Major volcanoes of Antarctica: “Underwater volcanism is also sublimating portions of the Antarctica ice mass from underneath. In 2004, a research team led by Eugene Domack, aboard the research vessel Lawrence M. Gould, made a remarkable discovery of a massive underwater volcano off the coast of Antarctica using a deep water submersible vehicle equipped with a cadre of sensors and video cameras. The volcano was 2300 feet (700 meters) tall. The British team findings confirmed the volcano was still active and was contributing to the melting of the ice sheet from beneath the Antarctica land mass.” –The Extinction Protocol
Friday, April 27, 2012
More than 1 million Americans who have taken out mortgages in the past two years now owe more on their loans than their homes are worth, and Federal Housing Administration loans that require only a tiny down payment are partly to blame.
That figure, provided to Reuters by tracking firm CoreLogic, represents about one out of 10 home loans made during that period.
Many borrowers continue to be quickly wiped out — CoreLogic economist
It is a sobering indication the U.S. housing market remains deeply troubled, with home values still falling in many parts of the country, and raises the question of whether low-down payment loans backed by the FHA are putting another generation of buyers at risk.
As of December 2011, the latest figures available, 31% of the U.S. home loans that were in negative equity – in which the outstanding loan balance exceeds the value of the home – were FHA-insured mortgages, according to CoreLogic.
Many borrowers, particularly since late 2010, thought they were buying at the bottom of a housing market that had already suffered steep declines, but have been caught out by a continued fall in prices in wide swaths of America.
Even for loans taken out in December – less than four months ago and the last month for which data is available – nearly 44,000 borrowers, or about 7.5% of the total, now find themselves under water.
“The overwhelming majority of the U.S. is still seeing home prices decline,” said CoreLogic senior economist Sam Khater. “Many borrowers continue to be quickly wiped out.”
“Over the past months, we experienced a worrisome trend towards re-nationalization and ‘summitization,’” said Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament and member of the German opposition SPD, to a forum of the European Commission on Wednesday. His complaints went to the heart of democracy at the European level. Government leaders were becoming “more arrogant” and made decisions “behind closed doors, in violation of the community method.” They were attempting “to create a fiscal union outside the control of parliament, bypassing the EU Commission.” Calls for reintroduction of border controls within the Schengen area were “an extremely dangerous development” because “any attack on the freedom of movement is an attack on the foundation of the European Union.” And so, he said, the collapse of the EU was a “realistic scenario.”
Even at the highest levels, the can of worms has now been acknowledged as open—just as the rift that zigzags through the Eurozone has become deeper and wider: according to information the Süddeutsche Zeitung obtained, the ECB and a group of Eurozone countries are trying to make it possible for the permanent bailout fund, the ESM, to bail banks out directly. The countries remained unnamed but, given the nature of the topic, would have to include Spain.
Any such effort would violate the two fundamental principles of the ESM—that a country will get bailed out if, and really only if, it commits to the reforms necessary to make its economy competitive and to reduce its deficit; and that only countries will receive funds, regardless of what they do with them, and not banks. The goal was to alleviate the causes of the debt crisis—high deficits and uncompetitive economies. It was how German parliamentarians had been persuaded to vote for the bailout packages.
Nevertheless, a working group will determine over the next two weeks—lightning speed by EU standards where progress is measured in months and often years—how, not if, banks could receive bailout funds directly from the ESM. Cause for the rush: Spain.
Spanish banks have been ravaged by the implosion of a real-estate bubble that they themselves caused with their reckless lending practices. Now they needed an immediate injection of at least €50 billion, and much more later, as bad loans and collapsing real-estate values on their books would finally have to be dealt with.
By having the ESM bail out banks directly, a debt-sinner government could avoid painful reforms and deficit reduction programs; and it could avoid having to bail out its own banks, highly unpopular when “austerity” is being imposed on the citizens. This just happened in Greece where banks reported €28.2 billion in losses. 13% of GDP! But €25 billion in rescue funds had already been transferred to the government—to bail out the banks, not the Greeks themselves. Yet it's almost over. Read.... “Drachma Clauses” For Greece’s Exit from the Eurozone.
