Commercial salmon fishing banned off western US

Seattle – US regulators on Thursday ordered a ban on all commercial salmon fishing off California, Oregon and Washington in an emergency effort to help the decimated salmon population to recover. Under the terms of the ban only limited recreational salmon fishing will be allowed on holiday weekends off the Oregon coast.

According to official figures the salmon stock is at a historic low point as fewer and fewer fall chinook, or king salmon, have been returning to the Sacramento and Klamath rivers, over the last three years. The dismally low numbers have not been seen since 1954 and 1964, state officials say.

Fishermen and scientists blame three main factors for the shortfall. Mismanagement of the rivers, whose waters are often dammed and diverted to irrigate fields; overfishing, and the absence of up normal ocean upwelling – which usually stirs up tons of the ocean’s offshore nutrients which are the essential food needed by young salmon to survive.

Fri, 11 Apr 2008 04:18:01 GMT

Source: earthtimes.org

IMPORT PRICES STILL SOARING

Today’s update on import prices once again paints a troubling picture on pricing pressures.

Import prices jumped 2.8% last month, the U.S. Labor Department reports. That’s the highest since last December’s unnerving 3.2% spike. More troubling is the fact that the 2.8% rise in March is in the upper range for monthly changes going back to the 1980s. Adding insult to injury, import prices soared 14.8% measured over the 12 months through last month, as our chart below shows. That’s the highest 12-month rate in the Labor Department’s archives, which goes back to 1982 as per the web site.

The “good news,” if we can call it that, is that much of the rise in import prices was due to higher energy costs. And energy prices can’t rise forever–we hope. In any case, the 14.8% surge in import prices over the past year falls to 5.4% after stripping out energy. But the lesser rise in non-petroleum import prices is hollow comfort once you recognize that the 5.4% annual pace is the highest since the 1980s. The basic trend, in short, is not in doubt, no matter how you slice the import-price pie.

How troubling is a 5.4% rise in non-petroleum imports? In search of an answer, consider that inflation generally in the U.S. is climbing by 4.0%, based on the annual rise in consumer prices through February. And the nominal (pre-inflation adjusted) annualized pace of economic expansion in 2007’s fourth quarter was 3.0%. In other words:

* non-petroleum import prices are advancing at a roughly 33% faster rate than general inflation
* non-petroleum import prices are rising 80% faster than the nominal growth of GDP

Read moreIMPORT PRICES STILL SOARING

Migratory bird numbers plummeting, study shows


Taking flight: Magpie Geese migrate across the Northern Territory after
arriving from Indonesia (file photo) (Getty Images: Ian Waldie)

Birds are considered an accurate barometer of the state of the environment, so when the numbers of migratory birds fall, scientists consider it cause for concern.

Now the first major long-term survey assessing shore birds from Broome to Sydney has found that Australia’s massive migratory population has plummeted by up to 75 per cent over the last 25 years.

Read moreMigratory bird numbers plummeting, study shows

Thousands of swallows die in South Africa on eve of migration

Johannesburg – Tens of thousands of swallows died in South Africa a week before they were due to migrate to Europe, BirdLife South Africa said on Wednesday, blaming unusually cold March weather. A sudden cold snap coming from in Angola gripped South Africa’s northern lowveld (savannah) towards the end of the southern summer in mid-March.

“Due to this the birds could not feed properly as it was too wet and too rainy for them to acquire the food. They became hypothermic and hypoglycaemic,” BirdLife director Gerhard Verdoorn was quoted by SAPA news agency as saying. “The tens of thousands of birds were falling down everywhere and just dying,” he said, adding residents in Limpopo province had at first suspected poisoning. The birds were supposed to migrate on March 23, the day of the equinox. Some birds survived and started their migration on March 28, he said. “Over the past couple of years it has become a more frequent occurrence and it is not only the swallows that are been affected but several other species of birds.”

Source: earthtimes.org

Met Police officers to be ‘microchipped’ by top brass in Big Brother style tracking scheme

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CASPIAN RELEASES MICROCHIP CANCER REPORT



Met Chief Sir Ian Blair could be among 31,000 officers to receive the new electronic tracking device

Every single Metropolitan police officer will be ‘microchipped’ so top brass can monitor their movements on a Big Brother style tracking scheme, it can be revealed today.

