," said Steve Wistar, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather.

Kennedy Airport's old one-day rainfall record, 6.3 inches, set on June 30, 1984, fell by noon. (more)

Family Dog "Princess" Fatally Stabbed in Baltimore

A family in Essex says someone killed their dog in the middle of the day, and now they’re trying to find out who and why.

The owners of 3-year-old Princess are heartbroken. Their dog was stabbed Wednesday afternoon in their own backyard behind their fence.

“The only place we see blood is right here and up on the steps to this part of the porch where she was basically up on the porch, came down and shook her head,” said David O’Steen, the dog’s owner. “When they came screaming about it, we ran outside and that’s when we found it.”

The screams came from Robin O’Steen and her daughter. They had just returned home to find Princess with a deep stab wound to her neck. Robin O’Steen rushed her to the vet, and at first it looked like Princess would survive. (more)

UK gangs thrive in August riots

The Burger Bar Boys. The Cash or Slash Money Crew. The Bang Bang Gang. These names sound straight out of a dime-store novel, but they're real-life Birmingham gangs — some of the underground armies that spearheaded England's worst riots in a generation.

As Britain comes to grips with the causes of the past week's descent into anarchy, Prime Minister David Cameron has identified the growth of gangs as a key factor and is recruiting high-profile American anti-gang experts to help bring them to heel.

While senior British police officers openly resent that move, analysts of gang culture say it seems logical to seek American assistance, because today's British gangs consciously ape American gang ambitions and style, from the bling to the lingo.

They talk in a street patois shaped by U.S. rap lyrics, use noms de guerre lifted straight from American gangster films and crime dramas, and choose such icons as Don Corleone, Al Pacino's Scarface or Baltimore ganglord Stringer Bell of "The Wire" TV series as their avatars on social-networking sites. (more)

Starved State Budgets Inspire New Look at Web Gambling: US (Because gambling is a great way to solve debt...)

The District of Columbia is not thrilled that its residents are traveling to Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to gamble in casinos. Starved for cash, like states across the country, the district wants some of the millions in revenue that gambling generates each year.

So district officials want residents to gamble closer to home — inside their homes, actually. Or in cafes, restaurants and bars. By year’s end the district hopes to introduce an Internet gambling hub that would allow Washington residents to play blackjack, poker and other casino-style games.

“They can do it from Starbucks, a restaurant, bar or hotel, or from a private residence,” said Buddy Roogow, executive director of the D.C. Lottery, who expects the new games to eventually raise $9 million a year. “That’s real money in D.C.” (more)

Neo-Nazis ready to 'step on gas': Germany's Far-Right National Democratic Party accused of creating deliberate Holocaust reference in election poster

ust a month before the Berlin state elections, the German capital has been flooded with posters issued by the far-Right National Democratic Party (NPD) with the shocking slogan: "Step on gas."

The election ad shows party leader Udo Voigt sitting on a motorcycle, wearing a black leather jacket (a popular piece of clothing among Neo-Nazis due to its resemblance of SS uniform), with the words "Gas geben!" – literally translated as "give gas".

Voigt hopes to be elected to the Berlin council for the first time. His party representatives are already members of local councils in neighborhoods across the German capital.

Naturally, the allegedly innocent slogan contains a horrifying association with the gas chambers in which the Nazis killed millions of people, most of them Jews, during World War II.

The ad has sparked angry reactions all across the German political spectrum, and some officials said they were looking into the possibility of launching criminal proceedings against the neo-Nazi party. (more)

Kansas now mulls curfew after mob and racial violence

Kansas City Mayor Sly James vowed Sunday that he’d take steps to end large, nighttime gatherings of unsupervised teenagers and preteens on the Country Club Plaza by holding parents to account.

How, he didn’t know.

But whatever plan is developed, it will be a joint effort of the mayor and the City Council, James said after consultation with school officials, police and the juvenile court, among others. And James promised that the plan will be in place before next weekend.

It may or may not include an early curfew, as some are calling for.

