Monday, 31 October 2011

70 members of 'billion-dollar' drug gang arrested

Law enforcement officials in Arizona seized thousands of pounds of narcotics and arrested at least 70 suspected drug smugglers with apparent ties to a violent drug cartel in Mexico, an official involved with the investigation in the U.S. Southwest told Reuters.
The operation, which included three raids conducted jointly by local, state, and federal officials over 17 months, led to the arrests of Mexican and American nationals working with a notorious drug cartel based in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Further details of the operation will be released at a press conference at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration field office in Phoenix on Monday.
Authorities confiscated drugs, money, weapons, ammunition, and bullet-proof vests, cracking a "sophisticated network" of international drug smuggling in one of the largest such operations conducted in the Southwestern United States, the official said on Sunday.
Drugs were smuggled from Mexico into Arizona by car, plane, on foot, and through tunnels.
"This is one of the more substantial drug-smuggling operations going on right now. This is a billion-dollar drug trade organization linked to the cartel," the official said.
The cartel is headquartered in the northwestern state of Sinaloa on Mexico's Pacific coast, an area home to big marijuana and opium poppy plantations and considered the cradle of Mexican narcotics trafficking since the 1960s.
The cartel is believed to handle 65 percent of all drugs illegally transported to the United States, drug experts say.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in drug-related violence since Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched his military campaign against the cartels after he took office in late 2006.
The raids were overseen by the DEA, Arizona state officials, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
The official said the operation will shed light on elaborate drug smuggling into the United States and said the contraband confiscated in the raids was "jaw-dropping."
Officials captured some of the key players in the smuggling operation, the source said, adding that the suspects will be prosecuted at the state level.
The official said law enforcement officials are still looking for dozens of people in connection with the operation.

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Dean of St Paul's Cathedral resigns over Occupy London protest row

The perceived dithering and divisions of church officials over the protest camp outside St Paul's in London have claimed a second major scalp with the resignation of the cathedral's dean, the Right Rev Graham Knowles.
The dean – whose job is sufficiently senior that a replacement must be approved by the Queen – announced that mounting criticism over the cathedral's handling of the situation made his position "untenable".
In a statement read on his behalf to the media at the Chapter House, opposite St Paul's, Knowles said: "In recent days, since the arrival of the protesters' camp outside the cathedral, we have all been put under a great deal of strain and have faced what would appear to be some insurmountable issues.
"I hope and pray that under new leadership these issues might continue to be addressed and that there might be a swift and peaceful resolution."
Last week the St Paul's canon chancellor, Giles Fraser, stepped down after the cathedral's governing chapter voted to begin possible legal action against the Occupy the London Stock Exchange camp, in place now for 16 days. A part-time cleric also resigned.
Cathedral elders have faced criticism not just over the possibility that force and violence will be used to evict the camp, but for the decision to close the cathedral for a week over health and safety concerns that remain unclear. The church has also experienced wider condemnation for failing to properly and publicly agitate on the excesses of finance and global banking until prompted to by the camp, part of a burgeoning global movement.
Occupy London, a street level view: 'How clear are we all on what consensus actually is?' Link to this video The bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres, who spoke to activists at the camp on Sunday, told the briefing he had been asked by the chapter to assist the cathedral until Knowles's replacement was found.
Chartres said he wanted St Paul's to find a place in modern public life as pivotal as that it had during bombing of London in the second world war, when it was a symbol of Blitz defiance.
The chapter had said they "would not condone the use of violence in effecting any expulsion" of campers, he said. However, he added, the legal action would continue and the position could change: "Who knows what is going to happen?"
The first step in what is likely to be a lengthy legal battle to remove the anti-capitalist camp from outside St Paul's was beginning later on Monday afternoon when officials were due to formally hand activists a letter requesting that they pack up their tents and other belongings.
A Corporation of London spokesman said the letter, which was still being drafted, was likely to ask that the Occupy the London Stock Exchange protesters move within 24 or 48 hours. Activists have been camping outside St Paul's for several weeks in protest at the perceived excesses of bankers and the global finance system.
Legal officials from the corporation, which owns some of the land around St Paul's, said they would distribute several copies of the letter in the camp.
If the activists do not comply, which appears almost inevitable, then the corporation's lawyers will most likely start court proceedings on Wednesday under the Highways Act, seeking an eviction. This process could take several months, lawyers have warned.
The letter will point out that there is no objection to a 24-hour protest at the site, on the western edge of the cathedral, but that the presence of more than 200 tents plus assorted marquees providing food, information and other facilities means the thoroughfare was blocked.
Announcing the plan to take court action after a meeting on Friday, Michael Welbank, the councillor who chaired the meeting, said: "Protest is an essential right in a democracy – but camping on the highway is not."
The Occupy camp ended up on the site, which is part owned by St Paul's, on 16 October after an initial plan to base itself at nearby Paternoster Square, the private business and retail development housing the London Stock Exchange, was thwarted by police action.
The cathedral has backed many of the camp's aims, but on Friday said it supported legal action.
A protester at the camp, Spyro van Leemnen, said any response to the letter would be decided at a general assembly later in the day. The movement makes decisions democratically, through mass meetings.
The group has promised to remain at St Paul's in the long term and spread to other areas in the City. A "spillover" camp at Finsbury Square, further east, set up a week ago, is now thought to be near capacity. It is believed that protesters will target a third site later this week.

by Peter Walker taken from

Three-Eyed Fish Caught Near Argentinian Nuclear Power Plant

the simpsons blinky, blinky, blinky three-eyed fish, blinkygate, three-eyed fish found, three-eyed fish, three-eyed wolffish, three-eyed fish argentina, three-eyed fish nuclear mutation, three-eyed fish nuclear power plant, three-eyed fish nuclear power, three-eyed fish mutation, three-eyed fish genetic mutation, three-eyed fish
In an episode of The Simpsons, nuclear power plant owner Mr. Burns tries to justify the existence of Blinky, a three-eyed fish caught in the local river, by saying it is the next step in evolution and not a horrible mutation. Strangely though, he refuses to eat Blinky when it is served to him — we’re not surprised. But while Blinky is the product of a fictional cartoon, this three-eyed fish caught nearby a nuclear facility in Argentina, is not.
the simpsons blinky, blinky, blinky three-eyed fish, blinkygate, three-eyed fish found, three-eyed fish, three-eyed wolffish, three-eyed fish argentina, three-eyed fish nuclear mutation, three-eyed fish nuclear power plant, three-eyed fish nuclear power, three-eyed fish mutation, three-eyed fish genetic mutation, three-eyed fish
Fishermen in Argentina are claiming that they have caught a three-eyed fish in a reservoir in the Córdoba province, and it just so happens that a nearby nuclear facility pumps its hot water directly into this body of water.
Unsurprisingly, the discovery of the three-eyed wolffish has prompted concerns about the levels of radiation in the reservoir and to what degree the local wildlife are affected. We’re no experts, but if they’re growing extra eyes – we’d say quite a bit.
Speaking to local press, fisherman Julián Zmutt said of his discovery: “We were fishing and we got the surprise of getting this rare specimen. As it was dark at that time we did not notice, but then you looked at him with a flashlight and saw that he had a third eye.”
Unsurprisingly, they didn’t eat the fish, but instead gave it to local scientists to see if the mutation is natural or caused (as many think) by the nuclear power plant.
While not as big a blow as the Fukushima disaster or even the Indian Point debacle, the discovery of the three-eyed fish, or ‘Blinkygate’ as we’ll call it, is set to raise a lot of eyebrows over the impact nuclear power plants are having on our local wildlife and, as a result, the food chain.

by Timon Singh taken from Three-Eyed Fish Caught Near Argentinian Nuclear Power Plant | Inhabitat - Green Design Will Save the World

World economy on verge of new jobs recession

The global economy is on the verge of a new and deeper jobs recession that may ignite social unrest, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has warned.
It will take at least five years for employment in advanced economies to return to pre-crisis levels, it said.
The ILO also noted that in 45 of the 118 countries it examined, the risk of social unrest was rising.
Separately, the OECD research body said G20 leaders meeting in Cannes this week need to take "bold decisions".
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said the rescue plan announced by EU leaders on 26 October had been an important first step, but the measures must be implemented "promptly and forcefully".
The OECD's message to world leaders came as it predicted a sharp slowdown in growth in the eurozone and warned that some countries in the 17-nation bloc were likely to face negative growth.
'Moment of truth' In its World of Work Report 2011, the ILO said a stalled global economic recovery had begun to "dramatically affect" labour markets.
It said approximately 80 million net new jobs would be needed over the next two years to get back to pre-crisis employment levels.
But it said the recent slowdown in growth suggested that only half the jobs needed would be created.
"We have reached the moment of truth. We have a brief window of opportunity to avoid a major double-dip in employment," said Raymond Torres from the ILO.
The group also measured levels of discontent over the lack of jobs and anger over perceptions that the burden of the crisis was not being fairly shared.
It said scores of countries faced the possibility of social unrest, particularly those in the EU and the Arab region.
Loss of confidence Meanwhile, in its latest projections for G20 economies, the OECD forecast growth in the eurozone of 1.6% this year, slowing to 0.3% next year.

