Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Claudia Rendon loses job after saving son by donating her kidney to him: Boss simply replaced her

A Philadelphia mother ready to return to work after giving her son a kidney finds out she doesn't have a job to return to.

If you're a mom, chances are you'd do anything for your child.

Claudia Rendon didn't hesitate when her son needed one of her kidneys.

But she didn't think she'd have to choose between her child and her job.

She's smiling now, but make no mistake, this has been the toughest year of Rendon's life.

"It was the hardest thing i ever had to go through, bury my mother," Rendon said.

Even as Rendon mourned her mom, she found out her father had leukemia, her uncle passed away, and her son's kidneys failed.

"Everything was coming down all at once. I felt like the best thing that happened to me this whole entire year was that God gave me the blessing of being able to give my son my kidney." more

Turkey threat of warships to Gaza 'grave': Israel

An Israeli cabinet minister on Friday described as "grave and serious" a threat by Ankara to send warships to escort any aid vessels trying to reach Gaza in defiance of Israel's naval blockade.

Israel and Turkey have been locked in a bitter dispute since May 2010 when Israeli naval commandos stormed the international Freedom Flotilla, a convoy of six ships trying to reach Gaza, killing nine Turkish nationals.

The crisis has deepened over the past week with Turkey expelling the Israeli ambassador and axing military ties and defence trade.

And on Thursday night, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed that Turkish warships would escort any aid ships trying to reach Gaza.

"These remarks are grave and serious," Intelligence Services Minister Dan Meridor told army radio, while indicating that Israel had "no wish to add to the polemic."

"It is better to stay quiet and wait. We have no interest in aggravating the situation by replying to such (verbal) attacks."

A statement from Benjamin Netanyahu's office said the Israeli prime minister and his cabinet had discussed "various theoretical options in the event of escalation" but had made no decisions. more

Russia defends bomber flights near Japan, accuses Japan of stirring up trouble

Russia on Monday defended its strategic bombers' recent mission near Japan and accused Tokyo of trying to stir up the long-standing territorial row between the two countries.

The Russian foreign ministry confirmed that two of its air force's Tu-95MS nuclear-capable bombers had conducted exercises around the Pacific on Thursday but said Tokyo had been notified of the flights in advance.

It also stressed that the exercises were held over neutral waters and argued that "such flights are a standard practice for the armed forces of any state, including -- as far as we understand -- Japan."

Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba had on Friday accused Russia of flying the bombers around his country in a bid to put diplomatic pressure on the new Tokyo government.

The two countries are in dispute over a string of islands on the fringe of the Okhotsk Sea called the southern Kurils in Russia but also claimed by Japan. more

Bank of America cutting 30,000 jobs

Bank of America said Monday that it plans to eliminate 30,000 jobs as part of a plan to save $5 billion.

The announcement came after Chief Executive Brian Moynihan outlined the bank's strategy at an investor conference in New York.

BofA has already disclosed plans to eliminate a total of 6,000 jobs this year. And it recently announced a management shakeup that effectively will split the bank into two units: one serving consumers and one serving commercial clients.

The bank said it expects a "significant portion" of the reduction in headcount to occur through attrition and the elimination of unfilled positions. BofA had a total of 287,000 employees as of June 30.

The move, part of an ongoing reorganization launched last year called the "Project New BAC," will play out over the next few years.

In the first phase of the plan, BofA said it expects to save $5 billion, or 18% of its projected $27 billion in overall costs, through 2014. The second phase will begin in October and run through 2012. more

Russian amateur astronomer discovers new comet P/2011 R3 (Novichonok)

Russian amateur astronomer Artyom Novichonok, a student of Petrozavodsk University, made a discovery of a new comet, Russian astronomy website Astronet said on Sunday.

The comet is the first comet discovered from Russian territory since 1989.

Novichonok's discovery was confirmed by the International Astronomical Union, the comet being designated P/2011 R3 (Novichonok), the Ka-Dar Observatory, where Novichonok made his discovery, said on its website.

Novichonok discovered the comet on six images taken in September using a 0.4-m Jigit telescope. more

FEMA Scuttles Volunteer Firefighters combatting Texas Wildfires?

Geithner heads to Europe as debt fears mount

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner makes a one-day trip to Poland this week for an unprecedented meeting with euro zone finance ministers as growing fears of a potential Greek debt default rip into Europe's banking sector.

The trip comes as a surprise since Geithner returned only on Saturday from a meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers in Marseilles, France, where he said Europe's strongest economies must offer "unequivocal" backing to the weakest.

Geithner is expected to attend the euro zone meeting on Friday and then return to Washington. The Treasury said on Monday only that he will discuss efforts to boost global recovery and cooperate on financial regulation, but U.S. attention is focussed on risks posed by potential European debt contagion.

The danger that a Greek debt default could roil bigger European economies was underlined on Monday as heavily exposed French banks' shares plunged and investor confidence in the euro zone's ability to surmount a sovereign debt crisis ebbed. more

Biggest EU states reject proposed budget hike as Union starts to disintegrate

The countries that bankroll the European Union rejected a proposed 5 percent rise in the bloc's 2014-2020 budget on Monday, saying it failed to reflect the austerity cuts being made by national governments.

A declaration by the group of eight countries -- which included top European paymasters Germany, France, Britain and Italy -- described the budget increase requested by the European Commission as excessive.

"The Commission proposal is too high," the declaration said.

"Member states are making considerable efforts to support Europe, and at the same time are undertaking tough consolidation efforts. European public spending cannot be exempt from these considerable national efforts," it said.

In June, the Commission proposed introducing a 1 percent EU sales tax and a levy on financial transactions to help fund the budget increase, which would take EU spending over the seven-year period to almost 1 trillion euros (860.9 billion pounds).

Ministers from the eight countries -- which also included Sweden, Austria, Finland and the Netherlands -- met in Brussels on Monday to finalise the declaration and said they would meet again in the coming months to flesh out their proposals. more

Rome fireworks factory blast kills 6: Italy

An explosion at a fireworks factory south east of Rome has killed six people, the latest of several blasts at factories that provide entertainment for Italy's religious and cultural festivals.