“We can’t expect that imposing a curfew is going to stop some 15-, 16-, 17-year-old from bringing a gun to anywhere,” he said at an afternoon City Hall news conference. “On the other hand, we should be able to expect parents not to have their 13-year-old children on the Plaza getting shot.”

His announcement came a day after the Saturday night shooting that saw three youths wounded and the mayor forced to the ground by his security team. James, along with former Councilman Alvin Brooks and a group of ministers, was at the Plaza talking with kids and assessing the crowd problem in response to calls from Plaza owner Highwoods Properties and others to roll back the current midnight curfew on weekends to 9 p.m.

“A curfew would have merit in our view, but that is a decision our capable mayor and his team of municipal experts need to weigh,” Highwoods said in a statement issued Sunday. (more)

Gingrich: U.S. teetering on brink of disaster

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich gave a bipartisan message, urging Republicans and Democrats to find common ground to solve the nation’s economic woes and to address other critical policy issues.

“We desperately need to get this economy running again,” said the GOP presidential candidate, citing past bipartisan successes in passing federal tax cuts and welfare reform. The nation’s problems are so pressing they must be addressed immediately, he said, warning that “we are teetering on the edge of an economic disaster.”

Gingrich told Iowans they need to insist that politicians in Washington begin to cooperate. He suggested that leaders of both parties focus on approving small bills on which they can find agreement. “You will break the ice, and people will start talking with each other,” he explained. (more)

5 Reasons Why American Riots Will Be The Worst In The World

I wrote an article called 5 Places NOT To Be When The Dollar Collapses. In it I wrote that societies that benefited the most from the dollar would be the worst places to be when it fell apart. While the dollar has not even collapsed yet, the strain in these areas is becoming more apparent. England is number 3 on the list has had 4 days of violent riots as people start to lose it. Israel is number 1 on that list has had massive protests. There is revolution in the air all over the world except in the US.

America is still in deep denial which is still the first stage of the Awakening. This denial will be wiped away when the dollar collapses. For now the economy is still functioning with food and fuel available. Americans still have the illusion of wealth and normalcy. They still are stuck in the false left right paradigm and think some other sock puppet will turn things around.

When the dollar collapses, all American illusions will collapse with it. Deep denial will turn into deep anger. The violence I expect in the other 3 areas on the list and all urban areas in the US, will make all other global riots pale in comparison. America is deeply infused with arrogance, denial, narcissism, drugs and violence. There is no other society that I know of that has the degree of intensity and combination of these factors. (more)

25 cases of Buruli Ulcer recorded in Brong Ahafo, Ghana - 15th Aug 2011

25 cases of Buruli Ulcer have been recorded in the Asunafo South District of the Brong Ahafo region. The District so far is the first to record the disease in the region.

The disclosure was made by the district Health Directorate.

Buruli Ulcer is a disease of skin and soft tissue with the potential to leave sufferers scarred and disabled.

It is caused by an environmental pathogen that produces a destructive toxin in the body.

The Asunafo South District Health directorate has urged residents to report any blister they see on their skin for early treatment to prevent the spread of the disease.

Michael Mfum-Sarpong reported from the district capital, Kukuom that the District Director of Health Services, Mrs Winfred Chianna confirmed the outbreak of the disease.

According to her, the Asunafo South Health directorate have initiated measures including house to house searches, to be able to deal with the disease at the early stages in order to prevent it from spreading. Source

Shell Reveals Size Of North Sea Oil Spill - 15th Aug 2011

Shell has revealed that a leak at one of its North Sea platforms has pumped more than 200 tons of oil into the water.

Five days after it first learned of the leak, Shell has revealed that 1,300 barrels worth have spilled from the Gannet Alpha platform, which is 112 miles east of Aberdeen.

The oil spill is the biggest in UK waters for more than a decade.

There has been concern the spill could drift towards the North East coastline and pose a danger to marine life.

RSPB Scotland has expressed fears that birds could become victim of the oil sheen on the sea surface, such as puffins, guillemots and razorbills from nearby colonies.

