Thursday, 31 March 2011

Naked artwork of Cameron and Clegg banned from council gallery

A naked artwork featuring David Cameron and Nick Clegg has been banned from a council-run art gallery. ”Brokeback Britain” by Brian Jones references the film Brokeback Mountain in its depiction of the party leaders as cowboys with their nether regions exposed [uncensored version here].
The entry had been selected for the Wrexham Print International Exhibition and appeared in the published catalogue. But despite its approval by an independent panel, the piece was withdrawn from display at the Oriel gallery at the behest of officials from Liberal Democrat-run Wrexham Council.
In the face of complaints of censorship by the artist, who was not informed of the piece’s removal before the exhibition opened, a council officer told the Wrexham Leader:
“In the run up to an election the authority has to follow strict guidance issued by central government. As the work of art in question was a satire on two political parties contesting the Assembly elections it would be inappropriate for it to feature in the show.”
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Tories plan to privatise UK prison system!!!!

Justice secretary says contingencies in place as he confirms private security company G4S is to run Birmingham prison
The justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, has confirmed that he is willing to call in the army should "serious trouble" erupt over his decision that the private security company, G4S, should run Birmingham prison – making it the first public sector jail to be privatised.
"We have to be prepared should anything go wrong," he told MPs.
The Prison Officers' Association (POA) said it would not rule out industrial action in protest at the decision, despite the fact that such action may be illegal.
Clarke said the military contingency plans, involving up to 3,000 trained regular soldiers, were needed because industrial action involving prisons "can rapidly become far worse than an ordinary strike".
The justice secretary told MPs: "Nobody is contemplating a military takeover of a prison; the governor will still be in charge. But it is only proper that we have made military preparations that would be required if serious trouble erupts."
The justice secretary also announced that G4S is to run a new "supersized" prison with 1,600 inmates next to the existing Featherstone prison at Wolverhampton. A third prison, Buckley Hall, at Rochdale, will remain in the public sector.
The 752 staff at Birmingham were told at noon that G4S will take over the prison in October.
About 250 prison officers, a third of the staff, immediately walked out. They held a short meeting outside the prison before branch officials asked them to return to work.
Clarke could not reassure them that they would not face redundancies. Instead he hoped they may find jobs at the new Featherstone prison, which is due to open next April.
The POA has a mandate from its members to take industrial action if any existing public sector prison is taken over by the private sector.
The decision will bring the number of private prisons in England and Wales to 13 out of the 140 existing jails, with G4S running six of them. The contracts will run for an initial 14 years with the option to renew for a further seven years.
The decision to "market test" Birmingham – formerly Winson Green, which has 1,450 inmates and is one of the largest in Britain – was taken by Jack Straw when he was justice secretary after it was branded a "failing prison".
Clarke said staff at Birmingham had made "considerable efforts" and that the public sector bid, which cost £2m to prepare, had been of a good quality. "But this is an objective process and the private sector bid was better and less costly," he said.
The justice secretary also announced that private sector company Serco would continue to run Doncaster prison, but that 10% of the contract will now be on a "payment by results" basis.
He also confirmed that a fifth jail, Wellingborough, had been withdrawn from the competition process because its 1960s buildings were in such a poor state it needs massive capital investment to remain in use.
During his Commons statement Clarke repeatedly told MPs that the military contingency plans were necessary "should anybody be so foolish as to go into industrial action".
It is believed that up to 3,000 regular troops based at the army's military glasshouse at Colchester and elements of the RAF regiment have been trained in control and restraint techniques and jailcraft such as how to lock down wings and move inmates safely around a jail in preparation for a POA dispute.
The POA held a successful ballot in favour of industrial action two years ago when the market test of Birmingham was announced by Straw.
Colin Moses, the POA chairman, said earlier this week that mandate still stood. It is expected that the union will ask its branches to hold a gate meeting tomorrow when their shifts start to decide what action they should take.
The only POA national strike happened in August 2007, when 90% of prison officers walked out for 12 hours, causing chaos in prisons. The action was ended only by a court injunction, which could have led to the union's assets being seized and its officials jailed.
A reserve power putting a legal ban on prison officers taking industrial action was reimposed by Straw in 2008.
Clarke told the Commons the changes would deliver savings of £21m for the three existing prisons over the next four years and deliver the new Featherstone 2 prison £31m cheaper than originally planned. He said "cumulative savings over the lifetime of the contracts for the three existing prisons are very impressive at £216m".
He added: "This process shows that competition can deliver innovation, efficiency and better value for money for the taxpayer, but also that it can do so without compromising standards."
The Prison Governors Association said it was dismayed by the Birmingham decision. It also raised concerns that the former director general of the prison service, Phil Wheatley, was now an adviser to G4S. "This is a decision which is unprecedented and will have a resounding effect on the prison service."
Steve Gillan, general secretary of the POA, said: "This is a disgraceful decision. Prisons should not be run for the benefit of shareholders nor for profit. The state has a duty to those imprisoned by the criminal justice system and this coalition government has betrayed loyal public sector workers for their friends in the private sector."
The POA has already launched a judicial review regarding Wheatley's employment by G4S.
Moses added: "Both a Labour government and now this coalition government have demonstrated their love affair with the private sector. This decision is wrong and immoral. The POA will continue with its long campaign against private prisons."
by Alan Travis taken from

