BBC.CNN WORLD NEWS

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Of Course You Can Buy Salt Made from Human Tears

Buy Salt Made from Human Tears

Are the dinners you cook for yourself not sad enough? Have you been looking to give your meals a little extra boost of emotion? Well then you might want want to try seasoning them with these new salts made from human tears. They're sold by Hoxton Street Monster Supplies in London and the website promises a magical sounding product:

Salt Made From Tears combines centuries-old craft with the freshest human tears which are gently boiled, released into shallow crystallisation tanks, then harvested by hand and finally rinsed in brine.

You can choose from tears brought on by chopping onions, laughing, sneezing, anger, and, of course, sorrow. If you're worried that perhaps this is unsanitary, you need not be concerned. Here's a hint: The sale of these salts benefits the Ministry of Stories, a writing center that stimulates the imaginations of young storytellers. Still, it will be fun to feed your guests a little bit of artisanal bullshit by telling them that tonight's meal is infused with special salt that offers a subtle undertone of sadness.

News by Jezebel

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Red Hot Chili Peppers to release 18 new songs over the next six months

new songs by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea has revealed that the band will be releasing 18 new songs over the next six months.

The bassist confirmed that the band have been busy writing while they've been touring their tenth studio album 'I'm With You' and will be putting out new material as 7'' vinyl singles and digital download.

Taking to his Twitter account, Flea wrote: "We have been writing stuff while touring. We are also going to put out 18 new songs over the next 6 months on 7 inch and digitally."

The band's drummer Chad Smith had previously said that the funk punks had at least "10 more songs" ready to release from their sessions for 'I'm With You', which it seems will form part of the 18 tracks they will now put out.

Red Hot Chili Peppers will return to the UK and Ireland this summer to play three huge outdoor shows. The band will play Knebworth Park near Stevenage on June 23, Sunderland's Stadium Of Light on June 24 and Dublin's Croke Park on June 26.

You can watch a video interview where the band discuss working with Blur's Damon Albarn by scrolling down to the bottom of the page and clicking.

News by NME

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U.S. stocks fell Thursday morning, the worst losses of the year

U.S. stocks fell Thursday morning
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday, May 30, 2012.
NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks fell Thursday morning, promising another nerve-wracking day for investors who just endured one of the worst losses of the year.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell steadily throughout the morning and was down 89 points at 12,331 as of 11:15 a.m. It plunged 161 points the day before on concerns about Europe, marking its third-worst daily loss of the year. May will be the Dow's first monthly loss since September - another unwelcome milestone.

Stock index futures had climbed before the market opened after several big retailers including Target and Limited Brands reported healthy sales for May. Those gains evaporated after the government released discouraging news about jobs and economic growth.

The dismal month has been an unpleasant jolt after the gains in the first quarter, when investors wagered that Europe's financial troubles were, if not exactly solved, at least becoming more manageable. In the 21 trading days so far this month, the Dow has lost value on all but five. Its declines have wiped out nearly four-fifths of the gains made in the first three months of the year.

The Standard & Poor's 500 edged down eight to 1,305. The Nasdaq composite fell 22 points to 2,815.

News about U.S. stocks and bonds crimped the market, emphasizing the tenuous nature of any economic recovery here.

The government reported that claims for unemployment benefits rose to a five-week high, and that the economy grew more slowly than expected in the first three months of the year.

In bonds, the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell to record low as investors flee the stock market and opt for low-risk bonds instead. The yield hit 1.54 percent in the morning, down from 1.62 percent the day before.

Caterpillar was the weakest stock in the Dow, down more than 3 percent in early trading. The machinery company is heavily dependent on China, and economists are concerned that the country, which has powered global economic growth as others have fallen into recession, is slowing down.

There was at least one encouraging sign in world markets. The yield on 10-year bonds for Spain fell to 6.4 percent after shooting as high as 6.7 percent on Wednesday.

That means investors are more confident in Spain's ability to pay its debt and aren't demanding as high an interest rate in return for investing in bonds issued by that country's government. Other countries like Greece and Portugal had to seek bailout loans after their borrowing costs rose above 7 percent, a level that many economists see as too high for a country to continue funding itself.

Debt-laden Greece has dominated the headlines out of Europe for much of the year, and investors are closely watching its elections on June 17 for signs of whether the country will keep using the euro or break away from the 16 other countries that do.

This week Spain has been the force that's rattling the market. The country announced Friday that it would have to spend nearly $24 billion to bail out a troubled bank, Bankia. On Thursday the European Union demanded that Spain provide more details about how it plans to finance an overhaul of its banking sector. Europe, which has already bailed out Greece, Ireland and Portugal, doesn't want to have to do the same for Spain as well.

Spain's size could make it an even bigger headache. Greece makes up 2 percent of the euro zone's economy; Spain 11 percent.

"Greece is a failed chemistry experiment," said Michael Strauss, chief investment strategist at the Commonfund investment firm in Connecticut. "But we are more worried about Spain because of its size and the scope."

Europe's debt crisis is sharpened by disagreement on whether spending more money or less is the best way to solve it. Stronger countries like Germany say governments need to cut spending. Weaker countries, already wracked by street protests whenever they try to cut any government services, say that will only make the problem worse.

In Ireland, residents voted on whether to accept a budget plan from the European Union. The plan would impose heavy budget cuts on the struggling country, a move that's sure to be unpopular among citizens who are used to generous government spending. But if Ireland rejects the EU's plan, its access to new bailout funds will be severely curbed. Results come Friday.

News by AP

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NYC proposes ban on sale of oversized sodas

ban on sale of oversized sodas
Shop keeper carrying large sodas
NEW YORK (AP) -- Mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing a ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks in the city's restaurants, delis and movie theaters in the hopes of combating obesity - an expansion of his administration's efforts to encourage healthy behavior by limiting residents' choices.

The proposal - expected to be announced formally on Thursday in a City Hall briefing - would take 20-ounce soda bottles off the shelves of the city's delis and eliminate super-sized sugary soft drinks from fast-food menus. It is the latest health effort by the administration to spark accusations that the city's officials are overstepping into matters that should be left in the hands of individual consumers.

"There they go again," said Stefan Friedman, spokesman for the New York City Beverage Association, who called the proposal "zealous" in a statement. "The New York City Health Department's unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks is again pushing them over the top. The city is not going to address the obesity issue by attacking soda because soda is not driving the obesity rates."

But City Hall officials, citing a 2006 study, argue that sugary drinks are the largest driver of rising calorie consumption and obesity. They note that sweet drinks are linked to long-term weight gain and increased rates of diabetes and heart disease.

The administration's proposal would impose a 16-ounce limit on the size of sugary drinks sold at food service establishments, including restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and street carts. It would apply to bottled drinks as well as fountain sodas.

The ban would apply only to drinks that contain more than 25 calories per 8 ounces. It would not apply to diet soda or any other calorie-free drink. Any drink that is at least half milk or milk substitute would be exempted.

The ban, which could take effect as soon as March, would not apply to drinks sold in grocery or convenience stores that don't serve prepared food. Establishments that don't downsize would face fines of $200 after a three-month grace period.

The proposal requires the approval of the city's Board of Health - considered likely because its members are all appointed by Bloomberg.

Under the three-term mayor, the city has campaigned aggressively against obesity, outlawing trans-fats in restaurant food and forcing chain restaurants to post calorie counts on menus. The mayor has also led efforts to ban smoking in the city's bars, restaurants, parks and beaches.

Bloomberg often cites the city's rising life expectancy numbers as proof the approach is working, but his efforts have drawn criticism from others who accuse him of instituting a "nanny state."

His administration has tried other ways to make soda consumption less appealing. The mayor supported a state tax on sodas, but the measure died in Albany, and he tried to restrict the use of food stamps to buy sodas, an idea federal regulators rejected.

City Hall's latest proposal does not require approval beyond the Board of Health, although public hearings will be held.

News by AP

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11-year-old played dead to survive Syria massacre

11-year-old played dead to survive Syria massacre
11-year-old Ali el-Sayed, a survivor of the Houla massacre that began Friday and left 108 people dead, many of them children and women.

