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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dies aged 56

my tribute to a great man, rest in peace

Former chief executive and co-founder of US technology giant Apple Steve Jobs has died, the company says. He was 56.

"Steve's brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve," Apple said.

Jobs announced he was suffering from pancreatic cancer in 2004.

He was one of the world's best-known business leaders and introduced the iPod and the iPhone to the world.

His death came a day after Apple unveiled its latest iPhone 4S model.

More than almost any other business leader, Jobs was indistinguishable from the company he co-founded in the 1970s.

As the face of Apple, he represented its dedication to high-end technology and fashionable design.

And inside the company he exerted a level of influence unheard of in most businesses.


Turkey holds military drills near Syrian borders Oct. 5

ANKARA, Oct 4 (KUNA) -- Turkey said Tuesday it would carry out military exercises near the borders with Syria tomorrow at a time Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be visiting the camps of Syrian refugees later on this week.
Turkish land forces will be conducting the drills in the southern Antakya province to test readiness of reserve forces, the army command said in a statement on Tuesday.
The 39th Mechanised Infantry Brigade and the reserve squad will take part in the drills which would last until October 13, it added. These are the first of a kind exercise carried out by the Turkish army near the Syrian borders.
The drills will be held as Erdogan announced he would be visiting the Syrian refugees' camp in Antakya, estimated at 7,000 people, by end of this week to get acquainted with their living conditions.
Relations between Ankara and Damascus are tense because of the protests in Syrian cities. The protests forced thousands of Syrians to flee to Turkey.
Turkey warned its southern neighbor that the way it was handling the protests would spark chaos in the region.
Turkey had already banned weapons' exports to Syria and is currently coordinating with the US to impose penalties on the government in Damascus.

Kuwait Agency

Earthquake Swarm Continues On El Hierro, Canary Islands

The Instituto Geografico Nacional (IGN) has reported surface deformations exceeding 35mm on the Spanish island of El Hierro, where residents have been alert for a possible volcanic eruption.
The number of earthquakes recorded since July 17 on the smallest of The Canary Islands exceeded 9250 on Tuesday morning.
IGN confirmed on Monday that 1172 earthquakes were recorded last week, the majority of which were located in the sea to the SW of the 280-sqkm island.
52 of the earthquakes were felt by the local population, estimated to be approximately 10,000. A further 10 earthquakes, exceeding 3.0 magnitude on the Richter Scale, were felt during Monday and early on Tuesday.
Hierro, a shield volcano, has had a single historic eruption from the Volcan de Lomo Negro vent in 1793. The eruption lasted approximately one month and produced lava flows.
The recent surge in the number and intensity of earthquakes prompted officials from the IGN and The Canary Islands Government to raise the alert level for the Hierro volcano to ‘Yellow’ late last month.

Magma Movement

Seismologists say the majority of the earthquake activity has shifted from El Golfo in the island’s northwest to beneath the Las Calmas Sea in the south.
However, magma is now on the move upwards while the depth of earthquakes has become increasingly shallow in recent days with most being recorded at a depth of 10 to 14 kilometres. Movement of magma towards the surface signifies that a volcanic eruption is likely to happen, but the timing of such remains unclear.
Volcanologist Juan Carlos Carracedo last week suggested that an eruption on El Hierro would “not be a major surprise”. He explained: “It is the youngest of the Canary Islands. There is a ball of magma which is rising to the surface and it is stationed at the limit of the earth’s crust. At the moment we do not know if that ball of magna will break the crust and cause an eruption.”
IGN Director, María José Blanco said that any eruption on El Hierro would most likely have a “low explosion value”.


A dramatic rise in recorded earthquakes on El Hierro last Tuesday prompted officials to evacuate some local residents, shut El Hierro’s main tunnel, and close local schools.
The Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) advised almost 50 residents of the municipality of La Frontera to leave their homes because of landslide fears. Two units of the Spanish military’s emergency intervention unit (EMU) were also placed on standby to depart the nearby island of Tenerife  to assist in the possible evacuation of hundreds of other El Hierro residents.
Meanwhile, the island’s main tunnel (Tunel del Golfo), which links Frontera to Valverde, was shut forcing motorists to travel across the 280-sq-km island via a mountain road. The Cabildo de El Hierro also ordered the closure of schools on Wednesday.

