Friday, April 1, 2011

Large hole discovered after Southwest flight makes emergency landing

A Southwest Airlines flight landed safely at a military base in Yuma, Arizona, on Friday with what passengers described as a 3-foot hole in the fuselage of the Boeing 737.

"I heard a loud popping sound ... about three or four minutes before ... then it blew open," Passenger Greg Hanson told CNN Affiliate KOVR.

"You can see the blue sky from your seat," he said in a phone interview from the plane.

Hanson described the hole as being about 3 or 4 feet long and about a foot wide.

The aircraft's crew confirmed to the Federal Aviation Administration that there is a hole in the fuselage.

Hanson said that he and the rest of the passengers were still on board Southwest Flight 812, after making an emergency landing at Yuma Marine Corps Air Station/International Airport at 7:07 p.m. ET.

The FAA said the plane experienced a rapid controlled descent from cruising altitude to about 11,000 feet after the cabin lost pressure. Investigators are en route to the base, the FAA said.

"We do not know the cause of the decompression," said Ian Gregor of the FAA.

Southwest said in a statement that the flight crew "discovered a hole in the top of the aircraft." (read more)

In damaged nuclear plant's shadow, mayor pleads for food, fuel

Told to stay indoors, the residents of one Japanese city near a quake-damaged nuclear plant are now grappling with widespread shortages and appealing for help from outside.

Minami Soma, a city of about 70,000, lost at least 253 people to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Another 1,200-plus are unaccounted for, and about 50,000 people have evacuated since the disaster and the ensuing crisis at the Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi power plant, 25 km (16 miles) to the south, Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai said.

Those left are now struggling with a "substantial lack of supplies" complicated by the city's location in the 30-km radius surrounding the quake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, he said.

"Many people here are left without transportation," Sakurai said in a video appeal for citizen volunteers posted online last week. "They can hardly get any supplies delivered to their homes. We regret to say this, but we have to ask volunteers to act at their own risk." (read more)

Syrians march in tens of thousands against president



Syrian protesters braved renewed bloodshed and an unprecedented security presence across the country as they marched in their tens of thousands to denounce their increasingly intransigent president.

Opposition activists claimed that as many as 25 people were killed as violence flared across the country despite Bashar al-Assad' attempts to suffocate the widening insurrection against his 11-year rule through sheer force of numbers as part of a plan to terrify his restive people into staying at home.

But the campaign of intimidation, designed to terrify people into remaining at home, was only partially successful. Fewer responded to calls to take to the streets in the numbers organisers might have hoped, but the number still willing to risk the wrath of a regime that had threatened to show no mercy will be deeply troubling for Mr Assad.

Amateur video footage from the town of Douma, 10 miles north of the Syrian capital Damascus, showed unarmed civilians fleeing down a street as gunfire crackled nearby.

Residents said the shots were fired by plainclothes civilians, possibly members of an unofficial militia controlled by members of the Assad family, who had earlier broken down the doors of houses to take up sniper positions on rooftops and balconies.

Witnesses said between four and 15 people in Douma were killed. Another 10 were said to have been killed as thousands of protesters marching between the villages of Erikel and Sanamayn came under fire. (read more)

Why the era of top secrecy for the Federal Reserve should end

The Federal Reserve has passed with flying colours and failed spectacularly a test on the same subject in just seven days.

A week ago, America's central bank announced that Ben Bernanke, its chairman, will hold four press conferences a year, starting next month. An 'A', then, for transparency.

On Thursday, the Fed disclosed 25,000 pages of documents revealing the banks that came to it with their begging bowls during the crisis. Again an A grade, but not for the Fed. It goes, instead, to Bloomberg, the news organisation that harried the bank through the courts to force the data dump.

It's the failure that has generated far more interest. The Fed resisted disclosing the who, what, when of the loans it made through its discount window (please excuse the jargon) on the grounds that investors might now start to get worried about the health of those lenders who tapped on the window the loudest.

The Clearing House Association, the biggest financial lobby group in the US, also joined in the legal fight in a clear sign that the banks really wanted this kept under wraps. In fairness, when the banks borrowed they did so in the understanding it was confidential.

And it's hard to overstate the stigma attached to using the window, the oldest lending tool the Fed has. In the early 1990s, as America's banks were recovering from the Savings & Loans crisis, they would rather pay more to borrow from each other than turn to the window for cheaper money. (read more)

US: Underemployment Rises to 20.3% in March

Gallup Daily tracking finds that 20.3% of the U.S. workforce was underemployed in March -- a slight uptick from the relatively flat January and February numbers.

These results are based on March interviews with more than 20,000 adults in the U.S. workforce, aged 18 and older. Gallup classifies respondents as underemployed if they are unemployed or working part-time but wanting full-time work. Gallup employment data are not seasonally adjusted.

A rise in the percentage of part-timers wanting to work full time (from 9.2% to 9.9%) is responsible for the March increase in underemployment. Unemployment saw a slight, but insignificant, decline in March. (read more)

Oil climbs to highest since 2008: settles above $106 a barrel as pro-Gadhafi forces push back rebels

The price of oil rose to a 30-month high on Thursday as fighters loyal to Moammar Gadhafi pushed back rebels from key areas in eastern Libya.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude rose $2.45, more than 2 percent, to settle at $106.72 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. At one point it hit $106.83, the highest it's been since September, 2008. In London, Brent crude rose $2.25 to settle at $117.20 per barrel.

Battles between Gadhafi's troops and rebels have seesawed back and forth in Libyan ports and towns since mid-February, with the price of oil rising more than $20 a barrel since then. Energy consultants Cameron Hanover said traders are beginning to view the Libya uprising as a standoff for now. 'Without control of the air, Gadhafi's troops have been unable to hammer home their gains. And, without strong and well-trained ground forces, the rebels seem incapable of holding onto their gains. Optimism that Libyan oil might return to the market, seen earlier this week, was dashed." (read more)

"Too white" -- Lawsuit seeks dissolution of Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton, Chattahoochee Hills

The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus filed a lawsuit Monday against the state of Georgia seeking to dissolve the city charters of Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton and Chattahoochee Hills. Further, the lawmakers, joined by civil rights leader the Rev. Joseph Lowery, aim to dash any hopes of a Milton County.