At this time of year many young chicks are unable to leave the surface of the North Sea because they are molting and can't fly. Read More

'Mouse' the celebrated serial-killer bull claims a third victim (which can only be good for business) - 15th Aug 2011

A killer bull has claimed another victim after fatally goring a 29-year-old man during festivities in Spain’s eastern Valencia region.

The man, whose name was not released, died at a hospital in the town of Xativa late Saturday, a regional government official said.

The 500-kilogram bull - named ‘Raton’, which means mouse - has killed two other members of the public during festivals over 10 years.

Because of Raton’s fearsome reputation, his owners reportedly earn 10,000 euros (£8,800) each time he appears at a festival.

‘He’s the one that gets the highest prices,’ owner Gregorio de Jesus said of Raton last year. ‘But still he works out the cheapest because wherever he goes organisers double the ticket price - from six (euros) (£5.20) to 12.’ Read More

Jeremiah Lee Wright, 30, 'decapitated and dismembered cerebral palsy son, 7, with a meat cleaver and left his head at side of road' - 15th Aug 2011

A father has admitted to chopping his son's head off with a meat cleaver and leaving it in the roadside outside his home so that the child's mother would see it.

A passing motorist saw the decapitated head of seven-year-old Jori Lirette, from Louisiana, and alerted police.

Detectives later found the boy's body in a rubbish sack that had been dumped nearby.

The boy's father, 30-year-old Jeremiah Lee Wright, is alleged to have confessed to decapitating his son.

Jori was wheelchair bound and needed a feeding tube having been born with cerebral palsy.

Wright is said to have told police that he did it because 'he'd gotten to the point where he was tired of taking care' of the boy',

Police Chief Scott Silverii said: 'He told us when he put his head out by the side of the road it was so the mother would see it when she came by.'

He said Wright's only explanation for doing so was 'just that he wanted her to feel stupid when she saw the head'.

The crime scene was so gruesome that some of the police who responded to the emergency call have had to have counselling.

Investigators said the grisly killing was carried out over a kitchen sink at the Louisiana home the boy shared with his father and his mother Jesslyn.

His hand and feet were also cut off and discovered nearby in plastic garbage bags.

A forensic team removed the sink from the house in Thibodaux ,Louisiana, as part of their murder investigation.

Wright is understood to have confessed to the killing and is co-operating with police. Read More

Damian Rzeszowska, 30, accused of stabbing his Family to death in Jersey knife attack - 15th Aug 2011

Victims: Izabela Rzeszowska, top left, the couple's two children daughter Kinga and son Kacper, alongside Damian Rzeszowska, who has been arrested in connection with the alleged murder.

These are the first pictures of the man who allegedly killed four members of his family and two others during a knife attack in St Helier.

Damian Rzeszowska is pictured posing with his daughter Kinga and son Kacper in a series of images that appear to show a happy family.

He is also pictured alongside his wife Izabela, who also died in yesterday's attack.

It was revealed earlier today that the suspected knifeman had been suicidal over the breakdown of his marriage to Izabela before the killings, according to neighbours.

Detectives are waiting to question the 30-year-old suspect in hospital over the murders of his wife, the two children and her father.

A family friend and her young child were also understood to be among the victims of the horror attack which has rocked the island. Read More

China's not doing us a favor: Fareed Zakaria

What struck me this past week was China's reaction to our credit downgrade. Its state-run media thundered that America needed to "cure its addiction" to debt.

A Hong Kong newspaper widely read on the mainland ran a front page with a banner saying "The American Dream is Over." It went on to report that Washington owes every single Chinese citizen 5,700 Yuan - about 900 U.S. dollars.

Another editorial said Washington's solution to its debt time bomb was to make the fuse one inch longer.

That kind of commentary has hit a nerve with the Chinese people. After a drop in Shanghai's stock market, bloggers took to local social media sites. One wrote: "The U.S. suffered a downgrade, why did we become the biggest victim?" Another said: "It was a huge mistake to buy U.S. bonds with Chinese taxpayer money. We must hold those who are involved responsible." (more)

'Tear up sentencing guidelines and jail EVERY looter': Crackdown on riot thugs in the courts is revealed - 15th Aug 2011

Magistrates have been ordered to send all those involved in last week's riots and looting to jail, a court heard today.

