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Saturday, December 10, 2011

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Pakistan boosts border security after airstrike; sets up anti-aircraft defenses against future incursions

Pakistan, in a bid to bolster its border with Afghanistan, has installed anti-aircraft guns and radars to monitor air activity, a senior Pakistani military official told CNN.

"We had to do it after being deceived by our so-called friends," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The move comes in response to a NATO airstrike last month that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The official declined to say how many anti-aircraft guns and radars were installed along the country's western border.

On Friday, the Pakistani government released a statement that said Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had been briefed by army chief of staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on national security issues.

"The Army Chief apprised the Prime Minister of the steps taken on the western borders to revamp the defense capabilities aimed at effectively countering the recurrence of the incursion into the Pakistan territory," it read.

"The Prime Minister said that the government and the people of Pakistan were ready to provide the Armed Forces all the necessary resources to bolster its defense and professional capabilities," the statement said. more

Strong quake shakes from Mexico City to Acapulco

A 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck in Mexico's western Guerrero state Saturday night, shaking buildings and causing panic in the nation's capital and the Pacific resort of Acapulco. There were no reports of deaths or serious damage.

The U.S. Geological Service initially estimated the quake at magnitude at 6.8, but downgraded it to 6.7 and then 6.5. A quake of that magnitude is capable of causing severe damage.

The USGS said the quake occurred 40.3 miles (64.9 kilometers) deep and was centered about 26 miles (42 kilometers) southwest of Iguala in Guerrero. That is 103 miles (166 kilometers) south-southwest of Mexico City.

A Twitter message from President Felipe Calderon said one person had been reported injured by a collapsed ceiling in the Guerrero town of Tuxpan, which is near Iguala. It said there were no other reports of casualties in the quake area.

High-rises swayed in the center of Mexico City for more than a minute, and shoppers were temporarily herded out of some shopping centers until the danger passed.

Mexico City's mayor, Marcelo Ebrard, reported by Twitter that no major damage had been reported. He said power failed in some parts of the city. more

Hohepa Morehu-Barlow steals $16 million destined for charity

The $16 million a public servant allegedly stole from Queensland Health was destined for charity.

Hohepa Morehu-Barlow, also known as Joel Barlow, is wanted for questioning over the transfer of a small fortune in taxpayer dollars into private accounts.

The 36-year-old was the manager of the finance division of the Community Services Branch at Queensland Health.

He was in charge of allocating grant payments to not-for-profit groups such as Diabetes Queensland, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the Cancer Council Queensland, the Cerebral Palsy League and the Mental Health Association Queensland, the Sunday Mail reports.

It is believed that sums of money that appeared to have been transferred to service providers were actually being transferred to a private account.

Health Minister Geoff Wilson has alleged that Mr Morehu-Barlow succeeded in defrauding the government by forging a signature.

One payment of $11 million was transferred in the past two weeks.

Mr Morehu-Barlow is reported to have been well-known in Brisbane society and to have claimed royal connections in Maori and Tahitian society.

Authorities say he has assets worth about $12 million, including an expensive apartment, luxury cars, and a substantial amount of cash in bank accounts. more

6.5 Magnitude Earthquake GUERRERO, MEXICO, At least 2 Dead - 11th Dec 2011

A magnitude 6.5 earthquake has struck Guerrero, Mexico at a depth of 64.9 km (40.3 miles), the quake hit at 01:47:26 UTC Sunday 11th December 2011.
The epicenter was 42 km (26 miles) Southwest of Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico

A major 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck Mexico on Saturday with officials reporting two deaths, as the quake was strongly felt in the capital Mexico City and southern Guerrero state.

The death toll included an 11-year-old boy in the town of Iguana and another fatality on a road near Paloblanco, said Arturo Martinez, a spokesman for the government of Chilpancingo in Guerrero state.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning center said no destructive Pacific-wide tsunami was expected.