An explosion at a fireworks factory south east of Rome has killed six people, the latest of several blasts at factories that provide entertainment for Italy's religious and cultural festivals.

Witnesses told RAI state television they heard at least three thundering blasts, followed by flames that torched trees and shrubs around the rural area in Arpino, in the region of Latium, about 115 kilometres south east of Rome.

Hours after helicopters dropped water to douse the blaze, smoke smouldered through the hilly region as firefighters combed through the wreckage to determine if there were any other victims.

Frosinone province police spokeswoman Stefania Marazzo said six people had been killed in the blast, the cause of which was under investigation. more

'Burned like firewood': 120 dead in Kenya

At least 120 people were burned to death when a pipeline burst into flames in a Nairobi slum as local people were siphoning fuel from it, and more than 100 hospitalised, officials said.

Scores of bodies, some burned to the bone, lay on charred grass near trenches and a filthy river in the Sinai slum following the accident.

No official explanation had been given as to what caused the accident along the pipeline that runs through Sinai's tin shacks.

However, some residents said fuel siphoning in the slum was a common practice.

"It happens whenever the Kenya Pipeline (company) is pumping fuel ... we usually go to get fuel from there," said Francis Munge.

"There are people who know how to open it (a valve) and I don't know what happened this time for it to burst. Maybe there was a lot of pressure." more

Israel watches its old alliances crumble

The overthrow of President Mubarak in Egypt, the estrangement of Turkey and a UN vote on Palestinian statehood combine to make an intractable set of problems.

Secluded in an emergency operations bunker, long after darkness had fallen to mark the start of the Sabbath last Friday, Israel’s most powerful men had become convinced that history was about to repeat itself.

Hundreds of miles away, six intelligence officers, detailed to protect Israel’s embassy in Cairo, had barricaded themselves in the building’s strongroom. A mob of hammer-wielding Egyptians were closing in. The rioters had already broken down two of the strongroom’s doors and were now hammering on the third. Three of the Israelis drew their guns, preparing for a last stand.

Speaking to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister who had been patched through on a secure line, the most senior of the men, identified only as Jonathan, asked his commander-in-chief to deliver news of his capture or death to his wife in person, rather than by telephone.

For all involved, as Israeli officials later recounted, the drama threatened to become a reprise of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, when 52 US diplomats were held captive for 444 days after an Islamist mob had stormed the American mission in Tehran.

This time, the most feared outcome was averted – thanks to the intervention of the White House. Facing American threats of dire retribution if any of the Israelis was harmed, Egypt’s military rulers dispatched a team of commandos to rescue the trapped men, a mission completed in the nick of time. more

Sperm cells created from female embryo: Hmm, is that a good idea?

Sperm cells have been created from a female human embryo in a remarkable breakthrough that suggests it may be possible for lesbian couples to have their own biological children.

British scientists who had already coaxed male bone marrow cells to develop into primitive sperm cells have now repeated the feat with female embryonic stem cells.

The University of Newcastle team that has achieved the feat is now applying for permission to turn the bone marrow of a woman into sperm which, if successful, would make the method more practical than with embryonic cells.

It raises the possibility of lesbian couples one day having children who share both their genes as sperm created from the bone marrow of one woman could be used to fertilise an egg from her partner.

Men and women differ because of what are called sex chromosomes. Both have an X chromosome. But only men possess a Y chromosome that carries several genes thought to be essential to make sperm, so there has been scepticism that female stem cells could ever be used to make sperm.

In April last year, Prof Karim Nayernia, Professor of Stem Cell Biology at Newcastle University, made headlines by taking stem cells from adult men and making them develop into primitive sperm.

He has now managed to repeat the feat of creating the primitive sperm cells with female embryonic stem cells in unpublished work. more

Rich tax dodgers are paying back six times more than two years ago

Rich tax dodgers are paying back six times as much money as they were two years ago, thanks to a crackdown by the Revenue’s elite High Net Worth team.

A Parliamentary Question by Jonathan Reynolds revealed that the team recovered £162m from the ultra wealthy people that it deals with. Two years ago, these same individuals were handing over just £25m in tax.

“The great majority of our very wealthy individuals aim to be, and are, tax compliant,” said a spokesman for HM Revenue & Customs. “We won’t hesitate to take action against the small minority who bend or break the rules, to recover additional tax that should be due.”

HNWU deals with personal tax affairs of about 5000 of the UK’s wealthiest individual customers; typically, those individuals with £20m or more in assets. The amount it is clawing back may be the tip of the iceberg, with an estimated £45 billion a year lost to unpaid tax.

HMRC has been closing down tax avoidance schemes used by the wealthy.Its investigations have included wealthy individuals with Swiss bank accounts. The Government announced last year that it was acquiring the Swiss bank account details of up to 6,600 wealthy Britons suspected of evading tax.

Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke said that HMRC was working hard to ensure that High Net Worth Individuals understood the complexities of their tax situation.

“It is absolutely essential and only fair that everyone pays their share of tax. The tax affairs of the very rich are inevitably complicated but by working closely and co-operatively with accountants and tax agents HMRC’s High Net Worth team is ensuring that technical complexity does not stand in the way of accuracy so that the very rich pay the tax the law says they should.” more

Fears rise as Egypt cracks down on press

The authorities in Egypt have widened emergency laws and clamped down on the press, raising fears of a curtailment of the liberties gained after the popular uprising which toppled Hosni Mubarak, the former president, earlier this year.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, in power during a promised transition to elected rule, said on Sunday night that it was widening emergency legislation to cover a range of “threats to public order” including “attacks on the freedom to work” – code for strikes – and the deliberate dissemination of rumours and false information.

“The most dangerous thing is that they have amended the emergency law to cover what they consider crimes committed by journalists,” said Gamal Fahmy, a board member of the journalists union. “The text is vague and can stretch to cover all sorts of criticism of the authorities.”

