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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chuck Missler: States of matter

Bahrain petrol bomb inferno: Video of violent clashes after protester funeral

Some Japanese towns to stay dangerously radioactive for at least a decade

(CBS News) As Japan continues to clean up after the deadly earthquake and tsunami that killed nearly 16,000 people on March 11, 2011, one thing is clear: something went really wrong at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and the people who lived nearby will suffer for decades as a result.

The airborne radiation levels in parts of Fukushima prefecture are expected to remain at or close to dangerous amounts at least until 2022, according to a new government report written about in the Japan Times. Government officials project annual radiation dosages to exceed 50 millisieverts in the towns nearest the plant, a level which the government has said makes areas off-limits to the thousands of affected evacuees.

As many as six of the seven municipalities around the Fukushima plant will likely maintain dangerous levels of radiation for a decade, Al Jazeera reports.

Adding to the problem, locals have repeatedly complained to the press about a lackadaisical or disorganized cleanup plan.

"It's been a year already, and nothing," local organic farmer Muneo Kano, 61, complained to Al Jazeera.

CBS News correspondent Lucy Craft reported at the beginning of April that a lot of the soil in Fukushima prefecture is already heavily contaminated, and has ruined the cultivation of famous local delicacies like shiitake mushrooms. (Watch Craft's report at left.)

"Our biggest fear is: how will we support ourselves?" mushroom farmer Shinichi Sakuma, 44, told CBS News.

Utility company TEPCO has taken most of the blame for putting locals in this situation. When the tsunami hit the plant, it was stacked with more uranium than it was designed to hold, and the plant had missed several safety checks over the course of a decade, Reuters reports. Additionally, some of the decisions officials made in the immediate wake of the tsunami have come under scrutiny as possibly worsening the fallout.

TEPCO has paid compensation to local farmers, but much of the compensation is running out as their livelihoods remain in ruins.

"The government says a lot of things but in terms of concrete action it's done absolutely nothing. We're on our own," local farmer Sakuma told CBS News.

While many have been critical of the government's handling of the Fukushima disaster, some are pointing out that at least they are finally being realistic about the scope of the crisis there.

In the meantime, it appears the Japanese people do not have to worry about more nuclear disasters. Greenpeace International reports that safety and maintenance concerns have led the country to at least temporarily shut down all but one of its 54 reactors, and the last one will likely shut down by the beginning of May. This could be Japan's first nuclear-free summer since 1966.

PM: Egypt's Sinai turning into a 'Wild West'

Egypt's Sinai Peninsula has turned into a "kind of Wild West," which terrorist organizations use to smuggle weapons with Iranian assistance and initiate attacks on Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Israel Radio on Tuesday.

The open desert border between Israel and Egypt has been relatively quiet since the 1979 peace treaty. But various Israeli officials have said that since the fall of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, Cairo lost control of the desolate Sinai, exacerbating tensions.

Earlier this month, Jerusalem said a rocket that hit Eilat was fired from Sinai. Last August, cross-border infiltrators shot dead eight Israelis.

"We are acting against this reality and we are in ... continuous discussions with the Egyptian government, which is also troubled by this," said Netanyahu.

Iran denies supporting terrorist attacks on Israel from the Sinai.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Sunday that the situation in Sinai was more worrying than what was happening in Iran, and called for a significant boost to troop numbers along the southern border.

In an apparent response Monday, Egypt's interim military ruler, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, cautioned against any interference along the long desert frontier.

"Our borders, especially the northeast ones, are inflamed. We do not attack neighboring countries but will defend our territory," Egypt's state news agency MENA quoted him as saying.

"We will break the legs of anyone trying to attack us or who come near the borders."

Jerusalem Post

Pyongyang threatens a fast, ‘peculiar’ attack

North Korea yesterday threatened the South, saying they would stage “a special action by revolutionary forces” against the Blue House and local media.

“The special actions of our revolutionary armed forces will start soon to meet the reckless challenge of the group of traitors,” the North’s Korean People’s Army’s “unit for special action strategy” said in a statement yesterday.

“The target of our special action is Lee Myung-bak’s traitor group and his rats, including the conservative media that swings public opinion.

“Once the above-said special actions kick off, they will reduce all the rat-like groups and the bases for provocations to ashes in three or four minutes, or faster than that, by unprecedented, peculiar means and methods of our own style,” they said.

The so-called “special unit” pointed out a series of actions by President Lee, which they considered insulting to their sovereign state and the dignity of their leader.