USGS originally measured the quake at a stronger 6.7 magnitude, but downgraded it to 6.5 about an hour later.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon issued a comment through his official Twitter account, saying there was "no major damage reported at the time, however the reports are preliminary. Source

5.8 Magnitude Earthquake RYUKYU ISLANDS, JAPAN - 11th Dec 2011

A magnitude 5.8 earthquake has struck the Ryukyu Islands, Japan at a depth of 27.9 km (17.3 miles), the quake hit at 01:22:44 UTC Sunday 11th December 2011.
The epicenter was 270 km (167 miles) Northeast of Naha, Okinawa, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

4.5 Magnitude Earthquake KEPULAUAN BARAT DAYA, INDONESIA - 11th Dec 2011

A magnitude 4.5 earthquake has struck Kepulauan Barat Daya, Indonesia at a depth of 172.3 km (107.1 miles), the quake hit at 01:10:25 UTC Sunday 11th December 2011.
The epicenter was 238 km (147 miles) ENE of Dili, Timor-Leste
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time


A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck the Eastern New Guinea Region, Papua New Guinea at a depth of 74.6 km (46.4 miles), the quake hit at 21:12:36 UTC Saturday 10th December 2011.
The epicenter was 103 km (64 miles) Northeast of Lae, New Guinea, Papua New Guinea
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Barry Morrow Charged With Southport Double Murder - 10th Dec 2011

A lodger has been charged with murdering his landlady and her mother at a house in Southport.

Barry Morrow, 51, is accused of killing Angela Holgate, 54, and 75-year-old Alice Huyton and is due to appear in court on Monday.

The bodies of Mrs Holgate and her mother were found by a relative at Mrs Holgate's home in Southport, near Merseyside, last Saturday.

Post-mortem examinations showed that both women died from asphyxiation.

Morrow was arrested in the UK on Thursday after a Europe-wide search was launched following a sighting in France.

A police spokesman said: "Merseyside Police have today charged Barry Morrow, 51, of Fairhaven Road, Southport, with the murders of Angela Holgate and Alice Huyton.

"He has been remanded in custody to appear at South Sefton Magistrates Court on Monday." Read More

4.1 Magnitude Earthquake NORTHERN XINJIANG, CHINA - 10th Dec 2011

A magnitude 4.1 earthquake has struck Northern Xinjiang, China at a depth of just 1 km (0.6 miles - Poorly Constrained), the quake hit at 19:45:02 UTC Saturday 10th December 2011.
The epicenter was 87 km (53.9 miles) Southeast of Yining, China
No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Lunar Eclipse 10th dec 2011

40 students feared to have scarlet fever, China - 10th Dec 2011

MORE than 40 pupils at an elementary school in a suburban area are suspected of having contracted scarlet fever, parents claimed yesterday.

At least 39 children in a Grade Two class at the Mingqiang Elementary School are feared to have the disease, they said.

One parent, who gave his name as "Eric," said the school gathered parents on Wednesday to inform them that an initial test indicated 39 out of 48 children had the disease.

Parents also said six pupils in a Grade Three class are suspected of having the disease.

Some parents claim the first case emerged a fortnight ago and accused the school - which has hundreds of pupils - of not acting quickly enough. They say it should have isolated sick children and canceled all classes to sterilize classrooms.

According to a 2005 directive by Shanghai's education department, a school where an unidentified contagious disease case is discovered should report to authorities and cancel classes involved.

"The school has put all the children at the risk of catching the disease," claimed Eric. Read More

British troops raid a bomb factory and save Afghan policeman set for execution

These graphic pictures show the bravery of British troops as they raided an Afghan bomb factory in a daring dawn raid.

Not only did they seize IEDs, drugs and an AK-47 sub-machine gun, but rescued a police officer who was due to be executed later that day.

The troops from Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF) came under fire from the Taliban as they flew into the Nahr-e Saraj district, Helmand Province on three Chinook helicopters.

More than 90 British soldiers, accompanied by Afghan commandos, were involved in the action

The area had earlier been cordoned off by Scimitar 2 armoured vehicles and Warthog all-terrain troop carriers. The vehicles helped to protect the helicopter landing sites as the Chinooks swooped in. Read More

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTH OF THE FIJI ISLANDS - 10th Dec 2011

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck South of the Fiji Islands at a depth of 508.2 km (315.8 miles), the quake hit at 18:37:25 UTC Saturday 10th December 2011.
The epicenter was 482 km (299 miles) SSW of Ndoi Island, Fiji
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time


"Don't Screw With the Government" -- Only they're allowed to do that

Argentina launches naval campaign to isolate Falkland Islands

Argentina has launched a naval campaign to isolate the Falkland Islands that has seen it detain Spanish fishing vessels on suspicion of breaking the country’s “blockade” of the seas around the British territories.