Man sues energy drink maker after mouse found in can

Federal Way, Wash.-- A Federal Way man has filed a lawsuit against the maker of Monster Energy Drinks. He claims he found a dead mouse at the bottom of his can, and he has the lab work to prove it.
"Anytime anyone talks about monster, I just get that sick feeling in my stomach," says Vitaliy Sulzhik.
It happened March 20, 2010. Sulzhik remembers it like it was yesterday. He went into the Fred Meyer in Des Moines, and bought himself a Monster Energy Drink. When he finished drinking it, he didn't realize another monster would be at the bottom.
"I put it down and I felt it was still heavy. So I backwashed it and all this debris went into my mouth," says the 19 year old. "Then I looked in the can and I saw the tip of the tail and I vomited everywhere."
It was a dead mouse inside the can. His attorney sent the can to MDE Inc., a forensic and engineering laboratory in Seattle, which cut open the can. They conducted a series of forensic tests on behalf of his client, and Monster's insurance company.
X-rays and autopsies showed the mouse didn't suffer any trauma, like from a mouse trap, nor was it killed using poison. In other words, there were no signs the mouse was killed and then forced through the opening.
"You hear these wild stories out there. Sure, you're a little skeptical at first," says Reed Yurchak, Sulzhik's attorney. "But everything here has checked out."
Yurchak says Hansen Beverage Company is aware of the findings, but still refuses to believe his client.
When contacted by phone, the drink-maker declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Sulzhik hasn't drunk anything from a can since.
by ELISA HAHN taken from

Germany's Crazy Upside-Down House

Who says it's hard to flip real estate in this economy?

In this house, you walk on the ceilings -- but you feel like you're bouncing off the walls.

Visitors to Bispingen, Germany, have a unique chance to get a new perspective on the world when they tour an upside-down residence dubbed the "Crazy House."

The off-kilter abode was erected in a zoo in the German municipality of Gettorf last year, according to the "Crazy House" website. Builders then hauled the home to Bispingen, where it was flipped by two cranes into its precarious position and opened to the public Saturday.
The outside of the house isn't the only thing to gawk at -- the inside is also inverted.

Visitors can wander around an upside-down bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room and see couches, beds and tables -- complete with place settings -- hanging above their heads.

Just to throw guests further off balance, the entire home is tilted off axis by about 5 degrees.
by Ben Muessig taken from

375-Pound Shark Leaps Into Fisherman's Boat

FREEPORT, Texas -- It's the catch of a lifetime, but it's not clear whether a Texas fisherman landed an 8-foot shark or it landed him.

Twenty-nine-year-old Jason Kresse of Freeport says he and two crew members were dumping fish guts in the Gulf of Mexico about 3:45 a.m. Monday when they heard splashes in the distance and then something hit the side of their 25-foot boat.

A shark in an apparent rush to feed had jumped into the back and was thrashing around. Kresse says the crew couldn't get close to the 375-pound fish to toss it back in the water.

It died several hours later.

