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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September Dollar Drive / Weekly Announcements -- September 7, 2011 (New posts appear below until midnight)

Hello everyone,

1. September Dollar Drive: We're trying our very best to make our website financially self sufficient. We'd prefer to do it without any adverts if possible, but that requires the help of our readers. If you can spare just a dollar this month, please consider donating. Your money goes to a good cause, and helps us continue supporting the truth. We write a personal letter of thanks to every single person who donates. Please keep in mind that even a website powered by the love of truth can only last for song when it requires intensive labour. Click on the big banner above to learn more or to contribute your dollar!

2. August Dollar Drive results: We had a total of 17 donations, and were under 10% of our monthly goal. We donated $16.10 of that to the Red Cross in order to help out with the East African Famine. We give a heartfelt thanks to all the generous people who did donate.

3. Counterpoint articles! Sometimes we post things on The Coming Crisis and some readers have the impression that's "our stance" and the subject is settled. On the contrary! We often publish multiple researched pieces that cover more than one perspective, and on top of that, we're always willing to listen to the other side, even if we disagree. That means if you see something that you don't agree with, feel free to send us your own respectful and researched article and we'd be glad to post it with full credit to you after review.

4. Salesperson wanted to join The Coming Crisis team: Must be confident and self-motivated for this commission-based position. Contact us at

That's it for this week. Take care everyone!

-- Matt & Lynsey

Reese Witherspoon Hit By Car, Recovering at home - 8th Sept 2011

Actress Reese Witherspoon is recovering after being hit by a car while out jogging.

The 35-year-old Oscar winner was rushed to hospital after being struck in the upmarket Santa Monica area of Los Angeles.

Officers were called to a pedestrian crossing and discovered Witherspoon injured at the scene.

It is understood the star is now recovering at home.

The 84-year-old driver of the vehicle was interviewed and released after being reprimanded for failing to stop at a pedestrian crossing.

Police said that the car was travelling at about 20mph.

Witherspoon, a mother-of-two, whose carreer took off after starring in the movie Legally Blonde, won an Oscar for her role in "Walk The Line". Source

Astronauts Prepare to Temporarily Abandon International Space Station

The astronauts aboard the International Space Station said Monday that ground controllers are figuring out how best to leave the vast complex running -- what lights to leave on, which vents to keep open -- in case it needs to be temporarily abandoned.

A Russian rocket carrying space station supplies failed during liftoff two weeks ago and crashed into Siberia. It's the same type of rocket used to launch people to the station. Until Russian engineers can figure out what went wrong, all Soyuz launches are on hold.

Six men are living aboard the space station. Three of them will leave late next week, a week late to keep the outpost fully staffed as long as possible. A new crew of three was supposed to blast off this month. But the flight has been delayed until at least the beginning of November, just two weeks before the three remaining residents would have to leave.

Given that the investigation is still ongoing, "there are a lot of things that have to stack up" to allow for an early November launch, said U.S. astronaut Michael Fossum.

Fossum said he and his two crewmates will leave the space station in the best possible condition if it must be vacated. more

Working-age poor population highest since '60s

Working-age America is the new face of poverty.

Counting adults 18-64 who were laid off in the recent recession as well as single twenty-somethings still looking for jobs, the new working-age poor represent nearly 3 out of 5 poor people — a switch from the early 1970s when children made up the main impoverished group.

While much of the shift in poverty is due to demographic changes — Americans are having fewer children than before — the now-weakened economy and limited government safety net for workers are heightening the effect.

Currently, the ranks of the working-age poor are at the highest level since the 1960s when the war on poverty was launched. When new census figures for 2010 are released next week, analysts expect a continued increase in the overall poverty rate due to persistently high unemployment last year.

If that holds true, it will mark the fourth year in a row of increases in the U.S. poverty rate, which now stands at 14.3 percent, or 43.6 million people. more

Female Blogger Amy Alkon Threatened With Defamation Suit For Writing About TSA 'Rape'

Attacking the TSA for its privacy-invasive screening procedures has become a favorite activity for many journalists, especially Matt Drudge. TSA horror stories are often featured prominently on The Drudge Report and he has taken to calling Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (of which the TSA is a part) “Big Sis.”

Napolitano, who doesn’t think Drudge “means [the nickname] kindly” said at a recent Politico event that Drudge is wrong in describing DHS programs as Orwellian and that “the privacy impact of new airport screening technology and similar programs are thoroughly vetted before they are implemented,” in Josh Gerstein’s words.

“We want to be conscious of civil liberties and civil rights protections—and we are,” Napolitano said, as reported by Politico.

On the same day as this piece came out, TechDirt reports on a passenger who would likely disagree with the Secretary. After a particularly aggressive patdown in March that might be better termed a feel-up, advice blogger Amy Alkon graphically described how she sobbed loudly while a TSA agent put her hands “into” her — four times. She screamed “You raped me” after the LAX patdown and took the agent’s name with plans to file charges of sexual assault. Those plans fell through after consulting an attorney, but she did blog about it and included the agent’s name, thereby inflicting her own assault — on the agent’s Google search results. more

Obama moves to disallow peaceful protest outside abortion clinics: Wait a minute, isn't there an amendment about this?

n 1994, abortion-lobby champion Ted Kennedy passed the Free Access to Clinics Act (FACE), which imposes stricter limitations on peaceful protests of abortion clinics than any other peaceful protest.

This law, which strikes me as pretty darn unconstitutional, has never really been enforced. Tom McClusky at the Family Research Council says the decision to not enforce it was a "gentleman's agreement": "The story I normally got from Justice Department, Hill and real world lawyers on both sides of the aisle was that everyone understood the law was unconstitutional...."

But now, NPR reports, Obama is deciding to crack down on those protesting, conducting sidewalk counseling, or even praying for the mothers and their babies.

Here's NPR's report on one of the Obama Administration's targets:

A few blocks from the White House, outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Washington, D.C., Dick Retta has reported for duty in a blue windbreaker, khaki pants belted high and brown shoes with thick soles. He's carrying rosary beads and a packet of brochures filled with information about the dangers of abortion.