According to respected industry magazine Police Review, the plan – which affects all 31,000 serving officers in the Met, including Sir Ian Blair – is set to replace the unreliable Airwave radio system currently used to help monitor officer’s movements.

The new electronic tracking device – called the Automated Personal Location System (APLS) – means that officers will never be out of range of supervising officers.

But many serving officers fear being turned into “Robocops” – controlled by bosses who have not been out on the beat in years.

According to service providers Telent, the new technology ‘will enable operators in the Service’s operations centres to identify the location of each police officer’ at any time they are on duty – whether overground or underground.

Although police chiefs say the new technology is about ‘improving officer safety’ and reacting to incidents more quickly, many rank and file believe it is just a Big Brother style system to keep tabs on them and make sure they don’t ‘doze off on duty’.

Some officers are concerned that the system – which will be able to pinpoint any of the 31,000 officers in the Met to within a few feet of their location – will put a complete end to community policing and leave officers purely at the beck and call of control room staff rather than reacting to members of the public on the ground.

Pete Smyth, chairman of the Met Police Federation, said: “This could be very good for officers’ safety but it could also involve an element of Big Brother.

“We need to look at it very carefully.”

Other officers, however, were more scathing, saying the new system – set to be implemented within the next few weeks – will turn them into ‘Robocops’ simply obeying instructions from above rather than using their own judgement.

One officer, working in Peckham, south London, said: “They are keeping the exact workings of the system very hush-hush at the moment – although it will be similar to the way criminals are electronically tagged. There will not be any choice about wearing one.

Read moreMet Police officers to be ‘microchipped’ by top brass in Big Brother style tracking scheme

Oakland cops: Mind if we search your house for guns?

OAKLAND _ A six-month pilot program where Oakland police officers would knock on doors and ask permission to search homes for guns got the green light from the City Council’s public safety committee Tuesday night.
It goes to the full council Tuesday, when the council will meet at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

The consent-to-search program, as it is called, is based closely on a similar effort launched in St. Louis in 1994 and on ongoing programs in Boston and Washington, D.C. The idea is simple: To ask parents for permission to search their homes for weapons their children may be hiding.

Under the program, officers would request permission to search homes for guns. Guns would be taken away, but officers would not pursue prosecution unless the weapon was tied to a crime.

The St. Louis effort fizzled after initial success, but Oakland’s Deputy Police Chief David Kozicki said that in Washington, police officers say they cannot keep up with requests from parents to search their homes. Such is the interest in the program, he said.

Councilwoman Patricia Kernighan (Grand Lake-Chinatown), who is on the public safety committee, said she was surprised to hear that and hoped Oakland might see the same results.

Read moreOakland cops: Mind if we search your house for guns?

Homeland Security invokes nuclear bomb, as Bush quietly links cybersecurity program to NSA

Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff has dropped the bomb.

At a speech to hundreds of security professionals Wednesday, Chertoff declared that the federal government has created a cyber security “Manhattan Project,” referencing the 1941-1946 project led by the Army Corps of Engineers to develop American’s first atomic bomb.

According to Wired’s Ryan Singel, Chertoff gave few details of what the government actually plans to do.

He cites a little-noticed presidential order: “In January, President Bush signed a presidential order expanding the role of DHS and the NSA in government computer security,” Singel writes. “Its contents are classified, but the U.S. Director of National Intelligence has said he wants the NSA to monitor America’s internet traffic and Google searches for signs of cyber attack.”

The National Security Agency was the key player in President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, which was revealed by the New York Times in 2005.

Sound familiar? Yesterday, documents acquired by the Electronic Frontier Foundation under the Freedom of Information act showed the FBI has engaged in a massive cyber surveillance project that targets terror suspects emails, telephone calls and instant messagesand is able to get some information without a court order.

Last week, the ACLU revealed documents showing that the Pentagon was using the FBI to spy on Americans. The military is using the FBI to skirt legal restrictions on domestic surveillance to obtain private records of Americans’ Internet service providers, financial institutions and telephone companies, according to Pentagon documents.

Read moreHomeland Security invokes nuclear bomb, as Bush quietly links cybersecurity program to NSA

Philippines threatens rice hoarders with life imprisonment

Filipinos face life in prison if they’re caught hoarding rice.

“The Department of Justice is preparing economic sabotage or plunder charges that carry a life sentence against traders found to be hoarding rice, the price of which has risen sharply amid a tight global supply,” The Inquirer reports. “Although the country has yet to experience a shortage, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Thursday vowed to hale to court hoarders and other unscrupulous rice traders for acts ‘inimical to the public interest.'”