Chair of the bench at Camberwell Green Magistrates Court, Novello Noades, revealed the instructions while sentencing one looter to six months in prison.

London courts had allegedly been emailed by a clerk within HM Courts and Tribunals Service, telling them to ignore normal guidelines which might have recommended non-custodial sentences for riot-related cases.

Almost two thirds of the 1,179 defendants appearing before the courts on charges relating to last week's disturbances have been remanded in custody.

The 65 per cent remand rate compares with just ten per cent for serious offences in 2010, according to the Ministry of Justice.

The majority of charges related to burglary, theft and handling, violence and violent disorder offences.

Not all cases from Manchester have been included in the figures.

Ms Noades said: 'Our directive for anyone involved in the rioting is a custodial sentence. That is the directive we have had - it is a very serious matter.' Read More

"Raising of debt ceiling allows spending train to gain speed"

The most recent man-made crisis of having to raise the debt ceiling lest the government default can be likened to a runaway spending train, speeding toward inevitable economic disaster. As we whiz by and ignore the many economic signposts that scream "Stop!" we hear the terms "billions" and "trillions" bandied about so many times that we have become jaded to their true significance.

Do you know how much a billion dollars is? A trillion? A billion dollars is an extraordinary amount of money, but let me put it in a perspective that we ordinary mortals can understand.

There are 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour, so there are 3,600 seconds in an hour. If you had a million dollars and spent money at the rate of a dollar a second, you would use up a million dollars in 12 days. If you had a billion dollars and spent at the same rate, it would take you 32 years to use it up. With a billion dollars, you could spend $100,000 a day every day for 27 years before it was exhausted.

A trillion dollars is a thousand billion. We are $14.3 trillion in debt. In 1995, when we faced a similar debt "crisis," we were "only" $4.975 trillion in debt. Our debt has grown, and continues to grow, through spending, and borrowing to pay interest on the debt at an almost exponential rate. The Obama administration has, in less than four years, increased the debt we Americans owe by $4 trillion. We were told that the debt ceiling had to be raised another $2.4 trillion or we would be unable to meet our debts. (more)

Muddling as the economy sinks: World

The margin of error for the world's economic managers is shrinking. The United States is on the cusp of a double-dip recession, the eurozone flirts with collapse, Japan continues to struggle with deflation — a task made harder by the triple catastrophe of March 2011 — and global stock markets are on a roller-coaster ride.

Unemployment is mounting, debt is growing, and politicians seem unable to get the situation under control. Those leaders recognize the scope of the problem, but they do not seem able to act. Future historians are unlikely to judge them well.

The future of the euro has been at risk for months now as the aftereffects of the 2007-2008 global financial crisis continue to wash through Europe. Halfhearted attempts to clean up banks and government finances — two distinct problems that are nonetheless connected given the role of government revenues in keeping banks afloat — have ensured that problems have not gone away and in fact grown over time.

Each failure to wipe the slate clean — with all the attendant costs — only raises the price of an eventual solution, making such a deal even more unpalatable to politicians.

In the U.S., the fixation with government deficits and the intransigence of anti-tax zealots ensure that Washington is unable to create the demand needed to pull that economy out of its slump. Indeed, it looks as though many politicians in Washington actually prefer deadlock and paralysis. (more)

The Worst In Three Decades: “Consumers are very fatigued and very uncertain”

Insiders may be buying stocks at the fastest pace in two years, but consumers’ wallets aren’t convinced that the recovery has taken hold (because, of course, it hasn’t):

Confidence among U.S. consumers plunged in August to the lowest level since May 1980, adding to concern that weak employment gains and volatility in the stock market will prompt households to retrench.

The biggest one-week slump in stocks since 2008 and the threat of default on the nation’s debt may have exacerbated consumers’ concerns as unemployment hovers above 9 percent and companies are hesitant to hire. Rising pessimism poses a risk household spending will cool further, hindering a recovery that Federal Reservepolicy makers said this week was already advancing “considerably slower” than projected.

