Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rothschild loses libel case, and reveals secret world of money and politics

Thanks to billionaire's legal battle, we now know a lot more about how the super-rich work.

With his long limbs and delicate gait, Lord Mandelson could no doubt manage a quite convincing turn in Thunderbirds.

He'd find Jeff Tracy most convivial: a billionaire astronaut with his own Pacific island, and now, it seems, he even has his own camera-shy friend to pull the strings.

According to the High Court, Nathaniel Rothschild, scion of the banking dynasty and friend of seemingly everyone in the spheres of finance, business and politics, is indeed "puppet master" to the Baron of Hartlepool and Foy.

The banker and Bullingdon boy has lost his libel case against the Daily Mail, which he sued for "substantial damages" over its account of his and Mr Mandelson's extraordinary trip to Russia in January 2005.

Mr Rothschild claimed he was subjected to "sustained and unjustified" attacks in the May 2010 article, which portrayed him as a "puppet master", dangling his friend Lord Mandelson in front of the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to ease the passage of colossal business deals. Read More

How Companies Learn Your Secrets

Andrew Pole had just started working as a statistician for Target in 2002, when two colleagues from the marketing department stopped by his desk to ask an odd question: “If we wanted to figure out if a customer is pregnant, even if she didn’t want us to know, can you do that? ”

Pole has a master’s degree in statistics and another in economics, and has been obsessed with the intersection of data and human behavior most of his life. His parents were teachers in North Dakota, and while other kids were going to 4-H, Pole was doing algebra and writing computer programs. “The stereotype of a math nerd is true,” he told me when I spoke with him last year. “I kind of like going out and evangelizing analytics.”

As the marketers explained to Pole — and as Pole later explained to me, back when we were still speaking and before Target told him to stop. Read More

The Petro Business Cycle

Oil is the lifeblood of modern society, powering over 90% of our transportation fleet on land, sea, and air. Oil is also responsible for 95% of the production of all goods we buy and ultimately drives the natural rhythms of recession and recovery. We define this as the “Petro Business Cycle”

The post-crash world we have inhabited since the credit crisis of 2008 has been defined as “The New Normal.” A term used to describe an economic and market environment much different than the three decades that preceded it. In contrast to the past, the “New Normal” will mean a lower living standard for most Americans. It will be a world of lower economic growth, higher unemployment, stagnant corporate profits, and the heavy hand of government intervention in all aspects in the economy. For investors it will be an environment marked by volatility, zero interest rates, and disappointing equity returns. Read More

Xi Jinping walks the world stage

This is the week of Xi Jinping, China’s vice-president who is inching toward taking up the oars as China’s helmsman by the end of the year at a defining period in China’s modern history as well as in contemporary world politics.

As he travels through the United States, X’s body language and every word he utters — and of his American hosts — will be dissected for meaning as far away as in Tehran, Moscow, New Delhi and Tokyo. Capping it all will be the meeting in the White House on Wednesday with President Barack Obama.

The government newspaper China Daily anticipated that “positive and practical results” could be expected from Xi’s visit. Indeed, much preparation has gone into it. Henry Kissinger lent a big hand — so indeed the Bush family.

The visit sets the tempo of US-China relations for the middle term. Seasoned China watchers in the West predict that Xi will be a confident actor on the world stage.

With an impeccable revolutionary pedigree, Xi makes an unusual combination of great exposure to the West — a daughter studying at Harvard, an older sister living in Canada, a first wife in Britain and a younger brother in Hong Kong — with his staunch nationalism reputed to be sturdier than Hu Jintao’s. Xi is widely travelled and claims a big circle of friends and relatives who live abroad.

But China Daily warned not to make too much out of this “personal issue” in the future trajectory of China-US relations and the “key issue” will be how the two countries resolve their “disputes”. A litany of disputes can be put down on paper — ranging from Syria and Iran on the Middle Eastern chessboard to the security scenario in the Asia-Pacific. Read More

Booming sounds still heard in Amman

AMMAN — Booming sounds continued to be heard in Amman and other central parts of Jordan on Thursday for the second day in a row.

Residents of Amman, Madaba, Salt and the Jordan Valley said they heard the booming sounds on Thursday morning.