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo reiterated the warnings during a speech today, but also pledged to increase imports of the staple.

“Those who seek to take advantage of our people must be stopped,” she says, according to The Inquirer. “I am leading the charge to crack down on any form of corruption by public or private officials who would divert supplies or pervert the price of this essential commodity in any way.”

“Anyone caught stealing rice from the people will be thrown in jail,” she adds.

Bloomberg News
reports that the price of rice, a key staple in the global food supply, keeps hitting record highs. It’s now twice as expensive as it was at this time in 2007.

“We’re in for a tough time,” Roland Jansen, CEO of Mother Earth Investments AG, tells the financial news service, adding: “you will have huge problems of daily nutrition for half the planet.”

(Photo of workers in Manila taken March 28 by Romeo Ranoco, Reuters.)

Source: USA Today

Scientists take drugs to boost brain power: study

(Don’t you ever take drugs like Ritalin etc. That is lethal stuff, that destroys the brain
and you also become addicted to it. – The Infinite Unknown)

Twenty percent of scientists admit to using performance-enhancing prescription drugs for non-medical reasons, according to a survey released Wednesday by Nature, Britain’s top science journal.

The overwhelming majority of these med-taking brainiacs said they indulged in order to “improve concentration,” and 60 percent said they did so on a daily or weekly basis.

The 1,427 respondents — most of them in the United States — completed an informal, online survey posted on the “Nature Network” Web forum, a discussion site for scientists operated by the Nature Publishing Group.

More than a third said that they would feel pressure to give their children such drugs if they knew other kids at school were also taking them.

“These are academics working in scientific institutions,” Ruth Francis, who handles press relations for the group, told AFP.

The survey focused on three drugs widely available by prescription or via the Internet.

Ritalin, a trade name for methylphenidate, is a stimulant normally used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, especially in children. Modafinil — marketed at Provigil — is prescribed to treat sleep disorders, but is also effective against general fatigue and jet lag.

Read moreScientists take drugs to boost brain power: study

IMF says US crisis is ‘largest financial shock since Great Depression’


A foreclosure sign in Florida. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

America’s mortgage crisis has spiralled into “the largest financial shock since the Great Depression” and there is now a one-in-four chance of a full-blown global recession over the next 12 months, the International Monetary Fund warned today.

Read moreIMF says US crisis is ‘largest financial shock since Great Depression’

Bush Given Authority To Sexually Torture American Children

The “horror of the shrieking boys” gets a rubber stamp from the boot-licking U.S. Congress & Senate as America officially becomes a dictatorship

Paul Joseph Watson/Prison Planet.com | September 29 2006

Slamming the final nail in the coffin of everything America used to stand for, the boot-licking U.S. Senate last night gave President Bush the legal authority to abduct and sexually mutilate American citizens and American children in the name of the war on terror.

There is nothing in the “detainee” legislation that protects American citizens from being kidnapped by their own government and tortured.

Yale Law Professor Bruce Ackerman states in the L.A. Times, “The compromise legislation….authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights.”

Similarly, law Professor Marty Lederman explains: “this [subsection (ii) of the definition of ‘unlawful enemy combatant’] means that if the Pentagon says you’re an unlawful enemy combatant — using whatever criteria they wish — then as far as Congress, and U.S. law, is concerned, you are one, whether or not you have had any connection to ‘hostilities’ at all.”

We have established that the bill allows the President to define American citizens as enemy combatants. Now let’s take it one step further.

Before this article is dismissed as another extremist hyperbolic rant, please take a few minutes out of your day to check for yourself the claim that Bush now has not only the legal authority but the active blessings of his own advisors to torture American children.

The backdrop of the Bush administration’s push to obliterate the Geneva Conventions was encapsulated by John “torture” Yoo, professor of law at Berkeley, co-author of the PATRIOT Act, author of torture memos and White House advisor.

During a December 1st debate in Chicago with Notre Dame professor and international human rights scholar Doug Cassel, John Yoo gave the green light for the scope of torture to legally include sexual torture of infants.

Cassel: If the president deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?

Yoo: No treaty.

Cassel: Also no law by Congress — that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo…

Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.

