Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Chat page added! (New posts below)

Hello everyone -- we've added a "chat page" that functions just like a regular post page with comments, only now it's a centralized place that we can all discuss various issues together. We thought that it's time to begin forming a true online community among ourselves; the more organized we are, the better we'll be at getting to the bottom of issues.

Please note that this chat page is primarily for you guys, our readers. We'll try to pop in once in a while, and wanted to create a space on the website where you could freely discuss issues, thoughts and more with one another.

It will stay up for the month, whereupon it will be archived and a new chat page will be created for the next month. This way, things will stay neat and organized.

You can access this page by clicking on the chat page banner on the left hand side. Looking forward to hearing all your thoughts! (The chat isn't on this post; you have to leave your comments on the actual chat post by clicking on the chat page banner)

Saving Europe Won't Cost the British tax payer anything except £40 Billion

David Cameron will today hold crisis talks with Cabinet eurosceptics as it emerged that Britain’s exposure to the International Monetary Fund could rise to £40billion.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith and Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson will tell the Prime Minister he needs to toughen his stance on Europe, setting out a clear timetable for clawing back powers handed to Brussels.

There is increasing concern that core EU nations are planning to use the debt crisis to join forces to ‘bulldoze’ over British interests, leaving the UK marooned in a permanent voting minority as they integrate further.

Alarm on the Conservative benches deepened last night as Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander, a keen Europhile, confirmed that Britain’s contributions to the IMF could rise to £40billion and said he would have no problem with more money being loaned to Greece. Read More

£500m bonuses for 'casino' bankers at RBS... despite collapse in profits... Well at least they are predictable

State-owned Royal Bank of Scotland is to lavish around £500million in bonuses on its 'casino' bankers - despite a collapse in profits.

Hundreds of traders and investment bankers who were bailed out by taxpayers at the height of the financial crisis are expected to walk off with pay and perks packages worth more than £1 million each.

The huge handouts will fuel fury at City greed at a time when politicians and religious leaders are speaking out about corporate excess.

RBS boss Stephen Hester revealed on Friday that the Euro bailout fund has hit revenues in the bank’s investment wing.

Profits plunged to £112million between July and September from £589million last year.

But the bank’s pay pool, from which salaries and bonuses are paid, is still enormous.

It fell from £621million to £527million in the third quarter. Yet for the first nine months of the year, the pot stood at £1.99billion – only marginally lower than the £2.14billion figure from 2010. Read More

Warning issued for Americans in Nigeria - 6th Nov 2011

Following an outbreak of violence that left more than 100 people dead, the U.S. Mission in Nigeria issued a warning to Americans on Sunday, saying more attacks may be imminent in the northeastern part of the nation.

"Following the recent Boko Haram, aka Nigerian Taliban, attacks in Borno and Yobe State, the U.S. Embassy has received information that Boko Haram may plan to attack several locations and hotels in Abuja, Nigeria, during the Sallah holiday," the mission said. Sallah is the Nigerian name for the Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday.

The Muslim militant group Boko Haram's stated goal is to establish a state based on Sharia, or Islamic law, in the predominantly Muslim states of northern Nigeria. Loosely translated, the group's name means "Western education is sinful."

According to the U.S. mission, other potential targets may include the Nicon Luxury, the Sheraton Hotel and the Transcorp Hilton Hotel. U.S. government personnel were instructed to avoid those locations, and any previously scheduled events were canceled.

