Driven by a painful mix of layoffs and rising food and fuel prices, the number of Americans receiving food stamps is projected to reach 28 million in the coming year, the highest level since the aid program began in the 1960s.The number of recipients, who must have near-poverty incomes to qualify for benefits averaging $100 a month per family member, has fluctuated over the years along with economic conditions, eligibility rules, enlistment drives and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, which led to a spike in the South.
But recent rises in many states appear to be resulting mainly from the economic slowdown, officials and experts say, as well as inflation in prices of basic goods that leave more families feeling pinched. Citing expected growth in unemployment, the Congressional Budget Office this month projected a continued increase in the monthly number of recipients in the next fiscal year, starting Oct. 1 – to 28 million, up from 27.8 million in 2008, and 26.5 million in 2007.
The percentage of Americans receiving food stamps was higher after a recession in the 1990s, but actual numbers are expected to be higher this year.
THE SUBPRIME mortgage crisis that pushed homeowners into foreclosure and forced the Federal Reserve to bail out investment banker Bear Stearns has also sent state and local governments across the country scrambling to refinance municipal bonds before they are hit with exorbitant interest rates.At the center of the storm are long-term variable-interest bonds known as “auction-rate securities.” Unlike traditional fixed-rate bonds, the interest rates on these securities are reset every 7, 28 or 35 days through an auction process.
Historically, the rate paid has been less than on traditional bonds, making the national $160-billion auction-rate market a reliable source of cheap financing.
But that market has collapsed in the past two months, sending interest rates climbing. As a result, California, Richmond, the Bay Area Toll Authority, the East Bay Municipal Utility District and Sacramento County are among countless government agencies forced to restructure their bond debts. Continue reading »
A dangerous new fungus with the ability to destroy entire wheat fields has been detected in Iran, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported today.
The wheat stem rust, whose spores are carried by wind across continents, was previously found in East Africa and Yemen and has moved to Iran, which said that laboratory tests have confirmed its presence in some localities in Broujerd and Hamedan in the country’s west.
Up to 80 per cent of all Asian and African wheat varieties are susceptible to the fungus, and major wheat-producing nations to Iran’s east – such as Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan – should be on high alert, FAO warned.
“The fungus is spreading rapidly and could seriously lower wheat production in countries at direct risk,” said Shivaji Pandey, Director of FAO’s Plant Production and Protection Division.
He urged the control of the rust’s spread to lower the risk to countries already impacted by high food prices.
Iran has said that it will bolster its research capacity to tackle the new fungus and develop wheat varieties that are rust-resistant.
Called Ug99, the disease first surfaced in Uganda and subsequently spread to Kenya and Ethiopia, with both countries experiencing serious crop yield losses due to a serious rust epidemic last year. Also in 2007, FAO confirmed that a more virulent strain was found in Yemen.
Sure, maybe it was carried by the wind — and maybe the fungus was introduced by man. Not so much a conspiracy theory when history is taken into account. For instance, back in 1977, the San Francisco Chroniclereported the CIA dispatched “anti-Castro terrorists” to introduce “African swine fever virus into Cuba in 1971…. Six weeks later an outbreak of the disease forced the slaughter of 500,000 pigs to prevent a nationwide animal epidemic.” It was so scary that the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization labeled the outbreak the “most alarming event” of 1971.Continue reading »
Defense establishment, government and cabinet all to participate in exercise simulating crisis situation as part of upcoming national emergency drill to be held in April. Drill part of implementation of lessons from Second Lebanon War. Continue reading »
Forget genetically modified crops, the great environmental concerns of the future should be nanomaterials, manmade viruses and biomimetic robots.
So say researchers, policymakers and environmental campaigners, who have identified 25 potential future threats to the environment in the UK, which they say researchers should focus on.
In addition to well-publicised risks such as toxic nanomaterials, the acidification of the ocean and increasingly frequent extreme weather events, the list includes some more outlandish possibilities. These include:
” Biomimetic robots that could become new invasive species.
” Experiments involving climate engineering, for instance ocean ‘fertilisation’ and deploying solar shields
” Increased demand for the biomass needed to make biofuel.
” Disruption to marine ecosystems caused by offshore power generation.
