NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — An oil price spike caused by a confrontation with Iran is now seen as the biggest threat to the U.S. economy.
That’s according to nine out of 18 economists surveyed recently by CNNMoney. They say rising oil prices now outweigh the risks posed by the European debt crisis, ongoing gridlock over the budget in Washington and fears of a slowdown in China.
"An Iranian disruption of oil supplies could send oil prices to $200 a barrel," said Lynn Reaser, chief economist at the Fermanian Business & Economic Institute.
"It’s something we’re really concerned about," said Chris Lafakis, an economist at Moody’s Analytics. "A military confrontation could push prices to $180 a barrel, which would precipitate a recession."
The economy, it appears, can handle oil around $100 a barrel and gas prices near $4 a gallon. While these prices are relatively high, consumer spending continues to rise.
Look, I know this is serious. There are people hurting and dying because of this disease. However, I’d be amiss if I didn’t point out the similarities between the Zombie mythos and the symptoms these people exhibit.
Severe seizures, nodding off, lack of appetite, personality changes, having to bind the kids down to keep them from wandering off , aversions to strange food, fire starters…ok, so not all of them fit, but enough to make it fall into that area of the unknown that scares the hell out of us.
It appears to be widespread, affecting large numbers and the manner of transmission is unknown.
…more than 3,000 other children in Northern Uganda, has been struck by the mysterious syndrome that has doctors and scientists puzzled and has shattered lives in this rural community.
Nodding disease gets its name from the strange nodding-like symptoms that children display in the first stages of a seizure. But doctors on the ground and at the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that is the least profound effect.
Severe epilepsy-like seizures grip the children, they struggle to eat, and they become shells of their former selves. It is a progressive and debilitating syndrome that robs children of their future.
The seizures are triggered in strange ways, say community members, such as when unfamiliar food is brought to the children or when the weather changes.
There are other bizarre symptoms. Often the children will wander off by themselves and get lost in the bush. And other children will start fires, according to parents and medics in the field. Others appear confused and traumatized.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The national average price for a gallon of gasoline rose for the ninth straight day on Sunday to $3.838. That is now only about 6.7% below the record high of $4.11 from July 2008.
The average price rose by three-tenths of a penny, according to the survey of gas stations conducted for the motorist group AAA. Gas prices are now up more than 17% this year.
The nationwide average was $3.52 a gallon a month ago and $3.76 a gallon on March 9 — the day that prices started rising again after a few days of slight declines.
Gasoline averages more than $4 a gallon in seven states: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New York and Washington. Gas prices are also above $4 a gallon in the District of Columbia, according to AAA. At nearly $4.48 a gallon, Hawaii ranks as the nation’s high. Prices are less than a dime away from $4 a gallon in Michigan, Nevada, Oregon and Wisconsin.
Washington (CNN) — Most Americans can put away winter coats and umbrellas and break out the short sleeves and sunglasses even though spring doesn’t officially begin until next week, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In a 90-day weather outlook released Thursday, forecasters predict the unseasonably warm temperatures that have blanketed parts of the United States will continue into the summer, and much of the country will remain dry.
In fact, for the first time in four years, no area of the country will face a high risk of major flooding from April through June, due in large measure to a winter without much snow, forecasters said.
"We expect above-normal temperatures in the South and Eastern United States," said Ed O’Lenic, chief of operations at the Climate Prediction Center for NOAA’s National Weather Service. He predicts temperatures could be half a degree to a degree and a half above normal in many parts of the country.
Above-normal temperatures are also predicted for the Southwest across Texas and the Gulf Coast, as well as the Atlantic Coast, the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes region, according to NOAA. Temperatures in the Pacific Northwest and southern Alaska will be below normal.
Here we go. I thought the US might be holding Israel back, trying to keep gas prices from huge jumps, but here we are, admitting that we’ll do whatever it takes….to start another Middle Eastern war.
"The United States will always have Israel’s back when it comes to Israel’s security," Obama said, repeating a line from the Sunday speech as Netanyahu nodded in agreement.
"I reserve all options and my policy here is not going to be one of containment; my policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons and, as I indicated yesterday in my speech, when I say all options are on the table, I mean it," Obama added.
Netanyahu said he welcomed Obama’s “strong speech” on Sunday and noted that Iran considers the United States and Israel to be similar foes.
"For them, you’re the great Satan, we’re the little Satan," Netanyahu said. "For them, we are you, and you are us. And you know something, Mr. President? At least on this last point, I think they’re right. We are you, and you are us. We’re together. … Israel and America stand together."
The price of unleaded gasoline in the U.S. will likely hit a nationwide average of $4 by this summer, said Dan Dicker, oil trader and author of “Oil’s Endless Bid.” The last time prices topped $4 was 2008 and Dicker said there’s a one in three chance that gas could reach $5 a gallon.
If gas prices do head to those lofty levels, that could put a crimp in the economic recovery as consumers will likely cut down on spending if they have to pay more to fill up their cars.
Homeland Security monitors Social Media for keywords and trends
The Department of Homeland Security has contracted with a private firm to provide aggregated information about trending topics and keywords from social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and I would assume site like Tumblr. So, if you’ve ever wanted to get on a no-fly list, here’s your chance.
A “privacy compliance review” issued by DHS last November says that since at least June 2010, its national operations center has been operating a “Social Networking/Media Capability” which involves regular monitoring of “publicly available online forums, blogs, public websites and message boards.”
The purpose of the monitoring, says the government document, is to “collect information used in providing situational awareness and establishing a common operating picture.” Source - Reuters
Now, they are quick to point out that they are monitoring publicly available content, however, this still means that in the course of exercising your freedom of speech rights, you may still come under scrutiny. And who knows how many relevent keywords will get you added to a list and what the lists will be used for.
This isn’t being paranoid - this is being realistic. They listen, watch, and aggregate. They compose profiles and calculate persons of interest. If you fit a profile they may watch you more closely. Maybe even use Patriot Act privileges to dig into your life.
