Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Woman, 73, forced to rob bank with ankle bomb

Authorities were searching Monday for man suspected of holding a 73-year-old woman and her husband hostage at their home, then forcing her to try to rob a bank with what she thought was a bomb strapped to her ankle.
The woman, Betty Davis, told employees at the bank in Fayetteville about the device, and authorities were able to safely evacuate the building on Monday before a bomb squad could remove it from Davis' leg, police said. Authorities were testing the device to see if it really was dangerous.
Davis told police that a man had been holding her and her husband captive in their Washington County home, and sheriff's deputies dispatched there found her husband tied up but unharmed. Authorities didn't release Davis' husband's name.
The couple's pickup truck was missing, and Fayetteville TV station KHOG reported Monday evening that sheriff's deputies found an abandoned truck believed to be the couple's.
The couple could only vaguely describe the suspect as a white male of an indeterminate age who was wearing blue jeans.
Washington County sheriff's Lt. Emily Augustine said Monday night that investigators believe the couple's story.
"The evidence we have supports the witness statements so far," Augustine said.
Fayetteville police spokesman Sgt. Craig Stout told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that Davis was cooperative and didn't show any signs of deception.
Fayetteville is in northwest Arkansas and is about 140 miles northwest of Little Rock.

taken from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45940641/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/

Pakistan bus explosion kills 25

Twenty-five people died when a bomb targeting a militia opposed to the Pakistani Taliban exploded in a market close to the Afghan border, the deadliest blast in the country in several months.
The explosion hit vehicles being used by the militia in the Khyber region, according to local security officer Khan Dad Khan.
The army has supported the formation of anti-Taliban militias in north-west Pakistan, but the insurgents have ruthlessly attacked the groups over the last two years. Many of the country's bloodiest bombings have been against militia members or their families.
The blast, likely to have been detonated by remote control, wounded 24 other people, said local government official Iqbal Khan.
Islamist militants with links to al-Qaida have carried out hundreds of bombings in Pakistan since 2007, killing hundreds of soldiers, police, government officials and civilians.
The Pakistani army has carried out offensives against militants in their strongholds in tribally administered regions such as Khyber, with the violence triggering fears in the west that nuclear-armed Pakistan may be buckling under extremism.
However, the frequency of large-scale attacks outside of the north-west has decreased over the last 18 months. The last major bombing was in September close to the Swat Valley, when a suicide bomber attacked a funeral of a tribal elder opposed to the Taliban, killing 31 people.

taken from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/10/explosion-bus-pakistan-bomb

Eric Cantona announces bid for French presidency

The footballer, who would need the backing of 500 elected officials by the end of February to run, has sent a letter to French mayors describing himself as an "engaged citizen" and asking for their support.
"This engagement obliges me to speak, more earnestly than usual, but also with a keen sense of my responsibility, at a time when our country faces difficult choices which will be decisive for its future," said the letter.
In his letter, printed in the Liberation newspaper, Cantona denounced the limited opportunities for young people in France and social injustices which were "too numerous, too violent, too systematic", the newspaper said.
Election candidates will compete in a first round in late April, with the two biggest vote-winners going through to a decisive second round in early May.
Socialist candidate Francois Hollande is currently leading President Nicolas Sarkozy in the polls.
Even if Cantona were able to get 500 signatures, a difficult task without the backing of a party, he would have virtually no chance of reaching the second round as an individual outsider.
It is not the first time Cantona, who earned large sums as a footballer from sponsorship by brands like L'Oreal and Nike, has tried to draw public attention to social inequality.
In December 2010, he called on French savers to stage a nationwide bank run by withdrawing their money from financial institutions because of their role in triggering the global financial crisis. Panned by the media as a flop, almost no one in France heeded the call.
Cantona was convicted of assault and suspended from playing for four months in January 1995 after launching a "kung fu" kick on a spectator after being sent off. In a press conference later, he said only: "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much."

taken from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/9003925/Eric-Cantona-announces-bid-for-French-presidency.html

