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Showing posts with label us. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

US approves new weight-loss pill

US approves new weight-loss pill
New weight-loss pill (Right)
US health regulators have approved a weight-loss pill for the first time in 13 years.

Belviq, made by Arena Pharmaceutical, can be used by obese or overweight adults with at least one condition.

The drug achieved only modest results in clinical studies, helping people lose on average about 5% of their body weight.

Belviq was rejected in 2010 because of concerns over tumours that developed in animals tested with the drug.

After San Diego-based Arena resubmitted its application with more data, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found little risk of tumours in humans using the drug.

Side effects

The medication is expected to launch in 2013.

Belviq is designed to block appetite signals in the brain, making patients feel fuller with smaller amounts of food.

It has been approved for use in obese adults with a body mass index of 30 or greater.

The drug can also be used by overweight adults with a BMI of 27 or greater if they have at least one other condition such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol.

The FDA warned that Belviq is not for women who are pregnant or nursing.

With US obesity rates approaching 35% in adults and associated healthcare costs on the rise, many doctors have urged health regulators to give the green light to new weight-loss treatments.

But the agency has set high standards for such medication after safety problems with previously popular weight-loss drugs.

The so-called fen-phen combination had to be pulled from the market in 1997 after being linked to heart valve damage.

In a statement, the FDA said Belviq did not appear to carry the same risks.

However, known side effects of Belviq do include depression, migraine and memory lapses.

The FDA-approved label says the drug should not be used for more than 12 weeks if a 5% weight loss does not occur.

Arena will be required to conduct six studies after marketing the drug, including a study on the drug's effect on long-term heart health.


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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

How many people turned out to cheer the Queen on Buckingham Palace balcony at climax of four-day Jubilee

Queen Elizabeth, Camilla, Charles, Prince William, Kate, Prince Harry
The Queen greets her subjects from the balcony of the Palace as she stands alongside Camilla, Charles, Prince William, Kate and Prince Harry

The Jubilee celebrations came to a frenzied climax today as the Queen was met with a huge outpouring of adoration from a sea of people head-to-toe in red, white and blue who gathered below the balcony at Buckingham Palace to see her.

In what was the crowning event of a spectacular weekend that saw one million people descend on a rainy London, a huge crowd sung themselves hoarse with a rousing rendition of Land of Hope and Glory and God Save the Queen as they marched to the gates of the Palace to watch the Royal Family acknowledge their affection.

The Queen emerged to a deafening roar flanked by Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, Camilla and Prince Charles. The only senior member of the Firm missing was Prince Philip, who is in hospital.

They then gave three cheers, with the words 'hip hip hooray' echoing down the Mall.

And when she appeared, the Queen broke into a smile - visibly pleased - and waved as the thousands of people roared with applause, some breaking into impromptu renditions of the National Anthem.

It is only the second time that a feu de joie has been fired in Her Majesty's reign. The first was following the Queen's Birthday Parade in 2006 in celebration of her 80th birthday.

Next came the flypast and gun salute, but missing from the Queen's side was the Duke of Edinburgh, who she famously described as her 'strength and stay' on her golden wedding anniversary in 1997.

royal airfore of united kingdom
The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team fly in formation over Buckingham Palace as The Royal family stand on the balcony

His absence is likely to give the day a bittersweet taste for the monarch, who carried out a series of Diamond Jubilee engagements without her consort.

As a rousing rendition of God Save The Queen rang out the fly-past began, despite worries it might be halted by rain.

A Dakota flanked by two King Airs, a Lancaster, four Spitfires and a Hurricane from the RAF's Battle of Britain Memorial Flight hurtled through the skies, met with a broad smile of approval by the monarch.

Next, the Red Arrows made a spectacular appearance tearing through the skies leaving trails of red, white and blue smoke behind.

The Diamond-nine formation, in tribute to the 60-year-reign, was greeted with rapturous applause by the throng of well-wishers outside the palace.

Finally the shots of the Feu de Joie, a celebratory cascade of rifle fire from Buckingham Palace Guard of Honour, the 1st Battalion Irish Guard, rang out followed by a rousing three cheers from the troops.

The crowd showed their approval with a round of three cheers, marking a spectacular end to a truly historic Diamond Jubilee weekend.

Since 1851, when Queen Victoria made the first recorded balcony appearance during the opening of the Great Exhibition, it has been the place where monarchs have come during important national events to acknowledge the people.

But now the crowds  - many of whom camped overnight on the Mall before the back gates were opened first - were massed at the Palace's gates.

cheering at the sight of the woman who never expected to be Queen but has now reigned for six decades.

Union flags covered their hats, clothes, posters and flags with many wearing paper crowns in good humoured homage to the Queen.

One banner summed up the mood of the crowds and simply read - 'Elizabeth the Great, she's a diamond'.

The rain began to fall just before the royals appeared but did not put off the well-wishers, many of whom simply put up union flag umbrellas or donned headscarves.

Earlier, the Queen's Guard had awaited her arrival at the palace forecourt in the 1902 State Landau carriage, which swept in to rapturous applause and the band of the Irish Guards playing the national anthem.

The first and second divisions of the Sovereign's Escort had led the way ahead of the Queen's carriage, and as each section of the crowd saw the monarch, screams and shouts went up.

The Queen sat next to Camilla and opposite was Charles, with all three royals waving and smiling at the spectators.

In a separate carriage, William and Kate also acknowledged the crowds and appeared to be enjoying the moment, with Harry sitting in front of them, chatting happily.

The procession had travelled down Whitehall past Downing Street and the Cenotaph and into Trafalgar Square, packed with well-wishers. When they reached The Mall, thousands cheered them as the royals waved.

Overhead were huge Union flags and the crowds stretched back into St James's Park waving their smaller Union flags and shouting.

The procession finally reached the Palace forecourt and disappeared out of view through an arch into the quadrangle.

Prime Minister David Cameron today led salutes to the Queen and declared the Diamond Jubilee 'above politics', but the magnificent celebrations proved to be above borders too.

On a triumphal day, tributes poured in from across the word as well as from the pavements of the Mall in London where hundreds of thousands had gathered to celebrate.

'I think really it is the best of Britain,' said Mr Cameron. 'We have seen the country come together with a sense of celebration and unity but also tremendous resilience, resilience from people who want to celebrate despite the weather and resilience of course from Her Majesty - nothing stops her doing the job she does.

'This is something that has brought the country together and you definitely notice that in my constituency, in the smallest villages that I went to. In the whole country, everyone's talking to each other, everyone is chatting with their neighbours. It brings communities of people together, whatever your politics.

'These are moments when we get the chance to show off the best of Britain and that includes the institutions, the past, the history, the pageantry that we have seen today. It is above politics.'

As well as the magnificent achievement of 60 years on the throne itself, the genuine warmth of the Queen’s subjects grabbed attention around the world too.

US president Barack Obama sent a personal message expressing the 'heartfelt congratulations of the American people'.