“The mood is very depressed,” said Chris Christopher, an economist at IHS Global Insight Inc. in Lexington, Massachusetts. “Consumers are very fatigued and very uncertain. In the short term, people are going to pull back on spending.”

Bottom line: consumers are broke.

The job market is dying and hundreds of thousands of more jobs are going to be lost over the course of the next two years. The post office is threatening to lay off 120,000 employees. On top of that, ratings agencies will soon be downgrading thousands of local municipalities, which means less money for them to borrow, which means more jobs lost. And those examples are just from the government sector. Private businesses are simply not hiring, because they don’t know what to expect next. (more)

48% Think Spending Cuts Could Trigger Violence in US

Nearly one-out-of-two Americans (48%) think that cuts in government spending are at least somewhat likely to lead to violence in the United States, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. But that includes just 13% who feel it’s Very Likely.

Nearly as many Adults (44%), however, believe violence as the result of spending cuts is unlikely, but only 12% say it’s Not At All Likely. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Americans under 50 raise the possibility of violence more than their elders. Most adults not affiliated with either party (58%) think spending cuts are likely to trigger violence, compared to 46% of Republicans and 42% of Democrats.

Tax hikes and a crashing stock market are seen as less incendiary in the minds of most Americans. Thirty-seven percent (37%) think increased taxes are at least somewhat likely to lead to violence, but 59% view that as unlikely. This includes 14% who say such violence is Very Likely and 20% who believe it’s Not At All Likely.

Similarly, 35% feel that it’s at least somewhat likely that a crashing stock market will lead to violence in the United States, with 13% who say it’s Very Likely. However, 60% say violence from a crashing market is unlikely, including 16% who say it’s Not At All Likely. (more)

They Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out: How the Banks Profit from the Lack of Jobs

Amidst a lot of indicators that say we could be heading for another round of recession—before the so-called recovery even reaches most people, let alone our millions of unemployed—June saw a jump in consumer borrowing, three times as much as expected, according to Bloomberg News. The $15.5 billion increase in credit was the biggest since August 2007, and revolving debt, which includes credit cards, was up by $5.21 billion, the most since March 2008.

In a consumer-dependent economy, that's a good thing, isn't it? After all, borrowers must have some confidence in their ability to pay back their debt, right?

Not so fast.

During the debt ceiling drama, we heard a lot about the need for the government to “live within its means,” comparing the government's spending to a household shelling out money for unneeded things.

The analogy didn't work out too well—imagine a household spending half its income on defense, for instance—but it had another purpose. It reiterated the idea that working Americans, burdened with debt, were themselves to blame for their financial woes. Just live within your means, the argument goes, and you won't have those pesky credit card bills. (more)

"A Point of View: The advantages of pessimism"

ncompatibility between our big aspirations and the reality of life is bound to disappoint unless we learn to be a bit more gloomy, says Alain de Botton.

Today I want to advance the unusual idea that we'd be a great deal more cheerful if we learnt to be a little more pessimistic.

And, from a completely secular point of view, I'd like to suggest that in the passages before they go on to promise us salvation, religions are rather good at being pessimistic. For example, Christianity has spent much of its history emphasising the darker side of earthly existence.

Yet even within this sombre tradition, the French philosopher Blaise Pascal stands out for the exceptionally merciless nature of his pessimism. In his book the Pensees, Pascal misses no opportunities to confront his readers with evidence of mankind's resolutely deviant, pitiful and unworthy nature. (more)

Somalia: Rights group says all sides guilty of crime

Human Rights Watch has said all sides in Somalia's conflict are guilty of serious breaches of international law.

The campaign group says civilians are bearing the brunt not just of a famine but also a failure by any side to protect them.

It says Islamist group al-Shabab is guilty of unrelenting brutality, while government troops carry out arbitrary arrests and detentions.

HRW also criticises the West for not exerting pressure to stop the abuses.

A spokesman for the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) denied the accusations, and said the body was committed to human rights.

The HRW report, You Don't Know Who to Blame, says all sides in the conflict should end abuses against civilians and ensure Somalis have access to aid. (more)

Tsewang Norbu, a Tibetan monk, sets himself on fire in China in protest

A Tibetan monk has burned himself to death in China's Sichuan province, in an apparent anti-Beijing protest.