The lawsuit, filed in a North Georgia U.S. District Court Monday, claims that the state circumvented the normal legislative process and set aside its own criteria when creating the “super-majority white ” cities within Fulton and DeKalb counties. The result, it argues, is to dilute minority votes in those areas, violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution.

“This suit is based on the idea that African Americans and other minorities can elect the people of their choice,” said Democratic State Sen. Vincent Fort.

The Office of the Governor and the Office of the Attorney General declined comment pending further review of the case.

Rep. Lynne Riley, R-Johns Creek, called the lawsuit “frivolous” and “disrespectful to the citizens of these cities who are most satisfied with their government.” (read more)

Food patrol: Oakland gardener questions need for permit to sell produce

Novella Carpenter took over a vacant lot on a hardscrabble corner of West Oakland eight years ago and turned it into a working farm of vegetables, goats, rabbits and, sometimes, pigs.

Carpenter milked goats, made cheese and ate much of the produce. She also wrote a popular book, "Farm City," about the experience and became an icon of the Bay Area's urban farming movement.

But the future of her Ghost Town Farm is in question. This week, Oakland officials suggested it may need to close. The reason: She sells excess produce and needs a costly permit to do so.

"It seems ridiculous," said Carpenter, 38. "I need a conditional use permit to sell chard?"

The news stunned the region's urban farmers and their supporters, who questioned how a fundamental human task that goes back millennia could become illegal. (read more)

GE Likely to Avoid Liability in Japan Nuke Crisis

The Japanese nuclear crisis has created a public-relations headache for General Electric, but the company so far has escaped any legal fallout, and many experts expect it will continue to do so.

GE designed the Mark 1 containment systems used in reactors at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi power plant, and after a magnitude 9 earthquake and a tsunami devastated northeast Japan on March 11, vessels intended to protect the reactors came under severe stress amidst explosions and fires and may have leaked radiation.

In the three weeks since the disaster, no lawsuits are known to have been filed against Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE either in Japan or in the United States. While GE could face lawsuits in the future, of course, any potential plaintiffs would have to overcome high hurdles, according to a wide array of legal experts, including nuclear law specialists and lawyers who represent plaintiffs and defendants in mass-tort litigation. (read more)

Wow: Foreign Banks Tapped Fed's Lifeline Most as Bernanke Kept Borrowers Secret

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s two-year fight to shield crisis-squeezed banks from the stigma of revealing their public loans protected a lender to local governments in Belgium, a Japanese fishing-cooperative financier and a company part-owned by the Central Bank of Libya.

Dexia SA (DEXB), based in Brussels and Paris, borrowed as much as $33.5 billion through its New York branch from the Fed’s “discount window” lending program, according to Fed documents released yesterday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Dublin-based Depfa Bank Plc, taken over in 2007 by a German real-estate lender later seized by the German government, drew $24.5 billion.

The biggest borrowers from the 97-year-old discount window as the program reached its crisis-era peak were foreign banks, accounting for at least 70 percent of the $110.7 billion borrowed during the week in October 2008 when use of the program surged to a record. The disclosures may stoke a reexamination of the risks posed to U.S. taxpayers by the central bank’s role in global financial markets.

“The caricature of the Fed is that it was shoveling money to big New York banks and a bunch of foreigners, and that is not conducive to its long-run reputation,” said Vincent Reinhart, the Fed’s director of monetary affairs from 2001 to 2007. (read more)

Misplaced trust: 30-foot tsunami wall didn't save Japanese village



Kawasaki Takeshi tried to hide his eyes as he breaks down. He is reliving the moment the "great wave" chased him and his wife into the hills.

His shock is even more raw as this wasn't supposed to happen here. Not in the small fishing village of Ryoishi where a 9 meter (30 foot) tsunami wall used to dominate the landscape.

This is not the first tsunami to devastate this area. One hundred years ago a tidal wave wiped the village out and is believed to have killed 90% of its residents.

This time it was supposed to be different but the force of the water bulldozed a path through one part of the wall and simply came over the top of it in other parts destroying everything in its path.

Takeshi used to live in the hills, but moved to the coast after the wall was built -- he says it made him feel safe.

He says, "This isn't a bad place and tsunamis don't happen that often, but after seeing the great wave my wife has decided we shouldn't be here." (read more)

Latest radiation dispersion model of Japanese Fukashima radiation -- think you're safe? ...think again

TEPCO Confirms That Groundwater Radiation Is So Bad, Everyone Thought It Had To Be An Error

Just out from Kyodo Wire.

TEPCO is confirming that presence of radioactive iodine in groundwater below Fukushima is 10,000x the legal limit.

This number came out yesterday, but it was so high that there were some who doubted the veracity of the number.

TEPCO has come out with false readings before, but nope, not this one. It is that high, and because it's hitting water, it's serious. (Source)

Next Arab Facebook Campaign: Get Millions to Invade Israel

Palestinian Authority activists have recreated the Third Intifada page that was banned by Facebook on Tuesday in response to thousands of member requests.

An Israeli Cabinet minister, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and a massive Internet campaign were only some of the measures used to pressure the popular social networking site into removing the page, which promoted violence against Jews in Israel.

But the story doesn't end there, because angry Palestinian Authority sponsors of the page ensured the fight would continue.

A Muslim page similarly entitled "Subscribe now to the Palestinian Intifada," on its logo but which is innocuously entitled "Make the Prophet Number One on Facebook" on the heading is listed under Non-profit Organizations.

Easily the largest and most popular Muslim page on Facebook, it espouses peace and offers myriad beneficent comments about Allah and Islam's founder, the Prophet Muhammed. But the Rassoul Allaah page also directs readers to directs readers to a wealth of links to other pages promoting the Third Intifada and a massive attempt to carry out the destruction of the State of Israel.

By Wednesday afternoon, the page had garnered more than three million -- 3,293,252 -- votes of support from Facebook members around the world. (read more)

UK: How much do UK workers earn by profession? -- Picture gallery and statstics

The majority of UK workers took a real-terms pay cut in the three months to February, as pay rises failed to keep pace with inflation, figures published today by IDSPay.co.uk have revealed. Here we list typical salaries in all major job sectors: (read more and view gallery)

Portugal pressured to take EU bail-out after new data

Portugal came under ever more pressure to take a bail-out as it revealed that the hole in its finances is bigger than expected.