The reactivation of the emergency law came hours after a police raid on the offices of an Egypt-focused television channel launched after the revolution by Qatar-based Al Jazeera television. The channel was taken off the air and the authorities said it was operating without a licence. more

US FCC's controversial Internet rules clear a review hurdle

Controversial new Internet rules adopted late last year by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission will soon be published officially, a step expected to trigger legal challenges.

The White House's Office of Management and Budget signed off on the rules on Friday, according to a notice on the OMB's website, clearing way for publication in the Federal Register, a process which generally takes one to three weeks.

The rules, which try to balance fair treatment of competing content with the need for internet providers to manage their networks, will go into effect 60 days after publication.

Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) and MetroPCS Communications Inc (PCS.N) had accused the FCC of overstepping its authority in a challenge shortly after the FCC's 3-2 vote.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in April said the challenges were premature, coming prior to publication in the Federal Register.

The same court ruled last year that the FCC lacked the authority to stop Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) from blocking bandwidth-hogging applications on its broadband network. A decision leading to the FCC's latest rules.

Criticized by opponents as a legally shaky government intrusion into regulating the Internet, the new rules would prevent network operators from blocking lawful content but still let them ration access to their networks. more

TSA officers arrested on drug charges in Connecticut

Federal prosecutors in Connecticut say a state trooper, a police officer and three Transportation Security Administration officers based at airports have been arrested on charges of participating in a conspiracy to distribute tens of thousands of highly addictive painkiller pills.

Authorities say the TSA officers, based at airports in Florida and New York, a Westchester County, N.Y., police officer and a Florida state trooper received cash payments to help transport oxycodone pills from Florida to New York and Connecticut and/or transport cash proceeds from the sale of the drugs back to Florida.

Authorities plan to announce details of the arrests at a news conference in Stamford on Tuesday afternoon. more

China Woos Caribbean With Offer of $1 Billion in Loans

China announced on Monday it will provide $1 billion in loans to Caribbean countries to finance infrastructure projects as it deepens ties in a region historically linked with the United States.

The loans will be made available through the state-run China Development Bank, China's Vice Premier Wang Qishan told a meeting of Caribbean and Chinese officials in Port of Spain, capital of oil and gas producer Trinidad and Tobago.

"China cannot develop itself in isolation of the world and the world needs China for its development," he said.

The financial help comes as many Caribbean countries struggle with stagnant economies hit by anemic growth in the United States and Europe, the traditional sources of investment and visitors for many of the region's tourism-dependent states.

China's wooing of the Caribbean is part of a global push by Beijing promoting loans and investment while seeking natural resources and political influence in the developing world from Africa to Latin America.

Wang said trade between China and the Caribbean had grown annually by 24 percent and reached $7.2 billion in 2010. more

Labor Dept. Data: Only 1.75 Full-Time Private Sector Workers Per Social Security Recipient

There were only 1.75 full-time private-sector workers in the United States last year for each person receiving benefits from Social Security, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Social Security board of trustees.

That means that for each husband and wife who worked full-time in the private sector last year there was a Social Security recipient somewhere in the country taking benefits from the federal government.

Most state and local workers are part of the Social Security system and pay Social Security taxes; and, since 1984, all federal workers have been part of the system and pay Social Security taxes. However, unlike private sector workers who pay Social Security taxes with private-sector dollars, government workers pay their payroll taxes out of wages government pays them with tax dollars or with money that was borrowed by government and taxpayers must eventually repay.

In its latest annual report, the Social Security board of trustees reported that the federal government’s total revenue from Social Security taxes in 2010—$544.8 billion—was not enough to cover Social Security’s total benefit payments—$577.4 billion. more

S&P Could Fall 20%, 2-Year Treasury Hit 0%: Analyst

Rising risk aversion, a surging U.S. dollar, historical seasonal weakness and a climb in bonds could send the S&P 500 down as much as 21 percent from Friday’s close, according to Mary Ann Bartels, Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s technical research analyst.

The 2-year Treasury yield could drop to zero, Bartels added.

“There is still a chance that 1100-1020 holds, but the risk is now higher, or a 50 percent probability, that the S&P [.SPX 1168.92 6.65 (+0.57%) ] tests 985 – 910,” wrote Bartels, who is often chosen among the top chart analysts in an annual survey by "Institutional Investor" magazine. “September historically is the worst performing month in the year, while October traditionally marks important market bottoms.”

The S&P 500 is already down 15 percent from its bull market high hit at the start of May. Bartels believes that the benchmark will retest the 1100-1020 area and if it fails there, then look out below. She gets her target in the 900s using a combination of commonly-used factors, most notably a 61.8 percent Fibonacci retracement of the March 2009 to May 2011 rally. more

Woman Sexually Assaulted in SJ Cemetery While Visiting Departed

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Libya could fall into hands of extremists, Nato warns

The warning came in an exclusive interview with The Daily Telegraph as Muammar Gaddafi's loyalist forces stepped up a fightback on three fronts.

Libya is in danger of falling into the hands of Islamic extremists if a stable government is not rapidly established, Nato’s secretary-general warned last night.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Islamic extremists would “try to exploit” any weaknesses created as the country tried to rebuild after four decades of Col Muammar Gaddafi’s rule.

Mr Rasmussen was speaking amid growing evidence of splits in the rebel leadership in Tripoli. His words will cast a damper over the euphoria sweeping Tripoli in the wake of the revolution.

His warning came as the head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, told cheering crowds in Tripoli that Islamic shariah law would be the “main source” of legislation in the new Libya.

Mr Jalil, who only arrived in his new capital on Saturday, made his first public speech in Martyrs’ Square - once Col Gaddafi’s “Green Square” - last night.

“We are a Muslim people, for a moderate Islam, and we will stay on this road,” he said. His formulation suggested that Libya would follow neighbours such as Egypt in allowing room for secular freedoms.