"Please don't let them take your child's life. You don't have to. We can and will help you. Don't let them take your child's life. Let us help you," Retta says to a woman entering the clinic.

That front door shuts in his face. But Retta says he's not deterred by that, or by a civil lawsuit the Justice Department filed against him in July. Authorities claim Retta violated the FACE Act by blocking a patient early this year — following her for 35 feet and standing in front of the door. more

Lenika Vanburen: Police searching for 14-year-old girl accused of using stun gun during a robbery on highschool student

A 14-year-old girl is wanted by New Orleans police for allegedly using an electroshock weapon to rob a high-school student. Lenika Vanburen threatened the student by turning a stun gun on and off, police said. Vanburen then took the student's smartphone.
Vanburen lenika.JPGView full sizeLenika Vanburen

The robbery occurred in the 400 block of Canal Street.

A group of teenagers included Vanburen approached the student on Aug. 19 about 7:15 p.m. as she was walking and talking on her smartphone. Vanburen, according to police, pulled out the stun gun, turned it on and off and demanded the student's smartphone.

The girl still refused, according to police, so Vanburen then twisted the student's arm and took the phone.

Police are asking the public to help find the 14-year-old girl.

Detective Michael Flores is in charge of the investigation. He can be reached at 658-6080.

Anyone with information about Vanburen also is asked to call Crimestoppers at 504.822.1111 or toll-free at 1.877.903.7867. Callers do not have to give their names or testify and can earn as much as $2,500 for tips that lead to an indictment. source

Dolphins 'Talk' Like Humans, New Study Suggests

Dolphins "talk" to each other, using the same process to make their high-pitched sounds as humans, according to a new analysis of results from a 1970s experiment.

The findings mean dolphins don't actually whistle as has been long thought, but instead rely on vibrations of tissues in their nasal cavities that are analogous to our vocal cords.

Scientists are only now figuring this out, "because it certainly sounds like a whistle," said study researcher Peter Madsen of the Institute of Bioscience at Aarhus University in Denmark, adding that the term was coined in a paper published in 1949 in the journal Science. "And it has stuck since."

The finding clears up a question that has long puzzled scientists: How can dolphins make their signature identifying whistles at the water's surface and during deep dives where compression causes sound waves to travel faster and would thus change the frequency of those calls. more

Johnny D. Guillen Pimentel: Serial Butt Slash Suspect Identified

Fairfax County Police named a suspect in a series of slashing assaults across northern Virginia.

Authorities are looking for Johnny D. Guillen Pimentel, age 40.

Since February of this year, at least nine victims reported being slashed on the buttocks while shopping in Fairfax County. Authorities said in most of the attacks, the suspect would distract the victim by dropping articles of clothing, and then inflict superficial cuts with a razor or box cutter.

Detectives said all of the victims have been females in their late teens or early twenties. No serious injury has been reported; some victims did not immediately realize their injuries.

Police said Pimentel drives a blue Honda Civic with the Virginia tag KLX2689. Detectives believe that he may have already left the area. more

In Euro Zone, Banking Fear Feeds on Itself

As Europe struggles to contain its government debt crisis, the greatest fear is that one of the Continent’s major banks may fail, setting off a financial panic like the one sparked by Lehman’s bankruptcy in September 2008.

European policy makers, determined to avoid such a catastrophe, are prepared to use hundreds of billions of euros of bailout money to prevent any major bank from failing.

But questions continue to mount about the ability of Europe’s banks to ride out the crisis, as some are having a harder time securing loans needed for daily operations.

American financial institutions, seeking to inoculate themselves from the growing risks, are increasingly wary of making new short-term loans in some cases and are pulling back from doing business with their European counterparts — moves that could exacerbate the funding problems of European banks.

Similar withdrawals, on a much larger scale, forced Lehman into bankruptcy, as banks, hedge funds and others took steps to shield their own interests even though it helped set in motion the broader market crisis.

Turmoil in Europe could quickly spread across the Atlantic because of the intertwined nature of the global financial system. In addition, it could further damage the already struggling economies elsewhere. more

UBS Quantifies Costs Of Euro Break Up, Warns Of Collapse Of Banking System And Civil War

Any time a major bank releases a report saying a given course of action is too costly, too prohibitive, too blonde, or simply too impossible, it is nearly guaranteed that that is precisely the course of action about to be undertaken. Which is why all non-euro skeptics are advised to shield their eyes and look away from the just released report by UBS (of surging 3 Month USD Libor rate fame) titled "Euro Break Up - The Consequences." UBS conveniently sets up the straw man as follows: "Under the current structure and with the current membership, the Euro does not work. Either the current structure will have to change, or the current membership will have to change." So far so good. Yet where it gets scary is when UBS quantifies the actual opportunity cost to one or more countries leaving the Euro. Notably Germany. "Were a stronger country such as Germany to leave the Euro, the consequences would include corporate default, recapitalisation of the banking system and collapse of international trade. If Germany were to leave, we believe the cost to be around EUR6,000 to EUR8,000 for every German adult and child in the first year, and a range of EUR3,500 to EUR4,500 per person per year thereafter. That is the equivalent of 20% to 25% of GDP in the first year. " It also would mean the end of UBS, but we digress. Where it gets even more scary is when UBS, like many other banks to come, succumbs to the Mutual Assured Destruction trope made so popular by ole' Hank Paulson : "The economic cost is, in many ways, the least of the concerns investors should have about a break-up. Fragmentation of the Euro would incur political costs. Europe’s “soft power” influence internationally would cease (as the concept of “Europe” as an integrated polity becomes meaningless). It is also worth observing that almost no modern fiat currency monetary unions have broken up without some form of authoritarian or military government, or civil war." So you see: save the euro for the children, so we can avoid all out war (and UBS can continue to exist). The scariest thing, however, by far, is that for this report to have been issued, it means that Germany is now actively considering dumping the euro. more

Astronauts' tracks, equipment seen in new moon photos

A spacecraft circling the moon has snapped the sharpest photos ever of the tracks and trash left behind by Apollo astronauts in their visits from 1969 to 1972.

Images taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter from 13 to 15 miles up show the astronauts' paths when they walked on the moon, as well as ruts left by a moon buggy. Experts could even identify the backpacks astronauts pitched out of their lunar landers before they returned to Earth.