The shark is on display at a seafood business in Freeport, about 55 miles south of Houston. Kresse says he plans to have it mounted.
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Children as young as four to be educated in atheism

School pupils aged just four are to be taught atheism in a move schools hope will equip them to be 'citizens of the world'.
Education bosses in Blackburn with Darwen, Lancashire, have radically restructured the RE syllabus to accommodate non-religious beliefs.
Youngsters will continue to learn about the six major faiths - Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism - but they will also be taught humanism, the belief that there is no God or Gods, and that moral values are founded on human nature and experience.
The move recognises that more than 10,000 people in the borough do not have any religious beliefs. Both primary and secondary school pupils will be included in the shake-up.
Councillor Chris Thayne, chair of Blackburn with Darwen Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education, said: 'We don't want the future to be blind. We want it to be illuminated. We need understanding without prejudice.'
Reverend Kevin Logan, a local journalist, author and religious community leader, said: 'It is quite a change but it is completely right to recognise atheism and humanism.
'They are religions like any others. It is just that people worship man instead of a god.
'I am certainly not worried about Christianity. It can stand against any belief and come out in a good light.'
Voluntary aided CofE schools must use the Diocese's RE syllabus but the areas voluntary-controlled schools can opt to use the new syllabus.
A spokeswoman for Blackburn Diocese education department, said: 'We fully support the use of the syllabus in Blackburn with Darwen.' The scheme has already been trialled in Leicester.


Humanists reject religious and superstitious beliefs.
Instead, they believe we can make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared values.
They say we can make the best of life by creating meaning and purpose for ourselves, and choosing to take responsibility for our actions.
Humanists do not believe the universe needs a divine power to determine its value.
It is important to act morally towards others, not because of a divine imperative, but because people have inherent dignity, they say.
Humanists believe that we have only one life, it is our responsibility to make it a good life, and to live it well.
Fiona Moss, from RE Today, which helped create the new syllabus, said: 'We really must recognise that some people do not believe in God and do not have a religious background.
'We have to make children aware of non beliefs.
'We want to support children to engage and enthuse them about RE to become good citizens in Blackburn and the world.
'The aim is for them to be confident wherever they settle.' But Salim Mulla, chair of Lancashire Council of Mosques, is concerned about the outcome of these teachings.
'We believe it is important to have faith values whether that is Christian, Islamic or any other religion,' he said.
'The values are very, very important. I don't think the non God aspect should be introduced into the curriculum.
'I don't think it is right. People are born into faiths and are brought up in that faith and that's how it should stay.
'The non-faith beliefs send a wrong message to the children and confuse them.'
The new syllabus was drawn up after reviewing the 2001 census results, which revealed that, although the borough has representatives from all of the six major faiths, there were more than 10,000 people who stated they did not follow a religion.
At its launch Dot Thomson, Blackburn with Darwen school improvement officer, said: 'I would not describe the syllabus as radical but it is disassociated from what went before in Blackburn with Darwen.
'This is the first time we have given respect for non-religious life stances.
'It is an important area. We expect this year's census to show the diverse faiths and beliefs in the area and we need to reflect this when teaching RE in schools.
'This syllabus is more imaginative and creative.' The new syllabus will be taught in all the borough's 28 schools from September.

At least 40 civilians claimed dead in Tripoli strikes

At least 40 civilians have been killed in air strikes by Western forces on Tripoli, the top Vatican official in the Libyan capital told a Catholic news agency on Thursday, quoting witnesses.
"The so-called humanitarian raids have killed dozens of civilian victims in some neighborhoods of Tripoli," said Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, the Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli.
"I have collected several witness accounts from reliable people. In particular, in the Buslim neighborhood, due to the bombardments, a civilian building collapsed, causing the death of 40 people," he told Fides, the news agency of the Vatican missionary arm.
Libyan officials have taken foreign reporters to the sites of what they say were the aftermath of Western air strikes on Tripoli but evidence of civilian casualties has been inconclusive.
Western powers say they have no confirmed evidence of civilian casualties from air strikes, which they have carried out under a U.N. mandate to protect civilians caught in conflict between Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces and rebels.
"It's true that the bombardments seem pretty much on target, but it is also true that when they hit military targets, which are in the middle of civilian neighborhoods, the population is also involved," Martinelli said.
"Yesterday I said that bombardments had hit, albeit indirectly, some hospitals. To be precise, one of these hospitals is in Mizda," he said, mentioning a town about 145 km (90 miles) southwest of the capital.
Martinelli said living conditions in the Libyan capital were getting more difficult by the day, while on the ground a military stalemate appeared to be taking hold.
"That is why I say that a diplomatic solution is the principal way to put an end to the spilling of blood among Libyans, offering Gaddafi a dignified exit," he said.
by Silvia Aloisi taken from