Celebrations such as these are never seen in New York or Washington, and there was an echo of Mr Cameron's words when Mr Obama pointed out that presidents and prime ministers have come and gone, but the Queen's 'reign has endured'.

In a video message posted on the White House website, he said the Queen was a living witness to the power of the alliance between the two nations, but there is also a personal connection.

The US president's father, also named Barack Obama, was born in Kenya when it was part of the British Empire, before moving to the United States and beginning a degree in business administration in autumn 1959, aged 23.

In a message to the Queen, the British people and members of the Commonwealth, Mr Obama said the Queen was 'a chief source' of the resilience of the links between his country and the UK and called her 60-year reign 'extraordinary'.

queen Elizabeth of England
Diamond Queen: Onlookers expressed an outpouring of love for the monarch with banners and flags

'As a steadfast ally, loyal friend and tireless leader, your majesty has set an example of resolve that will be long celebrated,' he said.

'And as we work together to build a better future for the next generation, it is gratifying to know that the bonds between our nations remain indispensable to our two countries and to the world.'

He invoked the Jubilee beacons lit yesterday across the United Kingdom, adding: 'May the light of your majesty's crown continue to reign supreme for many years to come.'


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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Twitter resists US court's demand for Occupy tweets

twitter-occupy wall street
Twitter-Occupy Wall Street
Twitter is contesting a US court order ordering it to hand over the message history of one of its users.

A New York state court has called on the firm to release tweets written by an activist who took part in the Occupy Wall Street protests last year.

The micro-blogging service disputes a judge's ruling that messages are owned by the firm rather than its users.

The American Civil Liberties Union commended the company for defending free speech rights.

Twitter's lawyer, Ben Lee, said: "Twitter's terms of service make absolutely clear that its users 'own' their own content. Our filing with the court reaffirms our steadfast commitment to defending those rights for our users."

Boston march

The case centres around Malcolm Harris, managing editor of the New Inquiry website.

He was arrested on 1 October along with hundreds of other campaigners during a march across Brooklyn Bridge.

Prosecutors claim tweets by Mr Harris would reveal that he was "well aware of police instructions" ordering protesters not to block traffic.

Mr Harris's lawyer had tried to block access to the postings, but a judge ruled that once the messages had been sent they became the property of Twitter, meaning the defendant was not protected by Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure.

Twitter's lawyers argued that the judge had misunderstood how the service worked, noting that the Stored Communications Act gave its members the right to challenge requests for information on their user history.

Constitutional rights

"This is a big deal," said the American Civil Liberties Union in a blog post.

"Law enforcement agencies... are becoming increasingly aggressive in their attempts to obtain information about what people are doing on the internet.

"If internet users cannot protect their own constitutional rights, the only hope is that internet companies do so."

One media analyst said Twitter's action also reflected its wider desire to avoid becoming caught up in litigation.

"Twitter, like any internet service provider, wants people who upload material to be responsible - it doesn't want to be in a position where it has to review all of the tweets," Benedict Evans from Enders Analysis told the BBC.

"It sees itself as being like an email provider and doesn't want to have to worry about issues of copyright (and) libel about other matters relating to what people post.

"That said, it can't totally avoid the issue. We have seen cases of US courts forcing email providers to hand over evidence, and Twitter has access to the data."


News by BBC

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

US: Deadly crash near New York's Bronx Zoo

deadly accident at New York, US
Police investigate the van that plunged over the Bronx River Parkway
Van plunges more than 50 feet from highway near Bronx Zoo, killing 7, police say

A van flew off an elevated portion of New York's Bronx River Parkway Sunday afternoon, falling more than 50 feet before landing in a horrific crash that left seven people dead, multiple news outlets reported.

The accident, near the Bronx Zoo, happened at about 12:30 p.m. local time, authorities said. It's not clear what caused the crash.

According to the Associated Press, the van was headed south when "it bounced off the median, crossed all southbound lanes over to the guardrail and fell." The vehicle "flipped off a ramp into a transit facility near the Bronx Zoo," CNN reported. According to NBC's New York affiliate, it was a rail yard.

It was not clear whether all seven of the victims were traveling in the van at the time of the crash. According to the news service, three of the victims were children.

According to NY1, at least one victim was pinned inside the vehicle.

According to the New York Post, all seven victims were traveling in the van when it crashed.

Fire Department spokesman Jim Long told the AP that the victims "were an 84-year-old man; three women, ages 80, 45 and 30; and three girls, ages 12, 10 and 7."


News by Yahoo

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Iran Says Is Building Copy of Captured US Drone

US Drone captured by Iran
US Drone captured by Iran
Iran claimed Sunday that it had reverse-engineered an American spy drone captured by its armed forces last year and has begun building a copy.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, chief of the aerospace division of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, related what he said were details of the aircraft's operational history to prove his claim that Tehran's military experts had extracted data from the U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel captured in December in eastern Iran, state television reported.

Among the drone's past missions, he said, was surveillance of the compound in northwest Pakistan in which Osama Bin Laden lived and was killed.

Tehran has flaunted the capture of the Sentinel, a top-secret surveillance drone with stealth technology, as a victory for Iran and a defeat for the United States in a complicated intelligence and technological battle.

U.S. officials have acknowledged losing the drone. They have said Iran will find it hard to exploit any data and technology aboard it because of measures taken to limit the intelligence value of drones operating over hostile territory.

Hajizadeh told state television that the captured surveillance drone is a "national asset" for Iran and that he could not reveal full technical details. But he did provide some samples of the data that he claimed Iranian experts had recovered.

"There is almost no part hidden to us in this aircraft. We recovered part of the data that had been erased. There were many codes and characters. But we deciphered them by the grace of God," Hajizadeh said.

He said all operations carried out by the drone had been recorded in the memory of the aircraft, including maintenance and testing.

Hajizadeh claimed that the drone flew over Osama Bin Laden's compound in Pakistan two weeks before the al-Qaida leader was killed there in May 2011 by U.S. Navy SEALs. He did not say how the Iranian experts knew this.

Before that, he said, "this drone was in California on Oct. 16, 2010, for some technical work and was taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan on Nov. 18, 2010. It conducted flights there but apparently faced problems and (U.S. experts) were unable to fix it," he said.

Hajizadeh said the drone was taken to Los Angeles in December 2010 where sensors of the aircraft underwent testing at an aerospace factory.

"If we had not achieved access to software and hardware of this aircraft, we would be unable to get these details. Our experts are fully dominant over sections and programs of this plane," he said. "It's not that we can bring down a drone but cannot recover the data."

There are concerns in the U.S. that Iran or other states may be able to reverse-engineer the chemical composition of the drone's radar-deflecting paint or the aircraft's sophisticated optics technology that allows operators to positively identify terror suspects from tens of thousands of feet in the air.

There are also worries that adversaries may be able to hack into the drone's database, as Iran claimed to have done. Some surveillance technologies allow video to stream through to operators on the ground but do not store much collected data. If they do, it is encrypted.

Media reports claimed this week that Russia and China have asked Tehran to provide them with information on the drone but Iran's Defense Ministry denied this.