"American citizens should expect additional police and military checkpoints, additional security and possible road blocks in Abuja for the foreseeable future," the mission statement said. Read More

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake BISMARCK SEA, PAPUA NEW GUINEA REGION - 7th Nov 2011

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck the Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea Region at a depth of 35 km ( 21.7 miles), the quake hit at 04:01:40 UTC Monday 7th November 2011.
The epicenter was 172 km ( 106 miles) Southwest of Kavieng, New Ireland, Papua New Guinea
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake BISMARCK SEA, PAPUA NEW GUINEA REGION - 7th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck the Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea Region at a depth of 35 km ( 21.7 miles), the quake hit at 02:28:08 UTC Monday 7th November 2011.
The epicenter was 140 km ( 86 miles) WSW of Kavieng, New Ireland, Papua New Guinea
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake KURIL ISLANDS - 7th Nov 2011

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck the Kuril Islands at a depth of 158.4 km ( 98.4 miles), the quake hit at 01:46:36 UTC Monday 7th November 2011.
The epicenter was 125 km ( 77 miles) Northeast of Kuril'sk, Kuril Islands
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Japan's emperor hospitalized with persistent fever, bronchitis

Japan's 77-year-old emperor was hospitalized on Sunday, several days after coming down with a fever, a spokesperson with the Imperial Household Agency said.

Emperor Akihito, a ceremonial but revered figure in the Japan, was suffering from a worsening case of bronchitis and the fever he contracted Thursday, according to the spokesperson, who declined to be identified due to the agency's media protocol.

"He appears to be fatigued and has lost some resistance to fight against sickness," the spokesperson said. "To be on the safe side, he was hospitalized (Sunday night) at University of Tokyo Hospital."

It is the emperor's second time in a hospital this year, after getting medical treatment in February for extensive tests of his coronary arteries.

Japan's Cabinet on Sunday approved a measure to temporarily elevate Crown Prince Naruhito to the role of emperor and give him power over all the responsibilities that position entails, according to a person at the Cabinet office, who also was not named per policy.

Born in Tokyo in December 1933 into a family that eventually consisted of seven children, Akihito became crown prince in 1952 -- the same year he enrolled at Gakushuin University, according to his official biography. Seven years later, he married then-crown princess, and now Empress Michiko, and together they raised three children. more

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake BISMARCK SEA, PAPUA NEW GUINEA REGION - 7th Nov 2011

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck the Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea Region at a depth of 35 km ( 21.7 miles), the quake hit at 01:43:38 UTC Monday 7th November 2011.
The epicenter was 172 km ( 106 miles) WSW of Kavieng, New Ireland, Papua New Guinea
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake BISMARCK SEA, PAPUA NEW GUINEA REGION - 7th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck the Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea Region at a depth of 35 km ( 21.7 miles), the quake hit at 00:43:31 UTC Monday 7th November 2011.
The epicenter was 140 km ( 86 miles) WSW of Kavieng, New Ireland, Papua New Guinea
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake EASTERN XIZANG (TIBET), CHINA - 6th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck Eastern Xizang (Tibet), China at a depth of 44.6 km ( 27.7 miles), the quake hit at 21:57:29 UTC Sunday 6th November 2011.
The epicenter was 112 km ( 69 miles) South of Qambo, Xizang (Tibet), China
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Occupy Canada braces for winter weather

Protesters camping out for the Canadian Occupy movement are bracing for the spectre of a teeth-chattering winter, as mayors and police in several cities ramp up the pressure to drive demonstrators out of public areas.

The mission to weather-proof flimsy tents in preparation for freezing temperatures has become a priority in some cities, with the Toronto camp dispatching a "Winterization" team to devise ways to combat the cold.

Vancouver's protest may not last into the colder months, now that the encampment's future is in doubt following the death of a 20-year-old woman Saturday.

Mayor Gregor Robertson said the loss of a life — reportedly due to a drug overdose — has proven that the encampment is no longer safe and must be dismantled "as soon as possible."

"When lives are lost, we clearly have to take steps," Robertson told reporters. more

Occupy Vancouver protesters will not 'go peacefully': Dead woman identified as Ashlie Gough, 23

Occupy Vancouver protesters say they will not be peacefully removed from the lawn of the city's art gallery following the death of a demonstrator.