I would think this would bode well for the dollar as the reserve currency if the Euro folded. However, I can’t help but think that the crushing debt and defaults that would result as Greece, Spain, and Italy fell would throw us ALL into turmoil as a result.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti - ”And it is very, very important that we all take this with great attention in order to avoid that something that was meant to be the culminating point of the European construction — namely, the single currency — turns out to be, through psychological negative effects, a factor of disintegration of Europe.”
Europe may not disintegrate tomorrow — and the Euro could some how squeak by in a two-speed European deal, but the deep divisions between those citizens who are now choking under the prospects of long-term, imposed debt burdens and the loss of sovereignty to German bankers and financiers could have the impact of a 21st century Versailles Treaty that dissolves the ties that have bound together the once fractious region.
2. Oil prices will spike. I imagine you could easily see $150 a barrel or maybe even more. This development could throw the US and Europe back into deep recession.
3. Hizbullah would likely launch rockets, causing at least severe inconvenience to some 1/4 of the Israeli public, which might well have to move house again, and possibly much worse if Hizbullah is able, as they claim, to target toxic gas storage in Haifa or even reactor at Dimona with modified Chinese silkworms. It is not clear that the Israeli public would appreciate all that trouble; they didn’t, in former PM Ehud Olmert’s case (his 2006 Lebanon war was extremely unpopular and his party is no longer in power). A Hizbullah official said on Sunday that Hizbullah would be willing to go to war with Israel if Syria were attacked, so it seems likely the same thing would hold true with regard to Iran.
[In] 2011, which showed the greatest weather extremes in our history — 56 percentof the country was either in drought or flood, which was no surprise since “climate change science predicts wet areas will tend to get wetter and dry areas will tend to get drier.” Indeed, the nation suffered 14 weather disasters each causing $1 billion or more in damage last year. (The old record was nine.) Masters again: “Watching the weather over the past two years has been like watching a famous baseball hitter on steroids.”
In the face of such data — statistics that you can duplicate for almost every region of the planet — you’d think we’d already be in an all-out effort to do something about climate change. Instead, we’re witnessing an all-out effort to… deny there’s a problem.
“Although the U.S. focus remains on exerting diplomatic and economic pressure on Syria, the Pentagon and the U.S. Central Command have begun a preliminary internal review of U.S. military capabilities, CNN has learned. The options are being prepared in the event President Barack Obama were to call for them. Two senior administration officials who spoke about the review to CNN emphasized that U.S. policy for now remains the use of non-military options.”—U.S. military beginning review of Syria options – CNN Security Clearance - CNN.com Blogs
“(CNN) — The unexplained beachings of scores of dolphins over the past month along Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is the largest “single-species event” of its kind on record in the northeastern United States, a marine mammal specialist said Monday.
A total of 129 common dolphins have been found since the animals began stranding themselves in early January, said Katie Moore, marine mammal rescue and research manager for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.”—Massachusetts stranded-dolphin death toll up to 92 - CNN.com
Terror 2012: Be Very Afraid - War with Iran Update: Feb 2nd
Currently, if you believe the news, THERE IS A LOT TO BE AFRAID OF. Fear has been a constant in the US since 9/11 and the creation and manipulation of the fears of the average American has become a powerful tool that is used daily to justify a staggering number of atrocities and infringements on our rights.
The U.S. government’s list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to the United States or within its borders has more than doubled over the past year, a counterterrorism official told CNN Thursday.
The “no fly” list produced by the FBI now has approximately 21,000 names on it, according to the official, who has knowledge of the government’s figures. One year ago about 10,000 individuals were on it.
Only about 500 people currently on the no-fly list are Americans, the official said.
But we have even bigger Villains now! If you haven’t noticed Iran is in the news daily.
As for Iran, the report said it will attempt to “undermine any strategic partnership between the United States and Afghanistan” and it continues to play a destabilizing role across the globe. The report cites the plot last year to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States and concern about “Iranian plotting against U.S. or allied interests.”
”The 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States shows that some Iranian officials - probably including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei - have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime,” the report said.
Iran has the technical ability to build a nuclear weapon, Clapper said. But he, CIA Director David Petraeus and others reasserted their stance that Iran is not building nuclear weapons, [WTF??] in subtle contrast to Israeli officials’ statements that Iran could have nuclear capability within a year.
That was just the opening volley - the stories grow by the day.
Today the Washington Post’s David Ignatius wrote that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “believes there is strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June - before Iran enters what Israelis described as a ‘zone of immunity’ to commence building a nuclear bomb.”
In fact Israel may very well do that. They are dying to get U.S. permission to do so, but they could decide to go at it on their own even if it risks hurting their ties with the US and the billions of dollars we give them.
This week Israel, in an effort to stoke the fear and pressure the US to take action, said that:
Iran is developing a missile capable of delivering payloads up to 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) away, Israel’s vice prime minister charged Thursday.
Speaking to Israel’s annual Herzliya national security conference, Moshe Ya’alon, who also serves as Israel’s minister for strategic affairs, suggested that an Iranian military compound that mysteriously blew up late last year was developing a long-range missile capable of hitting the United States.
Ya’alon said the project was “aimed at America, not us” and said it served as further argument that Iran posed a “military problem” that needed to be stopped.
Today Israeli Military Intelligence Chief Major General Aviv Kochavi said:
Iran has completed the development of a nuclear weapon and awaits nothing more than a sign from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to start assembling its first nuclear bomb.
by the end of 2012 or early 2013 Iran may have a single nuclear bomb, but by 2015 the figure would jump to four or five.
The officer was essentially amplifying the words of his predecessor, Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, who said on Jan. 26 that as long ago as 2007 or 2008, Iran had already passed the point of no return in developing nuclear weapons.
