Society's ChildS

Boat

Group building a 500-foot Noah's Ark in Hialeah

A group in Hialeah is going Biblical.

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The Hidden Ark group began building a 500-foot wooden Noah's Ark on the outskirts of Hialeah that will be both a zoo and a way to raise awareness about the current environmental changes.

"It's a religious thing because it's Noah and God teaches us to protect animals," said Carolina Peralta who is part of the group, hiddenark.com. "You're using Noah's Ark to make a statement about helping animals and conserving our planet."

The building of the ark is still in its beginning stages, but the blue prints posted on the group's website show an area dedicated to the ark that will include a veterinarian laboratory, a petting area, stables, shops and a dining area.

Che Guevara

The King is Dead, Long Live the King! Hugo Chávez's 14 years as leader of the Venezuelan people

One of the most charismatic and conscientious leaders in the world, Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan president of the people, died last night, 5th March 2013. This video is a collection of some of his most memorable speeches during his reign, from his great humor mocking one-time psychopath-in-chief of the Empire, George 'Dubya' Bush, to his support for Iran's global peace agenda.


Comment: He will be sorely missed, but the revolution of the mind goes on... Hasta la Victoria Siempre!


Bell

Austerity America: the government gamble

sequestration credit downgrade
Increasingly partisan infighting on Capitol Hill has seen the deadline to avert $85bn in automatic budget cuts pass without accord

The munificence of Uncle Sam may suddenly be diminished as of late tomorrow night when a slew of painful and indiscriminate government spending cuts are due to come into effect. America, land of the free-spenders, is about to get its first taste of European-style austerity.

A product of the failure of Democrats and Republicans to agree on a prescription to cure the country's deficit disease, the cuts - $85bn by the end of this year and $1.2trn over 10 years - are due officially to come into effect at midnight tomorrow. No one wants them; no one seems to know how to avert them. A nation has been left to stumble blindly into unknown fiscal territory.

For its part, the International Monetary Fund warns that, if fully implemented, the reductions will trim about half a percentage point off the country's economic growth rate in 2013. All across the US, interest groups and industries are warning of particular areas of calamity. Farmers, for instance, are predicting the "first widespread shortage" of meat, poultry and eggs in decades because of cuts to food inspection teams.

The impact will not become clear all at once but, without a political truce soon, it may quickly become unmistakable. Exempt are welfare programmes for the poor and vulnerable and military salaries. But everywhere else, government will be forced to pare back on budgets. First to feel the brunt may be federal workers who will be asked to take furloughs - periods at home without pay - starting 30 days from today.

But the list of potential victims is much longer, particularly in the defence sector, because half of the cuts will fall on the Pentagon. The industry warns that the reductions - known as the "sequester" - will end up costing 2 million jobs. Among others are airports where security screeners and air traffic controllers could be culled, the medical research community where funding is likely to dwindle and national parks where money for rangers will be slashed. Glacier National Park in Montana says snow ploughing to clear its famous Going-to-the-Sun Road may not happen this summer.

"It will be like watching a multiple-car pile-up on the highway that's going in slow motion," Emily Holubowich, a healthcare lobbyist who has being trying to steer Congress away from the brink on behalf of 3,000 clients, told USA Today. "It's like that old saying, 'You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone'."

Arrow Down

Thinner wallets: Americans see biggest monthly income drop in 20 years

empty purse income drop
Feeling poorer?

Americans saw their income drop so dramatically in January that it marked the deepest one-month decline in 20 years.

Personal income decreased by $505.5 billion in January, or 3.6%, compared to December (on a seasonally adjusted and annualized basis). That's the most dramatic decline since January 1993, according to the Commerce Department.

It's something of a combination of one-time events, though.

Monthly income was unusually high in December because companies paid out early dividends to avoid upcoming tax hikes. Companies like Wal-Mart, Oracle, and Costco Wholesale Corp paid special dividends to their shareholders at the end of 2012, instead of waiting until 2013.