An official cause of death of the woman in her 20s has not been released, but a worker with the tent city says it was a drug overdose, the second in three days, although the first was not fatal.

The woman was found unresponsive in her tent at around 5 p.m. PT on Saturday and taken to hospital, where she was later pronounced dead. There was nothing to indicate her death was suspicious, police said.

Protesters close to the woman said she was homeless and living in the encampment.

CBC News has learned the victim was 23-year-old Ashlie Gough, a Victoria resident who came to Vancouver for the protest. more

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake CRETE, GREECE - 6th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck Crete, Greece at a depth of 7 km ( 4.3 miles), the quake hit at 20:56:50 UTC Sunday 6th November 2011.
The epicenter was 54 km ( 33.4 miles) North of Analipsis, Crete, Greece
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake OFF EAST COAST OF KAMCHATKA, RUSSIA - 6th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck off the East Coast of Kamchatka, Russia at a depth of 40 km ( 24.8 miles), the quake hit at 19:28:17 UTC Sunday 6th November 2011.
The epicenter was 73 km ( 45.6 miles) Southeast of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, Russia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake FIJI REGION - 6th Nov 2011

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck the Fiji Region at a depth of 596.8 km ( 370.9 miles), the quake hit at 18:53:24 UTC Sunday 6th November 2011.
The epicenter was 358 km ( 222 miles) West of Nuku'Alofa, Tonga
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Israel’s Peres warns attack on Iran getting ‘closer’ - 6th Nov 2011

Israeli President Shimon Peres warned on Sunday that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely, days before a report by the UN’s nuclear watchdog on Iran’s nuclear programme.

“The possibility of a military attack against Iran is now closer to being applied than the application of a diplomatic option,” Peres told the Israel Hayom daily.

“We must stay calm and resist pressure so that we can consider every alternative,” he added.

“I don’t think that any decision has already been made, but there is an impression that Iran is getting closer to nuclear weapons.”

His comments came after he warned in an interview aired by Israel’s privately-owned Channel Two television on Saturday, that an attack on Iran was becoming “more and more likely.”

“The intelligence services of the different countries that are keeping an eye on (Iran) are worried and putting pressure on their leaders to warn that Iran is ready to obtain the nuclear weapon,” he said.

In recent days, speculation in Israel has grown about the possibility of an pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

On Wednesday, the Haaretz newspaper reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak were seeking cabinet support for an attack. Read More

Texas Gulf alert to stay away, 4.2 million poisoned dead fish, mild relief - 5th Nov 2011

Image: Cayotes dying from Gulf toxins.

Neurotoxic shellfish poisoning (NSP) threatening human health along Texas Gulf Coast prompted Texas Department of Health to issue a warning to stay away from the Gulf area from Brownsville through Galveston where 4.2 million have been killed in the ongoing great Gulf die-off and to not eat the shellfish from there, a situation slightly relieved after a cold front Thursday blew toxins south according to Texas Park and Wildlife.

"Staff of Padre Island National Seashore continue to find coyotes that are sick or dead, possibly from ingesting fish killed by the brevetoxin. Aerosols are light to nonexistent along South Padre Island despite moderate cell concentrations," Texas Park and Wildlife reported Thursday.

Texas Department of State Health Services has banned commercial and recreational harvesting of shellfish in the area of the 4.2 million fish die-off and warned the public to stay away from the Gulf area to avoid neurotoxin shellfish poisoning. Since then, updates are hard to find in other news sources. Read More

Is Pakistan's Nuclear Arsenal Safe? - 6th Nov 2011

China opens first 'space post office' - 5th Nov 2011

In this era of Facebook, email, Twitter and other social media, getting a postcard from someone's travels has a certain appeal.

China's mail service looks to be taking that tourist postcard to a whole new level.

To celebrate Thursday's docking of the Shenzhou-8 unmanned spacecraft with space lab module Tiangong-1, China's post authority has opened a new branch office outside the country and out of this world -- 343 kilometers above the Earth, to be exact.

