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Friday, December 23, 2011

Mysterious metal ball from space falls in Namibia

Mysterious metal ball from space falls in Namibia

A large metal ball that fell from space into the Namibian grasslands last month is not alien, officials say, but that's about all they know for certain about the object.

According to a report on The Namibian website, the 13-pound metal sphere with two bumps on its poles was found by a farmer near Onamatunga in the Omunsati region between November 15 and November 20. Explosions were heard in the area before the discovery, but no evidence of an explosion was seen around the area where the object was found.

Paul Ludik, director of the country's National Forensic Science Institute, told The Namibian the sphere, with a circumference of 3.6 feet, is made of a "sophisticated" metal alloy that is known to man, but he said it has no markings that would identify it. No international space agency has claimed ownership, he said.

“A number of tests have been performed on the object, and it appears to be hollow. We are still busy with a detailed examination of the object,” The Namibian quotes him as saying.

Ludik told The Namibian that the object poses no cause for alarm, and that such reports of metallic spheres falling from space are common in the Southern Hemisphere.

So should we expect a run on helmets at sporting goods stores south of the equator?

Dreaming of a white Christmas this year? Too bad, Environment Canada says

A white Christmas is looking more like a dream this year for many Canadians.

Most of Canada was forecast to experience a green Christmas, Environment Canada senior climatologist Dave Phillips said Wednesday.

It’s an occurrence not seen on such a national scale since Environment Canada began measuring snowfall levels 56 years ago, he said.

“It’s not going to feel and look like Christmas,” Phillips said. “People are going to have to work hard to create the mood that sometimes weather creates.”

The situation could still change, but most Canadians are likely to see grass, not snow, on their lawns, he said.

In Canada, a white Christmas is defined as when a community has two centimetres of snow on the ground at 7 a.m., local time, on Dec. 25, Phillips explained.

Most years, about 85% of Canada has a white Christmas, he said.

This year, the most populated areas of Canada will have no snow, too little snow to count, late-day flurries or puddles of melted snow caused by rising temperatures, Phillips said.

Cities all over Canada, including “Montreal, Halifax, Moncton, Saint John, Toronto, everything south of Toronto, Sudbury (Ont.), Sault Ste. Marie (Ont.), Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton,” won’t make the Christmas cut, he said.

“And Victoria, Vancouver, we don’t even have to talk about that. They only have about an 11 per cent chance of having a white Christmas,” Phillips said.

In Winnipeg, the coldest city in Canada, the temperature is expected to reach 1 C Sunday, he said. And residents of Gander, N.L., the snowiest city in the country, probably won’t be making snow angels after opening gifts, he added.

There are a few exceptions where people likely will see snow, such as most of the North and a few pockets across the country, including Quebec City, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L., and the area north of Ottawa, he said.

But even those places generally have less snow on the ground than they would in a normal year, Phillips said.

“Yes, there may be a couple of places where there’s some decent population that just eke under the wire to get a white Christmas, but the depth will just be patchy, it really won’t count,” he said.

While a green Christmas this year doesn’t necessarily mean the same will occur next year, it’s a result of a general trend toward warmer and shorter winters in Canada, Phillips said, joking Canadians may need to start celebrating the holiday in January or February to see snow.

“If we’re looking at the reasons for it, I think climate change is certainly one,” he said.

It also just be part of a cycle in which a few colder, more snow-filled decades are followed by a few warmer ones, Phillips said. But since the trend toward milder, shorter winters is seen nationwide, climate change is more likely to blame.

Phillips said this year stands out in his mind along with 2008, when the whole country had a white Christmas, and 1997, when the Prairies had their only green Christmas to date.

But Phillips said he doesn’t necessarily mind a green Christmas, and most Canadians might agree, despite even the most ardent snow-haters often welcoming the snow for Christmas.

“I much prefer a green Christmas to a Christmas where you’ve got dirty snow and yellow-stained snow in the driveway with garbage looking through,” he said. “Yes, there’s two centimetres of snow, but my God, is it ever ugly.”

National Post

IMF urges members to boost funding under 2010 plan

(Reuters) - IMF chief Christine Lagarde on Thursday urged member countries to quickly sign off on an agreement last year to double IMF resources and give under-represented nations, such as China, greater voting power in the global lender.

The changes to members' quotas, which determine how much each country contributes to the IMF and their voting shares, are critical as aeuro zone debt crisis escalates and is set to slow global growth in 2012.