But there are already signs that the rebel leadership is split over a variety of issues including the future role of the Islamist militias which played a significant part in the revolution. more

Video Shows NYPD Cops Dirty Dancing at West Indian Day Parade

Video Shows NYPD Cops Dirty Dancing at West Indian Day Parade:

An online video shows some men who appear to be uniformed NYPD officers enjoying the festivities at the West Indian Day Parade. But some are criticizing what the men were doing, especially since some shootings took place during the parade.

The annual West Indian Day parade in Brooklyn, which took place September 5, 2011, is always colorful. It celebrates the culture of the Caribbean islands.

A video has surfaced on a website called that shows what appear to be cops in uniform dirty dancing with scantily clad women who were part of the parade.

Someone at the parade took plenty of video of the officers having a good time. While these officers were having fun gunfire broke out along other portions of the parade route. At least two shootings took place along the route during the parade.

Fox 5 contacted the NYPD about the video. The department said it is investigating the situation. more

Man fearing dream is reality causes bomb scare on Metra: Is society now gripped by fear?

A note passed to a Metra train conductor Monday night that described a train exploding was taken as a bomb threat and the passenger who passed it was detained and questioned by police.

The investigation revealed, however, showed it was not a threat but a description of a dream the man — who is deaf — had and passed on to the conductor because he was concerned it might come true.

A Metra conductor flagged down a Riverside police officer at 8:12 p.m. Monday to report a passenger had passed him a handwritten note stating there might be a bomb on the train, a release from Riverside police said.

The train was stopped at the crossing at Burlington and Longcommon Road, and officers initiated emergency protocol for response to railroad incidents involving potential explosives.

But the investigation determined the passenger was deaf and was trying to tell the conductor that he had fallen asleep and had a dream the train was exploding. When he awoke, he was worried and tried communicate that information to the conductor, police said.

The train left the area, but Burlington Northern Santa Fe Police detained the man for further questioning. The train was swept by bomb-sniffing dogs once it arrived at its final destination in Aurora. The sweep came up negative. more

Number of US poor hit record 46 million in 2010

The number of Americans living below the poverty line rose to a record 46.2 million last year as the U.S. economy struggled to recover from recession, the federal government said on Tuesday.

In a report that underscores the daunting economic challenges facing President Barack Obama and Congress, the U.S. Census Bureau said the national poverty rate climbed for a third consecutive year. It rose 0.8 percent to 15.1 percent from 2009, when there were 43.6 million Americans living in poverty.

The report said the number of poor Americans in 2010 was the largest in the 52 years that it has been publishing poverty estimates while the poverty rate was the highest since 1993.

Median U.S. household income also fell 2.3 percent to an annual $49,445 while the number of Americans without health insurance hovered near the 50 million mark.

The economic deterioration depicted by the figures is likely to have continued into 2011 as economic growth diminished, unemployment remained stuck above 9 percent and fears grew of a possible double-dip recession. more

Afghan gunfight: Explosions and firing rock Kabul

Afghan and international security forces are battling an ongoing multi-pronged attack by insurgents targeting the US embassy, Nato headquarters and police buildings in Kabul.

Police are still exchanging fire with two gunmen holed up in an unfinished high-rise building overlooking the diplomatic quarter.

Six people have been killed and 16 injured, Kabul's police chief said.

The Taliban said they were behind the violence.

Police killed four insurgents, police chief General Ayub told the BBC.

"This attack is the work of the Haqqani network," he said. The Haqqani network is closely allied to the Taliban, but operates independently.

Correspondents say the attack bore all the hallmarks of the Haqqani network.

Gen Ayub said the insurgents wanted to carry out attacks in Kabul to coincide with the 10th anniversary of 9/11. more

Minnesota fires spread "creepy haze" over Chicago land -- Why so many fires across the nation?

Warning went out as follows:

205 PM CDT TUE SEP 13 2011




Thanks to Jay for sending in this alert as well as the photo.

Hurricane Katia whips up the surf as Britain is battered for a second day by high winds - 13th Sept 2011

At first glance it looks like a scene from a winter postcard but this is in fact the surf whipped up by Hurricane Katia.

These cars were photographed driving along North Promenade at Cleveleys near Blackpool, Lancashire, where high winds have caused the surf from the sea to almost close the promenade because of the danger it poses to motorists.

The tail end of the hurricane battered Britain yesterday, bringing winds of up to 80mph and leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.

A motorist died and an 11-year-old boy was taken to hospital after the remnants of the worst storm in 15 years hit the UK's shores.

But although further blustery conditions were expected, today's winds were not as strong as they were yesterday, forecasters said.

Thousands were left without power last night as gusty weather caused damage to buildings and resulted in travel disruption around the UK.

In County Durham, a driver died when a tree hit a car on the A688 at Dunhouse Quarry, between Staindrop and Barnard Castle.

Durham Police said a passenger in the car was taken to hospital in Darlington with injuries which are not thought to be life threatening following the incident at about 3pm. Read More

'He's very loving and caring': Mother defends teenage thug son who hurled brick into four-year-old girl's face - 13th Sept 2011

The mother of a teenage thug who threw a brick into an innocent four-year-old girl's in the face has defended her callous son, and insisted: 'My son is not an animal.'

Kallan Richardson, 18, was locked up for a year yesterday after leaving little Jersey-Lou Perry unconscious with a broken nose and two smashed teeth.

The thug had hurled a brick through the window of a van - striking the little girl square in the face.

But following his sentencing hearing at Grimsby Youth Court, Richardson's mum Louise, 33, said her son was not the thug he had been portrayed to be.

She added: 'It was an act of criminal damage gone wrong.

'He's a very good lad - he's very loving and caring. It has been very stressful.

'I understand it has been very stressful for the other family but it has been very stressful for us as well.
'I have not brought an animal up. Only an animal would do that to a child. Nobody is going to throw a brick at a child for nothing.' Read More

Note: Shouldn't be throwing anything at a child full stop.