Argentine patrol vessels have boarded 12 Spanish boats, operating under fishing licences issued by the Falkland Islands, for operating “illegally” in disputed waters in recent weeks.

Argentine patrol commanders carrying out interceptions near the South American coast told Spanish captains they were in violation of Argentina’s “legal” blockade of sea channels to the Falklands.

The warning has been backed up in a letter to Aetinape, the Spanish fishing vessels association from the Argentine embassy in Madrid warning boats in the area that “Falklands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and adjoining maritime spaces are an integral part of the Argentine territory.”

The confrontation strategy targetting foreign boats marks an escalation of tensions in seas that Duke of Cambridge, a Flight Lieutenant with the RAF, is set to patrol during a tour of duty last year.

The Duke is to be deployed to the Falklands next February as part of a routine training duties. Commanders would face the dilemma of despatching the Royal to take part in an operations to monitor or contain the Argentine challenge. more

Violent homes have the 'same effect on brains of children as combat does on soldiers'

The brains of children are affected by family violence in the same way as combat affects soldiers, according to a study.

In both cases the brain becomes increasingly wary of potential threats.

For children, the changes may increase susceptibility to mental health problems, say experts from University College London (UCL) and the Anna Freud Centre.

Children who suffer abuse or witness domestic violence are known to be at greater risk of anxiety and depression in later life.

Scientists carried out magnetic resonance imaging brain scans on 20 London children with an average age of 12 who had been exposed to documented violence at home. All had been referred to local social services. more

Seattle welfare recipient lives in million-dollar home

A Seattle woman who is receiving welfare assistance from Washington state also happens to live in a waterfront house on Lake Washington worth more than a million dollars.

Federal agents raided the home this weekend but have not released the woman or her husband's name because they have not officially been charged with a crime.

However, federal documents obtained by KING 5 News show the couple currently receives more than $1,200 a month in public housing vouchers, plus state and government disability checks and food stamps. They have been receiving the benefits since 2003.

The 2,500 square-foot home, which includes gardens and a boat dock, is valued at $1.2 million. And even though the couple has been receiving the benefits for nearly 10 years, records show that they accurately listed the address of their current home when applying for the state and federal benefits.

A federal official told KING 5 that the couple likely took advantage of a loophole, which allows low-income individuals to receive financial assistance to help them pay their rent and move away from housing projects. However, the law does not require officials to verify what type of home the benefits recipient is living in. more

MF Global fallout delays U.S. farm seed, land deals

For the first time in 25 years, Minnesota farmer Dean Tofteland has missed his deadline to buy seed for next spring's corn and soybean crops.

With $200,000 of his money yet to be returned from the accounts of MF Global, his former broker, the 49-year-old farmer has missed a $5,000 discount for early buyers, and is watching friends and neighbors snap up the best varieties of seeds.

In the latest sign of how MF Global's failure is continuing to cascade across the commodity industry, Tofteland and other farmers who have yet to recover more than a third of their money from the bankrupt broker now find themselves in a cash crunch that risks rippling far beyond the futures market.

Some farmers have had to postpone purchases of land or equipment. Tofteland still expects to sow his 1,000 acres in the southwest corner of the state, but may have to borrow money to do so. more

Chevrolet Volt Battery Issues Growing, Safety Findings May Have Been Suppressed

Following on from the announcement that GM is looking at redesigning the Chevrolet Volt’s lithium-ion battery system in the wake of several highly publicized fires resulting from test crashes, comes further news that both the automaker and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration delayed disclosure of their original findings by months.

Apparently, way back in June, General Motors heard about a Volt fire that happened three weeks after said vehicle was crash tested, yet it wasn’t until November that the company, nor NHTSA disclosed there was a potential problem, urging both dealers and customers to drain the battery pack immediately following an accident.

As a result the public relations nightmare surrounding Chevy’s halo vehicle appears to be deepening, though a good deal of the blame in this case also rests with NHTSA.

Joan Claybrook, a former adminstrator at NHTSA believes part of the reason for the delay was the “fragility of Volt sales.” Yet she also believes that “NHTSA could have put out a consumer alert, not to tell them [customers] for six months makes no sense to me.”