News by ABC News

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Saturday, April 07, 2012

US Navy jet crashes into Virginia apartments

 US Navy jet crashes into Virginia
Firefighters work to control the blaze after the crash of an F-18 US Navy jet
Emergency crews searched the charred remains of a Virginia Beach apartment complex on Friday (Saturday NZT) after a fighter jet crashed into it just after takeoff in what Navy officials called a "catastrophic mechanical malfunction".

Two Navy pilots - a student and an instructor from nearby Naval Air Station Oceana - ejected just before the jet careened into the apartment complex, demolishing sections of some buildings and engulfing others in flames. Some 40 apartment units were damaged or destroyed in the crash, but hours later no fatalities had been reported.

Seven people, including both pilots, were taken to a hospital. All except one of the pilots were released by late afternoon.

Virginia Beach Fire Department Captain Tim Riley said more than two dozen residents remained unaccounted for, although all but the six most damaged apartments had been searched.

"What I'm praying for, what I'm thinking about now is that we don't find any more victims," Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms told reporters.

The two-seat F18 Hornet had dumped loads of fuel before crashing, though it wasn't clear if that was because of a malfunction or an intentional maneuver by the pilots, said Captain Mark Weisgerber with US Fleet Forces Command. The jet went down less than 10 miles from Oceana.

Bruce Nedelka, the Virginia Beach EMS division chief, said witnesses saw fuel being dumped from the jet before it went down, and that fuel was found on buildings and vehicles in the area.

The plane not having as much fuel on board "mitigated what could have been an absolute massive, massive fireball and fire," Nedelka said. "With all of that jet fuel dumped, it was much less than what it could have been."

The crash happened in the Hampton Roads area, which has a large concentration of military bases, including Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world. Naval Air Station Oceana, where the F/A-18D that crashed was assigned, is located in Virginia Beach. Both the pilots were from Virginia Beach, Weisgerber said.

Weisgerber said he did not know how many times the student pilot had been in the air, but that the instructor was "extremely experienced".

Dozens of police cars, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles filled the densely populated neighborhood where the plane crashed. Yellow fire hoses snaked through side streets as fire crews poured water on the charred rooftops of brick apartment houses. By late afternoon, the fire had been put out.

Residents of the apartment complex described a confusing scene and an apologetic pilot.

Colby Smith said his house started shaking and then the power went out, as he saw a red and orange blaze outside his window. He ran outside, where he saw billowing black smoke and then came upon the pilot as he ran to a friend's home.

"I saw the parachute on the house and he was still connected to it, and he was laying on the ground with his face full of blood," Smith told WVEC-TV.

"The pilot said, 'I'm sorry for destroying your house'."

Smith said he and another man helped the pilot onto the street.

Patrick Kavanaugh, who lives in the complex where the jet crashed, opened up his sliding glass door after hearing a loud explosion and saw one of the jet's pilots on the ground with blood on his face. Kavanaugh said the pilot, whom he described as a "young boy", was very upset and apologetic.

"The poor guy was in shock. I checked for broken bones and opened wounds," said Kavanaugh, who spent 23 years in the rescue squad and retired in 1996.

Despite having suffered several heart attacks and open-heart surgery, Kavanaugh said his old rescue skills kicked in as he dragged the pilot around the corner and away from the fire before several other explosions occurred.

As authorities closed roads in the neighborhood, traffic backed up on side streets and on nearby Interstate 264, with slow-moving columns of vehicles bringing drivers to a virtual standstill early on Friday afternoon.

Edna Lukens, who works at the apartment complex across the street from the crash, said she saw three apartment buildings on fire.

"We heard this loud noise and we looked out the window and there was smoke all in the sky. Then the flames started going up in the sky, and then the apartment building just started burning and the police was called and everybody came out," Lukens said.

Felissa Ezell, 71, was sitting in a folding chair outside her townhouse near the crash site on Friday and recalled hearing the crash as she returned home earlier in the day.

"Oh, my God, I heard three really loud explosions, then the black smoke went up high in the sky," she said.

The same model of fighter jet, an F/A-18D, crashed in December 2008 while returning to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar after a training exercise in a San Diego neighborhood. That crash killed four members of one family and destroyed two homes.

The Marine Corps said the jet suffered a mechanical failure, but a series of bad decisions led the pilot - a student - to bypass a potentially safe landing at a coastal Navy base after his engine failed. The pilot ejected and told investigators he screamed in horror as he watched the jet plow into the neighborhood, incinerating two homes. A federal judge ordered the US government to pay the family nearly $18 million in restitution.

Most flights from Naval Air Station Oceana are training flights, Weisgerber said.

"This is where the Navy teaches our F18 pilots for the very first time in flee-representative aircraft," he said.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Afghan shooting suspect joined Army, dodged judgment

Afghan shooting suspect Robert Bales
US Army Robert Bales (R)
Afghan shooting suspect joined Army, dodged judgment

(Reuters) - The U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 civilians in Afghanistan left for war without paying a $1.5 million judgment for defrauding an elderly client in a stock scheme, and remains shielded from the obligation as long as he remains in the military, legal experts said.

Before beginning his military career in November, 2001, Bales worked almost five-and-a-half years at a series of largely intertwined brokerages that received repeated regulatory censures, according to regulatory records.

Bales joined the Army 18 months after an Ohio investor filed an arbitration complaint alleging unauthorized trading, breach of contract and other abuses against him, his securities firm and the firm's owner. In 2003, the arbitration panel ordered them to pay the investor $1.2 million, including $637,000 in punitive damages for willful or malicious conduct and $216,500 in attorneys' fees.

Bales never appeared before the panel and did not hire a lawyer to represent him.

Earle Frost, a lawyer for the victim, Gary Liebschner, said his client never received any of the payment ordered by the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) panel.

He said Liebschner could have taken Bales to court to enforce the award, but "we couldn't find him."

By that time, Bales had embarked on an Army career that included three tours of duty in Iraq and a fourth in Afghanistan.

Even if Bales's victim had pressed the claim, Bales had protection under laws that shield members of the military from some financial obligations.

Any active-duty member of the military can apply for relief from outstanding financial obligations as long as he or she makes less in the service than before, said John Odom, a retired Air Force colonel and a partner at the law firm of Jones & Odom in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Bales is expected to be charged this week in the March 11 killings of nine children and seven other civilians, who were gunned down in a late-night rampage.

His financial troubles add to the complex portrait of the man accused of the massacre.

His lawyer, John Henry Browne, did not respond to a request for comment on the NASD arbitration ruling. He has said Bales joined the army to defend the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

His service in Afghanistan was complicated by mounting financial pressures back home, his lawyer has acknowledged. His home in Washington state had been listed for sale shortly before the alleged massacre.

Bales began his financial industry career in 1996 at Hamilton-Shea Group, a brokerage in Florida that was expelled from NASD in 2001 and fined $1.4 million over several issues, according to records from NASD and its successor organization, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Hamilton-Shea was "the kind of place where you learn to cold call, to 'pump and dump,'" said Joseph Dehner, a lawyer in Cincinnati, Ohio, who specializes in cases involving rogue brokers and firms.