OECD's forecasts on GDP growth

Country 2011 2012
Euro area
In May, it had forecast growth of 2% per year in both 2011 and 2012.
It also cut its growth forecasts for the US to 1.7% in 2011 and 1.8% in 2012. It had previously expected growth of 2.6% and 3.1% respectively.
The organisation called for G20 leaders, who meet on Thursday and Friday, to act quickly.
"Much of the current weakness is due to a generalised loss of confidence in the ability of policymakers to put in place appropriate responses," the OECD said.
"It is therefore imperative to act decisively to restore confidence and to implement appropriate policies to restore longer-term fiscal sustainability."
It also called for the eurozone to cut interest rates.

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Unesco gives Palestinians full membership

Unesco is the first UN agency the Palestinians have sought to join as a full member since President Mahmoud Abbas applied for full membership of the United Nations on Sept. 23.
The United States, Canada and Germany voted against Palestinian membership. Brazil, Russia, China, India, South Africa and France voted in favour. Britain abstained.
Huge cheers went up in Unesco after delegates voted to approve the membership Monday. One shouted "Long Live Palestine!" in French.
Israel said that the vote will harm prospects for the resumption of Middle East peace talks.
"This is a unilateral Palestinian manoeuver which will bring no change on the ground but further removes the possibility for a peace agreement," Israel's Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "This decision will not turn the Palestinian Authority into an actual state yet places unnecessary burdens on the route to renewing negotiations."
The White House condemned the vote as "premature" and it undermind international peace efforts.
"Today's vote at Unesco to admit the Palestinian Authority is premature and undermines the international community's shared goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
On Sunday, Riyad al-Malki, the foreign minister had said of the bid: "This success, if it is realised, and with this large number of votes, will give a great boost to the efforts that we are making to get the required vote in the United Nations."
Admission will be seen by the Palestinians as a moral victory in their bid for full UN membership.
Washington, which has the power to veto such applications, opposes the Palestinian bid for a full UN seat on the grounds it is unhelpful to efforts to revive peace talks with Israel, the last round of which broke down a year ago.
Israel's closest international ally, the United States has said it will use its veto power in the Security Council to quash the bid for full UN membership, were it brought to a vote.
But Unesco is one of the UN agencies the Palestinians can join as a full member regardless of their broader status at the United Nations, where they are currently classified as "an observer entity".
Palestinian success could bring a financial cost for Unesco. Under US law, the admission as a full Unesco member would trigger a cut-off in US funding which accounts for 22 per cent of the agency's funding.
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Why the latest eurozone bail-out is destined to fail within weeks

As someone who works in financial services, I follow the markets – in the West, across Asia and the entire world – closer than most. Since the Bear Stearns collapse in March 2008, through the demise of Lehman Brothers and its ghastly aftermath, much of my professional life has been dominated by the angry flashing of those little lights on a Bloomberg screen.
In recent years, the violent gyrations on financial markets have been deeply discomforting, causing angst among market professionals, like me – but that is the least significant aspect. For those little lights represent, of course, the ebbs and flows of cash which, in turn, determines the fate of real businesses. It is at the sharp end of employment and livelihoods, dispossessed homes and broken families that the human impact of financial turbulence is most keenly felt.
So, yes, I want such turbulence, which will never be fully-eradicated, nor should it be in a free-market system, to now lessen to more manageable levels. Yet the responses of our politicians to recent financial troubles – hiding behind complexity and kicking the can down the road – have not only failed to temper the volatility, but have actually made it much worse.
Last week's eurozone "agreement", for all the related fanfare, was a case in point. Far from making the situation clearer, allowing investors to make considered assessments, this latest announcement made Western Europe's grotesque debt crisis even more acute, sowing further infectious spores of confusion.
The deal itself, unveiled dramatically in the early hours of Thursday, was met with the now obligatory "relief rally". The FTSE All-World equity index soared 4.1pc, helped by signs of renewed US economic growth. European bank shares spiked no less than 12pc on Thursday, as traders recognised, for all the official obfuscation, the latest dollop of government largesse.
By late Thursday, though, and certainly on Friday, the warning signs were there. Global bond markets, by character more sober and smarter than the excitable equity guys, were voting against the deal. This is alarming. For it is only by selling more bonds that the eurozone's deeply indebted governments can roll-over their enormous liabilities and keep the show on the road.
Some say Western governments shouldn't "accept" what the market says. "Who do these trading people think they are," I hear from the lips of the educated but financially-illiterate political elite. Let's be clear – if global bond markets stop lending to a number of large Western economies, we are in the realms of unpaid state wages and pensions, transport chaos and closures of schools and hospitals – sparking the prospect of serious civil unrest. Forgive my intemperate tone, but these are the dangers we face. And I'm afraid the only rational response to Thursday's announcement is that the probability of such undesirable outcomes has just been increased.
European leaders have reached an "agreement", we were told, with the private holders of Greek debt, who now accept a 50pc write-down on their stakes. This is predicated on an additional €120bn (£105bn) cash-injection by EU member states and the IMF. By paying bond-holders less, and making other savings, the hope is that Greece can cut its sovereign debt from 150pc of GDP to 120pc in the next few years.
This deal was presented as a "victory" by the eurocrats. After all, back in July those nasty private creditors agreed only to a 21pc "haircut" on their Greek debt. The deal is "voluntary", though, nothing having been decided except the "50pc haircut" headline. In reality, by bargaining hard over coupons and maturities – how much the bonds will pay annually, and for how long – those who so unwisely lent money to Greece (eager to reap high yields, while always expecting a bail-out) will get a much sweeter deal. This is the discussion that will take place, behind closed doors, during the coming months. But that sweeter deal will need to be paid for with yet more sovereign borrowing, by some eurozone government or other, plus further sack-loads of taxpayers' cash.
It is telling that Greek bond-holders themselves were on Friday reassuring their investors that the reduction in the net present value of their stakes, compared with the "21pc haircut" deal, "will not be overly onerous". In addition, the July agreement, while also "voluntary", included a 90pc creditors' participation. Thursday's variant cited no such number.
So, the centre-piece of last week's "package" is far less decisive than meets the eye. It was, in fact, singularly indecisive. The hope that Greece will clean-up its balance sheet autonomously now relies even more on a privatization programme that is already laughably behind schedule. So the moral hazard will go on, making it tougher still for the governments of Portugal, Ireland and the other eurozone "peripheries" to sell to their electorates the virtues of fiscal responsibility. These are not clever-clever academic points. I'm pointing-out, quite simply, what the bond markets will have noticed.
Having said all that, the prospect of "haircuts", however half-hearted, now looms over eurozone sovereign bond-holders, not least fragile European banks. So Thursday's announcement also stressed that the €440bn (£386bn) euro European Financial Stability Facility would be "levered", allowing it to borrow to make it bigger. This is supposed to allow the eurocrats to raise cash without having to trouble national parliaments, given that they're likely to refuse.
The question of who will lend to the EFSF, on whose collateral, and who will ultimately repay the loans, was barely addressed last week. Such tricky questions will apparently be answered at the next European summit in December. Meanwhile, the fundamental disagreement between France and Germany regarding who should take the biggest losses – eurozone governments or private creditors – remains unresolved. Since Thursday's announcement, though, Germany's powerful constitutional court has issued an injunction requiring the country's full Parliament to approve any EFSF bond-buying.
What is needed, urgently, is a clean, transparent Greek default – allowing this flailing semi-developed economy to leave the eurozone, re-establish a weaker drachma and regain its self-respect. Portugal should leave too, its membership of the same currency bloc as Germany is as absurd, and self-defeating, as that of Greece. There would be further market turmoil, yes, but a few more months of volatility, leading to an ultimately more stable outcome, is surely better than the current situation where the entire world is living in fear of a massive "euroquake".
The eurocrats, of course, lack the guts to trim back monetary union to a more manageable size. Too much face would be lost. So "euroquake" fears, once viewed as outlandish, are gaining pace. Despite Thursday's deal, and all the reassurances of a "durable solution", the Italian government on Friday paid 6.06pc for 10-year money, up from just 5.86pc a month ago and a euro-era high. Such borrowing costs are disastrous, given that Rome must roll-over €300bn of its €1,900bn debt in 2012 alone. A default by Italy, the eurozone's third-biggest economy, and the eighth-largest on earth, would make Lehman look like a picnic.
The eurozone must be consolidated. World leaders should similarly force European banks to disclose their losses, we all take the hit and then we move on. Instead, we are served-up, in ever more complex variants, the same "extend and pretend" non-solutions. It gives me no pleasure to write this, but I give this deal two weeks.