His comments coincided with the findings published Thursday by the Enterprise Institute, an American think tank, that Iran would be able to manufacture a 15-kiloton nuclear bomb as soon as August of this year, just seven months from now.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, made the comment in response to a question about a new report by the Bipartisan Policy Center that says the United States must put more teeth into its threat to use military power to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
In an interview with CNN, Rogers said more needs to be done: “I’m not saying we ought to bomb Iran, but you almost have to scare them, you have to frighten them to get to the right place.”
In order to stop Iran’s nuclear clock, the report said, the United States “needs to make clear that Iran faces a choice: it can either abandon its nuclear program through a negotiated arrangement or have its program destroyed militarily, by the United States.”
Yesterday SHTFPlan reported on a DEBKAFile story about a large massing of US troops on several islands in the GULF.
President Barack Obama is reported exclusively by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military and Washington sources to have secretly ordered US air, naval and marine forces to build up heavy concentrations on two strategic islands –Socotra, which is part of a Yemeni archipelago in the Indian Ocean, and the Omani island of Masirah at the southern exit of the Strait of Hormuz.
Since 2010, the US has been quietly building giant air force and naval bases on Socotra with facilities for submarines, intelligence command centers and take-off pads for flying stealth drones, as part of a linked chain of strategic US military facilities in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf.
Like any article that can’t name sources I take it with a grain of salt. If this is true, then another Middle Eastern Oil War is just around the corner.
Whether or not this is viable information, Iran is squarely in the cross-hairs of Israel and the U.S. right now.
I don’t pretend to understand all of the motivations and political interests at stake, I’m just watching the rhetoric and where it is leading. You know what happened the last time we went after WMD’s and what a crock of shit that turned out to be.
Question everything. Don’t believe the hype. Why would Iran be stupid enough to attack the US? They aren’t as crazy as Al Queda - we KNOW where they live and we DO have nuclear weapons. Lots of them.
This is the question CNN asked 5 experts on Iran and Middle Eastern politics. You should read their full responses, but I have highlighted some quotes that seem to capture the things they agree on. To answer the question, they all agree that war doesn’t have to happen but that the situation is volatile enough that it could happen quickly if any sort of escalation event set things in motion.
All of this talk of war based on supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction reminds me of our entry into war in Iraq. We’re being prepped for the next war.
"As long as (the Iranians) shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent," U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday night in his State of the Union speech. "Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better."
Last week, Obama’s former national security adviser said he thought this could be the year that things finally come to a head.
"I think 2012 has seen itself as the year that Iran has got to be dealt with one way or the other," said James L. Jones, speaking at a panel discussion in Washington.
Shireen T. Hunter
"The two sides are moving perilously close to a situation where there seems to be only one option left: military confrontation. But war doesn’t have to be inevitable."
"This will be the year that Khamenei will have to make a decision about Iran’s nuclear program."
Jon B. Alterman
"While the possibility remains that one side will pursue a limited war, it is more likely that the sides will stumble into a war that no side is seeking. Given the high alert on all sides, a rogue action or even a mistaken one can quickly turn into a shooting war."
Kelly Golnoush Niknejad
“This heightened tension is very dangerous, especially given the lack of diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States. There is no hot line. There is no real channel of communication like there was with the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War. A misunderstanding or miscalculation may lead to a war.”
“Both Iran and the United States have approached the nuclear issue as a marathon, not as a sprint. But the finish line is in sight.
After 20 years of dispute, 2012 may well show whether Washington’s or Tehran’s approach has been more successful.
Within a few years, Iran will be treated by the world as a country that, if it does not already have nuclear warheads atop its missiles, could quickly do so. As that point nears, Iran has less reason to negotiate over the nuclear issue.”
This is CNN telling us to prep for disasters….featured story on the front page right now. heh heh
Atlanta (CNN) — Ranee Roberts feels lucky to have survived the impact of a tornado that hit her Alabama convenience store in April. “Before the twister hit, I sent a last text to say ‘I love you’ to my best friend, and then the building began to come apart around me,” said the 34-year-old from Henagar.
Roberts said she knew only about two minutes before impact that the twister was heading toward her store. The tornado was rated an EF-4, with estimated winds peaking at 175 mph. “There was no time for preparations, only prayer,” she said. “I felt utterly hopeless thinking I might be spending my last moments on Earth curled up on the stockroom floor.”
Looking back, she was ill-prepared for the storm and its aftermath. She felt that she got off extremely lucky walking away with “just a few scratches” to her body.
She learned from her harrowing experience to keep a first-aid kit, flashlight, bicycle helmet, battery-powered radio, power generator and Meals Ready to Eat in her storm closet.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a record 14 weather and climate disasters in 2011 caused $1 billion or more in damage, including the Alabama tornado that Roberts survived. At least 669 people died in these storms and thousands were injured.
"In my four decades of tracking weather, I have never seen extreme weather like we had in 2011," said Jack Hayes, NOAA’s assistant administrator for weather services and the National Weather Service director.
Although no two years are alike, Hayes said, it’s important for Americans to be prepared for the worst. “The U.S. population has almost doubled since 1954, and trends such as urban sprawl and conversion of rural land to suburban landscapes increase the likelihood a tornado will impact densely populated areas,” he said.
"We have also become more vulnerable to coastal storms and hurricanes as more people are living in coastal areas." Hayes said the 2011 Southern drought and floods across the northern U.S. represent the extreme temperature and precipitation swings that climate scientists project will become more common amid a warming climate.
"You’ve got to be proactive in preparing for extreme weather," she said. "An extreme weather condition, like the tornado I experienced, doesn’t care if you are rich, poor, young or old," said Roberts. "What does matter is how prepared you are and how quickly you react when time is of the essence."
When Patty Tegeler looks out the window of her home overlooking the Appalachian Mountains in southwestern Virginia, she sees trouble on the horizon.
"In an instant, anything can happen," she told Reuters. "And I firmly believe that you have to be prepared."
Tegeler is among a growing subculture of Americans who refer to themselves informally as “preppers.” Some are driven by a fear of imminent societal collapse, others are worried about terrorism, and many have a vague concern that an escalating series of natural disasters is leading to some type of environmental cataclysm.