Lagarde said the IMF's 187 countries had until October 2012 to get the necessary votes to implement the 2010 decision to double quotas, which would make China the Fund's third-largest member country.

The deal was clinched in South Korea in October 2010, which agreed to shift more than 6 percent of voting shares to dynamic countries such as China and double the IMF's quotas, which would make available about $755 billion to the fund.

The IMF said Lagarde "called on members to use their best efforts to make the 2010 reform package effective before the 2012 annual meetings." The meetings take place in Tokyo in mid-October.

An IMF staff paper said "efforts to meet the 2012 deadline should not be spared."

As of December 12, just 53 countries, holding 36 percent of total IMF quotas, had approved the increases. Approval by members holding about 70 percent of quotas is needed to implement the changes. Some countries require their legislatures to authorize the changes.

The measure still requires approval by the U.S. Congress, where Republicans are taking aim at any IMF move to bail out troubled euro zone countries, saying they don't want American funds involved.

Iran navy to hold 10-day war games

Iran's navy will launch a 10-day war game in the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday, state television quoted Navy Commander Habibulah Sayari as saying on Thursday.

The war game, named Velayat-90, will be carried out over an area extending from east of the Strait of Hormuz to the Gulf of Eden, the report said.

"The maneuvers will be carried out with the intention of displaying the determination, defensive and deterrent power of the Iranian armed forces as well as relaying a message of peace and friendship in the Strait of Hormuz, the Sea of Oman and the free waters of the Indian Ocean," Sayari said.

Iran often announces its military capabilities and tests weaponry at its periodic war gamein an apparent attempt to show its readiness for any strikes by Israel or the United States.

The war games announcement comes amid increased US rhetoric against Iran's pursuit of a nuclear program.

In an interview with CBS News on Monday, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that Iran will be able to assemble a nuclear bomb within a year, if not sooner.

When asked by CBS News anchor Scott Pelley if Iran could get a nuclear weapon by 2012, Panetta answered: “It would probably be about a year before they can do it. Perhaps a little less.”

He added that the Iranians may have a hidden facility somewhere already enriching fuel, meaning they may be able to develop a nuclear weapon even earlier.

In an interview with CNN on Wednesday
, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey reiterated Washington's resolve to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power. "My biggest worry is they will miscalculate our resolve," Dempsey said, referring to Iran. "Any miscalculation could mean that we are drawn into conflict, and that would be a tragedy for the region and the world."

Jerusalem Post

Deadly double suicide blasts shock Syria

Syria: Up to 40 dead as two bomb explosions rock Damascus

Maj. Gen. Rustom Ghazaleh, who heads the targeted military intelligence department, said the attacks were proof of a foreign project to strike at Syria.

"We will fight this project until the last drop of blood," he declared.

A military official told reporters that more than 40 people were killed by two bombs in Damascus and more than 100 wounded. Earlier, state TV said most of the dead were civilians but included military and security personnel.

Within minutes of the blasts Syrian authorities said preliminary investigations had found the attacks bore the "blueprint" of al-Qaeda, arousing ridicule from opposition groups and Syrians using social media.

The state news agency SANA said that suicide bombers with "booby-trapped" cars had caused the explosions at the state security building and an intelligence building.

"Several soldiers and a large number of civilians were killed in the two attacks carried out by suicide bombers in vehicles packed with explosives against bases of State Security and another branch of the security services," state television said.

They are the first major bomb attacks in the capital since the start of the uprising against the rule of President Bashir al-Assad in March, although the Free Syrian Army, a rebel band made up of defectors, attacked an air intelligence barracks last month.

Residents of the city reported that their apartments shook and windows were broken. "Unreal my apartment was totally shaking," Jean-Pierre Duthion, a French businessman, said on Twitter.

Gunfire could be heard in the immediate aftermath of the explosions. Television footage showed medics wrapping bodies in blankets and smoke rising from the blackened buildings. It also showed the charred remains of two cars involved.

The attacks appeared timed to coincide with the arrival on Wednesday of the advance guard of an Arab League monitoring mission, which is supposed to oversee implementation of a peace plan agreed in October.

The Syrian authorities are keen to show that it is facing an armed and Islamist terrorist insurgency rather than, as opposition activists says, an originally peaceful series of demonstrations that took on a violent hue later in response to the government's repression.