The authorities on Wednesday evening blamed the sounds on Israeli demining activities in the Jordan Valley.

"I heard the explosion today around 10.30am. The sound was very strong and some of my children panicked," Rakan Adwan, a resident of Southern Shuneh, which is less than three kilometers away from the King Hussein Bridge at the borders with Israel, told The Jordan Times on Thursday.

"My relatives in the area and friends heard the explosion. We are used to hearing such explosions quite often as we are close to the borders with Israel, but this time the explosions that we heard on Wednesday and Thursday are stronger," Adwan said.

On Wednesday, an informed source said that the sounds of explosions were the result of an “ordinary” activity carried out by the Israelis to remove mines in the area opposite the King Hussein Bridge and the Baptism Site. The source noted that the de-mining activities will continue through Thursday.

Walid Sweilmin, a resident of Shafa Badran in Amman, said he heard the explosions on Wednesday and Thursday. Read More

Paula Barker stole thousands of dollars of money from deployed US Marine son while he was fighting in Afghanistan

ORMOND BEACH, Fla. -

An Ormond Beach woman was arrested Tuesday night on suspicion of stealing $4,000 from her son -- a U.S. Marine -- while he was deployed in Afghanistan.

Paula Barker, 43, was arrested on charges of fraudulent use of personal identification information.

According to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office, Chadwick Barker, who was deployed for more than six months, discovered upon his return home in September that thousands of dollars had been taken from his bank account.

Deputies said Chad Barker suspected his mother of stealing his money, and an investigation was launched.

"I was appalled, shocked and hurt pretty much," Chad Barker said in a phone interview. "I mean what kind of parent does that to their own kid." Read More

Could The Next Generation Live To Be 150?, Experts: Huge Breakthroughs In Science And Technology Could Make It A Reality

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — People in the Tri-State Area are living longer than ever, and if scientists have their way, life expectancies will continue to rise. Technologies today could allow the next generation to live up to 150, but how far should scientists go to allow people to live this long?

Baby Maxwell Jones’ life is just getting started, but if he’s lucky, the hours-old infant could live well into the next century.

“A hundred years, seems a stretch but it’s obviously possible,” his mother told CBS 2′s Kristine Johnson.

More than just possible as some aging experts believe scientific breakthroughs will mean babies born today will live more than 100 years.

Geriatrician Dr. Joyce Fogel says medical advances have already made a huge difference. Read More

Financial Sex Aid: Florida Co-Eds Seek “Sugar Daddy” for College Degree

MIAMI (CBS4) – People who are looking for the perfect match, both men and women, go online seeking a certain kind of arrangement.

A “sugar baby” is typically younger and eager for adventure. A “sugar daddy” is usually an older, financially established provider. A website called www.seekingarrangement.com helps the two meet.

CBS4′s Jorge Estevez found a 22-year old who is looking for her first sugar daddy. She is a Miami student looking for someone to help her pay for her higher education and all the related expenses.

A self-proclaimed, cute blonde who is looking for fun in Fort Lauderdale admits to being a college student looking for some help. Read More

State Dept.: Russia and Iran still arming Bashar al-Assad

Russia and Iran are continuing to send arms to the Syrian regime that can be used against protesters, a top State Department official said today.

"Iran is resupplying Syria and through Syria has supplied weapons to Hezbollah," said Tom Countryman, the assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, at a Wednesday morning breakfast meeting of the Defense Writers Group in Washington.

Countryman's bureau plays a major role in monitoring international compliance with nonproliferation and arms control rules. He declined to go into specifics on what arms Iran and Russia are giving the regime of Bashar al-Assad, but he confirmed that both countries are still supplying arms that can be used to attack civilians and opposition groups inside Syria, who are engaged in an increasingly bloody struggle with the government.

"We do not believe that Russian shipments of weapons to Syria are in the interests of Russia or Syria," he said. Read More

Federal funds flow to clean-energy firms with Obama administration ties

Sanjay Wagle was a venture capitalist and Barack Obama fundraiser in 2008, rallying support through a group he headed known as Clean Tech for Obama.

Shortly after Obama’s election, he left his California firm to join the Energy Department, just as the administration embarked on a massive program to stimulate the economy with federal investments in clean-technology firms.