They are following in the footsteps of hippies in the 1960s who set up communes to separate themselves from what they saw as a materialistic society, and the survivalists in the 1990s who were hoping to escape the dictates of what they perceived as an increasingly secular and oppressive government.
Preppers, though are, worried about no government.
Tegeler, 57, has turned her home in rural Virginia into a “survival center,” complete with a large generator, portable heaters, water tanks, and a two-year supply of freeze-dried food that her sister recently gave her as a birthday present. She says that in case of emergency, she could survive indefinitely in her home. And she thinks that emergency could come soon.
"I think this economy is about to fall apart," she said.
A wide range of vendors market products to preppers, mainly online. They sell everything from water tanks to guns to survival skills.
Conservative talk radio host Glenn Beck seems to preach preppers’ message when he tells listeners: “It’s never too late to prepare for the end of the world as we know it.”
"Unfortunately, given the increasing complexity and fragility of our modern technological society, the chances of a societal collapse are increasing year after year," said author James Wesley Rawles, whose Survival Blog is considered the guiding light of the prepper movement.
A former Army intelligence officer, Rawles has written fiction and non-fiction books on end-of-civilization topics, including “How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It,” which is also known as the preppers’ Bible.
"We could see a cascade of higher interest rates, margin calls, stock market collapses, bank runs, currency revaluations, mass street protests, and riots," he told Reuters. "The worst-case end result would be a Third World War, mass inflation, currency collapses, and long term power grid failures."
A sense of “suffering and being afraid” is usually at the root of this kind of thinking, according to Cathy Gutierrez, an expert on end-times beliefs at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. Such feelings are not unnatural in a time of economic recession and concerns about a growing national debt, she said.
"With our current dependence on things from the electric grid to the Internet, things that people have absolutely no control over, there is a feeling that a collapse scenario can easily emerge, with a belief that the end is coming, and it is all out of the individual’s control," she told Reuters.
She compared the major technological developments of the past decade to the Industrial Revolution of the 1830s and 1840s, which led to the growth of the Millerites, the 19th-Century equivalent of the preppers. Followers of charismatic preacher Joseph Miller, many sold everything and gathered in 1844 for what they believed would be the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Many of today’s preppers receive inspiration from the Internet, devouring information posted on websites like that run by attorney Michael T. Snider, who writes The Economic Collapse blog out of his home in northern Idaho.
"Modern preppers are much different from the survivalists of the old days," he said. "You could be living next door to a prepper and never even know it. Many suburbanites are turning spare rooms into food pantries and are going for survival training on the weekends."
Like other preppers, Snider is worried about the end of a functioning U.S. economy. He points out that tens of millions of Americans are on food stamps and that many U.S. children are living in poverty.
"Most people have a gut feeling that something has gone terribly wrong, but that doesn’t mean that they understand what is happening," he said. "A lot of Americans sense that a massive economic storm is coming and they want to be prepared for it."
So, assuming there is no collapse of society — which the preppers call “uncivilization” — what is the future of the preppers?
Gutierrez said that unlike the Millerites — or followers of radio preacher Harold Camping, who predicted the world would end last year — preppers are not setting a date for the coming destruction. The Mayan Calendar predicts doom this December.
"The minute you set a date, you are courting disconfirmation," she said.
Tegeler, who recalls being hit by tornadoes and floods in her southwestern Virginia home, said that none of her “survival center” products will go to waste.
"I think it’s silly not to be prepared," she said. "After all, anything can happen."
(Reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio; Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Greg McCune)
Sounds of the Apocalypse: Strange Noises all over the world in 2011 - 2012
I am always skeptical, but not so much as to immediately discredit things that I can’t explain just because I can’t explain it. The phenomena of reverberating sounds all over the world has been happening for several years, and has been increasing ever since summer of 2011.
The chance that it is a hoax is always a consideration, but the fact that entire towns are experiencing it and local news outlets cover it helps add to the potential validity as a legitimate phenomena. Any time something unexplained happens the trolls, copycats, and hoaxers jump on it and muddy the waters.
The best source for info on this is this blog - Strange Sounds in the Sky. The owner spends a huge amount of time analyzing the phenomena and debunks a ton of them. He’s also a believer that there is a valid unexplained phenomena happening in some cases.
Mass hysteria, Kthulu’s return, hoaxes, or dramatic environmental earth changes…whatever the cause it’s interesting to me and seems to be a trend to watch. Do you remember in the movie the Day After Tomorrow when the weather started going crazy all over the world? Well, I’m always watching for shit like that. :)
I’m not going to present a wide range. Others have done that well. I’ll try to show some of the ones that seem to be more legitimate. If you’re really interested in a skeptical, objective approach to learning about this, start with this post. For a consummate skeptics approach this article is really good.
Sabotage, bombings, sanctions: A growing web of pressure over Iran
I’ve been quiet for a while, but I’m still here. If you haven’t noticed Iran is in the crosshairs. The mainstream media reports on it daily with increasingly aggressive language regarding intervention and possible war. A war with Iran would involve Israel and Europe and would likely force Russia and China’s hand. North Korea, well, consider them the crazy cousin…who knows what they’ll do.
This blog is my environmental scan. I watch for signs, trends, things that appear and stay for while. Right now aggression toward Iran is trending. Iran is a wild-card, but I don’t buy the WMD bullshit easily after the line Bush fed us with regard to Iraq. Fear is a strong motivator.
That being said, we’re already in a Cold War with Iran.
Iran is facing an extensive and growing international campaign aimed at destabilizing its regime.
The web of pressure includes not only the openly acknowledged moves, such as sanctions, but also mysterious incidents that include assassinations, explosions, and computerized sabotage, according to analysts who follow the country closely.
While the overt actions are spearheaded largely by the United States and allies, and quickly encompass more and more countries across the globe, just who is behind the covert activities and why remains a mystery.
In some cases, Iran blames Israel. Israel generally does not comment on such speculation.
