Research Teams Find Missing Oil from Spill

Scientists who were aboard two research vessels studying the Gulf of Mexico oil spill’s impact on sea life have found substantial amounts of oil on the seafloor, contradicting statements by federal officials that the oil had largely disappeared. Oil found in samples ranged from light degraded oil to thick raw crude. A research team on a ship called the Arctic Sunrise, sponsored by the environmental activist group Greenpeace, also turned up traces of oil in sediment samples as well as evidence of chemical dispersants in blue crab larvae and long plumes of oxygen-depleted water emanating from the well site 50 miles off Louisiana’s coast. “Clearly, there appears to be vast volumes of oil present on the seafloor,” said Kevin Yeager, a University of Southern Mississippi assistant professor of marine sciences. He was the chief scientist on the research trip, which ended last week.

  • · Surely our government wouldn’t lie to us about the ongoing effects of the oil spill, would they?

Democrats Backing Fake Tea Party Candidates

Increasingly desperate and fearful of a GOP takeover of Congress, the Democratic Party is secretly supporting fake tea party and other third-party candidates in the hopes of diverting votes from Republican contenders, according to the New York Times. “The efforts are taking place across the country with varying degrees of stealth. And in many cases, they seem to hold as much risk as potential reward for Democrats, prompting accusations of hypocrisy and dirty tricks from Republicans and the third-party movements that are on the receiving end of the unlikely, and sometimes unwelcome, support.” The Times detailed numerous races across the U.S. where a “Tea Party” candidate has been working to siphon votes from the Republican candidate.

  • · Since the so-called Tea Party isn’t a single entity but rather a cohesive cooperative, it is an easy target for dirty politics

Iowa Residents Seek to Oust 3 Judges

Judicial elections across the United States, largely ho-hum affairs that only stand out when members of the black robes commit a crime, have turned white-hot in Iowa, where residents are organizing and campaigning to fire three of the state Supreme Court members who created same-sex marriage for the state. Rormer Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, who was removed from office himself when state officials refused to allow him to challenge an order he considered illegal, said the judges in Iowa didn’t even follow their own state law – which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Instead, Moore said, they joined advocates for homosexuality in calling such couples “similarly situated” to traditionally married couples. Moore noted that Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act specified one man and one woman marriages, so the justices actually were violating the law they were sworn to uphold.

Gitmo Detainee Pleads Guilty

A Canadian accused of killing an American soldier as a teenage al-Qaida militant pleaded guilty Monday as part of a deal that avoids a war crimes trial for someone labeled a “child soldier” by his defenders. Omar Khadr pleaded to five charges including murder for throwing a grenade that mortally wounded the soldier during a fierce raid on an al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan in 2002. The now 24-year-old defendant also admitted to planting improvised explosive devices and receiving weapons training from the terrorist network. His trial had been scheduled to start Monday and he faced a possible life sentence.

Group of 20 Vows to Avoid Currency Devaluations

The world’s leading advanced and emerging countries vowed Saturday to avoid potentially debilitating currency devaluations, aiming to quell trade tensions that could threaten the global economy. The Group of 20 also said it will pursue policies to reduce trade and current account imbalances, and agreed to give developing nations more say at the International Monetary Fund, part of what it described as an ambitious set of proposals to reform IMF governance. The grouping, which accounts for about 85% of the global economy, said in a statement that it will “move towards more market determined exchange rate systems” and “refrain from competitive devaluation of currencies.” The agreement comes amid fears that nations were on the verge of a “currency war” in which they would devalue currencies to gain an export advantage over competitors — causing a rise in protectionism and damaging the global economy.

Economic News

Sales of previously occupied homes rose last month after a dismal summer but remain well short of healthy levels. The National Association of Realtors says sales grew 10% in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.53 million. They were still down 19% from the same month a year earlier. The median sale price was $171,700, down 2.4% from the same month year ago.

Regulators on Friday shut down a total of seven banks in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas and Arizona, lifting to 139 the number of U.S. banks that have fallen this year as soured loans have mounted and the economy has sputtered. By this time last year, regulators had closed 106 banks. The pace has accelerated as banks’ losses mount on loans made for commercial property and development.