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'Hackers' threaten Mexican drug cartel in YouTube film

An internet video - which claims to be linked to the Anonymous hacking movement - has threatened to expose details about a Mexican drugs cartel.
The YouTube message said it was "tired of the criminal group the Zetas, which is dedicated to kidnapping, stealing and extortion".
It said the cartel "made a great mistake" carrying out an abduction of one of their members in Veracruz.
Local law authorities said they cannot authenticate the video.
The message shows a person dressed in a Guy Fawkes mask associated with Anonymous and other activist groups.
The voiceover, which is in Spanish, claims to know about police officers, journalists, taxi drivers and others who aid the cartel.
It said it will publish photographs and other details unless the kidnapped member of its group - who has not been identified - is released.
"We cannot defend ourselves with weapons, but we can with their cars, houses and bars," the message added.
"It's not difficult. We know who they are and where they are."
Revenge attacks The video was posted under the username MrAnonymousguyfawkes. It was uploaded on 6 October, but was first reported at the end of last week by the global intelligence think tank Stratfor.
An attempt to contact the video's author did not receive a reply.
Analysts at Stratfor said that if Anonymous carried out its threat, it would likely lead to the murder of those named as cartel associates by rival gangs. It said there could also be reprisal attacks against suspected hackers.
Veracruz is about 260 miles (420km) east of Mexico city, on the Gulf of Mexico.
Over recent months local authorities have reported a rise in drug-related crime. They said rivals of the Zetas cartel were challenging it for control of the area.
Drugs gangs have been linked to the killings of other campaigners who used the internet to denounce the cartels' activities.
In September the bodies of a man and woman were found hanging from a bridge in the northern city of Nuevo Laredo.
Attached signs read: "This is going to happen to all of those posting funny things on the internet" and listed the names of two blogs.
"The internet offers a space for people to challenge the cartels with some anonymity," said Robert Munks, a Latin America expert at the defence analysts IHS Jane's.
"But the cartels have exceptionally good reach and can unmask some of these internet posters, and as we've seen the consequence can be pretty dire. I think there will be further postings, and I regret, further deaths."

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China hits back over US claims of satellite hacking

A Landsat 7 satellite image of Washington, DC
Landsat 7 satellite image of Washington, DC. Landsat 7 was hacked in 2007 and 2008. Photograph: Nasa/EPA

China has dismissed allegations that it may have been responsible for hacking US satellites as "not worth a comment" and accused the US commission, which made the claims, of ulterior motives.
Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular news briefing in Beijing on Monday that the US-China economic and security review commission "has always viewed China through coloured lenses".
The draft of an annual report by the commission, published by Bloomberg last week, included the claim that in October 2007 and July 2008 hackers used a ground station to interfere with the operation of two US government satellites used for earth observation. The commission did not explicitly accuse the Chinese government of orchestrating the attacks, but said they were consistent with Chinese military protocol, according to Bloomberg.
Lei denied the allegations. He said: "This report is untrue and driven by ulterior motives. It is not worth a comment. China is also a victim of hacker attacks and we oppose any form of cybercrimes including hacking."
The annual report warned that hackers on four occasions used a ground station in Spitsbergen, Norway, to interfere with the US satellites Landsat 7 and Terra (EOS AM-1). The commission said it was concerned that the hackers were testing how vulnerable the satellites were to a cyber-attack.
The Landsat 7 satellite reported 12 minutes of "interference" in October 2007, and the Terra suffered two minutes in June 2008. In July 2008 the Landsat 7 reported another 12 minutes' interference. Finally in October 2008 the Terra was affected for nine minutes.
"Such interference poses numerous potential threats, particularly if achieved against satellites with more sensitive functions," the draft report said. "Access to a satellite's controls could allow an attacker to damage or destroy the satellite. An attacker could also deny or degrade as well as forge or otherwise manipulate the satellite's transmission."
The claims follow a long-standing pattern of allegations made in reports by the commission, whose purpose is to investigate the national security implications of the US's trade with China.
Iain Lobban, director of the government's listening centre, GCHQ, told the Times on Monday that UK was the target of a "disturbing" number of cyber-attacks.
The UK foreign secretary, William Hague, said in February that the foreign office had repelled an attack from "a hostile state intelligence agency", which Guardian sources at the time revealed was a reference to China.

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FBI releases papers on Russian spy ring

