Thursday, 30 June 2011

U.S. drone targets two leaders of Somali group allied with al-Qaeda

A U.S. drone aircraft fired on two leaders of a militant Somali organization tied to al-Qaeda, apparently wounding them, a senior U.S. military official familiar with the operation said Wednesday.
The strike last week against senior members of al-Shabab comes amid growing concern within the U.S. government that some leaders of the Islamist group are collaborating more closely with al-Qaeda to strike targets beyond Somalia, the military official said.

The airstrike makes Somalia at least the sixth country where the United States is using drone aircraft to conduct lethal attacks, joining Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq and Yemen. And it comes as the CIA is expected to begin flying armed drones over Yemen in its hunt for al-Qaeda operatives.
Al-Shabab has battled Somalia’s tenuous government for several years. In recent months, U.S. officials have picked up intelligence that senior members of the group have expanded their ambitions beyond attacks in Somalia.
“They have become somewhat emboldened of late, and, as a result, we have become more focused on inhibiting their activities,” the official said.“They were planning operations outside of Somalia.”
Both of the al-Shabab leaders targeted in the attack had “direct ties” to American-born cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi, the military official said. Aulaqi escaped a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in May.
The White House declined Wednesday night to respond to questions about the attack.
But Obama administration officials have made repeated references to al-Shabab in recent weeks, indicating that the group has expanded its aims and its operations. In a speech Wednesday unveiling the administration’s new counterterrorism strategy, senior White House aide John O. Brennan included Somalia among the countries where the administration has placed a new focus on al-Qaeda affiliates.
“As the al-Qaeda core has weakened under our unyielding pressure, it has looked increasingly to these other groups and individuals to take up its cause, including its goal of striking the United States,” said Brennan, Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser. “From the territory it controls in Somalia,” he said, “al-Shabab continues to call for strikes against the United States.”
And earlier this month, in a hearing to confirm him as Obama’s new defense secretary, CIA Director Leon Panetta told senators that the agency had intelligence on al-Shabab “that indicates that they, too, are looking at targets beyond Somalia.” Panetta said al-Qaeda had moved some of its operations to “nodes” in Yemen, Somalia and North Africa. The CIA, he said, was working with the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command in those areas “to try to develop counterterrorism.”
The Special Operations Command carried out last week’s Somalia strike, the military official said, and it has been flying remotely piloted planes over Yemen for much of the past year. It has taken the lead in operations in Yemen, where Aulaqi, a senior figure in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is based.
U.S. aircraft and Special Operations commandos have carried out other attacks in Somalia against militants linked to al-Qaeda, but the strike last week appears to have been one of the first U.S. drone attacks in Somalia.
It was not immediately clear what kind of unmanned aircraft was used in the attack or where the drone originated.
The airstrike appears to be one piece of a larger effort to step up offensive action against al-Shabab militants with ties to al-Qaeda in Somalia. Somali media have reported numerous rumors in recent months of U.S. airstrikes on militant camps.
On April 6, an al-Shabab commander was reported to have been killed by an airstrike in Dhobley, a border town in southern Somalia, according to the Web site Long War Journal.
This month, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the alleged architect of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in East Africa, was killed in a shootout in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, Somali officials said. Mohammed was a founder of al-Shabab and was considered the most-wanted man in East Africa.
The United States conducted a DNA analysis to confirm Mohammed’s demise, a U.S. official said. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton described it as “a significant blow to al-Qaeda, its extremist allies and its operations in East Africa.”
In last week’s attack, local officials told the Associated Press that military aircraft struck a convoy carrying the militants as they drove along the coastline of the southern port city of Kismaayo late Thursday. Other local residents told journalists that an air attack had taken place on a militant camp near Kismaayo, an insurgent stronghold. Several residents were quoted as saying that more than one explosion had occurred over a period of several hours and that they thought that at least helicopters had taken part in the attack.
An al-Shabab leader confirmed the airstrike and said two militants were wounded. Abdirashid Mohamed Hidig, Somalia’s deputy defense minister, said the attack was a coordinated operation that killed “many” foreign fighters.
“I have their names, but I don’t want to release them,” he told the AP.
In the early days of the Obama administration, officials became concerned about Somali extremists and debated whether al-Shabab, despite some ties to al-Qaeda,posed a threat to the United States or was primarily focused on Somalia. Some administration and intelligence officials said the group’s objectives remained domestic and argued against any preemptive strike on its camps.
Over the past year, al-Shabab has focused more openly outside Somalia in its statements and targets. In July, the group carried out suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, that killed 76 people, including one American. Uganda is one of the countries providing troops to a peacekeeping force that protects the U.S.-backed government in Somalia.
In August, the Justice Department charged 14 people in this country with providing support to al-Shabab. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said that the indictments “shed further light on a deadly pipeline that has routed funding and fighters to al-Shabab from cities across the United States.”