Opening for business on the same day, the China Post Space Office has two venues -- one on-the-ground base inside the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center (BACCC) and one "virtual office" aboard the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft.

There is also a new designated post code -- 901001.

China Post Group’s general manager Li Guohua told China Daily the post office will be able to deliver mail from the public to astronauts in future.

The office will also issue postal souvenirs, such as stamps and envelopes that depict China's major space program events.

We weren't exactly sure what a virtual space post office was or how it all worked, so we made some calls. We left the 'why send mail to space when you can email or Skype chat' question for another day.

According to staff at the BACCC post office (which houses the worldly version of the space post office) the new branch handles normal postal as well as courier services. Read More

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Occupy Wall Street Deserves Our Respect -- A guest article by Ralph Gomory

I must admit that there is something about Occupy Wall Street that makes me think of the American Revolution. Not the fully developed American Revolution complete with an army, George Washington, and Valley Forge; I'm thinking of the earlier days, when there were only sporadic protests and occasional clashes.

All those historic events took place in a world very different from the modern world. The economy of the colonies was based on farms, and most people were farmers. And when those people rebelled, it was clear that they were rebelling against what they saw as oppressive government.

For me the most remarkable thing about Occupy Wall Street is that it is not protesting against the government. Its people are not in Washington marching down the Mall to urge change on a reluctant Congress. No, they believe that Wall Street and the major corporations have Congress in their power; so they are going to where the power is and where they believe the problem originates.

And they could be right in their choice of target.

Some American History -- Political Parties

The world of 1776 was a largely agricultural world, mainly small farms. There were few large organizations. There were almost no corporations.

Far from worrying about corporations and their possible political power, our founding fathers were even dubious about political parties themselves.

George Washington was against having political parties; he thought that people could simply vote and elect those they thought best suited to run the government. This was easier to imagine in the agriculture-dominated world in which he lived than in today's complex society. However, even in that simpler world, political parties sprang up almost immediately and they have been with us ever since.

We still think of government today in pretty much the same terms that were used then. When we think of governing, we think of the government, the voters, and the political parties.

But that way of thinking about today's world is wrong; it leaves something essential out.

Government in Today's World -- the Power of Money

We are no longer a nation of farmers; we are today a nation of corporations. In today's world, unlike the world of 1776, there are many centers of economic power. And those centers, such as the major banks and great corporations, use the power of money on a large-scale to affect the actions of government.

Today's political candidates with enough money can reach directly to anyone in the country, but without that money they believe they cannot win elections.

And between elections, because of the complexity of modern finance and industry, bills relating to their interests can be loaded with special sections intelligible only to those who benefit from them. These centers of economic and political power have enormous influence on the actions of government. And that influence is often used for their own benefit.

We need to get used to the idea that in addition to voters and political parties affecting government, there is in today's world the often decisive influence of money. And that power is being used.

Global corporations influence our governmental policies on trade and the offshoring of jobs. Financial industry money influences how much or how little change will be imposed on Wall Street. The tax code has been gradually restructured and loopholed so that the wealthy often pay lower rates than those below them on the economic ladder.

The Goals of Corporations

Furthermore, starting in the 1980s, corporations narrowed their own purposes. Instead of sharing productivity gains with their work force and considering also their effect on the community and the country, they shifted to a single focus, maximizing profit. Their executives became large-scale shareholders through stock options so that the corporate leadership and the shareholders united on a single goal, maximizing profits to raise the stock price. However, since as Professor Edward Wolff of New York University has shown, two-thirds of all corporate shares are held by the wealthiest five percent of Americans. The focus on maximizing profit means that the effect of corporate activity is to make the wealthy wealthier.