5.0 Magnitude Earthquake CRETE, GREECE - 13th September 2011

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck Crete, Greece at a depth of 24.2 km (15 miles), the quake hit at 16:19:29 UTC Tuesday 13th September 2011.
The epicenter was 125 km (77 miles) SSW of Chania, Crete, Greece
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Pakistan floods 2011: Torrential rain and floods paralyse Karachi - 13th Sept 2011

Pakistan's commercial capital, Karachi, has been paralysed by floods as torrential rain continues to lash southern Sindh province.

Schools have shut down, many markets were forced to close and commuters had to abandon their vehicles as rain water flooded the streets.

Villages across the province have been inundated as canals have been breached and water has not adequately drained.

Many in the region are still recovering from last year's devastating floods.

Millions were displaced across the country and about 2,000 people died as torrential monsoon rains in 2010 caused rivers to burst their banks, washing away homes and property. Sindh was one of the worst affected regions.

Some aid officials have said this year's flood situation is as bad as the devastation last year.

Then, a vast body of water flowed down the country, bursting the banks of the River Indus and hitting surrounding areas. This year's floods are caused by rainfall - two weeks of it so far - so the impact is far more widespread.

Pakistan's disaster management chief warned on Monday that the situation is worsening each day as water levels are rising because of poor drainage. Read More

22 percent of American children lived in poverty last year

More than a fifth of Americans under the age of 18 lived in poverty last year, new U.S. Census figures show.

The poverty rate for children rose from 20.7 percent in 2009 to 22 percent last year, making kids more likely than any other age group to be poor. For children under the age of 6, the picture is even bleaker--25.3 percent of them lived in poverty last year. Overall, 15 percent of Americans were poor last year, the highest rate since 1993. source

New Japan PM Noda in nuclear restart call: Wise idea?

New Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has called for nuclear plants halted after the Fukushima crisis to be restarted.

But in his first policy speech since taking office, he told parliament that Japan should aim to reduce its reliance on nuclear power in the long term.

He said earthquake reconstruction and economic rebuilding would be his twin priorities.

And he warned of possible tax rises to tackle Japan's public debt problem.

Mr Noda, who is Japan's sixth prime minister in five years, took office less than two weeks ago after predecessor Naoto Kan stepped down.

Mr Kan had called for Japan to abandon nuclear power, but Mr Noda said that plants offline since the 11 March earthquake and tsunami should be restarted to meet power shortages.

"It is not productive to see things in simple black and white, and talk in either anti-nuclear or pro-nuclear terms," he said.

"We must move towards our mid- and long-term goals of lowering, as much as possible, our reliance on nuclear energy."

Local communities have opposed reactor restarts after routine maintenance, meaning two-thirds are offline. more

Turkish PM Erdogan pushes Palestinian statehood

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that recognition of a Palestinian state is an obligation not an option.

He told the Arab League that before the year's end "we will see Palestine in a very different situation".

Mr Erdogan made a new attack on Israel, saying its government's mentality was a barrier to peace in the Middle East.

The Palestinians are currently preparing a bid for United Nations membership despite Israeli and US opposition.

Mr Erdogan is in Egypt as part of a tour of three Arab states that recently ousted their leaders, in an attempt to improve Turkey's standing in the region.

Turkey's relations with Israel have worsened since Israeli forces boarded an aid ship in May last year as it was heading for Gaza.

Nine Turkish activists were killed during the raid. Israel has refused to apologise and said its troops acted in self-defence. more

Pakistan: Torrential rains and floods paralyse Karachi

Pakistan's commercial capital, Karachi, has been paralysed by floods as torrential rain continues to lash southern Sindh province.

Schools have shut down, many markets were forced to close and commuters had to abandon their vehicles as rain water flooded the streets.

Villages across the province have been inundated as canals have been breached and water has not adequately drained.

Many in the region are still recovering from last year's devastating floods.

Millions were displaced across the country and at least 1,600 people died as torrential monsoon rains in 2010 caused rivers to burst their banks, washing away homes and property. Sindh was one of the worst affected regions.

Some officials have said this year's floods could prove to be as serious. more

UK CPI inflation rate rises to 4.5% in August

The UK government's targeted rate of inflation rose in August, following higher prices for clothing and footwear, petrol and energy.

The rate of Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation rose to 4.5% from 4.4% in July, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure increased to 5.2% from 5%.

The Bank of England's target rate for CPI is 2%, and it expects inflation to return to target in the next two years.

The Bank argues that inflation is above target primarily because of the rise in VAT to 20% at the start of this year and past increases in global energy prices.

Separate figures from the ONS showed that the UK's trade deficit in goods and services was £4.45bn in August, unchanged from July.

The deficit on trade in goods was £8.92bn, while the surplus on services was £4.47bn. more

Pyongyang’s architectural treasures: One side of North Korea that goes underappreciated

It may not be high on many people’s list of architectural odysseys, but Pyongyang (translated as “Flat Land”), the capital of North Korea offers one of the world’s most monumental experiences – particularly if immense Socialist Realist monuments are your cup of tea.

There is no such thing as wandering on a whim in Pyongyang – all visitors are constantly accompanied by their government-appointed guides, and photography is heavily restricted. It is essential to accept that you will have no independence during your trip – and you will only hear a very one-sided view of history. Those who can accept these terms – and feel that the benefits of opening North Korea up to outside eyes outweigh the problems of travel dollars feeding the police state’s coffers – will have a fascinating trip into another rather unsettling world. This reclusive city of some three million people (a place with neither cell phones nor internet) has almost as many modernist concrete wonders.

There are plenty of sanctioned sights to see amid the Soviet-style tower blocks and wide empty boulevards that characterise this strange city suspended in its own bubble of Communist-era time. more

Italy pays higher interest rate to borrow money as financial crisis deepens

Italy's borrowing costs have hit a new high, reflecting a continuing lack of confidence in the nation's finances.

Italy raised 3.85bn euros (£3.3bn) in five-year bonds - but the interest rate rose to 5.6%, up from 4.93%.