BEIRUT (AP) -- When the gunmen began to slaughter his family, 11-year-old Ali el-Sayed says he fell to the floor of his home, soaking his clothes with his brother's blood to fool the killers into thinking he was already dead.

The Syrian boy tried to stop himself from trembling, even as the gunmen, with long beards and shaved heads, killed his parents and all four of his siblings, one by one.

The youngest to die was Ali's brother, 6-year-old Nader. His small body bore two bullet holes - one in his head, another in his back.

"I put my brother's blood all over me and acted like I was dead," Ali told The Associated Press over Skype on Wednesday, his raspy voice steady and matter-of-fact, five days after the killing spree that left him both an orphan and an only child.

Ali is one of the few survivors of a weekend massacre in Houla, a collection of poor farming villages and olive groves in Syria's central Homs province. More than 100 people were killed, many of them women and children who were shot or stabbed in their houses.

The killings brought immediate, worldwide condemnation of President Bashar Assad, who has unleashed a violent crackdown on an uprising that began in March 2011. Activists say as many as 13,000 people have been killed since the revolt began.

U.N. investigators and witnesses blame at least some of the Houla killings on shadowy gunmen known as shabiha who operate on behalf of Assad's government.

Recruited from the ranks of Assad's Alawite religious community, the militiamen enable the government to distance itself from direct responsibility for the execution-style killings, torture and revenge attacks that have become hallmarks of the shabiha.

In many ways, the shabiha are more terrifying than the army and security forces, whose tactics include shelling residential neighborhoods and firing on protesters. The swaggering gunmen are deployed specifically to brutalize and intimidate Assad's opponents.

Activists who helped collect the dead in the aftermath of the Houla massacre described dismembered bodies in the streets, and row upon row of corpses shrouded in blankets.

"When we arrived on the scene we started seeing the scale of the massacre," said Ahmad al-Qassem, a 35-year-old activist. "I saw a kid with his brains spilling out, another child who was no more than 1 year old who was stabbed in the head. The smell of death was overpowering."

The regime denies any responsibility for the Houla killings, blaming them on terrorists. And even if the shabiha are responsible for the killings, there is no clear evidence that the regime directly ordered the massacre in a country spiraling toward civil war.

As witness accounts begin to leak out, it remains to be seen what, exactly, prompted the massacre. Although the Syrian uprising has been among the deadliest of the Arab Spring, the killings in Houla stand out for their sheer brutality and ruthlessness.

According to the U.N., which is investigating the attack, most of the victims were shot at close range, as were Ali's parents and siblings. The attackers appeared to be targeting the most vulnerable people, such as children and the elderly, to terrorize the population.

This type of massacre - even more than the shelling and mortar attacks that have become daily occurrences in the uprising - is a sign of a new level of violence. By most accounts, the gunmen descended on Houla from an arc of nearby villages, making the deaths all the more horrifying because the victims could have known their attackers.

According to activists in the area, the massacre came after the army pounded the villages with artillery and clashed with local rebels following anti-regime protests. Several demonstrators were killed, and the rebels were forced to withdraw. The pro-regime gunmen later stormed in, doing the bulk of the killing.

Syrian activist Maysara Hilaoui said he was at home when the massacre in Houla began. He said there were two waves of violence, one starting at 5 p.m. Friday and a second at 4 a.m. Saturday.

"The shabiha took advantage of the withdrawal of rebel fighters," he said. "They started entering homes and killing the young as well as the old."

Ali, the 11-year-old, said his mother began weeping the moment about 11 gunmen entered the family home in the middle of the night after arriving in a military armored vehicle and a bus. The men led Ali's father and oldest brother outside.

"My mother started screaming 'Why did you take them? Why did you take them?'" Ali said.

Soon afterward, he said, the gunmen killed Ali's entire family.

As Ali huddled with his youngest siblings, a man in civilian clothes took Ali's mother to the bedroom and shot her five times in the head and neck.

"Then he left the bedroom. He used his flashlight to see in front of him," Ali said. "When he saw my sister Rasha, he shot her in the head while she was in the hallway."

Ali had been hiding near his brothers Nader, 6, and Aden, 8. The gunmen shot both of them, killing them instantly. He then fired at Ali but missed.

"I was terrified," Ali said, speaking from Houla, where relatives have taken him in. "My whole body was trembling."

Ali is among the few survivors of the massacre, although it was impossible to independently corroborate his story. The AP contacted him through anti-regime activists in Houla who arranged for an interview with the child over Skype.

The violence had haunting sectarian overtones, according to witness accounts. The victims lived in the Houla area's Sunni Muslim villages, but the shabiha forces came from a nearby area populated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Most shabiha belong to the Alawite sect - like the Assad family and the ruling elite. This ensures the loyalty of the gunmen to the regime, because they fear they would be persecuted if the Sunni majority gains the upper hand.

Sunnis make up most of Syria's 22 million people, as well as the backbone of the opposition. The opposition insists the movement is entirely secular.

It was not possible to reach residents of the Alawite villages on Wednesday. Communications with much of the area have been cut off, and many residents have fled.

Al-Qassem, the activist who helped gather corpses in Houla, said the uprising has unleashed deep tensions between Sunnis and Alawites.

"Of course the regime worked hard to create an atmosphere of fear among Alawites," said al-Qassem, who is from the Houla area, although not one of the villages that came under attack over the weekend. "There is a deep-seated hatred. The regime has given Alawites the illusion that the end of the regime will spell the end of their villages and lives."

He said the army has been pouring weapons into the Alawite areas.

"Every house in each of those Alawite villages has automatic rifles. The army has armed these villages, each home according to the number of people who live there," he said, "whereas in Houla, which has a population of 120,000, you can only find 500 0r 600 armed people. There is an imbalance."

Days after the attack, many victims remain missing.

Ali can describe the attack on his family. But al-Qassem said the full story of the massacre may never emerge.

"There are no eyewitnesses of the massacre," he said. "The eyewitnesses are all dead."

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner planning world record 120,000-foot jump from space

Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner
Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner
Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner planning world record 120,000-foot jump from space

This summer, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner will attempt to break the world record for the longest jump, plummeting more than 23 miles from the Earth's stratosphere.

"I've done a lot of test jumps, so I'm good," Baumgartner confidently told Fox News before adding that he would "probably say a little prayer" before making the jump that could literally make his blood boil if something goes wrong.

Baumgartner has been preparing with retired Air Force Col. Joe Kittinger, who set the current world record back in 1960 when he made a 102,000-foot jump.

To prepare for the jump, Baumgartner will breath pure oxygen for nearly an hour to remove nitrogen bubbles from his blood. He will then stay at the peak elevation for three hours, allowing his body to adjust. He will then jump in a pressurized suit that will prevent his blood from boiling at the extremely high elevation.

And if all goes well, Baumgartner will set another world record during his jump, becoming the first human being to break the speed of sound in a free-fall jump.

CNN reports that the pressurized suit worn by Baumgartner is similar to those worn by U-2 pilots but that even those highly skilled airmen rarely come within 50,000 feet of his planned drop point.

News by Yahoo

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Iran, other Mideast states hit by computer virus

computer virus
Muslim women at computer lab
LONDON (AP) -- Iran and other Middle East countries have been hit with a cunning computer virus that can eavesdrop on computer users and their co-workers and filch information from nearby cellphones, cybersecurity experts said Tuesday. And suspicion immediately fell on Israel as the culprit.

The Russian Internet security firm Kaspersky Lab ZAO said the "Flame" virus is unprecedented in size and complexity, with researcher Roel Schouwenberg marveling at its versatility.

"It can be used to spy on everything that a user is doing," he said.

Computers in Iran appear to have been particularly affected, and Kaspersky's conclusion that the virus was crafted at the behest of a national government fueled speculation it could be part of an Israeli-backed campaign of electronic sabotage against the Jewish state's archenemy.

The virus can activate a computer's audio systems to listen in on Skype calls or office chatter. It can also take screenshots, log keystrokes and - in one of its more novel functions- steal data from Bluetooth-enabled cellphones.

Schouwenberg said there is evidence to suggest that the people behind Flame also helped craft Stuxnet, a virus that is believed to have attacked nuclear centrifuges in Iran in 2010. Many suspect Stuxnet was the work of Israeli intelligence.