GM designed a complex cooling system for the Volt’s lithium ion battery pack to help regulate its temperature (lithium-ion units are known for overheating), yet until July it hadn’t finalized a standard proceedure to power down the battery system, the Volt had already been on sale in the US for six months at that juncture.

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, which crash tested a Volt back in February reported no incidents of fire as resulting from the accident, yet when a second crash test was performed in August, General Motors sent a technician to power down the battery. more

North Korea making missile able to hit U.S

New intelligence indicates that North Korea is moving ahead with building its first road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, an easily hidden weapon capable of hitting the United States, according to Obama administration officials.

The intelligence was revealed in a classified Capitol Hill briefing last month. Its existence was made public in a letter to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta from five House Republicans.

“As members of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces …, we write out of concerns about new intelligence concerning foreign developments in long-range ballistic missile development, specifically ballistic missiles capable of attacking the United States,” the Nov. 17 letter said.

“We believe this new intelligence reiterates the need for the administration to correct its priorities regarding missile defenses, which should have, first and foremost, the missile defense of the homeland.”

Officials familiar with the intelligence said government analysts believe the missile could be a variant of North Korea’s new Musudan intermediate-range missile, first disclosed publicly in October 2010. more

Groups prepare to bring Occupy protests to Congress

Protesters from the Occupy movement and other groups are planning to converge on Capitol Hill Tuesday to air their grievances in front of members of Congress.

Members of a broad range of organizations, including unions and community groups, are expected to travel to Washington to take part in an event dubbed "Take Back the People's House."

Many of the participants plan to assemble in the morning before marching toward the Capitol, according to information posted on the website of Progressive Maryland, a nonprofit organization that says it works to improve conditions for working families.

After arriving at the Capitol, marchers say they intend to fan out for meetings with representatives and "occupy" Congressional offices until closure. Not all participants have meetings scheduled, so some protests are expected in the area around the Capitol. more

German Opposition Warns of Euro Collapse Dangers

Former German finance minister Peer Steinbrueck, an opposition leader and possible candidate for chancellor in 2013, warned on Tuesday of the perils of a collapse of the euro zone, saying it could revive nationalist sentiment in Europe.

"If the euro zone were to collapse it could quickly lead to a political renationalization in Europe," Steinbrueck said in a speech to delegates at a party congress of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).

Steinbrueck, one of three SPD contenders to carry the party banner into an election due in two years, attacked Chancellor Angela Merkel for stirring anti-European sentiments in Germany by using terms like "transfer union" to refer to the euro zone.

"European integration is the answer for 1945 and it is the answer for the 21st century," Steinbrueck said in a speech broadcast live on several national television networks.

His speech followed a warning from Standard & Poor's that it may carry out an unprecedented mass downgrade of euro zone countries if EU leaders fail to deliver a convincing agreement on how to solve the region's debt crisis in a summit on Friday. source

How the markets really work

UN, Oxfam Reports: Brace for Impact as Food Runs Out

The drumbeat of dire warnings continues about the inevitable and imminent collapse of the world’s food supply before the combined onslaughts of industrial agriculture and climate change. Despite the increasing number of scientific reports documenting ever more ominous conditions and prospects worldwide, the response from the people who could conceivably do something about it has been a collective yawn. The two latest cries of “fire” in our crowded theater came this week:

The British charity Oxfam told the UN conference on climate change beginning today in Durban that extreme weather events triggered by climate change during the past 18 months have caused the prices of food commodities to skyrocket, plunging tens of millions of people into extreme poverty and famine. Moreover, says Oxfam, this catastrophe is merely a “grim foretaste” of what lies ahead.

Among the evidence cited by Oxfam:

In 2010, a heatwave in Russia and Ukraine sparked a rise of 60 to 80 percent in global wheat prices in three months, reaching 85 percent in April 2011; In July 2011, the price of sorghum was 393 percent higher in Somalia, while corn in Ethiopia and Kenya was up to 191 and 161 percent respectively compared to the five-year average, because of drought in the Horn of Africa; Rainstorms and typhoons in Southeast Asia, meanwhile, have driven up the price of rice in Thailand and Vietnam. In September and October, the cost of this staple was 25-30 percent higher there than a year earlier.