Pump and dump refers to a practice in which firms artificially raise the prices of stocks they hold by aggressively selling shares to clients and then selling their own shares.

At least three Hamilton-Shea brokers who worked briefly with Bales pleaded guilty to violations of securities law after he left Florida to work in Ohio at Quantum Capital Corp., according to records from FINRA. Quantum also owned Hamilton-Shea.

Bales left Quantum in early 1998 to join Michael Patterson Inc., or MPI, whose eponymous owner had worked with him at both Hamilton-Shea and Quantum. Bales remained there until late 1999, then worked for two other Ohio brokerages until December 2000.

Patterson, whose firm was shuttered one month after Bales joined the Army, could not be reached for comment.

Neither FINRA nor the Ohio Division of Securities ever suspended Bales, who simply let his securities license lapse, according to regulators. If an arbitration award is not paid within 30 days, FINRA can suspend a broker and would not allow him or her to join another firm during the suspension.


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Sunday, March 11, 2012

US soldier kills Afghan civilians in Kandahar

US Army in Afghan
A group of rogue US Army soldiers in Afghanistan killed innocent civilians

A US soldier in Afghanistan has killed 10 civilians and wounded five in Kandahar province after suffering a breakdown, officials say.

He left his military base in the early hours of the morning and opened fire after entering local homes; women and children are said to be among the dead.

Nato said it was investigating the "deeply regrettable incident".

Anti-US sentiment is already high in Afghanistan after US soldiers burnt copies of the Koran last month.

US officials have apologised repeatedly for the incident at a Nato base in Kabul, but they failed to quell a series of protests and attacks that killed at least 30 people and six US troops.

Local people have reportedly gathered near the base in Panjwai district to protest about Sunday's killings, and the US embassy is advising against travel to the area.

Investigation

The soldier, who has not been named, is said to have suffered a nervous breakdown.

He walked off his base at around 03:00 local time (22:30 GMT Saturday).

According to a resident quoted by Associated Press, he opened fire in three separate houses in the village of Alkozai.

"I heard gunshots and then silence and then gunshots again," Abdul Baqi said.

Local tribal leaders said women and children were among the dead.

A delegation from the provincial governor's office has arrived in the village to determine what has happened, a spokesman said.

After carrying out the killings, the soldier reportedly handed himself over to the US military authorities.

The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said in a statement that US officials in Afghanistan would work with their Afghan counterparts to investigate what happened.

"This is a deeply regrettable incident and we extend our thoughts and concerns to the families involved," Isaf added.

Meanwhile, in Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his government still expects to sign a strategic partnership with the United States in the next couple of months.

In a televised speech, he said discussions would continue on the precise role the US will play in Afghanistan after Nato hands over security responsibility to Kabul at the end of 2014.

On Friday, Kabul and Washington reached a deal to transfer US-run prisons in the country to Afghan control.

News by BBC


Photo: RAWA

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Friday, March 09, 2012

Coke and Pepsi alter recipe to avoid cancer warning

coke and pepsi
Coke and Pepsi
Coca-Cola and Pepsi are changing the recipes for their drinks to avoid being legally obliged to put a cancer warning label on the bottle.

The new recipe for caramel colouring in the drinks has less 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) - a chemical which California has added to its list of carcinogens.

The change to the recipe has already been introduced in California but will be rolled out across the US.

Coca-Cola says there is no health risk to justify the change.

'No risk'

Spokeswoman Diana Garza-Ciarlante told the Associated Press news agency they wanted to ensure their products "would not be subject to the requirement of a scientifically unfounded warning".

The chemical has been linked to cancer in mice and rats, according to one study, but there is no evidence that it poses a health risk to humans, said the American Beverage Association, which represents the wider industry.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims a person would need to drink more than 1,000 cans of Coke or Pepsi a day to take in the same dose of the chemical that was given to the animals in the lab test.

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo account for nearly 90% of the US fizzy drink market, according to one industry tracker, Beverage Digest.

The companies say changing their recipes across the whole of the US, not just in California, makes the drinks more efficient to manufacture.

In a statement Coca-Cola added that the manufacturing process across Europe would not change.

It said that apart from California "not one single regulatory agency around the world considers the exposure of the public to 4-MEI as present in caramels as an issue".

News By BBC

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Friday, March 02, 2012

Oil price falls back from 43-month high

Oil price falls back from 43-month high
Last Updated at 02 Mar 2012, 10:15 GMT

Oil prices have dipped from a 43-month high after Saudi Arabia denied reports that a key pipeline had exploded.

Brent crude fell back to $125.6 a barrel after jumping almost $6 to $128.40 in New York on Thursday. US light crude fell slightly to $108.5.

A number of factors had pushed prices to their highest level since July 2008, including tensions over Iran's nuclear plans and regional unrest.

Thursday's high beat the level seen during the Libyan civil war last year.

'Market nervousness'

The problem facing the oil market at the moment is that events in a number of countries could have an impact on supply and demand, often causing traders to react more quickly to speculation and increasing volatility.

On Thursday, the trigger was a report in Iranian media that an explosion had occurred at a pipeline in Saudi Arabia.

The report came at a time when there has been a steady increase in friction between Iran on one side and the United States and its allies on the other.

The US has imposed fresh sanctions against Tehran targeting the country's oil exports, while the European Union has announced a ban on imports of Iranian oil.

For its part, Iran has threatened that it will close the Straits of Hormuz, a vital trade route for oil from the Gulf - including Saudi oil - if the West were to impose more sanctions.

Analysts said all these issues had created an uncertainty over oil supplies and the latest reports had only fanned those fears further.

"The sharp move up on the pipeline story points to the market nervousness on anything related to supply problems," said Gene McGillan of Tradition Energy.

Sufficient capacity

Among the biggest buyers of Iranian oil are Asian economies such as China, Japan, India and South Korea.

The US has been trying to convince these nations to reduce their imports of Iranian oil, to put further pressure on Tehran.

Earlier this year, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner visited China and Japan to drum up support for US sanctions.

But there have been concerns that if nations stop buying oil from Iran they will have to turn to other oil producers in order to meet their demand, pushing up prices and hurting global economic growth.

However, US authorities tried to allay those fears, saying that global oil producers were well placed to make up for any shortfall in Iranian oil.

"I think there is sufficient spare capacity," said Steven Chu, US Energy Secretary.

At the same time, some analysts said that change in global weather may also help in keeping oil prices in check.

"Oil prices have overshot in the short-term, and with warmer temperatures as we move from winter to spring, oil demand could start to fall, starting in March," said Gordon Kwan, head of energy research at Mirae Asset Management in Hong Kong.

"Brent could fall back below $120 (per barrel) if Iran doesn't flare up."  