Tehran has not said whether it lost any data to Flame, but a unit of the Iranian communications and information technology ministry said it has produced an anti-virus capable of identifying and removing Flame from its computers.

Israel's vice premier did little to deflect suspicion about the country's possible involvement in the cyberattack.

"Whoever sees the Iranian threat as a significant threat is likely to take various steps, including these, to hobble it," Moshe Yaalon told Army Radio when asked about Flame. "Israel is blessed with high technology, and we boast tools that open all sorts of opportunities for us."

Researchers not involved in Flame's discovery were more skeptical of its sophistication than Kaspersky, with Richard Bejtlich of Virginia-based Mandiant saying the virus appeared similar to spyware used by the German government to monitor criminal suspects.

"There have been tools like this employed by high-end teams for many years," he said.

Colorado-based Webroot said the virus wasn't as complex or as stealthy as Stuxnet and was "a relatively easy threat to identify."

Flame is unusually large. Malicious programs collected by the British security firm Sophos averaged about 340 kilobytes in 2010, the same year that Kaspersky believes Flame first started spreading. Flame is 20 megabytes - nearly 60 times that figure.

Alan Woodward, a professor of computing at the University of Surrey in England, said functions can be added or subtracted to the virus depending on what kind of espionage is desired, not unlike the way apps can be downloaded to a smartphone.

He was particularly struck by Flame's ability to turn an infected computer into a kind of "industrial vacuum cleaner," copying data from vulnerable cellphones or other Bluetooth wireless devices left near it.

"I don't believe I've seen it before," he said.

Udi Mokady, chief executive of Cyber-Ark, an Israeli developer of information security, said he believes four countries, in no particular order, have the know-how to develop so sophisticated a weapon: Israel, the U.S., China and Russia.

"It was 20 times more sophisticated than Stuxnet," with thousands of lines of code that took a large team, ample funding and months, if not years, to develop, he said. "It's a live program that communicates back to its master. It asks, `Where should I go? What should I do now?' It's really almost like a science fiction movie."

It's not clear exactly what the virus was targeting. Kaspersky said it detected the program in hundreds of computers, mainly in Iran but also in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The company would not give details on the victims except to say that they "range from individuals to certain state-related organizations or educational institutions."

Schouwenberg said stolen data was being sent to some 80 different servers, something that would give the virus' controllers time to adjust their tactics if they were discovered.

As for Flame's purpose, "maybe it's just espionage," he said. "Maybe it's also sabotage."


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Big Italian quake: Workers among 16 dead

latest quake in Italy
A powerful earthquake killed at least 15 people Tuesday as it rocked a swath of northern Italy.
SAN FELICE SUL PANARO, Italy (AP) -- Workers at the small machinery company had just returned for their first shift following Italy's powerful and deadly quake earlier this month when another one struck, collapsing the roof.

At least three employees at the factory - two immigrants and an Italian engineer checking the building's stability - were among those killed Tuesday in the second deadly quake in nine days to strike a region of Italy that hadn't considered itself particularly quake prone.

By late Tuesday, the death toll stood at 16, with one person missing : a worker at the machinery factory in the small town of San Felice Sul Panaro. Some 350 people also were injured in the 5.8 magnitude quake north of Bologna in Emilia Romagna, one of Italy's more productive agricultural and industrial regions. Originally government officials had put the death toll at 17, and there was no immediately explanation for the lowered figure.

The injured included a 65-year-old woman who was pulled out alive by rescuers after lying for 12 hours in the rubble of her apartment's kitchen in Cavezzo, another town hard hit by the quake. Firefighters told Sky TG24 TV that a piece of furniture, which had toppled over, saved her from being crushed by the wreckage. She was taken to a hospital for treatment.

The building had been damaged in the first quake, on May 20, and had been vacant since. The woman had just gone back inside it Tuesday morning to retrieve some clothes when the latest temblor knocked down the building, firefighters said.

Factories, barns and churches fell, dealing a second blow to a region where thousands remained homeless from the May 20 temblor, much stronger in intensity, at 6.0 magnitude.

The two quakes struck one of the most productive regions in Italy at a particularly crucial moment, as the country faces enormous pressure to grow its economy to stave off the continent's debt crisis. Italy's economic growth has been stagnant for at least a decade, and the national economy is forecast to contract by 1.2 percent this year.

The area encompassing the cities of Modena, Mantua and Bologna is prized for its super car production, churning out Ferraris, Maseratis and Lamborghinis; its world-famous Parmesan cheese, and less well-known but critical to the economy - its machinery companies.

Like the May 20 quake, many of the dead in Tuesday's temblor were workers inside huge warehouses, many of them prefabricated, that house factories. Inspectors have been determining which are safe to re-enter, but economic pressure has sped up renewed production - perhaps prematurely.

Seven people were killed in the May 20 quake. In both, the dead were largely and disproportionately workers killed by collapsing factories and warehouses.

Co-workers of Mohamed Azeris, a Moroccan immigrant and father of two who died in the just-reopened factory, claim he was forced back to work as a shift supervisor or faced losing his job. A local union representative had demanded an investigation.

"Another earthquake - unfortunately during the day - that means people were inside working, so I think that an investigation will need to be opened here to check who cleared as safe these companies to understand who's responsible for this," Erminio Veronesi told The Associated Press.

At another factory closer to the epicenter in the city of Medolla, rescue crews searched for three workers who did not turn up at roll call after the quake and were presumed dead.

Premier Mario Monti, tapped to steer the country from financial ruin in November, pledged that the government would quickly provide help to the area "that is so special, so important and so productive for Italy."

The Coldiretti farm lobby said damage to the agricultural industry, including Parmesan makers whose aging wheels of cheese already suffered in the first quake, had risen to (EURO)500 million ($626 million) with the second hit. The Modena Chamber of Commerce estimated that the first quake alone had cost businesses (EURO)1.5 billion, with no fresh estimates immediately available.

Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini, all centered around Modena, reported no damage, and said workers were evacuated and then allowed to go home to check on their homes and families. Lamborghini planned to keep production halted on Wednesday.

The quake was felt from Piedmont in northwestern Italy to Venice in the northeast and as far north as Austria. Dozens of aftershocks hit the area, some registering more than 5.0 in magnitude.

The temblor terrified many of the thousands of people who have been living in tents or cars since the May 20 quake and created a whole new wave of homeless.

"I was shaving and I ran out very fast, half dressed," a resident of Sant'Agostino, one of the towns devastated in the quake earlier this month, told AP Television News.

Tuesday's quake struck just after 9 a.m. with an epicenter 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Bologna, according to the U.S. Geological Survey - just several kilometers (miles) away from where the 6.0-magnitude quake that killed seven people on May 20 was centered.

In the town of Mirandola, near the epicenter, the church of San Francesco crumbled, leaving only its facade standing. The main cathedral also collapsed. Sant'Agostino's town hall, so badly damaged in the May 20 quake that it looked as if it had been bombed, virtually fell apart when the latest deadly temblor struck.

Labor Minister Elsa Fornero suggested the destruction to buildings was out of proportion, considering the magnitude of the quake. "It is natural that the earth shakes. But it is not natural that buildings collapse," Fornero told lawmakers in Parliament's lower Chamber of Deputies.

The May 20 quake was described by Italian emergency officials as the worst to hit the region since the 1300s. In addition to the deaths, it knocked down a clock tower and other centuries-old buildings. Its epicenter was about 35 kilometers (22 miles) north of Bologna.

Tuesday's earthquake and strong aftershocks from the May 20 temblor are not surprising or unexpected, said Harley Benz, scientist in charge of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center.

"This is an area that is known to have earthquakes," Benz said. The earthquakes aren't as powerful and not as recent as those that circle the Pacific Ocean in the famed "ring of fire," but they are still active over the years. The region around Bologna has had at least five previous significant earthquakes between 5.3 and 6.8 magnitudes in the past 550 years, most recently in 1929 with a series of quakes, he said.

Residents had just been taking tentative steps toward resuming normal life when Tuesday's quake struck. In Sant'Agostino, a daycare center had just reopened. In the town of Concordia, the mayor had scheduled a town meeting Tuesday evening to discuss the aftermath of the first quake. Instead, Mayor Carlo Marchini confirmed the death of one person struck by falling debris in the town's historic center.