The FBI on Monday released surveillance tapes, photos and hundreds of pages of documents that shed new light on operation "Ghost Stories," the bureau's investigation of a ring of Russian sleeper agents that ended after more than a decade in the biggest spy swap since the Cold War.
Called illegals because they took civilian jobs instead of operating inside Russian embassies and military missions, the spies, including New York real estate agent Anna Chapman, mostly settled into quiet lives in middle-class neighbourhoods.
Their long-range assignment from Moscow: burrow deep into US society and cultivate contacts with academics, entrepreneurs and government policymakers on subjects from defence to finance.
The heavily-edited files provide a glimpse into the intensive surveillance the deep cover agents were under, in some cases for almost a decade, showing the middle-class spies with their children, shopping or in one case attending a graduation ceremony.
The code name Ghost Stories appears to refer to the ring's efforts to blend invisibly into the fabric of American society. An FBI spokesman said the decision to release the material on Halloween was coincidental.
FBI videos of the Russian agents show Chapman, whose role in the spy saga turned her into an international celebrity, and the other illegals surreptitiously passing information and money as part of their operations, which included the use of spy tools as old as invisible ink and as modern as cryptographic software that hides messages in digital images posted on the internet.
The linchpin in the case was Col Alexander Poteyev, a highly placed US mole in Russian foreign intelligence, who betrayed the spy ring even as he ran it. He abruptly fled Moscow just days before the FBI rolled up the deep cover operation on June 27, 2010. Poteyev's role in exposing the illegals program only emerged last June when a Russian military court convicted him in absentia for high treason and desertion.
The US swapped the 10 deep cover agents for four Russians imprisoned for spying for the West at a remote corner of a Vienna airport on 9 July, in a scene reminiscent of the carefully-choreographed exchange of spies at Berlin's Glienicke Bridge during the Cold War.
While freed Soviet spies typically kept a low profile after their return to Moscow, Chapman became a lingerie model, corporate spokeswoman and television personality. Donald Heathfield, whose real name is Andrey Bezrukov, lists himself as an adviser to the president of a major Russian oil company on his LinkedIn account. President Dmitry Medvedev awarded all 10 of the freed deep-cover operatives Russia's highest honors at a Kremlin ceremony.
The swap was Washington's idea, raised when US law enforcement officials told President Barack Obama it was time to start planning the arrests. Agents launched a series of raids across the northeast after a decade of intensive surveillance of the ring, which officials say never managed to steal any secrets.
The case was brought to a swift conclusion before it could complicate the president's campaign to "reset" US relations with Russia, strained by years of tensions over US foreign policy and the 2008 Russian-Georgian war. All 10 of the captured spies were charged with failing to register as foreign agents.
An 11th defendant, Christopher Metsos, who claimed to be a Canadian citizen and delivered money and equipment to the sleeper agents, vanished after a court in Cyprus freed him on bail.
Attorney General Eric Holder said the FBI decided to arrest the illegals because one of the spies was preparing to leave the US and there was concern that "we would not be able to get him back." Despite the ring's failure to gather any intelligence, Holder said they still posed a potential threat to the US.
Former Soviet intelligence officials now living in the West scratched their heads over the Ghost Stories saga.
"In my view this whole operation was a waste of human resources, money and just put Russia in a ridiculous situation," said Oleg Kalugin, a former KGB major general who spied against the US during the Soviet era, in an interview earlier this year. He now lives near Washington.
Alexander Vassiliev, a former KGB officer and journalist who has written extensively about Soviet spying in America, said the illegals were supposed to act as talent spotters and scouts, identifying Americans in positions of power who might be recruited to spill secrets for financial reasons or through blackmail. Spies with the protection of diplomatic credentials would handle the more delicate task of recruiting and handling the agents.
Moscow's ultimate aim, Vassiliev said, was probably to cultivate a source who could provide day-by-day intelligence on what the president's inner circle was thinking and planning in response to the latest international crisis. But he said there was no evidence the Kremlin made any progress toward that goal.
"How are you going to recruit someone like that, on what basis? That's quite a successful person. Why should he spy for the Russians? I can't see any reason."
He said Russia's intelligence services seem unable to shake their Soviet-era habits. "The current practice of the Russian espionage agency is based on the practices which existed before 1945," said Vassiliev, who now lives in London. "It's so outdated."
The 10 Russian illegals included:
— Chapman, the daughter of a Russian diplomat, who worked as a real estate agent in New York City. After she was caught, photos of the redhead's social life and travels were splashed all over the tabloids. Following her return to Russia, Chapman worked as a model, became the celebrity face of a Moscow bank and joined the leadership of the youth wing of the main pro-Kremlin party.
— Vicky Pelaez and Juan Lazaro, of Yonkers, New York. He briefly taught a class on Latin American and Caribbean politics at Baruch College. She wrote pieces highly critical of US policy in Latin America as a columnist for one of the United States' best-known Spanish-language newspapers, El Diario La Prensa.
— Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills of Arlington, Virginia. He had worked at a telecommunications firm. The couple raised a young son and toddler in their high-rise apartment.
— Richard and Cynthia Murphy of Montclair, New Jersey. He mostly stayed home with their two pre-teen children while she worked for a lower Manhattan-based accounting firm that offered tax advice. As part of her job, she provided financial planning for a venture capitalist with close ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton.
— Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley of Cambridge, Massachusetts. He worked in sales for an international management consulting firm and peddled strategic planning software to US corporations. She was a real estate agent.
—Mikhail Semenko of Arlington, Virginia, who spoke Russian, English, Spanish, Chinese and Portuguese. He worked at the Travel All Russia travel agency, where co-workers described him as "clumsy" and "quirky."
In return for the return of the illegals, Moscow freed four Russians after they signed statements admitting to spying for the US or Britain.
The US spies included Alexander Zaporozhsky, a former colonel and deputy chief of Russian foreign intelligence's American section, who had retired in 1997 and moved to suburban Baltimore in 2001. He was arrested after he returned to Moscow for what he thought was a reunion with KGB colleagues and was sentenced in 2003 to 18 years in prison for espionage.
Zaporozhsky may have provided information leading to the capture of Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames, two of the most damaging spies ever caught in the US.
Gennady Vasilenko, a former KGB officer who worked in Washington and Latin America, was accused by Hansen of spying for the US. He was arrested in Havana in 1988, but released from Moscow's notorious Lefortovo prison after six months for lack of evidence. But suspicions lingered, and Vasilenko was arrested again in 2006 in Moscow and sentenced to three years in prison for illegal weapons possession and resistance to authorities.
Vasilenko now has a home in Leesburg, Virginia. He declined the Associated Press' request for an interview.
Arms control researcher Igor Sutyagin worked for what may have been a British-based CIA front, and he denies being a spy, saying he didn't pass along any information that wasn't available through open sources. He told reporters he signed a confession out of concern he would otherwise ruin the swap for the others — and for fear of abuse and misery in the three years remaining in his prison term.
The fourth was Sergei Skripal, a former colonel for Russian military intelligence, the GRU. He was sentenced in 2006 to 13 years in prison for passing the names of other Russian agents to British intelligence. Skripal, now about 60, is said to be suffering from diabetes. Both Skripal and Sutyagin went to Britain following their release.
US officials have not commented on the Poteyev case.

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Gove tells heads to stop 'whingeing' about resources

The education secretary, Michael Gove, has told headteachers and council education bosses to stop "whingeing" about diminishing budgets.
At a breakfast meeting organised by the Ark academy chain, Gove accused heads of "reaching for excuses" instead of getting on with improving their schools.
His comments come days after the Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank calculated that the coalition was making the biggest cut to education budgets since the 1950s.
Gove claimed there was a "haunting question" for many heads and council education bosses: "Why aren't we doing better?"
He said some schools in deprived parts of the country, such as Hackney, in east London, and White City, in the west of the capital, were out-performing those in affluent areas like Hampshire, Oxfordshire and West Sussex.
Pupils in richer areas often come from supportive and loving homes and their teachers will have benefited from top universities, Gove said, adding: "Yet these children are not performing as well as those in some inner-city schools – why? We can't escape asking that question.
"Every time that the headteacher, or the director of children's services, or the minister reaches for excuses, such as 'we're under-resourced' or 'I'm afraid the capital this year hasn't been so good' or 'it's very difficult to fire teachers' … they're spending time justifying under-performance when they should be spending time challenging under-performance and looking for reasons to perform better."
Successful schools "do not spend their time whingeing about resources or complaining about ministers' particular priorities because they know they are masters or mistresses of their own destiny", he said. "They can make a little go a surprisingly long way."