“More frequent and extreme weather events will compound things further, creating shortages, destabilising markets and precipitating price spikes, which will be felt on top of the structural price rises predicted by the models,” Oxfam said.

Meanwhile, also released today for the UN climate conference, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization announced the results of its first assessment of the world’s land resources. It found that one of every four acres of arable land on the planet is “highly degraded” and that water available for agriculture is becoming more scarce and more polluted. This, the FAO did not dare to say, is the legacy of industrial agriculture and the grotesquely mis-named “green revolution” that spread petrochemical, biotechnical monoculture around the world. more

Hospitals in Houston requiring unvaccinated employees to wear face masks during entire flu season if they refuse flu shot

Memorial Hermann (MH), a major hospital system in Houston, Tex., that employs 20,000 workers at 11 area hospitals, is currently pushing a campaign that aims to vaccinate 100 percent of its workers with the flu shot by Nov. 18. And one of the ways this medical group is not-so-subtly attempting to force full compliance is by threatening those who have not gotten their shots with having to wear face masks at work throughout the entire flu season.

NaturalNews was able to locate a Flu Update email that MH sent to all of its employees notifying them that 14,000 employees, or 72 percent, have already gotten their flu shots as part of the hospital system's "new flu prevention policy." But with only a few days left in the campaign and roughly 5,000 employees still not vaccinated, the group is apparently hoping that the threat of having to wear a face mask will convince the rest to surrender.

"[W]ith only four days remaining in the campaign, approximately 5,000 employees still must either get the flu vaccination or complete a declination form, requiring that they wear a mask during the during (sic) flu season," says the email alert. more

Is the war on terror a complete hoax? Paul Craig Roberts reveals how social engineers infected America with mass paranoia

What if there weren't any real terrorists threatening America and the whole thing was just made up to justify a military agenda? A rational person might say that if we're all going to give up our rights, and our Fourth Amendment, and have U.S. troops in the streets running checkpoints, then logically there should at least be some evidence that America has been infiltrated with terrorists, right? Or, more specifically, evidence from a reliable source that has not already been caught lying about terrorism, which would exclude the federal government, of course.

Look around you today: Do you see any terrorists? Any "towel heads" aiming guns at your family? Anybody walking around with a vest full of explosives? Nope.

Have you ever seen the TSA catch a terrorist at the airport? Ever read a news report of the TSA catching a terrorist? Ever heard of an Air Marshall stopping a terrorist in-flight? Nope. more

Scientists deliberately remove natural compounds from grapefruits to accommodate pharmaceuticals that cause negative interactions

Grapefruits, lemons, celery, and certain other fruits and vegetables contain compounds known as furanocoumarins that can cause a negative reaction when consumed along with certain medications. But rather than examine the medications to see whether or not they themselves are safe, scientists have instead focused on developing genetically hybridized grapefruit that contains little or no furanocoumarins as the solution.

Researchers from the University of Florida (UF) have successfully crossed the genes of an ordinary grapefruit with those of a pomelo, a citrus relative of the grapefruit, according to Scientific American. Since pomelos are naturally low in furanocoumarins, the resulting fruit is also low in furanocoumarins, which means patients taking the interacting medications can safely eat them.

Published in the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science, the unveiling of this new hybrid grapefruit is a welcomed invention for those who have had to restrict their grapefruit consumption. After all, furanocoumarins tend to increase the potency of certain medications by up to 500 percent, which can result in serious injury or death.

But to others, the new fruit points to the complete lunacy of modern medicine, which is more focused on making nature coexist with synthetic drugs rather than the other way around. Instead of lowering the dosages of interacting medications to accommodate furanocoumarins, for example, doctors and scientists have typically advised patients to just stop eating grapefruits. more

Soy: It Isn’t So -- Big industry peddling a myth?

Once upon a time there was a lowly bean. Unlike other beans, in its natural state it was highly toxic to people and animals. Poor people in Asia discovered somehow — no doubt through desperate trial-and-error — that when fermented, the soy bean was edible. It became part of their diet. In the late 20th Century, when the industrialized diet of the West was afflicting its people with heart disease, cancers and diabetes, it was noticed that the spare Asian diet of fish, rice and a little fermented soy bean was not making people sick. Thus began one of the largest and most successful food cons ever perpetrated.