By and
taken from

How climate change could cause a 30-year war

A 30-year war for energy preeminence?  You wouldn’t wish it even on a desperate planet.  But that’s where we’re headed and there’s no turning back.
From 1618 to 1648, Europe was engulfed in a series of intensely brutal conflicts known collectively as the Thirty Years’ War. It was, in part, a struggle between an imperial system of governance and the emerging nation-state.  Indeed, many historians believe that the modern international system of nation-states was crystallized in the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, which finally ended the fighting.
Think of us today as embarking on a new Thirty Years’ War.  It may not result in as much bloodshed as that of the 1600s, though bloodshed there will be, but it will prove no less momentous for the future of the planet.  Over the coming decades, we will be embroiled at a global level in a succeed-or-perish contest among the major forms of energy, the corporations which supply them, and the countries that run on them.  The question will be: Which will dominate the world’s energy supply in the second half of the twenty-first century?  The winners will determine how -- and how badly -- we live, work, and play in those not-so-distant decades, and will profit enormously as a result.  The losers will be cast aside and dismembered.
Why 30 years?  Because that’s how long it will take for experimental energy systems like hydrogen power, cellulosic ethanol, wave power, algae fuel, and advanced nuclear reactors to make it from the laboratory to full-scale industrial development.  Some of these systems (as well, undoubtedly, as others not yet on our radar screens) will survive the winnowing process.  Some will not.  And there is little way to predict how it will go at this stage in the game.  At the same time, the use of existing fuels like oil and coal, which spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, is likely to plummet, thanks both to diminished supplies and rising concerns over the growing dangers of carbon emissions.
This will be a war because the future profitability, or even survival, of many of the world’s most powerful and wealthy corporations will be at risk, and because every nation has a potentially life-or-death stake in the contest.  For giant oil companies like BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell, an eventual shift away from petroleum will have massive economic consequences.  They will be forced to adopt new economic models and attempt to corner new markets, based on the production of alternative energy products, or risk collapse or absorption by more powerful competitors.  In these same decades, new companies will arise, some undoubtedly coming to rival the oil giants in wealth and importance.
The fate of nations, too, will be at stake as they place their bets on competing technologies, cling to their existing energy patterns, or compete for global energy sources, markets, and reserves.  Because the acquisition of adequate supplies of energy is as basic a matter of national security as can be imagined, struggles over vital resources -- oil and natural gas now, perhaps lithium or nickel (for electric-powered vehicles) in the future -- will trigger armed violence.
When these three decades are over, as with the Treaty of Westphalia, the planet is likely to have in place the foundations of a new system for organizing itself -- this time around energy needs.  In the meantime, the struggle for energy resources is guaranteed to grow ever more intense for a simple reason: there is no way the existing energy system can satisfy the world’s future requirements.  It must be replaced or supplemented in a major way by a renewable alternative system or, forget Westphalia, the planet will be subject to environmental disaster of a sort hard to imagine today.
The existing energy lineup
To appreciate the nature of our predicament, begin with a quick look at the world’s existing energy portfolio.   According to BP, the world consumed 13.2 billion tons of oil-equivalent from all sources in 2010: 33.6% from oil, 29.6% from coal, 23.8% from natural gas, 6.5% from hydroelectricity, 5.2% from nuclear energy, and a mere 1.3% percent from all renewable forms of energy.  Together, fossil fuels -- oil, coal, and gas -- supplied 10.4 billion tons, or 87% of the total.
Even attempting to preserve this level of energy output in 30 years’ time, using the same proportion of fuels, would be a near-hopeless feat.  Achieving a 40% increase in energy output, as most analysts believe will be needed to satisfy the existing requirements of older industrial powers and rising demand in China and other rapidly developing nations, is simply impossible.
Two barriers stand in the way of preserving the existing energy profile: eventual oil scarcity and global climate change.  Most energy analysts expect conventional oil output -- that is, liquid oil derived from fields on land and in shallow coastal waters -- to reach a production peak in the next few years and then begin an irreversible decline.  Some additional fuel will be provided in the form of “unconventional” oil -- that is, liquids derived from the costly, hazardous, and ecologically unsafe extraction processes involved in producing tar sands, shale oil, and deep-offshore oil -- but this will only postpone the contraction in petroleum availability, not avert it.  By 2041, oil will be far less abundant than it is today and so incapable of meeting anywhere near 33.6% of the world’s (much expanded) energy needs.
Meanwhile, the accelerating pace of climate change will produce ever more damage -- intense storm activity, rising sea levels, prolonged droughts, lethal heat waves, massive forest fires, and so on -- finally forcing reluctant politicians to take remedial action. This will undoubtedly include an imposition of curbs on the release via fossil fuels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, whether in the form of carbon taxes, cap-and-trade plans, emissions limits, or other restrictive systems as yet not imagined.  By 2041, these increasingly restrictive curbs will help ensure that fossil fuels will not be supplying anywhere near 87% of world energy.
The leading contenders
If oil and coal are destined to fall from their position as the world’s paramount source of energy, what will replace them? Here are some of the leading contenders.
Natural gas:  Many energy experts and political leaders view natural gas as a “transitional” fossil fuel because it releases less carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases than oil and coal.  In addition, global supplies of natural gas are far greater than previously believed, thanks to new technologies -- notably horizontal drilling and the controversial procedure of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) -- that allow for the exploitation of shale gas reserves once considered inaccessible.  For example, in 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) predicted that, by 2035, gas would far outpace coal as a source of American energy, though oil would still outpace them both.  Some now speak of a “natural gas revolution” that will see it overtake oil as the world’s number one fuel, at least for a time.  But fracking poses a threat to the safety of drinking water and so may arouse widespread opposition, while the economics of shale gas may, in the end, prove less attractive than currently assumed.  In fact, many experts now believe that the prospects for shale gas have been oversold, and that stepped-up investment will result in ever-diminishing returns.
Nuclear power:  Prior to the March 11th earthquake/tsunami disaster and a series of core meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex in Japan, many analysts were speaking of a nuclear "renaissance," which would see the construction of hundreds of new nuclear reactors over the next few decades.  Although some of these plants in China and elsewhere are likely to be built, plans for others -- in Italy and Switzerland, for example -- already appear to have been scrapped.  Despite repeated assurances that U.S. reactors are completely safe, evidence is regularly emerging of safety risks at many of these facilities.  Given rising public concern over the risk of catastrophic accident, it is unlikely that nuclear power will be one of the big winners in 2041.
However, nuclear enthusiasts (including President Obama) are championing the manufacture of small “modular” reactors that, according to their boosters, could be built for far less than current ones and would produce significantly lower levels of radioactive waste.  Although the technology for, and safety of, such “assembly-line” reactors has yet to be demonstrated, advocates claim that they would provide an attractive alternative to both large conventional reactors with their piles of nuclear waste and coal-fired power plants that emit so much carbon dioxide.
Wind and solar: Make no mistake, the world will rely on wind and solar power for a greater proportion of its energy 30 years from now.  According to the International Energy Agency, those energy sources will go from approximately 1% of total world energy consumption in 2008 to a projected 4% in 2035.  But given the crisis at hand and the hopes that exist for wind and solar, this would prove small potatoes indeed.  For these two alternative energy sources to claim a significantly larger share of the energy pie, as so many climate-change activists desire, real breakthroughs will be necessary, including major improvements in the design of wind turbines and solar collectors, improved energy storage (so that power collected during sunny or windy periods can be better used at night or in calm weather), and a far more efficient and expansive electrical grid (so that energy from areas favored by sun and wind can be effectively distributed elsewhere).  China, Germany, and Spain have been making the sorts of investments in wind and solar energy that might give them an advantage in the new Thirty Years’ War -- but only if the technological breakthroughs actually come.
Biofuels and algae:  Many experts see a promising future for biofuels, especially as “first generation” ethanol, based largely on the fermentation of corn and sugar cane, is replaced by second- and third-generation fuels derived from plant cellulose (“cellulosic ethanol”) and bio-engineered algae.  Aside from the fact that the fermentation process requires heat (and so consumes energy even while releasing it), many policymakers object to the use of food crops to supply raw materials for a motor fuel at a time of rising food prices.  However, several promising technologies to produce ethanol by chemical means from the cellulose in non-food crops are now being tested, and one or more of these techniques may well survive the transition to full-scale commercial production.  At the same time, a number of companies, including ExxonMobil, are exploring the development of new breeds of algae that reproduce swiftly and can be converted into biofuels.  (The U.S. Department of Defense is also investing in some of these experimental methods with an eye toward transforming the American military, a great fossil-fuel guzzler, into a far “greener” outfit.)  Again, however, it is too early to know which (if any) biofuel endeavors will pan out.
Hydrogen:  A decade ago, many experts were talking about hydrogen’s immense promise as a source of energy.  Hydrogen is abundant in many natural substances (including water and natural gas) and produces no carbon emissions when consumed.  However, it does not exist by itself in the natural world and so must be extracted from other substances -- a process that requires significant amounts of energy in its own right, and so is not, as yet, particularly efficient.  Methods for transporting, storing, and consuming hydrogen on a large scale have also proved harder to develop than once imagined.  Considerable research is being devoted to each of these problems, and breakthroughs certainly could occur in the decades to come.  At present, however, it appears unlikely that hydrogen will prove a major source of energy in 2041.
X the Unknown: Many other sources of energy are being tested by scientists and engineers at universities and corporate laboratories worldwide. Some are even being evaluated on a larger scale in pilot projects of various sorts.  Among the most promising of these are geothermal energy, wave energy, and tidal energy.  Each taps into immense natural forces and so, if the necessary breakthroughs were to occur, would have the advantage of being infinitely exploitable, with little risk of producing greenhouse gases.  However, with the exception of geothermal, the necessary technologies are still at an early stage of development.  How long it may take to harvest them is anybody’s guess. Geothermal energy does show considerable promise, but has run into problems, given the need to tap it by drilling deep into the earth, in some cases triggering small earthquakes.
From time to time, I hear of even less familiar prospects for energy production that possess at least some hint of promise.  At present, none appears likely to play a significant role in 2041, but no one should underestimate humanity’s technological and innovative powers.  As with all history, surprise can play a major role in energy history, too.
Energy efficiency:  Given the lack of an obvious winner among competing transitional or alternative energy sources, one crucial approach to energy consumption in 2041 will surely be efficiency at levels unimaginable today: the ability to achieve maximum economic output for minimum energy input.  The lead players three decades from now may be the countries and corporations that have mastered the art of producing the most with the least. Innovations in transportation, building and product design, heating and cooling, and production techniques will all play a role in creating an energy-efficient world.
When the war is over
Thirty years from now, for better or worse, the world will be a far different place: hotter, stormier, and with less land (given the loss of shoreline and low-lying areas to rising sea levels).  Strict limitations on carbon emissions will certainly be universally enforced and the consumption of fossil fuels, except under controlled circumstances, actively discouraged.  Oil will still be available to those who can afford it, but will no longer be the world’s paramount fuel.  New powers, corporate and otherwise, in new combinations will have risen with a new energy universe.  No one can know, of course, what our version of the Treaty of Westphalia will look like or who will be the winners and losers on this planet.  In the intervening 30 years, however, that much violence and suffering will have ensued goes without question. Nor can anyone say today which of the contending forms of energy will prove dominant in 2041 and beyond.
Were I to wager a guess, I might place my bet on energy systems that were decentralized, easy to make and install, and required relatively modest levels of up-front investment.  For an analogy, think of the laptop computer of 2011 versus the giant mainframes of the 1960s and 1970s.  The closer that an energy supplier gets to the laptop model (or so I suspect), the more success will follow.
From this perspective, giant nuclear reactors and coal-fired plants are, in the long run, less likely to thrive, except in places like China where authoritarian governments still call the shots.  Far more promising, once the necessary breakthroughs come, will be renewable sources of energy and advanced biofuels that can be produced on a smaller scale with less up-front investment, and so possibly incorporated into daily life even at a community or neighborhood level.
Whichever countries move most swiftly to embrace these or similar energy possibilities will be the likeliest to emerge in 2041 with vibrant economies -- and given the state of the planet, if luck holds, just in the nick of time.