“On April 20, [President Lee] appeared at the Institute for Unification Education, which is a nest of rats, and said, ‘Now what North Korea needs is not only bread but liberty and human rights,’” the statement said. “And he said if we don’t give up our will to develop missiles, they should focus on ‘a change of the North’s system,’ and they should make us ‘reform agriculture and dissolve the cooperative farms,’ which is none of his business.”

The statement continued: “On the previous day, April 19, [Lee] also appeared at a puppet organization called the Agency for Defense Development and touched some shoddy missiles, saying they have the precision and capacity to ‘immediately bomb’ any part of our sacred state. And there, the puppet Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and other military, war-like freaks danced to his tune.”

In a response to the North’s failed rocket launch on April 13, the Ministry of National Defense unveiled two high-end missiles never before seen by the public, saying they could attack anywhere in North Korean territory.

The statement also mentioned by name South Korean media organizations it described as “slaves of the traitors.”

“Meanwhile, the slaves of the traitors, the old conservative media, is forming public opinion,” it said. “The broadcasters, such as Dong-A Ilbo, KBS, MBC, and YTN, which are located in central Seoul, are participating in the move.”

While fiery threats against the South are commonplace from Pyongyang, analysts speculated that North Korea could use high-end technology for the forecast provocation.

“Firing a missile toward the South is an act of war, which would be difficult for them,” Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, told the Korea JoongAng Daily. “They could commit a cyberattack or jam South Korean military communication.”

Yang said it was rare for “a unit for special action strategy” to issue such a statement. “And the target is really specific: the Lee administration and conservative media, which are based in central Seoul,” Yang said.

Yun Duk-min, a professor at the state-run Institute for Foreign Affairs and National Security, told the Korea JoongAng Daily that North Korea appears to want to create an external crisis to consolidate Kim Jong-un’s rule.

“I guess that the North is trying to solidify its internal power structure by creating a crisis outside in the aftermath of the failure of the missile launch,” Yun said. “And that means they are having trouble in consolidating internal powers, with the possibility of military officials challenging the new leader Jong-un.”

Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute, said the so-called special action must have been the work of new leader Kim Jong-un, showing a hawkish attitude in dealing with South Korea.

“From a cyberattack on the homepages of the Blue House, government-backed organizations or local media to biological terror, an active response to any kind of provocations seems to be needed,” Cheong said.

“It would be a realistic judgment to see Kim Jong-un as the most hard-line person, exhorting North Korean officials to be hostile against the South,” Cheong said. “Considering his pragmatic and hawkish personality along with his lack of experience as a policy maker, the North Korea of Kim Jong-un could be much more threatening and hard to control than his father’s.”

Korea JoongAng Daily

Iran in full control of Strait of Hormuz

In an interview with the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN) television network on Saturday evening, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi said the Persian Gulf littoral states aligned themselves with the Baathist regime and sought to strangle Iran’s oil exports during the Iraqi-imposed war on Iran (1980-1988).

However, hegemonic powers soon realized that Iran, while providing regional security, has succeeded in monitoring the movements of the ships' and tankers’ from the Persian Gulf to the Sea of Oman. We still are controlling the movement of oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz.

On January 2, Iranian Navy wrapped up Velayat-90 naval drills, conducted in an area stretching from the east of the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden.

The drills, which were launched on December 24, 2011, had four stages, namely the preparedness, expansion of forces, tactical, and power phases, which were carried out successfully.

The military drills took place in line with a directive by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, instructing Iranian armed forces to maintain total readiness to defend the nation against any potential threats.

Over the past years, Iran has made important breakthroughs in its defense sector and attained self-sufficiency in producing important military equipment and systems.

The country has repeatedly clarified that its military might is merely based on the nation's defense doctrine of deterrence and poses no threat to other countries.

Iran maintains that the drills held either by the Army or the IRGC are defensive in nature and intend to convey a message of peace and friendship to the regional countries.

The Islamic Republic has also extended a public invitation to regional states to conduct joint naval drills with Iranian forces.

Press Tv

Volcano Behind Atlantis Legend Re-Awakens

The volcano that may have given rise to the legend of Atlantis has awakened, researchers say.

The cataclysmic eruptions at the Greek isle of Santorini about 3,600 years ago that spewed forth about 9.5 to 14.3 cubic miles (40 to 60 cubic kilometers) of lava devastated the ancient seafaring Minoan civilization, potentially inspiring the legend of the lost city of Atlantis. From the air, the resulting caldera, or volcanic crater, appears as a small cluster within the larger collection of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.