Read moreBush Given Authority To Sexually Torture American Children

Haitian President Fails to Restore Order

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – A desperate appeal from the president Wednesday failed to restore order to Haiti’s shattered capital, and bands of looters sacked stores, warehouses and government offices.

Gunfire rang out from the wealthy suburbs in the hills to the starving slums below as 9,000 U.N. peacekeepers were unable to halt a frenzy of looting and violence that has grown out of protests over rising food prices.


Police officers disperse demonstrators in Port-au-Prince, Wednesday, April 09, 2008.
(AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Many of the protesters are demanding the resignation of the U.S.-backed president, Rene Preval, and on Tuesday U.N. peacekeepers had to fire rubber bullets and tear gas to drive away a mob that tried to storm his palace.

He delivered his first public comments Wednesday, nearly a week into the protests. With his job on the line, Preval urged Congress to cut taxes on imported food and appealed to the rioters to go home.

“The solution is not to go around destroying stores,” he said. “I’m giving you orders to stop.”

But gunfire rang out around the palace after the speech, as peacekeepers tried to drive away people looting surrounding stores.

The streets remained in the control of bands of young men carrying sticks and rocks, who set up roadblocks of burning tires and stopped passing cars. Businesses were closed and most people locked themselves indoors, as mobs looted stores, warehouses and government offices.

Read moreHaitian President Fails to Restore Order

Controversy: Mercenaries Training US Local Police Officers

There are many police and law enforcement officials who are concerned with the growing trend of using military-trained mercenaries to train and work with local police officers in the United States, but there are many who believe the events of September 11, 2001 dictate the need for a new paradigm.

For example, Kentucky’s Lexington Police Department contracted Blackwater Security International to provide what’s described as homeland security training. Meanwhile that city’s Mayor Jim Newberry and its chief of police Anthony Beatty refused free training provided by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement federal program that prepares police officers to enforce immigration and border security as part of their duties.

Lexington is on the nation’s list of so-called Sanctuary Cities in which police officers are prohibited from working with ICE or Border Patrol agents in the United States. Critics are angry over the use of local tax dollars to hire Blackwater personnel to train the police.

But Lexington isn’t the only city using hired guns to help local police officers. In New Orleans, heavily armed operatives from the Blackwater private security firm, infamous for their work in Iraq, are openly patrolling the streets of that beleaguered city.

Some of the mercenaries were reportedly “deputized” by the Louisiana governor and were issued gold Louisiana State law enforcement badges to wear on their chests and Blackwater photo identification cards to be worn on their arms.

While they are working in Louisiana, Blackwater officials say they are on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and have been given the authority to use lethal force if necessary. Some of the mercenaries assigned to patrol the streets of New Orleans recently returned from Iraq, where they provided personal security details for the former head of the US occupation, L. Paul Bremer, and the former US ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte.

Read moreControversy: Mercenaries Training US Local Police Officers

Fed: Severe Downturn Possible

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Members of the Federal Reserve’s policy-setting committee worried at their most recent meeting that housing and financial market stress could trigger a nasty slide in the economy, even as inflation pushed higher, minutes of the meeting released on Tuesday show.

“Some believed that a prolonged and severe economic downturn could not be ruled out given the further restriction of credit availability and ongoing weakness in the housing market,” minutes of the March 18 meeting said.

Fed economists presented a somber picture of short-term prospects — central bank staff now fully expect negative growth over the first six months of the year — but held out the possibility of a modest rebound later.

“The staff projection showed a contraction of real GDP in the first half of 2008 followed by a slow rise in the second half,” the report said, referring to gross domestic product, a broad measure of a country’s output of goods and services.

At the same time, Fed officials found recent inflation reports “disappointing,” noting also with concern that some indicators of inflation expectations were edging higher.

Read moreFed: Severe Downturn Possible

USA 2008: The Great Depression

Food stamps are the symbol of poverty in the US. In the era of the credit crunch, a record 28 million Americans are now relying on them to survive – a sure sign the world’s richest country faces economic crisis

We knew things were bad on Wall Street, but on Main Street it may be worse. Startling official statistics show that as a new economic recession stalks the United States, a record number of Americans will shortly be depending on food stamps just to feed themselves and their families.

Dismal projections by the Congressional Budget Office in Washington suggest that in the fiscal year starting in October, 28 million people in the US will be using government food stamps to buy essential groceries, the highest level since the food assistance programme was introduced in the 1960s.