By Michael T. Klare taken from

More than 10,000 schools affected by strikes

Downing Street has confirmed that more than 10,000 schools have either closed or cancelled lessons as a result of the strikes over pensions. But it insisted that only half of members of the Public and Commercial Services union, which represents civil service workers, have joined the walkouts, declaring Britain's borders "open for business" with air travel unaffected.
The prime minister's official spokesman said that 26% of schools are shut, 22% partially open and 23% unaffected. Downing Street is still awaiting information about the other 29%. It means that more than 2 million pupils are affected by the action. Parents across the country, particularly in the major cities, have been forced to stay at home or make other arrangements for their children.
Downing Street acknowledged that the strikes would have a knock-on effect for the economy.
Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the early indications were that "large numbers" of schools were affected by the action. NUT figures suggest around 80%.
"We realise that's very disruptive for parents, and we do regret that," he said. "We had hoped to reach a settlement before the industrial action, but the government isn't serious about talks."
Michael Gove, the education secretary, said on a visit to an open primary school: "I feel disappointed that people have chosen to go out on strike today. I understand that there are really strong feelings about pensions and we absolutely want to ensure that everyone in the public, especially teachers, have decent pensions."
Thousands of people are gathering in Manchester and London to take part in marches with roads in both cities shut down. Police leave in the capital has been cancelled with a large Met operation underway in central London to police the march.
There are picket lines outside government buildings in Whitehall as well as well as schools, tax offices, courts and jobcentres across the country. Some 350 colleges and 75 universities are also closed or operating a scaled-back timetable.
The government claimed that turnout among the civil service was low but the PCS insisted it was the best supported of the union's history.
"Less than half of PCS members have decided to take part reinforcing what we saw at the ballot which was very limited support for strike action," the prime minister's spokesman said.
Jobcentres and tax offices are open, albeit with some offering reduced services. Courts are prioritising the most urgent cases, he said.
The PCS counterclaimed that 90% of members in the Department of Work and Pensions and 85% in HM Revenue and Customs had walked out.
Mark Serwotka, the union's general secretary, said: "The government made a lot of the fact that after the strike ballot it was clear civil servants didn't support strike action, but today we can see that they have voted with their feet."
The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, said: "These strikes are wrong at a time when negotiations are still going on but parents and the public have been let down by both sides because the government has acted in a reckless and provocative manner.
"After today's disruption, I urge both sides to put aside the rhetoric, get round the negotiating table and stop it happening again."
The government is coming under increasing pressure to justify claims that the current system is "unaffordable". David Cameron said this week that it was in danger of "going broke" but the report – by the former Labour business secretary Lord Hutton – on which the government's reforms are based, confirms that as a share of GDP the cost of pensions peeked last year at 1.9% and is now projected to fall to 1.4% by 2059-60.
The Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, who is leading the pension negotiations, was accused on Radio 4's Today Programme of "floundering" by Serwotka when asked to justify the statements.
Maude would only say that the Hutton report had "very clearly" said that the status quo was "not tenable".
"You cannot continue to have more and more people in retirement being supported by fewer and fewer people in work," said Maude.
The prime minister's official spokesman dismissed the row. "People are getting caught up in a semantic debate," he said.
"There is this debate that is raging about unaffordable versus untenable. The fact of the matter is this was looked into very thoroughly by Hutton and he concluded that we needed to reform public sector pensions."
Asked if striking unions would be excluded from future talks, he said: "We want to have a constructive dialogue. We will continue to approach these discussions in that way."
Annual figures released by the Department for Education on Thursday show that there are 8.2 million pupils in 24,500 schools in England, including 2,400 private schools. According to the government's estimation that half of schools are affected, at least 10,000 are closed with at least 2 million pupils affected by closures and hundreds of thousands of more missing cancelled lessons.
Maude claimed the turnout was lower than the 2004 and 2007 strikes against Labour's pension reforms. He issued the government's assessment of the impact of the strike on the civil service claiming that Just under 80% of civil servants were at work estimating that around 100,000 out of the 500,000 workforce was striking. The PCS union has around 250,000 members who were balloted.
He said: "What today has shown is that the vast majority of hardworking public sector employees do not support today's premature strike and have come into work today; I want to thank them all for coming in, ignoring the pickets and putting the public first.
"I am not at all surprised by the very low turnout for today's action – less than half of PCS's own members chose to take part. Very few civil servants wanted this strike at all – less than 10% of them voted for it - and they are right.
"It is simply wrong for their leader to be pushing for walkouts when serious talks, set up at the request of the TUC itself, are still ongoing. As Brendan Barber [the TUC general secretary] said, the government are approaching this whole process in good faith."

by taken from

World's longest sea bridge opens to traffic in China

China has opened the world's longest cross-sea bridge - which stretches five miles further than the distance between Dover and Calais.
The Jiaozhou Bay bridge is 26.4 miles long and links China's eastern port city of Qingdao to the offshore island Huangdao.
The road bridge, which is 110ft wide and is the longest of its kind, cost nearly £1billion to build.
A bridge over misty waters: The immense £1billion structure which is supported by more than 5,000 pillars stretches for 24 miles along China's eastern port city of Qingdao to the offshore island Huangdao
A bridge over misty waters: The immense £1billion structure which is supported by more than 5,000 pillars stretches for 24 miles along China's eastern port city of Qingdao to the offshore island Huangdao

Engineering feat: The vast bridge, the largest cross-ocean bridge in the world, cost £960million and took four years to build
Engineering feat: The vast bridge, the largest cross-ocean bridge in the world, cost £960million and took four years to build

Chinese TV reports said the bridge passed construction appraisals on Monday and it, along with an undersea tunnel, would be opened for traffic today.
It took four years to build the bridge, which is supported by more than 5,000 pillars across the bay, and it is almost three miles longer than the previous record-holder - the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Louisiana.
That structure features two bridges running side by side and is 23.87 miles long.
The three-way Qingdao Haiwan bridge is 174 times longer than London's Tower Bridge, spanning the River Thames, but cuts only 19 miles off the drive from Qingdao to Huangdao.
Two separate groups of workers have been building it from different ends of the structure since 2006.
After linking the two ends of the bridge on December 22, one engineer said: 'The computer models and calculations are all very well but you can't relax until the two sides are bolted together.
'Even a few centimetres out would have been a disaster.'
The engineering feat will only hold the record as the longest sea bridge for a few years - it will be beaten by another Chinese bridge in the next decade.
Last December officials announced workers had begun constructing a bridge to link southern Guangdong province with Hong Kong and Macau.
Set to be completed in 2016, officials said the £6.5billion bridge will span nearly 30 miles.
It will be designed to cope with earthquakes up to magnitude 8.0, strong typhoons and the impact of a 300,000 tonne vessel.
But both structures will still be dwarfed by the longest bridge in the world, also in China.
The Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge is an astonishing 102 miles in length.