” Experiments to control invasive species using genetically engineered viruses. Continue reading »
North Korea threatened South Korea with destruction Sunday after Seoul’s top military officer said his country would consider attacking the communist nation if it tried to carry out a nuclear attack. Continue reading »
More fighting in Iraq. Somalia in chaos. People in this country can’t afford their mortgages and in some places now they can’t even afford rice.None of this nor the rest of the grimness on the front page today will matter a bit, though, if two men pursuing a lawsuit in federal court in Hawaii turn out to be right. They think a giant particle accelerator that will begin smashing protons together outside Geneva this summer might produce a black hole or something else that will spell the end of the Earth – and maybe the universe.
Scientists say that is very unlikely – though they have done some checking just to make sure.
The world’s physicists have spent 14 years and $8 billion building the Large Hadron Collider, in which the colliding protons will recreate energies and conditions last seen a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Researchers will sift the debris from these primordial recreations for clues to the nature of mass and new forces and symmetries of nature.
But Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a “strangelet” that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called “strange matter.” Their suit also says CERN has failed to provide an environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said on Sunday that Damascus was prepared for all scenarios in its worsening relationship with Washington, including the use of US military force.
“A prudent person must make all his calculations, especially when we have to deal with an administration which knows how to strike but does not know how to withdraw,” Muallem told reporters at the end of an Arab summit in Damascus.
He was referring to Iraq where almost 160,000 American troops are stationed five years after invading the country to overthrow president Saddam Hussein. More than 4,000 US soldiers have died since.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem chairs a meeting of Arab Foreign Ministers in Damascus on March 27. (AFP/File/Louai Beshara) Continue reading »
Brain expert warns of huge rise in tumours and calls on industry to take immediate steps to reduce radiation.Mobile phones could kill far more people than smoking or asbestos, a study by an award-winning cancer expert has concluded. He says people should avoid using them wherever possible and that governments and the mobile phone industry must take “immediate steps” to reduce exposure to their radiation.
The study, by Dr Vini Khurana, is the most devastating indictment yet published of the health risks.
Since the start of the Global War on Terrorism, the Pentagon has taken steps to expand the role of the United States Special Operations Command and its forces. In response, the Command has transformed its headquarters to coordinate counterterrorism activities, while the Defense Department has increased funding and the number of special operations forces positions.
Although Pentagon plans to significantly increase the number of special operations forces personnel, the Special Operations Command has not yet fully determined all of the personnel requirements needed to meet its expanded mission. Continue reading »
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Tatyana Sinitsyna) – Paris is in shock: nuclear giants Atomenergoprom and Toshiba have decided to form an alliance in civilian nuclear power operations, including power plant construction and fuel production. Continue reading »
HANOI – Rising prices and a growing fear of scarcity have prompted some of the world’s largest rice producers to announce drastic limits on the amount of rice they export.The price of rice, a staple in the diets of nearly half the world’s population, has almost doubled on international markets in the last three months. That has pinched the budgets of millions of poor Asians and raised fears of civil unrest.
Shortages and high prices for all kinds of food have caused tensions and even violence around the world in recent months. Since January, thousands of troops have been deployed in Pakistan to guard trucks carrying wheat and flour. Protests have erupted in Indonesia over soybean shortages, and China has put price controls on cooking oil, grain, meat, milk and eggs.
Food riots have erupted in recent months in Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen. But the moves by rice-exporting nations over the last two days – meant to ensure scarce supplies will meet domestic needs – drove prices on the world market even higher this week.
The United States Defence Department has developed a prototype of an aircraft armed with a laser gun that could destroy tanks 10 miles away.
The laser weapon, shown mounted on a modified Lockheed aircraft
The weapon is capable of destroying targets up to 15km (10m) away, according to Defense Update online magazine.
The ten-centimetre-wide beam will heat targets almost instantly to thousands of degrees and will slice through metal even at maximum range. It is intended both for battlefield use and for missile defense.
The weapon can also be fitted on a 747 aircraft to shoot down missiles
It is anticipated the beam will be adjustable, allowing the gunner to choose between, for example, targeting a vehicle’s fuel tank to destroy it utterly, or slice through a tyre to bring it to a halt without injuring the driver.