These factors explain why, despite the economic hardship that Wall Street's self-serving policies inflicted on the nation, Wall Street and the major corporations are having record years while the rest of the country struggles. They have demonstrated clearly that their fortunes are not linked to those of most Americans. And this gap between the richest and the rest is not the product of the recent crash, but has been growing over the last 30 years.

So Occupy Wall Street may be right not to waste its time on a government that it sees as a tool of the few, and instead to go directly to what it sees as the true source of political power.

Goals and Plans

One reproach leveled against Occupy Wall Street is that it has no plan. And that is probably correct. But it does have a goal. Goals and plans are different: a goal is where you want to get to; plans explain how you are going to get there. Goals are the effect you want; plans are the means to produce that effect.

Occupy Wall Street has a goal that is probably best expressed by the phrase "Democracy not Plutocracy." While their people don't have a plan, they do have a goal. They want to change the system so that its wealth and power are not so concentrated in the hands of a few.

In having a goal and no plan they are the exact opposite of Washington where plans abound. But it is often much less clear what goal those plans serve or what effect they will actually have.

The Significance of Occupy Wall Street

The Occupy Wall Street focus on Wall Street, not on government, points out to us that in today's world, in addition to voters and the very visible political parties, there is also the less visible but often decisive influence of money. Very often this money is from the wealthy and the great corporations.

Occupy Wall Street has brought to our attention the goal of lessening the concentration of economic and political power. In short form, they are for Democracy not Plutocracy. Doing something about the concentration of power is not a subject discussed in Washington. But sometimes a country needs worthwhile goals, even worthwhile goals without a plan. It is up to us to find ways to get there.

If we choose to do nothing, the factors that are causing the present extreme concentration of power will continue to operate with the same effect. We are still in the early days of dissatisfaction with the political process, but we may not have forever to solve this problem.

Occupy Wall Street deserves our respect for stubbornly refusing to let us avert our eyes from what is happening to our country.

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Eva Kaili: "Greece is at the point of no return"

Greece needs a government that can reassure people it is staying in the Eurozone, says Eva Kaili, a key politician who has stopped backing prime minister George Papandreou.

The stage was set for the final act. Crowds gathered outside the seat of power, waiting, after a series of epic plot twists, for the embattled leader to fall on his sword.

Except George Papandreou, the Greek prime minister, appeared not to have read the script. Confounding all expectations, the protagonist in this most gripping of Greek dramas was last night still clinging to power, defying both critics inside his government and the opposition who had demanded his resignation.

Instead, he yesterday went to President Carolos Papoulias to ask for permission to form a coalition government, and begin uniting his fractious politicians, reassuring euro leaders, and securing Greece's economic lifeline.

He is in for a rough ride. Even those who were supportive a week ago are now calling for his head.

"He has to step down," said Eva Kaili, an MP from Mr Papandreou's PASOK party, before the vote on his future in the early hours of Saturday. more

Europe's democratic deficit grows wider by the day

The Eurocracy's contempt for the nation-states it governs is growing ever more flagrant.

It isn’t often that you are aware of the world order changing before your eyes. Last week, the European Union effectively undermined the democratically elected government of one member state and put another one on notice. The snuffing out of that little gasp of desperate rebellion in Greece, and the political chaos that followed, caused a moment’s embarrassment when the EU leadership had to face down questions about its commitment to democracy. But that blew over quickly enough: there could be no question of disregarding the will of the people, Angela Merkel insisted. The electorate of a country had every right to express its opinion in a referendum if its government saw fit to hold one.

She was seconded in this acceptance of sacred democratic principle by Nicolas Sarkozy, although he was rather less successful in concealing his disgust at the insolence of one wretched little country’s defiance of the great European oligarchy. But the tact and facile diplomacy ran out fast. Pretty soon, the European Union was setting the terms for this impertinent plebiscite: it could not – repeat not – simply be on the bail-out deal. The question would have to be whether Greece was to remain in the euro at all. This pronouncement was then almost immediately ramped up (with questionable legality) to mean that departure from the euro would necessitate leaving the EU itself. And it was this nuclear threat that almost certainly saved George Papandreou.