Online games and social media used to target junk foods at children

Researchers from the International Association for the Study of Obesity warned that firms are using the internet to push foods with high salt, sugar and fat content
directly to children, with parents often ignorant of what is going on.
Firms such as McDonald's, Kellogg's, Haribo and Nesquik have been criticised over their marketing to children.
Haribo and Nesquik use online games to push their sweets and drinks and Kellogg's was identified for aiming its Krave chocolate breakfast cereal at children not adults.
McDonald's was mentioned for promoting the children’s film Kung Fu Panda 2 on its Happy Meals deal.
Dr Tim Lobstein, the report’s author, said: “Companies can now use new technologies to encourage children to market to each other and by-pass any parental controls.
“'The consequences are very low standards of control and continued exposure of children to powerful inducements to eat a junk food diet.”
Each company has different rules about the age of children it can target and whether controls should cover all areas of marketing, including TV, toys, packaging, company websites and social media.
Dr Lobstein urged governments to create national and international standards to protect children’s health.
Nearly one in 10 six-year-olds in Britain is classified as obese.
The children's food market is worth billions of pounds a year.
A spokesman for The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, which represents food firms, rejected the criticism and said the industry had effectively reduced marketing to children.

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Germany votes to end nuclear power by 2022

German MPs have overwhelmingly approved plans to shut down the country's nuclear plants by 2022, putting Europe's biggest economy on the road to an ambitious build-up of renewable energy.
The lower house of parliament voted 513-79 for the shutdown plan drawn up by Angela Merkel's government after Japan's post-tsunami nuclear disaster. Most of the opposition voted in favour.
MPs sealed the shutdown of eight of the older reactors, which have been off the grid since March. Germany's remaining nine reactors will be shut down in stages by the end of 2022.
By 2020, Germany wants to double the share of energy stemming from water, wind, sun or biogas to at least 35%. Until this year, nuclear energy accounted for a little less than a quarter of Germany's power.
"Some people abroad ask: will Germany manage this? Can it be done? It is the first time that a major industrial country has declared itself ready to carry through this technological and economic revolution," the environment minister, Norbert Röttgen, told MPs.
"The message from today is this: the Germans are getting to work," he said. "This will be good for our country, because we all stand together. So let's get to work."
The government hasn't put a price tag on the plan to shift to renewable sources. "Of course it will cost something, but it won't overburden anyone," Röttgen said.
The vote completed a spectacular about-turn on nuclear energy by Merkel's centre-right coalition. Only last year, it had amended a previous centre-left government's plan to abandon nuclear power by the early 2020s and extended the life span of Germany's 17 reactors by an average of 12 years.
Merkel said the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant had prompted her to re-evaluate the risks of nuclear power.
Opposition leaders taunted the government over its U-turn, which Merkel initiated less than two weeks before two state elections in March.
"We are approving this out of full conviction, but you are doing it merely to preserve power," said Sigmar Gabriel, the head of the centre-left Social Democrats.
Renate Künast, the co-leader of the Greens' parliamentary group, said she didn't care why Merkel had changed course: "For me, it's enough of a historical irony that you now have to come close to what you fought for decades," she said.
"Now no one can deny that Germany wants an energy turnaround," added Künast. Her party has always opposed nuclear energy, which has been unpopular in Germany since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster sent radioactivity drifting over the country.
Still, she complained that the government's renewable energy target was unambitious, arguing that Germany should be aiming for a share of well over 40%.
"The world is watching us now, and we will have to do justice to that," Künast said. "That is the scale of this task: we must show that this works for the fourth biggest industrial country."
Parliament's upper house, which represents Germany's 16 states, is expected to endorse the plans next week, but much of the package does not formally require its approval.

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Greek MPs vote on next stage of austerity plan

The battle to prevent Greece lurching into disorderly default continues as lawmakers return to the Athens parliament on Thursday to approve the next stage in the hugely unpopular austerity package.
Having approved the €28bn (£25bn) programme of fresh taxes and cutbacks in principle on Wednesday, Greek MPs will vote on an enabling bill giving the government authority to implement the new measures speedily. Analysts are broadly confident that the legislation will pass but are still unconvinced that George Papandreou's administration can actually implement the tough measures in the face of deep public hostility.
"If we wanted to be cynical, or realistic, we could say that the disaster scenario has been averted for now but we may well be revisiting in three or six months," predicted Gary Jenkins of Evolution Securities in a research note on Thursday morning. Jenkins fears that Greece will fail to make enough progress to placate its European neighbours and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which it relies on for its funding.
The financial markets were broadly calm on Thursday, following strong gains on Wednesday. The FTSE 100 index opened 22 points higher at 5878, after Asian markets recorded gains. The euro gained around 0.7 cents against the US dollar, to $1.4505.
European leaders have hailed Wednesday's vote, by 155 votes to 138, as a key moment in the debt crisis that has gripped the region for many months.
"The country has taken an important step forward along the necessary path of fiscal consolidation and growth-enhancing structural reform. But it has also taken a vital step back – from the very grave scenario of default. This was a vote of national responsibility," said Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, and European commission president José Manuel Barroso in a joint statement.
Attention may shift to Italy, as the Italian cabinet meets on Thursday to approve its own austerity budget. This includes about €47bn of spending cuts and tax increases, and is rumoured to include a Robin Hood-style tax on financial transactions.


Wednesday's vote took place against a backdrop of clashes between protestors and police in Athens. About 100 people were treated in hospital, according to Reuters.
Several people reported that police officers had fired stun grenades and tear gas at peaceful crowds. But there were also images of individuals, some wearing gas masks, throwing stones or wielding sticks at police officers.
Further demonstrations are expected on Thursday.
A new EU/IMF rescue package for Greece worth about €110bn is expected to be agreed in the next few weeks.
Some form of Greek debt restructuring is seen as inevitable – the challenge is to find a method that will not be treated as a default by credit rating agencies. Eurozone finance ministers will meet on Sunday to consider a proposal from France under which lenders would agree to roll over their maturing Greek debt and buy new bonds.
John Lipsky, acting chief of the IMF, said on Wednesday that the private sector will have to be involved in the second Greek bailout.
"Eventually there will be on a voluntary basis some degree of contribution by private-sector creditors," Lipsky said.