On social media, activists were already accusing the government of being behind the blasts, intending to prevent the observers from beginning their mission and to persuade them of the authorities' case.

The explosions went off within minutes of each other, shaking residents around the city, in the morning Friday, a weekend day.

They took place in the upscale Kfar Sousa district, and state TV said they targeted the state security building and a nearby intelligence building in the neighbourhood.

Residents in Damascus reported hearing gunfire and ambulance sires for few minutes following the explosions.

The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed in the crackdown waged since March by the Syrian regime against protesters.

The Telegraph

2012 -2013 Predictions, Deflationary Shock, Gold, Silver, Inflation, Markets, and the FED

New Zealand earthquake: Dozens injured in Christchurch

The quakes - including one of magnitude 6 and two above 5 on the Richter scale - damaged buildings, cut power, and caused mud and sewage to bubble into streets.

Several buildings which were partially demolished after previous quakes collapsed completely.

A spokesman for the St John ambulance service said they had received around 150 emergency calls. About 60 people were treated for minor injuries, heart attacks, panic attacks and collapses.

Thousands of shoppers were evacuated from malls, where goods tumbled from shelves on what should have been one of the busiest days of the year for retailers.

One woman customer said: “We saw the staff running out, so we thought if they are off, we’re going too.”

Frightened workers also ran out of office buildings across the city.

The international airport was closed for checks after the main terminal “shook violently", causing havoc for hundreds of passengers.

Residents in low-lying eastern suburbs were again hit hard by liquefaction, a process in which water oozes out of the ground, creating a tide of evil-smelling mud.

In hillside suburbs, the biggest danger came from rockfalls as loose boulders were dislodged.

Coastguard officials rescued four people who were trapped by a rockfall in Boulder Bay.

The energy supply company Orion was struggling to reconnect power to 26,000 properties.

Large pot-holes and cracks appeared in roads, which soon became gridlocked with traffic.

More than 7,000 aftershocks have rocked the city since a magnitude-7 quake struck on September 4, 2010.

A shallow 6.3 quake on Feb 22 this year killed 182 people and devastated the city centre business district, where ruined buildings are still cordoned off.

Many people were reduced to tears by the latest earthquakes, coming just as residents were daring to hope that the worst of the aftershocks were over.

John Key, the New Zealand Prime Minister, said the quakes were “frightening and disheartening” for residents.

"My heart goes out to the people of Christchurch and Canterbury at this time,” Mr Key said.

"However, residents can be confident that the authorities are on to the situation, and government resources stand ready to assist wherever they are needed.”

He pledged that his government’s resolve to rebuild the city remained unchanged.

Bob Parker, the mayor, interrupted a Christmas break in the North Island to head back to his city.

He said the shakes would take a large emotional toll on people.

"Many of them are just sitting around and in tears,” he said.
The Telegraph

Iran starts building a nuclear weapon: US and Israel tighten cooperation

Iran has embarked on "activities related to possible weaponization," said American sources Thursday, Dec. 22, thereby accounting for the dramatic reversal of the Obama administration's wait-and-see attitude on attacking Iran. The change was articulated this week by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.
DEBKAfile's Washington sources report that the Islamic Republic crossed the red line President Barack Obama had set for the United States, i.e., when Tehran begins using the technologies and fissile materials (enriched uranium) it has amassed for assembling a bomb or missile warheads. This marks the moment that Iran goes nuclear and only a short time remains before it has an operational nuclear weapon.

Washington has always claimed that when the order to build a weapon was given in Tehran, the United States would know about it within a short time.
The US stealth drone RQ-170 was sent into Iranian airspace for the first time to find evidence to support this suspicion. On Dec. 4 the Iranians downed the unmanned reconnaissance craft by intelligence or cyber means not yet fully clarified. The US - and most probably Israel too - then turned to other intelligence resources to find out what Iran was up to. According toDEBKAfile's military and intelligence sources, they found evidence that Iran has in fact begun putting together components of a nuclear bomb or warhead.

This discovery prompted the latest statements by Mr. Panetta and Gen. Dempsey.

The defense secretary put it into words when he said Tuesday, Dec.: “Despite the efforts to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program, the Iranians have reached a point where they can assemble a bomb in a year or potentially less.”

The next day, Gen. Dempsey said, “My biggest worry is they will miscalculate our resolve. Any miscalculation could mean that we are drawn into conflict, and that would be a tragedy for the region and the world.”