by taken from

Honduras becomes western hemisphere cocaine hub

On Honduras' swampy Mosquitia coast, entire villages have made a way of life off the country's massive cocaine transshipment trade. In broad daylight, men, women and children descend on passing go-fast boats to offload bales of cocaine destined for the United States.
Along the Atlantic coast, the wealthy elite have accumulated dozens of ranches, yachts and mansions from the drug trade.
And in San Pedro Sula, local gangs moving drugs north have spawned armies of street-level dealers whose violence has given the rougher neighborhoods of the northern industrial city a homicide rate that is only comparable to Kabul, Afghanistan.
Long an impoverished backwater in Central America, Honduras has become a main transit route for South American cocaine.
"Honduras is the number one offload point for traffickers to take cocaine through Mexico to the U.S.," said a U.S. law enforcement official who could not be quoted by name for security reasons. A U.S. State Department report released in March called Honduras "one of the primary landing points for South American cocaine."
Almost half of the cocaine that reaches the United States is now offloaded somewhere along the country's coast and heavily forested interior - a total of 20 to 25 tons each month, according to U.S. and Honduran estimates.
Authorities intercept perhaps 5 percent of that, according to calculations by The Associated Press based on official estimates of flow and seizures.
The flow is hard to stem, said Alfredo Landaverde, a former adviser to the Honduran security ministry, because there are few other sources of cash income here.
"We have to recognize that this society is very vulnerable," Landaverde said. "This is a country permeated by corruption, among police commanders, businessmen, politicians."
The country's isolated, impoverished Atlantic coast, remote ranches and largely unguarded border with Guatemala - where much of the cocaine is taken - also make it a haven for traffickers.
"When the traffickers are unloading a go-fast boat in (the Atlantic coast province of) Gracias a Dios, you can sometimes see 70 to 100 people of all ages out there helping unload it," said the U.S. law enforcement official. "The traffickers look for support among local populations."
In the past year, authorities seized 12 tons of cocaine, according to the Honduran government - a vast improvement from previous years, but still a small portion of the estimated 250 to 300 tons that come through annually.
Most of the cocaine arrives in Honduras via the sea, in speedboats, fishing vessels and even submersibles. In July, the U.S. Coast Guard, with Honduras' help, detained one such craft that had been plying the waters with about 5 tons of cocaine per trip.
Fishermen who once worked catching lobster now look instead for a much more prized catch, the so-called "white lobster" - bales of cocaine jettisoned by drug traffickers to either escape detection or to be picked up by another boat.
Honduras is also by far the region's biggest center for airborne smuggling. Of the hundreds of illicit flights northward out of South America, 79 percent land in Honduras, said the U.S. official. Ninety-five percent of those flights hail from Venezuela, which also has become a link for cocaine produced elsewhere.
Landing aircraft in Honduras was once so profitable and planes so easy to get that traffickers would sometimes simply offload the drugs and burn the aircraft, rather than take off again from dangerously rudimentary clandestine landing strips.
Last year, however, they started reusing the planes to ferry loads of bulk cash back to Colombia, the U.S. State Department report said. Authorities found one load of $9 million in U.S. cash stuffed in plastic bags in the trunk of a car, and millions at a time in suitcases at local airports.
Earlier this year, as aircraft became more difficult to obtain, traffickers stole a military plane from the San Pedro Sula army base on the Atlantic coast, said Landaverde, adding that soldiers were accomplices to the theft.
"The plane is left outside," he said. "Some guys turn it on and take off. Nobody leaves a plane like that, ready to fly." In fact, one of the soldiers involved in that incident was later arrested in September with other ex-soldiers as they allegedly waited to meet a drug flight on the country's Atlantic coast.
It is not just poverty-stricken fishermen and corrupt soldiers who are the beneficiaries of the emergent cocaine republic. Last week, authorities seized 13 luxurious homes and ranches and 17 boats in the first such mass raid since the country enacted a drug-properties seizure law in 2010. All were owned by local people.
Key members of the region's business community who have hotel, real estate and retail holdings have been named as associates of the cartels, often for money laundering. Nor are the drug trade's ripple effects restricted to the coast.
Copan, a Guatemalan border province popular with tourists because of its Mayan ruins, is a lawless area dominated by business interests tied to the drug trade, said a radio station owner who asked not to be quoted by name for security reasons.
"These people move without shame in politics and the business world," the station owner said. "They are involved in large-scale businesses in tourism. This region has been separated from the nation's territory. It is their lair."
At the other end of the economic spectrum are local street gangs, who are often paid in drugs as well as cash to move drugs north. Their ranks are growing and competition among them has pushed up the country's escalating homicide rate to one of the highest in the world.
The country of 7.7 million people saw 6,200 killings in 2010. That's the equivalent of 82.1 homicides per 100,000 people - well above the 66 per 100,000 in neighboring El Salvador.
Others are becoming players in the bulk trade, the U.S. official said, remarking that, "Lately, we've seen some gangs that will purchase the cocaine and resell it."
The high volume of drugs coupled with the alarming homicide rate is tough to address in a nation where many police and army officers are working with drug gangs.
Corrupt law enforcement officials had a fierce foe in the person of former Honduran Security Minister Oscar Alvarez, who was fired by President Porfirio Lobo in September after proposing a law to purge the police force of corrupt cops.
Alvarez had said publicly that some corrupt police essentially act as air traffic controllers for the drug flights. When a suspected drug flight was detected in August, Alvarez was quoted by a local newspaper as saying that two police officials not assigned to the district were in the area - their cellphone signals were traced to the control tower where the plane landed.
Alvarez claimed he was fired because of his campaign to clean up the police force, saying, "It was easier to get rid of a minister than to get rid of a corrupt cop."
But his replacement, Pompeyo Bonilla, said that given Honduras' highly protective labor laws, a mass firing of police officers probably would have been quickly followed by the reinstatement of many.
He also claimed that Alvarez overstepped his authority by sending his proposed police cleanup law to congress without even telling Lobo.
"The president heard about it on television," Bonilla said.
Alvarez, who left for the United States soon after his dismissal, was not available for an interview, according to an unidentified woman who answered his U.S. cellphone number.
U.S. Ambassador Lisa Kubiske said she expects to work well with Bonilla. "President Lobo's administration is totally serious about fighting the cartels," Kubiske said. "When you talk to them, counternarcotics is almost the first word out of their mouths."
Alvarez was accustomed to dropping bombshells, including the claim that fugitive Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman had visited Honduras' border region next to Guatemala.
In March, police under Alvarez's command raided a remote mountain lab in northeastern Honduras. Alvarez said the lab processed cocaine from the paste of partly processed coca leaves, the first time that would have been done outside South America and an ominous development for Honduras. The lab, however, had apparently not yet been put to use.
Bonilla said the lab was a small one, quickly dismantled, and no other such lab has been discovered in Honduras. "We are rather more a transit route" than a producer or processor, Bonilla said.
Some doubt the lab was intended to process coca paste; it may have been simply dedicated to cutting and repackaging imported cocaine, which is usually cut many times before it reaches the street.
"We haven't seen any evidence of cocaine processing taking place in Honduras so far," the U.S. official said, adding, "Twelve thousand kilos of cocaine were seized in Honduras this year, and we haven't seen a single ounce of cocaine paste."

China prepares for unmanned space launch

China says it will launch a unmanned spacecraft on Tuesday that will dock with a capsule already orbiting the Earth.
A rocket carrying Shenzhou 8 will blast off early in the morning from the Gobi Desert and rendezvous with the Tiangong 1.
The space capsule was launched in late September and has already been manoeuvred into position.
China is practising docking in order to build a space station by 2020.
Shenzhou 8 is due to be launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Gansu province at 05:58 (21:58 GMT).
The docking - which will take place 343km above the Earth - will happen within two days of the launch.
There will be two other attempts to dock with the capsule next year, at least one of which will be manned.
Astronauts - called taikonauts in China - are already being trained for that mission, according to the manned space programme's spokeswoman Wu Ping.
China hopes to construct and launch a space station by the end of the decade and these docking missions are part of that process.
'Key foundation' An orbiting station is just one part of the country's ambitious plans for space.
"The mastering of rendezvous and docking technologies will lay a key technical foundation for China's building of a space station and deep-space exploration," said Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China's manned space programme, according to the Xinhua news agency.
China came late to the space race: it launched its first manned mission in 2003 and carried out its first space walk only three years ago.
It maintains that its aims are purely peaceful.
"The new knowledge obtained through space science research should be common wealth for human beings and should benefit the whole world," Mr Zhou said.
Foreign observers have been invited to watch the launch of Shenzhou 8.
But China caused alarm in 2007 when it destroyed a defunct weather satellite by firing a land-based rocket at it.

