Alcohol Blamed in Ukraine Cold Deaths

A wave of cold weather hit large parts of Europe, causing the death of numerous people across the continent, while alcohol was blamed in Ukraine cold deaths, Emergency Situations Minister Viktor Baloga told journalists. Reportedly, some 130 people have died due to the bad weather in Ukraine in the past couple of weeks, while 3,000 Ukrainians have been hospitalized during the same period.

Ukraine Cold Deaths

Some 14,000 homeless people are roaming along the streets of the Ukraine’s capital city of Kiev, and it is not quite a news story that alcohol is blamed in Ukraine cold deaths, since the alcohol is an obvious solution for homeless people to warm themselves in below-freezing conditions. The authorities have distributed some 3,000 emergency relief tents all over the country, trying to reduce the number of cold-related deaths to a minimum.

The alcohol gives an imaginary feeling of security, while not helping the body to get warmer, thus causing numerous deaths among homeless and low-income people who have no other means to protect themselves against freezing.

The temperatures in Kiev have been below zero degrees Celsius for 25 days in a row and, alcohol blamed in Ukraine cold deaths aside, many people who are working outside also suffer from the somewhat unusual weather conditions.

Argentina to File Protest Against Great Britain at U.N.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announced that Argentina is to file protest against Great Britain at U.N. following moves by the British military that have been described as “militarization” of the Falkland Islands, local media reported. The Falklands War erupted in April 30 years ago following an exchange of exchange of accusations between Argentina and the United Kingdom although most political commentators agree that a new war between the countries over the Falkland Islands is highly unlikely.

Argentina Complaint

The UK sent a destroyer to the region while UK’s Prince William, second in line to the throne, has also been deployed to the Falkland Islands last week causing a massive wave of media hype. A decision by Argentina to file protest against Great Britain at U.N. would be a unwise move, according to a Downing St. spokeswoman who added that the British military posture in the region remains the same. South America’s trading bloc Mercosur announced a decision in December preventing Falkland Islands’ based ships from entering ports across its member states, while London responded by the HMS Dauntless to the South Atlantic.

The British side insists both the deployment of Prince William and the Royal Navy destroyer are “routine”, nevertheless a nervous Argentine president continuously states that Argentina is to file protest against Britain at U.N., urging the Security Council to take measures against “the militarization”.

5000 Missing in Mexico Drug War

Mexico’s government said that about 5000 missing in Mexico drug war have been reported throughout the country where more than 47,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence during the past five years. President Felipe Calder?n started a massive on drug cartels, ordering the military to take action, but during the first nine months of 2011 alone drug-related killing rose by 11 percent year-over-year, a report by the government showed. From January 2011 through September 2011 nearly 13,000 Mexicans lost their lives in drug-related violence, the report said.

Mexico Drug War

The wave of violence hit major cities as Guadalajara that were once considered safe places but with 5000 missing on Mexico drug war no place all over the country can be regarded as safe at present, experts said. There is increasing frustration among Mexicans who believe that the number of drug-related killing is even higher but the government is hiding information on the actual number of violent murders across the country. Initially, the government claimed it is classified information that cannot be released to the public without putting at risk the national security but later a report was revealed, whose figures, however, are disputable, according to independent analysts.

Local experts put the number of drug-related killings at more than 67,000 since a wave of violence hit the country in 2007. The figure is in sharp contrast with government reports that about 47,000 people have been killed in the past five years.

Recently, drug-related killings have been reported in Mexico city, hinting that even the heavily patrolled financial districts of the Mexico’s capital are no longer safe.

In December 2006 President Felipe Calderon ordered the military to engage in a campaign against the local drug cartels, while the drug gangs responded with mass killings in eight of Mexico’s 32 states, with another 5000 missing in Mexico drug war in the process.