Dennis Ross, until last month President Obama’s senior Middle East adviser, and key architect of White House policies on the Iranian nuclear program and understandings with Israel on this issue, said Israel has four causes for concern about uranium enrichment in the underground nuclear facility at Fordo near Qom and other developments:

1. Iran’s accumulation of low-enriched uranium, its decision to enrich to nearly 20 percent “when there is no justification for it.”

2. The "hardening" of Iranian nuclear sites, largely by moving facilities underground.

3. Other activities related to possible weaponization.

4. Israel suspects that Fordo is not Iran's only buried facility and that nuclear "weaponization" is ongoing surreptitiously at additional underground locations. “I would not isolate Qom and say this alone is the Israeli red line to spur a military response.”

Our military sources report that all these developments were covered in the short and epic conversation between President Barack Obama and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Gaylord Hotel in Maryland on Dec. 16. It ended with accord on the US and Israeli responses to the new situation arising in Iran.

The White House has since accepted the Israeli assessment of Iran's nuclear bomb time table and endorses the conviction that unless Iran retreats from its decision to build a nuclear bomb and steps back from the process it set in train this month, the only option remaining will be a military strike to disable its nuclear program.
Following the Maryland encounter, DEBKAfile’s sources report a procession of prominent US officials visiting Israel to tighten coordination between the US and Israel on their next moves. Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of the US’s Third air Force, was one of those visitors. He came to organize the biggest joint military exercise ever held by the US and Israel, as part of the shared response to Iran's steps.

Tuesday, Dec. 20, saw the arrival of Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s right-hand, together with Robert Einhorn, a State Department special adviser on nonproliferation. The two came to tie up the diplomatic ends of the decisions reached by President Obama and Defense Minister Barak at their Maryland meeting.


Global depression could last several years: Medvedev

AFP - President Dmitry Medvedev warned Thursday that a global economic depression could last for several years and require Russia to step up efforts to improve its competitiveness.

"We really are facing difficult times," Medvedev said in his last address to the nation before March presidential elections in which he will be ceding his place to his predecessor and mentor Vladimir Putin.

"The global economic depression could last several years, while competition for the minds, the ideas, the resources -- it will only get stiffer, and we are in the epicentre of this race.

"But even in these most difficult times, we have no right to stop our development. This work will require perseverance, effort and, of course, time."

Both Putin and Medvedev have taken credit for helping Russia survive the worst of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis and insisted that only their team will be able to deal with current economic challenges.

Medvedev noted that "many politicians, heads of international organisations and leading economists and businessmen" have all warned of the onset of a global economic depression in the months to come.

"It is obvious that difficult times await us all," Medvedev stressed.

"I have already said that our country honourably survived the test of crisis. The current team passed this test.

"I hope that we will cope with the new challenges, whoever becomes Russian president or whoever heads the federal government," he added in reference to th e premiership post he has been promised by Putin under his presidency.

France 24

UBS' George Magnus: Europe Has Been Mis-Diagnosed, And The Crisis Will Come Roaring Back

Financial markets will soon "regroup...to the rising sound of the rising crescendo of the next-euro crisis," writes UBS economic advisor George Magnus in a column published yesterday in the Financial Times.

In fact, EU leaders are completely misdiagnosing the problem, threatening Europe with the prospect of "zombie economies, institutions, and financial instruments" that could take down not only Germany, but the entire monetary union.

EU leaders have actually exacerbated sovereign debt and banking problems with their current policies:

They attribute the crisis to fiscal profligacy and the lack of adequate institutional fiscal mechanisms, rather than to the large external and competitiveness imbalances between member states. So, instead of coming up with an economic and debt adjustment strategy that distributes reform responsibilities symmetrically between debtors and creditors, leaders continue single-mindedly to pledge institutionalised fiscal discipline as the solution to the crisis. They have, in effect, sealed a pro-cyclical austerity zone.

A proper approach to resolving the crisis would have two distinct parts, and would comprise a true, equitable fiscal and monetary union:

Firstly, although Germany would never agree to the permanent transfer of the Bundestag’s authority to a European agency, the absence of any intent to transform European sovereign bond markets into a giant joint liability European bond market is a major weakness. It is going to make it harder for investors to return to orderly sovereign debt financing in the weakest economies.

Secondly, a proper approach to fiscal union would have to recognise the interconnectedness between the creditworthiness of sovereigns and banks. In other words, the handmaiden of a new fiscal federalism in Europe means very little unless accompanied by banking federalism too.