 News By BBC

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Megaupload file-sharing site shut down

megaupload
Megaupload charged users a fee to upload large files anonymously
Megaupload, one of the internet's largest file-sharing sites, has been shut down by officials in the US.

The site's founders have been charged with violating piracy laws.

Federal prosecutors have accused it of costing copyright holders more than $500m (£320m) in lost revenue. The firm says it was diligent in responding to complaints about pirated material.

The news came a day after anti-piracy law protests, but investigators said they were ordered two weeks ago.

The US Justice Department said that Megaupload's two co-founders Kim Dotcom, formerly known as Kim Schmitz, and Mathias Ortmann were arrested in Auckland, New Zealand along with two other employees of the business at the request of US officials. It added that three other defendants were still at large.

"This action is among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States and directly targets the misuse of a public content storage and distribution site to commit and facilitate intellectual property crime," said a statement posted on its website.

In response, hackers targeted the US Department of Justice and FBI websites.

The FBI website is intermittently unavailable due to what officials said was being "treated as a malicious act".

The hackers' group Anonymous said it was carrying out the attacks.
Third-party sites

The charges included copyright infringement, conspiracies to commit racketeering, copyright infringement and money laundering.

A federal court in Virginia ordered that 18 domain names associated with the Hong Kong-based firm be seized.

The Justice Department said that more than 20 search warrants had been executed in nine countries, and that approximately $50m in assets had been seized.

It claimed that the accused had pursued a business model designed to promote the uploading of copyrighted works.

"The conspirators allegedly paid users whom they specifically knew uploaded infringing content and publicised their links to users throughout the world," a statement said.

"By actively supporting the use of third-party linking sites to publicise infringing content, the conspirators did not need to publicise such content on the Megaupload site.

"Instead, the indictment alleges that the conspirators manipulated the perception of content available on their servers by not providing a public search function on the Megaupload site and by not including popular infringing content on the publicly available lists of top content downloaded by its users."

Before it was shut down the site posted a statement saying the allegations against it were "grotesquely overblown".

"The fact is that the vast majority of Mega's internet traffic is legitimate, and we are here to stay," it added.

"If the content industry would like to take advantage of our popularity, we are happy to enter into a dialogue. We have some good ideas. Please get in touch."
Blackouts

The announcement came a day after thousands of websites took part in a "blackout" to protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (Pipa).

The US Chamber of Commerce has defended the proposed laws saying that enforcement agencies "lack the tools" to effectively apply existing intellectual property laws to the digital world.

Industry watchers suggest this latest move may feed into the wider debate.

"Neither of the bills are close to being passed - they need further revision. But it appears that officials are able to use existing tools to go after a business alleged to be inducing piracy," said Gartner's media distribution expert Mike McGuire.

"It begs the question that if you can find and arrest people who are suspected to be involved in piracy using existing laws, then why introduce further regulations which are US-only and potentially damaging."

News by BBC


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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Blast kills Iraqi Shia pilgrims in Basra

recent blast kills iraqi shia pilgrims
Pilgrims were being searched at a checkpoint in Basra
A suicide attack has killed at least 53 Shia Muslim pilgrims and left another 137 wounded in Iraq's southern city of Basra, local police say.

The attacker, wearing a suicide vest, was said to have been disguised as a policeman when he targeted pilgrims who were passing through a checkpoint on the outskirts of the city on Saturday.

The pilgrims were heading towards a Shia mosque in the busy al-Zubair district, west of Basra city. The mosque is home to a seventh century shrine.

The attacks on Shia Muslim worshippers have been blamed on al-Qaeda linked forces.

Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said Iraqi security forces have "been on high alert for attacks of this kind" surrounding the Arbaeen rituals, commemorating the death of Imam al-Hussayn.

The attack is the lastest in a wave of car bombings and suicide attacks targeting Shia pilgrims on their way to Karbala for Arbaeen rituals, a religious rite that occurs 40 days after the day of Ashura.

The Arbaeen pilgrimage, one of the largest in the world, has drawn 12 million congregants to Karbala itself.

With the pilgrimage becoming a major focus of attacks, our correspondent said, some pilgrims "wrap themselves in white shrouds" - the traditional burial attire for Muslims - along the way.

Iraqi security forces have stationed 30,000 police and soldiers outside Karbala city and along the roads leading to it.

Iraq has experienced political tension along ethnic and sectarian lines after the Shia-dominated cabinet of Nouri al-Maliki issued an arrest warrant last month for Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the country's highest-ranking Sunni politician.

Hashemi, who is currently living in Iraq's Kurdish north, was charged with terrorism as the final US troops were leaving the nation.

Basra was also the site a protest last week to denounce a decision by President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, to shelter Hashemi.

News by Aljazeera



Saturday, January 07, 2012

World's biggest tech show searching for "wow"

razor-thin laptops
Biggest tech show
(Reuters) - The world's biggest technology trade show will feature razor-thin laptops, powerful new smartphones and fancy flat-screen TVs, but talk in the cavernous halls of the Consumer Electronics Show, which kicks off on Monday night, may focus on whether the show itself has a long-term future.

Apple Inc, which has set the agenda in consumer electronics for the past decade, does not even attend the show. Microsoft Corp, desperately trying to catch up, is making this show its last. It has been a few years since Las Vegas-based CES had the "wow" factor.

"There's a lot of hype. The promise exceeds the deliverable a lot," said Todd Lowenstein, portfolio manager at HighMark Capital Management, which owns several technology stocks. "I take an interest in it only to the extent that there's market-moving information that comes out of there, which I find is rare."

Steve Jobs' stylish and dramatic product launches came to dominate the popular tech world, and rivals are looking to copy that outside of the hubbub and razzmatazz of CES in Las Vegas.

"A lot of companies are trying to imitate Apple's success in a lot of areas, and one area where Apple has been extremely successful is in controlling its message by controlling the event and the timetable of its announcements," said Avi Greengart, research director for consumer devices at Current Analysis, a business intelligence firm.

Microsoft, which is trying to win back its technology crown from Apple and newcomer Google Inc, has long said that CES in early January does not fit its product release timetable, meaning it has little new to share in the opening keynote, which has for years been given by Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, and before him by co-founder Bill Gates.

"Microsoft can do this on their own, they don't need CES," said Hanson Hosein, a specialist in technology and media at the University of Washington in Seattle. "It's a lot of money. These shows are generally declining in popularity anyway."

WHAT'S NEW?

This year, the buzzwords look similar to last year, including "connected," "always on" and "voice recognition," whether in new, more powerful phones and tablets or in cars or even watches.

"This year there's going to be a focus on connectivity and mobility that continues the momentum we've seen for the past few years, even though we may not see quite so many big announcements by (mobile) carriers as we did last year," said Ross Rubin, executive director, Connected Intelligence, at retail research firm NPD Group.

The latest crop of light and thin laptops, which Intel Corp has dubbed "Ultrabooks," is set to dominate the hardware displays, from the likes of Toshiba Corp, Asustek Computer Inc and Lenovo Group Ltd.

