Sunday, August 7, 2011

Recovery continues, details emerge after Afghan chopper crash that killed 30 US troops

Recovery continues, details emerge after Afghan chopper crash that killed 30 US troops | Herald Sun

AS military officials recovered wreckage from the scene of a helicopter crash in Afghanistan that killed 30 troops, including 22 Navy SEALS, further details emerged on the deadliest single incident to hit US forces since the war began a decade ago.

The troops, aboard a US Army Chinook transport helicopter, had been on a mission to help a unit of Army Rangers that was pinned down by enemy fire in Wardak province of eastern Afghanistan during an operation to target a Taliban commander, military officials told CNN.

All were killed when the craft was apparently hit by insurgent fire as it was leaving.

The Taliban has claimed it shot down the chopper, losing eight of its own fighters in combat, but US and NATO officials have not yet provided a full picture of events.

A senior US administration official in Washington said the craft was apparently attacked by insurgents. NATO confirmed the overnight crash took place and that there "was enemy activity in the area."

"We are in the process of accessing the facts," said US Air Force Capt. Justin Brockhoff, a NATO spokesman, according to FOX News Channel.

Two Afghan government officials told The Wall Street Journal that a lone militant using a rocket-propelled grenade shot down the chopper as it was taking off after the night-time mission in Tangi Valley.

The attack killed 22 members of the US Navy SEALs Team 6, five American helicopter crew members and three air force special controllers, along with one civilian interpreter and seven Afghan commandos.

A senior US military official told FOX that all bodies had been recovered from the site, but recovery of helicopter was still ongoing.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) announced an immediate probe into the crash.

The incident is a major blow to US special forces and comes just months after members of the close-knit, elite Team 6 stormed Usama bin Laden's Pakistan compound and shot dead the terror chief in May.

None of those killed in the chopper crash were believed to have taken part in the Pakistan raid on the al-Qaeda leader's hideout.

An unnamed naval special warfare source told the Navy Times: "There's no precedent for this. It's the worst day in our history by a mile."

US Lieutenant General John Allen, commander of the ISAF mission, said: "No words describe the sorrow we feel in the wake of this tragic loss. All of those killed in this operation were true heroes."

President Barack Obama echoed his remarks in a statement Saturday.

"Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families, including all who have served in Afghanistan," he said.

Mr Obama received a call from his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, who "reiterated his condolences" for the loss of American servicemembers, according to White House statement.

"The two Presidents reaffirmed their commitment to the mission in Afghanistan, which is critical to the security of both our countries, and agreed to stay in close contact," the statement said.

In other violence, four NATO service members were killed yesterday in two separate insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, according to AFP.

There are currently approximately 100,000 US troops in Afghanistan who are joined by 40,000 soldiers from other countries as part of the campaign against the Taliban insurgency.

Obama has announced plans for a gradual drawdown of US troops in Afghanistan, with all foreign troops expected to be out of the country by 2014 as Afghan forces prepare to take charge of their own security.

Mystery Roadkill Prompts DNR Investigation

Mystery Roadkill Prompts DNR Investigation |

Updated: 08/05/2011 7:00 PM | Print | Email

Mystery Roadkill Prompts DNR Investigation

Alexandria, Minn. (KSAX) - Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials have been unable to identify a mystery carcass found in Douglas County with certainty, prompting further investigation.
The dead white mammal was spotted this week on a Douglas County road with five claws, dark tufts of hair on its back and head and long toenails.
Roadkill is nothing new for Minnesotans, but this curious creature got people talking.

Lacey Ilse said she was driving near her home on County Road 86, south of Alexandria, when she spotted the mysterious mammal.
"We saw something in the middle of the road, and we knew it wasn't a dog or a cat, because it didn't have hair. It had a clump of hair and all the rest was just white skin," Ilse said."it's ear was all mis-shaped. To me, it looked like half-human."