Occupy Denver tension escalates dramatically

The simmering tension near the Colorado Capitol escalated dramatically Saturday with more than a dozen arrests, reports of skirmishes between police and protesters and authorities firing rounds of pellets filled with pepper spray at supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Officers in riot gear moved into a park late in the day where protesters were attempting to establish an encampment, hauling off demonstrators just hours after a standoff at the Capitol steps degenerated into a fight that ended in a cloud of Mace and pepper spray.
Denver police spokesman Matt Murray said 15 people were arrested in the evening confrontation, where authorities were moving to prevent protesters from setting up tents in the park, which are illegal. Officals say the demonstrators had been warned several times that the tents would not be allowed and those who attempted to stop police from dismantling the camp gear were arrested. Protesters have been staying in the park for weeks, but tents have repeatedly been removed.
Murray said that most of the protesters were peaceful but there was "just a die-hard group that didn't want to cooperate."
"We showed great restraint," he said. "We were calm. We went in and did what we had to do. There's a group of very committed people who believe in a cause, and then there are a few people who just want to cause trouble."
Earlier in the day about 2,000 protesters rallying against what they see as economic inequality and corporate greed marched downtown toward the Capitol, setting up the most intense moments of the Denver movement, which has lasted weeks.
A group of the marchers advanced toward the building and some tried to make their way up the steps. About eight officers scuffled with a group of protesters and police confirmed that they used Mace and fired pepper balls - hollow projectiles filled with the chemical irritant - to break up the crowd. Protesters told the paper at the time that they believed police used rubber bullets.
Murray said protesters kicked police and knocked one officer off his motorcycle. He said five protesters were arrested, including two for assault and one for disobedience.
Chantrell Smiley, 21, of Denver, said she has been protesting downtown for more than a week, sleeping on the ground in the park. She said she didn't see the officer get knocked from his motorcycle and didn't see any reason for the afternoon confrontation.
"It was just chaos. This wasn't necessary. My friend got hit with rubber bullets in the face. He was screaming and bleeding, then they Maced him. We're being peaceful. We don't want to be harmed. They came through and took everything down - our food, our blankets, everything's gone."
Mike Korzen, 25, told the Denver Post that he was among the group that police dispersed with rubber bullets and pepper spray and suggested that the police force was excessive.
"I was standing there with my hands behind my back," Korzen said, using a water bottle to rinse pepper spray from his eyes.
After nightfall about a dozen Denver police and Colorado state patrol cars remained in the area.
About 100 protesters milled about, most coughing and sneezing from the haze of pepper spray and Mace that still hovered in the air. Some laid out tarps on the ground, preparing to spend another night outside. Throughout the evening vehicles pulled up, dropping off blankets and food with cheering protesters.

By KRISTEN WYATT taken from

Brain gene activity changes through life

Human brains all work pretty much the same and use roughly the same genes in the same way to build and maintain the infrastructure that makes people who they are, two new studies show. And by charting the brain’s genetic activity from before birth to old age, the studies reveal that the brain continually remodels itself in predictable ways throughout life.
In addition to uncovering details of how the brain grows and ages, the results may help scientists better understand what goes awry in brain disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.
“The complexity is mind-numbing,” says neuroscientist Stephen Ginsberg of the Nathan Kline Institute and New York University Langone Medical Center, who wasn’t involved in the studies. “It puts the brain in rarefied air.”
In the studies, published in the Oct. 27 Nature, researchers focused not on DNA — virtually every cell’s raw genetic material is identical — but on when, where and for how long each gene is turned on over the course of a person’s life. To do this, the researchers measured levels of mRNA, a molecule whose appearance marks one of the first steps in executing the orders contained in a gene, in postmortem samples of donated brains that ranged in age from weeks after conception to old age.

These different patterns of mRNA levels distinguish the brain from a heart, for instance, and a human from a mouse, too, says Nenad Šestan of Yale University School of Medicine and coauthor of one of the studies. “Essentially, we carry the same genes as mice,” he says. “However, in us, these genes are up to something quite different.”
To see what those genes were up to, Šestan’s study examined mRNA levels of different genes in 57 brain samples. The team divided the brain tissue up by region, so they were also able to get an idea of genes’ behavior in different parts of the brain. A parallel study, headed by Joel Kleinman of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, looked at gene behavior in 269 brain samples from a single region called the prefrontal cortex that also spanned the lifetime.
This approach allowed the researchers to get access to the brain that had previously been impossible.
“One of the limitations in studying human brain development is that you cannot do experiments,” Šestan says. “It’s very hard to understand when things happen.”
Both studies found lots of variation in gene behavior at different life stages, but one particular period stood out: The prenatal brain had massive changes in gene activity. Many genes there were pumping out big quantities of mRNA, and this production abruptly slowed after birth. “Prenatally, things are changing faster than they change at any other time,” says Carlo Colantuoni of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center, and coauthor on one paper. “Things are happening fast in there.” 
Kleinman and his colleagues turned up a curious finding: Many of the genes that slow down right after birth show a surge of activity as a person gets older. “The biggest changes that are going on occur fetally,” he says. “And then they drop off until mid-life, and then in the 50s to 70s, expression changes pick up again and become quite dramatic.”

Researchers don’t yet know what to make of this reversal, says Colantuoni. “We have just scratched the surface of what it means.”
Genes involved with building new brain cells were highly active early on, and then this activity quickly fell after birth. As these genes grew less active, genes involved in linking up nerve cells took on a greater role and became busier.
What’s more, the differences in gene behavior between male and female brains were greatest at early stages of development. Some of the genes found to be busier in male brains have been linked to schizophrenia, autism and other disorders that are known to be more prevalent among males, the researchers report. These disease-associated genes are very active early on in development and less so as a person ages, the researchers found, suggesting that something goes wrong very early in these conditions.
The scientists don’t know exactly which cells are responsible for these gene behavior differences. Figuring out whether gene behavior changes in all kinds of cells in the brain — neurons and glia, for instance — is the next step, says Ginsberg. “That’s going to be really important, especially for neuropsychiatric disorders.”
Although gene behavior is incredibly dynamic, the results suggest that brains are more alike than different. Despite millions of differences in DNA, brains have a common biochemical shape, Kleinman says. Two people who have very different DNA make-up don’t necessarily have very different gene behavior in the brain. “These individual genetic variations, they do matter — no question,” he says. But overall, genes behave similarly from person to person. “And that’s a really cool thing. It means that we’re much more alike than we are different.”
Many more studies are needed before scientists fully understand how the brain is built. Both teams plan on boosting the number of brain samples and studying the brains of people with disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. But the work is a major step forward, says geneticist Christopher Mason of Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University in New York City. “This is extraordinary work,” he says. “This is the beginning of telling us what the whole brain looks like.

By Laura Sanders taken from

Barking mad: the weird world of pet ownership

A pet cat dressed as Little Red Riding Hood
It's not clear whether animals feel human emotions - but this cat seems to be doing a pretty good job of expressing outrage. Photograph: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

Britain is a nation ruled by its pets. We dote on our animals and allow them to dominate our lives. I am no different. Since I started working from home, at least 90% of my emails contain either a picture of my cat looking particularly cute, an account of my cat doing something adorable or a social media update in the imagined voice of my cat.
This sort of running commentary is perfectly legitimate as far as I'm concerned, since the cat is a lot more interesting and a lot less hairy and prone to falling asleep in the sun than some of my former colleagues. Even for someone as genuinely animal crackers as me, however, there are certain boundaries beyond which I believe our obsession with pets should not go.
Imbuing them with human emotions has always seemed a bit dicey, but there is invariably someone prepared to do it. Author David Alderton, whose book Animals Mourn is out on Monday, is the latest. But insisting that dogs, cats, gorillas, elephants, reptiles and birds all have strategies for coping with grief seems relatively reasonable when you consider the lengths some people go to for their pets ...


Are you a newly-bereaved animal lover? Why not spend $50,000 on a clone of your recently departed pet? It might feel like a positive step at first, but when you consider that you're only getting a genetically identical animal who looks like dear old Bonzo, but hasn't got his character, it could be less of a whizz-bang idea. And if you really stopped to think about what $50,000 would mean to any strapped-for-cash animal charity, you might end up feeling positively foolish. Still, it's your dosh.

Pet weddings

Cloning your pets might be a ridiculous waste of time and money but at least you get a new animal out of it. In terms of sheer pointlessness, you'd have to go a long way to top marrying your pets in a £20,000 wedding ceremony, as Bev Nicholson and Louise Harris did in April of this year. Yorkshire terrier Lola wore a £1,000 Michele Ochs wedding dress as she walked down the aisle with Mugly, a Chinese crested voted Britain's Ugliest Dog back in 2005. Louise said that she was worried Lola was getting lonely and set out to find her a husband. "They do say opposites attract and they played happily together all day," she told the Daily Mail. "I thought [Mugly] was the perfect husband for Lola." The happily-ever-after aspect of the romance has been spoiled by the fact that Lola lives in Chelmsford and Mugly in Peterborough, meaning that they only see each other once a month.