So the Eurocracy that had been saying only days earlier that Greece could never, ever leave the euro, whatever its people or government said they wanted, was now threatening to expel Greece not just from the single currency, but from the European Union. And Italy got the message soon enough: the EU is out of patience with the bad boys. No more messing around. So having once been adamant that no external agency would be allowed to oversee its country’s accounts, the Italian government announced that it was ready to open its books to the EU and the IMF. Its fiscal policy will no longer be a matter for purely national decision-making, and will therefore be beyond the reach of its electorate.

So which is it? Is membership of the euro (or the EU) like being a Soviet satellite: a prisoner nation held in bondage to a superior power? Or is it more akin to being the client state of an imperial benefactor, which can call the shots on internal policy and replace elected governments with puppet regimes when it sees fit?

In the midst of all the earnest blather about respecting the democratic will of countries, there were some revealing slips. (Or were they slips? The proclamations were getting cruder and more unguarded by the minute.) At one point, Mr Sarkozy said: “In no way would I want to give the impression that I’m interfering in [the Greeks’] domestic politics, [but] Europe is our homeland…” Is it? Has Europe – the EU – become the nation state to which all citizens of its member countries are expected to give their allegiance? more

Abortion mills: "Harvest of the innocents"

"FIND OUT HOW YOU CAN TURN YOUR PATIENT'S DECISION INTO SOMETHING WONDERFUL" reads the glossy brochure sent out to abortion mills by Opening Lines, a fetal tissue "wholesaler." To medical research labs and college science departments Opening Lines offers "FRESH FETAL TISSUE HARVESTED AND SHIPPED TO YOUR SPECIFICATIONS WHERE AND WHEN YOU NEED IT."

Dr. Dodge of Thomas Jefferson University orders "Whole intact legs, including ENTIRE HIP JOINT, 22-24 weeks gest[ation]" from the International Institute for the Advancement of Medicine. He specifies "4-6 specimens per shipment.... To be removed from fetal cadaver within 10 minutes," and wants "no abnormalities." Dr. Charles Cintron of Schepens Eye Research Institute sends a standing order for two each of hearts, testes, prostates, duodenums, epidermises, adrenals, ovaries, livers, pancreases, and eyes -- all from fetuses of 20 to 22 weeks gestation. more

U.S. readings challenge China's smog claims

Beijing residents blanketed by smog are pointing to U.S. readings on pollution levels -- and slamming official reports from the Chinese government.

On Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, more and more people are uploading and reposting screen captures from air-quality-monitoring apps -- generally one from the U.S. Embassy -- highlighting "very unhealthy" or "hazardous" pollution levels, at times that China officially reported only "slight pollution" in the same areas.

China acknowledges the concerns and notes that it uses a different system to measure air pollution.

State-run news agency Global Times on Tuesday carried the headline, "Non-government air quality assessments on the rise due to distrust over official data."

"Zeal for independent assessments of air quality has been on the rise nationwide in China recently, amid public distrust over official data resulting from the failure of national evaluations to include PM 2.5 level, an air pollution index used worldwide, in their calculations," the article states.

The U.S. Embassy explains that PM 2.5 refers to fine particulates less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter.

The U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou, China, explains that these smaller particles "are believed to pose the largest health risks" and "are small enough to get into the lungs and even the blood stream."

Chinese monitoring stations around Beijing track only larger, "coarse" particulates, between 2.5 and 10 micrometers in diameter.

On Monday, the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau stated that the Air Pollution Index (API) was between 150 to 170, indicating "slight" pollution. more

Japan: Damaged reactors at nuclear plant could take 30 years to retire

The decommissioning of four reactors at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will likely take more than 30 years to complete, according to a report by Japanese officials.