The laser will be housed in a rotating turret attached to the underside of the aircraft and will be aimed independently of the plane. Early tests have focused on testing the rotation of the laser housing.
The laser is housed in a rotating glass turret, seen here on the front of the aircraft
So far the laser itself has not been tested in flight, but first trials are expected during 2008.
Tests on a laser for destroying vehicles will be carried out on the prototype based on the C-130 “Hercules” transport aircraft. A separate version of the missile will be trialled on a Boeing 747.
By Tom Chivers
Last Updated: 1:13am GMT 29/03/2008
The alternative trading systems are luring big institutional customers by offering greater privacy and lower costs. Their growth could affect big exchanges.It’s not easy being a big player in the stock market. Trading huge quantities of stock on traditional exchanges has become ever more challenging, costly, and potentially disruptive. And if other players see your moves, they can disrupt your trades. That’s led to the emergence in recent years of alternative trading systems known as dark pools. And their growth could have significant implications for big stock exchanges-and individual investors. Continue reading »
Washington: The new 5 million dollars medical and surgical simulation training centre located at the Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center in East Baltimor, which opened in March, has some very unique new staff members – robots.
The ‘sim’ centre contains two fully operational ORs, two intensive care units (ICUs), high-fidelity computerized mannequins that mimic physiologic and behavioural response to procedures, and 12 examination rooms where students practice routine exams on actors posing as patients with particular complaints and symptoms. Continue reading »
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Imagine that your home was reduced to mold-covered wood framing by Hurricane Katrina.
Desperate for money to rebuild, you engage in a frustrating bureaucratic process, and after months of living in a government-provided trailer that gives off formaldehyde fumes you finally win a federal grant.
Then a collector announces that you have to pay back thousands of dollars.
Nasdaq is set to launch tomorrow what its executives are calling one of the most significant developments on Wall Street in decades — a private stock market for super-wealthy investors.Minimum requirement for traders: $100 million in assets.
Any private firm can list on Nasdaq’s new platform, which is called the Portal Market, and raise money by selling stock to an elite group of shareholders. These companies would remain private and not have to make public their financial statements or submit to federal regulation, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate accountability law. Continue reading »
· Old stock sent to Afghan forces battling Taliban
· 40-year-old ammunition had to be destroyed
The Pentagon entrusted a 22-year-old previously arrested for domestic violence and having a forged driving licence to be the main supplier of ammunition to Afghan forces at the height of the battle against the Taliban, it was reported yesterday.
AEY, essentially a one-man operation based in an unmarked office in Miami Beach, Florida, was awarded a contract worth $300m (£150m) to supply the Afghan army and police in January last year. But as the New York Times reported in a lengthy investigation, AEY’s president, Efraim Diversoli, 22, supplied stock that was 40 years old and rotting packing material.
“Much of the ammunition comes from the ageing stockpiles of the old communist bloc, including stockpiles that the state department and Nato have determined to be unreliable and obsolete, and have spent millions of dollars to have destroyed,” the paper said. Continue reading »
The increasing costs of production and the falling farm prices that go hand in hand with globalisation and corporate hijack of seed supply, combined with the decline in farm credit is putting an unbearable debt burden on farmers. The lure of huge profits linked with clever advertising strategies evolved by the seeds and chemical industries are forcing farmers into a chemical treadmill and a debt trap. It has been witnessed that across the country, farmers are taking the desperate step of ending their life. The pesticides, which had created debt, also became the source of ending indebted lives. More than 150,000 farmers have committed suicide in India due to distortions introduced in agriculture as a result of trade liberalisation. More than 20,000 farmers have committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh alone.
Larry A. Silverstein, who has won nearly $4.6 billion in insurance payments to cover his losses and help him rebuild at the World Trade Center site, is seeking $12.3 billion in damages from airlines and airport security companies for the 9/11 attack.Mr. Silverstein, the developer of ground zero, sought the damages, whose amount was not previously known, in a claim filed in 2004, that says the airlines and airport security companies failed to prevent terrorists from hijacking the planes used to destroy the buildings.