Ilse said she soon posted pictures of the animal on Facebook, and rumors and speculation took off.
"It just shot out like wildfire. everybody was putting it on their Facebook pages. And then, their friends were putting it on their pages," she said.
Noelle Jones sent the pictures to KSAX Monday, and after posting them on the KSAX Facebook page that night, more than 175 comments have been posted about the unusual animal, with guesses ranging from a skunk, badger, wolverine, wolf, or even proof of the mythical chupacabra.
Folks in Alexandria Wednesday had their own ideas.
"First guess was a badger with like, a case of mange. But then, some other people were saying, like a chupacabra. and after looking at some pictures, I was like, 'you know, it's possible," Jones said.
"It kinda looks like a 10-year-old wolf," Austin Becker of Alexandria said.
"Almost looks like a pig, with paws? I don't know, or a wolf," Kaitlin Van Horn of Morris said.
Glenwood DNR Area Wildlife Supervisor Kevin Kotts used the process of elimination to give his answer.

"It's got five long front claws on each of its front feet, which would be characteristic of a badger," Kotts said. "I ran the pictures past a few other DNR folks that have a lot of trapping and/or fur-bare experience, and they all said, it's hard to be 100 percent sure what it is ... but if it's a Minnesota animal, it's probably a badger."

But Ilse, and just about everyone else who has seen it, can't be so sure.
"If you're looking at the top half, it definitely looks like a dog that's kind of been torn apart. But, I'm not sure what to make of the back part," Igor Simanovich of the Twin Cities said.
"It's a strange animal and i hope we don't have anymore around here," Jane Murphy of Alexandria said.

Israeli Stock Index Tumbles Most Since 2000

Israeli Stock Index Tumbles Most Since 2000 - Bloomberg

Israel’s benchmark stock index plunged the most in almost 11 years after Standard & Poor’s lowered the U.S. credit rating and amid concern the widening sovereign debt crisis in Europe will stall global growth.

Israel Discount Bank Ltd. (DSCT), the country’s third-largest lender, skidded 10 percent. Nice Systems Ltd. (NICE) slumped the most since November 2008. All 25 shares in the TA-25 Index tumbled, pushing the gauge down 7 percent, the biggest decline since October 2000, to 1,074.27 at the 4:30 p.m. close in Tel Aviv. The index is near the so-called bear-market territory after retreating 19.9 percent from a record high of 1,341.89 on April 21.

“It could be a turbulent market in the next few weeks,” said Ron Eichel, chief economist and strategist at Meitav Investment House Ltd. in Tel Aviv. “If there’s a storm globally, it’s going to affect Israel, which has very large exports to the U.S. and the eurozone.”

S&P cut the AAA credit rating of the U.S. to AA+ on Aug. 5, while keeping the outlook at “negative.” S&P on Aug. 2 placed Israel’s AAA rating on U.S.-guaranteed sovereign bonds on “CreditWatch.” The European Central Bank left interest rates unchanged on Aug. 4 as economic growth slows and the region’s debt crisis spreads to Italy and Spain.

Slower Growth

The Bank of Israel on Aug. 2 cut its economic growth forecasts for this year and next, saying debt reduction plans in developed countries may lead to a global slowdown. The economy will expand 4.8 percent in 2011 and 3.9 percent in 2012, the bank said, lowering its forecasts from 5.2 percent and 4.2 percent, respectively.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz yesterday called the downgrade a “warning sign” for Israel’s economy. Supervisor of Banks David Zaken said today the downgrade “underlines the need to be prepared for scenarios that if we talked about them a few years ago, would have seemed impossible.”

Wall Street’s Tax on Main Street

Wall Street’s Tax on Main Street -

AMID all the talk of debt and default in Washington last week, tiny Central Falls, R.I., went bankrupt.

Joe Songer/The Birmingham News, via Associated Press

A protest of potential sewer rate increases in Jefferson County, Ala. One sign took aim at JPMorgan Chase, an adviser to the county on a bond deal.

Like many states and cities in these hard economic times, Central Falls — population: 19,000 — was caught short by hefty pension obligations and weak tax revenue. It may not be the last municipality to file for bankruptcy. Jefferson County, Ala., is now on the brink of it, thanks to a sewer bond issue gone wildly bad.