Latest seismic activity on El Hierro

Earthquake activity (most recent marked in red). Image IGN
Earthquake activity (most recent marked in red). Image IGN
Seismic hitsory since mid-July. Image IGN
Seismic hitsory since mid-July. Image IGN

4-D Plot Of El Hierro Earthquakes July-September 2011

El Hierro’s Volcanic/Seismic Past

El Golfo, El Hierro, The Canary Islands (Spain) where the majority of earthquakes have been recorded up to recently
El Golfo, El Hierro, The Canary Islands (Spain) where the majority of earthquakes have been recorded up to recently
El Hierro is situated in the most southwestern extreme of the Canaries.  The  island was formed after three successive eruptions, and consequent accumulations, the island emerged from the ocean as an imposing triangular pyramid crowned by a volcano more than 2,000 metres high.
The volcanic activity, principally at the convergence of the three ridges, resulted in the continual expansion of the island. A mere 50,000 years ago, as a result of seismic tremors which produced massive landslides, a giant piece of the island cracked off, crashed down into the ocean and scattered along the seabed. This landslide of more than 300km3 gave rise to the impressive amphitheatre of the El Golfo valley and at the same time caused a tsunami that most likely rose over 100 metres high and probably reached as far as the American coast.
According to the Global Volcanism Program, the massive Hierro shield volcano is truncated by a large NW-facing escarpment, seen here from the east, which formed as a result of gravitational collapse of the volcano. The steep-sided 1500-m-high scarp towers above a low lava platform bordering 12-km-wide El Golfo Bay, which is barely visible at the extreme left. Holocene cones and flows are found both on the outer flanks and in the El Golfo depression. The last eruption, during the 18th century, produced a lava flow from a cinder cone on the NW side of El Golfo.
According to ElHierro.com: “Although over 200 years have elapsed since the last eruption, El Hierro has the largest number of volcanoes in the Canaries with over 500 open sky cones, another 300 covered by the most recent outflows, and some 70 caves and volcanic galleries, notably the Don Justo cave whose collection of channels surpasses 6km in length.”
El Hierro is located south of Isla de la Palma (population 86,000), currently the most volcanically active of the Canary Islands.  About a half a million years ago, the volcano, Taburiente, collapsed with a giant landslide, forming the Caldera de Taburiente. Since the Spanish occupation, there have been seven eruptions.

Early Season Snow Storm Hits Northern California

Three inches of snow fell in the mountains of northeastern California early on Wednesday, the U.S. National Weather Service has confirmed.

The snowfall associated with an unusually early seasonal storm which could see up to 20 inches of snow accumulating above 7,000 feet.

The NWS issued a winter storm warning for a stretch of terrain along the Sierra and western Nevada. Heavy rainfall is forecast for areas north of San Francisco and in the coastal mountains from Point Reyes to Santa Rose.

According to the NWS: “A strong storm dropping out of the Gulf of Alaska will bring unseasonably cold weather to the central California interior today and Thursday. snow accumulations could be as high as 20 inches over the high country, with 6 to 12 inches down to the 7000 foot level. The storm is forecast to move east of the region late tonight, however snow showers could linger into Thursday.”

“A winter storm warning above 7000 feet remains in effect until 5 am PDT Thursday for the higher elevations of the southern Sierra Nevada. Locations include: sequoia national forest, Big Meadows and Buck Rock areas, Quaking, Aspen, Ponderosa and Sherman Pass2, the NWS added.

See Winter Storm Warnings for Utah and Nevada.

IRISH Weather

Ahmadinejad: 'NATO radar won't stop Zionist regime's fall'

Iranian president slams Turkey for hosting early-warning system that aims to spot missile threats coming from outside Europe, including Iran.

TEHRAN - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized Turkey on Tuesday forhosting a NATO early-warning radar system, saying it was aimed at protecting Israel but warning it would "not stop the fall of the Zionist regime."