Over the next four millennia, the largely underwater caldera at Santorini has experienced a series of smaller eruptions, with five such outbursts in the past 600 years, ending most recently in 1950. After a 60-year lull, Santorini awakened in January 2011 with a swarm of tremors, each magnitude 3.2 or less, new GPS research has revealed.

Our Amazing Planet

Dutch PM Quits After Austerity Talks Collapse

The Dutch government has resigned after failing to agree a package of austerity measures with its far-right partners.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who had been under pressure for weeks, tendered his Cabinet's resignation to Queen Beatrix at her palace in the Hague.

The move had been widely expected since the weekend when Mr Rutte acknowledged a rift with Geert Wilders' Freedom Party.

Although not part of the ruling coalition, Wilders' party had effectively guaranteed the government's majority for the last 18 months by agreeing to support it in parliament.

The arrangement came to an abrupt halt on Saturday when talks on further spending cuts foundered.

Mr Rutte's liberal VVD party, its coalition partner the Christian Democrats and Wilders' Freedom Party had been negotiating on a near-daily basis for seven weeks when Wilders walked out of the talks.

The turmoil has raised fears that the Netherlands' triple A credit rating could be in danger. It is one of only four eurozone countries to retain that status among the three main credit rating agencies.

The three parties had been holding almost daily discussions in a bid to reach agreement on how to cut 16 billion euros (£13.09bn) from the budget, which stood at 4.7% of gross domestic product for 2011.

The EU's deficit ceiling is 3% of GDP.

The talks had been in their final stages when Mr Wilders dropped his bombshell. A visibly upset Mr Rutte said early elections, otherwise due in May 2015, were now a strong possibility.

The austerity package at the centre of the row included a slight raise in VAT, a freeze on civil servants' wages and a cut in spending in both the health and development aid sectors.

"The plan is not in the interest of (Freedom Party) voters," Mr Wilders told a press conference. "We cannot live up to the demands Brussels is putting on us. Money is being taken from the wallets of pensioners."

Mr Rutte came to power in October 2010 after the fall of the then prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende in a dispute over continued military support to Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Eurosceptic Mr Wilders' support had ensured Mr Rutte's coalition held a one-seat majority in the 150-seat parliament up until March 21 when one of its deputies resigned.

Sky News

Mexico volcano roars, spews glowing rocks

Eurozone debt and deficit levels highlight bloc's uphill struggle

Despite efforts by 15 out of the 17 eurozone states to reduce their government deficits from an average of 6.2pc of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 to 4.1pc last year, overall debt rose from 85.3pc of GDP to 87.2pc - the highest level since the euro was created in 1999, according to Eurostat.

After a financial crisis that has dragged on for close to five years, Monday's figures underlined how difficult it will be for the eurozone to bring its deficits and debts back below the EU-stipulated limits of a deficit of 3pc and debt of 60pc of GDP.

According to Eurostat's data, Ireland's deficit of 13.1pc of GDP was by far the highest as the bailed-out country continued to spend billions bailing out its struggling banks. Eurostat expressed reservations about the 13.1pc figure, amid disagreement with the Irish government whether €5.8bn in aid to two nationalised banks should be included in the country's deficit.

Ireland, which was granted €67.5bn in rescue loans from the EU and the International Monetary Fund in 2010, argues that the bank bailouts should not be included in the government deficit, as some of that money may be recovered. Without the bank aid, Ireland's deficit would have been 9.4 percent of GDP, still the highest in the EU.

Ireland is due to hold a referendum on the EU's new fiscal treaty on May 31.

In a statement, Ireland's finance ministry said the higher figure was the result of a technical "reclassification" of assets, pointing out that the 9.4pc figure was far below the 10.6pc target it has promised to meet in return for the rescue loans. In 2010, massive bank bailouts propelled Ireland's deficit to a record 31.2pc of economic output. The finance ministry said this year's deficit should fall to 8.2pc of GDP.

Greece's deficit of 9.1pc of GDP was not much better than Ireland's, and Athens has already started injecting billions of euros into its own banks which are reeling from a restructuring of the country's government debts. While the restructuring reduced Greece's debt levels, the resulting bank bailouts may push up its deficit in the short-term.

Spain, which has seen its borrowing costs rise sharply in recent weeks, ran a deficit of 8.5pc. Across the 27-country EU the average 2011 deficit was 4.5pc of GDP, down from 6.5 percent in 2010. Among the EU states that do not use the euro, the UK had the highest deficit, which reached 8.4pc of GDP in the year ended March 31.