The draft report, released by Japan's Atomic Energy Commission of the Cabinet Office on Friday, said the removal of debris -- or nuclear fuel -- should begin by the end of 2021.

"We set a goal to start taking out the debris within a 10-year period, and it is estimated that it would take 30 years or more (after the cold shutdown) to finish decommissioning because the process at Fukushima would be complicated," the report states.

Last month, the plant's owner -- Tokyo Electric Power Company -- said engineers might be able to complete the cold shutdown of damaged reactors by the end of the year.

Yukiya Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday that operators of the plant "are now confident that the so-called cold shutdown will be achieved by the end of the year."

Temperatures in the three reactors where meltdowns occurred in the wake of the historic March 11 earthquake and tsunami have already been brought down below 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit), but the company has to maintain those conditions for some time before declaring the reactors in cold shutdown, Tokyo Electric spokesman Yoshikazu Nagai said in October.

Experts have said it will take years -- perhaps decades -- to fully clean up the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Hydrogen explosions blew apart the No. 1 and No. 3 reactor housings, while another hydrogen blast is suspected to have damaged the No. 2 reactor. Fires believed caused by heat from the No. 4 spent fuel pool damaged that unit's reactor building. more

Report: Israel improving nuclear abilities

Israel is extending its Jericho III missile's range, developing intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capabilities and expanding its nuclear-tipped cruise missile enabled submarine fleet, The Guardian, quoting an independent committee report, said Monday.

According to the British newspaper, the report was prepared for the Trident Commission, an independent cross-party initiative set up by the British American Security Information Council (BASIC).

"In the case of Israel, the size of its nuclear-tipped cruise missile enabled submarine fleet is being increased and the country seems to be on course, on the back of its satellite launch rocket program, for future development of an inter-continental ballistic missile," the report said. more

US fears unilateral Israeli strike on Iran -- Soon?

Fearing an uncoordinated Israeli attack against Iran, the United States is working on several levels to pressure the UN's Security Council into imposing harsher sanctions on Iran, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday.

A senior US State Department official said there was growing concern among Obama administration officials ahead of an IAEA report set to be published in November indicating considerable progress in Tehran's development of its military nuclear program.

The US is concerned that the report may trigger Israeli actions against the Islamic Republic which may not necessarily be in line with US interests in the region. more

"Painful Deceptions" by Eric Hufschmid -- A detailed technical analysis of the 9/11 issues from a scientific viewpoint

Mars: Consider yourself at home

On October 31, Earth’s 7-billionth inhabitant was born. The population is due to hit 10 billion in just a few decades, bringing thoughts of colonizing a new planet. But which one? Mercury is too hot; Pluto is too cold. Mars? That’ll do nicely.

As the population of Earth passes the seven billion mark, some have suggested the Red Planet as a replacement for our current blue one. However in these times of tightening purse strings, the cost of getting to Mars could be a problem.

“A one-man expedition to Mars and back would cost, it is safe to say, 100 billion roubles [some $3.3 billion],” says Igor Lisov, an expert from the Cosmonautics News magazine. “Preparing for these flights would cost about 30 or 50 times more than a two-way ticket. In other words, we are talking about colossal expenses.”

Regardless of the price, those who have been into space say the time is right for mankind to boldly go where no-one has gone before.

“Everybody realizes that it is time to reach out and explore the universe beyond low-Earth orbit,” says NASA astronaut Mark Polansky. “We have for many years – ten years at least – been on the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit which is very close, and we haven't been anywhere else with people since the lunar landings which ended in 1972.” more

Firms to charge smokers, obese more for healthcare

Like a lot of companies, Veridian Credit Union wants its employees to be healthier. In January, the Waterloo, Iowa-company rolled out a wellness program and voluntary screenings.

It also gave workers a mandate - quit smoking, curb obesity, or you'll be paying higher healthcare costs in 2013. It doesn't yet know by how much, but one thing's for certain - the unhealthy will pay more.