On the other side of the floor, the latest high-definition, Internet-enabled TVs from Sony Corp, Panasonic Corp, Sharp Corp and LG Corp will also draw crowds.

Wireless carriers AT&T Inc and Verizon Wireless are expected to unveil devices to take advantage of their new high-speed networks, and phone-maker Nokia is preparing to reintroduce itself to a U.S. audience with new handsets running Microsoft's latest Windows software.

Tablets may take a backseat after dominating the show last year, as hardware makers lick their wounds after failure to match Apple's all-conquering iPad.

Some suspect tablet makers are not fully committing to Google's Android as a tablet platform, knowing that Microsoft's tablet-friendly Windows 8 system is likely set to hit the market in the next 12 months. Microsoft showed off a flashy Samsung Electronics tablet running a prototype of Windows 8 in September, and more up-to-date demo versions are expected to be circulating at CES.

Somewhere in between the phone and tablet is the "phablet," the tag applied to Samsung's new 5.3 inch- (13.5 cm-) screen Galaxy Note.

So far available only in Europe and Asia, there is talk that AT&T will announce plans to launch the Android-based device in the United States at CES.

Sensor-laden, low-power devices with a constant connection to the Internet -- whether a phone, or smaller device hidden in your car or on your wrist -- will be the theme of the show, tech-watchers seem to agree. That allows users to move digital content around or get real-time feedback on where they are and what they are doing.

"The CPU is in your pocket, the data is all in the cloud," said John Elliott, senior executive at consulting firm Accenture's Mobility practice.

STILL HEAVING

CES, which started in 1967 in New York, was the launchpad for the VCR, camcorder, DVD, HDTV and many other pivotal home tech developments. It grew rapidly in importance after the COMDEX tech show folded a decade ago.

It has been a while since CES showcased such game-changing inventions, but it is still popular with technology exhibitors and buyers, although it may suffer a dip in overall attendance this year.

The 2012 International CES -- to state its full title -- is set to be the second-biggest on record, with more than 2,700 exhibitors taking up over 1.8 million square feet of show floor. The largest-ever CES was in 2008, with 1.85 million square feet of paid-for exhibition space.

The organizers said they are expecting 140,000 to 150,000 attendees this year, but acknowledge it will be tough to beat last year's 149,000.

Exhibitors tend to make reservations on next year's space while at the show, or shortly afterward, so CES will soon find out if its waning influence, or hard economic times, will take a bite out of next year's show.

CES is "a good opportunity to discuss the Intel products and technologies that consumers want to hear about," said Robert Manetta, a spokesman for the world's biggest chip maker.

The show is also still popular with smaller companies looking for a big stage to show off their wares.

"CES is hands-down the best venue to debut cutting-edge hardware and software to the world," said Michel Tombroff, CEO of Softkinetic, a Belgian firm which designs motion-sensing technology for controlling TVs and computers with your hands.

Technology buyers also like it.

"We are always looking for new, new, new," said a buyer at an upscale retailer focusing on teens. "For electronics, we wouldn't even bother with anywhere else."

Ultimately, CES still sets the pace in technology for retailers, said Rubin at NPD.

"CES has become the place where the expectations for the year are set in terms of the state of the art."


Wednesday, January 04, 2012

U.S. to unveil "more realistic" plan for military

obama
Barack Obama, US President
(Reuters) - The Obama administration will unveil a "more realistic" vision for the military on Thursday, with plans to cut tens of thousands of ground troops and invest more in air and sea power at a time of fiscal restraint, officials familiar with the plans said on Wednesday.

The strategic review of U.S. security interests will also emphasize an American presence in Asia, with less attention overall to Europe, Africa and Latin America alongside slower growth in the Pentagon's budget, the officials said.

Though specific budget cut and troop reduction figures are not set to be announced on Thursday, officials confirmed to Reuters they would amount to a 10-15 percent decline in Army and Marine Corps numbers over the next decade, translating to tens of thousands of troops.

The most profound shift in the strategic review is an acceptance that the United States, even with the world's largest military budget, cannot afford to maintain the ground troops to fight more than one major war at once. That is a move away from the "win-win" strategy that has dominated Pentagon funding decisions for decades.

The move to a "win-spoil" plan, allowing U.S. forces to fight one campaign and stop or block another conflict, includes a recognition that the White House would need to ramp up public support for further engagement and draw more heavily on reserve and national guard troops when required.

"As Libya showed, you don't necessarily have to have boots on the ground all the time," an official said, explaining the White House view.

"We are refining our strategy to something that is more realistic," the official added.

President Barack Obama will help launch the U.S. review at the Pentagon on Thursday, and is expected to emphasize that the size of the U.S. military budget has been growing and will continue to grow, but at a slower pace.

Obama has moved to curtail U.S. ground commitments overseas, ending the war in Iraq, drawing down troops in Afghanistan and ruling out anything but air power and intelligence support for rebels who overthrew Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

The number of U.S. military personnel formally assigned to bases in Europe - including many now deployed in Afghanistan - is also set to decline sharply, administration sources said, while stressing that the final numbers have not been set.

'BASICALLY DISAPPEAR'


"When some army brigades start coming out of Afghanistan, they will basically disappear," one official said.

Many of the key U.S. military partners in the NATO alliance are also facing tough defense budget cuts as a result of fiscal strains gripping the European Union.

The president may face criticism from defense hawks in Congress, many of them opposition Republicans, who question his commitment to U.S. military strength.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, are set to hold a news conference to flesh out the contents of the review after Obama's remarks, which are also expected to stress the need to rein in spending at a time when U.S. budgets are tight.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the defense cuts stemming from an August debt ceiling deal - worth about $489 billion over 10 years - need to be enacted carefully.

"The president made clear to his team that we need to take a hard look at all of our defense spending to ensure that spending cuts are surgical and that our top priorities are met," Carney told reporters this week.

The military could be forced to cut another $600 billion in defense spending over 10 years unless Congress takes action to stop a second round of cuts mandated in the August accord.

Panetta spent much of Wednesday afternoon briefing key congressional leaders about the strategic review. Representative Adam Smith, the senior Democrat on the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, said after speaking to Panetta that the review was an attempt to evaluate U.S. strategic priorities for the future rather than identify specific budget reductions.

Maintaining a significant presence in the Middle East and Asia, especially to counter Iran and North Korea, was a leading priority in the review, Smith said. So was making sure that military personnel are sufficiently cared for to guarantee the effectiveness of the all-volunteer force. Reductions in the size of U.S. forces in Europe and elsewhere are a real possibility, he said.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain John Kirby said with the military winding down a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is appropriate to re-evaluate the role of U.S. forces abroad.

"From an operational perspective it's ... an opportune time to take a look at what the U.S. military is doing and what it should be doing or should be preparing itself to do over the next 10 to 15 years," he said on Wednesday.

"So, yes, the budget cuts are certainly a driver here, but so quite frankly are current events," Kirby said.