New figures showed the country's budget deficit stood at the equivalent of 8.6pc of its gross domestic product (GDP) for 2010, missing the government's 7.3pc target by more than a percentage point.

Lisbon blamed the size of the deficit on a change in the calculation methods at Eurostat, the European statistical agency, which meant the figure had to reflect nationalised bank losses and the state of public transport companies.

Politicians have complained the alterations were "like changing the score after the match is over" and said on Thursday the deficit would otherwise have been 6.8pc.

However, the revelation carried unpleasant echoes of the admission from Greece at the end of 2009 that its finances were in a worse state than at first believed. That shock ignited the eurozone's debt crisis as investor fears over nations' borrowing escalated, while Greece eventually received a €110bn (£97bn) rescue.

Portugal's 10-year bonds were trading with yields above 8.6pc, as investors demanded sky-high returns to take on the debt. (read more)

Irish banks need €24bn more to survive economic shocks

Ireland has said its four remaining banks require another €24bn (£21bn) of funding to enable them to withstand potential losses from a worsening of the economy.

Patrick Honohan, governor of Ireland's central bank, on Thursday unveiled the results of "stress tests" on the banks, a condition of the country's international bail-out last November.

Mr Honohan said all four will need funds to boost their reserves and cover the cost of more loan write-offs.

Under the stressed scenario, which requires the banks to remain above a minimum core Tier 1 capital ratio of 6pc, Allied Irish Banks needs an additional €13.3bn, Bank of Ireland needs €5.2bn, EBS building society needs €1.5bn and Irish Life & Permanent needs €4bn.

The new figure will take the final bill for bailing out Ireland's banks to €70bn.

Mr Honohan said the measures being taken were "exceptional", but were essential to restore market confidence in the banks. (read more)

Japan: Up to 1,000 bodies left untouched near troubled nuke plant

Radiation fears have prevented authorities from collecting as many as 1,000 bodies of victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami from within the 20-kilometer-radius evacuation zone around the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, police sources said Thursday.

One of the sources said bodies had been ''exposed to high levels of radiation after death.'' The view was supported by the detection Sunday of elevated levels of radiation on a body found in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, about 5 km from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

The authorities are now considering how to collect the bodies, given fears that police officers, doctors and bereaved families may be exposed to radiation in retrieving the radiation-exposed bodies or at morgues, according to the sources.

They initially planned to inspect the bodies after transporting them outside the evacuation zone, but the plan is being reconsidered due to the concerns over exposure. (read more)

Japan's Nuclear Rescuers: 'Inevitable Some of Them May Die Within Weeks'

Workers at the disaster-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan say they expect to die from radiation sickness as a result of their efforts to bring the reactors under control, the mother of one of the men tells Fox News.

The so-called Fukushima 50, the team of brave plant workers struggling to prevent a meltdown to four reactors critically damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, are being repeatedly exposed to dangerously high radioactive levels as they attempt to bring vital cooling systems back online.

Speaking tearfully through an interpreter by phone, the mother of a 32-year-old worker said: “My son and his colleagues have discussed it at length and they have committed themselves to die if necessary to save the nation.

“He told me they have accepted they will all probably die from radiation sickness in the short term or cancer in the long-term.” (read more)

Same planet, same view, so why do these Russian satellite images of Earth look so different to Nasa's? - 1st Apr 2011

They are some of the most revealing and fascinating images yet taken of Earth.

Clearly showing various land colours according to terrain and finely detailing the height contours of mountains, they are incredibly beautiful to look at.

But they are also unique and quite different to the images of our planet captured by numerous Nasa missions over the years.

For these images were not taken by Nasa, but by an orbiting Russian spacecraft, and the reason for the difference in Earth's appearance can be attributed to a different method of interpreting data being beamed back.

The weather satellite Elektro-L sends images to ground control every 30 minutes, but is capable of mailing images every ten minutes.

Launched in January aboard a Zenit rocket, it is currently 36,000km above the equator.

But while the Elektro-L's revealing shots of Earth may appear more accurate than Nasa images, the U.S. space agency claims they are not. Read More

In Yemen, rival demos draw thousands; minor scuffles



Brief scuffles broke out in Yemen's capital on Friday at the end of a day of huge pro- and anti-government rallies, witnesses said.

At least four people were injured in Sanaa after tens of thousands of people turned out for the second straight week of dueling demonstrations.

The turnout illustrates the grinding tensions on the streets of the impoverished country, facing regular protests from people citing government corruption, a lack of political freedom, and high unemployment.

Pro-government backers gathered to support President Ali Abdullah Saleh and vowed to fight for him under all circumstances.

Chants of "People want Ali Abdullah Saleh" and "With our soul and blood, we support you, Saleh," rang out at the pro-government rally.

Saleh addressed his supporters briefly, thanking them for turning out and promising them he won't let them down. (read more)

Hundreds killed as battle for Ivory Coast turns streets into war zones



Forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara took control of state-run television and attacked the residence of Laurent Gbagbo on Friday as Ivory Coast's bloody, four-month battle for political power appeared to enter its final stages .

Artillery and mortars joined the cacophony of gunfire Friday in Abidjan, the nation's commercial center and largest city, witnesses said. French and United Nations troops beefed up their presence on the streets to fill a security vacuum.

"The situation on the streets has deteriorated to such an extent that it's just become too dangerous to go outside," said Henry Gray, a field coordinator with the humanitarian medical group Doctors Without Borders, who called his organization while in lockdown. "There's a lot of pillaging and looting going on, and if you're out on the streets, you're basically a target."

And the violence isn't isolated to Abidjan. At least 800 people were killed Tuesday in the fight for control of Ivory Coast's western city of Duekoue, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday.