The Turkish and US governments said last month the radar system would help spot missile threats coming from outside Europe, including potentially from Iran. The system, provided by the United States, is to become operational later this year.

"This radar system is more aimed at defending the Zionist regime," Ahmadinejad said in a live television interview late on Tuesday.

"They want to make sure that our missiles do not reach the occupied territories, in case they acted militarily against Iran one day," he added.

"We have told our Turkish friends that it was not right to give this permission and that it was not in their benefit to do this... But such radar system will not stop the fall of the Zionist regime."

Muslim Turkey, with NATO's second biggest military, has become a bigger player in the Middle East. It is emboldened by its booming economy and seeks stronger ties with Muslim countries in the Middle East, like Iran.

But Ankara, increasingly critical of Iranian ally Syria, has split with Iran recently over Syrian President Bashar Assad's bloody crackdown on a popular uprising within his country.

Turkey has said the radar system is not intended to protect against threats from any specific country.

Washington and its allies are at odds with Iran over its disputed nuclear program, which they suspect is a front for developing atomic bombs. Iran denies this, saying it is enriching uranium only for electricity and other civilian purposes.

Israel, which Iran refuses to recognize, and the United States have not ruled out militarystrikes on Iran if diplomatic means fail to stop it obtaining nuclear weapons.

Iranian officials previously have announced that the country's domestically produced missiles can reach Israel and US bases in the Gulf. Tehran says its response to anymilitary attack will be "painful".

Russia unilaterally suspended the delivery of S-300 missiles to Iran after the UnitedStates and Israel expressed concern that the Islamic Republic could use the anti-aircraft system to shield its nuclear facilities.

Opposition to Israel is a fundamental principle in Shi'ite Muslim Iran and Ahmadinejad often rails against the Jewish state.
Jerusalem Post

Riot police storm Athens metro

Eurozone crisis explained

Countries most exposed to Greek debt

The European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been in Athens reviewing Greece's debt reduction programme.

At stake is the next tranche of bailout money, the government needs to pay its bills.

This is money from the 110bn-euro ($148bn, £95bn) bailout agreed last summer. Eurozone leaders have subsequently agreed a further 109bn-euro package, but this has yet to be fully ratified by member states.

And it comes as Greece announced that the 2011 deficit is projected to be 8.5% of GDP - down from 10.5% in 2010 - but short of the 7.6% target set by the EU and IMF.

The wider aim of the bailouts is to shore up Greece's economy, calm the financial markets, and stop contagion spreading to other debt-laden European economies.

However, despite denials from some leading member countries, particularly Germany, there is a growing feeling in the markets that Greece will default on its debts. In fact many observers see it as inevitable.

Why is Greece in trouble?

Greece has been living beyond its means in recent years, and its rising level of debt has placed a huge strain on the country's economy.

The Greek government borrowed heavily and went on something of a spending spree after it adopted the euro.

Public spending soared and public sector wages practically doubled in the past decade.

However, as the money flowed out of the government's coffers, tax income was hit because of widespread tax evasion.

When the global financial downturn hit, Greece was ill-prepared to cope.

It was given 110bn euros of bailout loans to help it get through the crisis - and has now been earmarked to recieve another 109bn euros.

But many fear that will not be enough.

There has been much public opposition to the austerity programme

Why did Greece need another bail out?

Greece received its original bailout in May 2010.

The reason it had to be bailed out was that it had become too expensive for it to borrow money commercially.

It had debts that needed to be paid and as it couldn't afford to borrow money from financial markets to pay them, it turned to the EU and the IMF.

The idea was to give Greece time to sort out its economy so that the cost for it to borrow money commercially would come down.

But that did not happen. Indeed, the ratings agency S&P recently decided that Greece was the least credit-worthy country it monitors.

As a result, Greece has lots of debts that need to be paid, but it cannot afford to borrow commercially and does not have enough money from the first bailout to pay them.

Despite the bailouts, many people think Greece will defaultThey certainly do in the financial markets, which seem to have accepted that Greece is heading for an "orderly default".

In July, eurozone leaders proposed a plan that would see private lenders to Greece writing off about 20% of the money they originally lent, whereas the latest plan is expected to include a 50% write-off.