Friday, December 30, 2011

Russell Brand files for divorce from Katy Perry after 14 months

katy perry
The pair attended a benefit for the David Lynch Foundation
Russell Brand has filed for divorce from Katy Perry after 14 months of marriage.

The 36-year-old comedian said in a statement today: 'Sadly, Katy and I are ending our marriage. I'll always adore her and I know we'll remain friends.'

The Arthur star was spotted in London today without his wedding ring for the second day in a row.

His legal team filed court documents at the Superior Court in Los Angeles today citing 'irreconcilable differences.'

The divorce documents, which refer to Perry by her give name Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson, show there are 'community property assets,' suggesting there may not be a pre-nuptial agreement in place.

It does not list a date of separation.

Perry is yet to comment on the split and there is some speculation she was blind-sided by Brand's official move to end their marriage.

The pair sparked rumours of trouble after celebrating Christmas 7,000 miles apart - he spent the festive day in Cornwall while the Teenage Dream singer, 27, was with friends in Hawaii.

Perry was not wearing her wedding ring either when she was photographed frolicking in the surf on December 25.

The couple's split comes just four weeks after Brand declared his relationship was going strong.

He told Ellen DeGeneres on December 2: 'I'm really happily married. I’m married to Katy. Perpetually, until death do us part was the pledge. I’m still alive.'

In November, Perry told the same TV host that that she 'would love to have children' with Brand.

She said: 'I think that's one of the reasons you get married, especially to the person that you marry. You think: "That person is going to be a good partner, a good parent.'''

Asked if she wanted a big family, Perry added: 'If it doesn't hurt the first time I'll keep popping them out.'

But there was clearly trouble brewing when the pair decided to spend Christmas apart, allegedly after a huge row.

A source was quoted as telling US Weekly magazine: 'They had a massive fight. She was like, "F*** you. I'm going to do my own thing."

Meanwhile the insider said that Russell replied: 'Fine, f*** you too.'

The couple had planned Christmas together and Perry was expected to jet her family in a private plane over to the UK to celebrate.

In November, Brand's mother Barbara had tweeted she was looking forward to spending the festive season with her son and daughter-in-law.

She wrote on Twitter: 'Spoke to Russell and Katy, they are so happy, it's lovely. We will all be together for Christmas.'

The California-born star began dating the British comedian in 2009 after she famously threw a bottle at his head at an MTV Music Awards party.

He proposed just four months later on New Year's Eve and they were married in October last year.

Their lavish ceremony at a five-star resort in India included two elephants, acrobats and jugglers.

Brand was once notorious in England as a hard-partying bachelor and self-confessed sex addict.

He later had a spiritual awakening and got sober after years of heroin and alcohol abuse.

He insisted he'd reformed his wild ways before settling down with Perry.

'I think I was ready for it,' he said. 'If you're wild, like a wild animal, marriage won't contain you. I think that's how a lot of people get into trouble.'

Brand will next appear in the Eighties musical film, Rock Of Ages, alongside Tom Cruise.

Perry, who has spent much of the year on tour, recently released the new single The One That Got Away.

The track is currently number three on the US charts. If it reaches number one, it will be her sixth chart-topping single from her Teenage Dream album, surpassing the record set by Michael Jackson's Bad.

News by Dailymail


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Japan relaxes decades-old arms exports ban

japanese fighter
Japanese Fighter
(Reuters) - Debt-riddled Japan Tuesday relaxed its self-imposed decades-old ban on military equipment exports in a move that will open new markets to its defense contractors and help the nation squeeze more out of its defense budget.

The government's security council agreed to the relaxing of the ban to allow Japan to take part in the joint development and production of arms with other countries and to supply military equipment for humanitarian missions, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said at a news conference.

"The new standards (on weapons exports) are a result of the government considering measures that required attention amid recent changes to the environment surrounding international defense equipment," Fujimura said, referring to rising arms costs that could put strain on the government, with public debt twice the size of its economy.

The rule adopted in 1967 banned sales to communist countries, those involved in international conflicts or subject to United Nations sanctions.

It later became a blanket ban on exports and on the development and production of weapons with countries other than the United States, making it impossible for manufacturers to participate in multinational projects.

"The regulations on weapons exports are based on the concept that as a pacifist country Japan should aim to avoid fanning international conflicts, and we will keep a close watch on exports," Fujimura said.

The relaxing of the rules does not mean Japan will begin openly selling its military products to the world -- exports will be limited to strategic allies like the U.S.

The move could still allow companies such as Mitsubishi Heavy (7011.T) to join the development of Lockheed Martin's (LMT.N) F-35, which Tokyo picked last week as its next frontline fighter, planning to buy 42 machines at an estimated cost of more than $7 billion.

MORE THAN DOUBLE

Although Japan is the world's sixth-biggest military spender, it often pays more than double other nations for the same equipment because local export-restricted manufacturers can only fill small orders at a high cost.

Removing the ban would stretch its defense purse further as military spending in neighboring China expands.

This year, Beijing raised military outlays by 12.7 percent. That included money for its own stealth fighter, the J-20, which made its maiden flight in January.

In contrast, Japan's defense budget has been shrinking in past years as ballooning costs for social security and servicing its growing debt pile squeeze other spending.

Given fiscal restraints, Tokyo is keen to make its defense program more efficient to maintain its military capability in the face of China's rise and growing uncertainties in the region.

The relaxation of the ban, that has been modified in the past to allow sharing of military technology with the U.S., could also be a boon for Japanese manufacturers as the strong yen weighs on their civilian exports and weak domestic demand and budget constraints restrict growth at home.

Read current news at http://bbc-cnn-worldnews.blogspot.com

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman's Head Of Security Captured In Mexican Drug Cartels Battle

mexico
Mexico
MEXICO CITY -- The Mexican army announced Sunday that it had captured the head of security for Sinaloa drug cartel head Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, one of the world's most wanted men.

The suspect, who was not identified by name, was captured in the Sinaloa state capital of Culiacan and will be presented to the media Monday morning, the army said.

Guzman, Mexico's top drug lord, is one of the world's richest men, and has eluded authorities by moving around and hiding since his 2001 escape from prison in a laundry truck.

The army said the man they had arrested also ran cartel activities in Durango and southern Chihuahua state, and was responsible for carrying out secret burials of cartel victims, kidnapping, extortion and arson. They did not say if the arrest moved the military closer to capturing Guzman, an arrest that would be seen as a major victory for the government of President Felipe Calderon.

Guzman is worth more than $1 billion, according to Forbes magazine, which has listed him among the "World's Most Powerful People." He has a $7 million bounty on his head, and thousands of law enforcement agents from the U.S. and other countries working on capturing him.

His cartel controls cocaine trafficking on the Mexican border with California and has moved eastward to the corridor between the Mexican state of Sonora, which borders Arizona.

Separately, Mexican soldiers discovered 13 bodies in an abandoned truck Sunday along with a message that they were killed in a war between rival drug cartels in the eastern state of Veracruz, officials said.

The bodies were found in Tamaulipas state, a few hundred yards (meters) from its border with Veracruz, according to the Tamaulipas attorney general's office. The office said that 10 of the bodies had been decapitated.