Spain could have asked for bailout funds long ago, but it didn’t want to do that because, hampered by a mind-boggling unemployment problem, it didn’t want to subject itself to the painful reforms that had been imposed on Greece, Ireland, and Portugal. It would be much easier if the banks could get bailed out directly.
And it’s not just Spain. “Once Spain sits under the bailout umbrella, the markets will focus on Italy,” said an unnamed representative of one of the unnamed countries. And there aren’t enough means to bail out both. So keeping Spain from getting officially bailed out has now become one of the more bizarre strategies in solving the debt crisis.
Alas, Germany is categorically opposed to direct loans from the ESM to banks. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble declared that he wouldn’t even discuss it. The treaties didn’t allow it, and that would remain so. Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann said that as long as Member States were responsible for oversight and regulation of their banks, they would also be responsible for bailing them out. “Liability and control must remain in balance,” he said. The Netherlands, Austria, and Finland also rejected it.
But Germany no longer controls the ECB. It is now run by Mario Draghi, an Italian, who appears to have a sympathetic ear for the plight of Spain and Italy. And so on Thursday, he pushed Germany to the sidelines once again and made similar noises by calling on politicians to create a new European fund charged with bailing out the banks. Vitor Constancio, Vice President of the BCE, and Portuguese, called for going as far as possible towards a pan-European solution to the crisis.
“The crisis is finished,” French President Sarkozy had said a few weeks ago. “There is no more risk that the euro will implode,” thanks to his leadership, he declared two days before the election last weekend. However, François Hollande, the socialist challenger and likely winner, has a prescription for fixing the very crisis Sarkozy declared finished. For how his ambitious plan might lead to an expedited break-up of the Eurozone, read.... Pushing the Euro to the Brink
OTTAWA — Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says he supports extending biometric ID requirements to permanent residents and would consider amending his current omnibus immigration bill to make it happen.
"I think in principle, we should be doing everything we reasonably can to identify visitors or immigrants and ensure they don't represent a threat to Canada's safety, so biometrics is the best technical tool at our disposal and I think in principle, that it should be applied to not just temporary but also permanent residents," Kenney said Thursday after testifying before a Commons committee reviewing Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada's Immigration Act.
After hinting at it during the meeting, he confirmed the government was "considering" amending the bill to ensure it covers permanent residents.
Right now, the provision that would grant Citizenship and Immigration the legal authority to collect fingerprints and digital photographs starting next year only applies to those entering Canada on a visitor visa, work permit or study visa.
Kenney was on the hot seat Thursday as Commons committee members grilled him on his controversial refugee bill for the first time.
Bill C-31 seeks to deport so-called "bogus" refugee claimants more quickly, clamp down on human smugglers and require certain visa holders to turn over biometric data. The bill would fast-track refugee applications from so-called "safe" countries deemed unlikely to produce bona fide asylum claimants and bar those who receive a negative decision from filing an appeal.
It's billed as an improvement to the Balanced Refugee Reform Act adopted during the previous Parliament but not yet implemented. That bill was approved with much fanfare after the then-minority Conservatives reached a consensus with the NDP. The new bill, however, effectively reintroduces the contentious elements that were omitted — a move that has the official Opposition New Democrats crying foul.
Critics also say the proposed legislation puts too much power in the hands of the minister and raised further concerns Thursday about a provision that could have the unintended consequence of revoking a refugee's permanent residence due to improved circumstances in their country of origin.
BEGIN OPTIONAL END
Kenney said the provision is actually aimed at "streamlining" the current two-step process for revoking the status of those found to have obtained their refugee status fraudulently and that he's open to amendments that might clarify the situation.