Worker skips office Mega pool, loses share of $319M

He didn't think Lady Luck was on his side -- and now he's out millions.
A hapless state information-technology worker who usually joined his office lottery pool took a pass last week -- only to learn that seven positive-thinking pals nailed a whopping $319 million Mega Millions jackpot, said a deli owner who knows the winners.
"The word is that when they were going around the office asking who wanted in on the pool, one guy said no, that he wasn't feeling lucky," said Jill Cook, who with husband Tom owns Cook's Deli in Albany, where the winners are lunchtime regulars.
"They asked him twice. They said, 'Are you sure?' and he said yeah, he was going to pass this time. I feel horrible for him," Jill said.
The number of players in the pool varied from week to week, she said, and the identity of the mystery loser -- who could have won a $16 million after-tax share under the lottery's lump-sum option -- was as elusive as those of the big winners, who sources say worked in IT for the state Homes and Community Renewal agency.
Cook said the geek squad came in for lunch daily -- but haven't been seen since beating the one-in-176-million odds in Friday's drawing. Customers who know the winners told her they weren't planning to return to their jobs -- except to pass along unfinished business to colleagues.
Jim Plastiras, an agency spokesman, confirmed the workers did not come to work Monday but he couldn't say if they showed up yesterday. They had not formally resigned their positions, he added.
The winning workers remained out of the public eye yesterday, but one surfaced long enough to stake a claim to the prize, state lottery officials said yesterday.
"The ticket has been claimed, and once we verify it we'll choose a date, place and time for a check presentation," lottery spokeswoman Carolyn Hapeman said. The claimant, whom she would not identify by name or gender, arranged to come to lottery headquarters Monday night after hours, Hapeman said.
Lottery officials said that once they verify the ticket and how many pool members are claiming a slice of the pie, a news conference will be scheduled, probably this week.
Most likely, Hapeman said, the winners are spending time huddling with legal and financial wizards to plan how to handle the bundles of cash headed their way.
"Ninety-nine percent of the people coming in winners do it that way these days, and $319 million is an unimaginable amount of money," Hapeman said.
"Most want a plan before the money enters their hands."
Meanwhile, at Coulson's News Center, where the winning ticket was sold, owner Steve Hutchins got a standard $10,000 bonus for selling the winning number combination: 22, 24, 31, 52 and 54, with 4 as the Mega Ball. "It's pretty amazing," he said.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is back as 'The Governator'

He’s been a famous body builder. He’s been a killer cyborg from the future. He’s been Governor of California. And now, in this week’s exclusive cover scoop, Arnold Schwarzenegger reveals his plans for the next phase of his extraordinary career: He’s going be a cartoon superhero, known as The Governator. “When I ran for governor back in 2003 and I started hearing people talking about ‘the Governator,’ I thought the word was so cool,” Schwarzenegger, 63, tells EW in his first press interview since leaving office last January. (Watch an EW-exclusive video of Schwarzenegger talking about the project.) “The word Governator combined two worlds: the world of politics and the movie world. And [this cartoon] brings everything together. It combines the governor, the Terminator, the bodybuilding world, the True Lies…” 
The animated TV show and comic book, being co-developed by no less a superhero authority than Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee (pictured, right), won’t be out until next year, but this week EW offers an exclusive early look at Arnold’s cartoon alter-ego. “The Governator is going to be a great superhero, but he’ll also be Arnold Schwarzenegger,” Lee says of the semi-fictional character. “We’re using all the personal elements of Arnold’s life. We’re using his wife [Maria Shriver]. We’re using his kids. We’re using the fact that he used to be governor. Only after he leaves the governor’s office, Arnold decides to become a crime fighter and builds a secret high-tech crime-fighting center under his house in Brentwood.”
Along with the Arnold Cave, the Governator will have a fleet of super vehicles at his disposal, a closet full of “Super Suits” that allow him to fly and perform other super stunts, and a team of colorful sidekicks, such as Zeke Muckerberg, the precocious 13-year-old computer whiz who acts as the Governator’s cybersecurity expert. Naturally, there will also be recurring supervillains — including an evil organization called Gangsters Imposters Racketeers Liars & Irredeemable Ex-cons (or G.I.R.L.I.E. Men, for short). For Schwarzenegger, the cartoon is obviously the next best thing to being President. “I love the idea of a control center below my house with a path so that boats and submarines can go right into the ocean,” he tells EW. “In the cartoon, my house is much closer to the beach than where we live, but, you know, it’s a cartoon.”
by Benjamin Svetkey