But while pensions and the economy are behind many of municipalities’ troubles, Wall Street has played a role, too. Hidden expenses associated with how local governments finance themselves are compounding financial problems down at city hall.

Wall Street banks have peddled to municipalities all sorts of financial products, some of which have turned out to be costly mistakes. Testifying on July 29 at a public hearing on municipal securities sponsored by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Andrew Kalotay, an expert in financial derivatives who runs a debt management advisory firm in New York, asserted that poorly structured financial transactions involving bonds and derivatives known as interest rate swaps represented “Wall Street’s multibillion-dollar hidden tax on Main Street.”

Mr. Kalotay is talking about a type of complex financing that big banks have pushed onstate and local authorities in recent years. The arrangements are typically made when borrowers want to exchange variable-rate debt for fixed-rate obligations.

Tax outrage: 1,400 millionaires didn't pay U.S. income taxes in 2009

Tax outrage: 1,400 millionaires didn't pay U.S. income taxes in 2009 |
Every April 15, there's a rash of stories about the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income tax. But most people don't realize that group includes 1,400 millionaires, as the Associated Press reports.

So as your Michigan tax bill goes up next year thanks to Gov. Rick Snyder's income tax hikes, it probably won't make you feel any better that 1,400 millionaires aren't paying squat to the feds.

And let's not forget Forbes' 2010 report on what the top 25 U.S. corporations pay in taxes with this depressing subhead: How can it be that you pay more to the IRS than General Electric?

The millionaires statistic comes from new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) numbers showing that the recession means 2 million fewer taxpayers.

Associated Press, Aug. 4: New tax data from the Internal Revenue service shows that in 2009, incomes fell, unemployment claims rose, and the U.S. economy shed nearly two million taxpayers. And of the 235,413 taxpayers who earned $1 million or more in 2009, 1,470 of them paid no taxes.

According to the data, the average income for American taxpayers fell to $54,283 -- a drop of $3,516, or about 6.1 percent, between 2008 and 2009. Not only that, but the overall number of taxpayers -- that is, individuals or married couples filing with the IRS -- fell by almost two million.

Of course, most people who don't pay federal income taxes have low incomes and see their burden wiped out by the standard deduction and child tax credit, the Brookings Institute reports.

And nearly everyone pays other taxes, like sales, property and state taxes.

WA Parents Most Likely Not to Vaccinate Children

WA Parents Most Likely Not to Vaccinate Children | Care2 Causes
Washington Parents Most Likely Not to Vaccinate Children

Washington has won the dubious distinction of being the state with the most parents opting not to have their children be vaccinated. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, more than 6 percent of Washington kindergarteners were missing one or more immunizations in the 2009-2010 school year, with the chicken pox vaccine the most commonly missed; the state is said to be experiencing an “epidemic of worry over vaccine safety.” But a new state law that went into effect in July places new requirements on parents who opt out of vaccinating their children and want to send them to public school:

[The new law] seeks to close a loophole that parents used to avoid providing proof of vaccinations to schools. Now, parents must meet with a medical provider, get a signed letter confirming that the consultation took place, and provide the note to child-care centers or schools.

In other states, parents can claim a “religious exemption” or a “philosophical exemption” to forego vaccinating a child. Claiming such can (in some states) involve no more than writing a letter stating why one’s religious or philosophical beliefs prohibit vaccinating a child. The new Washington law ups the ante considerably by requiring that parents have a formal consultation with a doctor or other medical provider and get a signed letter.

Dr. Jack Stephens, a pediatrician at The Everett Clinic in Washington, notes that those who choose not to vaccinate their children are not uneducated parents, as in the past:

“The world has changed,” said Dr. Jack Stephens, a pediatrician at The Everett Clinic. “It used to be the unimmunized child was the child of an economically disadvantaged family with poor access to health care.

“Nowadays, it’s usually well-educated parents of higher social status who do their own independent research and tell you what they’re willing to do.”

A parent quoted in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer article notes that she’s concerned about a possible link between vaccines and autism. A purported link between vaccines or something in vaccines and autism indeed played a huge role in bringing “questions over the safety of vaccines… into the mainstream” in the late 1990s. But this link was based on wha

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