He also rejected suggestions that detaining individuals who enter Canada by way of illegal smuggling operations and barring even the bona fide refugees among them from obtaining permanent resident status for five years violates international agreements and creates a two-tier system.
Read more: http://www.canada.com/technology/Feds+consider+biometrics+permanent+residents+combat+fraud/6526027/story.html#ixzz1tFRM8oCP
Gold slipping over 3% over the course of March, averaging $1,676 for the month, prompted central banks to stock up on the yellow metal IMF data showed on Tuesday.
Led by Mexico and Russia, central banks from 11 countries and the Eurozone added a combined 57.9 tonnes of gold in March.
Mexico raised its reserves by 16.8 tonnes, Russia added 16.5, Turkey 11.5 tonnes, Kazakhstan 4.3 tonnes, Ukraine 1.2 tonnes, while other ex-Soviet republics including Tajikistan and Belarus added less than half a tonne.
In percentage terms Argentina made the biggest bet on gold, upping its reserves of gold by more than 10% to 61.7 tonnes over the month.
The only sellers were the Czech Republic which reduced its bullion reserves by 4,500 ounces.
Bullion purchases by central banks have provided a strong underpinning for the gold price. The world’s central banks added a combined 439.7 tonnes last year – an almost fifty year high.
Bloomberg quotes Bayram Dincer, an analyst at LGT Capital Management in Pfaeffikon, Switzerland:
“We expect that the recent trend of the official sector being a net buyer will continue in the medium and long term. Gold will continue to be a preferred central bank reserve asset. It is currency protection and stabilization.”
Bullion bulls are now focusing on any announcements that may emanate from the US Federal Reserve’s two-day policy meeting that started today.
After failing to scale the psychologically important $1,800 an ounce bar at the end of February, gold has taken a few hard knocks on the way to its current trading level of around $1,640.
The spikes downward have all been thanks to Ben Bernanke and the US Federal Reserve and the fortunes of the precious metal seem increasingly linked to monetary policy in the US. If there is word of a third round of quantitative easing it could be very positive for gold.
AFP - Iran is busy acquiring the technical know-how to launch a potentially crippling cyber-attack on the United States and its allies, experts told a congressional hearing on Thursday, urging the US to step up its defensive measures.
"Over the past three years, the Iranian regime has invested heavily in both defensive and offensive capabilities in cyberspace," said Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council.
"Equally significant, its leaders now increasingly appear to view cyber-warfare as a potential avenue of action against the United States," he told a House Homeland Security subcommittee.
Patrick Meehan, Republican chairman of the committee, also sounded an alarm over the cyber-security threat posed by Iran to western nations.
"As Iran's illicit nuclear program continues to inflame tensions between Tehran and the West, I am struck by the emergence of another possible avenue of attack emanating from Iran -- the possibility that Iran could conduct a cyber attack against the US homeland," he said.
The Republican lawmaker said Tehran has reportedly invested over $1 billion in bolstering cyber capabilities, and is believed by some analysts to be the perpetrator of recent attacks on news organizations.
"Iran is very publicly testing its cyber capabilities in the region and, in time, will expand its reach," Meehan warned.
He added that he has concluded after consultations with US partners in the Middle East that "Iran is the most destructive and malicious actor in the region and will persist in antagonizing the United States and our allies -- especially the state of Israel."
Meehan recalled Senate testimony earlier this year from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper who testified that Iran's intelligence operations against the United States, including cyber capabilities, "have dramatically increased in recent years in depth and complexity."
Experts on the panel said Iran's desire to target the United States could be fueled by a desire for payback after the 2010 Stuxnet worm attack which disabled the Iranian centrifuges used to enrich uranium, dealing a major setback to Iran's nuclear program.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack although speculation has centered on Israel and the United States.
Stuxnet and similar cyber-attacks allegedly launched against Iran by the West are likely to have steeled its resolve to launch a cyber-assault of its own, experts said.