A growing number of Americans age 55 and older have put their retirement dreams on hold as they face a dismal financial reality: The recession has forced many into unemployment, stripped away years of their savings or dramatically reduced incomes during what they had hoped would be their final high-earning years. Even before the recession, older Americans were piling on debt. From 2000 to 2008, the average debt for households headed by people 55 or older nearly doubled to $66,000. The ranks of older bankruptcy filers also have been swelling rapidly. From 1991 to 2007, bankruptcy filings by those 65 and older increased by 150%, while filings in the 75-to-84 age group soared 433%.

The days when you could walk into a bank branch and open an account with no charges and no strings attached appear to be over. Now you have to jump through some hoops — keep a high balance, use direct deposit or swipe your debit card several times a month. Almost all of the largest U.S. banks are either already making free checking much more difficult to get or expected to do so soon, with fees on even basic banking services. It’s happening because a raft of new laws enacted in the past year, including the financial overhaul package, have led to an acute shrinking of revenue for the banks. So they are scraping together money however they can.

The leaders of India and Japan signed a broad agreement Monday aimed at increasing trade and agreed to speed up talks toward a civilian nuclear energy deal — despite sensitivity in Japan over India’s past atomic test blasts. The deal, which needs to be ratified by Japan’s parliament to come into force, slashes tariffs on goods from auto parts to bonsai plants and introduces measures to promote investment. Forging this kind of pact is increasingly a priority for Japan, which sees itself falling behind regional rival South Korea in the area of free trade agreements.


France‘s massive strikes are costing the national economy up to 400 million euro ($557 million) each day, the French finance minister said Monday as workers continued to block oil refineries and trash incinerators to protest a plan to raise the retirement age to 62. Rotting piles of garbage — now at nearly 9,000 tons — are becoming a health hazard in the Mediterranean city of Marseille, which has been hit hard on land and at sea. Striking dockers at France’s largest port are intermittently blocking ships trying to unload fuel there. France’s 12 striking refineries have been shut down for nearly two weeks, and the government has forced some of them to make stocked fuel available, but at least one in four gas stations in France has run dry. The bill to overhaul France’s pension plan is to be definitively voted on this week by the two houses of parliament, likely by Wednesday.

Middle East

Work has begun on up to 600 new homes in West Bank settlements since Israel lifted its curb on such construction Sept. 26th. Foundations are already being dug for at least 350 apartments, while construction of another 200 to 250 homes is in more preliminary stages. The construction has stalled U.S.-led peace talks and brought significant pressure on all sides to find a diplomatic solution. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said any new construction would be kept to a minimum, but has not elaborated. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he will only resume talks once building restrictions are reimposed, arguing there is no point negotiating while Israel continues to build on land the Palestinians want for a future state.


South Korea prepared Monday to send 5,000 tons of rice to flood victims in North Korea in its first humanitarian rice shipment to its communist neighbor since a conservative, pro-U.S. government took office in 2008. For a decade, South Korea was a major donor of food to North Korea before President Lee Myung-bak halted unconditional assistance following his inauguration in early 2008 with a tough line on Pyongyang. Lee’s government also drastically slashed trade with North Korea after tension spiked over March’s deadly sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on Pyongyang. The two Koreas remain technically at war, since their 1950-53 conflict ended with a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.


A spreading cholera outbreak in rural Haiti threatened to outpace aid groups as they stepped up efforts Saturday hoping to keep the disease from reaching the squalid camps of earthquake survivors in Port-au-Prince. Health officials said at least 253 people had died and over 3,000 others were infected in an outbreak mostly centered in the Artibonite region north of the capital. But the number of cases in towns near Port-au-Prince were rising, and officials worried the next target will be hundreds of thousands of Haitians left homeless by January’s devastating quake and now living in camps across the capital.


Gunmen stormed two neighboring homes and massacred 13 young people at a birthday party in the latest large-scale attack in this violent border city, even as a new government strategy seeks to restore order with social programs and massive police deployments. Residents of Ciudad Juarez, one of the world’s deadliest cities, no longer go out much to celebrate because of a violent turf war between the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels, who frequently attack their rivals in bars, restaurants, drug rehab centers and other public places. Police found 70 bullet casings from assault weapons typically used by drug gangs whose bloody turf battles have killed more than 2,000 people this year in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso.

A gang of armed men burst into a rehab center and gunned down 13 recovering addicts there. The attack on the ramshackle, privately run center is the first such mass killing at a rehab center in Tijuana, a city praised by some for its anti-gang efforts. Several such attacks have killed dozens of recovering addicts in another border city, Ciudad Juarez. Drug gangs have attacked such centers before to target rival gang members.