It’s the kind of silly syllogism that industry has used to make money over and over again: Asians eat soy; Asians are healthy; therefore eating soy is healthy. You might as well argue that surgically altering your eyes, or staining your skin, would give you the health of a hard-working Asian.

But when industry invests hundreds of millions of dollars in repeating a stupid statement on television, and hires scientists to inquire into its validity, and then hires actors in white lab coats to explain that the scientists agreed with the stupid statement, then instead of the ridicule the statement deserves you end up with FDA approval (it came in in 1999) of the following food label: “Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Yes, the soybean industry, now worth about $4 billion a year in the United States alone, now responsible for much of the forest and topsoil destruction proceeding apace around the world, hired the scientists who did the study that said soy “may reduce the risk” of heart disease. Say those words fast enough, often enough, and they sound just like “prevents” or even “cures.” Thus does $4 billion become $8 billion, and $16 billion, and so on.

It is not the case that industry brought the soy that Asians were consuming — small portions of fermented soy such as miso, natto and tempeh, with a little tofu — to market in the rest of the world. Instead, the food engineers deconstructed the bean into ingredients: oil (now the base of most vegetable oils sold), lecithin, the waste from the oil manufacture (used as an emulsifier), soy flour and various soy-protein “isolates” (originally developed to make cardboard) used as mixes for various drinks that are advertised as health- promoting. more

Carbon Emissions Show Biggest Jump Ever Recorded

Global emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel burning jumped by the largest amount on record last year, upending the notion that the brief decline during the recession might persist through the recovery.

Emissions rose 5.9 percent in 2010, according to an analysis released Sunday by the Global Carbon Project, an international collaboration of scientists tracking the numbers. Scientists with the group said the increase, a half-billion extra tons of carbon pumped into the air, was almost certainly the largest absolute jump in any year since the Industrial Revolution, and the largest percentage increase since 2003.

The increase solidified a trend of ever-rising emissions that scientists fear will make it difficult, if not impossible, to forestall severe climate change in coming decades.

The researchers said the high growth rate reflected a bounce-back from the 1.4 percent drop in emissions in 2009, the year the recession had its biggest impact.

They do not expect the extraordinary growth to persist, but do expect emissions to return to something closer to the 3 percent yearly growth of the last decade, still a worrisome figure that signifies little progress in limiting greenhouse gases. The growth rate in the 1990s was closer to 1 percent yearly.

The combustion of coal represented more than half of the growth in emissions, the report found. more

Remember Kyoto? Most Nations Don’t

Delegates from 194 countries will meet this week in Durban, South Africa, to see whether the world can do a better job of controlling the man-made greenhouse gases that scientists believe will lead to sea-level rise, floods, drought and famine. Over the years, there has been far more talk than action.

In 1997, these nations collectively promised as a first step to reduce emissions by about 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. But only 37 industrialized nations agreed to binding targets under the treaty, known as the Kyoto Protocol; the developing nations promised simply to do their best.

The overall results have been dismal, even by Kyoto’s modest standards. That agreement expires next year, and there is almost no chance that the delegates in Durban will agree on a replacement. Even 1997 signatories like Japan and Canada will not endorse a new treaty unless the Chinese do, which they won’t. What we’ll see is another set of aspirational targets that will mean little if countries choose to ignore them.

On this point, history is not encouraging. From 1990 to 2009, global emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas produced by burning fossil fuels, rose by a whopping 38 percent. The increase would have been far worse were it not for the economic collapse of the old Soviet bloc; emissions from those countries dropped by about one-third.

The first chart traces the change in CO2 emissions around the world in the past two decades. Western Europe has managed to reduce emissions by 5 percent by adopting a cap-and-trade system that effectively puts a price on carbon emissions; substituting natural gas for coal; and, in Germany’s case, greatly expanding the use of renewable energy sources like solar power. more

The True Costs of Privacy Invasion

The Privacy Act of 1974 allows a person to sue a federal agency for intentionally disclosing personal, confidential information without permission. But the government is trying to limit the force of that law and make it harder to hold agencies accountable for such violations.

In Federal Aviation Administration v. Cooper, a case argued this week in the Supreme Court, the government contends that the statute allows a plaintiff to recover “actual damages” only for monetary losses, but not for emotional distress.