The whereabouts of Gbagbo, who refused to cede power after a disputed November election, were not known. The French ambassador to Ivory Coast said on France Info radio that Gbagbo's residence was empty. (read more)

California: Radioactive Iodine-131 in rainwater sample near San Francisco was 18,100% above federal drinking water standard

UCB Rain Water Sampling Results, University of California, Berkeley, Department of Nuclear Engineering:

Iodine-131 level in rainwater sample taken on the roof of Etcheverry Hall on UC Berkeley campus, March 23, 2011 from 9:06-18:00 PDT

20.1 Becquerel per liter (Bq/L) = 543 Picocuries per liter (pCi/L) — Conversion calculator here.

The federal drinking water standard for Iodine-131 is 3 pCi/L. (Press Release) (Read more)

China's wrath: Activist arrested in ongoing crackdown in China

Chinese officials have jailed another activist in what some have called an ongoing government crackdown on would-be protesters, a rights group said Thursday.

Activist Chen Wei was formally arrested Friday after spending five days in detention, the Hong-Kong based China Human Rights Defenders said.

CNN was unable to reach Chinese authorities for comment on the case.

The rights group said Chen is part of about 26 people arrested since late February when an anonymous group began an internet campaign calling for anti-government protests in China similar to ones that have taken hold in the Middle East. (read more)

Fukushima shines light on U.S. problem: 63,000 tons of spent fuel



The Fukushima Daiichi disaster is focusing attention on a problem that has bedeviled Washington policymakers since the dawn of the nuclear age -- what to do with used nuclear fuel.

Currently, spent fuel -- depleted to the extent it can no longer effectively sustain a chain reaction -- is stored in large pools of water, allowing the fuel to slowly cool and preventing the release of radiation.

But events in Japan, where two of the six spent fuel pools at the Fukushima Daiichi facility were compromised, have raised questions about practices at the nation's 104 nuclear reactors, which rely on a combination of pools and dry casks to store used fuel.

"I truly believe we must re-think how we manage spent fuel," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said at a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing Wednesday.

In California, Feinstein said, fuel removed from reactors in 1984 is still held in spent-fuel pools, well beyond the minimum five to seven years required by federal regulators. "It's hard to understand why the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not mandated a more rapid transfer of spent fuel to dry casks," Feinstein said.

Currently, there is no maximum time fuel can remain in spent fuel pools, the NRC said Wednesday. As a result, critics say, nuclear plants have made fuel pools the de facto method of storing fuel, crowding pools with dangerous levels of fuel, industry critics say.

As of January 2010, an estimated 63,000 metric tons of spent fuel was in storage at U.S. power plants or storage facilities, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (read more)

EPA plans to boost radioactivity safety limits up to 100,000-fold increase

Protective Action Guides, or PAGs as they are called by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are used to enforce the law following any incident involving the release of radioactive material. If there were a dirty bomb attack in America or nuclear meltdown, how would the EPA interpret the Clean Water Act? How would it interpret a whole suite of laws that impact upon our food, water and soil? As with the incredibly toxic pollution which has claimed many lives of 9-11 responders, the sole decision about what is safe is an administrative EPA process shielded from public scrutiny.

In 1992, the EPA produced a PAGs manual that answers many of these questions. But now an update to the 1992 manual is being planned, and if the “Dr. Strangelove” wing of the EPA has its way, here is what it means (brace yourself for these ludicrous increases):

  • A nearly 1000-fold increase for exposure to strontium-90;
  • A 3000 to 100,000-fold hike for exposure to iodine-131; and
  • An almost 25,000 rise for exposure to radioactive nickel-63.i

The new radiation guidelines would also allow long-term cleanup thresholds thousands of times more lax than anything EPA has ever judged safe in the past. Under long-established EPA policy, in conformity with long-accepted international standards on “acceptable” amounts of radiation these proposed changes would increase the permissible amounts of radiation to levels where 25% of those exposed to these “new acceptable levels” would develop cancer based on the EPA’s own numbers.ii (read more)

Global Shipping Industry the Latest Casualty of Japans Nuclear Disaster

Radiation fears have begun to play havoc with the global shipping industry, in which Japan is a key player on several levels. Fearing the potential impact on crews, cargo and vessels worth tens of millions of dollars, some of the world’s biggest container shipping lines have restricted or barred their ships from calling on ports in Tokyo Bay over concerns about radiation from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Meantime, ports in China are starting to require strict radiation checks on ships arriving from Japan. And in California on Friday, the first ship to reach the Port of Long Beach since Japan’s earthquake was boarded and scanned for radiation by Coast Guard and federal customs officials before being allowed to dock.

Big Japanese ports much farther south of Tokyo, like Osaka and Kobe, are still loading and unloading cargo. But the Tokyo Bay ports of Tokyo and Yokohama are normally Japan’s two busiest, representing as much as 40 percent of the nation’s foreign container cargo.

If other shipping companies join those already avoiding the Tokyo area, as radiation contamination spreads from Fukushima Daiichi 140 miles north, the delays in getting goods in and out of Japan would only grow worse.

The shipping industry’s fears have escalated since port officials in Xiamen, China, last week detected radiation on a large container ship belonging to Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and quarantined the ship.

The vessel had sailed down Japan’s northeast coast and reportedly came no closer than 80 miles to the damaged nuclear power plant; the official Xinhua news agency said on Saturday afternoon that the vessel had left a berth at the port on Wednesday afternoon and then anchored briefly at sea. (read more)

Health King crabs invade Antarctica due to warming climate

IN MCMURDO STATION, ANTARCTICA Sven Thatje has been predicting an invasion of deep-water crabs into shallow Antarctic waters for the past several years.

But the biologist and his colleagues got their first look at the march of the seafloor predators while riding on an icebreaker across frozen Antarctic seas this winter.

The ship towed a robot sub carrying a small digital camera that filmed the seafloor below. It caught images of bright red king crabs up to 10 inches long, moving into an undersea habitat of creatures that haven't seen sharp teeth or claws for the past 40 million years.

"There were hundreds," Thatje said in an interview on board the Swedish icebreaker Oden, which docked at the main U.S. base in Antarctica, McMurdo Station, after a two-month research cruise. "Along the western Antarctica peninsula, we have found large populations over 30 miles. It was quite impressive."