Fur coats

Copenhagen-based label Chien Bizzare caused a bit of a stir earlier this year when it announced its new range of Danish mink fur coats aimed at dogs. Clearly keen to go about its business in a responsible and thoughtful manner, the label issued a press release with the following footnote: "Always make sure to put the health of the dog before anything else. Situations where it is too hot for the dog to wear fur can occur. Always make sure the dog has access to fresh water." Quite.


Now this one genuinely is a load of old balls. Actually, if we're being scrupulously accurate it's a load of new balls, for Neuticles are prosthetic testicles that "allow your pet to retain his natural look, self esteem and help with the trauma" associated with neutering, according to their inventor Gregg Miller. Kim Kardashian is a fan, opting to have them installed following the neutering of her boxer dog, Rocky. Actually, again in the interests of scrupulous accuracy, it was Rocky who had them installed – just in case that wasn't quite clear. Still, with a pricing scheme starting at $94 a pop, they're a relative snip (sorry).

by taken from

Stone Age-style restaurant serves only food that was available to our caveman

At first glance, Berlin's Sauvage restaurant looks much like many of the German capital's other trendy eateries.
But take a closer look at the chalkboard out front and you'll discover they are embarking on a culinary shake-up that takes its inspiration from the Stone Age.
Proudly announcing a 'Real Food Revolution - Paleolithic cuisine!', there is no cheese, bread or sugar available, only fare accessible to our hunter-gatherer ancestors more than two million years ago.
Back to basics: Sauvage kitchen assistant Kawan Lofti holds a dish made entirely of ingredients which our Stone Age ancestors would have used
Back to basics: Sauvage kitchen assistant Kawan Lofti holds a dish made entirely of ingredients which our Stone Age ancestors would have used

Stone me: Sauvage claims to be the first restaurant in Europe to solely serve a Caveman diet
Stone me: Sauvage claims to be the first restaurant in Europe to solely serve a Caveman diet
The restaurant menu shows a stereotypical image of modern humanity's forbearer, the jutting profile of a hirsute caveman.
Inside, diners eat at candle-lit tables with a contemporary cave painting hanging in the background, according to Spiegel Online.

Sauvage, which is also the French word for 'savage' or 'wild,' is part of the Paleolithic diet movement and claims to be first of its kind in Europe.
That means serving only organic, unprocessed fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, and herbs.
Our Paleolithic ancestors would not have had been able to call upon our modern culinary skills
Our Paleolithic ancestors would not have had been able to call upon our modern culinary skills
The truly obsessed build an entire lifestyle around the concept, mimicking caveman-era exercise.
This can involve lifting boulders and running barefoot, with some even emulating the blood loss they believe Stone Age hunters might have experienced in pursuit of their dinner by donating blood every few months.
But guests at Sauvage can try 'Paleo' without feeling obligated to take on a strictly Stone Age lifestyle.
Sauvage's Boris Leite-Poço told Spiegel Online of the growing interest in caveman cooking.
He said: 'Many people think the Paleolithic diet is just some hipster trend, but it's a worldwide phenomenon, with an online community that spans the globe.
'The trend is probably strongest in the United States, where people who have had enough of the fast food way of life and generations of illness have taken it up.'
The menu includes salads with olives, capers and pine nuts; gluten-free bread with nut-based butter or olive tapenades; smoked salmon with herb dressing; and other various meat and fish dishes.
Gluten- and sugar-free cakes, like a spicy pumpkin pie, are available for those Stone Age diners who don't want to skip desert.
Earlier this year, thousands of people rated the Paleo diet the best way to lose weight, despite a report claiming it was ineffective.
A U.S. News and World Report said the regime, otherwise known as the Caveman diet, would 'likely disappoint... and was the least effective for weight loss.'
But a poll beneath the review revealed that 3,292 people said that the diet had worked for them, compared with just 85 who said that it didn't.

Fossil feast for 'zombie worms'

Traces of bone-eating "zombie worms" have been found in a three-million-year-old fossil from Italy, say researchers.
Osedax worms feed on whale skeletons on the seabed using root-like tissues to bore into and dissolve the bones.
Scientists from the Natural History Museum in London identified telltale borings in the fossil using a scanner.
The discovery suggests the worms were much more widespread throughout prehistoric oceans than thought.
The findings of lead scientist Nicholas Higgs and colleagues are published in the journal Historical Biology.
The only other evidence of Osedax worms in the fossil record was found off the coast of Washington state, US, last year.


Whalefall by Craig Smith NOAA ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
  • When whales die they sometimes wash up on shore but the majority fall to the seabed in the deep ocean
  • For organisms living at these depths a 'whale fall' is a banquet, attracting the attention of sharks and worms alike
  • The carcasses can support diverse communities for decades
Mr Higgs was investigating Osedax worms for his PhD studies and made contact with staff at the University of Florence's Museum of Natural History in Italy.
Staff had previously discovered a whale fossil surrounded by other fossilised organisms that suggested an ecosystem had developed around the carcass.
These 'whale falls' provide ideal conditions for bone-eating worms so Mr Higgs travelled to Italy to investigate the fossils.
"We didn't find any [traces] on that whale skeleton in particular... but I spent a week there searching through all their collections and I eventually found this bone in a dusty box," Mr Higgs told BBC Nature.
"This bone had been collected in 1875 so it had been in the collection for ages just gathering dust. It wasn't a very good whale specimen so it never really got put out on display," he said, explaining that pristine examples are more often sought for identification.
But the damage to the bone was familiar to Mr Higgs and back in London his suspicions were confirmed using the Natural History Museum's micro-CT scanner to investigate the fossil in detail.
"Fossils of worms are really rare. We don't know a lot about their fossil record because they're soft animals," he said.
"But, because these particular worms leave characteristic borings, we can trace them."
Zombie nickname Osedax worms do not have a mouth or gut but invade bones with fleshy root tissues to extract nutrients, earning them the "zombie" nickname.
Whale bone fossil (c) Natural History Museum The riddled fossil gives clues to the worms' mysterious history
They bore into bones leaving distinctive bulb-shaped cavities that are not made by any other species.
This group of worms were first discovered in 2004 and have been recorded in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans but not the Mediterranean.
The descriptively named bone-eating snot-flower worm (Osedax mucofloris) was discovered off the coast of Sweden, also by scientists from the Natural History Museum, London.
However, the boreholes made by this species differ in shape from those found in the fossil.
Rather than simply the same species in a different location, Mr Higgs suggests there could be an as-yet unidentified species of Osedax living in the Mediterranean that evolved from the animals that left the fossilised traces.
"It's just a matter of looking... but it's not very often you come across a dead whale at the bottom of the sea floor," he added.