WikiLeaks’ latest cache of classified military documents on the Iraq war has been released to several news organizations, including the New York Times, which has distilled the 400,000 intelligence reports into a package it calls “The War Logs.” The military documents suggest that far more Iraqis died than previously acknowledged during the years of sectarian bloodletting and criminal violence unleashed by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. The accounts of civilian deaths among nearly 400,000 purported Iraq war logs released Friday by the WikiLeaks website include deaths unknown or unreported before now — as many as 15,000 by the count of one independent research group. The war logs were made public in defiance of Pentagon insistence that the action puts the lives of U.S. troops and their military partners at risk. The 391,831 documents date from the start of 2004 to Jan. 1, 2010, providing a ground-level view of the war written mostly by low-ranking officers in the field.

The field reports from U.S. forces and intelligence officers also indicate U.S. forces often failed to follow up on credible evidence that Iraqi forces mistreated, tortured and killed their captives as they battled a violent insurgency. The huge archive of documents from the Iraq war also shows a multitude of shortcomings with the military’s reliance on private contractors. The contractors lacked coordination with coalition forces and often shot with little discrimination — and few if any consequences — at unarmed Iraqi civilians, Iraqi security forces, American troops and even other contractors, stirring public outrage.


A United Nations office was attacked Saturday in western Afghanistan. A suicide attacker driving an explosives-packed car blew up the entrance to the office. Afghan police officials at the scene said militants wearing uniforms then entered the building, which has been surrounded by Afghan and NATO troops. Several additional blasts were heard at the site. A raid by NATO soldiers and a subsequent airstrike in southern Afghanistan killed 15 insurgents on Monday, NATO said. Nearby compounds were searched and a bomb-making factory and weapons cache discovered. Only two walls and one small room of a building he described as a mosque were now standing, said Ayap, and villagers were digging the dead out from under the rubble with farming tools and washing them for burial. “People are very angry,” said eyewitness Salah Ayap.

Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, said on Monday that his chief of staff had taken money from the Iranian government. The report in The New York Times said that Umar Daudzai, the president’s chief of staff, received up to $1 million to $2 million every other month from Iran and that the money, effectively a slush fund, was distributed to Afghan lawmakers,  tribal elders and even Taliban commanders to secure their loyalty. Karzai said the Iranian money is used to pay expenses in his office and that the U.S. has known about the Iranian assistance for years. He added that the United States also gives him cash. “They do give us bags of money,” said the president, referring to the American money. “It’s all the same. So let’s not make this an issue.”

  • · Any ties to Iran by a supposed U.S. ally is troublesome


For Pakistan‘s army, ejecting militants from safe havens near the Afghan border has proven to be the easy part. The problems come later: The guerrillas creep back and carry out attacks. Civilians never return. This is especially true in South Waziristan, where some 30,000 ground troops launched an offensive a year ago, quickly clearing what had been a major hub for al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But over the last week, insurgent attacks have killed eight soldiers, while the Pakistani region’s 400,000 people will not return until next spring at the earliest. The problems in South Waziristan may help explain Pakistan’s reluctance to launch a similar operation in the adjoining North Waziristan region despite pressure from Washington.


A magnitude 4.6 earthquake hit northwest Wyoming, apparently triggering a landslide on a hiking trail, but no injuries have been reported. The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake hit at about 11:45 a.m. Sunday. Forest rangers are investigating reports that a landslide covered about a quarter-mile of a trail in the national forest about 20 miles northeast of Jackson. The slide wouldn’t prevent any hikers from getting out, officials said.


Hurricane Richard battered the tiny Central American country of Belize with heavy rain and howling winds after making landfall just south its largest city, threatening flimsy wood-and-tin houses and forcing tourists to evacuate outlying islands. An estimated 10,000 people in Belize took refuge at storm shelters in schools and churches before the arrival of Richard, which weakened to a tropical storm early Monday as it pushed into northeastern Guatemala. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Richard’s top winds were 90 mph — making it a Category 1 hurricane — when it made landfall late Sunday about 20 miles south-southwest of Belize City, whose neighborhoods are full of wooden, tin-roof homes that are very vulnerable to winds.

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