In doing so, they helped their high-income shareholders (individuals earning at least $400,000 a year, or married couples earning $450,000) avoid paying higher taxes on their gains. In their last-minute fiscal cliff deal, lawmakers decided to raise dividend tax rates for high-income households from 15% to 20%.

The payroll tax cut's expiration also played a role in January's drop, because most workers have to pay 2 percentage points more in taxes this year. The Commerce Department's "personal income" calculation subtracts out individuals' contributions to government social insurance programs like Social Security, which are funded by the payroll tax.

Excluding those special factors, the Commerce Department estimates that after-tax income actually increased 0.3% in January.

Meanwhile, economists are closely watching consumer spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

They're waiting to see how the payroll tax hike will affect the broader recovery.

Comment: The Consumer "Confidence" Index is, like all other government statistics, nothing but smoke and mirrors, just like the "employment" rate. Just reverse everything the government say, and you are far more likely to be near the truth.


Black Magic

Insanity: Japan to restart six nuclear reactors

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© AFP Photo / Jiji PressThis picture taken on April 12, 2012 shows the third and fourth reactor building of the Ohi nuclear power plant of the Kansai Electric Power Co at Ohi town in Fukui prefecture, western Japan.
Japan's major supplier of nuclear power generating equipment, France's Areva group, has announced Tokyo's plans to restart six reactors by the end of 2013. The other reactors will be restarted later - except the Fukushima-type made in the US.

In addition to two reactors already put back into operation in Japan "there could be half a dozen reactors that will restart by the end of the year," the Chief Executive Officer of the French state-owned nuclear group announced at a press conference.

"I think two-thirds of reactors will restart" within several years, specified future plans Areva's CEO Luc Oursel.

Oursel noted though that it will take years to get the green light for all Japan's nuclear reactors and some of them, like the notorious reactors at devastated Fukushima power plant, produced in the US by General Electric Company, would remain closed forever.

While Japan's foreign partners remain optimistic about resurrection of nuclear power industry in the country, Japanese Kyodo press agency believes country's nuclear power generation facilities will remain frozen through 2013.

Japan shut down all of its nuclear power generation facilities after the disastrous catastrophe at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011, caused by a powerful earthquake followed by a devastating tsunami. The cooling systems of two reactors at the station went out of order and nuclear fuel melted down, flowing out of reactors' active zones and contaminating the territory irreparably.

As a result, Tokyo declared complete outage of nuclear facilities in the country.

Comment: The people of Japan may not be happy about this latest resurgence of the nuclear program:
People Power! Thousands March in Japan Against Nuclear Power as Final Reactor Switches Off
Nuclear Titanics: The Perils of Technological Hubris
Japan's nuclear disaster caps decades of accidents and fake reports
Is Japan's Elite Hiding a Weapons Program Inside Nuclear Plants?


Stormtrooper

Police brutality: Allegations of police excessive force at Mardi Gras

A still from the video.
A still from the video.
New South Wales police will conduct an investigation after being accused of using excessive force during last weekend's Mardi Gras.

A video apparently shot at this weekend's Mardi Gras shows an unidentified reveller in handcuffs being thrown to the ground by a policeman, who then stands on the man's back.

The footage does not show clearly what happened immediately before the man is thrown to the ground.

Police said an 18-year-old man had been issued with a field court notice for the offences of assaulting police, resisting arrest and using offensive language following an incident at the intersection of Riley Street and Oxford Street in Surry Hills on Mardi Gras night.

"Following vision of the event being made available to police, an internal investigation will be launched to determine the full circumstances leading up to and surrounding the incident," a police spokesman said.

The 18-year-old man is due to appear in Downing Centre Local Court on April 1.

Another man has claimed that police handled him roughly during Mardi Gras celebrations. Leaders in the gay community have expressed concern.

"I'll be calling for an investigation," said the state MP for Sydney, Alex Greenwich. "From what we can see it does appear to be heavy handed and extremely concerning."

The video was uploaded by an account called SydneyMardiGras2013 which claims the footage was shot near Oxford Street about 11:30 pm on Saturday.