What continues to worry the markets, however, is fear of a "disorderly default" and the domino effect that might have within the eurozone.

Major eurozone governments have been criticised for a lack of political leadership, and there have been signs of divisions within the ECB.

The concern in the markets is that the eurozone's political structures do not have the authority to deal with the magnitude of the economic problems.

Could the crisis spread?

In graphics: Compare economies

The aim of the last Greece bailout - as with the first bailout - is to contain the crisis.

The bailouts of Portugal and the Irish Republic were designed to tide both countries over until they could borrow commercially again, just as was hoped for Greece.

If that hasn't been possible in Greece, investors may question whether the same solution will work for the other two bail-out recipients.

There are also concerns about the situations in Italy and Spain, both of which have seen their borrowing costs rise.

The Spanish and Italian economies are far bigger than those of Greece, Portugal and the Irish Republic and the European Union would struggle to bail them out if that became necessary.

What would happen if Greece defaulted?
What now for Greece? You decide

Europe's banks are big holders of Greek debt, with perhaps $50bn-$60bn outstanding. An "orderly" default could mean a substantial part of this debt being rescheduled so that repayments are pushed back decades. A "disorderly" default could mean much of this debt not being repaid - ever.

Either way, it would be extremely painful for banks and bondholders.

What's more, Greek banks are exposed to the sovereign debts of their country. They would need new capital, and it is likely some would need nationalising. A crisis of confidence could spark a run on the banks as people withdrew their money, making the problem worse.

That confidence crisis may spread to overseas banks, which could stop lending until the full extent of a default was known.

It might be a repeat of the credit crunch that pushed European and the US into recession three years ago.

What would it mean for the eurozone?

A Greek exit is seen by some as inevitable if the country defaulted. The big question would then be, what about other heavily-indebted nations?

If Greece can force a "haircut" on its creditors, then why not Portugal or the Republic of Ireland?

The political and economic structures that have bound the 17-nation bloc together could begin to unravel.

German public opinion is already tiring of the government's lead role in bailing out the eurozone in a bid to hold the bloc together.

What does all this mean to the UK?

According to figures from the Bank for International Settlements, UK banks hold a relatively small $3.4bn (£2.1bn) worth of Greek sovereign debt, compared with banks in Germany, which hold $22.6bn, and France, which hold $15bn.

When you add in other forms of Greek debt, such as lending to private banks, those figures rise to $14.6bn for the UK, $34bn for Germany and $56.7bn for France.

However, knock-on from Greece's troubles would exacerbate the UK's exposure to Irish debt, which is larger.

The UK's direct contribution to any Greek bailout is limited to its participation as an IMF member. But the indirect effect of a Greek default on the UK would be incalculable.


Markets roiled as European banking meltdown widens


Markets tumbled around the world for most of Tuesday on concern that the debt crisis had spun out of control, but staged a dramatic late recovery on reports that European governments are working on a plan to refloat the worst-hit lenders.

What analysts have been warning about for more than a year has come to pass: troubles sparked by Greece and indebted Mediterranean countries have spilled over into other sectors, triggering another crisis potentially as bad as the one that began in 2008.

Financial services giant Dexia on Tuesday became the first victim of a widening banking meltdown in Europe as the struggling Brussels-based lender confirmed it is considering a plan to sell off operations to cope with massive losses from exposure to Greek sovereign debt.

“I think this is just the beginning,” said Brad Smith, an analyst at Stonecap Securities in Toronto. “There are plenty of other banks with exposure to Greece [and some of them are next in line].

The dramatic reversal — a 4% turnaround in some of the major North American stocks indexes in a matter of minutes — was spurred by a Financial Times report that said European leaders were urgently looking at co-ordinated action to sink money into some of the continent’s banks.

“There is a sense of urgency among ministers and we need to move on,” Olli Rehn, European Union commissioner for economic affairs, told the Financial Times.

Meanwhile, the Greek finance minister said the country, which seems almost certain to default, has enough cash to operate for another six weeks, after European ministers delayed a decision on the country’s next emergency loan instalment.