Disadvantaged Americans queue for aid in New York

Read moreUSA 2008: The Great Depression

Petraeus Testimony Next Week Will Signal Iran Attack

By Paul Craig Roberts

Paul Craig Roberts a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, has been reporting shocking cases of prosecutorial abuse for two decades. A new edition of his book, The Tyranny of Good Intentions, co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, a documented account of how Americans lost the protection of law, is forthcoming from Random House in March, 2008.

06/04/08 “ICH’ — – April 5, 2008. Today the London Telegraph reported that “British officials gave warning yesterday that America’s commander in Iraq will declare that Iran is waging war against the US-backed Baghdad government. A strong statement from General David Petraeus about Iran’s intervention in Iraq could set the stage for a US attack on Iranian militiary facilities, according to a Whitehall assessment.”

The neocon lacky Petraeus has had his script written for him by Cheney, and Petraeus together with neocon warmonger Ryan Crocker, the US governor of the Green Zone in Baghdad, will present Congress next Tuesday and Wednesday with the lies, for which the road has been well paved by neocon propagandists such as Kimberly Kagan, that “the US must recognize that Iran is engaged in a full-up proxy war against it in Iraq.”

Don’t expect Congress to do anything except to egg on the attack. On April 3 the International Herald Tribune reported that senators and representatives have made millions of dollars from their investments in defense companies totaling $196 million. Rep. Ike Skelton, the Democrat chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is already on board with the attack on Iran. The London Telegraph quotes Skelton: “Iran is the bull in the china shop. In all of this, they seem to have links to all of the Shi’ite groups, whether they be political or military.”

Read morePetraeus Testimony Next Week Will Signal Iran Attack

British fear US commander is beating the drum for Iran strikes

British officials gave warning yesterday that America’s commander in Iraq will declare that Iran is waging war against the US-backed Baghdad government.

A strong statement from General David Petraeus about Iran’s intervention in Iraq could set the stage for a US attack on Iranian military facilities, according to a Whitehall assessment. In closely watched testimony in Washington next week, Gen Petraeus will state that the Iranian threat has risen as Tehran has supplied and directed attacks by militia fighters against the Iraqi state and its US allies.

General David Petraeus: British fear US commander is beating the drum for Iran strikes
General Petraeus: recent attacks on the green zone used Iranian-provided, Iranian-made rockets

Read moreBritish fear US commander is beating the drum for Iran strikes

IMF Approves Selling 400 Tons Of Gold

Washington (AHN) – The executive board of the International Monetary Fund has approved the sale of some 440.3 tons of its gold supplies in a wide-ranging financial overhaul and to replenish its depleting coffers.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, IMF managing director, welcomed the board’s move on Monday, the action seen as a buffer to the expected $400 million budget deficit the Washington-based lending institution could experience in the next few years.

The board is projecting to generate at least $11 billion from the sale of at least 12 percent of its gold reserve. The money to be generated from the sales would fund the reorganization of the IMF and finance lending to needing countries.

Read moreIMF Approves Selling 400 Tons Of Gold

Feed the world? We are fighting a losing battle, UN admits

Huge budget deficit means millions more face starvation.

Ears of wheat growing in a field. Photograph: Steve Satushek/Getty images

The United Nations warned yesterday that it no longer has enough money to keep global malnutrition at bay this year in the face of a dramatic upward surge in world commodity prices, which have created a “new face of hunger”.

Read moreFeed the world? We are fighting a losing battle, UN admits

IMF: mortgage crisis may cost $945bn worldwide

The International Monetary Fund released its semiannual Global Financial Stability Report, predicting that the economic crisis “is spreading beyond the US subprime market.” The report comes ahead of the IMF and World Bank spring meetings.

The International Monetary Fund said Tuesday the worldwide losses stemming from the US subprime mortgage crisis could hit 945 billion dollars as the impact spreads in the global economy.

Read moreIMF: mortgage crisis may cost $945bn worldwide

Food additives ‘could be as damaging as lead in petrol’

Artificial food colours are set to be removed from hundreds of products after a team of university researchers warned they were doing as much damage to children’s brains as lead in petrol.

Academics at Southampton University, who carried out an official study into seven additives for the Food Standards Agency (FSA), said children’s intelligence was being significantly damaged by E-numbers. After receiving the advice last month, officials at the FSA have advised their directors to call for the food industry to remove six additives named in the study by the end of next year.