"What we're seeing is a trail," said Arizona State University geology professor Mark Robinson, the orbiter's chief scientist. "It's totally awesome."

However, the photos were not close enough to see individual bootprints, Robinson said. more

State Police: 5 Amish Men Attack Girls -- Teens, 12-Year-Old Say They Were Grabbed, Groped At Wilmington Horse Auction

State police are searching for a group of young Amish men who they say indecently assaulted three girls recently in Lawrence County.

The incident happened Sept. 2 at a horse auction that the girls attended with their parents on Route 208 in Wilmington Township, police said.

Five Amish men who were "allegedly under the influence of alcohol and controlled substances" groped and fondled two 13-year-old girls and a 12-year-old girl, according to a police report.

"If the victims did not heed their demands, they were forcibly grabbed and punched," police wrote in a media statement. "One female was dragged down several steps. She was to seek treatment at a Mercer County hospital."

Police said several witnesses have backed up the girls' account of the incident.

Troopers at the state police station in New Castle will hold a news conference about their investigation today at 11:30 a.m. more

Arkansas weatherman Brett Cummins found in hot tub with naked dead man wearing 'dog collar'

An Arkansas weatherman didn't predict he would wake up in a hot tub with a naked dead man, but that's exactly what police say happened.

Now authorities are trying to determine what killed Dexter Williams, whose body was found with a "dog collar" around his neck, according to a police report.

The mystery began Monday night, when KARK 4 News meteorologist Brett Cummins arrived at the home of John Barbour around 11 p.m. in Maumelle, just north of Little Rock, the report stated. The 33-year-old weatherman brought Williams, 24, with him. Barbour said he did not know the doomed man.

"They then began to drink and use illegal narcotics," Officer Gregory Roussie said Barbour told him. "Mr. Barbour stated he was not sure of the drugs that they were using but that they were snorting them."

About two hours later, Cummins and Williams went into the Jacuzzi to have a drink, and Barbour later joined them, police said. Shortly afterwards, Barbour said he left the two and went into the living room, where he fell asleep on the couch.

Barbour told police he awoke about 8 a.m. Tuesday and could hear Cummins snoring in the hot tub, the report said. He proceeded to gather glasses in the bathroom and wake up Cummins before realizing Williams was dead. more

Top 50 percent tax rate damages UK, say economists

Twenty high-profile economists have urged the government to drop the top 50p tax rate, which they say is doing "lasting damage" to the UK economy.

In a letter to the Financial Times, they say it should be axed "at the earliest opportunity" to boost growth.

Ministers say the 50p rate is temporary but their policy is to first increase the income tax threshold to £10,000.

Critics said cutting the rate at a time of cuts would be "monstrously unfair" and "phenomenally immoral".

The chancellor has asked HM Revenue and Customs to check whether the 50p rate, introduced as a temporary measure to tackle the deficit under Labour, is an effective means of raising tax revenue.

The 20 signatories to the FT letter include two former members of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, DeAnne Julius and Sushil Wadhwani.

It is part of a campaign being promoted through PR firm Westbourne, which they say is funded by businesses concerned about the impact of the 50p rate. more

Tropical storm Maria takes form in Atlantic

Extra troops sent to Rio slum after gunfight erupts

Extra police and troops have been sent to a Rio slum after soldiers patrolling as part of a security operation came under fire, Brazilian officials say.

A 15-year-old girl was reported to have been killed during the shooting, which erupted on Tuesday evening.

The Alemao slum, a stronghold for drug traffickers, was retaken by security forces in November as part of what is known as a pacification programme.

This aims to make Rio safer ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

Some 50 heavily armed men from a nearby slum open fired at security forces in the Complexo do Alemao shantytown, Brazilian media reported.

A local woman told reporters her niece had been killed by a stray bullet.

"I'm very angry because I was born and raised here and no one in my family has ever been killed in shootings. Now that (the slum) has been pacified, I'm seeing one of them killed. Where's the state? Where are the authorities?" she said.

Other residents said people had been injured in the shooting. more

Libya conflict: Niger border 'cannot be closed'

Niger's foreign minister says his country is unable to close its border with Libya to prevent fugitive Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi fleeing south.

Foreign Minister Mohamed Bazoum told the BBC that Col Gaddafi had not crossed the border or asked to cross.

He said Gaddafi loyalists who have arrived in Niger's capital, Niamey, would be free to stay or move on.

Libya's transitional authorities have said they are seeking Niger's help to stop Col Gaddafi from fleeing.

Political Affairs head Fathi Baja said the National Transitional Council (NTC) had sent a delegation to Niger to discuss "securing our borders to stop any kind of infiltration of Gaddafi troops to Niger, to stop any attempt by Gaddafi or his family to escape to Niger".

Asked if Niger might close its border, Mr Bazoum said: "We have no means to close the border... It is too big and we have very, very small means for that." more

China rich list topped by construction magnate: Would Mao approve? What about the billion Chinese that are still poor and enslaved?

A former weapons plant manager has topped an annual list of China's richest people.

Liang Wengen, 55, chairman of construction firm Sany was at the summit of the Hurun Rich List, with a doubling of the company's share price sending his fortune to $11bn (£7bn).

The number of US-dollar billionaires increased to 271 this year, up from 189 in 2010.

Internet and property tycoons were also on the list.

Zong Qinghou, head of the Wahaha beverage empire, fell to second place on the latest list with a fortune of $10.7bn.

Sales of his company are up, but like many of China's largest firms, they are being affected by rising costs.

Robin Li Yanhong, chairman of search engine Baidu had $8.8bn, while Yan Bin, whose company has exclusive distribution rights for Red Bull energy drinks, was fourth with $7.8bn.

The list was started in 1999 and is compiled by Hurun Report magazine, founded by former chartered accountant Rupert Hoogewerf. source

Giant crabs make Antarctic leap... and crush everything in their paths

King crabs have been found on the edge of Antarctica, probably as a result of warming in the region, scientists say.

Writing in the journal Proceedings B, scientists report a large, reproductive population of crabs in the Palmer Deep, a basin cut in the continental shelf.