The credit union, which has more than 500 employees, is not alone.

In recent years, a growing number of companies have been encouraging workers to voluntarily improve their health to control escalating insurance costs. And while workers mostly like to see an employer offer smoking cessation classes and weight loss programs, too few are signing up or showing signs of improvement. more

Euro crisis 'could lead to social unrest'

The eurozone debt crisis could lead to a decade-long recession and rising social unrest, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has warned, according to a German media report on Sunday.

"The next few months will be decisive in terms of avoiding a dramatic decline in employment and a further sharp increase in social unrest," news weekly Focus reported, citing the ILO's new annual report on the labour market.

Without counter-measures, the crisis might unleash a recession that could last a decade, as governments find themselves powerless to act due to pressure to reduce their debts, Focus said, citing the ILO document.

The ILO was not immediately available for comment.

The greatest risk of social unrest exists in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Estonia, France, Slovenia and Ireland, according to the weekly.

The debt crisis has already sparked several incidents of social unrest, with strikes in Greece against austerity measures turning bloody and a violent protest in Rome injuring more than 100 people. source

U.S. Planning Troop Buildup in Gulf After Exit From Iraq: See how they continuously manipulate their story?

The Obama administration plans to bolster the American military presence in the Persian Gulf after it withdraws the remaining troops from Iraq this year, according to officials and diplomats. That repositioning could include new combat forces in Kuwait able to respond to a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran.

The plans, under discussion for months, gained new urgency after President Obama’s announcement this month that the last American soldiers would be brought home from Iraq by the end of December. Ending the eight-year war was a central pledge of his presidential campaign, but American military officers and diplomats, as well as officials of several countries in the region, worry that the withdrawal could leave instability or worse in its wake.

After unsuccessfully pressing both the Obama administration and the Iraqi government to permit as many as 20,000 American troops to remain in Iraq beyond 2011, the Pentagon is now drawing up an alternative.

In addition to negotiations over maintaining a ground combat presence in Kuwait, the United States is considering sending more naval warships through international waters in the region.

With an eye on the threat of a belligerent Iran, the administration is also seeking to expand military ties with the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. While the United States has close bilateral military relationships with each, the administration and the military are trying to foster a new “security architecture” for the Persian Gulf that would integrate air and naval patrols and missile defense.

The size of the standby American combat force to be based in Kuwait remains the subject of negotiations, with an answer expected in coming days. Officers at the Central Command headquarters here declined to discuss specifics of the proposals, but it was clear that successful deployment plans from past decades could be incorporated into plans for a post-Iraq footprint in the region. more

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How the Eurocrisis laid bare world's new economic order

The French Riviera in November conjures up images of ageing playboys eking out the last rays of autumn sunshine on the Croisette over a pastis. So it may be fitting that Nicolas Sarkozy has chosen Cannes as the venue for this week's G20 summit, where the fading power of Europe's old world economies will be thrown into sharp relief by the nouveau riche arrivistes from China, India and Brazil.

Sarkozy's humiliating call to Beijing last week, asking if the Chinese would care to invest in the European financial stability facility, the huge euro bailout fund, was portrayed within China as grovelling. Guido Mantegna, Brazil's finance minister, rapidly issued a statement saying his country had no intention of taking part.

Silvio Berlusconi was also forced to bear his share of the humiliation, writing a letter to his eurozone neighbours promising to buck up his economic act, in return for a share of the aid package.

For Europeans, last week's events were a stark reminder that through a combination of their own economic mismanagement and the irresistible rise of a new generation of financial powers, the old continent's pre-eminence is a thing of the past.

Jonathan Loynes, chief European economist at the consultancy Capital Economics, says: "Clearly, the fact that Europe needs this money is a further demonstration of how its economic health has deteriorated, at least in the short term."

Charles Dumas, of Lombard Street Research, says: "The optimistic view for growth in Europe is 0%; the pessimistic scenario is depression." more