Late for work, officer accused of going 120 mph

A Miami police officer is accused of driving 120 mph on a turnpike because he was late for his off-duty job working security at a school.
The Florida Highway Patrol says officer Fausto Lopez was arrested at gunpoint after leading police on a brief high-speed chase.
According to a police report, a trooper spotted a patrol car changing lanes in a dangerous manner earlier this month. The report says the patrol car ignored warnings to pull over and led a brief high-speed chase before stopping near Hollywood.
Miami police spokesman Delrish Moss told The Associated Press on Saturday that any administrative action against Lopez will be taken after the outcome of the criminal case.
Univision first reported the arrest.

taken from

'One in a Million' Beagle Survives Alabama Pound's Gas Chamber

A stray beagle mix that cheated death in an Alabama dog pound's gas chamber is up for adoption in New Jersey.
Volunteers began looking for a new home for the dog known as Daniel after the animal walked out unscathed from the carbon monoxide administered by the Animal Control Department in Florence, Ala., on Oct. 3.
The nonprofit Eleventh Hour Rescue group arranged to have the dog flown to New Jersey, where it is awaiting adoption at its shelter in Rockaway.
"He’s one in a million," Linda Schiller, founder of Eleventh Hour Rescue, told the Star-Ledger of Newark. "This doesn’t happen. They don’t survive."
Phil Stevenson, a Florence city spokesman, said Friday that no one is sure why Daniel was the lone survivor.
"It may be that his breathing was shallow because of a cold or something. Or maybe God just had a better plan for this one," Stevenson said.
Stevenson said the gas chamber is a stainless-steel box that's roughly the size of a pickup truck bed. A computer-controlled pump slowly feeds carbon monoxide into the chamber once it's sealed, and an operator presses a button.
"It sort of rocks them to sleep slowly. It's like the cases you hear about where people are overcome by carbon monoxide in their home and just never wake up," he said.
A new operator placed the dog into the chamber with other animals and started the machine, Stevenson said, although it's unclear how many animals were in the chamber in all, or what species.
Three animals have survived the gas chamber in the last 12 years or so, and every effort is made to find new homes for any that do survive, Stevenson said.
Alabama lawmakers passed a law in June to ban the use of gas chambers effective Dec. 31. At the time, Florence was one of only two places in the state using the chambers.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Directors' pay rose 50% in past year, says IDS report

Pay for the directors of the UK's top businesses rose 50% over the past year, a pay research company has said.
Incomes Data Services (IDS) said this took the average pay for a director of a FTSE 100 company to just short of £2.7m.
The rise, covering salary, benefits and bonuses, was higher than that recorded for the main person running the company, the chief executive.
Their pay rose by 43% over the year, according to the study.
Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking in Australia, said the report was "concerning" and called for big companies to be more transparent when they decide executive pay.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said the pay increases were part of a "something for nothing" culture, since the stock market had not risen to match them.
A statement from IDS said that that figure suggested that "executive largesse is evenly spread across the board".
Base salaries rose by just 3.2%, although that was above the median rise recorded by IDS this week for average pay settlements of 2.6% for private sector workers.
The latest consumer price inflation figures showed inflation at 5.2%.
Directors' bonus payments, on average, rose by 23% from £737,000 in 2010 to £906,000 this year.
The Unite union has called executive pay "obscene" and has called for shareholders to be given more power to hold directors accountable.
The union's general secretary, Len McCluskey said: "The Government should strongly consider giving shareholders greater legal powers to question and curb these excessive remuneration packages.
"Institutional shareholders need to exercise much greater scrutiny and control of directors' pay and bonuses.
"It's obscene and it shows that the City has learnt nothing during the financial troubles of the last four years."

Highest paid chief executives 2010/11

Name Company Total earnings/£ Share price change Profit growth
Source: IDS Executive Compensation Review
Mick Davis Mick Davis
Calendar year
Bart Becht Bart Becht
Reckitt Benckiser
Michael Spencer (Photo: ICAP) Michael Spencer
Sir Terry Leahy Sir Terry Leahy
Year to 26 February
Tom Albanese Tom Albanese
Rio Tinto
Calendar year
'Complex' packages "I think it is very hard to justify these sorts of pay increases," Deborah Hargreaves, chair of the High Pay Commission, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"When you think the average pay is going up 1% or 2%, it's not even meeting price rises. These pay packages have become so complex that executives don't even understand it themselves.
"We have got a closed shop here and someone needs to break it open."
Brendan Barber, the TUC's general secretary, said: "Top directors have used tough business conditions to impose real wage cuts, which have hit people's living standards and the wider economy, but have shown no such restraint with their own pay.
"Reform should start with employee representation on remuneration committees, which would give directors a much-needed sense of reality."
Steve Tatton, who edited the IDS report, said: "Britain's economy may be struggling to return to pre-recession levels of output, but the same cannot be said of FTSE 100 directors' remuneration."
Mr Tatton said that while closer scrutiny of pay awards was expected in future, "remuneration committees will have to make sure that they are able to provide full and thorough justifications for the bonuses awarded."

taken from

China could play key role in EU rescue

China is very likely to contribute to the eurozone’s bail-out fund but the scope of its involvement will depend on European leaders satisfying some key conditions, two senior advisers to the Chinese government have told the Financial Times.
Any Chinese support would depend on contributions from other countries and Beijing must be given strong guarantees on the safety of its investment, according to Li Daokui, an academic member of China’s central bank monetary policy committee, and Yu Yongding, a former member of that committee.
Financial markets reacted with relief hours after a European deal was agreed at a summit aimed at calming the two-year-long sovereign debt crisis. The plan includes recapitalising European banks, making them accept a loss of 50 per cent on their holdings of Greek debt and boosting the firepower of the rescue fund, known as the European Financial Stability Facility.
The S&P 500, which rose 3.4 per cent, is on course for its best monthly gain since October 1974. The FTSE All World stock index gained 4.1 per cent, its best one-day rise since May 2010.
Bank stocks also increased sharply with the S&P financials index gaining 6.2 per cent, led by big commercial banks. The dollar slumped 1.6 per cent, its biggest one-day drop since May 2009, as the euro surged more than 2 per cent, above $1.42.
“It is in China’s long-term and intrinsic interest to help Europe because they are our biggest trading partner but the chief concern of the Chinese government is how to explain this decision to our own people,” said Professor Li. “The last thing China wants is to throw away the country’s wealth and be seen as just a source of dumb money.”
He added that Beijing might also ask European leaders to refrain from criticising China’s currency policy, a frequent source of tension with trade partners. The US argues that an intentionally undervalued renminbi unfairly supports Chinese exports.
In spite of discomfort among some Europeans about Chinese investment, the comments represented a fillip to eurozone leaders hours after a summit aimed at calming the two-year-long sovereign debt crisis.
With $3,200bn in foreign exchange reserves, roughly a quarter of which are believed to be held in euros, China could be willing to contribute between $50bn and $100bn to the EFSF or a new fund set up under its auspices in collaboration with the IMF, according to one person familiar with the thinking of the Chinese leadership.
“If conditions are right then something a bit above $100bn is not inconceivable,” this person said.
President Nicolas Sarkozy of France welcomed the prospect of a Chinese contribution to the eurozone rescue package. “Our independence would not be put into question by this,” he said in a television interview. “Why would we not accept that the Chinese had confidence in the eurozone and place a part of their surpluses in our funds or our banks. Would you rather they placed it with the US?”
Klaus Regling, head of the EFSF, was due to arrive in Beijing late on Thursday for discussions with senior Chinese leaders on whether and how much China might contribute. President Sarkozy telephoned his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao a few hours after the summit ended to discuss the rescue plan but there was no immediate announcement on any Chinese involvement.
European leaders agreed that the EFSF would explore two plans to increase its remaining firepower from about €250bn to €1,000bn. One would be to offer investors insurance on selected government debt while the other would create a special fund in which countries such as China could invest.
Chinese companies are increasing their appetite for corporate acquisitions in Europe
One condition China might ask for is that its contribution be at least partly denominated in renminbi, which would protect its investment against currency fluctuations. China would buy euro-denominated bonds but repayments would compensate for any changes in the value of the renminbi, which has appreciated nearly 20 per cent against the euro in the past three years.
Reflecting the unease in Europe, the head of Germany’s industry association said he feared Chinese help could “come at some political cost”. Hans-Peter Keitel told the FT: “Asking a non-eurozone nation to help the euro would give the other nation the power to decide the fate of the single currency.”
The global focus on how China might contribute to the European rescue plan illustrates its increased influence on the world stage and many in Beijing believe this crisis presents an opportunity for it to display global citizenship and responsibility commensurate with its rising status.
Beijing’s main concern is how any contribution to a European bailout will be viewed domestically by an increasingly informed and critical populace.
“Any mis-steps in helping Europe could cause problems with domestic public opinion – the Chinese people will watch very carefully what their own government does,” Prof Yu said. “European leaders also must have a clear plan of what to do and they must show China they have the political will as well as the support of their own people; if we see protests and chaos all the time, then China won’t have confidence in Europe’s political ability.”

By Jamil Anderlini and Richard Milne taken from