Following an enduring Washington tradition, Wagle shifted from the private sector, where his firm hoped to profit from federal investments, to an insider’s seat in the administration’s $80 billion clean-energy investment program. Read More

Petco sued for 'accidentally cutting puppy's ear off then GLUING it back on'

A Petco groomer cut off part of a puppy's ear and then tried to cover it up by gluing it back on, claims its devastated owner.

Grandmother Gladys Kapuwi, who is now suing the firm, claims she took Pomerian-Maltese mix Dodo to Petco in Hawaii for a grooming but was left horrified when the puppy was returned with a piece of its ear missing.

She told the HawaiiNewsNow website: '[She] was dried, bloody, was dry blood, everything.

'I noticed that at home, so when I took her to the vet, the doctor had told me it looked like they tried to glue it back.

'I couldn't believe what they did. I started crying because this is our baby, too, you know.'

In a separate case another pet owner Estelle Green claims she picked up her dog to find that the its nails were cut too short and bleeding. Read More

Foreclosures on the Rise Again

After a year-long reprieve from rising foreclosures, the numbers are going up again.

One in every 624 U.S. households received a foreclosure filing in January, up 3 percent from the previous month, according to a new report from RealtyTrac. Foreclosure activity froze in many states in 2011, due to processing delays after fraud, or so-called "Robo-signing," were uncovered in the fall of 2010. The thaw is now on.

"We expect the pattern of increasing foreclosures to continue in the coming months, especially given the finalized mortgage and foreclosure settlement reached in early February between 49 state attorneys general and five of the nation's largest lenders," said RealtyTrac's CEO Brandon Moore in a written release. "Foreclosure activity increased on a year-over-year basis for the first time in more than 12 months in Florida, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania, following a pattern we saw in late 2011 in states such as California, Arizona and Massachusetts." Read More

New American Dream is renting to get rich

(Reuters) - Rich Arzaga owns a luxury home in San Ramon, California, but he's not betting on it as an investment.

The founder and CEO of Cornerstone Wealth Management, who bought the 5,000 sq. ft. property in 2005 for $1.8 million and has spent $500,000 improving it, considers the abode a wonderful place for his family. But ask him to rate his home -- or any home, for that matter -- as a financial investment, and Arzaga balks.

"It's the American Dream to own a home, but whoever said that didn't do the analysis on it," says Arzaga, knowing he's taking a contrarian stance to conventional wisdom.

Examining 250 properties around the U.S., and going through close to 40 client files to project the financial impact of owning real estate versus liquidating it, Arzaga, an adjunct professor in personal finance at the University of California at Berkeley, found that, "100 percent of the time it was better to rent, rather than own." Read More

China Reduces Holdings of U.S. Treasuries to Lowest Level Since June 2010

China, the largest foreign lender to the U.S., reduced its holdings of Treasuries in December to the least since June 2010 amid efforts to assist Europe in addressing its debt crisis.

The world’s second-largest economy decreased its U.S. debt securities by $31.9 billion from November, or 2.8 percent, to $1.11 trillion, according to Treasury Department data released yesterday. Its position in longer-term notes and bonds also fell $32.5 billion, or 2.8 percent, to $1.1 trillion, the least since June 2010. Japan, the second biggest buyer, increased its holding by $3.5 billion to $1.04 trillion.

“We continue to see Chinese Treasury holdings trending lower as they are acting on their desire for diversification and as they may get more involved in the situation in Europe,” said Ian Lyngen, a government bond strategist at CRT Capital Group LLC in Stamford, Connecticut. Read More

DHS: 'CBP Stops Thousands of Unsafe Hair Dryers'

President Obama's border enforcement officials prevented over 13,000 dangerous hair dryers from entering the country, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) trumpeted today.

"U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized thousands of hair dryers recently that were determined to constitute a “substantial product hazard” under U.S. law, for failing to have adequate immersion protection," DHS announced. "The potentially dangerous hair dryers were identified through a nationwide targeting operation by the CBP Import Safety Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center (CTAC)."

CBP seized the hair dryers at the ports of Los Angeles (9,768 hair dryers) and Miami (3,614) because they "lacked shock protection for consumers" in the event of the hair dryers' immersion in water. Read More

The Man who Slipped on the Ice

Music and Hollywood stars support violence against women, rape, child abuse, and by supporting them, so do you: When will it end?