Italy's soccer match against Luxembourg, a warm-up for the Euro 2012 championships, was canceled. The game had been scheduled to be played Tuesday in Parma, just 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of the quake.


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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Plane Crashes Into Water in San Diego Bay

Plane Crashes Into Water in San Diego Bay
Plane in San Diego Bay
Asunny Memorial Day weekend flight ended in a panic as a small single engine plane slammed into the San Diego Bay, narrowly missing a waterfront hotel and shocking onlookers.

The plane, a cessna-152 operated by Aerial Advertising, was flying a banner that read “Honor our Heroes” over the USS Midway aircraft carrier Saturday.

At about 600 feet in the air, the engine shuddered to a stop.

One of the two pilots on board, Ron, who wanted to be identified only his first name, said the pair knew right away they were in serious trouble.

“You prepare for it, but you don’t ever want it to happen,” he told ABC News San Diego affiliate KGTV.

“After the engine failure… it was just a matter of dropping the banner, get a little better glide out of it… There was no way I was going to make land,” Ron said.

Thinking quickly, they lined up with a clear portion of the bay and glided to startling, but safe landing.

“It was just a matter of getting the door open and getting the seatbelts off and got out of it,” Ron said.

Nearby boaters and the Coast Guard quickly came to their rescue and the two escaped without injury.

Paul Parcel, one of the good Samaritans who helped rescue the men told KGTV that he knew the plane was in trouble before it even came down.

“I saw the airplane turn from the Midway,” Parcel said the station. “I noticed that he was losing altitude and he kept coming down lower and lower.”


News by Pattayadailynews

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Boxing champ Johnny Tapia found dead

Boxing champ Johnny Tapia found dead
Johnny Tapia celebrates after defeating Eduardo Alvarez during an international featherweight contest.

Nobody who knew Johnny Tapia can be remotely surprised that he was found dead inside his Albuquerque, N.M., home on Sunday.

The only surprise, perhaps, is that he survived the first four times he was declared dead.

Tapia won major world championships in three weight classes and was one of the elite fighters of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Despite his brilliance in the ring, he was far better known for a life story that was far stranger than any fiction novel could ever be.

An 89-word passage from his 2010 autobiography, "Mi Vida Loca," probably best sums up the sad life of this small, troubled and talented man.

"My name is Johnny Lee Tapia. I was born on Friday the 13th. A Friday in February of 1967. To this day I don't know if that makes me lucky or unlucky. When I was eight I saw my mother murdered. I never knew my father. He was murdered before I was born. I was raised as a pit bull. Raised to fight to the death. Four times I was declared dead. Four times they wanted to pull life support. And many more times I came close to dying."

Sadly, on Sunday, he did. A spokesman for the Albuquerque, N.M., police department told Yahoo! Sports a body found in a home in the city's northwest section was believed to be Tapia's. He said circumstances do not appear to be suspicious and that the cause of death will be determined at autopsy. His death was confirmed shortly thereafter.

Tapia won world championships at super flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight, relying on guile, cunning and a barely controlled fury.

He ripped off punches in rapid-fire manner, as though he was trying to knock out all the demons that were attacking him. In the ring, he stayed calm amid all manner of chaos, keeping his cool as punches flew from all directions at his head and body. He'd duck, step to the side and return fire with remarkable accuracy.

It was when the gym doors were closed and the lights were turned off that Tapia couldn't win. Death was his constant companion. His mother was raped, stabbed repeatedly with a screwdriver and chained to the back of a truck. When he tried to tell family members what he saw, no one believed the 8-year-old until it was too late.

He saw friends murder and murdered. He ducked bullets more often than he did punches.

He went through hell in the ring with a smile because it was a breeze compared to his life outside it.

He nearly didn't make it through the second day of his marriage. On his wedding night, his cousins approached his new bride, Teresa, and said to her, "Why don't you go back there and see what you married."

Teresa Tapia walked into a bedroom in her new mother-in-law's home and saw her husband of a few hours shooting himself in the arm with a needle.

His heart stopped and he was declared dead in her car.

He inflicted intense amounts of pain on those he loved with his frequent bouts with drugs and numerous brushes with death, yet he remained a chipper and friendly man who never would simply say hello. If you were a Tapia friend, he'd throw a bear hug on you and squeeze, holding the embrace as if he forever would be safe if he never let go.

But the only place in his life where he truly was safe was in a boxing ring. He was 59-5-2 with 30 knockouts in a professional boxing career that covered 23 years, more than half his life. As an amateur, he won more than 100 fights and earned five New Mexico Golden Gloves titles and two national Golden Gloves championships.

Tapia never did quit fighting, inside or outside of the ring. He nearly died of a cocaine overdose in 2007, recovered and returned to fight three more times.

That he reached 45 was something of a miracle. He always said he expected to be dead long before he turned 40.

In his book, he wrote, "My mother was murdered when she was 32. I didn't think I would outlive her. I never thought I'd make it past my own 32nd birthday. I didn't even want to make it past her 32nd birthday. After turning 31, I could feel that time was coming on. It started growing in the back of my mind, and it was always there in my head. I was counting down the days, weeks, and months to the time that I would be the age she was when she died. I started to feel that time was running out for me."

Time ran out, finally, on Sunday.

He fought to win and he fought to survive. In the ring, he was knocked down just twice, once in his second pro fight in 1988 and then again in his final bout in 2011.

He got up both times to win.

On Sunday, though, the count reached 10.

This was a life he simply couldn't win.

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Monster Tasmanian King Crab saved from the pot and shipped to Britain for aquarium display

biggest, largest, giant crab of the world
Lucky escape: The Tasmanian King Crab is a delicacy in its native Australia and was destined for the dinner table until it was snapped up by a British aquarium worker. He paid £3,000 for three and had them flown to the UK

He was destined for the pot – if they had found one big enough to fit.

But Claude the Tasmanian giant crab was saved from death when the fisherman who caught him sold him to a British aquarium  for £3,000.

Now, after a 29-hour plane journey from Australia – where giant crab meat is a delicacy – and two weeks in quarantine, Claude is ready to meet his public.

He is the biggest crab on display in the UK and weighs a mighty 15lb with a 15-inch shell – enough to make 160 crab cakes.

Claude is 100 times bigger than a standard UK shore crab. Yet he is still a juvenile and will grow to double his weight.

Claude was caught off the coast of Tasmania last month, but was sold to the Sea Life group along with two other Tasmanian giant crabs.

He will go on display at the Sea Life centre in Weymouth, Dorset, on Thursday, and his two companions will be  moved to other centres in Birmingham and Berlin if Claude responds well to his new home.

Currently he is being kept on his own in a specially made cylindrical tank, ten feet tall and six feet wide, but the aquarium will introduce some coldwater fish once he is settled.

In the wild, crabs eat any dead or dying matter they find on the seabed but Claude is currently dining on diced mackerel and squid and is reportedly very happy with his gourmet diet.

Rob Hicks, head marine biologist for Sea Life, said: ‘They are such impressive creatures we thought that it was worth the cost and effort of flying them halfway round the world so they can flourish in an aquarium display.

‘They had a stopover in Hong Kong and arrived with us two weeks ago. It took them a few days to get over the jet-lag but now they’re feeding happily and don’t seem any the worse for their trip.’

Jemma Battrick, aquarist at Weymouth Sea Life said: 'When I found out we were getting the crabs in I was really excited.

'We already have a tank here for them so it will be easy to move them in, and they will go on display straight away.

'The crabs don’t eat very much despite being one of the largest species and they will feed on shrimp, prawns, and squid when they are here.

'We want to increase their numbers but in Australia people eat them and I think visitors to the Sea Life will be shocked when they find that out because they look so magnificent.'


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Coco shows off her ample assets poolside in Las Vegas and tweets action plan

coco with big boobs
Buxom blonde: Coco glistened in the Las Vegas sunshine yesterday as she hosted a pool party at Caesars Palace for Memorial Day Weekend

Coco has never been shy about showing off her curvaceous body.

And the glamour model, and wife of rapper and actor Ice-T, certainly didn't hold back for Memorial Day weekend.