Thatje, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Southampton in England and chief scientist on the cruise, is part of a U.S.-Swedish team of marine researchers who are trying to figure out where, when and how fast this invasion is occurring. King crabs, of which there are 13 species, live in the deep waters off Alaska and Russia and across the Southern Ocean in the waters off New Zealand, Chile and Argentina. But here in Antarctica, crabs haven't been able to survive because, until now, it's been too cold. As a result, many bottom-dwelling creatures such as mussels, brittle stars and sea urchins have not developed any defenses against the crabs.

What's happened is that the waters around the Antarctic peninsula have begun to get warmer. (read more)

Made in China: Our Toxic, Imported Air Pollution

“There is no place called away.” It is a statement worthy of 
Gertrude Stein, but University of Washington atmospheric chemist 
Dan Jaffe says it with conviction: None of the contamination we pump into the air just disappears. It might get diluted, blended, or chemically transformed, but it has to go somewhere. And when it comes to pollutants produced by the booming economies of East Asia, that somewhere often means right here, the mainland of the United States.

Jaffe and a new breed of global air detectives are delivering a sobering message to policy makers everywhere: Carbon dioxide, the predominant driver of global warming, is not the only industrial by-product whose effects can be felt around the world. Prevailing winds across the Pacific are pushing thousands of tons of other contaminants—including mercury, sulfates, ozone, black carbon, and desert dust—over the ocean each year. Some of this atmospheric junk settles into the cold waters of the North Pacific, but much of it eventually merges 
with the global air pollution pool that circumnavigates the planet.

These contaminants are implicated in a long list of health problems, including neurodegenerative disease, cancer, emphysema, and perhaps even pandemics like avian flu. And when wind and weather conditions are right, they reach North America within days. Dust, ozone, and carbon can accumulate in valleys and basins, and mercury can be pulled to earth through atmospheric sinks that deposit it across large swaths of land. (read more)

Huge rise in ray hunting threatens ocean's 'gentle giants'

They are known as the ocean's gentle giants, but an alarming rise in manta and mobula ray hunting could threaten the very existence of the species.

From India to Ecuador, manta and mobula fishing has become big business for fisheries who are selling their gills to be used in soups and traditional Chinese medicine.

Conservationists have warned that demand could soon rival that of the controversial shark fin trade.

The rays are pulled from the ocean, either with fine gill nets or spears, and slaughtered to meet growing demand, mainly from the Chinese market.

Chinese practitioners believe the consumption of gills helps reduce toxins in the blood by purifying and cooling it, reducing body temperature and aiding blood circulation.

A belief that these gills boost the body's immune system, especially when swine and bird flu make daily headlines, has further boosted demand.

One kilogram of gill rakers from a mature Indonesian manta sells for up to $200 in the dried seafood markets of China.

Manta and mobula hunting has become big business because they are easy to catch.

But conservationists are concerned that because of overfishing the rays might be facing extinction before scientists are able to fully uncover all of the mysteries they hold. (read more)

United Nations: Fight water scarcity by saving forests

The UN-backed Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) is urging nations to conserve their forests in a bid to mitigate rising water scarcity problems.

"[Forests] reduce the effects of floods, prevent soil erosion, regulate the water table and assure a high-quality water supply for people, industry and agriculture," said the Forestry Department Assistant Director General, Eduardo Rojas-Briales, with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). "Forests are part of the natural infrastructure of any country and are essential to the water cycle."

In addition, forests reduce the impact of droughts, while preventing desertification and salinization, while loss of tropical rainforests has been shown to decrease local rainfall. In addition, cutting-edge research has even established a link between forest cover and winds delivering rainfall, one that remains quite controversial.

"The management of water and forests are closely linked and require innovative policy solutions which take into account the cross-cutting nature of these vital resources", Jan McAlpine, Director of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat, said.

According to the UN, one-third of the world's largest cities depend on forested areas for their water. (read more)

Sydney's heavy weather: six weeks' rain in a day

Sydney has switched from its driest start to the year since 1965 to one of its wettest weeks in March after up to 200 millimetres of rain fell in 24 hours this weekend - 1½ times the monthly average, a meteorologist says.

The rain is expected to continue until Wednesday morning before skies clear and temperatures rise again, Brett Dutschke at weatherzone.com.au said.

But the weakening of La Nina and the cooling of waters offshore also mean that the heavy rains are not expected to stretch into the rest of autumn and winter, Mr Dutschke said.

Motorists can expect significant delays in parts of Sydney and the Illawarra after the heavy rain caused flooding, Transport NSW says. (read more)

British accountant charged with kidnap and murder of girl, 6, he 'snatched to make porn videos' - 1st April 2011

A British accountant and his Filipina girlfriend have been charged with the kidnap and murder of a six year old girl snatched from outside a school for their 'cyber-sex' business.

Ian Charles Griffiths, 48, from south west London and his 35-year-old girlfriend Bella Santos are alleged to have taken the child on the Phillipines island of Cebu to make porn videos.

Police in Cebu City say the couple kidnapped six-year-old Ellah Joy Pique so they could exploit her as part of their online sex operation.

The girl's body was found at the foot of a cliff on February 8 the same day the couple left Cebu on a flight bound for Hong Kong.

Both are reported to have since returned to Cebu but Griffiths again left the country after police closed their investigation into another couple suspected of the kidnap and killing.

Investigators had been concentrating their attention on a Norwegian man and his partner for the same offence. They have ruled them out.

Warrants were today issued for both Griffiths, who is believed to be in Hong Kong, and Santos, currently in Makati, a district of Manila.

Police said they have witnesses who allege that they saw Griffiths in his car at the cliffside.

They say he was seen getting out of the vehicle, opening the back door before removing something wrapped in a white fabric that he then dropped off a nearby cliff. Read More

Afghan officials: 8 killed at UN office when Qur’an burning protest turns violent - 1st April 2011

KABUL — Eight foreigners were killed Friday after demonstrators protesting a reported burning of the Muslim holy book stormed a U.N. office in northern Afghanistan, opening fire on guards and setting fires inside the compound, a top Afghan police official said.

The topic of Qur’an burning stirred outrage among millions of Muslims and others worldwide after a small American church in Florida threatened to destroy the holy book last year. The Florida pastor had backed down but purportedly went through with the burning last month, prompting protests in three Afghan cities.