Even non-state actors are involved. Hezbollah reportedly has deployed an Iranian-designed drone. Iran is developing a new drone aircraft with a range of more than 600 miles. These systems are used mostly for surveillance, but it is not difficult to equip the aircraft with missiles and bombs. Recently in Massachusetts, a man was arrested for plotting to place explosives on a drone aircraft and fly it into the Pentagon or the Capitol building. Private contractors are getting into the business as well. We now have companies offering drones-for-hire.
What kind of a future are we creating for our children? We face the prospect of a world in which every nation will have drone warfare capability, in which terror can rain down from the sky at any moment without warning.
The United States remains largely unprepared for a large-scale bioterrorism attack or deadly disease outbreak, according to the WMD Terrorism Research Center.
The finding are in a report card released Wednesday, which gave the country 15 failing grades in categories ranging from detection to medical countermeasures.
The report card gave 15 F’s,15 D’s and no A’s in its assessment of current bio-defense capabilities in the United States.
The bipartisan center, headed by former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, and former Sen. Jim Talent, R-Missouri, did find improvements since the 9-11 2001 attacks, but its analysis suggests the nation’s readiness to respond to various levels of biological disasters remains a work in progress.
In a news release accompanying the report card, the Center said, “In the past decade the United States government has spent more than $65 billion on bio-defense, and yet it has done so without an end-to-end, strategic assessment of the nation’s bio-response capabilities.”
The bio-response report card gave the United States failing grades when it came to detection, medical countermeasures, dispensing, medical management and environmental clean-up in a contagious large scale and global crisis.
"America does not yet have adequate bio-response capability to meet fundamental expectations during a large-scale biological event," said Graham.
However, the report card suggests the country’s ability to detect a small-scale attack and effectively communicate about it is improving. The Center gave the United States largely B’s and C’s in the category of communication.
One of the big concerns facing the United States is how quickly the country might react if terrorists launched an attack with biological weapons. “I think they’d have a psychological effect and potentially a huge effect in terms of human life,” said Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, in a recent CNN interview.
Federal funding for public health departments dropped 15 percent in the last year and despite improved collaboration, hospitals still have limited capability to ramp up personnel and beds.
"Most major hospitals in this country are operating at 80, 90, 95 percent capacity on any given day, and I would think they would be sorely challenged to deal with hundreds, much less thousands or tens of thousands of casualties. And a circus tent in a parking lot is not going to make up the difference," said Dr. Arthur Kellerman with the RAND Corporation.
The report points out “advances in biotechnology have now enabled a small team of individuals with college-level training to create biological weapons.”
The WMD Center recommends the United States needs to focus on improving response capabilities. The report card cites among its priorities leadership that sets clear priorities, mobilizing response planning and investment in science.
China is one of the world’s largest producers and purchasers of precious metals, especially gold and silver. Beijing has now unveiled its first gold ATM machine in a shopping district. More than 2,000 will be installed in the next two years. Since the beginning of the global economic meltdown, China has been purchasing and producing commodities at a rapid pace. Digital Journal has reported in the past that its central bank has bought gold bullion and state-television outlets have even urged citizens to acquire silver bullion. Digital Journal has also reported of gold ATM machines being installed in Germany and the United States. Now, China has unveiled its first gold ATM machine in Beijing’s shopping district of Wangfujing Street.
VIENNA — The head of the world’s biggest food company Nestle said on Friday that rising food prices have created conditions “similar” to 2008 when hunger riots took place in many countries.
"The situation is similar (to 2008). This has become the new reality," the Swiss giant’s chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe told the Salzburger Nachrichten daily in his native Austria in an interview.
"We have reached a level of food prices that is substantially higher than before. It will likely settle down at this level.
"If you live in a developing country and spend 80 percent of your income on food then of course you are going to feel it more than here (in Europe) where it is maybe eight percent."
In 2008, the price of cereals reached historic levels, provoking a food crisis and riots in a number of African countries, as well as in Haiti and the Philippines.
In September the UN food agency’s food price index came in at 225 points, just higher than the peak it hit in June 2008. It is down from the record 237.7 points hit in February this year.
Food price inflation this year is seen as having contributed to the “Arab Spring” unrest in north Africa and the Middle East and there are fears of fresh unrest elsewhere.
The increases are blamed on speculative commodity trading, climate change, rising populations and changing eating habits in countries like India and China, most notably an increase in meat consumption by a growing middle class.
Brabeck-Letmathe said another factor was water, saying humans were “using more water than is sustainable” and calling for the price of water to rise in order to encourage firms and consumers to be less wasteful.
The amount of Arctic sea ice has melted to a historic low, with the area of land covered by ice at the smallest level since scientists began observing it with satellites in 1972, researchers from the University of Bremen in Germany report.
The North Pole skull cap shrank to about half a percent under the previous record low set in September 2007, according to the school’s Institute of Environmental Physics.
Researchers, including those from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, had predicted earlier this summer that Arctic sea ice levels could reach extreme lows. But the University of Bremen physicists said there was uncertainty in July about whether the ice melt would surpass the previous record.
The Climate Law Institute noted the record followed news that this summer was the second-hottest since 1895.
In 2009, studies began suggesting the Arctic Ocean could be “largely ice free” during summer within a decade.
(CNN) — On a small, floating piece of ice in the Beaufort Sea, several hundred miles north of Alaska, a group of scientists are documenting what some dub an “Arctic meltdown.”
According to climate scientists, the warming of the region is shrinking the polar ice cap at an alarming rate, reducing the permafrost layer and wreaking havoc on polar bears, arctic foxes and other indigenous wildlife in the region.
What is bad for the animals, though, has been good for commerce.
The recession of the sea ice and the reduction in permafrost — combined with advances in technology — have allowed access to oil, mineral and natural gas deposits that were previously trapped in the ice.
The abundance of these valuable resources and the opportunity to exploit them has created a gold rush-like scramble in the high north, with fierce competition to determine which countries have the right to access the riches of the Arctic.