The blonde bombshell slipped into a black two piece that just barely served to protect her modesty.

coco with big ass
True to form: Coco left little to the imagination in her barely there black bikini with gold chain trim
The string bikini had gold chains on the bottom that held the small pieces of material together - barely.

Coco, real name Nicole Natalie Marrow, was in Las Vegas with her husband to host a party at Venus Pool Club at Caesars Palace.

coco with big boobs and ass
Sin City: Coco tweeted that she was going to oil herself up and get a watermelon cocktail
 With her hair scraped back into a ponytail, a swipe of pink lipstick and her large sunglasses, Coco was ready to enjoy her day soaking up the sun and having a good time.

She excitedly let her fans know of her plans when she arrived by updating her social networking page.


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Facebook May Launch Smartphone by Next Year

New Facebook Smartphone
Facebook Smartphone
Facebook may be gearing up to launch its first-ever smartphone by next year, a new report suggests.

According to The New York Times, engineers have been sought by recruiters to work on building hardware for a Facebook smartphone. This would be the social network’s third attempt to develop a smartphone, the report said, citing sources close to the matter.

The news comes as search engine giant Google completed the acquisition of Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion earlier this week. This move could help Facebook counter that with its own foray into the smartphone hardware business.

Rumors about a possible Facebook phone have been circulating for the past few years. Although Facebook was reportedly first working on a smartphone in 2010, sources said the initiative stopped due to development complications. Meanwhile, AllThingsD has reported Facebook and manufacturer HTC were working together to develop a mobile device under the code name “Buffy.”

It’s believed that “Buffy” may still be in development. Hiring engineers to work specifically on building Facebook phones would position the company to explore other smartphone projects, as well.

Do you think a move into the smartphone business would be smart for Facebook or would it overextend itself? Would you buy a Facebook phone?


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Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan Make Bizarre Cameo in Chinese Documentary

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, in Chinese Documentary,
Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan are seen  in Chinese Documentary
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his bride, Priscilla Chan, have made a bizarre, odds-beating cameo in a Chinese documentary that’s become a viral sensation in that country.

The doc, from China Central Television, shows the two cavorting in Shanghai in March, weeks before their recent wedding. The pair visited the country that month for a personal trip. According to CNet, the images of Zuck and Chan have since gone viral in China on Sina Weibo, a popular social media site.

The 40-second clip above shows the two apparently caught at random during the shooting of the doc — an unlikely event considering Shanghai’s population of 13 million.

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U.S. News: 3 rescued from plane crash site in remote Idaho

plane crash site in remote Owyhee County, Idaho
The Owyhee County Sheriff's office shows the site where a small plane crashed in rugged terrain in a remote area in Owyhee County in southwest Idaho on Sunday, May 27, 2012.

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Hours after their plane crashed on a steep and snowy mountainside in Idaho, a California fireman, his wife and their adult daughter were airlifted to safety by National Guard rescuers.

The family was en route from California to Mountain Home, Idaho, when their Cessna 172 went down at about 9 p.m. MDT Saturday, leaving them with head and back injuries, officials said.

One of the three used a cellphone just after midnight to report that they had survived the crash.

A medical helicopter located the wreckage Sunday morning, but white-out conditions prevented the aircraft crew from carrying out an immediate rescue, said Col. Tim Marsano of the Idaho National Guard.

Rescuers on foot traveling through 6-foot snow drifts and on 60 degree slopes reached the crash site first. They wrapped the family members in blankets and built a fire until a military helicopter could lift them out with a hoist.

"It was inhospitable for a landing," Marsano said. "The use of the helicopter was indispensable for this type of rescue operation."

The three were flown one at a time to a landing area about a half-mile from War Eagle Mountain in southwest Idaho's Owyhee County.

The first person came out about noon and the last at about 2 p.m., and each was transferred to a medical helicopter and flown to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise where they were listed in stable condition.

It's unclear what caused the Cessna to go down. Photos taken by rescuers showed significant damage, including a broken front windshield.

Authorities identified them as Brian Brown of Wilton, Calif., his wife Jayann Brown, and their daughter. Her name was not immediately available.

Brian Brown is a captain at the Cosumnes Community Services District Fire Department in Elk Grove, Calif. He is also Deputy Chief of Operation and Training with the nearby volunteer Wilton Fire Protection District.

Wilton Fire Chief Tom Dark said the couple was flying with their youngest daughter to Mountain Home to visit their oldest daughter. He was relieved they were in stable condition.

"That was our first concern, how he and the family were doing," said Dark. "Knowing what a good pilot he is, something had to have happened."

Dark said it was probably an unusual experience for Brown, a firefighter for more than two decades, to be on the other end of a rescue.

"When the shoe is on the other foot it's kind of strange," he said.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

A smoke-free country? New Zealand taxes aim for it

In this Jan. 18, 2012 photo, a smoker puffs on a cigarette in the central business district in Auckland, New Zealand. New Zealand's government on Thursday, May 24, 2012, squeezed smokers more than ever by announcing a 40 percent hike in tobacco taxes over the next four years.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- There are smoke-free bars, smoke-free parks, even smoke-free college campuses. But a smoke-free country?

New Zealand's government on Thursday squeezed smokers more than ever by announcing a 40 percent hike in tobacco taxes over the next four years. Prices here are already among the highest in the world, and by 2016 they will top 20 New Zealand dollars ($15) a pack on average.

Officials hope higher taxes and new restrictions will bring the nation of 4.4 million closer to a recent pledge to snuff out the habit entirely by 2025. Other countries have lauded the idea of trying to wean their populace off tobacco, but few, if any, have been willing to put a date on it.

Health officials here are so serious they recently considered hiking the cost of a pack of cigarettes to 100 New Zealand dollars ($75). Although that idea was dismissed, another measure, which will force retailers to hide cigarettes below the counter rather than putting them on display, will come into effect in July.

Smoking rates among New Zealand adults have fallen from about 30 percent in 1986 to about 20 percent today. Cigarette sales have fallen more sharply, suggesting that even people who haven't quit cut back as prices rose.

People who are still smoking aren't happy about where prices are going.

Chris Hobman said the cost is "horrendous" and could drive some low-income people to commit crimes to support their habit. He said the government needs to provide more support and alternatives to smokers if it's serious about making them quit.

Wellington resident Hayley Mauriohooho, who has smoked for about 20 years, said that although it would be good if more people quit, higher taxes won't stop her.

"It's quite ridiculous for the government to be concentrating on that," she said. "They have bigger things to worry about."

New Zealand's Cancer Society reacted to Thursday's announcement by sending out a press release titled "Thumbs Up!"

Michael Colhoun, a spokesman for the anti-smoking lobby group ASH, said the fact that a higher percentage of low-income people smoke will mean the tax increases will force many to cut back or quit entirely because they simply won't be able to afford their habit.

The New Zealand branch of cigarette company British American Tobacco says the tax increases will force consumers to turn to the black market.

"Consumer demand is far better served by legitimate companies than by the illegal operators that will surely grow as the government makes it increasingly difficult for people to buy their product of choice," wrote Susan Jones, head of corporate and regulatory affairs, in an email.

So far, New Zealand officials have seen few cases of illegal tobacco sales.

The South Pacific nation's smoking statistics are similar to those in other developed countries. According to a 2011 study by the World Health Organization, about 20 percent of adult New Zealanders smoke. That compares to about 16 percent of adults in the U.S., 17 percent in Australia, 23 percent in China and 27 percent in France.

New Zealand already charges more than 70 percent tax on cigarettes, compared to 41 percent on average for China, 45 percent on average for the U.S., 64 percent for Australia and 80 percent for France.


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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Vatican in chaos after butler arrested for leaks

Vatican in chaos after butler arrested
May 26, 2012, that the pope's butler Paolo Gabriele, at right, was arrested in an embarrassing leaks scandal. Spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said Paolo Gabriele, a layman, was arrested in his home inside Vatican City with secret documents in his possession.

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The Vatican's inquisition into the source of leaked documents has yielded its first target with the arrest of the pope's butler, but the investigation is continuing into a scandal that has embarrassed the Holy See by revealing evidence of internal power struggles, intrigue and corruption in the highest levels of the Catholic Church governance.