Before the fund raising, reports said that the Italian finance ministry had met delegates from China's largest sovereign wealth fund, CIC.

This sparked speculation that CIC might invest some of its vast wealth in Italian assets and bonds.

The European Central Bank has been buying Italian bonds, but there was no immediate disclosure on Tuesday if it had intervened in this latest auction.

Peter Chatwell, a strategist at Credit Agricole, said: "Markets were positioned for a weak auction. The five-year yield of 5.6% is probably the most telling sign that issuance of new bonds into this environment is very difficult."

Italy has about 1.9 trillion euros of debt and must raise about 70bn euros by the end of the year. more

Skynet seeks to crowdsource the stars by using everyone's idle computer time (cue Terminator music)

Idle home computers are being sought to help search through mountains of astronomical data.

The Skynet project involves using the spare processing capacity of computers as a giant, distributed supercomputer.

PCs joining Skynet will scour the data for sources of radiation that reveal stars, galaxies and other cosmic structures.

People who process the most data could win a visit to one of the observatories gathering data for the project.

The Skynet project is being run by the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) and it is seeking the help of thousands of PCs to analyse data.

One of the sources of data will be the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) that will use thousands of dish antennas to create the most sensitive sky watching instrument ever made.

A decision about where to build the £1.5bn SKA will be made in February 2012 and it will be sited in either Australia or South Africa.

While it will have its own cadre of supercomputers to analyse data, the SKA is expected to produce so much information that a system to filter this down to the most interesting samples will be needed. Skynet will be part of that large-scale filtering system. more

Russian President Medvedev asked to fund Windows clone "ReactOS"

A free, open-source Windows "clone" - ReactOS - that has been in development for over a decade has caught the eye of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

A student at a Russian high school the president visited recently gave Mr Medvedev a brief overview of the project - and asked him for 1m euros.

The system's developers say it runs all Windows programs, but is much faster than its Microsoft equivalent.

If it gets a financial boost, it could be usable in the near future, they add.

Contrary to Linux and other non-Windows operating systems, ReactOS is a community-driven international initiative that is said to be fully compatible with all Windows-based applications, programs and services.

The venture's project coordinator, Moscow-based Aleksey Bragin, said that the system was almost ready to go from the experimental to the available-to-all stage. more

Hitler's Atlantic Wall: Should France preserve it?

Sections of Hitler's Atlantic Wall are being restored by French enthusiasts. But should the Nazi fortification be fully embraced as part of the country's heritage?

Along 800 miles (1,287km) of French coast lie some of the most substantial and evocative vestiges of war-time Europe.

The so-called Atlantic Wall - Hitler's defensive system against an expected Allied attack - stretched all the way from the Spanish border to Scandinavia.

Inevitably, it was in France that the most extensive building took place. Today there are still thousands of blockhouses, barracks and gun emplacements visible along the French shore.

But in France there has been no effort up until now to preserve this extraordinary historical landmark.

Elsewhere, World War II bunkers have been renovated as tourist attractions or for educational visits. The internet boasts Atlantic Wall fan sites in Germany and the Netherlands - and strong interest in the UK - but nothing in France.

It is as though the nation was relieved to see the German defences slide inexorably into the sands - and oblivion. more

taly confirms China wealth fund talks

Italy confirmed reports Tuesday that the treasury minister has met with China's sovereign wealth fund amid speculation that Rome is looking to persuade Beijing to buy its bonds or invest in its companies.

The news sent the Milan stock market higher on the open, following market tensions across Europe on Monday. But the rebound was short-lived, and by mid-morning, stocks across Europe, including Milan, were down. Bond prices likewise received little support from the news.

A spokesman for Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti confirmed the meeting with the chairman of China Investment Corp., Lou Jiwei, but declined further comment.

The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times said the meeting took place last week in Rome, without citing sources. Reports said the meeting also included officials of China's foreign currency regulator and the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, an Italian government investment vehicle. more

estosterone drops in fatherhood (and in all oppressed men in modern society, seemingly)

A man's testosterone levels fall when his child is born, researchers have found.

n this week's online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Lee Gettler, a doctoral candidate in anthropology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and his co-authors followed 624 young men in the Philippines to see whether their testosterone levels changed after becoming fathers.

"The men who started with high testosterone were more likely to become fathers, but once they did, their testosterone went down substantially," Gettler said in a release.

"Our findings suggest that this is especially true for fathers who become the most involved with child care."

Men who spent more than three hours a day changing diapers, giving baths and reading bedtime stories showed the lowest testosterone.

"Our findings suggest that testosterone mediates tradeoffs between mating and parenting in humans, as seen in other species in which fathers care for young," the study's authors concluded. more

Missing patients, illicit drugs at General Vancouver Hospital

Patients' families, staff and police are sounding the alarm about a lack of security in a psychiatric facility at Vancouver General Hospital.

“My daughter escaped many, many times,” said Susan Ackerman, whose mentally ill daughter has been committed to the hospital several times. “It’s a very unsafe facility for her.”

Carmen Daly said her mentally ill son also walked out numerous times. She said he would show up at home in the middle of the night in a hospital gown with his bare feet bleeding.

“He is one of the ones that run away all the time,” said Daly. “He is scared. My son is scared of everything. They just gave him pills and treated him like a dog.”

The psychiatric units are in a building that is 70 years old and not designed for treating patients with mental illnesses. They have to share a room with three others and they have no privacy. The facility has poor ventilation and no secure outdoor space.

"This building is falling apart," said Lorna Howes, director of mental health services for the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. “The building envelope has failed." more

Bystanders pull motorcycle driver Brandon Wright trapped under burning car

Police in Utah are searching for a group of construction workers, students and bystanders.

But for a good reason.

This group is credited with saving a man's life by working together to lift a burning car and pull a man to safety.

It was a "life-saving move that the Logan Police Department does not want to go unnoticed," said Jeff Curtis, assistant chief of the police department in Logan, Utah.