Europe’s Debt Woes ‘More Serious’ Than 2008 Crisis

Billionaire investor George Soros said Europe’s sovereign-debt woes are “more serious” than the financial crisis of 2008 and that the world faces the prospect of a “vicious circle” of deflation.
“We have a more dangerous situation now than in 2008,” Soros, 81, said in response to a question at an event in the southern Indian city of Bangalore today. “The crisis in Europe is more serious than the crash of 2008.”
Leaders in the euro region have struggled to solve the debt crisis that is now in its third year and which has clouded the outlook for the global economy. The European Central Bank has provided unprecedented cash injections to try to avert a credit crunch, while Greece, Ireland and Portugal have already been forced into bailouts.
The euro strengthened against the dollar for the first time in four days as the leaders of Germany and France meet to craft a plan for rescuing the 17-nation common currency.
The euro advanced against all but one of its 16 biggest peers, after earlier reaching an 11-year low against the yen. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy gather in Berlin today to flesh out a new rulebook for fiscal discipline negotiated at a Dec. 9 summit that seeks to create a “fiscal compact” for the euro area.
The shared currency advanced 0.5 percent to $1.2781 at 10:35 a.m. London time, after earlier falling to $1.2666, its weakest level since September 2010. The euro was 0.3 percent stronger at 98.18 yen after dropping to 97.28, the least since December 2000. The dollar was 0.2 percent weaker at 76.82 yen. Japan’s markets are closed today for a public holiday.
Myanmar Visit
On Myanmar, Soros said he visited that country recently and found “solace in the improvement or rise in search for freedom.”
He said there was “mutual trust” between Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein.
“The president and a couple of minister are just a small group within the regime,” Soros said. “They genuinely want an opening. It is important to make that happen, it’s very risky, it may not happen.”
President Thein Sein has taken steps to ease political repression and end the country’s international isolation. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in December that she was “cautiously hopeful” after completing the highest-level U.S. visit to Myanmar in more than five decades.
The U.S. maintains sanctions on Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, that were first imposed in 1988 after soldiers killed about 3,000 student protesters, according to an estimate by Human Rights Watch.
Soros is best known for making $1 billion in 1992 betting the Bank of England would be forced to devalue the pound. His company, Soros Fund Management LLC, now focuses solely on managing his and his family’s assets.
Soros has said he’s given away more than $8 billion in the last 30 years to promote democracy, foster free speech, improve education and fight poverty around the world.
--With assistance from Sunil Jagtiani in Singapore Editors: Cherian Thomas, Arijit Ghosh

By Jay Shankar taken from http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-01-10/soros-says-europe-s-debt-woes-more-serious-than-2008-crisis.html

Iranian, Venezuelan leaders rebuff U.S., joke about bomb

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez lavished each other with praise on Monday, mocked U.S. disapproval and joked about having an atomic bomb at their disposal.
"Despite those arrogant people who do not wish us to be together, we will unite forever," the Iranian president told Venezuela's socialist leader Chavez at the start of a visit to four left-leaning Latin American nations.
Despite their geographical distance, the fiery anti-U.S. ideologues have forged increasingly close ties between their fellow OPEC nations in recent years, although concrete projects have often lagged behind the rhetoric.
Ahmadinejad was in Venezuela at the start of a tour intended to shore up support as expanded Western economic sanctions kick in over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.
"The imperialist madness has been unleashed in a way that has not been seen for a long time," Chavez said in a ceremony to welcome Ahmadinejad at his presidential palace in Caracas.
Both men hugged, beamed, held hands and showered each other with praise.
As he often does, the theatrical and provocative Chavez stuck his finger right into the global political sore spot, joking that a bomb was ready under a grassy knoll in front of his Miraflores palace steps.
"That hill will open up and a big atomic bomb will come out," he said, the two men laughing together.
"The imperialist spokesmen say ... Ahmadinejad and I are going into the Miraflores basement now to set our sights on Washington and launch cannons and missiles. ... It's laughable."
U.S. officials from President Barack Obama down have expressed disquiet over Venezuela's close ties with Iran. They fear Chavez will weaken the international diplomatic front against Iran and could give Tehran an economic lifeline.
The United States and its allies accuse Iran of aiming to produce a nuclear weapon. Iran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful power generation.
As well as Venezuela, Ahmadinejad plans to visit Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador - a visit that Washington has said shows its "desperation" for friends.
Those nations' governments share Chavez's broad global views, but do not have Venezuela's economic clout and are unable to offer Iran any significant assistance.
Regional economic powerhouse Brazil, which gave the Iranian leader a warm welcome when he visited during the previous government of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was notably absent from his agenda this time.
Analysts are watching closely to see if Chavez will back Iran's threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, the world's most important oil shipping lane, or how much he could undermine the sanctions by providing fuel or cash to Tehran.
Ahmadinejad, who is subordinate to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on foreign policy and other matters, has said little about the rising tensions with the West, including the sentencing to death of an Iranian-American man for spying for the CIA. The United States denies that the man is a spy.
The Venezuelan and Iranian leaders mostly limited their comments on Monday to mutual adulation and anti-U.S. snipes.
"President Chavez is the champion in the war on imperialism," Ahmadinejad said.
"The only bombs we're preparing are bombs against poverty, hunger and misery," added Chavez, saying 14,000 new homes had been built recently in Venezuela by Iranian constructors.
Ahead of hosting Ahmadinejad, Ecuador's government also offered moral support, pledging to ignore Western sanctions.
"We say with clarity that we do not accept those sanctions," Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters.
"We are a sovereign nation, we don't have dads punishing us and putting us in the corner for behaving badly. They (the U.S.) should instead be sanctioning the U.S. companies doing massive business in Tehran like Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola."