Munir Ahmad Farhad, a spokesman in Balkh province, said the protest in Mazar-i-Sharif began peacefully when several hundred demonstrators gathered outside the U.N. mission's compound to denounce the Qur’an's destruction.

It turned violent when some protesters grabbed weapons from the U.N. guards and opened fire on the police, then stormed the building, he said. "I can see the smoke over the compound," he said. Read More

Brits Told To Leave Yemen As Security Worsens - 31st Mar 2011

The Foreign Office has strongly urged all British nationals to leave Yemen "in light of the rapid deterioration in the security situation".

Britons are being encouraged to get out of the middle eastern country while commercial airlines are still flying, ahead of pro-democracy protests on Friday that may result in violent clashes.

It has been advising against all travel to Yemen since March 4 and urging British nationals to leave immediately since March 12.

A Foreign Office statement said: "We urge all parties in Yemen to exercise the utmost restraint and take all steps necessary to defuse tension on the ground.

"We call on all parties to make urgent progress in implementing much needed political and economic reform. Read More

Libyan opposition leader: rebels will accept cease-fire if Gadhafi pulls forces from cities - 1st Apr 2011

BENGHAZI, Libya — A Libyan opposition leader says the rebels will accept a U.N.-demanded cease-fire if Moammar Gadhafi pulls his forces from all cities and allows peaceful protests.

Mustafa Abdul-Jalil spoke Friday during a joint press conference with U.N. envoy Abdelilah Al-Khatib. Al-Khatib is visiting the rebels’ de-facto stronghold of Benghazi in hopes of reaching a cease-fire and political solution to the crisis embroiling the North African nation.

Abdul-Jalil says the rebels’ condition for a cease fire is “that the Gadhafi brigades and forces withdraw from inside and outside Libyan cities to give freedom to the Libyan people to choose and the world will see that they will choose freedom.” Source

Sales of doomsday nuclear bunkers soar 1000% after devastating Japan tsunami - 1st Apr 2011

Sales doomsday bunkers have soared 1000 per cent since Japan's catastrophic earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.

A 137,000sq ft bunker - designed to house 950 people for one year - is currently being built under the grasslands of Nebraska.

Vivos, the California-based company behind it, is taking $5,000 (£3,100) deposits, which will have to be topped up to $25,000 (£15,600) to secure a place.

Once finished the bunker complex will feature four levels of residential suites, a dental and medical center, kitchens, pet kennels, a bakery, a prayer room, a fully stocked wine cellar and even a prison to detain any misbehaving residents.

There will also be a 350ft tall lookout tower so residents can see what is going on around them.

'People are afraid of the earth-changing events and ripple effects of the earthquake, which led to tsunamis, the nuclear meltdown, and which will lead to radiation and health concerns,' said Vivos CEO Robert Vicino. Read More

Stanford Prison Experiment - Most EVIL HUMAN Experiments - 1st Apr 2011

Stanford Prison Experiment: The Stanford prison experiment was a psychological study of human responses to captivity and its behavioral effects on both authorities and inmates in prison. The experiment was conducted in 1971 by a team of researchers led by psychologist Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University. Undergraduate volunteers played the roles of both guards and prisoners living in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building.

Stink bug epidemic spreads as 33 U.S. states now report infiltrations of the smelly pest - 31st Mar 2011

Few of us ever come to terms with the idea of bed bugs infesting their house and home.

But now a new threat is on the rise that is arguably worse - stink bugs.

Sightings of the brown marmorated stink bug have been reported in 33 states so far this year, a rise of eight since fall alone.

The pest appears to be spreading from its traditional home in the mid-Atlantic coast throughout America, experts said.

The only areas to escape the epidemic are the Rockies and the Plains but everywhere else homeowners have found thousands of the dime-sized creatures infesting their homes in beds and in sofas.

Stink bugs are named after the smell they emit whenever they are squashed or crushed.

Like bed bugs they do not transmit disease and are not poisonous.

They do however bite you, eat your plants and vegetables and emit an appalling stench when they are squeezed that resembles decaying garbage. Read More

The brown marmorated stink bug - or Halyomorpha halys - is not native to the U.S.

U.S. - Schoolchildren gave each other ‘flu jabs’ with syringe they found in playground - 1st Apr 2011

Two schoolchildren had to be taken to hospital after giving each other 'flu jabs' with a syringe one of them found in a playground.

One of the youngsters had picked it up on his way to school and used it to give his friend a pretend flu shot in a game of 'doctor'.

Both children were pricked with the needle at the elementary school in Lynn, Massachusetts.

The school only heard about what had happened when a girl from the school handed her teacher a note telling them that other pupils had a needle.

The head teacher contacted the police and an investigation was launched.

Pupils across the area are now being given lessons on the dangers of picking up needles in a bid to stop it from happening again. Read More

Girl, 15, airlifted to hospital after being stabbed as she arrived at school - 1st Apr 2011

A teenage girl has been airlifted to hospital after suffering stab wounds in an incident outside a secondary school, police said today.

West Midlands Police arrested an 18-year-old man at the scene of the incident, which happened at about 8.40am near Ridgewood High School in the Wollaston area of Stourbridge.

Initial indications suggest that the victim, who is believed to be about 15, has been seriously injured, a police spokesman said.

The police spokesman said: 'Officers received an emergency call at 8.42am today after a girl had sustained injuries, believed to be stab wounds, outside Ridgewood High School, on Park Road West.

'The girl has been airlifted to hospital for treatment. The girl's family have been informed and are en route to hospital.'

The man who was arrested was detained by witnesses at the scene and was arrested when police arrived shortly afterwards. Read More

From today, only the English have to pay for prescriptions (and no, that's not an April Fool's joke!) - 1st Apr 2011

Scottish patients can collect free prescriptions from today – leaving England as the only country in the UK still charging for them.

English patients will be charged £7.40 for every item prescribed by a doctor – an increase of 20p – but Scotland today joins Wales and Northern Ireland in abolishing the charges.

The move means that English patients are effectively subsiding free drugs for those living elsewhere in the UK

Doctors and charities claim the charges are ‘absurd’ and could potentially cost lives as poorer people may be discouraged from getting vital drugs.

It is also further evidence of a medical apartheid in Britain which sees patients in the devolved nations benefiting from higher spending on healthcare per head, even though they pay less tax.