The incident occurred Monday morning on a street near Utah State University and was captured on video. more

Taliban launch intense attack in heart of Kabul

Afghan and coalition forces battled Taliban militants who launched three brazen assaults Tuesday across the city, including a dramatic attack on the U.S. Embassy and NATO's command in central Kabul.

Three police officers have died and others have been injured in the violence, police said. The Afghan Public Health ministry said one civilian was killed and at least 18 were wounded but none seriously.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told CNN that his group targeted "the U.S. Embassy, governmental organizations and other foreign organizations."

The strike occurred amid intelligence that insurgents might launch a high-profile attack in the capital around the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States, a coalition officer and a senior ISAF official confirmed to CNN.

Militants opened fire near the U.S. Embassy and NATO's International Security Assistance Force headquarters after they stormed a building under construction, U.S., NATO and Afghan officials said. more

Report: Both sides have committed war crimes in Libya

The regime of ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi and the rebel government -- the National Transitional Council -- have both committed war crimes during the conflict in Libya and someone needs to take control to stop abuses from continuing, Amnesty International said in a report released Tuesday.

The 112-page report detailed many examples of abuses by the Gadhafi loyalists, which included "mass killing of prisoners, torture, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary arrests."

But the report also spotlighted what Amnesty called a problem with the National Transition Council in controlling divergent groups of anti-Gadhafi fighters.

The report said rebel fighters have conducted revenge attacks on prisoners and, at one point, conducted house-to-house raids killing people they thought were Gadhafi mercenaries.

"The NTC is facing a difficult task of reining in opposition fighters and vigilante groups responsible for serious human rights abuses, including possible war crimes; but has shown unwillingness to hold them accountable," the report says. "So far, NTC officials have not provided details of any measures taken to address such concerns." more

Turkish prime minister arrives for visit to Egypt amid crisis

Turkey's prime minister arrived in Egypt Monday for an official visit, as twin diplomatic crises are shaking the foundations of several critical Middle Eastern alliances.

An all-male, cheering crowd of more than a thousand gathered at the Cairo airport to greet Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his first visit to Egypt since the revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Posters -- many with Erdogan's face on them -- proclaimed sentiments such as, "Welcome Erdogan the hero in his second country Egypt."

As those in the crowd awaited Erdogan, one chant was "Egypt and Turkey are one hand."

A statement from the office of Egyptian Prime Minister Esam Sharaf said Sharaf received his Turkish counterpart at the airport with a delegation of six ministers and 200 businessmen.

Erdogan and Sharaf stepped before the crowd together, clasping hands and flanked by Ergogan's foreign minister and a contingent of bodyguards in suits and ties.

Erdogan made a brief attempt to address the crowd through a speaker system but the speakers were not loud enough and his words were largely drowned out by chanting. He was heard saying in Arabic, "Peace be unto you, youth of Egypt." more

Heavy rains, flooding leave 226 dead in Pakistan

Heavy rains and flooding in Pakistan's southeastern Sindh province has killed some 226 people over the past month, the National Disaster Management Authority said Tuesday.

The dead include 34 children and 59 women, said an agency summary. In all, 5.3 million people have been affected by the flooding, and 1.19 million homes have been damaged, the authority said. The flooding has inundated more than 4.5 million acres and damaged an estimated 80% of crops.

And the heavy rains are not over. "Meteorological conditions indicate that a strong weather system is developing over central parts of India that would cause widespread heavy rains in Pakistan during the coming week," said a weather advisory posted on the disaster agency's web site. "Heavy to very heavy rainfall may generate severe flooding in lower Sindh," as well as flash flooding in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkwa and Balochistan provinces, the advisory said. more

Drought lingers in southern China, impacts 44 million people

A historic drought in southern China has caused billions of dollars in losses to agriculture and left millions of people and animals short of drinking water, government officials said Tuesday.

And with no significant rain forecast for the next 10 days, there's no relief in sight, according to the National Meteorological Center.

The impact of the drought, which began in June, is being felt across four provinces, affecting more than 44 million people, Ministry of Civil Affairs said. The direct economic loss is estimated at RMB 28.6 billion, or US $4.5 billion.

In Guizhou province, it's the worst drought in 60 years, affecting 21.5 million people, the ministry said. More than 7 million people and 3 million cattle are short of drinking water.

The drought has damaged 1.8 million hectares (4.4 million acres) of farmland, according to the ministry. more

4 dead, 16 wounded in Pakistan school bus attack

A school bus loaded with children came under rocket and small arms fire near Peshawar Tuesday, killing the driver and three children and injuring 16 others, police said.

The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan group claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the group's regional spokesman, Mohammad Talha, who said it was in response to growing support for local resistance groups against the Taliban in the region.

Attackers fired a rocket at the bus and then opened fire. Three of the wounded children have serious injuries, according to Rahim Jan Afridi, chief executive at Lady Reading Hospital.

The attack lasted about three minutes, said Naeem Khan, a teacher accompanying the students.

Similar attacks have occurred recently in the area, as locals have put up resistance to the Taliban, said Sajjad Khan, a local police official.

Talha said attacks on civilian targets would continue until residents end their resistance to the Taliban. more

At least 7 killed in Argentina bus-train wreck

At least seven people died when two trains and a bus collided in Buenos Aires Tuesday, police said.

At least 162 people were injured in the accident, said Dr. Alberto Crescenti, head of the Medical Attention Emergency System.

It took hours to free the remaining victims from the wreck, authorities said.

The first train rammed into a bus at a street-level train crossing, causing the train to derail, where it was struck by a second train on the opposite track, police said.

"There are seven confirmed deaths. There are people in hospital now in very grave state, including children. They have severe injuries," said Fernando Sostre, spokesman for the Argentine Federal Police.

The crash happened at 6:15 a.m. (5:15 a.m. ET) in the Flores district of Buenos Aires.

Images broadcast on Argentine television showed dozens of police, fire and rescue workers combing through twisted metal and wreckage. Ambulances were seen transporting the injured to local hospitals. more

Possible North Korean defectors sail to Japan

Japanese Coast Guards found a small wooden boat Tuesday morning drifting off Japan's western coast with nine men, women and children on board claiming they are from North Korea, a Coast Guard spokesman said.