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Riyadh will build nuclear weapons if Iran gets them, Saudi prince warns

A senior Saudi Arabian diplomat and member of the ruling royal family has raised the spectre of nuclear conflict in the Middle East if Iran comes close to developing a nuclear weapon.
Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington, warned senior Nato military officials that the existence of such a device "would compel Saudi Arabia … to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences".
He did not state explicitly what these policies would be, but a senior official in Riyadh who is close to the prince said yesterday his message was clear.
"We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don't. It's as simple as that," the official said. "If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit."
Officials in Riyadh said that Saudi Arabia would reluctantly push ahead with its own civilian nuclear programme. Peaceful use of nuclear power, Turki said, was the right of all nations.
Turki was speaking earlier this month at an unpublicised meeting at RAF Molesworth, the airbase in Cambridgeshire used by Nato as a centre for gathering and collating intelligence on the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
According to a transcript of his speech obtained by the Guardian, Turki told his audience that Iran was a "paper tiger with steel claws" that was "meddling and destabilising" across the region.
"Iran … is very sensitive about other countries meddling in its affairs. But it should treat others like it expects to be treated. The kingdom expects Iran to practise what it preaches," Turki said.
Turki holds no official post in Saudi Arabia but is seen as an ambassador at large for the kingdom and a potential future foreign minister,
Diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and published by the Guardian last year revealed that King Abdullah, who has ruled Saudi Arabia since 2005, had privately warned Washington in 2008 that if Iran developed nuclear weapons "everyone in the region would do the same, including Saudi Arabia".
Saudi Arabian diplomats and officials have launched a serious campaign in recent weeks to rally global and regional powers against Iran, fearful that their country's larger but poorer regional rival is exploiting the Arab Spring to gain influence in the region and within the kingdom itself.
Turki also accused Iran of interfering in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and in the Gulf state of Bahrain, where Saudi troops were deployed this year as part of a Gulf Co-operation Council force following widespread protests from those calling for greater democratic rights.
Though there has previously been little public comment from Riyadh on developments in Syria, Turki told his audience at Molesworth that President Bashar al-Assad "will cling to power till the last Syrian is killed".
Syria presents a dilemma for Saudi policymakers: although they would prefer not to see popular protest unseat another regime in the region, they view the Damascus regime, which is dominated by members of Syria's Shia minority, as a proxy for Iran.
"The loss of life [in Syria] in the present internal struggle is deplorable. The government is woefully deficient in its handling of the situation," Turki said at the Molesworth meeting, which took place on 8 June.
Though analysts say demonstrations in Bahrain were not sectarian in nature, two senior Saudi officials in Riyadh said this week that Tehran had mobilised the largely Shia protesters against the Sunni rulers of the Gulf state. Iran has a predominantly Shia population. Around 15% of Saudis are Shia. The officials described this minority, which suffers extensive discrimination despite recent attempts at reform, as "vulnerable to external influence".
Though there has been negligible unrest internally, Saudi Arabia has been shaken by the events across the Arab world in recent months and has watched anxiously as a number of allies – such as President Hosni Mubarak – have been ousted or have found themselves in grave difficulties. President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen is being treated in a Saudi Arabian hospital for wounds caused by a mysterious blast that forced him to leave his country this month.
The former Tunisian ruler Zine al-Abedine ben Ali, whose relations with Riyadh were complex, is reported to have been housed in a luxurious villa in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah after he fled his homeland for Saudi Arabia.
Saudi officials admitted that decision-makers in Saudi Arabia were "not keen" on demonstrators ousting governments, but said they were "even less keen on killing and massacres".
Turki also warned that al-Qaida has been able to create "a sanctuary not unlike Pakistan's tribal areas" in Yemen.
Saudi Arabian foreign policy historically has been pro-western, although differences have emerged with the United States in recent years. The Arab Spring has also caused some tension, with the deployment of troops in Bahrain opposed by Washington.
There has also been conflict following western charges that the kingdom has exported radical strands of Islam around the Muslim world.Turki said that "in all areas, Islam must play a central yet development role" and insisted that "closer monitoring" now ensured that funds raised in the kingdom "were not misused".
Internally, Saudi Arabia faced problems because of the youthfulness of its population, radicalism and different sectarian identities, Turki said.
Senior officials at the ministry of interior in Riyadh said that Iran was using ideology to "penetrate" the Arabian peninsula "in the same way al-Qaida did".
Turki also reiterated a long-standing Saudi call for a nuclear free zone in the Middle East, which would include both Iran and Israel and would be enforced by the United Nations security council.
The prince said sanctions against Iran were working. He welcomed the consensus in Washington that military strikes against Tehran would be counterproductive.
Analysts said that Turki's words about developing nuclear arms may have been intended to focus western attention on Saudi concerns about their regional rival rather than to indicate any kind of definite decision by Riyadh because the practical and diplomatic obstacles of doing so would be immense.
William Hague, Britain's foreign secretary said that Iran has recently conducted covert tests of ballistic missiles as well as at least three secret tests of medium-range ballistic missiles since October.
Iran and the west remain in dispute over its nuclear programme. The US and its allies insist Tehran aims to develop atomic weapons, a charge that Iran rejects.

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Putin says Russian 2012 election will be dirty

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned on Thursday that the March 2012 presidential election campaign would be dirty, but stopped short of saying whether he would seek another stint as Kremlin chief.
Putin, Russia's most popular politician, made clear he would play a significant role in the election but told supporters he would need to cleanse politics after the campaign.
"I shall go to wash, in the hygienic sense of the word but also in the political sense," Putin said, when asked at a regional conference of his ruling United Russia party what he would do the day after the March presidential election.
"After all the campaigns which we shall have to endure, you have to be properly hygienic. Unfortunately, this is an inevitable process," he said.
"As Churchill said: Democracy is the worst form of government but there is no better one," Putin said in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.
Putin and his protege, President Dmitry Medvedev, have both repeatedly refused to say which of them will run in the March 2012 presidential election, which follows a parliamentary election in December.

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U.S. recognizes Muslim Brotherhood

The U.S. has decided to formally resume contact with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood group - which does not recognize Israel – in a move that could further alienate some Jewish voters already skeptical of President Barack Obama, it was reported.
One senior U.S. official said the Brotherhood’s rise in political prominence after the forced departure of former President Hosni Mubarak earlier this year makes the American contact necessary.
“The political landscape in Egypt has changed, and is changing… It is in our interests to engage with all of the parties that are competing for parliament or the presidency,” said the official, who confirmed the news to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
The Muslim Brotherhood - founded in 1928 to promote a conservative version of Islam in politics, culture and society – has previously had some communication with the U.S. through Brotherhood Members of Parliament who had been technically elected as independents. U.S. diplomats had been instructed only to deal with Brotherhood members in their role as Members of Parliament.
The decision to resume contact with the Muslim Brotherhood group may worry members of the Jewish community and Israeli officials, Reuters reported.
POLITICO’s Ben Smith wrote yesterday about the increasing anxiety of center-left Jewish Democrats who are losing faith in Obama, most recently because of the speech in which he called for the country’s 1967 borders to be the basis for peace talks, with “land swaps.”
Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mohamed Saad el-Katatni told Reuters that no American contact with the group has yet been made, but he added: “We welcome such relationships with everyone because those relations will lead to clarifying our vision.”
In recent years, the Muslim Brotherhood has asserted that it renounces violence. The group is not considered a foreign terrorist organization by the United States – but organizations sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, like Hamas, have not renounced violence against Israel.
Egypt will hold parliamentary elections in September, and the country’s military government has promised an election for president by the end of this year.

Boy, 17, lucky to be alive after crossbow fires bolt into his face

A teenage boy is lucky to be alive after accidentally being shot in the face with an eight-inch crossbow bolt.

Lewis Tavernier, 17, had taken his crossbow to a friend’s house in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, and put the safety catch on before carefully placing it on a nearby desk.
But as the pair chatted, the weapon suddenly and inexplicably discharged and fired into the teenager’s face from less than three feet away - leaving it buried three inches deep into his right cheek.
Lewis Tavernier lies in a hospital bed after accidentally being shot in the face with a crossbow bolt
Lewis Tavernier,17, lies in a hospital bed after accidentally being shot in the face with a crossbow bolt

X-ray shows the eight-inch crossbow bolt lodged three-inches inside his face, but missed crucial nerves and arteries
X-ray shows the eight-inch crossbow bolt lodged three-inches inside his face, but missed crucial nerves
Agony: Lewis suffered a punctured muscle and a fractured cheekbone in the bizarre accident
Agony: Lewis suffered a punctured muscle and a fractured cheekbone in the bizarre accident
An X-ray of the student reveals his fractured cheekbone, but the bolt miraculously missed damaging crucial nerves and arteries by just two millimetres.
The A-level student at Marriots School, Stevenage, said: ‘I had used the crossbow lots of times before and I had put the safety catch on so I didn't think twice about putting it down on a desk.
‘But suddenly the crossbow just fired. It was the strangest thing - there was no-one around it and my friend saw it just fire into me.
‘I was only about a metre away but it was so quick and powerful I didn't really feel it go in. I just remember saying; 'mate is there an arrow in my face?'
‘He was really distressed but I guess I was in shock because it didn't hurt at all at first. My friend's dad drove me to hospital and then the pain started.
‘The doctors told me that it was 2mm away from hitting a nerve which would have killed me, and any lower and I would never have been able to talk again.
‘I wasn’t in much pain but I couldn’t believe what had happened, it was so unreal.’