Italian Cruise Ship Sinking

Costa Concordia, the Italian cruise ship sinking off the coast of Northern Italy, fell victim to human errors with the ship owners blaming Captain Francesco Schettino for the accident that took the lives of at least 11 people, local media reported. A transcript of a conversation between an Italian Coast Guard official and the ship’s captain reveals that Schettino refused to return to the ship while aboard a lifeboat that according to him got stuck.

Italian Cruise Ship

The cruise liner capsized off the coast of Italy with 24 people still missing after the ship hit rocks during what looked like a routine cruise. Rescuers managed to find the bodies of five people so far.

Rescue operations continue while Dutch company Smit is preparing to conduct a survey of the Italian cruise ship sinking near what Captain Francesco Schettino claims to be uncharted rocks in order to determine how much time it would take to begin with the extraction process. Ecologists voiced concerns that a fuel spill may occur if an operation to empty the ship’s fuel tanks, containing some 2 million liters of fuel, is not conducted on time.

Costa Crociere, the company that owns the ship, claims the captain was not authorized to change the ship’s course that is pre-programmed, while the ship’s navigational computer should sound an alarm if change in the course occurs. The company insists that the captain did not follow certain procedures, which caused the 4,000-passenger vessel to run aground.

Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Italian cruise ship sinking off the coast of Tuscany faces manslaughter, shipwreck, and abandoning a ship charges and is in police custody, according to the Italian authorities.

New Swine Flu Strain

A new swine flu strain has been discovered in the United States and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are working on a new vaccine against the strain, named A(H3Ns)v. It is a variant of the A(H3N2) virus, which is known for its ability to sicken people and 12 Americans suffered from the swine influenza in the U.S. since July 2011, the agency said in a press release.

New Swine Flu

The new swine flu strain have sickened people in Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, while all patients infected with the virus variation have recovered successfully. Nevertheless, drug manufacturers are expected to start developing a vaccine against the A(H3Ns)v after the CDC has prepared a “seed virus”, CDC spokesman Thomas Skinner said. According the various reports, the seasonal influenza vaccine for 2011-2012 is not able to provide high enough level of protection against the new virus variant.

The A(H3N2)v strain is not spreading freely from human to human, experts said, adding that human-to-human is not characteristic for some variations of the swine flu virus. People should be aware that the trivalent seasonal vaccine protects only against the 2009 pandemic virus, the regular A(H3N2) virus, and an influenza B strain, while protection against the new swine flu strain is still in its earliest stage of development.

New Girl Scout Cookie

A new Girl Scout cookie is to hit stores in the coming weeks, marking the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scots movement, which had been founded by Juliette Gordon Low in in Savannah, Ga. The Savannah Smiles cookies have been created with a new lemony twist taste, while the name was clearly inspired by Juliette Gordon Low, the Girl Scouts announced.

Girl Scout Cookie

In 1917, the Girl Scouts introduced their first cookies as a way to support their troop activities, with  the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma selling the first baked cookies in its high school coffee shop in December 1917. Since then, the Girl Scouts have unveiled many branded cookies, including Thin Mint, Samoas or Caramel deLites, Do-si-dos or Peanut Butter Sandwich, Tapalongs or Peanut Butter Patties, Thank U Berry Much, Lemonades, Dulce de Leche, Thanks-A-Lot, Trefoils or Shortbread, and Shout Outs. The new Girl Scout cookie is set to complement the wide choice of cookies baked under arrangement with the followers of Juliette Gordon Low, whose Savannah home is now a tourist attraction.

Little Brownie Bakers, the company that is authorized to make Girl Scouts cookies, said in a statement that they are proud to introduce a special new Girl Scout cookie that will remind girls they can expect an unlimited future while delighting customers.

Matt Damon SLAMS President Obama

Not many Hollywood stars are known for their in-depth knowledge and involvement in political affairs but Democrat voters and Obama backers witnessed how Matt Damon SLAMS President Obama once again in a magazine interview. He told Elle that he is dissatisfied with the present U.S. President, saying that many of his acquaintances who volunteered for Obama presidential campaign are now deeply disappointed. Damon also said that he will not be fooled by a politician again, adding that a one-term president could be a better option for the United States in general.