Question

FAA investigating report of drone spotted near NYC

UFO?
© Todd Plitt/USA TODAY
Was that a drone flying over metro New York Monday?

That's what a pilot for Italian carrier Alitalia reported seeing from the cockpit of a flight landing at New York's JFK Airport. The pilot informed the air traffic control tower, and now his spotting has drawn the attention of both Federal Aviation Administration and counter-terrorism officials.

"The FAA is investigating a report... he saw a small, unmanned or remote-controlled aircraft while on final approach to Runway 31 Right," FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown says in a statement quoted by CNN. "The sighting was approximately four to five miles (from) the airport at an altitude of approximately 1,500 feet."

New York's Joint Terror Task Force also is investigating, according to both ABC News and the New York Post report. Both cite unnamed sources.

"He was very clear as to what he saw," a source tells the Post about the pilot's account of "a black drone."

Other than the pilot's sighting, the Alitalia flight landed at JFK without incident.

Info

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has died

Hugo Chavez
© Getty A man walks past a mural portraying the Venezuelan flag, President Hugo Chavez and South American liberator Simon Bolivar at the 23 de Enero neighbourhood, in Caracas on March 5, 2013.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez lost his battle with cancer Tuesday, silencing the leading voice of the Latin American left and plunging his divided oil-rich nation into an uncertain future.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro, who struggled to hold back tears as he announced Chavez's death, said the government had deployed the armed forces and police "to accompany and protect our people and guarantee the peace."

Chavez had named Maduro as his heir, but the Venezuelan opposition is sure to press for fresh elections and tensions have been mounting over government allegations that its domestic rivals are in league with its foreign foes.

Grey Alien

E.T. is coming! Science channel series explores possible alien invasion

Aliens Coming
© Science ChannelA new series from the Science Channel explores a possible way that aliens could invade the Earth.
A new cable television series premiering tonight (March 5) reveals a fresh take on how aliens could invade Earth.

The Science Channel's Are We Alone? is a two-part miniseries that uses expert testimony and some creative science fiction to explore how a technologically advanced species could travel to Earth and invade the planet.

"It's like nothing you've seen before," Hakeem Oluseyi, a Florida Institute of Technology astrophyscist interviewed in the series, told SPACE.com.

Are We Alone? chronicles an alien invasion from start to finish. Interstellar travelers arrive on Earth, dropping capsules that begin multiplying when they reach the surface of the planet. Are We Alone? attempts to explore every aspect of the invasion, from how the biological components could take over the Earth to how humans would react to the aliens.

Heart - Black

Two-thirds of forest elephants killed by ivory poachers in past decade

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© Courtesy of TEAM Network/Conservation InternationalThere are about 100,000 forest elephants remaining in the forests of central Africa, compared with about 400,000 of the slightly larger savannah elephants.
The threat of extinction is growing for African forest elephants, according to a study released at the Cites summit in Bangkok

The forest elephants of Africa have lost almost two-thirds of their number in the past decade due to poaching for ivory, a landmark new study revealed on Tuesday. The research was released at an international wildlife summit in Bangkok where the eight key ivory-trading nations, including the host nation Thailand and biggest market China, have been put on notice of sweeping trade sanctions if they fail to crack down on the trade.

"The analysis confirms what conservationists have feared: the rapid trend towards extinction - potentially within the next decade - of the forest elephant," said Samantha Strindberg of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), one of 60 scientists on the research team.

There are about 100,000 forest elephants remaining in the forests of central Africa, compared with about 400,000 of the slightly larger savannah elephants. The total elephant population was over 1 million 30 years ago, but has been devastated by poaching driven by the rising demand for ivory ornaments in Asia.

Prof Lee White, head of the National Parks Service in Gabon, once home to the largest forest elephant population, said: "A rainforest without elephants is a barren place. They bring it to life, they create the trails and keep open the forest clearings other animals use; they disperse the seeds of many of the rainforest trees - elephants are forest gardeners at a vast scale."