The teenager was rushed to Lister Hospital to have emergency surgery.

The powerful bolt had been shot three inches deep into his face, puncturing a muscle and fracturing his cheekbone.

‘I went into hospital on the Friday night and by Saturday I was back home. I was just a whirlwind,’ Lewis said.

He continued: ‘If it was any lower I wouldn’t have been able to talk again and if it was two millimetres higher I wouldn’t be alive. I was very lucky.

‘I was terrified I was going to lose my eye and I feel so lucky not to be brain damaged.’

Lewis, who lives with his younger brother and his parents Jacqueline and Colin Tavernier, who are both teaching assistants, is recovering well.
But it will take six months to rebuild the muscle in his face, despite only being left with a small scar from the incident.
He added: ‘It aches every now and again but I don’t really notice it.

‘At first I couldn’t open my mouth that much but after that it has been the same as normal.’

The youngster, who is a keen magician, said: ‘I tend to do close-up magic, so things like cards, coins and rope tricks.

‘I’ll definitely be staying away from any medieval weaponry for my acts.’
The friends were originally planning on practising their target shooting in the garden with the loaded crossbow before the accident occurred.

Parasitic Worms May Offer Hope on MS

For people suffering from debilitating autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, there is growing evidence that help may be at hand from an unusual source: parasitic worms.
In a U.S. study, early safety tests suggested the eggs of pig whipworms have anti-inflammatory properties, reducing the size of brain lesions in MS patients. A similar trial is under way in Denmark. And in Britain, academics at the University of Nottingham are studying the potential health benefits of hookworms, another type of parasitic worm.
If these trials prove successful, treatment with parasitic worms—known as helminthic therapy—could provide a simple, cheap, natural and controllable treatment for the debilitating condition, which affects 2.5 million people world-wide.
Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disease of the brain and spinal cord, in which an overactive immune system attacks the nerve fibers responsible for sending signals to the rest of the body. Its symptoms include impaired vision, muscle weakness and spasm, fatigue, memory loss and depression.
Medication can slow the disease's progression, but many of the drugs on the market have unpleasant side effects—including hair loss, muscle aches, fever and nausea, sleeplessness and flu-like symptoms—or more dangerous risks including organ damage and brain infection.
The market in MS drugs was worth about $12.6 billion in 2010, according to research firm Espicom. Top-selling Copaxone, an injectable treatment made by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., generated $3.3 billion in sales that year.
Interest in helminthic therapy surged in 2007 with the publication of a study in Argentina by physicians Jorge Correale and Mauricio Farez. It showed that the progression of multiple sclerosis was much slower in patients who carried parasitic worms in their intestines than in those who didn't.
A study recently published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal suggested the pig parasite Trichuris suis ova whipworm, which lives in the host's intestine, is effective in treating MS symptoms.
"The results are quite promising," says John Fleming, a professor of neurology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, who led the study.
Five patients took part in the Phase 1 trial, called Helminth-Induced Immunomodulation Therapy, or HINT. All were newly diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS, a form of the disease in which new symptoms can appear and old ones resurface or worsen.
Whipworm eggs were taken from disease-free pigs and grown in Denmark in a clean environment by a German biotech company, OvaMed GmbH. Every two weeks over the course of three months, the patients in the study drank 2,500 of the eggs mixed into a sports drink. The eggs hatched in the patient's intestines and were killed by the immune system after about a week.
Patients who took part said the liquid was salty but didn't taste or smell unpleasant.
"It was like drinking a shot of salty water—you didn't notice the worms. It wasn't like there was anything chunky in it," explains Jim, 40, the first patient recruited for Dr. Fleming's safety study, who asked not to have his surname published.
"I signed up shortly after being diagnosed and didn't have a problem with it because I was pretty scared and, for me, ingesting worm eggs is just not a big deal."
During the HINT study, patients underwent MRI scans, which tracked the number of new brain lesions that developed before, during and after they ingested the worm eggs.
"What makes us optimistic is that brain lesions in four out of the five patients decreased over the course of the study and then rebounded—or rose—again after it finished," says Dr. Fleming. While the pattern shown by the MRIs is encouraging, he adds, larger and longer studies will be needed before any definite conclusions are possible.
Researchers say the Wisconsin study's findings could mean that the immune system's over-response to the brain tissue was lessened by anti-inflammatory effects from the worms, and this could offer an alternative approach to treating MS.
Dr. Fleming's HINT1 trial, which was funded by the U.S. National Multiple Sclerosis Society, will be followed by a bigger HINT2 study.
"We're now going forward and are midway recruiting 18 new MS patients for a Phase 2 trial that will last 10 months, with final results probably announced in around 18 months or so," he says.
In Britain, a similar study is being planned using parasitic hookworms. Funded by the U.K.'s Multiple Sclerosis Society and conducted by the University of Nottingham, the Phase 2 clinical trial, called Worms for Immune Regulation in MS, or WIRMS, will involve 70 patients.
"The worms will be administered to patients through applied arm patches, burrowing from there through the skin and giving a live infection," explains Doug Brown, head of biomedical research at the U.K. Multiple Sclerosis Society. After nine months, the worms are flushed out with a de-worming tablet called mebendazole. Patient recruitment starts this summer and the study's findings should be published in around three years' time, says Professor David Pritchard, the co-lead in the WIRMS study.
Prof. Pritchard, an immunologist-biologist, says that while the Wisconsin study uses worms found in pigs, "we're using a human parasite that lives only in people, and we believe it has advantages. We have worked with this parasite for decades, so we understand its biology."
As part of his investigation, Prof. Pritchard allowed himself to be infested with hookworms. He admits he was nervous at the time.
"Too many [worms] could cause tissue damage. And, once they are on the skin, there is no going back, until the worms reach the gut, from where they can be eliminated with worming medicine," he explains. He says he felt intense itching within seconds of the worms hitting his skin. "Thereafter," he says, "there was a feeling of intestinal discomfort as the worms grazed on the intestinal tissues."
Prospective patients need not be put off by Prof. Pritchard's experience, though. Whereas he was infected with 50 worms, patients in the study will receive lower doses. Following on from safety studies, 10-25 worms were chosen, because of the relatively asymptomatic nature of infection with lower doses.
Longer-term recipients of 10 worms report an easing of mild gut symptoms as host and parasite seemingly reach a form of biological agreement. "It is at this point that we hypothesize that immune regulation may be taking place, as the worms suppress the immune system to ensure their survival," he says.
Prof. Pritchard says the trial will assess whether the worms' presence can prompt the activity of a subset of the immune system's white blood cells, regulatory lymphocytes, which tone down the inflammation that causes allergies and autoimmune diseases.
The theory behind the HINT and WIRMS studies and others like them is known as "the hygiene hypothesis." This argues that developed countries such as the U.S., Europe and Japan have higher incidences of allergies and autoimmune diseases because the population has little or no exposure to parasites or infections.
In developing countries, where people are exposed to low-level infections or infestations, the rates of such diseases are much lower.
"If we get a sterile environment, like we have in Western countries for the last century by and large, an unintended consequence may be that the immune system develops in abnormal ways. That it may overreact against the patient's own tissues," explains Dr. Fleming, who led the Wisconsin study.
Alasdair Coles, a neurologist and researcher specializing in MS at the University of Cambridge, is aware of the planned WIRMS trials but isn't involved in them.
He says helminthic therapy is "potentially useful." It is "relatively cheap, relatively easy, relatively safe and all that matters is that we find out how efficacious it is."
But, he warns, the potential benefits may be overstated. "My prediction will be that this will be a safe but only partially effective therapy," he says. "The data that we have so far, which is very little, would suggest that efficacy is rather low; real, but rather low."
Shana Pezaro, a 32-year-old living on the south coast of England, was diagnosed with MS 3½ years ago. She hasn't taken part in a helminthic therapy trial but says she would have no problem doing so.
"The idea makes me feel a bit squeamish but, hey, I inject every day, and I don't really know what I'm injecting—it's some chemical drug that I don't really know what it is, how it works. But I do it every day. And actually, a worm feels a bit more natural. I understand what a worm is!"