A more believable plan would complement fiscal discipline procedures and penalties with the transfer of strong executive powers to, say, the European Banking Authority to hold sway over capital and liquidity requirements, deposit and market funding arrangements and guarantees, resolution authority, and mergers.

Unless EU leaders alter their approach, the increasing likelihood of a Greek default in March, large sovereign borrowing, and eventually a French election will create market terror. The crisis will continue to escalate, resulting in the "zombification" of the European economy, governments, banks, Germany, and all.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/ubss-george-magnus-prevent-the-zombification-of-europe-2011-12?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheMoneyGame+%28The+Money+Game%29&utm_content=Google+Reader#ixzz1hMzB4j5T

Cenk Uygur Cuts Peter Schiff's Mic After He Says We Have Centrally Planned Economy

Cenk Uygur, host of a new program on Current TV, cut off Peter Schiff from his show after the new went head-to-head over capitalism. 

Cenk couldn't take being hammered over a "centrally planned socialist economy" so he cut Schiff's microphone and booted him from the show.

“Are you saying the bankers are not guilty of this at all?” Cenk asks.

Schiff responds, “We don’t have the benefits of capitalism any more because we don’t have capitalism — we have a centrally-planned socialist economy, and that is why the average American is getting poorer.”

Cenk cuts Schiff off — though Schiff keeps talking for two minutes into the void — and Cenk says, “He wants to blame the government for the problems, but he knows it’s his banker friends who have given those donations, who buy their senators, who buy their staff members, so they can get more money. He doesn’t want you to pay attention to that, because that’s how they rob you. And he comes on here and goes, ‘Oh, no no, it’s socialism.’ Socialism, my ass! The real problem is — and he’s talked about it in the past, but he didn’t talk about it there — corporatism, where the corporations come in and rob us blind.”

Real clear Politics

Sir Mervyn King: debt crisis is causing a dangerous 'dependence on central banks'

Just a day after the European Central Bank (ECB) provided a record €489bn (£407bn) of cheap loans to banks, the Governor of the Bank of England said the crisis had been made worse by “negative interlinkages”. He added: “Dependence on central banks has risen and signs are intensifying that stressed financial conditions are passing through to the real economy.” Sir Mervyn was speaking in Berlin following a meeting of the European System Risk Board.

His comments were taken as a view on the ECB’s radical refinancing operation unleashed on Wednesday. The action, which saw 523 banks borrow nearly half a trillion euros, is known as the “Sarko trade” after French leader Nicolas Sarkozy said the liquidity would allow each state to “turn to its banks” for finance. Economists have warned that making banks buy risky sovereign debt will not help the crisis.

But European markets were buoyed by the liquidity injection. In France the CAC rose 1.36pc and German DAX ended the day 1.05pc higher. In London, the FTSE 100 climbed 1.25pc.

Sir Mervyn said the action would help in the short term but called for longer-term solutions, including getting the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), the so-called “big bazooka” bail-out fund, up and running.

Mr King’s comments came as Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, an executive board member at the European Central Bank, called for quantitative easing to be used to boost Europe’s economies if deflation risks emerge across the currency bloc. He added that Britain should lend its support since, he argued, “the European Union and ECB would certainly contribute to help Britain if London was in difficulty”.

In Rome, Mario Monti won a crucial vote of confidence for his €33bn austerity package which includes overhauling the country’s tax, pension and retirement systems. In a speech to the parliament, the Italian prime minister called for Italians to buy the country’s debt. He added: “There is still enormous work to be done to free the Italian economy from the brakes that have held back growth for too long.”

The strains were showing elsewhere too. S&P downgraded Hungary to BB+/B on “unpredictable policy framework”. Budapest said it would hold fresh meetings with the International Monetary Fund and EU officials in January.

Moody’s downgraded Slovenia’s foreign currency credit rating from A1 to Aa3, citing growing pressure on the government’s balance sheet from potential support for the country’s banks.

As Greek protests were led by hearse drivers complaining about additional taxes, data from Germany’s statistics office showed Greek and Spanish migration to Germany soared 84pc and 49pc respectively in the first half of 2011.

Meanwhile, Peter Bofinger, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s council of economic advisers, told German reporters the future of the euro will be decided in the next six months and depended on decisive action from Germany.

The Telegraph