Read More

Raining dead birds in Forest Hill - 30th Mar 2011

The first time Kelly Brecht of Forest Hill found seven dead birds in her yard last year, she freaked.

‘I thought it was a sign from God that I was being bad,” she said. “I like birds, I have bird feeders. I was really freaking.”

This year, within the last few weeks, she’s had “triple, quadruple the number of dead birds. And stray cats are opening them up and eating them.”

One neighbor cleaned up two garbage bags full of the dead birds, she said.

They are all starlings and they aren’t the most popular of the species..

Starlings aren’t native to the U.S. and they arrived here in a very curious way.

“The European starling was brought to America in the early 1890s by an eccentric Shakespeare fan determined to introduce all the birds mentioned by the Bard on American shores,” John C. Ryan wrote in a piece for the Christian Science Monitor published in 2003. “He released 100 into New York’s Central Park, launching one of the most successful alien-species invasions ever documented.” Source


Bank raises alarm on mortgage bills after shock rise in defaults - 1st Apr 2011

The number of homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgage has jumped and will keep on rising, the Bank of England warned yesterday.

Between January and March, lenders said there had been a surge in homeowners failing to find the money to make their loan repayments.

They told the Bank’s researchers that they expect the problem to get even worse in the coming months.

The Bank published a report yesterday that tightened the pressure even further as it warned of ‘the potential impact of increases’ in interest rates.

Interest rates have been frozen at an all-time low of 0.5 per cent for two years, but are expected to be increased imminently.

Nationwide, Britain’s biggest building society, warned yesterday of its own fears about ‘the squeeze on borrowers’.

Its figures show the average homeowner has a mortgage of £78,000 which costs £455 a month at an interest rate of 2.71 per cent.

But if interest rates return to their pre-crisis levels, the monthly payment of £455 will balloon to £621. Read More

Misplaced trust: 30-foot tsunami wall didn't save Japanese village - 1st April 2011



Ryoishi, Japan (CNN) -- Kawasaki Takeshi tried to hide his eyes as he breaks down. He is reliving the moment the "great wave" chased him and his wife into the hills.

His shock is even more raw as this wasn't supposed to happen here. Not in the small fishing village of Ryoishi where a 9 meter (30 foot) tsunami wall used to dominate the landscape.

This is not the first tsunami to devastate this area. One hundred years ago a tidal wave wiped the village out and is believed to have killed 90% of its residents.

This time it was supposed to be different but the force of the water bulldozed a path through one part of the wall and simply came over the top of it in other parts destroying everything in its path. Read More

Report: Libya Sends Envoy To UK 'For Talks' - 1st Apr 2011

Libya has sent a senior aide of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's son to London for talks with British officials, according to the Guardian newspaper.

Citing unidentified government sources, the newspaper said Mohammed Ismail, an aide to Saif al Islam Gaddafi, visited London in recent days in what it said was one of many contacts between Libya and the West in the past two weeks.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman neither confirmed nor denied the report, saying: "We are not going to provide a running commentary on our contact with Libyan officials."

She added: "In any contact that we do have, we make it clear that Gaddafi has to go."

On Wednesday, Libyan foreign minister Musa Kusa, one of Col Gaddafi's closet advisers, defected and flew by charted executive jet from Tunisia to London. Read More

Now 12 more of Gaddafi's tyrant men head to Britain: Regime faces collapse as 'dirty dozen' follow Musa Kusa - 1st Apr 2011

A 'dirty dozen' of senior Libyan officials are expected to follow Musa Kusa and defect from Colonel Gaddafi’s inner circle, leaving his regime on the verge of collapse.

Security sources claimed last night that two senior ministers in the Libyan government with long-standing links to the UK were already in Tunis discussing terms with British and French intelligence officers.

Rumours were swirling that Gaddafi’s head of intelligence and his Europe minister are also on the run.

And another group of six or seven ministers, diplomats and officials had driven into Tunisia with no intention of returning.

Ali al-Treiki, Gaddafi’s minister for Africa, announced in Cairo yesterday that he too had cut his contacts with the regime.

Officials in London were checking reports last night that Tarek Khalid Ibrahim, the deputy head of mission in London, is also defecting.

At least six more of Gaddafi’s senior officials have spoken with British intelligence agents and their sources about following Kusa and defecting to the UK.

Security sources say that around 12 senior members of the regime ‘have put out feelers’ to jump ship.

French and Italian intelligence are also understood to be in touch with senior figures about fleeing into exile. Read More

Deadly volcano that's one of the most dangerous on Earth... but scientists can't predict when it will erupt as it's in the middle of a war zone

Mount Nyiragongo is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world - and scientists say it is only a matter of time before it makes the city below a modern day Pompeii.

But they don't know when since, located as it is in the war-torn eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the two mile high cauldron of lava is also one of the least well understood.

At the base of Nyiragongo sprawls Goma, a city of an estimated one million people, numbers swelling by the day as villagers from the countryside seek refuge from rebel and government forces.

Twice in recent years Nyiragongo's eruptions have hit the city, destroying homes and sending residents fleeing. But now, seismologists believe, the risk is not just near the city, but directly beneath it. Read More

Updates on Fukushima -- Fairewinds Associates, Inc -- March 31, 2011

'We will die if it is necessary to save the nation': Members of the Fukushima 50 expect to perish from radiation sickness 'within weeks' - 1st Apr'11

The mother of one of the workers who are battling to stop a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant said today that they all expect to die from radiation sickness 'within weeks'.

The so-called Fukushima 50 are all repeatedly being exposed to dangerously high radioactive levels as they attempt to restore vital cooling systems following the earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

And speaking tearfully through an interpreter by phone, the mother of a 32-year-old worker told Fox News: 'My son and his colleagues have discussed it at length and they have committed themselves to die if necessary to save the nation.

'He told me they have accepted they will all probably die from radiation sickness in the short term or cancer in the long-term.'

'They have concluded between themselves that it is inevitable some of them may die within weeks or months. They know it is impossible for them not to have been exposed to lethal doses of radiation.'