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Homeless Man Charged With Crime For Charging Cellphone

BANGOR, Maine -- Police have brought charges against a homeless man in Maine who helped himself to an outdoor electrical outlet to charge a pair of cellphones.
A Bangor police officer checking downtown businesses discovered 23-year-old Shaun Fawster charging his cellphones in an outlet hidden behind some flowers.
Fawster was charged last weekend with theft of services, as well as carrying a concealed weapon after the officer found a folding knife tucked underneath his shirt.
The Bangor Daily News says Fawster was later released from jail. It's unknown if he has an attorney.

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New road laid around car in Wrexham

Wrexham council said it had no choice but to lay a new road surface around a car parked in a residential street.
Officials say they made several failed attempts to contact the owner of the Vauxhall Astra ahead of the planned road works.
Once they heard the owner was away for some time they decided to carry out the work and will return later to complete the job.
A spokesman said there would not be any additional cost to the council.
Alan Guest, Wrexham council's environment department divisional manager, said: "This situation does arise quite frequently when road repairs are being carried out.
"However, it is very unusual for an owner not to be contacted in time for the repairs to be completed."
He said moving the car without the owner's permission was not an option.
"There will be no additional cost to the taxpayer when contractors return to the area once the car has been removed to allow the works to be completed," said Mr Guest.
New road laid around car, courtesy Jane Redfern Jones The car owner is away and could not be contacted by the council ahead of work starting

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'Singing penis' sets noise record for water insect

Micronecta scholtzi (c)  Jerome Sueur Tiny bugs make huge sounds with a surprising organ
A tiny water boatman is the loudest animal on Earth relative to its body size, a study has revealed.
Scientists from France and Scotland recorded the aquatic animal "singing" at up to 99.2 decibels, the equivalent of listening to a loud orchestra play while sitting in the front row.
The insect makes the sound by rubbing its penis against its abdomen in a process known as "stridulation".
Researchers say the song is a courtship display performed to attract a mate.
Micronecta scholtzi are freshwater insects measuring just 2mm that are common across Europe.
In a study published in the journal PLoS One, the scientists discovered that the small animals make a mighty sound.
The team of biologists and engineering experts recorded the insects using specialist underwater microphones.
On average, the songs of M. scholtzi reached 78.9 decibels, comparable to a passing freight train.
"We were very surprised. We first thought that the sound was coming from larger aquatic species such as a Sigara species [of] lesser water boatmen," said engineering expert Dr James Windmill from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.
"When we identified without any doubt the sound source, we spent a lot of time making absolutely sure that our recordings of the sounds were calibrated correctly."
Dr Windmill explained that the reason the insects don't deafen us is down to the bug's underwater lifestyle.
Although 99% of the sound is lost when transferring from water to air, the songs were still loud enough to be audible to the human ear.
"The song is so loud that a person walking along the bank can actually hear these tiny creatures singing from the bottom of the river," said Dr Windmill.
The majority of the loudest animals on Earth are also the biggest, with blue whale songs reaching 188 dB and elephants' rumbling calls measuring 117 dB.
Although remarkable acoustic signals are made by a range of invertebrates, including the miniature cricket and preying mantis, and by large mammals, none compare to M. scholtzi once body size is taken into account.
"If you scale the sound level they produce against their body size, Micronecta scholtzi are the loudest animals on Earth," said Dr Windmill.
Researchers believe that sexual selection could be the reason why the insects' songs reach such high amplitude.
"We assume that this could be the result of a runaway selection," biologist and co-author Dr Jerome Sueur from the Museum of Natural History, Paris, told the BBC.
"Males try to compete to have access to females and then try to produce a song as loud as possible potentially scrambling the song of competitors."
Dr Sueur explained that the competition could have exaggerated the volume of males' songs over time.
In many insects, the song volume is limited because predators would hear them, but observations suggest that M. scholtzi lack auditory predators.
Modifications To produce the intense sound, the water boatmen "stridulate" by rubbing a ridge on their penis across the ridged surface of their abdomen.
"There is at least another one insect producing sound with its genitalia. This is a pyrallid moth, Syntonarcha iriastis, that uses highly modified genitalia to produce ultrasonic signals," explained Dr Sueur.
Micronecta scholtzi (c)  Jerome Sueur The tiny bugs belong to a family known in the UK as lesser water boatmen
"Insects seem to be able to use any part of their body to generate sound. Some of them use their wings, others their legs, abdomen, head, wings, thorax etcetera."
What makes M. scholtzi extraordinary is that the area they use to create sound only measures about 50 micrometres across, roughly the width of a human hair.
"We really don't know how they make such a loud sound using such a small area," said Dr Windmill.
Without any obvious adaptations to amplify the sound, the question of how the animals physically make such a loud call remains a mystery.
"These very small bugs create sound at very high level, and it could be very useful for future ultrasonic systems to learn how they do that," said Dr Windmill.


US woman took dead baby shopping

A CHICAGO woman is accused of strapping her baby's corpse into a sling and taking him shopping after killing the three-month old in a drunken rage, local media reported on Wednesday.
Ken Blackman Jr had been dead for eight to 14 hours when the woman wrapped up her shopping trip and went to visit a neighbour, who noticed blood on the baby blanket and called 911.
Prosecutors told the Chicago Sun Times that Toyrianna Smith, 20, beat and suffocated her baby because he wouldn't stop crying on June 22.
She had been drinking vodka at a friend's house and spent the night in their guest room with the baby. She slipped out of the house the next day before the baby's father came to pick him up.
Smith, 20, is being held in jail on a US$1 million (S$1.23 million) bond on charges of first-degree murder. -- AFP

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Assailant grabs Sarkozy during crowd visit

A person in a crowd has yanked French President Nicolas Sarkozy by the shoulder and nearly knocked him to the ground before being tackled by security officers.
The unusually aggressive incident occurred as the president shook hands with a crowd in the town of Brax in southern France on Thursday.
The identity of the person were unclear.
Images broadcast on French television showed Sarkozy reach over a metal barricade to greet onlookers, when an arm grabbed his suit roughly by the shoulder and pulled it toward the crowd.
Sarkozy started to lose his balance and fall, then immediately recoiled and righted himself. Security officers pulled the assailant to the ground.
Sarkozy's office would not immediately comment on the incident.