The people on the eight-meter boat were being questioned, the spokesman said.

A fisherman saw the boat drifting about 25 km (15 miles) off the coast of Noto peninsula of Ishikawa prefecture, West Japan, and reported it to authorities.

The coast guard would not say where the possible North Korea defectors would be taken.

It is rare for North Korean defectors to sail to Japan's coast. According to Coast Guard records there have been only two other cases.

One was in 2006, when four North Korean men and women floated to northern Japan. The other was in 1987, when a family of 11 drifted to west Japan. more

Cars don't waste fuel: Drivers waste fuel

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside's Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CERT) are developing a new way of boosting fuel efficiency by as much as 30% without changing a car's powertrain at all.

Their secret? Finding ways to change our behavior so we're more attuned to maximizing their mileage while behind the wheel.

Sure, it may sound easier than reducing vehicle weight or adding batteries or developing some new engine technology, but it's a daunting task. It's relatively easy for engineers to tinker with a car, but even Sammy Hagar knows that people tend to resist efforts to change their behavior.

With a $1.2 million grant from the Department of Energy, the research team is in the very first stage of developing their study.

Researcher Kanok Boriboonsomsin said he's studying ways cars with network connectivity might offer a fuel-saving route on a GPS system, and how infotainment systems can provide real-time feedback on fuel economy without distracting or annoying drivers.

"When you get in the car, you have the vehicle recommend the route you could take based on traffic conditions on the route, and on the way if there's anything wrong with your driving it may provide some feedback to you to adjust your driving behavior," Boriboonsomsin said.

That's key, because, as any hypermiler will tell you, the best way to increase fuel efficiency is to adjust the nut holding the steering wheel. Snarky, yes, but CERT's research could help automakers help us improve our fuel economy without spending a dime on powertrain engineering. more

Beset by haze from hundreds of fires, Indonesia tries to trigger rain

Indonesia have begun cloud-seeding operations over the island of Sumatra in an attempt to trigger rain to put out fires creating thick blankets of haze over parts of Sumatra and neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said that three Spanish-built CASA 212-200 aircraft were deployed on Friday to Sumatra. The rain-inducing operations will continue in three specific areas for the next 90 days, Sutopo told CNN.

According to the agency, the number of hot spots in South Sumatra in September has reached 1,241. Hundreds more have been detected on the island of Kalimantan, which is Indonesia's side of Borneo island.

South Sumatra has the highest number of hot spots, or areas of high temperatures that could indicate peat or forest fires. Sutopo says ground operations to extinguish the fires are also ongoing. These include spraying, controlled burning, building trenches to limit the spread of the fire and sluices around the burning peat. more

7 killed in clashes between Turkish troops, Kurdish rebels

Seven people were killed in a series of clashes between police and suspected Kurdish militants in southeastern Turkey that sent guests at a wedding party scrambling for cover, an official said Monday.

The fighting started Sunday night when suspected militants attacked four locations in the town of Semdinli, an official from the governor's office in Hakkari province told CNN.

The attacks targeted the local police and military headquarters, a mountain commando unit and residences of military personnel, said the official, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak with the media.

A wedding celebration nearby was caught in the crossfire. As heavy gunfire and explosions rang out, guests cried and screamed, a video from Dogan News Agency shows. Women and children in colorful dresses ran away from the dance floor, scrambling to take cover. The bride and groom also fled.

Some wedding guests were wounded, the official from the governor's office said. more

Radioactive spill cleared on I-20, Riverside Parkway, Georgia - 13th Sept 2011

A tractor trailer carrying liquid low grade radioactive medical waste swerved to avoid hitting a car and struck the guardrail near Riverside Parkway and overturned just before midnight Monday.

Several eastbound lanes were blocked as Cobb County hazmat and Georgia Environmental Protection Division crews worked to clear the spill.

By 5:30 a.m. all lanes had been cleared. Crews planned to return to the scene later Tuesday morning to remove debris from the shoulder.

Denell Boyd with the Cobb County Fire Department said seven of the truck's eight containers containing the medical waste were breached in the wreck, but the liquids vaporized when the containers broke open, and there was no danger to the public.

No one was injured in the accident. Source

Flagstaff, Arizona rocked by hail storm - 13th Sept 2011

Flagstaff residents awoke to the sound of pounding hail Monday morning.

Hail damaged vehicles at a local car dealership, broke garden lights and tore off leaves and needles from trees.

Residents reported quarter-sized and ping pong ball-sized hail falling to a depth of 1 to 2 inches in some parts of the city.

"The hail broke my solar lights and shredded most of my flowers that were enjoying the final days of summer," said Jamilee Scheiwe of University Heights. "In my back yard, at the peak of the storm, hail was actually floating due to the amount of flooding my property was experiencing."

Flagstaff resident Jessica Bartlett logged hail near her home off Lake Mary Road at the size of a quarter. She took a photograph to confirm the size, setting up the hail stone next to a quarter.

"Well, the hail on the roof is what woke our family up, and I instantly picked up a piece to check it out," Bartlett stated. "My 5-year-old son couldn't believe that it was as big as a quarter."

Damage to cars was mainly cosmetic. Read More

Smoke forces closure of Indonesian airport - 13th Sept 2011

Officials say smoke from fires set by slash-and-burn farmers has forced the closure of at least one airport in western Indonesia. Parts of neighboring Singapore and Malaysia have also been blanketed in a heavy white haze from the fires.

Airport official Abiyoso said Tuesday that the smoke was so thick that authorities had no choice but to shut down Sultan Taha airport on Sumatra island.

The dry-season haze is caused by fires set to clear land for agricultural and other development projects across Indonesia. They have plagued Southeast Asia almost every year since the 1990s.

They have stoked regional tensions and put attention on the Indonesian government's inability to enforce its own laws. Source