Indonesian farmers: Crisis as usual

(CNN) -- Ask a small farmer in Indonesia about the impact of the global financial crisis on his daily life and he will answer, "Crisis? What crisis?" As farmers, we know what a big crisis is. In 1997, we saw the collapse of the whole economy, driving thousands of unemployed construction and industry workers back to the villages, where their families already had difficulties making ends meet.

But the current situation is different and raises some worrying alarm bells. Although national industry keeps hiring workers and new infrastructure projects continue to pop up, our daily life has worsened on several fronts.

The most noticeable change is the increased pressure on agricultural land. Thousands of small farmers have been evicted from the fields they have cultivated for generations, because local or national authorities are giving concessions to large companies to exploit the land. Read More

Snow damages Colosseum, Medieval churches in Italy

Heavy snow in recent weeks has already wreaked havoc across Europe -- now it is damaging some of the continent's most recognized historic monuments.

The Colosseum in Rome has been forced to shut after small pieces of its walls crumbled away as a result of freezing temperatures.

And buildings in the historic walled town of Urbino -- a UNESCO World Heritage Site -- are reported to be at risk of collapse under the weight of snow, following unprecedented blizzards in the area. Read More

Underwear Bomber' Sentenced To Life In Jail



A Nigerian student who confessed to trying to blow up a US passenger plane headed for Detroit with explosives concealed in his underwear has been jailed for life.

A bomb hidden in the underwear of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, now 25, caused a fire but failed to explode on a Delta Airlines flight carrying 289 people on Christmas Day 2009.

Abdulmutallab was eventually overpowered by passengers and crew on the Northwest Airlines flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. Read More

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake VANUATU - 17th Feb 2012

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck Vanuatu at a depth of 50.5 km (31.4 miles), the quake hit at 01:57:31 UTC Friday 17th February 2012
The epicenter was 40 km (24 miles) West of Isangel, Tanna, Vanuatu
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake CENTRAL MID-ATLANTIC RIDGE - 17th Feb 2012

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck the CENTRAL MID-ATLANTIC RIDGE at a depth of 10.1 km (6.3 miles), the quake hit at 00:22:59 UTC Friday 17th February 2012
The epicenter was 624 km (387 miles) Northeast of Fernando de Noronha, Pernambuco, Brazil
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake OFFSHORE CHIAPAS, MEXICO - 16th Feb 2012

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck offshore Chiapas, Mexico at a depth of 73.5 km (45.7 miles), the quake hit at 20:14:41 UTC Thursday 16th February 2012
The epicenter was 35 km (21 miles) Southwest of Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Surreal kittens say: Happy Birthday, Lynsey!

The U.N. General Assembly passes a nonbinding resolution endorsing Arab League plan for Syria's president to step down

The United Nations General Assembly passed Thursday by an overwhelming margin a nonbinding resolution endorsing the Arab League plan for the Syrian president to step down. The vote was 137 in favor and 12 against, with 17 abstentions.

"Today, the U.N. General Assembly sent a clear message to the people of Syria: the world is with you," said U.S. Ambassador Susan E. Rice in a statement. "Bashar al-Assad has never been more isolated. A rapid transition to democracy in Syria has garnered the resounding support of the international community. Change must now come."

The symbolic resolution that condemns President Bashar al-Assad's violent crackdown in Syria was introduced into the assembly after China and Russia blocked the Security Council from approving enforceable measures aimed at curbing the violence. China and Russia were among the no votes on Thursday.

Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari lashed out at the vote, calling the League of Arab States "broken, both politically and morally." He added that, "If things continue in this manner ... the United Nations will collapse -- morally first and entirely second." more

5.4 million swine flu jabs saved six lives: report

A total of six lives were saved by Sweden's massive swine flu vaccination programme, according to a new report, despite 60 percent of the Swedish population getting vaccinated.

In Sweden, 60 percent of the population was vaccinated against the swine flu in 2009.

A tally carried out by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) after the pandemic had passed found Sweden ended up with a death rate of 0.31 fatalities per 100,000 people.