Surge in web Satanism sparks rise in demand for exorcists

The web has made it easier than ever before to access information on Devil-worshipping and the occult, experts said.
Exorcism is the subject of a six-day conference being held this week at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University in Rome, which is under the Vatican's authority.
"The internet makes it much easier than in the past to find information about Satanism," said Carlo Climati, a member of the university who specialises in the dangers posed to young people by Satanism.
"In just a few minutes you can contact Satanist groups and research occultism. The conference is not about how to become an exorcist. It's to share information about exorcism, Satanism and sects. It's to give help to families and priests. There is a particular risk for young people who are in difficulties or who are emotionally fragile," said Mr Climati.
The object of seminars was to scrutinise the phenomenon of Satanism with "seriousness and scientific rigour", avoiding a "superficial or sensational approach", he said.
The conference in Rome has brought together more than 60 Catholic clergy as well as doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, teachers and youth workers to discuss how to combat the dangers of Devil-worship.
Organisers say the rise of Satanism has been dangerously underestimated in recent years.
"There's been a revival," said Gabriele Nanni, a former exorcist and another speaker at the course.
In theory, any priest can perform an exorcism – a rite involving prayers to drive the Devil out of the person said to be possessed.
But Vatican officials said three years ago that parish priests should call in professional exorcists if they suspect one of their parishioners needs purging of evil.
An exorcist should be called when "the moral certainty has been reached that the person is possessed", said Father Nanni, a member of the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
That could be indicated by radical and disturbing changes in the person's behaviour and voice, or an ability to garble in foreign languages or nonsensical gibberish.
While the number of genuine cases of possession by the Devil remained relatively small, "we must be on guard because occult and Satanist practices are spreading a great deal, in part with the help of the internet and new technologies that make it easier to access these rituals," he said.
The Vatican's chief exorcist claimed last year that the Devil lurked in the Vatican, the very heart of the Catholic Church.
Father Gabriele Amorth said people who are possessed by Satan vomit shards of glass and pieces of iron, scream, dribble and slobber, utter blasphemies and have to be physically restrained.
He claimed that the sex abuse scandals which have engulfed the Church in the US, Ireland, Germany and other countries, were proof that the anti-Christ was waging a war against the Holy See. He said Pope Benedict XVI believed "wholeheartedly" in the practice of exorcism.

Japan nuclear crisis: evacuees turned away from shelters

Hospitals and temporary refuges are demanding that evacuees provide them with certificates confirming that they have not been exposed to radiation before they are admitted.
The situation at the plant remains critical, with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency yesterday that radioactive iodine-131 at more than 3,350 times permitted levels has been found in a sample of seawater taken from near the facility.
The water is the most highly contaminated sample taken from the sea and indicates that radiation from the core of one or more of the reactors, where fuel rods have partly melted, is leaking into the Pacific Ocean.
A spokesman for the agency said the radioactivity poses no immediate threat to human health because fishing has been banned close to the plant and iodine will have been "significantly diluted" before it comes into contact with marine species and then enters the food chain for humans.
The eight-year-old daughter of Takayuki Okamura was refused treatment for a skin rash by a clinic in Fukushima City, where the family is living in a shelter after abandoning their home in Minamisoma, 18 miles from the crippled nuclear plant.
"Just being forced to live in a shelter causes us anxiety," Mr Okamura, 49, said. "The institution's refusal to treat my daughter came as a great shock to us."
Medical experts have condemned those that are meant to be assisting the evacuees for turning them away. "This is a knee-jerk reaction based on the fear that these people are going to harm you," said Dr. Robert Gale, a haematologist at Imperial College, London, who is advising the Japanese government on health issues.
"If someone has been contaminated externally, such as on their shoes or clothes, then precautions can be taken, such as by removing those garments to stop the contamination from getting into a hospital," he told The Daily Telegraph. "That is very easy to do, but unfortunately I'm not surprised this sort of thing is happening."
Prejudice against people who used to live near the plant is reminiscent of the ostracism that survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 experienced. Many suffered discrimination when they tried to rent housing, find employment or marriage partners.
More than 65 years ago, Dr. Gale points out, far less was known about the effects of radiation on the human body and that it is "completely irrational" to turn evacuees away today.
Masataka Shimizu, the president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., has been admitted to a hospital to be treated for hypertension and dizziness. Shimizu had previously taken several days off after being taken ill as he oversaw efforts to bring the crisis at the nuclear plant under control.
Tsunehisa Katsumata, the TEPCO chairman, said that Shimizu would return to work soon and again take the lead in dealing with the crisis.
"We apologise for causing the public anxiety, worry and trouble due to the explosions at reactor buildings and the release of radioactive materials," Katsumata added.
There are also growing concerns about thousands of gallons of radioactive water that have collected in concrete trenches beneath the reactors. The water was sprayed on the reactors in the early days of the crisis in an effort to keep them cool, but now poses a serious hazard to the emergency crews given the task of bringing the plant back under control.
With experienced engineers close to exhaustion after working around the clock, TEPCO is reportedly offering up to Y400,000 (£2,995) per day for anyone willing to brave the rigours of the plant – with the employees now being described in the media here as modern-day samurai or "suicide squads."
The government announced that it will upgrade safety standards for nuclear power plants, a tacit admission that previous standards were inadequate, while Yukio Edano, the chief cabinet secretary, told a press conference that no estimates were being made on when the crisis might be under control.
The United States has confirmed that it plans to send robots to the stricken reactor. The robots will work in areas considered too dangerous for human emergency repair teams to operate in.