Stanmore Cooper brought the suit because in an exchange of data to identify medically unfit pilots, the Social Security Administration gave the Federal Aviation Administration confidential information that revealed that he was H.I.V.-positive and was receiving disability benefits. He was devastated when he learned of this revelation. He experienced anxiety, sleeplessness and other serious problems. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for not disclosing his H.I.V. status to the F.A.A., but he sued the government for severe mental and emotional distress.

The Supreme Court held in 2004 that it is necessary to show actual damages in a lawsuit under the Privacy Act but did not say whether nonmonetary harm like emotional distress comes under that heading. In Mr. Cooper’s case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that it does. It found support in Congress’s intent to provide relief for “any damages”; in the Supreme Court’s view that in privacy cases “the primary damage is the mental distress from having been exposed to public view”; and in the law in seven other federal circuits.

The government, however, contends that the statute does not explicitly allow damages for emotional distress claims. To counter this argument, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out that “the person who is subject to this, to this embarrassment, this humiliation, doesn’t have out-of-pocket costs, but is terribly distressed, nervous, anxious, and all the rest.” If Congress did not intend to allow damages for emotional distress, she said, “Then maybe Congress shouldn’t have passed this statute.” more

Study: Arctic is warmer, will remain so

The arctic polar region's climate has warmed up in the last five years and the change is likely to stick around as a "new normal," U.S. scientists say.

A team of 121 scientists from 14 nations concluded the arctic climate has reached a turning point, reported Thursday.

Enough data have been collected "to indicate a shift in the Arctic Ocean system since 2006," said Jacqueline Richter-Menge of the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H. "This shift is characterized by the persistent decline in the thickness and summer extent of sea-ice cover and by a warmer, less salty upper ocean."

Since the arctic is a factor in driving climate around the world, changes there have impacts elsewhere, Richter-Mange said.

Once a warming trend starts the loss of ice built up over many years "we seldom go back to where we were before," James Overland of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

"We've got a new normal," Don Perovich of CRREL said. more

Alaskan community revives legal bid for global warming damages

A native American community in remote Alaska this week revived legal efforts to hold some of the world's largest energy companies accountable for allegedly destroying their village because of global warming.

The so-called "climigration" trial would be the first of its kind, potentially creating a precedent in the US courts for further climate change-related damages cases.

Attorneys acting for the 427 Inupiat people living in Kivalina made representations before an appeals panel in San Francisco on Monday, to claim climate change-related damages from Exxon Mobil, BP America, Chevron, Shell, Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal provider, and America's largest electricity-generating companies including American Electric Power and Duke Energy.

Kivalina's location at the tip of a barrier reef 70 miles north of the Arctic Circle puts the village on the frontline of extreme weather from the Chukchi Sea, which normally freezes over from November to June.

"Kivalina's existence as a community depends on the sea ice that forms around the village in fall, winter, and spring. This protects it from the coastal storms that batter the coast of the Chukchi Sea," Kivalina's lawyers told the panel.

"However, due to global warming, this landfast sea ice forms later in the year, attaches to the coast later, breaks up earlier, and is less extensive and thinner, subjecting Kivalina to greater coastal storm waves, storm surges and erosion. more

WMO: 2011 one of hottest years on record

The world is getting hotter, with 2011 one of the warmest years on record, and humans are to blame, a report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Tuesday.

It warned increasing global average temperatures were expected to amplify floods, droughts and other extreme weather patterns.

"Our science is solid and it proves unequivocally that the world is warming and that this warming is due to human activities," WMO Deputy Secretary-General Jerry Lengoasa told reporters in Durban, where almost 200 nations are gathered for U.N. climate talks.

The WMO, part of the United Nations, said the warmest 13 years of average global temperatures have all occurred in the 15 years since 1997. That has contributed to extreme weather conditions that increase the intensity of droughts and heavy precipitation across the world, it said.

"Global temperatures in 2011 are currently the tenth highest on record and are higher than any previous year with a La Nina event, which has a relative cooling influence," it said

This year, the global climate was influenced heavily by the strong La Nina, a natural phenomenon usually linked to extreme weather in Asia-Pacific, South America and Africa, which developed in the tropical Pacific in the second half of 2010 and continued until May 2011. more

Eurozone banking system on the edge of collapse

The eurozone banking system is on the edge of collapse as major lenders begin to run out of the assets they need to keep vital funding lines open.