But Greece is a relatively small player in the scheme of things compared with other troubled countries. The rating agency Moody’s Investors Service delivered another shock to the market late yesterday, announcing it downgraded Italy’s government bonds by three notches, citing growing risk that indebted countries such as Italy face increased challenges convincing investors to buy their bonds.

At the core of the sovereign debt crisis is uncertainty and confusion over the ability of countries to meet their obligations and avoid default. Most of the concern at first centred on peripheral nations like Greece and Ireland but as governments disclosed further information it became apparent that the problem is far greater than was at first realized, with much larger economies already under pressure.

The troubles quickly spread to the financial system as European banks are among the biggest holders of risky sovereign bonds. European regulators had plenty of warning and even put their lenders through extensive stress tests meant to pinpoint potential problems before they started.

But from the beginning critics warned the tests were not tough enough. They’ve been vindicated as many of the lenders that are now under water passed their tests with flying colours.

Now three of Europe’s banks with the biggest exposure to Greece — Dexia, Paribas SA and Societe Generale SA — are opposing pressure from regulators to write down the value of their Greek bonds to reflect the market value, according to Bloomberg News.

While most other lenders have cut the value of their holdings in half, the three lenders have cut their Greek holdings by only 21%.

Under current accounting rules there’s nothing wrong with the practice, and that’s part of the problem. By not taking the full writedown, the lenders avoid about 3-billion euros of losses that they would otherwise have to acknowledge, which only add to a lack of clarity in the European banking system.

Unlike the last financial crisis, the potential consequences of the current debacle are unlikely to include failure of the global financial system. But it comes as the global economy is weakening, and analysts say there is a real risk that it could turn what might have been a mild recession into something much worse.

Canada, however, is in a strong position. Having made it through the last crisis with minimal losses, Canadian banks are well capitalized and unlike many of their peers on Wall Street, they are in a position to benefit from the problems at European lenders.

For example Dexia has a joint venture with Royal Bank of Canada, and it may be forced to sell its share of the business if it ends up taking a government bailout.

RBC Dexia, one of the world’s largest custody banks, has operations in more than a dozen countries.

National Post

Moody’s cuts Italy ratings by 3 notches

NEW YORK – Moody’s Investors Service Tuesday cut Italy’s bond ratings by three notches, saying it sees a “material increase” in funding conditions for eurozone countries with high levels of debt.

Moody’s downgraded Italy’s ratings to A2 from Aa2 and kept a negative outlook on the rating, a sign that further downgrades are possible in the couple of years.

Financial Post

Assad: Syria will shower Tel Aviv with rockets if attacked by foreign powers

Syria will strike Israel and "set fire" to the Middle East if foreign forces choose to launch a military strike on the protest-ridden country, the Iranian news agency Fars quoted Syrian President Bashar Assad as saying on Tuesday, referring to remarks made by the Syrian leader during a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu last August.

During a meeting with the Turkish FM, the Fars report claimed, Assad indicated that Syria would not hesitate to strike major Israeli cities if it was attacked.

Syrian President Bashar Assad delivering a speech in Damascus, Syria, on June 20, 2011.
Photo by: AP

"If a crazy measure is taken against Damascus, I will need not more than 6 hours to transfer hundreds of rockets and missiles to the Golan Heights to fire them at Tel Aviv," Assad said.

In addition, Fars reported that the Syrian president told the Turkish FM that he would also call on Hezbollah in Lebanon to launch a rocket attack on Israel, adding: "All these events will happen in three hours, but in the second three hours, Iran will attack the U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf and the U.S. and European interests will be targeted simultaneously."

Assad's comments to the Turkish FM came after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier Tuesday he would set out his country's plans for sanctions against Syria after he visits a Syrian refugee camp near the border in the coming days.

The move heralds a further deterioration in previously friendly relations between Ankara and Damascus since the start of Assad's crackdown on protesters.

"Regarding sanctions, we will make an assessment and announce our road map after the visit to Hatay in southern Turkey, setting out the steps," Erdogan told reporters, adding he expected to visit the region at the weekend or the start of next week.

Some 7,000 Syrians have taken refuge in camps established in Hatay, in flight from President Assad's security forces.