The detention of butler Paolo Gabriele, one of the few members of the papal household, capped one of the most convulsive weeks in recent Vatican history and threw the Holy See into chaos as it enters a critical phase in its efforts to show the world it's serious about complying with international norms on financial transparency.

The tumult began with the publication last weekend of a book of leaked Vatican documents including correspondence, notes and memos to the pope and his private secretary. It peaked with the inglorious ouster on Thursday of the president of the Vatican bank. And it concluded with confirmation Saturday that Pope Benedict XVI's own butler was the alleged mole feeding documents to Italian journalists in an apparent bid to discredit the pontiff's No. 2.

"If you wrote this in fiction you wouldn't believe it," said Carl Anderson, a member of the board of the Vatican bank which contributed to the whirlwind with its no-confidence vote in its president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi. "No editor would let you put it in a novel."

The bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works, issued a scathing denunciation of Gotti Tedeschi in a memorandum obtained Saturday by The Associated Press. In it the bank, or IOR by its Italian initials, explained its reasons for ousting Gotti Tedeschi: he routinely missed board meetings, failed to do his job, failed to defend the bank, polarized its personnel and displayed "progressively erratic personal behavior."

Gotti Tedeschi was also accused by the board of leaking documents himself: The IOR memorandum said he "failed to provide any formal explanation for the dissemination of documents last known" to be in his possession.

In an interview with the AP, Anderson said the latter accusation was independent of the broader "Vatileaks" scandal that has rocked the Vatican for months. But he stressed: "It is not an insignificant issue."

Gotti Tedeschi hasn't commented publicly about his ouster or the reasons behind it, saying he has too much admiration for the pope to do so. He also hasn't been arrested, avoiding the fate that befell Gabriele.

The 46-year-old father of three has been in Vatican detention since Wednesday after Vatican investigators discovered Holy See documents in his apartment. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Gabriele had met with his lawyers and that the investigation was taking its course through the Vatican's judicial system.

Gabriele, the pope's personal butler since 2006, has often been seen by Benedict's side in public, riding in the front seat of the pope's open-air jeep during Wednesday general audiences or shielding the pontiff from the rain. In private, he is a member of the small papal household that also includes the pontiff's private secretaries and four consecrated women who care for the papal apartment.

Lombardi said Gabriele's detention marked a sad development for all Vatican staff. "Everyone knows him in the Vatican, and there's certainly surprise and pain, and great affection for his beloved family," the spokesman said.

The "Vatileaks" scandal has seriously embarrassed the Vatican at a time when it is trying to show the world financial community that it has turned a page and shed its reputation as a scandal plagued tax haven.

Vatican documents leaked to the media in recent months have undermined that effort, alleging corruption in Vatican finance as well as internal bickering over the Holy See's efforts to comply with international norms to fight money laundering and terror financing.

The Vatican in July will learn if it has complied with the financial transparency criteria of a Council of Europe committee, Moneyval - a key step in its efforts to get on the so-called "white list" of countries that share financial information to fight tax evasion.

Anderson acknowleged that the events of the last week certainly haven't cast the Holy See in the best light. And he said the bank's board appreciated that the ouster of its president just weeks before the expected Moneyval decision could give the committee pause.

"The board considered that concern and decided that all things considered it was best to take the action at this time," Anderson said. "These steps were taken to increase the IOR's position vis-a-vis Moneyval."

The Vatileaks scandal began in January when Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi broadcast letters from the former No. 2 Vatican administrator to the pope in which he begged not to be transferred for having exposed alleged corruption that cost the Holy See millions of euros in higher contract prices. The prelate, Monsignor Carlo Maria Vigano, is now the Vatican's U.S. ambassador.

Nuzzi, author of "Vatican SpA," a 2009 volume laying out shady dealings of the Vatican bank based on leaked documents, last weekend published "His Holiness," which presented a trove of other documents including personal correspondence to the pope and his secretary - many of them painting Benedict’s No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in a negative light.

Nuzzi has said he was offered the documents by multiple Vatican sources and insisted he didn't pay a cent (EURO) to any of them.

Gabriele was in Vatican custody and unavailable for comment. No known motive has come to light as to why Gabriele, if he is found to be the key mole, might have passed on the documents. Nuzzi declined to comment Saturday on whether Gabriele was among his sources.

Bertone, 77, has been blamed for a series of gaffes and management problems that have plagued Benedict's papacy and, according to the leaked documents, generated a not inconsiderable amount of ill will directed at him from other Vatican officials.

"For some time and in various parts of the church, criticism even by the faithful has been growing about the lack of coordination and confusion that reign at its center," Cardinal Paolo Sardi, the former No. 2 official in the Vatican secretariat of state, wrote to the pope in 2009, according to the letter cited in "His Holiness."

Anderson, who heads the Knights of Columbus, a major U.S. lay Catholic organization, said he was certain the Holy See would weather the storm and that the Vatican bank, at least, could move forward under a new leader with solid banking credentials as well as a desire to show off the bank's transparency.

"I hope this will be the beginning of a new chapter for the IOR and part of that chapter will be restoring the public image of the IOR," he told AP. "I think we have a good story to tell."


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Syria attack: Dozens of innocent children killed

Syria attack: Dozens of innocent children killed
Covered body of killed children
BEIRUT (AP) -- Gruesome video Saturday showed rows of dead Syrian children lying in a mosque in bloody shorts and T-shirts with gaping head wounds, haunting images of what activists called one of the deadliest regime attacks yet in Syria's 14-month-old uprising.

The shelling attack on Houla, a group of villages northwest of the central city of Homs, killed more than 90 people, including at least 32 children under the age of 10, the head of the U.N. observer team in Syria said.

The attacks sparked outrage from U.S. and other international leaders, and large protests in the suburbs of Syria's capital of Damascus and its largest city, Aleppo. It also renewed fears of the relevance of a month-old international peace plan that has not stopped almost daily violence.

The U.N. denounced the attacks in a statement that appeared to hold President Bashar Assad's regime responsible, and the White House called the violence acts of "unspeakable and inhuman brutality."

"This appalling and brutal crime involving indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force is a flagrant violation of international law and of the commitments of the Syrian government to cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers and violence in all its forms," said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and international envoy Kofi Annan. "Those responsible for perpetrating this crime must be held to account."

More than a dozen amateur videos posted online Saturday gave glimpses of the carnage, showing lines of bodies laid out in simple rooms, many with bloody faces, torsos and limbs. In some places, residents put chunks of ice on the bodies to preserve them until burial.

One two-minute video shows at least a dozen children lined up shoulder to shoulder on a checkered blanket on what appears to be the floor of a mosque. Blood trickled from one girl's mouth. One boy, appearing to be no more than 8, had his jaw blown off. The video shows flowered blankets and rugs covering several rows of other bodies.

Another video posted Saturday showed a mass grave, four bodies wide and dozens of meters (yards) long.

Activists from Houla said Saturday that regime forces peppered the area with mortars after large demonstrations against the regime on Friday. That evening, they said, pro-regime fighters known as shabiha stormed the villages, gunning down men in the streets and stabbing women and children in their homes.

A local activist reached via Skype said regime forces fired shells at Houla, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Homs. The shabiha entered the villages, raiding homes and shooting at civilians, Abu Yazan said. More than 100 people were killed, more than 40 of them children and most of them in the village of Taldaw, he said. Many had stab wounds, another activist said.

"They killed entire families, from parents on down to children, but they focused on the children," Yazan said.

The Syrian government blamed the killings on "armed terrorist groups" - a term it often uses for the opposition - but provided no details or death toll.

But like U.N. officials, the White House issued a statement directed at the regime.

The U.S. is "horrified" by the Houla attacks, National Security Council spokeswoman Erin Pelton said in a statement. "These acts serve as a vile testament to an illegitimate regime that responds to peaceful political protest with unspeakable and inhuman brutality."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the attack "in the strongest possible terms," demanding that "those who perpetrated this atrocity must be identified and held to account."

"The United States will work with the international community to intensify our pressure on Assad and his cronies, whose rule by murder and fear must come to an end," Clinton said in statement.