Tainted seafood fears spread as Japan plant leaks

TOKYO (AP) -- Fears about contaminated seafood spread Wednesday despite reassurances that radiation in the waters off Japan's troubled atomic plant pose no health risk, as the country's respected emperor consoled evacuees from the tsunami and nuclear emergency zone.
While experts say radioactive particles are unlikely to build up significantly in fish, the seafood concerns in the country that gave the world sushi are yet another blemish for Brand Japan. It has already been hit by contamination of milk, vegetables and water, plus shortages of auto and tech parts after a massive quake and tsunami disabled a coastal nuclear power plant.
Setbacks at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex mounted Wednesday, as the plant's operator, Tokyo Power Electric Co., announced that its president was hospitalized. Masataka Shimizu has not been seen since a news conference two days after the March 11 quake that spawned the destructive wave. His absence fueled speculation that he had suffered a breakdown.
Spokesman Naoki Tsunoda said Shimizu, 66, was admitted to a Tokyo hospital Tuesday after suffering dizziness and high blood pressure.
The problems at the nuclear plant have taken center stage, but the tsunami also created another disaster: Hundreds of thousands of people were forced from their homes after the wave drove miles (kilometers) inland, decimating whole towns. The official death toll stood at 11,362 late Wednesday, with the final toll likely surpassing 18,000.
Japan's respected Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited disaster evacuees at a center in Tokyo on Wednesday. The visit was marked by a formality that is typical of interactions with the royal couple, but survivors said they were encouraged.
"I couldn't talk with them very well because I was nervous, but I felt that they were really concerned about us," said Kenji Ukito, an evacuee from a region near the plant who has already moved four times since the quake. "I was very grateful."
The emperor and his wife make fairly frequent public appearances, visiting nursing homes and the disabled and attending ceremonies throughout the year. In particular, they are expected to mourn with those affected by natural disasters. Akihito made a similar visit to evacuees after the Kobe earthquake in 1995.
At the Fukushima plant, the fight to cool the reactors and stem their release of radiation has become more complicated in recent days since the discovery that radioactive water is pooling in the plant, restricting the areas in which crews can work. It also puts emergency crews in the uncomfortable position of having to pump in more water to continue cooling the reactor while simultaneously pumping out contaminated water.
That contamination has also begun to seep into the sea, and tests Wednesday showed that waters 300 yards (meters) outside the plant contained 3,355 times the legal limit for the amount of radioactive iodine.
It's the highest rate yet, but Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency official Hidehiko Nishiyama said it did not pose any threat to human health because the iodine rarely stays in fish. There is no fishing in the area because it is within the evacuation zone around the plant.
Radioactive iodine is short-lived, with a half-life of just eight days, and in any case was expected to dissipate quickly in the vast Pacific Ocean. It does not tend to accumulate in shellfish.
Other radioactive particles have been detected in the waters near the plant, and some have made their way into fish. Trace amounts of radioactive cesium-137 have been found in anchovies as far afield as Chiba, near Tokyo, but at less than 1 percent of acceptable levels.
"We have repeatedly told consumers that it is perfectly safe to eat fish," said Shoichi Takayama, an official with Japan's fishery agency.
Citing dilution in the ocean, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has played down the risks of seafood contamination.
But, as with other reports of radiation levels in food and tap water, fear has begun to override science. Several countries, including China, India and South Korea, have ordered special inspections for or outright bans on fish from areas near the plant.
Ren Cheng, a spokesman for Taiwan's Mitsui Food & Beverage Enterprise Group that operates several upscale Japanese restaurants in Taipei, said his company has seen a 50 percent drop in revenue since the crisis began.
"We are not importing any food products from Japan. All the Japanese ingredients we are using were all procured before the quake," he said. "We have put up signs in our restaurants to reassure costumers about the safety of our food."
Domestic consumption, however, is far more important to Japan, which imports far more seafood than it exports. According to the fisheries agency, the domestic catch typically totals around 5.5 million tons. Less than a million of that gets exported, while another nearly 3 million tons are imported.
In stores near Tokyo's famed Tsukiji fish market, fresh fish was selling poorly.
Instead, customers "are stockpiling" frozen fish, in the hopes it was caught before radiation began to climb, said Hideo Otsubo, who works at a seafood company near the market.
Tourism to Japan has fallen sharply since the disaster, and sushi chef Akira Ogimoto blamed that dropoff for a 30 to 40 percent decline in customers to his restaurant near the market, where the daily tuna auction is a big draw for foreigners.
Add on the radiation fears, and fishermen are worried their livelihoods will be threatened just when they need to rebuild their homes.
"I worry we won't be able to sell our seaweed. If the radiation ruins our fishing, we are lost," said Toshiaki Kikuchi, a 63-year-old innkeeper and seaweed farmer in Soma, a city near the troubled plant.
Meanwhile, TEPCO's bungling response to the nuclear emergency has been severely criticized by the government and the press. The first few days after the quake saw fires and explosions and confusion has reigned throughout, and the company -- whose shares have plunged nearly 80 percent -- has frequently retracted or corrected information.
There has also been criticism that safeguards were lax at the Fukushima plant. The nuclear agency ordered plant operators nationwide on Wednesday to review their emergency procedures. The agency told utilities they must have on hand mobile backup generators and fire engines, which have been used at Fukushima to cool the reactors. The operators must report back to the agency within a month.
TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata apologized at a news conference for the company's missteps. He has stepped in for the hospitalized president, but fears of a leadership vacuum remained. And Katsumata himself acknowledged that operations could deteriorate if Shimizu were hospitalized for a long time.
"In case of a long absence, it seems to me decisions might not be made smoothly," Katsumata told reporters.
The company also acknowledged for the first time it would have to completely scrap at least four of the plant's reactors -- a fate experts and the government had already condemned them to.
The missteps at TEPCO have sparked calls from the opposition for its nationalization, and the Yominuri Shimbun newspaper, citing anonymous sources, said the government was considering it. But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano denied those reports.
"My understanding is that the government is not considering such an option at this moment," Edano said Tuesday. He was more circumspect when asked again Wednesday, but reiterated that the company must work to resolve the crisis and compensate victims.