In Germany, where only eight percent of the population was vaccinated, the fatality figures were the same.

And in Poland, which didn't have any vaccination programme at all, the death rate was only 0.47 per 100,000 , the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper reports.

“We concluded that six fatalities were avoided by the mass vaccination programme,” Lisa Brouwers of the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control (Smittskyddsinstitutet) told the newspaper.

In addition, Sweden has documented 168 cases of vaccine-related side effects, compared to only 29 in Germany. Read More

Hong Kong: No Alarm After Positive Flu Check on Pig

HONG KONG - The Centre for Food Safety has ruled out any cause for alarm after a pig tested positive for the human swine flu virus H1N1.

According to The Standard, the center said the positive sample was found from among 1,500 pigs at the Sheung Shui slaughterhouse during a regular surveillance programme that took place from mid-October until January.

It added that the virus, which caused the 2009 pandemic, does not pose any public health or food safety risk.

The center said 27 samples which contained the swine flu virus had also picked up some genes of the human swine influenza virus.

From these samples two were detected as having the swine influenza H3N2, while the remaining 25 samples had H1N2.

University of Hong Kong microbiologist Malik Peiris is in charge of the surveillance programme.

He said the detection of the pandemic H1N1 virus in pigs is not a surprise, given the wide transmission of the pandemic virus in humans. Read More

Vietnam reports first human case of H3N2 swine flu

The Department of Preventive Health announced on Wednesday that Vietnam has recorded the first human case of swine flu caused by the H3N2 virus, Tuoi Tre reported.

However, the case, a two-year old girl in the southern province of Long An, was minor and there was no evidence that the virus has become transmissible between humans, according to the department under the Ministry of Health.

It said the child became sick last April and recovered later, but since she had strange symptoms, the Ho Chi Minh City Pasteur Institute sent her samples to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further tests.

Tran Thanh Duong, deputy chief of the department, was quoted as saying that so far, Vietnam has yet to record any additional cases of humans infected with H3N2 swine flu.

Like many other flu viruses, H3N2 is transmitted mainly via respiration, making people with weakened immune systems more susceptible to infection, the official said.

H3N2 is one of the subtypes of the influenza A virus found in pigs. More well-known is the H1N1 strand that caused a worldwide pandemic in 2009. Source

Bird flu spreads in Chhukha, Bhutan

The dzongkhag has seen four outbreaks in two months
Just as the report from Bhopal laboratory in India officially confirmed that a bird flu or H5N1 virus had killed the 87 birds in Tshimasham, last December, another outbreak was confirmed in Ramitey, Phuentsholing on February 10.

This is the fourth outbreak reported in the dzongkhag in about two months time.

On February 14, the bird flu surveillance team culled 27 birds (17 adults and 10 chicks) and burnt three coops in Ramitey, about 10km from Phuentsholing.

The tracheal and cloacal samples collected from the dead bird were sent for tests after a poultry owner informed livestock officials about the bird deaths at his backyard farm.

Dr Basant Sharma said two birds died during their investigation while another two died the following day in the same farm. All birds tested positive for H5N1.

The 27 birds culled belonged to four farmers. Read More

Mutant Bird Flu: Scientists debate bird flu studies at WHO

Scientists met behind closed doors in Geneva Thursday to discuss whether controversial research on a mutant form of bird flu capable of being spread among humans can be made public.

The two-day gathering at the World Health Organization (WHO) was called to discuss the studies on the H5N1 virus which international scientists halted on January 20, citing fears of devastation if it were to escape the laboratory.

The WHO is expected to report on any decision made at the meeting late Friday.

The 22 participants include the two teams of researchers and representatives of the scientific journals Science and Nature who were asked to withhold publication.

"Participants will discuss the specific circumstances and results of the two studies and will try to reach a consensus about practical actions to resolve the most urgent issues, particularly those related to access to and dissemination of the results of these research studies," the WHO said.

Avian influenza H5N1 is primarily transmitted between birds and very rarely to humans.

Two separate teams of researchers, one in the Netherlands and the other in the United States, found ways late last year to engineer the virus so that it could be transmitted among mammals.

The breakthrough raised alarm that the method could fall into the wrong hands and unleash a massive flu pandemic that could cost millions of lives. Read More