Activists said the monk, whom they named as Tsewang Norbu, had shouted slogans including "long live the Dalai Lama" before setting himself alight.

A similar action sparked weeks of confrontation earlier this year in another town in Sichuan.

Unrest is fuelled by a widespread belief that the government is suppressing Tibetan culture.

The argument has been going on for decades, with many Tibetans accusing the government of forcing monks to attend re-education camps, encouraging the migration of Han Chinese to Tibetan areas, and crushing any sign of dissent.

But the authorities say they have brought relative wealth and prosperity to a region that was a rural backwater. (more)

Jonathan Bacon, B.C. gang leader, reported killed in brazen daylight shooting: Canada

Reports indicate well-known B.C. gang member Jonathan Bacon — the eldest of the notorious Bacon Brothers — was killed in a brazen daylight shooting outside a Kelowna hotel on Sunday.

Police say one person was killed and several others were wounded when a gunman sprayed bullets at a car outside the downtown hotel and casino.

Police have not yet confirmed the identity of the victim, but several media outlets say the gang leader, with a long criminal history in the Lower Mainland, was killed.

Newspaper reports also say a full-patch member of the Hells Angels was seriously injured in the attack.

Just before 3 p.m. PT, witnesses said, a green SUV pulled up behind a white Porsche SUV outside the Delta Grand Hotel, just as the Porsche was leaving the hotel's front entrance. Armed men in hoods jumped out of the green SUV, witnesses said, and started firing.

Witnesses told several media outlets they saw a masked gunman on foot fire shots at the car from an automatic weapon.

"It sounded like, to me, a building was just collapsing around the corner," said one witnesss, who wished to be identified only as Lance. (more)

Dog missing for year after car crash returns home

A Maltese dog that disappeared more than a year ago after a fatal car crash in New Mexico has been returned to surviving family members in Michigan.

The crash in June last year killed Gary Benson and his five-year-old daughter, Emily. Afterward, his wife and four surviving children searched unsuccessfully for the family pet named Caesar.

Monica Benson told New Mexico's Quay County Sun she posted pictures of Caesar and her son, Benjamin, in Benjamin's hospital room while the then-18-month-old recovered and he kept asking where the dog was.

A volunteer at a shelter in Tucumcari, N.M., contacted Benson after scanning a microchip in Caesar earlier this month.

He was returned to his family in Clio, Mich., on Saturday. Benson told the Detroit News the dog remembered her family and "it was an amazing evening." (source)

No surprise, no arrests in Lebanon for Rafik Hariri's murder

I've met and interviewed more than a few Hezbollah men over the years. They are ascetics — a dour, mirthless lot, utterly convinced of their moral superiority, as religious fanatics so often are.

Still, I can't help but imagine them howling with laughter, tears of hilarity streaming into their beards, at the latest statements from the UN's Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).

That is the body charged with investigating and prosecuting the assassins of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

As every Lebanese must know by now, Hezbollah was almost certainly directly involved in the spectacular bomb blast that killed Hariri and 22 others six and a half years ago, an event that triggered a brief popular uprising, and an end to the Syrian occupation of the country.

UN investigators have assembled evidence that overwhelmingly points to agents of Hezbollah, the Party of God, and, indirectly, its top leadership.

I and a team of CBC colleagues produced a detailed report last fall revealing much of that evidence, as well as the UN inquiry's early failings. (more)

Report: Interior minister leaves Libya amid defection rumors

As Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi urged supporters to take up arms and battle rebel forces Monday, the country's interior minister arrived in Cairo amid rumors that he had defected, Egypt's state-run Al-Ahram newspaper reported.

Libyan Interior Minister Nasr al-Mabrouk Abdallah arrived with nine of his family members, the newspaper reported, citing an unnamed airport official. Libyan Embassy officials did not greet him, and he flew in on a private plane, fueling speculation that he may have abandoned Gadhafi, the newspaper said.