The woman spoke to the network on the condition of anonymity because plant workers had been asked by management not to communicate with the media or share details with family members in order to minimize panic. Read More

Ivory Coast Leader 'Cornered In His Palace' - 1st Apr 2011

Ivory Coast's president, whose refusal to step down after losing an election has triggered bloody battles, is said to be cornered following a series of attacks by rebel forces.

UN-certified results showed Laurent Gbagbo lost the poll on November 28, and the international community recognises Alassane Ouattara as the man who should be leading the country.

Supporters of both men have clashed in the months that followed, killing hundreds of people and reigniting the civil war of 2002-3.

Earlier this week, Mr Ouattara's forces advanced from several directions, taking the capital, Yamoussoukro, and the cocoa port of San Pedro with little resistance.

They are now in charge of an estimated 80% of the troubled West African country.

A spokesman for the Ouattara camp said his fighters had now attacked Mr Gbagbo's home in Abidjan and seized control of Ivory Coast's state television. Read More

The 'quadrators' Robots - Most Amazing Inventions In The World - 30th Mar 2011



They have already conquered man at chess and general knowledge quiz shows.

Now robots have taken their next step towards world domination - by mastering juggling.

Scientists have created floating platforms that are able to keep a ball in the air by bouncing it between them.

In an incredible video posted on YouTube, the robots - which look like those in the 1987 sci-fi film Batteries Not Included - bat the ball up in the air to each other with ease.

One clip shows a rally of 20 hits between two of them, while another shows a robot playing ‘keep up’ with a tennis ball on its own.

In an incredible video posted on YouTube, the robots - which look like those in the 1987 sci-fi film Batteries Not Included - bat the ball up in the air to each other with ease.

One clip shows a rally of 20 hits between two of them, while another shows a robot playing ‘keep up’ with a tennis ball on its own. Read More

Phivolcs warns of high carbon dioxide levels at Taal Volcano crater - 1st April 2011

Citing records showing increased carbon dioxide levels in the area, state volcanologists warned visitors and tourists Friday against venturing near the crater of Taal Volcano – a popular summer tourist attraction in Batangas province.

Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) head Renato Solidum Jr. said carbon dioxide levels in March were more than four times higher that those recorded last year.

“Masyadong mataas ang carbon dioxide na lumalabas sa kanyang crater. Last year 1,000 tons per day, tumaas nitong taong ito. Since January, 2,000 tons per day at sa March 4,600 tons per day," Solidum said in an interview on dzBB radio.

He said this was due to magma underground releasing gas.

“Ang aming reminder huwag pumasok ang mga tao, turista o sinuman sa crater ng volcano kasi delikado (We are reminding the public, especially tourists, not to get close to the crater," he said. Read More

BREAKING NEWS: 37 scientists are discovered missing at CERN'S LHC (Large Hadron Collider), prompting emergency EU investigation

MORE DETAILS FORTHCOMING.

In a startling revelation that CERN's Large Hadron Collider may not have been as safe as once claimed, the European Union has hastily established an emergency investigatory unit to look into the disappearance of 37 scientists working at the facility.

The scientists, ranging from physicists to engineering specialists, carried out a variety of functions at the LHC, but all remarkably possessed the same job characteristic -- they were working close to the collider itself.

But that's just the beginning of what promises to be a dark revelation -- after inquiring with staff at the LHC facility prior to CERN's media blackout, one of the workers on the condition of anonymity responded with a series of startling written statements:

"[The lawyers] who had originally tried to stop work at the site were half right and half wrong. No, [the LHC] does not create black holes that will swallow planets. Yes, it does create black holes big enough to cause matter to dematerialize and possibly transport, but we are uncertain as to where. You recall the small group of accidents delaying [the LHC's] work and start up. These were not accidents. [The LHC] was operational. Small components were disappearing, prompting the breakdown and delays. The collider is made to detect the smallest of particles, so these components that had malfunctioned were not debris or melted. They were simply gone."

But even more surprising was the comment that followed:

"CERN is not new. There is nothing new here. We are not conducting ground breaking experiments. We are simply recreating past explorations. I would even call our work derivative."

After requesting further information to back up such claims, no details were obtainable due to CERN's PR team announcing a media blackout pending the investigation's completion, a blackout so thorough that even the news bulletin on CERN's website was pulled within minutes of it being published.

However, further prodding prompted a starting discovery.

In German news archives from 1942 sits a blood-chillingly similar incident in which an experiment in advanced electronics foreshadowed the disappearance of 89 scientists whose team was lead by none other than the engineering master himself, Wernher Von Braun.

Von Braun was the infamous former Nazi and rocket scientist whose expertise had been gobbled up by the west upon the fall of Hitler's regime, which many believe led to the United State's victory in the subsequent space race with the Soviets.

Volkischer Beobachter Archive Photo, dated July 28, 1942

Some notable, if not incredible, quotes from the July 28, 1942 issue of the Volkischer Beobachter include these translated statements by on-site Polish mechanic, Adalbert Buchalski:

“Something happened, I cant explain it... one minute they were there. I don’t know, the next they were gone... it's the machine.”

The article also mentions that Mr. Buchalski said the group's achievements and subsequent disappearances went as follows:

"The scientists started disappearing once they successfully broke the speed of light and collided the protons."

Could a simple mechanic know such things? Mr Guthrie Eberstark, the floor supervisor at the time of the incident, left a comment harkening back to a more absurd, almost surreal political era when asked about the mechanic: “He is an uneducated fool and most likely a spy.”

We want to know: War-era news or political propaganda piece used to ferret out would-be wrongdoers? Nazi SS or scientific excess?

Back in the present, many questions are being begged, such as, where are the missing 37 scientists? Are they still alive? What's really taking place at the LHC, a facility so large that it spans three national borders and takes enough electricity for a city to operate?

We plan to keep you updated on this unfolding incident, and if any of our European readers can provide further information on the pending investigation, please contact us via the contact page so that we can keep everyone updated. (read more)

April Fool's, everyone! With all the seriousness the The Coming Crisis tackles on a daily basis, we've decided to allow ourselves just one article (out of the thousands we plan to post) a year on April 1st to liven things up, and to push the message that the question mark (?) is a person's most powerful weapon. Thank you all for taking part, and for being dedicated readers -- you are the reason why this site exists!