They suggest the crabs were washed in during an upsurge of warmer water.

The crabs are voracious crushers of sea floor animals and will probably change the ecosystem profoundly if and when they spread further, researchers warn.

Related species have been found around islands off the Antarctic Peninsula and on the outer edge of the continental shelf.

But here the crabs (Neolithodes yaldwyni) are living and reproducing in abundance right on the edge of the continent itself. more

Jimmy Hoffa: "Tea Party members should be 'taken out'" -- Is it alright to even suggest that political party members be killed?

Canadian PM Harper says 'Islamicism' biggest threat to Canada: Solution? Turn Canada into even bigger police state

In an exclusive interview with CBC News, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the biggest security threat to Canada a decade after 9/11 is Islamic terrorism.

In a wide-ranging interview with CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge that will air in its entirety on The National Thursday night, Harper says Canada is safer than it was on Sept. 11, 2001, when al-Qaeda attacked the U.S., but that "the major threat is still Islamicism."
"There are other threats out there, but that is the one that I can tell you occupies the security apparatus most regularly in terms of actual terrorist threats," Harper said.

Harper cautioned that terrorist threats can "come out of the blue" from a different source, such as the recent Norway attacks, where a lone gunman who hated Muslims killed 77 people.

But Harper said terrorism by Islamic radicals is still the top threat, though a "diffuse" one. more

Libya: The NATO lie -- Thierry Meyssan, French journalist, says what media reported during Battle of Tripoli was entirely wrong: This may shock you

Famine turns to health crisis in Mogadishu

I've spent the past weeks working on the famine response with Mercy Corps, an international aid organization, in Mogadishu. As a humanitarian aid worker, I've responded to crisis around the world for almost a decade, but I've never seen a situation as devastating as what I am witnessing in Somalia today.

As far as the eye can see, makeshift shelters sprawl out across Mogadishu. Over 500,000 people in the city are displaced, forced from their homes by war, drought and famine. In the past couple of months, more than 100,000 people have come to this bullet-scarred and destroyed city in the hopes of finding food, medical care and assistance.

The new arrivals stream in by the hundreds daily and settle on any available patch of dusty earth they can find. They build makeshift shelters from twigs, cardboard, and scraps of old clothing. Living in the shadows of bombed out buildings that only a couple weeks ago were the front lines of the long-running war, families are packed into camps, without access to clean water or sanitation facilities. Most sites don't have adequate toilets or latrines. Improper human waste disposal is causing food and water contamination. more

Evangelicals Left Off National Cathedral 9/11 Program: Is America's heritage slipping away?

A weekend of religious-themed observances at Washington National Cathedral marking the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks will include a Buddhist nun and an Imam, but not an evangelical Christian, leading the head of the Southern Baptist Convention to ask President Obama to reconsider attending the event.

“A Call to Compassion” will include an interfaith prayer vigil on Sept. 11. It will feature the dean of the Cathedral, the Bishop of Washington, a rabbi, Buddhist nun and incarnate lama, a Hindu priest, the president of the Islamic Society of North America and a Muslim musician.

However, Southern Baptists, representing the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, were not invited to participate – and neither were leaders from any evangelical Christian organization.

“It’s not surprising,” said Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. “There is a tragic intolerance toward Protestants and particularly toward evangelicals and I wish the president would refuse to speak unless it was more representative.” more

10 Money Lessons From The Bible: Sound Advice

You probably won't find a copy of the King James Bible on the "business" or "personal finance" shelf of your local bookstore or library.

But while the ancient nature of the text may not offer much insight for those consulting it for advice on the derivatives market or the moral underpinnings of Goldman Sachs(GS_) playing "both sides" of a deal, there are still plenty of financial lessons that can be applied to modern life.

As in any holy book, especially one with writings that span centuries, there are some seeming contradictions and passages open to interpretation. There is also certainly a fair debate over whether certain passages should be treated as literal guidance or more malleable allegory. Your own faith, view of religion or academic viewpoint will certainly come into play.

The following are 10 areas of financial guidance that can be found in the pages of the Bible:

10. Avoid greed

A strict, literal reading of some Bible passages might not sit well with the wealthy. In championing the poor and oppressed, rich men are often cast in a negative light.

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:25) is an oft-quoted passage that might not sit well with those looking to amass and preserve wealth. more

4.3 Magnitude Earthquake HARYANA-DELHI-UTTAR PRADESH REGION, INDIA - 7th September 2011

A magnitude 4.3 earthquake has struck the Haryana-Delhi-Uttar Pradesh Region, India at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the quake hit at 17:58:21 UTC Wednesday 7th September 2011.
The epicenter was 36 km (22 miles) North of Delhi, Delhi, India
No reports of Damage or Injuries at this time.

Japan PM feared nuclear disaster worse than Chornobyl

Japan's former prime minister says he feared early in the March nuclear crisis that it might become many times worse than the Chornobyl disaster and threaten the country's survival.

Naoto Kan says now he imagined "deserted scenes of Tokyo without a single man" and the need to evacuate tens of millions of people.

"It was truly a spine-chilling thought," Kan said in an interview with the Tokyo Shimbun daily published Wednesday.

Kan said those images flashed in his mind during the first week of the crisis, when information coming from the radiation-leaking Fukushima Dai-ichi plant was sketchy and he was told that its operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., was considering pulling out its staff. TEPCO has since said that it never planned to withdraw from the plant.

Kan, who resigned last week amid criticism over his administration's handling of the disaster, said when he heard that cooling systems had failed at the nuclear plant soon after it was damaged by a March 11 tsunami, he understood the gravity of the situation.

"The power was totally lost and there was no cooling capacity. I knew what that meant. So I thought, 'This is going to be a disaster."' more

Tourism flatlines as visitors avoid Japan: Foreign tourist numbers collapsing after March disasters: Call goes out for more Chinese tourists

Close on six months after the March 11 disasters hit northeast Japan, the official numbers for overseas tourists visiting the country look even bleaker than expected.

According to the Japan Tourism Agency -- a part of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism -- spending by incoming visitors in the April-June quarter was down 46.9 percent on a year earlier.