With murky international agreements and an absence of clear legal authority, countries are preaching cooperation but preparing for conflict.
There has been a flurry of new military activity reminiscent of days past.
Two U.S. nuclear-powered attack submarines, the SSN Connecticut and the SSN New Hampshire, recently finished conducting ice exercises in the Arctic. Secretary of the Navy Richard Mabus said the purpose of the recent naval exercises was “to do operational and war-fighting capabilities. Places are becoming open that have been ice-bound for literally millennia. You’re going to see more and more of the world’s attention pointed towards the Arctic.”
Other Arctic nations are ramping up their military capabilities as well. Just this month, Russia announced that it is deploying two brigades to the Arctic, including a special forces unit. The Russian air force has recently resumed strategic bomber flights over the Pole. Canada, Denmark and Norway are also rapidly rebuilding their military presence.
But despite the buildup, almost all of the activity in the Arctic has been within the scope of normal military operations or research.
Stresses from global climate change are increasing the threat of wars around the world, a British admiral said Wednesday.
Royal Navy Rear Adm. Neil Morisetti told students and faculty at Georgia Institute of Technology that global climate change threats to food, water, land and energy will present substantive security challenges in regions of the world where there are already stresses.
"Those climate stress multipliers are increasing the threat of armed conflict around the world," Morisetti said.
Morisetti pointed out that existing stress points form a band around the globe, running from Central and South America, across Africa, the Middle East and south Asia. That band, he said, intersects with the regions of the globe most susceptible to climate change.
With climate change, Morisetti said, “we’re going to add more to that cocktail.”
Morisetti, who holds the title of the British government’s climate and energy security envoy, is on a tour of the United States, speaking to academics and military officials.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Egyptians did it for democracy. So did people in Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. Now, activist groups are hoping Americans will launch their own uprising — in the form of thousands of protesters descending on Wall Street this weekend.
Occupy Wall Street is a “leaderless resistance movement” spearheaded by activist magazine Adbusters. Organizers want people to swarm into lower Manhattan on September 17 and set up camp for two months, then “incessantly repeat one simple demand.”
Adbusters posted a call to action on its blog July 13 — originally asking for 90,000 people to join the protest — and word spread quickly around the Internet. A total of 74 cities around the world are participating in “solidarity actions,” and the event’s official site will stream live shots of those events.
The New York Police Department says it is prepared to deal with any situations that arise.
"The NYPD is aware of various protests and we have planned accordingly," Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne told CNN.
In a September test run of the occupation, nine people were arrested for disorderly conduct, and later released without being charged.
"It takes a lot to rise up and reform the global economic system," Lasn says. "And maybe this time we fail. But if we do, we’re just setting the tone for the next revolution."
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is worried that high U.S. unemployment could lead to the same kind of riots here that have swept through Europe and North Africa.
"You have a lot of kids graduating college, [who] can’t find jobs," said Bloomberg, during his weekly radio show on Friday. "That’s what happened in Cairo. That’s what happened in Madrid. You don’t want those kinds of riots here."
That was the mayor’s response when asked about the poverty rate, which rose to 15.1% in 2010, its highest level since 1993, according to census data released Tuesday. About 46.2 million people are now living in poverty, 2.6 million more than last year.
"The public is not happy," he said. "The public knows there is something wrong in this country, and there is. The bottom line is that they’re upset." Source
The tsunami spawned from the March 11 earthquake off eastern Japan broke up parts of an Antarctic ice shelf that hadn’t moved in 46 years, scientists say.
Though the tsunami waves were only about a foot high when they reached Antarctica, their consistency was enough to crack the 260-foot-thick ice and split off icebergs with combined surface areas more than twice the size of Manhattan from the Sulzberger Ice Shelf, the scientists report in a NASA statement.
It was the first time scientists have been able to tie icebergs directly to a tsunami, according to NASA.
The tsunami waves traveled 8,000 miles and took 18 hours to reach the ice shelf, the scientists said, giving them time to validate theories on how an earthquake can affect geography a hemisphere away.
"In the past we’ve had calving events where we’ve looked for the source. It’s a reverse scenario – we see a calving and we go looking for a source,” Kelly Brunt, a cryosphere specialist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in the NASA statement. “We knew right away this was one of the biggest events in recent history – we knew there would be enough swell. And this time we had a source.”
King crabs — three-feet-wide red monsters that devour everything in their path — have invaded Antarctica. While it sounds a little like a horror movie, it’s actual a large scale global warming problem. According to the New Scientist, three years ago, scientists had predicted that this would happen, but they believed the earth would have warmed to this degree in the next 100 years.
The earth has warmed a little earlier than they predicted. According to Craig Smith, a professor of oceanography at the University of Hawaii, who’s team discovered the relocation, millions of these crabs have begun to crawl around by Antarctica. The crabs were known to inhabit the Ross Sea, south of New Zealand, but now they can be found south of South America. Worse, they’re wiping out local wildlife, and causing large scale destruction where they go, reports the New Scientist.
The crabs live on starfish and sea urchins, and most of these animals are now gone, reports the Huffington Post. A video taken by a remotely operated submersible shows that the crabs have already colonized a basin in the Antarctic Peninsula’s continental shelf. The video footage also shows that the crabs “prod, gash and puncture” the sediment, altering natural processes such as how organic matter is buried.
The implications are terrifying, as Jen Doll from the Village Voice points out: “After millions of years of the crabs not being able to cross the cold water of the continental shelf…now they can.” Source
The shelter, which Williams said was about five or six miles from Prattsville’s main street, had power generators and enough water for those there to swap it for food from nearby residents. People from the neighboring town of Windham brought food and clothes for those at the shelter, Williams said.
Be sure your bug-out location is better than where you are at
The town had been filled with vacationers, as well as people who headed to vacation homes in the area as they heeded warnings to evacuate parts of New York that forecasters had expected to bear the brunt of Irene’s impact, said Williams, from the Huntersfield center. “They had come up to escape the storm only to find its worst here,” he said.