Matt Damon Obama

Actually, the news is not that Matt Damon SLAMS President Obama once again but do America need two-term Presidents who mandate spans 10 years at the helm of a leading world nation. Damon was involved in Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008 and appeared to be among the best-known celebrities on the list of Obama’s supporters, along with Oprah Winfrey.

Why Matt Damon SLAMS President Obama once again, interviewer asked, and Damon replied, referencing the Occupy protesters in Vancouver, that one would only imagine what would happen if all those people on the street had a leader.

Geminids Meteor Shower 2011

Skywatchers will be able to enjoy Geminids meteor shower 2011 on Tuesday and Wednesday, with more than one shooting star per minute glazing before the eyes of lucky spectators if the seeing is good. The Geminids are famous mainly for they first appeared in the 1860s unlike other meteor shower that are well known for centuries. The Perseids appear in August, while the Leonids in November but only in the 1860s skywatchers witnessed the appearance of the Geminids.

Geminids Meteor Shower

Those watching the Geminids meteor shower in 2011 should be aware that greater number of shooting stars can be seen in the morning hours, while meteors are usually seen for several nights after the meteor shower peak, which this year is on Wednesday.

Occasionally, meteors appear in clusters, while streaks could appear anywhere in the sky. The Geminids meteor shower can be watched without special equipment but advisably at a dark place, away from the city lights, astronomers said.

American Gets 2.5 Years for Insulting Thai Monarchy

Joe Gordon, a 55-year-old American citizen, was sentenced to serve 2.5 years behind bars for insulting Thailand’s royal family, media in Thailand reported. He translated and posted online selections from a biography about the Thai Monarch, while the book is banned in the country. The Thai-born Gordon was taken into custody when he visited Thailand in May this year. Two years ago he posted excerpts from the book on his blog.

American Jailed Thai Monarchy

Gordon, who lives in Colorado, was sentenced to five years in jail but after pleading before a local court the judge cut his sentence to 30 months in prison. U.S. Consul General Elizabeth Pratt told journalists that this is a severe punishment, while Gordon’s attorney, Arnon Nampa, commented that local citizens get more severe sentences in similar cases. Nampa intends to ask for a royal pardon for his client instead of appealing the court sentence.

The biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, titled “The King Never Smiles,” claims that the Thai monarch has prevented the country from developing a true democracy. Insulting the monarchy in Thailand is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. An elderly Thai man was sentenced to 20 years in jail in November only for sending four messages considered to be insulting to the queen.

Stocks Opened Higher After Europe Deal

Stock markets welcomed the news on Europe’s plan to tighten budget rules within the European Union and U.S. stocks gained on Friday, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index adding 1 percent. EU leaders agreed in Brussels to increase the EU’s crisis-fighting fund by $267 billion and introduce stricter anti-deficit rules to fight continuing debt crisis in Europe.

US Stocks Rise

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi described the plan as “very good”, while Britain was not included in the new plan after the country decided not to join the newly introduced measures and refused to accept closer economic ties with other member states.

U.S. stock market was boosted also by better than expected figures on the U.S. trade deficit, which decreased by 1.6 percent to $43.5 billion in September.

Other leading U.S. stock indexes also rose, although the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s gain was limited by decreasing prices of DuPont shares. The index added 1.1 percent during early trading hours, while bank stocks led the gain, with Morgan Stanley adding 5.3 percent, and Citigroup Inc. increasing 4.6 percent. European stocks also rose following the news on a debt-crisis deal, with France’s CAC 40 gaining 2.5 percent, and Germany’s DAX adding 2 percent on Friday.

The new budget rules envisage a more active role for the European Central Bank, which is now allowed to purchase more government debt to lower borrowing costs for EU member states. Britain, not quite unexpectedly, opposed the plan designed by France and Germany, Europe’s leading economies, and asked the new rules not to apply to London. Other member states, however, did not accept Britain to be an exception to the rules, and London did not join the new budgetary policy framework.