In total, the foreign tourist buck was worth an insignificant ¥121 billion ($1.6 billion) in the quarter, most of it coming from near neighbors in Asia.

Chinese tourists contributed ¥30 billion to the Japanese economy, while South Korea and Taiwan combined for a joint inflow of ¥33.5 billion.

On top of the quarterly financial data, July also saw absolute visitor numbers slump for the fifth month in a row -- down 36 percent from 2010 to 560,000.
Up front about Fukushima

In spite of being a government body, the Tourism Agency report didn’t mince its words in stating that authorities need to show more transparency about the Fukushima nuclear accident if they want to help rebuild confidence in traveling to Japan. more

Japan: Tsunami-ravaged city of Kamaishi fights back from tragedy

Six months ago, I stood on a corner in Kamaishi, in northeastern Japan and believed this small city would never recover from the devastation caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

I wasn't being a pessimist. It was simply that my eyes could barely comprehend the damage to this town. Cars sat atop four-story apartment buildings, as entire neighborhoods looked as if the homes had been placed in a blender. A fishing vessel was even swept from its mooring onto a street.

But the physical damage paled in comparison to the human toll. Missing person notices wallpapered the makeshift city hall. The line of family members filing for death certificates went from one side of the building to the other.

Daiji Murai, a city worker, feared the living would abandon the city, killing what the tsunami did not. more

"Has US War on terror after 9/11 has become a war on Islam?"

Russian anti-aircraft missiles looted from Tripoli arms warehouse, and now no one knows where they are

A potent stash of Russian-made surface-to-air missiles is missing from a huge Tripoli weapons warehouse amid reports of weapons looting across war-torn Libya.

They are Grinch SA-24 shoulder-launched missiles, also known as Igla-S missiles, the equivalent of U.S.-made Stinger missiles.

A CNN team and Human Rights Watch found dozens of empty crates marked with packing lists and inventory numbers that identified the items as Igla-S surface-to-air missiles.

The list for one box, for example, written in English and Russian, said it had contained two missiles, with inventory number "Missile 9M342," and a power source, inventory number "Article 9B238." more

Syrian city of Homs under fire as deaths mount

Heavy gunfire killed at least 10 people in the Syrian city of Homs early Wednesday as security forces stormed through with tanks during an overnight attack, activists said.

Dozens of others were injured, and heavy gunfire continued in some neighborhoods, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement.

All landline telephones have been cut off in the city, according to the group.

Tanks arrived at the city center Wednesday, and heavy gunfire erupted in the neighborhoods of Khaldiya and Baba Amr, the opposition Local Coordination Committees (LCC) of Syria said.

Elsewhere Wednesday, two people were killed and three injured as Syrian security forces attacked the city of Sarmeen in Idlib province, the Syrian Observatory said.

CNN cannot independently verify the claims because the government has repeatedly denied requests for journalists to report inside Syria.

The attacks come a day after Syria canceled a visit by the head of the Arab League scheduled for Wednesday, citing unspecified "circumstances beyond our control." more

Obama preparing $300 billion jobs package: But will it make any difference? Are we at the endgame?

President Barack Obama is preparing to roll out a roughly $300 billion plan to strengthen the shaky economy and stimulate new job growth, according to multiple Democratic sources.

The president is expected to unveil his plan -- focused partly on new infrastructure spending and targeted tax cuts -- during an address to a joint session of Congress Thursday evening.

"I'm going to propose ways to put America back to work that both parties can agree to, because I still believe both parties can work together to solve our problems," Obama said in a Labor Day speech in Detroit.

The plan's prospects in a sharply polarized Congress -- particularly with the 2012 presidential primary season looming -- appear murky at best. Some Republicans have already dismissed it, saying any proposal from the president will amount to little more than a continuation of what they characterize as his failed 2009 stimulus plan. more

Bombers target home of Pakistani paramilitary official, kill 23

Two suicide bombers targeted the home of a senior officer with Pakistan's paramilitary force Wednesday, killing at least 23 people and wounding 52.

The attacks took place in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta.

Brigadier Farrukh Shehzad, believed to be the target of the attacks, was injured in the blasts, said Tariq Manzoor, a senior Quetta police officials. Shehzad is a senior official in the Frontier Corps paramilitary force.

Among the dead were Shehzad's wife and six security personnel, he said. None of Shehzad's children were home at the time, as they had left for school before the incident, he said.

The first bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into security vehicles cars parked outside Shehzad's home, officials said. The second attacker, who was on foot, managed to enter the house, said Abdullah Afridi, a senior Quetta police official. When a security officer fired on him, the attacker blew himself up, Afridi said.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks. A spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban, Ihsanullah Ihsan, said Shahzad was the target of the attack and expressed regret at the death of his wife. Ihsan said the attacks were retaliation for Shahzad's involvement in an operation against the group on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border last year. more

Official: Turkey to expel 3 Israeli diplomats as region deteriorates

In a further escalation of tensions between Israel and Turkey, at least three Israeli diplomats are being expelled from the Israeli Embassy in Ankara, Israeli officials said Wednesday.

The Israeli consulate, however, appears to be unaffected by the Turkish downgrade of diplomatic relations with Israel.

"Consulates and embassies are not in the same status," said Ohad Kaynar of the Israeli consulate in Istanbul. "There are treaties that define what consulates are supposed to do. The personnel that are being expelled are from the embassy. As of now, we have not heard anything from the Turkish foreign ministry regarding expulsion of any of the consulate personnel."

On Tuesday, Turkey's fiery prime minister compared Ankara's once-close ally in the Middle East to a "spoiled boy" and announced additional sanctions would soon be imposed. more

Death toll rises to 49 after storm hits Japan

The death toll from the storm known as Talas has risen to 49 in Japan, emergency officials said Wednesday.

Another 58 people are missing after the storm hit western Japan, unleashing record rainfall and triggering landslides and flooding, according to a tally of casualties compiled from 12 prefectural police agencies.

The Japan Meteorological Agency briefly classified the storm as a typhoon before it made landfall. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center recorded the storm making landfall in Japan as a tropical storm.