U.N. observers, among more than 250 who were dispatched in recent weeks to salvage the cease-fire plan, found spent artillery tank shells at the site Saturday, and U.N. officials confirmed the shells were fired at residential neighborhoods. The head of the team, Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, called the attack a "brutal tragedy."

The bloodshed is yet another blow to the international peace plan brokered by Annan and cast a pall over his coming visit to check on the plan's progress. The cease-fire between forces loyal to the regime of Assad and rebels seeking to topple it was supposed to start on April 12 but has never really taken hold, with new killings every day.

The U.N. put the death toll weeks ago at more than 9,000. Hundreds have been killed since.

The grisly images were condemned by anti-regime groups and political leaders around the world.

"With these new crimes, this murderous regime pushes Syria further into horror and threatens regional stability," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement Saturday.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights released an unusually harsh statement, saying Arab nations and the international community were "partners" in the killing "because of their silence about the massacres that the Syrian regime has committed."

The Houla villages are Sunni Muslim. The forces came from an arc of nearby villages populated by Alawites, members of the offshoot of Shiite Islam to which Assad belongs, the activists said.

The activists said the Houla killings appeared to be sectarian between the two groups, raising fears that Syria's uprising, which started in March 2011 with protests calling for political reform, is edging closer to the type of war that tore apart Syria's eastern neighbor, Iraq.

"I don't like to talk about sectarianism, but it was clear that this was sectarian hatred," said activist Abu Walid.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 96 people were killed, 26 of them children and four of them army defectors.

The group's head, Rami Abdul-Rahman, who relies on activists inside Syria, said all were killed in shelling, but that no forces entered Houla.

Syrian state TV condemned the opposition groups for the "massacre" in a statement Saturday.

"The armed groups are escalating their massacres against the Syrian people only days before international envoy Kofi Annan's visit in a bid to defeat his plan and a political solution to the crisis and with the aim of exploiting the blood of Syrians in the media bazar," it said.

The videos could not be independently verified. The Syrian government bars most media from operating inside the country.

The harsh condemnation from anti-regime groups reflects their growing frustration with international reluctance to intervene in Syria's conflict.

World powers have fallen in behind the U.N. plan. The U.S. and European nations say they will not intervene militarily, and while Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Libya have said they will arm Syria's rebels, no country is known to be doing so.

A spokeswoman for the opposition Syrian National Council called on the U.N. Security Council "to examine the situation in Houla and to determine the responsibility of the United Nations in the face of such mass killings, expulsions and forced migration from entire neighborhoods."

Also Saturday, the story of 11 Lebanese Shiites who were reported kidnapped in Syria this week took another strange turn.

Lebanese officials first said their expected arrival on a plane from Turkey to Lebanon late Friday was delayed for "logistical reasons."

On Saturday, Turkey's Foreign Ministry denied the men were in Turkey - raising new questions about their fate.

Lebanese and Syrian officials blamed Syrian rebels for Tuesday's kidnapping. No group has claimed responsibility.


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Man Admitted to Hospital for Kidney Stone, Discovers He's a Woman

man discovers he is a woman
Man >> Woman
A Colorado man who was admitted to the hospital for a kidney stone received surprising news when the nurse came back with test results revealing he was actually a woman.

Denver photographer Steve Crecelius said he's felt a little different all his life.

"When I was about 6 years old, I started having these feminine feelings, but that was in the '60s. Wearing my mom's makeup, I thought I looked pretty," Crecelius told ABC News.

So when he went to the emergency room five years ago, he wasn't too shocked when the nurse told him she found traits of both genders in his ultrasound results.

He was intersex, meaning he had both male genitalia and internal female sex organs.

"The nurse is reading the ultrasound and says, 'Huh, this says you're a female,' Crecelius said. "It was very liberating. I had spent so much energy after the age of 13 constantly evaluating how people looked at me and acted towards me."

Steve, who now goes by "Stevie," said his wife and their six children accepted his new identity right away.

"We told them individually. Some were in person and some weren't," Crecelius said. "Every one of them said, 'We don't care one way or the other. We love you for who you are and you're still my dad.'"

Crecelius and his wife, Debbie, have been together for 25 years and she's supported him every step of the way, including taking him to buy his first bra.

She told Crecelius, "You know, when I first saw you, I said to myself,  'He runs like a girl.'"

"I think we were pretty good when she began to mourn the loss of her husband," Crecelius said. "We worked through what we needed to. The concept of unconditional love is a larger story."

Intersex is a term used to describe people who bear both external genitals and internal organs, such as testes and ovaries.

A person with the condition may have male genitals along with fallopian tubes and ovaries.

"The condition used to be called hermaphroditism, meaning that person can't be identified as male or female," Crecelius said.

According to the Intersex Society of North America, more than 1,500 children a year are born intersex.

For Crecelius, he hopes he can be an advocate for those born intersex and same-sex couples.

"I think of bullying, because I haven't heard anyone talk about this. It's important to talk about," Crecelius said. "People need to be accepting and understand. I was born this way, and loving each other and supporting each other will always be the main factor in our household."


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Friday, May 25, 2012

Dragon makes history with space station docking

international space station
This image provided by NASA-TV shows the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft after Dragon was grappled by the Canadarm2 robotic arm and connected to the International Space Station, Friday, May 25, 2012. Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- The private company SpaceX made history Friday with the docking of its Dragon capsule to the International Space Station, the most impressive feat yet in turning routine spaceflight over to the commercial sector.

It marked the first time a business enterprise delivered a supply ship to the space station.

"There's so much that could have gone wrong and it went right," said an elated Elon Musk, the young, driven billionaire behind SpaceX.

"This really is, I think, going to be recognized as a significantly historical step forward in space travel - and hopefully the first of many to come."

SpaceX still has to get its Dragon back next week with a load of science gear; the retro bell-shaped capsule is designed to splash down into the ocean, in the style of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. But Friday was the crucial step, Musk noted, and NASA agreed the next SpaceX mission could come as early as September.

After a three-day flight from Cape Canaveral, the Dragon closed in on the space station as two control centers - NASA in Houston and SpaceX in Hawthorne, Calif. - worked in tandem. A problem with the capsule laser-tracking system prompted SpaceX controllers to order a temporary retreat, but the problem quickly was resolved.

NASA astronaut Donald Pettit used the space station's 58-foot robot arm to snare the gleaming white Dragon as the two craft soared 250 miles above Australia, a day after a practice fly-by.

"Looks like we've got us a dragon by the tail," Pettit announced once he locked onto Dragon's docking mechanism.

NASA's dressed-up controllers applauded. In contrast, their SpaceX counterparts - including Musk - lifted their arms in triumph and jumped out of their seats to exchange high fives.

The company's youthful-looking employees - the average age is 30 - were still in a frenzy when Musk took part in a televised news conference a couple hours later. They screamed with excitement as if it were a pep rally and chanted, "E-lon, E-lon, E-lon," as the 40-year-old Musk, wearing a black athletic jacket with the SpaceX logo, described the day's events.

Alcohol was banned from the premises during the crucial flight operation, Musk noted, "but now that things are good, I think we'll probably have a bit of champagne and have some fun." The crowd roared in approval.

Although cargo hauls have become routine, Friday's linkup was significant in that an individual company pulled it off. That chore was previously reserved for a small, elite group of government agencies.

Not only that, the reusable SpaceX Dragon is designed to safely return items, a huge benefit that disappeared with NASA's space shuttles. It is the first U.S. craft to visit the station since the final shuttle flight last summer.

"I think you know it, but you made history today," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told the space station astronauts and everyone else involved in Friday's docking. "It was an effort that will revolutionize the way we carry out space exploration."

NASA provided seed money for SpaceX - $381 million going into Tuesday's launch, a small portion of the more than $1 billion that the company has invested in the effort.

Two hours after the capture, the crew attached the Dragon to the space station as the congratulations poured in.

"Everyone who is working to push forward the space frontier recognizes that such a mission is a massive challenge, and I join the world in lauding this important accomplishment," said Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic, a space tourism company that is holding a seat for Musk aboard its SpaceShipTwo.

"Nearly 43 years after we first walked on the moon, we have taken another step in demonstrating continued American leadership in space," said Apollo 11's Buzz Aldrin, the second man to step onto the moon.