Read moreFood additives ‘could be as damaging as lead in petrol’

Secret plans for US troops to stay in Iraq

A secret draft agreement is being drawn up to allow United States forces to remain in Iraq indefinitely, it has been reported.

  • Iraqi Shia leader wants to disband Mahdi army
  • Watch: Iraq Surge report presented to politicians
  • The document, which was written a month ago and is and marked “secret” and “sensitive”, is intended to replace the United Nations mandate for coalition troops, including British forces, to remain in Iraq, which expires at the end of the year.

    Gen Petraeus
    Watch: Gen Petraeus delivers the Iraq report

    The draft authorisation would allow for the US to “conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain individuals when necessary for imperative reasons of security”.

    It does not set a time limit, but describes the arrangement as temporary and points out that the US does not want “permanent bases or a permanent military presence” in the country. It also states that the US does not seek to use Iraq as a base to launch operations against other states.

    The draft agreement is unlikely to emerge unscathed from political scrutiny in Baghdad or Washington. There appears little appetite in the US for a drawn-out occupation of Iraq. In Baghdad, both Shia and Sunni political groups opposed to the American presence are likely to oppose the agreement in its draft form.

    Moqtada al-Sadr, a vocal critic of the occupation, said yesterday that he would consider disbanding his powerful Mahdi army – but only after consulting the ayatollahs, or religious leaders.

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    Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, said that if the militia, which has battled American and government forces in Basra and Baghdad for the past two weeks, was not disbanded its political wing would be barred from provincial elections.

    “They no longer have a right to participate in the political process or take part in the upcoming elections unless they end the Mahdi army,” said Mr Maliki.

    Sadr said he would consult religious figures, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the moderate Shia leader who is revered as a “source of emulation”.

    By putting the fate of his powerful militia in the hands of the religious hierarchy, the cleric appears to be gambling that he will establish his credentials as a figure capable of unifying Iraq’s majority Shia community under his leadership.

    However, Sadr said ayatollahs in the Iranian city of Qom, home to his spiritual mentor Grand Ayatollah Kazim al-Haeri, a known hard-liner, would also have a say.

    The cleric’s supporters will tomorrow attempt to mount a “million-strong” march in Baghdad to mark the fifth anniversary of the city’s fall. It will follow a report on Iraq to the US Congress in Washington by General David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the ambassador to Baghdad.

    By Damien McElroy

    Last Updated: 2:10am BST 09/04/2008

    Source: Telegraph

    Superfast internet may replace world wide web

    The internet could soon be made obsolete by a new “grid” system which is 10,000 times faster than broadband connections.

    Scientists in Switzerland have developed a lightning-fast replacement to the internet that would allow feature films and music catalogues to be downloaded within seconds.

    Read moreSuperfast internet may replace world wide web

    Food riots fear after rice price hits a high

    Shortages of the staple crop of half the world’s people could bring unrest across Asia and Africa, reports foreign affairs editor Peter Beaumont

    A global rice shortage that has seen prices of one of the world’s most important staple foods increase by 50 per cent in the past two weeks alone is triggering an international crisis, with countries banning export and threatening serious punishment for hoarders.

    With rice stocks at their lowest for 30 years, prices of the grain rose more than 10 per cent on Friday to record highs and are expected to soar further in the coming months. Already China, India, Egypt, Vietnam and Cambodia have imposed tariffs or export bans, as it has become clear that world production of rice this year will decline in real terms by 3.5 per cent. The impact will be felt most keenly by the world’s poorest populations, who have become increasingly dependent on the crop as the prices of other grains have become too costly.

    Read moreFood riots fear after rice price hits a high

    Tranquillisers putting children’s lives at risk

    · Anti-psychotics may cause long-term harm, say critics
    · Youngsters under 6 being given unlicensed drugs

    New evidence has shown children’s lives are being put at risk by a surge in the use of controversial tranquillising drugs which are being prescribed to control their behaviour, the Guardian has learned.

    The anti-psychotic drugs are being given to youngsters under the age of six even though the drugs have no licence for use in children except in certain schizophrenia cases, the report says.

    The number of children on the drugs has doubled since the early 1990s as the UK begins to follow a trend started in the US, but critics say they are a “chemical cosh” that could cause premature death.

    Read moreTranquillisers putting children’s lives at risk