The storm caused at least 34 deaths in hard-hit Wakayama, south of Tokyo, officials said. Another 34 people were missing there.

"I have been working for the prefectural office over 40 years, but this is the worst in my memory," said Tsutomu Furukawa of Wakayama prefecture. Wakayama is one of three prefectures on the mountainous Kii Peninsula, where damage from Talas was concentrated as the storm swept across the area on Saturday. more

BAE Systems invisibility technology 'can turn tanks into cows'

Scientists at BAE Systems have developed a technology that could make tanks invisible or appear as cows to enemies.

The "invisibility cloak", called Adaptiv, uses on-board cameras to pick up background scenery and then project the image on to panels on the outside of the vehicle.

This means the tank can blend into the background when viewed at night through infrared scopes, or be made to appear as a 4x4 vehicle or cow.

The BAE scientists, based in Sweden, are also trying to develop the technology for other frequencies of light in order to secure total invisibility.

However, producing the technology for infrared viewing is important because it can shield vehicles from night-vision goggles and infrared technology used by aircraft.

Peder Sjölund, project manager, said: "Earlier attempts at similar cloaking devices have hit problems because of cost, excessive power requirements or because they were insufficiently robust. more

Edinburgh University charges English students £36,000 for a degree, and is accused of punishing students with heavy debts

One of Scotland's most prestigious universities has been accused of "cashing in" on English students after announcing they would be charged £36,000 for a degree.

NUS Scotland said the University of Edinburgh will become the most expensive place in Britain for the English, Welsh and Northern Irish to study – £9,000 more than even Cambridge or Oxford.

However, Alex Salmond, the Scottish Nationalist First Minister, has promised that Scottish students will continue to pay nothing.

This privilege also extends to EU youngsters under European anti-discrimination laws but there are no similar provisions to protect youngsters from the rest of the UK.

Edinburgh – one of the most popular Scottish universities with English students – is the first to charge the maximum amount permitted by SNP ministers.

Although the cap has been set at £9,000 per year, the same as in England, the average Scottish degree takes four years instead of three years south of the Border. more

Pensioners face 40-percent income cut: UK

This devastating fall in pension payments is the result of a triple whammy hitting income drawdown: declines in the stock market, falling returns on gilts, which are used to calculate maximum incomes from drawdown, and a change in the rules governing this calculation.

Many pensioners will see their incomes cut when their drawdown plans come up for review. These reviews, conducted by the pension plan manager, have to take place five years after drawdown began, and every three years thereafter. (New plans are now reviewed for the first time after three years.)

Anyone who started income drawdown following "pensions simplification" on "A Day" – April 6 2006 – will be facing their first review about now. "Most of the first set of five-year drawdown reviews would have kicked off in April or May of this year, and will be gathering pace at the moment," said Vince Smith-Hughes of Prudential, the insurer.

Here we explain how income drawdown works, why such huge reductions in income can take place and what pension savers can do about it – whether they are about to take an income from their pension pot or have already embarked on income drawdown. more

Airline passengers paying £265,000 a day in 'excessive' debit card surcharges

Surcharges can add £12 a flight to a bargain £50 flight, says Which?

Airlines are still charging travellers excessive fees for booking flights with their debit cards, despite a ruling by the OFT that they should be banned. Which?, the consumer watchdog, said consumers are paying £265,000 a day more than they need to.

Which? submitted a super-complaint to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in March, asking the regulator to investigate excessive credit and debit card surcharges.

The OFT proposed that charges for paying by debit card should be banned at the end of June. A simple amendment to existing Payment Services Regulations by the Treasury would achieve this, Which? said.

The Government still has not taken action and consumers continue to be hit by excessive card fees. Two airlines – Swiss and Lufthansa – have announced plans to start charging customers for using debit and credit cards since the OFT response.

Since the the end of June, consumers have collectively paid an estimated £18 million in airline debit card surcharges. more

German austerity drive risks Euro-slump

German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble has vowed to halt rescue payments to Greece unless the country complies totally with the EU-IMF demands, brushing aside warnings that a Greek collapse would set off a disastrous chain reaction and a global banking crisis.

“The next tranche can be paid only when the conditions have been met. There is no room for manouvre here,” he told the Bundestag. Yields on 10-year Greek debt spiked to a fresh record of 19.8pc on fears of a disorderly default.

The tough words reflect sentiment in Berlin that Greece should be left to its fate or even be ejected from the monetary union, even though the chief reason Greece has failed to meet its deficit target is the crushing effect of recession. The economy will have shrunk by 12pc by the end of this year, playing havoc with debt dynamics.

Mr Schäuble rebuffed calls from the International Monetary Fund for a softening of Europe’s austerity drive. “Piling on more debt now will stunt rather than stimulate growth in the long run. Highly indebted Western democracies need to cut expenditures, increase revenues and remove structural hindrances in their economies, however politically painful,” he wrote.

German insistence on deflation polices is causing near universal despair. Spain’s leader Jose Luis Zapatero - who told union leaders at a closed-door gathering that the economy was “sliding into the abyss” - called for global action “through the G7 or the G20” to shore up Europe’s financial system. more

Switzerland abandons floating exchange rate in dramatic 'currency war' twist

The era of global "currency wars" has taken a dramatic turn after Switzerland abandoned its floating exchange rate, setting a floor against the euro to counter safe-haven flight from eurozone debtors.

The Swiss national bank (SNB) said it would “no longer tolerate” a euro rate below 1.20 francs. “The SNB will enforce this minimum rate with the utmost determination and is prepared to buy foreign currency in unlimited quantities. The massive overvaluation of the franc poses an acute threat to the Swiss economy and carries the risk of a deflationary development,” it said.

The franc plummeted against all major currencies, falling 9pc against the euro as markets opened on Tuesday. The Swiss action will be studied closely in Norway, Singapore and above all Japan, where the yen has also rocketed to levels that threaten to blight exporters and tip the country into deep deflation.

“The market must fear this will lead to a sharp escalation in currency wars,” said David Bloom from HSBC. “Gold is the only safe haven asset that will not do QE, put in capital controls or complain.”