By Andrew Cawthorne and Brian Ellsworth taken from http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/09/us-venezuela-iran-idUSTRE80826J20120109

Georgia School Math Assignment References Slavery, Beatings

Figuring out how many oranges were picked by slaves and how many beatings per day Frederick Douglass received was allowed to help teach elementary students their multiplication and division tables at one school.
Administrators at Gwinnett County School District are sorting through the fallout from parents of children who brought home math homework last week that referenced slavery and beatings.
On Wednesday, nine third-grade math teachers at Beaver Ridge Elementary School were attempting to do a cross-curricular activity with a book the children had read about abolitionist Frederick Douglass in their social studies class. District spokeswoman Sloan Roach told CBS Atlanta that the math problems in the assignment involved some of what the students learned about Douglass. Four of the nine classes wound up sending the assignment home with the students. But when some parents were going over the students’ homework, they became appalled at the nature and language of two questions in particular.
The first asked, “Each tree had 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?” The other said, “If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week?”
Upon learning of the assignment, the school’s principal collected the assignment sheets that were still at school.
“We’ve been working with human resources to determine what staff development is needed for the teachers and what actions may be warranted,” Roach said. “The principal is addressing parent concerns as he’s meeting with them.”
Roach added that the school district has no reason to believe that there was any intent to the racially-infused, cross-curricular questions. The district is working with the school to develop other cross-curricular activities and assignments but will be determining what kind of staff development is necessary to move forward on that initiative. The investigation remains ongoing.
“Frankly, they were just bad questions,” Roach said.

taken from http://atlanta.cbslocal.com/2012/01/09/georgia-school-math-assignment-references-slavery-beatings/

Children 'switching from TV to mobile internet'

Television is being pushed aside by mobile internet gadgets, a UK survey of young people's technology suggests.
The number of children with televisions in their bedroom is falling - almost matched now by those with their own personal internet access, says the annual Childwise monitoring survey.
Among seven to 16 year olds, 61% have a mobile phone with internet access.
Children use their mobiles for an average of 1.6 hours a day, the survey of 2,770 five to 16 year olds says.
The biggest trend in children's use of gadgets, according to the report from the market research company, is the growth in internet use through mobile phones.
The survey was based on interviews carried out in autumn 2011.
Push-button culture The report presents a picture of a typical young person's home life which increasingly revolves around the mobile phone.
Talking, texting and accessing the internet are now reached through the mobile - with more than three-quarters of secondary-age pupils now using mobiles to get online.
The way children use media through the day is also changing, says the research, suggesting a push-button, on-demand culture, which is moving away from scheduled television programmes.
Before school, children are now more likely to play with their mobiles than watch television.
When children get home from school, instead of rushing to switch on the television, they are more likely to reach for the internet.
When children are reading at home, it is more likely to be through a screen rather than a book or a magazine.
Even in bed at night, the mobile phone is being used by 32% of children across the five to 16 age range.
It also seems to be approaching game over for old-style PCs in children's bedrooms - which have been replaced by laptops and tablet-style computers.
Land-line telephones are also looking like yesterday's world for many of these youngsters - with the research claiming that more children know how to send a text message than find a telephone number.
Facebook remains the most popular website - used by 51% of children in the week before the survey - but the researchers suggest that it is showing signs of having "fallen back".
End of the portable? Research director Rosemary Duff says that the growth of mobile internet is the most significant change in how children use technology.
The decline in television use is continuing - and she says it appears that the portables once bought for children's bedrooms are not being replaced.
But she says that television should not be written off prematurely - as it still plays a very important role in the media lives of children.
Even though children might be using the internet more than ever, she says, the content can be often be related to television programmes.
Mobile phones and the internet each occupy about an hour and a half on average per day - but television viewing on average still accounts for two and half hours.
And the "multi-tasking" talents of teenagers mean that many youngsters using the internet, or playing on a games console, are also watching television.