Rescue workers rushed Tuesday to get aid into flooded communities in New Jersey and Vermont, where many residents remain stranded in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.
Marc Leibowitz, a New Yorker, went to Vermont over the weekend to get married. The wedding went off without a hitch, he said, but now he is stranded in the town of Pittsfield, with no roads to get him and his guests out. [72 hour bag for the car anyone?]
Residents have food and drinkable water, but resources are limited and won’t last forever, Leibowitz told CNN’s “AC 360.”
It’s time for the left to get off its duff and turn the tables on the radical right. And our history reveals that there’s an excellent method for accomplishing precisely that: a great march of the unemployed on Washington.
Recent polls reveal that Americans are decisively more concerned about the crisis of unemployment than the issue of our national debt. But as many commentators have observed in recent weeks, the results of the midterm elections, with Republicans gaining control of the House, and the associated rise of the tea party have pushed an agenda of austerity in government spending ahead of using government resources to fight unemployment.
Once there, these unemployed people would deliver a simple demand: The government must act immediately to give them back employment. They could invoke quite a number of interesting historical precedents: the platform of the pre-Civil War Whig Party, whose leaders, including Henry Clay and young Abraham Lincoln, urged governmental “internal improvements” — public works such as canal- and road-building projects — to give work to the jobless during a ruinous depression that followed a financial panic in 1837.
They would naturally invoke the great precedent of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration, an agency that under the leadership of Harry Hopkins created jobs for the jobless almost overnight, thus providing some desperate and innocent people with a way to save their families and homes.
To be sure, the left has tried to address economics: It has protested repeatedly on the issues of out-sourcing, deregulation of the financial sector, and so on. But in the midst of the worst economic contraction since the 1930s, it has somehow allowed the extremists of the right to run roughshod over them.
That needs to change. Even many sincere and committed centrists admit that there are times when a disproportionate influence in one direction will require some vigorous counter-pressure if a wholesome balance is to reign.
A march of the unemployed might be the way to do it. And there’s historical precedent for this idea, too — not only in the still-remembered marches on the nation’s capital that occurred in the 1960s, but also in the largely forgotten marches of the unemployed that occurred both in 1894 and (more consequentially) 1932.
The preparations would have to start soon if such an exercise in grass-roots activism is to stand a real chance of affecting our political balance of power next year. Is the left prepared to rise to the occasion?
(CNN) — Governments have come knocking on Google’s door more frequently seeking people’s private usage information.
Google fielded 8,888 requests from the United States government last year asking for information on people using its services, the company wrote in a report on Monday. The total number is likely higher because the Google statistics only cover criminal investigations.
The U.S. is by far the most active, and successful, solicitor of private info from Google, accounting for about one-third of all federal requests last year, according to the data.
In the latter half of 2010, Google provided at least 4,323 pieces of info to the U.S. Google did not disclose how many requests it complied with prior to changing its policy in July 2010.
A government has a 60% average success rate for receiving the data it asked for of the 25 countries listed during the July to December time period, which is when Google began reporting that info. For the U.S., Google granted 94% of the government’s requests.
CNN) — This summer Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has wrestled with one of his biggest challenges since taking office five years ago.
Worried that flash mob violence would overrun city streets as it had elsewhere, the Cleveland City Council unanimously passed legislation that would criminalize the use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media for assembling unruly crowds or encouraging people to commit a crime.
But Jackson, after consulting with advisers, defied the council and vetoed the ordinance — his first use of that power as mayor.
"It’s very difficult to enforce something that’s unconstitutional," Jackson said in an interview with CNN. "To make a criminal activity of just having a conversation, whether some acts of criminal activity are associated with it or not, it goes beyond reason."
Jackson suggested that the “emergency measure,” as it was described in official records, was perhaps fueled more by emotion than by reason. And on Wednesday, the council members reversed course and voted 14-2 to side with the mayor.
The episode illustrates the challenges facing government officials who try to control social media as a means of combating the sort of spontaneous group violence that has marred London, Philadelphia and other cities this summer. For one, free-speech advocates say such efforts are on shaky constitutional ground. Second, the nature of an open, public Internet makes controlling the flow of social-media messages almost impossible.
The United States has already seen nine weather disasters this year that have caused $1 billion or more in damage, tying the record set in 2008. The total for all the disasters is about $35 billion.
"The year 2011 has already established itself in the record books as a historic year for weather-related disasters, and it is not over — in fact, hurricane season is just getting under way," NOAA Deputy Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan told the Senate Appropriations Committee in late July.
In a controversial move that has riled up free speech advocates, San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway system said it cut off cellphone signals at “select” stations in response to a planned protest this week.
(CNN) — In an emergency session of Parliament on Thursday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that the violence, looting and arson sweeping his country “were organized via social media.” He said his government is now considering how and whether to “stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”
On Friday, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency published a commentary contrasting Cameron’s latest statements with his Arab Spring-inspired speech earlier this year, in which he loftily proclaimed that freedom of expression should be respected in Tahrir Square as much as in London’s Trafalgar Square.
"We may wonder why Western leaders, on the one hand, tend to indiscriminately accuse other nations of monitoring, but on the other take for granted their steps to monitor and control the Internet," Xinhua said. "For the benefit of the general public, proper Web-monitoring is legitimate and necessary."
Public distrust of the government mounted after Chinese media reported that the petrochemical plant might have been allowed to operate illegally months before it received mandatory environmental approval. According to Southern Metropolis News, the Fujia plant started full-scale production in June 2009, but it did not get the go-ahead from the Liaoning environmental protection bureau until April last year.
Chinese authorities, which are quick to suppress dissent from spreading, blocked searches on Weibo for “PX,” “Dalian,” and “Dalian protests.” Search results for these terms showed pages that said “according to relevant laws, regulations and policies, search results are not displayed.”
PARIS — Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said Thursday that the government, seeking to prevent a repeat of riots and looting in London and other British cities this week, might bar suspected troublemakers from using social media and other digital communications tools.