Mr Bloom said the Swiss move will exacerbate Europe’s debt crisis by widening the spreads betweeen core EMU and the periphery. “This is a risky policy for the Swiss,” he said.

Simon Derrick from BNY Mellon said the Swiss are restricting EMU debt purchases to German and French bonds, unlike earlier rounds of intervention. “The SNB is just as keen to have a safe-haven for its money as any other investors. It is recycling money leaving southern Europe into northern Europe. This is the darker message,” he said. more

Will Barack Obama condemn Joe Biden and Jimmy Hoffa for calling Republicans 'barbarians' and 'son of a bitches' -- Is courtesy dead?

I enjoy political hardball as much as the next reporter. It’s barely concealed truth that campaign journalists, like the operatives we cover, love negative campaigning and revel in OTT insults and martial rhetoric. Even candidates often lapse into the language of “rip his throat out”, “tear his eyes out” or “drive a stake through her heart”.

It’s no secret either that many Republicans despise Democrats with a passion and vice versa. Just as British MPs hide their contempt of their opponents by referring to them as “the honourable member’, American politicians have their own, albeit less formal, ways of masking their true feelings with anodyne language for public consumption.

But the statements today by Jimmy Hoffa Jr and Vice President Joe Biden demean the presidency and, tactically speaking, are stupid own goals.

Hoffa, the Teamsters president, was warming up a Detroit crowd when he said: “President Obama, this is your army, and we are ready to march. Everybody here’s got a vote. If we go back, and we keep the eye on the prize, let’s take these son of a bitches out and give America back to America where we belong.” more

Erupting volcanoes photographed from space

An image taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) of a large plume of smoke, steam and ash erupting from the Sarychev volcano on the Kuril Islands, Russia. It is thought that the eruption has caused a hole to form in the cloud layer above it. View the entire photo gallery here

September 11: New video of the aftermath of the Flight 93 crash

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, the Boeing 757–222 aircraft from New Jersey to San Francisco was hijacked by four al-Qaeda terrorists 46 minutes after takeoff as part of the September 11 attacks.

Flight 93 nosedived into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing all 44 people on board.

The flight has entered American mythology because of the heroic attempted fight-back against the hijackers by the passengers and crew. source

Turkish PM announces additional sanctions will soon be imposed on Israel

Turkey's fiery prime minister ratcheted up rapidly-escalating tensions with Israel on Tuesday, comparing Ankara's once-close ally in the Middle East to a "spoiled boy" and announcing additional sanctions would soon be imposed.

"We are completely suspending all of these, trade relations, military relations, related with the defense industry," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, according to the semi-official Anatolian Agency. "All of these are completely suspended and other measures will follow this process."

Asked to clarify whether this meant Turkey will halt more than $3 billion in bilateral trade, an official in the Turkish prime ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity under government protocol, insisted Erdogan was not referring to trade relations.

"He was referring to the defense industry," the official said. "Nothing more than the measures that have been announced so far."

Last week, Turkey declared it was downgrading relations with Israel, suspending all military agreements between the two countries and giving senior Israeli diplomats less than a week to leave Turkish territory. more

Living with the aftermath of Japan's tsunami nightmare

Kyoko Ogawa wore the brave face the world associated with Japan's tsunami survivors.

The March 11 catastrophe washed away all her earthly possessions. She watched as her hotel burned to the ground in a gas explosion triggered by the tsunami; a hotel that had been in her family for generations.

She was determined not to let the disaster break her.

But after the elation of finding her son alive, the reality of losing her livelihood started to erode the calm facade. She was in turmoil. She was afraid to talk to other people about it because she knew everyone was suffering as much as her, if not more.

They were "ganbaru," she recalls -- enduring, holding on, withstanding, and living with the pain. She couldn't be the only one to lose control. more

Doubts Escalate about Greek Rescue Deal

One rarely sees such cut-price offers on the financial markets. If you believe the assurances of European politicians, you can pocket a yield of 76 percent on Greek bonds due to mature in March. If parliaments in Europe give a green light to Greece's rescue package as expected, the debt-ridden country will be able to pay back these bonds in full.

But hardly anyone is buying the bargain-basement bonds. Investors are shunning them as being much too risky. They simply don't believe that the rescue package will be enough to save the country, which is threatened with bankruptcy.

Following the July 21 European crisis summit , investor nerves began to steady, but these days there is little optimism that there will be a happy ending to the Greek drama.

That is illustrated by the Greek bond market, which rallied shortly after the Greece crisis summit but which is now hitting new lows. Bonds which are due next March are currently selling for 70 percent of their nominal value, reflecting investor suspicion that Greece will not be able to fulfill the conditions attached to the rescue package. Athens has been given exact guidelines on budget deficit reduction, tax revenue targets and privatization of state-owned businesses. Up to now, however, the Greek government has fallen short of most of the measures. more

US Postal Service may default on a $5.5 billion trust fund payment

The U.S. Postal Service does not have the money to meet an obligation to a retiree health care trust fund coming due at the end of the month, but if there's a default, officials promise no interruption in the mail, the payroll, or payments to suppliers.

Commenting in response to a New York Times article Monday suggesting the Postal Service may have to shut down within months, spokeswoman Yvonne Yoerger told CNN there's "nothing actually new in the Postal Service's position."

"We are required to make this $5.5 billion dollar payment into the future retiree health benefits fund, and probably won't be able to make it when it comes due September 30th."

The fund was mandated by a 2006 postal reform act that postal officials today believe does not match the reality of declining revenues and a smaller workforce. Tuesday, congressional lawmakers will address the matter in a hearing on postal operations.

Yoerger said at that hearing, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe will insist that the fund be re-scaled from the days when there were 900,000 people on the payroll. The mandated funding level has not changed in the years since then, although the Postal Service has trimmed 250,000 jobs. more

Europe crisis could kill weak banks, says Deutsche Bank chief executive Josef Ackermann

Europe's sovereign debt crisis will stunt bank profit for years and could kill off the weakest, Deutsche Bank chief executive Josef Ackermann told industry bosses, amid intense scrutiny of the sector's finances.

"Prospects for the financial sector overall ... are rather limited," the CEO of Germany's top bank said on Monday. "The outlook for the future growth of revenues is limited by both the current situation and structurally."