In contrast to the rest of the EU, the UK's fiscal year runs from April 1 to March 31.
The Telegraph

Billions wiped off Europe's biggest companies as political rebellion rocks eurozone

Stockmarkets plunged as traders panicked that Angela Merkel could lose her key allies in France and the Netherlands and that the debt crisis rescue plans could unravel.

The Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, who is one of the eurozone's "hardliners" on fiscal discipline, dramatically quit in the wake of his coalition's refusal to accept Europe's debt pact. Snap elections could be called as early as June.

Traders were also rattled by Francois Hollande's victory over Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round of the French presidential election. The socialist Mr Hollande has vowed to renegotiate the fiscal pact that including a 3pc of GDP deficit limit.

The political concerns were compounded by data that showed eurozone debt has hit 87.2pc of GDP - the highest level since the launch of the single currency in 1999. Eurostat said that the 17 eurozone members had reduced their deficits from 6.2pc of GDP in 2010 to 4.1pc in 2011 - but overall debt levels had risen by 1.9pc.

Spain, meanwhile, officially sank back into recession as the economy shrank 0.4pc in the first quarter of the year, and German manufacturing shrank at its fastest rate for three years in March. The French composite PMI also fell, according to Markit.

By the end of the day, the Stoxx Europe 600 index has sunk 2.3pc to its lowest level for three months. The German Dax dropped 3.4pc, while France's CAC and Spain's Ibex were down 2.8pc each. In London, the FTSE 100 closed down 1.9pc. In the US, the Dow closed down 0.8pc, the S&P 500 lost 0.8pc and the Nasdaq shed 1pc.

Borrowing costs for the core "sinner states" of Spain and Italy rose back towards "unsustainable" levels. French borrowing costs also rose, widening the spread between oats and German bunds to a record 146.9 basis points. The euro fell almost 1pc against the dollar.

The ECB's bond-buying programme went unused for the sixth week in a row last week, the central bank said. But Brussels moved to reassure markets that the fiscal pact, which Ms Merkel said would "last forever", was still intact.

The European Commission said the pact was signed by states, not governments. "Governments change but commitments on behalf of states cannot be changed without discussion with European partners," said the Commission.

The Dutch finance minister, Jans Kees de Jager, insisted his country would stand by its austerity plans. "The Netherlands will retain its solid fiscal policy and will also show the market it will lower its deficit and also have a path of sustainable government finances," he said.

The Telegraph

Hungry Syrian soldiers desert Golan defenses, prowl for food

The wretched plight of the troops manning Syrian defense divisions defending the Golan border and Mt. Hermon was clearly visible from lookout points on the Israeli side in the last two days, DEBKAfile’s military sources report. The regular water and food supplies to their bases, the backbone of Syria’s defense lines against Israel, were stopped and redirected to the units fighting anti-Assad rebels in other parts of the country. Large groups of armed soldiers have gone AWOL to hunt for food. For the first time in years, some have approached the border fence. They don’t ask Israeli soldiers for food, but parcels thrown across the fence vanish in a trice.

According to our sources, the 5th Division posted in the Golan town of Quneitra has suffered the largest number of desertions, estimated at more than 1,500 officers and men, around 15 percent of the full complement. But hundreds of dropouts occur daily from the 15th, 9th and 7th Divisions stationed in central and southern Golan.

The district commands have meanwhile lost control of the Syrian-Israeli border deployment. Military facilities are deserted with no one to guard against trespassers. Gangs, local and from across Syria’s eastern borders with Jordan and Iraq, were quick to realize the bases are unguarded and have begun stripping them of equipment and looting everything they can lay hands on. These gangs are working stealthily so as not to drawing the attention of Assad’s security forces which might stop the looting. But they are most likely being used by Assad’s Sunni enemies in Iraq and Jordan as vehicles to plant terrorist cells inside Syria for attacking military targets.

DEBKAfile’s intelligence and counter-terror sources disclose this is what happened at the Golan village of Sahm al-Jolan near Quneitra Friday, April 20 when a large (100 kilo) bomb blew up as a Syrian military convoy was passing through. At least 10 soldiers were killed and 35 injured. The Syrian authorities stated that a remote-controlled explosive device blew up against a bus carrying soldiers.
It is believed that a Jordanian Sunni terrorist band was responsible. That day too, five Syrian soldiers were killed in another attack in the southern Syrian town of Karak near the flashpoint town of Deraa.