A spokesman for Egypt's Interior Ministry said airport officials informed the Egyptian government of the Libyan interior minister's arrival. Officials in Gadhafi's government could not be immediately reached for comment.

Word of Abdallah's arrival in Egyptian came hours after Gadhafi urged Libyans to fight opposition forces and "cleanse this sweet and honorable land" in an address broadcast on Libyan state television. (more)

U.S. military: Wave of attacks in Iraq 'eerily similar' to last year -- over 300 casualties

More than a dozen bombing and shooting attacks struck Iraq Monday, killing at least 74 people and wounding 247, officials with Iraq's Interior Ministry said.

It was the worst wave of violence to strike the country in months, taking place on the halfway mark of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan

"Today's attacks are eerily similar to the stream of large scale, complex attacks that occurred here last year during Ramadan on Aug. 25," said Angela Funaro, spokeswoman for United States Forces-Iraq.

Officials believe the attacks last year were perpetrated by al Qaeda in Iraq "to shake the public's confidence in the capabilities of the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) to defend this country," but it is too early to speculate about Monday's attacks, Funaro said in an e-mail.

A jihadist website Monday had a post praising the attacks against "Shiites, Christians, and the apostate Awakening Councils." The post did not include a claim of responsibility. Awakening Councils are made up of former Sunni militants now in the pay of the Iraqi government, which have been credited with helping reduce violence. (more)

Pakistani pilot, Qais Hussain, reaches out to daughter of Indian man he shot down over 40 years ago

Farida Singh had not checked her e-mail in a few days and had no idea a life-changing letter awaited her until news of it appeared in an Indian newspaper.

The man who had shot down her father's civilian plane at the height of the 1965 India-Pakistan war was writing to her, almost half a century later, to set the record straight. And to apologize.

The subject line said: "Condolence."

In his August 5 e-mail, Qais Hussain expressed regret that he had been responsible for the death of Singh's father, Jahangir Engineer, one of four brothers famed in the Indian air force.

"I did not play foul and went by the rules of business but the unfortunate loss of precious lives, no matter how it happens, hurts each human and I am no exception," he wrote.

"I feel sorry for you, your family and the other seven families who lost their dearest ones. If an opportunity ever arises that I could meet you face to face to condole the death of your father 46 years back I would grab it with both hands."

If there was ever a time when the clich├ęd word "closure" had true meaning, this might have been it.

Singh was a teenager when her father was killed. After all this time, she felt the weight of loss lift. (more)

Cameron blames UK riots on 'moral collapse'

Prime Minister David Cameron blames the riots that shook Britain over the past 10 days on a "slow-motion moral collapse ... in parts of our country," he said Monday.

Cameron listed problems including "Irresponsibility. Selfishness. Behaving as if your choices have no consequences. Children without fathers. Schools without discipline. Reward without effort. Crime without punishment. Rights without responsibilities. Communities without control," in a speech in his constituency in Oxfordshire.

And he promised that the government will "review every aspect of our work to mend our broken society" in the coming weeks.

Thousands of people have been arrested and processed through courts working around the clock since violence erupted over the killing of a man in London during a police operation. (more)

Stocks: Volatility will continue this week

Brace for more turbulence.

This week could be just as bumpy as last week's wild ride, as Wall Street continues to deal with the fallout of S&P's downgrade, the problems in Europe and the fate of the U.S. economy.

"Investors are grappling with two primary questions: Will the U.S. slip into another recession, and will the euro survive?," said Hans Olsen, head of Americas investment strategy for Barclays Wealth, a division of Barclays Capital.

On the issue of the euro, the main event will be German Chancellor Angela Merkel's meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on Tuesday.

The stakes have never been higher for the eurozone and the leaders of the euro's two largest economies. Speculation is building about whether Italy and Spain have unsustainable debt levels -- and whether European officials have the political power necessary to save the 12-year old currency, possibly through some some sort of "pan-European" bond fund.

To further complicate things, there are growing concerns France may lose its own "AAA" credit rating following Standard & Poor's downgrade of the United States last week. It was in part these fears that caused the Dow to plunge 520 points on Wednesday. (more)