His case was consolidated last week with similar, earlier lawsuits brought by families of some victims of the attack and by other property owners. But in seeking $12.3 billion, he is by far the biggest claimant in the litigation. Continue reading »
STRASBOURG, France, March 9 (UPI) — Plans are being made for the installation of an information storage bank on the moon, experts said at a science meeting Strasbourg, France.The so-called“Doomsday ark” would provide the tools for the reconstruction of the human race in case civilization is ever destroyed, The Sunday London Times reported.
Germany and other industrialized nations are desperately trying to brace themselves against the threat of a collapse of the global financial system. The crisis has now taken its toll on the German economy, where the weak dollar is putting jobs in jeopardy and the credit crunch is paralyzing many businesses.
A trader reacts in front of the DAX board at the Frankfurt stock exchange.
The Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, doesn’t like to see its employees working too late, and it expects even senior staff members to be headed home by 8 p.m. On weekends, employees seeking to escape the confines of their own homes are required to sign in at the front desk and are accompanied to their own desks by a security guard. Sensitive documents are kept in safes in many offices, and a portion of Germany’s gold reserves is stored behind meter-thick, reinforced concrete walls in the basement of a nearby building. In this environment, working overtime is considered a security risk.But the ordinary working day has been in disarray in recent weeks at the Bundesbank headquarters building, a gray, concrete box in Frankfurt’s Ginnheim neighborhood, where the crisis on international financial markets has many employees working late, even on weekends. Continue reading »
“The Fed would have the authority to go wherever in the system it thinks it needs to go for a deeper look to preserve stability,” Mr. Paulson said in the advance text of Monday’s speech. “To do this effectively, it will collect information from commercial banks, investment banks, insurance companies, hedge funds, commodity pool operators.”
WASHINGTON – The Treasury Department will propose on Monday that Congress give the Federal Reserve broad new authority to oversee financial market stability, in effect allowing it to send SWAT teams into any corner of the industry or any institution that might pose a risk to the overall system.
The proposal is part of a sweeping blueprint to overhaul the nation’s hodgepodge of financial regulatory agencies, which many experts say failed to recognize rampant excesses in mortgage lending until after they set off what is now the worst financial calamity in decades. Continue reading »
9/11 was an inside job, an catalyst event that was created to secure the oil in Iraq, take away your civil liberties, completely undermine your constitutional rights, destroy the middle class in the US and accelerate the New World Order.
It’s all about Problem-Reaction-Solution:
They created the problem (9/11).
The people reacted as expected (allowing to trade in freedom for security).
They then present the solution they wanted to implement in the first place (Patriot Act, FEMA, Homeland Security, Presidential Directive 51)
Blackwater, the notorious US security firm whose trigger-happy mercenaries were involved in civilian killings in Iraq and elsewhere, is expanding its lucrative business pitch into UN peacekeeping missions, hiding behind a mystique, off-shore affiliate called Greystone.
“In his most ambitious moments, [founder and owner Erik] Prince has set out a vision in which his companies would act as for-profit peacekeepers, working with the UN and other international organizations in conflict areas around the world,” the US magazine Mother Jones reveals in its March/April issue.
Prince, a former Navy SEAL, is repositioning his mercenaries as peacekeepers and relief forces.
If you think identity theft is bad now, wait until something called the Real ID Act goes into effect. This law federalizes and standardizes state driver’s licenses for all 50 states, and it will result in something that has been resisted in this country for a long time — a de facto national identity card.
The Real ID Act was pushed through Congress in 2005 with little meaningful debate. It imposes sweeping changes on state driver’s licenses that will result in significant new fees and hassles for everyone who needs a license or ID – not to mention posing a new threat to Americans’ privacy. And, our experience suggests that if Real ID becomes the standard for driver’s licenses, it will worsen the problem of identity theft.
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) has worked with thousands of ID theft victims, providing them with information and assistance in regaining their financial health. It usually takes months to repair the damage that ID thieves are able to cause in just a few minutes – if there’s an especially aggressive thief, it can take a year, even more.And during that time you’re in credit limbo. You can’t get a credit card, take out a loan, refinance your home – or if you do, the cost of your credit is much higher than it otherwise would be.
(The ID has RFID (radio frequency identification) chips embedded in it! – The Infinite Unknown)Continue reading »