James Murdoch promoted at News Corp

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James Murdoch has been promoted to deputy chief operating officer at News Corp and chairman and chief executive of its international operations, confirming him as the family’s heir presumptive and setting the scene for a staggered handover of power at the $46bn (£29bn) media group.
The move comes weeks after the group run by 80-year-old Rupert Murdoch bought Shine, a TV production company run by his daughter Elisabeth, and amid signs that his eldest son Lachlan Murdoch becoming more involved in News Corp’s activities.
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However, it dispels questions about whether James Murdoch remained the favoured sibling to succeed his father.
The 38-year-old James will move from London to New York, marking the first time since Lachlan gave up his executive duties after clashing with other executives there that one of Mr Murdoch’s adult children has been based in News Corp’s headquarters.
“He has been told that if he wants the top job, New York is the base,” said one person familiar with the company, who speculated that the move would be followed within two years by Rupert Murdoch handing the chief executive title to Chase Carey, while remaining chairman himself, and giving James Mr Carey’s chief operating officer title.
“It allows James to be sitting at the centre of the company,” one person close to him said, adding that a strong set of executives would continue to operate the businesses from western Europe to India for which he has been responsible since 2007.
His relocation comes as News Corp is hoping for formal approval of its bid for full control of British Sky Broadcasting, the satellite broadcaster where he remains non-executive chairman.
The UK culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said on Wednesday that he hoped to announce his decision on whether to allow the BSkyB bid to go ahead “soon after the parliamentary recess ends” on April 26th. News Corp then has to agree a price with BSkyB’s independent directors.
“There will be no change in reporting lines, and James is not adding any direct reports,” the person close to James Murdoch said. However, his broader international title may allow him to play a more central role in parts of the world beyond Europe and Asia, while his deputy COO role could see him more closely involved in digital strategy in the US and around the world.
The announcement confirms the pivotal role played at News Corp by Chase Carey, its chief operating officer, to whom James Murdoch will report. Several people familiar with both men said that they already had a closer rapport than Lachlan Murdoch had established with Peter Chernin, Mr Carey’s predecessor.
Another person close to the company agreed that James Murdoch’s family was well-settled in London, with their two of their three young children being educated in the city.
His American-born wife, Kathryn, is said by two people who know her well to be an Anglophile who enjoys life in Notting Hill.
“Yes, they are well settled and James enjoys living in London, but we all have to move for promotions and this is a promotion for him,” this person said, adding that Mr Murdoch may move sooner than his family, with the process going on “over the spring and summer”.
Mr Murdoch will continue to have an office in News Corp’s Wapping offices in east London and will oversee its indicative offer of £8.3bn for the 60.9 per cent of British Sky Broadcasting shares it does not already own.
He will spend less time in London but none of his UK-based executives will change jobs to compensate for his departure, the person said, adding that the move to New York was “wholly unconnected” to the burgeoning scandal around the behaviour of News of the World journalists who are accused of hacking into the mobile phone voicemails of celebrities and politicians. Among Mr Murdoch’s titles is chairman of News Group Newspapers, parent company of the UK Sunday tabloid paper.
Another person who knows Mr Murdoch socially as well as professionally said: “He is going to get a lot more exposure to the US business like this. He will be close to his father and it would hardly be surprising if his father, who after all is 80, didn’t want to have some extra management expertise close at hand.”
by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson and Ben Fenton taken from