"For the Iranian regime the conclusion is clear. War with the West, at least on the cyber front, has been joined, and the Iranian regime is mobilizing in response," Berman said.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Is there a secret plan to evacuate some residents of Chicago in the event of major trouble during the NATO summit next month? CBS 2 has uncovered some evidence that there is. It comes from the Milwaukee area branch of the American Red Cross.
CBS 2 News has obtained a copy of a Red Cross e-mail sent to volunteers in the Milwaukee area.
It said the NATO summit “may create unrest or another national security incident. The American Red Cross in southeastern Wisconsin has been asked to place a number of shelters on standby in the event of evacuation of Chicago.”
According to a chapter spokesperson, the evacuation plan is not theirs alone.
“Our direction has come from the City of Chicago and the Secret Service,” she said.
The head of Chicago’s NATO Host Committee said Thursday she was blindsided by the federal government’s decision to create a militarized “Red Zone” in the Loop to protect federal buildings in the run-up to the May 20-21 summit at McCormick Place.
The image of federal agents on downtown streets far from McCormick Place — in battle gear, weapons slung — three weeks before the summit is certain to have a chilling effect on those who live and work in the Loop. It also calls into question Host Committee Executive Director Lori Healey’s oft-repeated message that Chicago will remain “open for business” during the summit.
On Thursday, Healey found herself in the difficult position of having to convince the public that a scary headline that blindsided even her is not an indication that the feds are bracing for weeks of trouble.
“A lot of us were surprised to read that. Obviously, the federal government doesn’t consult with the city when they do this. Everybody was unaware of this,” she said.
“It’s common practice for the federal government to have protection around their own buildings. Everybody plans extensively … for lots of different events. This is just getting an undue amount of attention. I would guarantee you they do it for all sorts of events. It’s just that they decided to publicly release it.”
Asked whether Mayor Rahm Emanuel was also blindsided by the Red Zone decision, City Hall offered a one-line response.
“This was a security decision and we were not involved,” the mayor’s communications director Sarah Hamilton wrote in an email to the Sun-Times.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that the plan for “Operation Red Zone” kicks into high gear next week to protect a vast area in the Loop where thousands of federal employees and dozens of government offices are located.
The Federal Protective Service will deploy additional personnel beginning May 1, bringing in more people from out of town and outfitting them in “battle dress uniform.” They will be carrying “non-lethal” long guns — bean bag weapons — in a show of force that at the same time will allow people to move in and out of the zone freely, federal employees were told.
Healey called the news “a little bit distracting,” but not alarming. She stressed that the protective bubble was being created by the “landlord” for government buildings — not by the intelligence arm of the federal government.
The U.S. Secret Service plans to release its logistics plan — including specific boundaries of the security perimeter around McCormick Place — next week, she said. That’s when all the speculation about the inconvenience to everyday life in Chicago will finally be put to rest.
“Let’s keep in mind that the summit itself is 24-hours. It starts on a Sunday. There’s not a lot of business people down working on Sunday. Monday, there’ll be some impact. But obviously, the city will put out the best way to get to and from downtown on that day after the [Secret] Service releases their plan,” Healey said.
“For us, the city is open for business. We’re happy to have … all these people coming to Chicago to experience our city. We think it’s a great opportunity.”
NATO Ambassador Kolinda Grabar offered the same message after a “classroom-to-classroom” video exchange — of musical selections and questions — between students at Kelly High School and the Afghanistan National Institute of Music.
“Some of the disadvantages — little uncomfortable things — will be very, very short-term. But, the advantages of the summit will be long-term for Chicago,” Grabar said.
“It is an opportunity to promote Chicago as a wonderful and beautiful city. … A lot more people will be attracted to come back to Chicago and to contribute to the local economy.”
Andy Thayer, a spokesman for the Coalition Against NATO-G-8, accused the federal government of creating the Red Zone to send a “message of intimidation” to protesters expected to descend on Chicago for the summit.