Senior analysts and traders warned of impending bank failures as a summit intended to solve the European crisis failed to deliver a solution that eased concerns over bank funding.

The European Central Bank admitted it had held meetings about providing emergency funding to the region's struggling banks, however City figures said a "collateral crunch" was looming.

"If anyone thinks things are getting better then they simply don't understand how severe the problems are. I think a major bank could fail within weeks," said one London-based executive at a major global bank.

Many banks, including some French, Italian and Spanish lenders, have already run out of many of the acceptable forms of collateral such as US Treasuries and other liquid securities used to finance short-term loans and have been forced to resort to lending out their gold reserves to maintain access to dollar funding.

"The system is creaking. There is a large amount of stress," said Anthony Peters, a strategist at Swissinvest, pointing to soaring interbank lending rates. more

Russians come out in force to protest against alleged electoral fraud - 10th Dec 2011

Tens of thousands defy bitter cold and fear of crackdown in challenge to victorious party of Vladimir Putin.

Up to 50,000 people braved the cold and snow on Saturday to turn out for the largest ever protest against the rule of prime minister Vladimir Putin.

Bolotnaya Square, across the river from the Kremlin in central Moscow, was filled to overflowing with thousands standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the bridges and along the riverfront leading to the site. Tens of thousands of police and interior troops were deployed around the area, but protesters had been allowed by officials to gather in an unprecedented show of discontent.

Shouts of "Russia without Putin!" and "Freedom!" were mixed with demands that the Kremlin annul a disputed parliamentary election that saw Putin's United Russia party gain nearly 50% of the vote despite widespread accusations of fraud.

"I demand new elections," said Maxim, 26, an economist. "If they don't agree, we will continue to come out. The people have woken up – they see there's a point to going out into the streets and expressing what they don't agree with." Read More

Europe's leaders return home with the continent facing a future it didn't predict and didn't want, writes Alistair Bunkall in Frankfurt.

David Cameron has arrived back in London and will now have to face his own party and parliament next week. He won't get an easy ride from the latter.

Europe wants Britain to be a part of it. Europeans can't understand why they steadfastly and repeatedly refuse to be so.

But Europe will accept Mr Cameron's decision and move on regardless.

The German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel carried the gloating headline "Bye, Bye Britain".

Such frivolity isn't echoed by ordinary Germans. But the article also said that Europe should be hoping to welcome Britain back into the fold. That is a truer reflection of the German sentiment.

If Britain is the lonely kid at school right now, then Germany is either the most popular child in the class or the playground bully. Perhaps a bit of both.

But Angela Merkel has her own domestic problems too, and she comes back to a country happy to be leading the way but fiercely reluctant to pay for others mistakes.

Outside the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, one person expressed sympathy for Mr Cameron.

"At least he's listening to his people," he told me. "We aren't consulted on any of these decisions."

Maybe not. But what Europe got this week was that rare thing: some firm decision making and from everybody. Not least Mr Cameron. And Europe needed it, even if it wasn't entirely what it wanted.

Few believe it's enough to save the Euro though. Source

Poisoned drinks handed out at Berlin Christmas markets, Police Hunt Man as at least 7 people Become Ill - 10th Dec 2011

Police in the German capital of Berlin are searching for a man who is handing out poisoned drinks at the city's popular Christmas markets, officials said on Saturday. At least seven people have been sickened.

Police said the first case was reported on Thursday afternoon when two foreign students were approached by a man at Breitscheidplatz square. The suspect told the 24- and 26-year-old men that he was celebrating the birth of his daughter and gave them small glasses of liquor for a toast.

"Shortly after drinking the drinks presented to them, they both experienced strong convulsions and vomiting," a police spokesperson said on Saturday. "The 24-year-old fell unconscious and had to be brought in for inpatient treatment at a hospital."

Just hours later, at 9 p.m. local time, three women aged 23 to 24 were approached by the same man at Alexanderplatz square. "Here too, the man pretended to want to celebrate the birth of his child and offered glasses with liquor to the women," the police spokesperson said. "After drinking, the three were suffering from vomiting and altered consciousness and were also brought to a hospital for treatment." Read More