Ackermann was speaking at Frankfurt's annual Banks in Transition conference against a backdrop of gloom in the capital markets, where fears some euro zone countries could default on their debts have sent investors scurrying for shelter.

Shares in the banks that hold much of that debt dropped, with the STOXX Europe 600 banking index falling nearly 5% to its lowest in 29 months.

Fears about how the crisis will play out have halted the takeovers and stock market listings that are the lifeblood of the bloc's investment banks as slowing global economic growth puts the prospect of recovery further into the future. more

After 9/11: ten years of a war against… who?

One virtue of war is that it often provides society with an unusual degree of clarity about political issues. War tempts us with an irresistibly simple choice between Them and Us, enemy and friend, wrong and right, annihilation or survival. That kind of thinking came very easily during the Cold War. Every schoolboy knew that They – the so-called Evil Empire – were hellbent on destroying Us and our democratic way of life.

That was then, when it was clear who our friends and enemies were. The remarkable thing about the post-9/11 decade is that those old phrases about ‘them’ and ‘us’ no longer have much meaning. How can society make sense of global conflict when governments seem to lack a language through which to interpret it? A few weeks after the destruction of the World Trade Center, President George W Bush asked a question that has proved unanswerable: ‘Why do they hate us?’ One reason why the US government has failed to answer that question is because the couplet ‘they’ and ‘us’ lacks meaningful moral contrast today. Before you can give a satisfactory reply to Bush’s question, you have to answer the logically prior question of who ‘they’ are, and who ‘we’ are. And after 10 years of linguistic confusion, Western governments appear to have made no headway in resolving that quandary. more

Tripoli: Law And Order Left To 'Vigilantes' - 7th Sept 2011

The collapse of Libya's old regime has left a power vacuum, as ordinary citizens, including lawyers, accountants and footballers, take up arms to protect their neighbourhoods.

His eyes hidden behind dark glasses, Muhannad leads us into the backstreet headquarters of his rebel group.

These are not just fighters who have taken up arms to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi - they are now running their community.

They show us around the building. Room after room has men carrying out assigned duties.

Two men sit behind a desk making identity cards.

In another we are shown stockpiles of food to be handed out to the community.

Next door, men wait with paperwork telling us if anyone has a problem they can come here for help.

The collapse of Col Gaddafi's regime has left a power vacuum which has been filled by the communities themselves.

They have come together in vigilante fashion to protect and support their neighbourhoods. Read More

4.4 Magnitude Earthquake FOX ISLANDS, ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, ALASKA - 7th September 2011

A magnitude 4.4 earthquake has struck the Fox Islands, Aleutian Islands, Alaska at a depth of 42 km (26.1 miles), the quake hit at 15:19:17 UTC Wednesday 7th September 2011.
The epicenter was 191 km (118 miles) East of Atka, Alaska
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Chemical spill sends 12 to hospital No serious injuries reported at company, Massachusetts - 7th Sept 2011

A dozen people, mostly rescue workers, were taken to the hospital after a hazardous chemical spill yesterday at Barrday Composite Solutions, 86 Providence Road (Route 122A).

Nobody was seriously hurt, and the spill was contained with only a small amount getting into the ground, officials said. They said the public was never at risk.

“The situation is very much under control. The leak has stopped. There were very minor injuries,” Millbury Fire Chief Matthew R. Belsito said around 6 last night. “It is my understanding at this time that everyone was transported as precautionary and they will probably be treated and released.”

About 1:35 p.m. yesterday, the town’s 911 dispatcher received a call saying a Barrday worker had been doused with the chemical phenol, Chief Belsito said.

Michael E. Buck, president of the company, said a company engineer was working on an outside storage tank containing about 10,000 gallons of phenol when the accident occurred. When the worker removed a wire, the tank sprung a leak and liquid phenolic resin sprayed onto the worker’s arm, he said. Mr. Buck said the engineer and a second employee who was having trouble breathing were taken to a hospital for treatment.

When he arrived at the scene shortly after the initial call, Chief Belsito said, he immediately called Worcester Special Operations and summoned the state’s hazardous materials teams. He said the source of the leak was an approximately three-fourths-inch hole in the piping connected to the tank.

Andrew Delisio, the hazmat technician team leader on the site, estimated 5,000 to 6,000 gallons of phenol escaped.

“At no time was the public in any danger,” Chief Belsito said.

David Ladd, director of hazardous materials/emergency response systems for the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services, said phenol was steadily flowing from the tank, and a pneumatic plugging device was inserted to stop the leak. He said most of the product that was released was contained by a berm. He said a small quantity got into the ground soil, and that was being dealt with. Read More

Broken 'chiller' valve threatens Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant shutdown - 7th Sept 2011

A faulty cooling system threatened to shut down Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant over the weekend.

But in a little more than 24 hours, technicians at the plant repaired a valve in a unit meant to keep safety-related equipment cool.

"It was an air-conditioning unit, a chiller, used to keep plant equipment cool," said Larry Smith, manager of communications for Yankee.

According to Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the defective unit was discovered during routine surveillance.

"They were unable to adjust the flow to the required range, which they later found out was because the discharge valve disk had separated from the stem, so no amount of opening the stem was going to move the disk and allow more flow," he said.

With the cooler out of service, the "A" trains of the low-pressure coolant injection and core spray systems were declared inoperable, said Sheehan.

"Per the plant's technical specifications, they were required to start shutting down," he said. "They only got down to 95-percent power because they were able to open equipment hatches in the floor to allow air flow into the rooms, which provided sufficient cooling. At that point, they no longer had to shut down and came back to 98-percent power."

The inoperable unit was discovered at 1:40 a.m. on Saturday. The bad discharge valve was replaced and the unit was tested and declared operable at 4:45 a.m. on Sunday. Read More

Water leak shuts Connecticut's Millstone Nuclear reactor - 6th Sept 2011

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says Connecticut's Millstone nuclear power plant has shut one of its two reactors to stop a water leak.

Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the federal agency, said Tuesday the reactor in southeast Connecticut was shut Saturday because the leak exceeded the plant's specifications. He said the reactor remains down. Source