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Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Iran secretly test 'nuclear-capable missiles'

Iran has carried out secret tests of ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload in breach of UN resolutions, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Wednesday.
Hague's comments came a day after Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards said they had fired 14 missiles in an exercise, one of them a medium-range weapon capable of striking Israel or US targets in the Gulf.
In a statement to lawmakers, Hague said: "Iran has also been carrying out covert ballistic missile tests and rocket launches, including testing missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload in contravention of UN resolution 1929."
He said Iran had also announced plans to triple its capacity to produce 20 percent enriched uranium, adding: "These are enrichment levels far greater than is needed for peaceful nuclear energy.
"We will maintain and continue to increase pressure on Iran to negotiate an agreement on their nuclear programme," including sanctions, he said.
There was no immediate reaction from Tehran, which denies Western claims that it is pursuing nuclear weapons under the guise of its civil atomic programme.
On Tuesday Iranian state media said the Revolutionary Guards fired nine Zelzal missiles, two Shahab-1s, two Shahab-2s and a single medium-range Ghadr on the second day of their Great Prophet-6 exercise.
On the first day of the exercise on Monday, the Guards unveiled an "underground missile silo" which they said was designed for launching their medium-range missiles, state television reported.
The Guards' aerospace commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh insisted Iran's missile programme posed no threat to European nations but was intended to provide defence against "US targets in the region and the Zionist regime."
Iran has said that its latest exercise is not aimed at any country but carries "a message of peace and friendship."
On Tuesday US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Iran was "bragging" about its assets, but did not specify whether Washington thought the tested missiles were nuclear-capable.
Iran's missile programme, which is under the control of the powerful Guards along with its space projects, has been a mounting source of concern in the West.
Western governments fear Tehran is seeking to develop a ballistic capability to enable it to launch atomic warheads under cover of its civil nuclear programme.
Hague meanwhile reiterated accusations that Iran was backing the violent suppression of pro-democracy protests in neighbouring Syria.
Earlier this month the British envoy in Tehran was summoned to the foreign ministry over the claims.
"Iran continues to connive in the suppression of legitimate protest in Syria and to suppress protests at home," Hague said.

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Dr Lester Grinspoon Comments on ‘Cannabis Withdrawal Lithium Study’

In recent weeks, there has been an influx of support for reform.  From Release’s letter to the Prime Minister and the Guardian, to the Global Commission on Drug Policy that made strides in presenting a case for a reformation of world drug policy; special emphasis was giving to cannabis.

Furthermore, Ron Paul, U.S Republican Congressman, has introduced a bill to legislate, and draft a federal law on marijuana; emphasis being to decriminalise all persons in the U.S.  Once more, this meets the consensus that prohibition has failed.  This move coincides with ex-president Jimmy Carter’s public view that reform is indeed necessary.

Whenever the message of reform hits the headlines, it is invariably met with some degree of opposition.
On the 23rd June 2011, the Australian publication, Echo News, put out a story that appealed for applicants to partake in a cannabis withdrawal study.  The University of Sydney are appealing for participants to take part in a trial using lithium to treat the symptoms of cannabis withdrawal.

With concerns in mind, I contacted Dr Lester Grinspoon, Professor (emeritus) of Harvard Medical School.  Dr Grinspoon is a world leading authority on mental health and psychiatry.  Since the sixties, Dr Grinspoon has dedicated his life to the study of cannabis, he is also on record as the first American physician to prescribe lithium carbonate for bipolar disorder. 
Learning of the Sydney University Study, Dr Grinspoon sent this reply:

Thank you for sending me news of this absurd study.  First of all, there is considerable question as to whether cannabis can lead to an addiction.  Most authorities believe that marijuana does not cause an addiction and those who claim that it does can only point to nebulous “withdrawal symptoms”.  To consider “treating” people who have this putative addiction with lithium is, in my opinion, the height of folly.  It would not only be a worthless and wasteful enterprise, but it is also a treatment which is very uncomfortable and generally causes patients to increase weight.

Even more importantly it violates the first law of medicine, primum non nocere (do no harm) as it can damage some organs of the body and its toxicity is such that it’s blood level has to be frequently monitored. However, I am reassured by the fact that the study will never succeed, as it will be impossible to prove that one has successfully treated a phantom disorder.

Dr Grinspoon – a CLEAR supporter – went on further to say that he gives express permission to use his words as to raise awareness, and “alert people to this kind of absurd ‘research’”.

Professor Roger Pertwee of GW Pharmaceuticals, leading cannabinoid specialist and neuropharmacologist, would possibly concur with Dr Grinspoon on the subjective nature of cannabis withdrawal.  Professor Pertwee has spoken of animal addiction models where test subjects are reticent in self administering THC without first being “tricked” – test animals have to become dependent on cocaine or something similar before it will consider self administering THC.

It could be further speculated to the methodology behind such extreme measures as the ones proposed in the Sydney University lithium studies; the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC) has close links to Sydney University.

One thing that is not left up to speculation is the fact that Dr Grinspoon, with an eminently informed position, clearly holds concerns over the proposed Sydney University lithium & cannabis withdrawal study and seeks to raise exposure on the matter.

by Jason Reed taken from

Greece passes key austerity vote

The Greek parliament has voted in favour of a drastic package of austerity measures intended to save the country from defaulting on its debts.
The proposed tax hikes and spending cuts have been deeply unpopular with the Greek public.
A nationwide 48-hour strike is under way and violent clashes are continuing in the streets of the capital, Athens.
Greece is heavily in debt and the package is needed to win the latest tranche of a 110bn-euro (£98bn) loan.
MPs passed the measures by 155 votes to 138.
They will hold a second vote on Thursday aimed at changing a law allowing the package to be implemented.
'No time to step back' Ahead of the vote, PM George Papandreou urged MPs to approve the package by consensus.

Greek tragedy

Total Greek debt
An old drachma note and a euro note
Greece is about to get a second bail-out from the EU, aimed at helping pay its debts until 2014. It also has to agree more cuts as part of the deal.
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He had faced wavering support from within his governing Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok), which has a slim majority, with 155 seats out of 300 in parliament. But in the end, only one Pasok deputy voted against the package.
Mr Papandreou says his austerity plan is the only way to get Greece back on its feet.
"We must avoid the country's collapse at all costs. Now is not the time to step back," he told deputies.
Were his 28bn-euro austerity package to be rejected, Greece could run out of money within weeks, as the EU and the International Monetary Fund want the measures implemented before they release more funds to help Greece pay off its vast debts.
Top EU officials welcomed the result as a "vote of national responsibility", saying it had pulled Greece away from the "very grave scenario of default" while paving the way for a second aid package.
"The country has taken an important step forward along the necessary path of fiscal consolidation and growth-enhancing structural reform," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said in a joint statement.
'Unfair but necessary' But Greek unions are angry that the government's austerity programme will impose taxes on those earning the minimum wage, following months of other cuts that have seen unemployment rise to more than 16%.
Sporadic clashes are continuing between masked protesters and riot police outside parliament.
Shortly after the vote, dozens of rioters using ladders broke into the first floor of an office building near parliament on Syntagma Square before being driven out by police, witnesses said.
The vote covered the first part of Greece's austerity package, focusing on raising taxes to secure some 14.09bn euros over the next five years and introducing 14.32bn euros in public spending cuts.
The package is needed to secure the next instalment of the country's 110bn-euro bail-out to be released by the EU and IMF.
Ahead of Wednesday's vote, the governor of Greece's central bank, George Provopoulos, said a 'no' vote would be "suicide" for the country.
Thursday's vote is over the implementation of different parts of the package, such as tax rises and the sale of state assets.
Once passed, European officials will start to finalise the details of a second bail-out, worth an estimated 120bn euros, designed to help Greece pay its debts until the end of 2014.
The impact of the Greek vote would be felt worldwide said Herman Van Rompuy, president of the EU Commission, on Tuesday.
Recently appointed Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos acknowledged that the cuts were "unfair", though absolutely necessary.
But the main opposition leader, Antonis Samaras of the New Democracy party, said the thinking behind the austerity package was flawed, and that tax rates should be lowered rather than raised in order to stimulate the economy.

taken from