The capsule- 19 feet tall and 12 feet across - is carrying 1,000 pounds of supplies on this unprecedented test flight. The crew starts unpacking Saturday and will have just under a week to unload the food, clothes and other contents.

After this test flight, SpaceX - officially known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp. - has a contract to make a dozen delivery runs. It is one of several companies vying for NASA's cargo business and a chance to launch Americans from U.S. soil.

Rival Orbital Sciences Corp. is shooting for its own supply run by year's end.

President Barack Obama is pushing commercial ventures in orbit so NASA can concentrate on grander destinations like asteroids and Mars. Obama's chief scientific adviser, John Holdren, called Friday's linkup "an achievement of historic scientific and technological significance."

"It's essential we maintain such competition and fully support this burgeoning and capable industry to get U.S. astronauts back on American launch vehicles as soon as possible," Holdren said in a statement.

Without the shuttle, NASA astronauts must go through Russia, an expensive and embarrassing situation for the U.S. after a half-century of orbital self-sufficiency. Once companies master supply runs, they hope to tackle astronaut ferry runs.

Musk, who founded SpaceX a decade ago and helped create PayPal, said he can have astronauts riding his Dragon capsules to orbit in three or four years. He also runs the electric car company Tesla Motors.

The space station has been relying on Russian, Japanese and European cargo ships for supplies ever since the shuttles retired. None of those, however, can bring anything of value back; they're simply loaded with trash and burn up in the atmosphere.

The space station's six-man crew will release the Dragon on Thursday after filling it with science experiments and equipment. It will aim for the Pacific Ocean just off the California coast.

"At the beginning of the launch, I said there were a thousand things that had to go right," said Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of NASA's commercial crew and cargo program. "Well, there still are several hundred left. But I am very confident we'll get through it. ... Today this really is the beginning of a new era in commercial spaceflight"

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NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference finals

us ice hokey final
New Jersey Devils' Adam Henrique (14) scores during the overtime of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference finals, as New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist (30), Brad Richards (19), and Carl Hagelin (62) defend, Friday, May 25, 2012, in Newark, N.J.

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- The memory of missing the playoffs for first time since 1996 and the ghost of an 18-year-old wound were wiped out with a sweep of rookie Adam Henrique's stick.

The New Jersey Devils are going back to the Stanley Cup finals, thanks to Henrique, a 40-year-old goaltender and a coach who'd never been to the postseason in the NHL.

How's that for a turnaround?

Henrique scored off a wild scramble in front at 1:03 into overtime and the Devils defeated the rival New York Rangers, 3-2, in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals to advance to their first Stanley Cup finals since 2003.

"It means a lot," Devils leading scorer Ilya Kovalchuk said minutes after reaching the Cup finals for the first time. "It's a great feeling. Last year was a tough one, but this year was totally different. We played well all year. The first round of the playoffs was a little tough but after that, I think we figured out our game and what it takes to win."

After beating Florida, Philadelphia and their biggest rivals, the Rangers, only the Los Angeles Kings stand in 
the way of a fourth Cup for New Jersey.

The title round begins here Wednesday.

This series win came against the Devils' most intense rival, and it was that much sweeter.

"That one was like Christmas," said Henrique, who also scored the series winner in overtime as Devils' first-round, Game 7 win over the Panthers.

It also was needed. The Devils blew a 2-0 first-period lead and didn't want to head back to New York for a Game 7 on Sunday.

"It didn't matter how it got to overtime, we were in a good position," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "We were at home. We just needed one shot."

Actually, the Devils needed four shots to win the game.

Henrique's winner came after Henrik Lundqvist stopped Kovalchuk twice and Alexei Ponikarovsky. The last shot lay in the crease and Henrique tapped it home.

"We caught them on a line change and their defensemen were tired," said Devils coach Peter DeBoer, who was fired by Florida after missing the playoffs in his three seasons. "We found a way to jam one in. That's the only way you're going to score on Lundqvist. You're not going to get a clean one. You're going to have to work for it around the net.

"And that's what we did."

Ryan Carter and Kovalchuk also scored for the Devils, whose biggest move this year was hiring DeBoer. He has more than proved his coaching ability.

Ruslan Fedotenko and Ryan Callahan tallied for top-seeded New York, which had a good flurry just before New Jersey scored to end it.

Henrique, who is nominated for the Calder Trophy - given to the NHL's top rookie - skated away from the crease and jumped against the end boards in the corner as his teammates hopped off the bench and mobbed him.

The six Rangers on the ice just stayed down in disbelief and frustration. This was very much like Game 5, which the Devils won 5-3. New York carried the play after the first period and had a 35-29 edge in shots.

But when it came time for a game-deciding play to be made, it was a Devil who made it.

"When they scored, it was such an empty feeling," said Lundqvist, who said the puck took a weird bounce on the final play. "It is shocking."

Henrique overcame injury to score this one. He seemed to take a stick from Brian Boyle in the groin area late in the third and had to leave the ice.

He felt no pain after the game winner.

All the Rangers could do was bow their heads and then line up for the traditional handshake after losing to their cross-rival rivals in a series that was close.

"That's playoff hockey, and that's usually where you get an overtime goal," Rangers veteran Brandon Prust said. "Just whacking away in front of the net, getting rebounds."

Martin Brodeur, 40, kept the Devils alive in the third. He stopped a power-play shot by Brad Richards, made a save on Artem Anisimov between the circles and used his stick to deflect a pass from the boards by Carl Hagelin in the final minute just before it got to Marian Gaborik on the edge of the crease.

"You could tell he was in the zone. He led us," Parise said. "He made some big saves tonight."

Lundqvist's best stop in the third was on Dainius Zubrus on a shot from behind the circles.

Facing elimination and down 2-0 after 20 minutes, the Rangers found their game in the second period and tied the game at 2-all on goals by Fedotenko and Callahan in a roughly four-minute span.

Defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who assisted on both goals, made the big play to get New York back in the game. He collected the puck above the left circle, skated around the net and tried a wrap around. The shot didn't go on goal but it turned out to be a perfect pass to Fedotenko who a tap-in into an open net at 9:47.

Callahan, who had a New York goal go off his leg in the Devils' 5-3 win on Wednesday, tied the game at 13:41 when Dan Girardi's shot from the right point deflected off his leg into the open lower corner of the net. Callahan's sixth of the postseason was set up when Brandon Dubinsky won a faceoff in the left circle.

Carter, who scored the game winner in New York on Wednesday night after the Devils blew a 3-0 lead, put New Jersey ahead again at 10:05 of the opening period.

The play started with a bad pinch at the point by Rangers defenseman Marc Staal. Steve Bernier led a 3-on-1 and found Stephen Gionta coming down the middle for a solo chance against Lundqvist. The Rangers goaltender stopped the shot, but Carter swatted the rebound home for his fourth of the playoffs.

Kovalchuk's seventh goal of the postseason and fifth on the power play was a thing of beauty. All five Devils skaters touched the puck with tape-to-tape passes with Zubrus finding Kovalchuk alone low in the left circle for a shot that Lundqvist had little chance to stop.

The Devils - as is the tradition for many Cup finalists - did not touch the Prince of Wales Trophy that was presented at center ice. As the team skated off to their locker room, "Glory Days," the 1984 hit from New Jersey rocker Bruce Springsteen serenaded them.

The game was played on the 18-year anniversary of the Rangers' dramatic, 4-2, Game 6 victory over New Jersey at the Meadowlands, a victory that pushed that classic Eastern Conference final series to a Game 7 and eventually led New York to its first Stanley Cup in 54 years. That game, of course, was preceded by a guarantee from Rangers captain Mark Messier, who delivered three goals en route to the victory.

This time, though, there will be no Game 7.

NOTES: The Empire State Building's tower lights were lit in red and blue on Friday to cheer on the Rangers. ... Mogul and TV personality Donald Trump was at the game. ... Devils C Travis Zajac left the ice briefly in the second after being slashed on the left hand by Prust. No penalty was called. ... New Jersey is 4-1 in overtime in the postseason. New York finished 2-3 after regulation. ... This is only the second time the Devils have defeated the Rangers in the postseason in six tries. ... The last time New Jersey played in the Stanley Cup finals, the Devils also played a California team: the Anaheim Ducks in 2003.


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