The area has been the scene of bloody battles between the Gulf and Zetas cartels, and a pair of banners alluding to a rivalry were found in the truck, the statement from the attorney-general's office said.

On Friday, the attorney general's office in Veracruz said it had found 10 bodies in a different area along the border with Tamaulipas after receiving a tip.

On Thursday, three U.S. citizens traveling to spend the holidays with their relatives in Mexico were among those killed in a spree of shooting attacks on buses. In the spree, a group of gunmen attacked three buses in Veracruz, killing a total of seven passengers.

The Americans killed were a mother and her two daughters who were returning to visit relatives in the region.

The five gunmen who allegedly carried out the attacks were later shot to death by soldiers.

Earlier, the gunmen also killed four people in the nearby town of El Higo, Veracruz.

Local police in Veracruz have become so corrupt that on Wednesday the government decided to dissolve the entire force in the state's largest city, also known as Veracruz, and sent the Navy in to patrol. Some 800 police officers and 300 administrative employees were laid off.

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cuba decided to release 2,900 prisoners as goodwill gesture

raul castro
Raul Castro
Cuba says it will release 2,900 prisoners, including some convicted of political crimes, in the next few days.

President Raul Castro said the move was a goodwill gesture after receiving numerous requests by relatives and religious institutions.

But US national Alan Gross, who is serving 15 years for crimes against the state, is not among those to be freed.

On the separate issue of foreign travel for Cubans, President Castro said it was too early to lift restrictions.

The president told the National Assembly that those who urged a lifting of travel restrictions "are forgetting the exceptional circumstances under which Cuba lives, encircled by the hostile policy... of the US government".

Cubans require an exit visa to leave the country, and it is often denied to people who work in key professions or are out of favour with the authorities.

President Castro said that 86 foreign prisoners from 25 countries would be freed, and that diplomats would be notified shortly.

However, Cuban Vice Foreign Minister Josefina Vidal told the Associated Press that American Alan Gross - jailed for taking internet equipment to the Communist-run island - "is not on the list".

Havana's refusal to free him has led to frozen relations with the United States.

Alan Gross, 62, was detained in December 2009 while he was delivering computers and communications equipment to the Jewish community in Cuba. He was sentenced in March 2011.

He was working as a contractor for the US state department.

President Castro also cited an upcoming visit by Pope Benedict XVI among the reasons for the amnesty, saying the humanitarian act showed Cuba's strength, AP reports.

Cuba's governing body, the Council of State, said some people convicted of crimes against "the security of the state" were on the list.

"All of them have completed an important portion of their sentence and shown good behaviour," read an official government statement quoted by Prensa Latina.

However, the authorities stressed that those convicted of serious crimes like murder, espionage or drug trafficking would not be part of the amnesty.
Black Spring

Elizardo Sanchez, who leads the independent Cuban Commission on Human Rights, attacked the president for not talking about "depenalising the exercise of human rights".

Last July, President Castro agreed after talks with Catholic Church leaders to free the 52 dissidents still behind bars after the crackdown in 2003.

The mass arrests that year, which became known as Cuba's Black Spring, provoked widespread international condemnation.

The European Union called off co-operation with the island, which was only officially resumed in 2008.

Cuba denies holding any political prisoners, saying they are mercenaries in the pay of the US aiming to destabilise the government.

News by BBC


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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Record labels criticise Google over illegal downloads

Adele
Singer Adele
Google has failed to deliver on promises to tackle illegal file-sharing, according to an organisation which represents music labels around the world.

The IFPI said guarantees Google had made about copyright infringement 12 months ago "remained unfulfilled".

It conceded that the search engine had made "modest steps", but alleged it was profiting from piracy.

In response, Google declined to comment on what it called a "press stunt".

In the report, the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) accused Google of making money from "sites and applications that engage in piracy".

It said, as the world's biggest search engine, it had a "special responsibility" to protect copyrighted music.

It said some work had been done but that more action had to be taken if Google "is not to continue to be abused as a vehicle for piracy."

"Google also needs to do more to ensure that it does not derive revenue from illegal activity and supports the digital marketplace in which it itself is a participant," it added.

Speaking on behalf of record labels around the world, the IFPI has urged Google to take action, including spending money to prioritise search results which direct users to legal music services.

In September 2011 Google's Senior Vice President & General Counsel Kent Walker blogged about the company's commitment to copyright material.

He wrote: "Making high-value content available in authorised forms is a crucial part of the battle against online infringement."

In a statement to the BBC, Google also "pointed to congressional testimony by the company's copyright counsel, Katherine Oyama, last month about what it's doing to fight online piracy".

Oyama was attending a hearing on controversial US legislation, which would give the US government the power to request court orders to shut down websites associated with piracy.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) has the backing of Hollywood and the music industry, but the founders of Google, Twitter and eBay - amongst others - have criticised the bill.

Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Oyama detailed some of Google's current measures to fight piracy, arguing that further legislation was unnecessary.

"The only long-term way to beat piracy online is to offer consumers more compelling legitimate alternative," she said, highlighting how Google created revenue for record labels by selling adverts around their music videos on YouTube.

She added that Google had closed down almost 150,000 accounts from people who attempted to use sponsored search results to advertise counterfeit goods.

Oyama also described Google's speed in removing pirated material from search results and YouTube accounts. She said that, in 75% of cases, the offending links were removed from its pages within six hours of receiving notice from the copyright holder.
'Not Google's job'

Newsbeat asked people what they thought about the issue.

Kim Jarrett, 23, from Essex, said: "I don't think it's Google's job to stop it.

"It's a search engine for people trying to find information and if information is there it's not for them to censor it.

"If record companies have a problem with illegal downloading of music then they should speak to their lawyers and get in touch with the websites themselves."

Annie Lee, 18, from London added: "I do think that Google has some stake and responsibility, but at the same time it's not really their domain - they're just out there as the search engine.

"[But] Google could stop having on their search results all these different download sites - it is pretty straightforward.

"But at the same time people are just going to keep devising new ways to do it."

News by BBC

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Obama Family Photo 2011: All Smiles!

barack obama with family
Barack Obama with family
A brand new family portrait was released on the White House's Flickr feed today (yes, the White House has a Flickr -- how awesome is that?) It seems the president carved out some time to sit, relax and embrace the lovely Obama ladies for the family's second official portrait.

Like the first one, shot by Anne Leibovitz in 2009, Malia and Michelle sat together on one side and Sasha and Barack together on the other. Unlike 2009, however, this picture is all about bright color: Malia in blue, Sasha in purple and Barack in navy and pink (and this time, the president looks a tad more formal in a jacket).

While we don't (yet) know where Michelle got her black cap-sleeve dress, we're loving Malia's navy and black frock from Anthropologie (we know it must fit the tall teen perfectly, considering we tried it on last weekend and it hung well below our knees).

The whole family looks lovely and happy, leaving us with only one little objection...
News by Huffingtonpost