“It’s reminiscent of what happened prior to the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue, when the city got all Rambo-ed up as a way of scaring people from exercising their First Amendment rights,” Thayer said.
“If security measures are necessary, there are ways to go about it rather than getting hyper-militarized in a very visible way. It does nothing to stop any violence, but it does send a message of intimidation. This is a political show. It’s not about security.”
Despite the unsettling image of uniformed federal agents on the streets of Chicago, Thayer said his message to protesters is the same as it was after Mayor Rahm Emanuel rammed through his “sit-down-and-shut-up” ordinance to reign in the demonstrators.
“Don’t allow the city or the feds to intimidate you from exercising your freedom. It’s your right to be on the streets of Chicago on May 20,” Thayer said.
In fact, Thayer said it’s all the more reason to protest, adding, “If people are resentful of the militarization of our streets, just think how people in 130 countries around the world feel about U.S. troops in their countries.”
Chicago Sun Times
Medvedev told the nation ahead of Putin's May 7 inauguration to a third term as president that he initially bristled at the idea of being viewed as the weaker link of a leadership "tandem" with his mentor Putin.
But Russia's only president to serve a single term – a lawyer by training whose liberal leanings brought initial hopes of political change – said he soon got used to the idea and now felt perfectly comfortable being politically wedded to Putin.
"There is nothing unusual about this," Medvedev said in the live studio interview.
"We have laid out a certain future. So you should relax. This is all for a long time," said Medvedev.
The comments will confirm suspicions among some liberals that Medvedev has only paid lip service to reform causes since entering the Kremlin in 2008, while in fact ensuring the preservation of the status quo.
Medvedev once famously slammed the ruling United Russia party, which he will now head as part of his September deal with Putin, saying it was "showing symptoms of stagnation."
But he conceded on Thursday that he saw nothing wrong with politicians who changed their minds.
"I have always said that my positions are never set in stone," said Medvedev.
"I think that is normal. And those who claim to have kept the same position since they graduated from college are liars."
Medvedev's decision to trade places with the ex-KGB spy helped feed months of street protests that only abated after Putin's thumping March 4 election win.
The protest movement hopes to stage one more massive rally on the eve of Putin's inauguration before switching tactics and focusing attention on local election campaigns.
About 3600 years ago, at the height of Minoan civilization, Santorini let loose with one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history. The explosion blanketed nearby islands with piles of ash hundreds of feet thick and sent out a gigantic tsunami that devastated Crete, about 68 miles to the south.
Smaller eruptions across the ensuing millennia ended abruptly in 1950. Then, after 60 years of calm, the caldera reawakened early last year with an escalating swarm of earthquakes. When geologists took a closer look, they could see the ground was swelling as well, as though the sleeping giant were yawning.
ANALYSIS: Who Invented the Toilet?
The earthquakes and ground deformation scientists observed between 2011 and early 2012 are unprecedented since the 1950 eruption. But just because a volcano is sucking in breath doesn’t mean it will spew. Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull stratovolcano really let loose in 2010 after its own swarm of deformation-driven tremors, but Long Valley caldera in California has been breathing heavily since 1980 with no eruption at all.
So, what’s in store for Santorini?
In a recent analysis of the volcano published in Geophysical Research Letters, scientists estimate Santorini's latest inflation is due to 14.1 million cubic meters of magma accumulating in a chamber about 4.5 kilometers below the surface.
That may sound like a scary-big mass of melted rock, but it represents only about 0.03 percent of the estimated eruptive volume from the monstrous 1650 B.C. eruption—not nearly enough for a repeat performance. Should Santorini erupt, it will most likely be a relatively tame event, the study’s authors say.
PHOTO: Seafloor Erupts New Baby Canary
Still, they do offer one warning: “Potentially more dangerous is the effect of volcanic ashfall and earthquake activity, which could damage houses, induce landslides along the steep caldera cliffs and cause local tsunamis that could be dangerous for the local boat traffic within the caldera.