Syrian protestors are scared to use Facebook and Twitter, saying the government tracks their posts, as officials in that region attempt to prevent another Arab Spring uprising.
Anti-government activists accuse authorities of watching Twitter feeds and Facebook in order to learn of planned protests and arrest those who show up. In fact, activists believe the government reopened the previously blocked social media sites earlier this year explicitly to monitor citizens’ behavior.
The government of Malawi has shut down news websites and social media networks including Twitter and Facebook and has blocked signals from radio stations in a bid to stop the coordination of demonstrations that have so far left more than 18 people dead.
The Malawian government, through the telecom sector regulator, the Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA), this week ordered ISPs (Internet service providers) to shut down and radio stations to desist from live broadcasts of the protests, claiming such coverage may incite violence.
In a controversial move that has riled up free speech advocates, San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway system said it cut off cellphone signals at “select” stations in response to a planned protest this week.
BART said it took the actions because protesters said they “would use mobile devices to coordinate their disruptive activities and communicate about the location and number of BART Police.”
Demonstrators had planned a rally to bring attention to a number of transit police officer shootings, the latest one resulting in the death of 45-year-old Charles Hill, who was shot last month after a confrontation with officers.
The transit agency said protests during rush hour endangered the safety of commuters and employees.
“A civil disturbance during commute times at busy downtown San Francisco stations could lead to platform overcrowding and unsafe conditions for BART customers, employees and demonstrators,” the agency said.
(Reuters) - Thousands of people demonstrated in northeastern China on Sunday, demanding the relocation of a petrochemical plant at the center of a toxic spill scare, state media said.
Demonstrators in the port city of Dalian, in Liaoning province, faced down a wall of police in riot gear in front of the municipal government office and minor scuffles broke out, although there was no report of injuries, state news agency Xinhua said.
State media said last Monday that residents in Dalian were forced to flee when a storm battering the northeast Chinese coast whipped up waves that burst through a dyke protecting the plant, which makes paraxylene (PX), a toxic petrochemical used in polyester.
Although authorities repaired the dyke and insisted that no spills were detected, the incident sparked panic that PX could have been released, fuelling resentment against the project. Calls on popular microblogging site Weibo and QQ, an instant messaging system, urged residents to protest on Sunday.
The outpouring of public anger is emblematic of the rising discontent facing Chinese leaders, which are obsessed with maintaining stability and are struggling to balance growth with growing public anger over pollution and environmental threats.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — It was a wild ride on Wall Street.
Stocks ended Friday on a mixed note after violently whipsawing throughout the day. The Dow had a massive trading range of 400 points as investors scrambled to make sense of a whirlwind of news.
Deep investor concerns about the U.S. economy and the European debt crisis caused heavy damage to U.S. stocks this week. All three indexes had their worst week since the darkest months of the 2008-09 financial crisis.
We’re the peak of the 11-year solar cycle, so double-check your GPS, and watch where you’re going.
On Thursday, the sun unleashed a massive solar flare (see video ofthe flare and how its effects have been moving toward Earth). Solar flares can disrupt radio communications, including devices that use Global Positioning System technology, such as cell phones, airplanes and car navigation systems.
John Bogdan, director of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center, told The Associated Press that a number of such blasts is expected over the next three to five years — and the biggest flares are yet to come. On a scale of one to five, he likened this week’s flare to “probably a two or three.”
This week’s flare (called a “coronal mass ejection”) registered M9.3 on the “Richter scale of flares,” about the highest level in the “medium” category. Larger flares that fall into the “X” category can cause global radio blackouts, but large M-class flares also can cause radio disruptions.
This is one of a series of recent bouts of severe space weather, as the solar cycle approaches solar maximum in 2013. Other major flares came in February and June, and more may follow. A good place to follow solar activity is SpaceWeather.com.
Could China wipe out an American military advantage with a simple black box? Joshua Cooper Ramo’s thought-provoking book The Age of the Unthinkablechallenges all kinds of conventional thinking about everything from venture capital to military strategy. One section caught my eye in particular, about how the Chinese might neutralize American air superiority, using a type of weapon known an “Assassin’s Mace.” The specific device in question is an unassuming little case; how worried should we be?
U.S. airpower depends on the ability to overcome surface-to-air missile (SAM) defenses, and one of the key weapons for this role is the AGM-88 High Speed Anti-radiation Missile (HARM), which homes in on radar emissions. (You can see them, under the F/A-18’s wings in the picture, above.) The defenders can either turn off their radar, thus blinding themselves, or have it destroyed. This is where the black box that Ramo found at a military trade show in Zhuhai in 2002 comes in:
“…packed inside were several thousand microtransmitters and when you plugged the device in and turned it on, it broadcast signals – 10,000 of them – on the frequency of a SAM site. From the perspective of an American pilot – or , more precisely, the perspective of his HARM missile looking for a ‘lock’ on a SAM radar signal – this meant an air-to-ground picture that looked like 10,001 SAM signals, only one of which was real…”
Ramo suggests that if defenders have these black boxes then the U.S. aircraft would be helpless against enemy SAMs, and air superiority would be lost at stroke.
This is just one example of Beijing’s “Assassin’s Mace” family of weaponry that’s been much discussed in both Chinese and American military circles. The Pentagon defines the Maces as technologies that might afford an inferior military an advantage in a conflict with a superior power. In this view, an Assassin’s Mace is anything which provides a cheap means of countering an expensive weapon. Other examples might include Chinese anti-satellite weapons, which might instantly knock out U.S. space assets, or aconventional ballistic missile, designed to take out a supercarrier and all its aircraft in one hit. It’s an interesting contrast to the perspective of the American arms industry, which can end up spending vast amounts countering low-tech, low-cost threats like mines and IEDs.
The United Nations says it expects famine to spread to all regions of southern Somalia within the coming weeks. This grim assessment comes barely two weeks after the United Nations officially declared famine in two regions of southern Somalia amid the worst drought to hit the Horn of Africa in 60 years.