Obama gets anti-secrecy award in secret

President Obama finally and quietly accepted his “transparency” award from the open government community this week — in a closed, undisclosed meeting at the White House on Monday.

The secret presentation happened almost two weeks after the White House inexplicably postponed the ceremony, which was expected to be open to the press pool.

This time, Obama met quietly in the Oval Office with Gary Bass of OMB Watch, Tom Blanton of the National Security Archive, Danielle Brian of the Project on Government Oversight, Lucy Dalglish of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and Patrice McDermott of, without disclosing the meeting on his public schedule or letting photographers or print reporters into the room.

“Our understanding going into the meeting was that it would have a pool photographer and a print reporter, and it turned out to be a private meeting,” Bass told POLITICO. “He was so on point, so on target in the conversation with us, it is baffling why he would not want that message to be more broadly heard by reporters and the public interest community and the public generally.”

Just hours before the White House put off the original event, White House press secretary Jay Carney was defiant in his defense of Obama’s transparency record against criticism that it might have been premature.

“This president has demonstrated a commitment to transparency and openness that is greater than any administration has shown in the past, and he’s been committed to that since he ran for President and he’s taken a significant number of measures to demonstrate that,” Carney said in a testy exchange with Fox News reporter Wendell Goler on March 16.

The transparency advocates who presented the award to Obama say that the recognition is important, because despite the work left to be done, Obama has done a lot to change the government’s posture toward openness issues.

But others believed the positive reinforcement was more than a little unnecessary.

“I don’t feel moved today to say ‘thank you, Mr. President,’” said Steve Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. But he said he understands the award to be “aspirational,” in recognition of Obama’s potential to do more on the transparency front.

“And in that sense, one could say it resembles the award at the Nobel Peace Prize,” Aftergood said. “It’s not because Obama brought peace to anyone but because people hoped he would be a force for good in the world, and maybe that’s the way to understand this award.”
by ABBY PHILLIP taken from

Microsoft files complaint against Google

Microsoft asked European regulators Thursday to go after Google on antitrust grounds, accusing the search giant of trying to “entrench its dominance” on the Web.
It’s a major escalation in the war between the two tech titans.
Microsoft and other Google foes say Google’s powerful search engine and its move into other markets — from advertising to mobile phones to travel — has stunted industry-wide competition. Google has described itself as under siege – the victim of a Microsoft-led “anti-Google industrial complex.
In an early-morning blog post Thursday, Microsoft executive Brad Smith said the company’s European Commission filing accuses Google of having “engaged in a broadening pattern of walling off access to content and data that competitors need to provide search results to consumers and to attract advertisers.”
Smith offered a litany of examples of what he describes as Google's anti-competitive practices — arguing, for instance, that Google has disadvantaged competitors in video search, promoted its search boxes through exclusivity deals and sought to leverage its size over competitors in the neophyte e-book market.
"We readily appreciate that Google should continue to have the freedom to innovate. But it shouldn’t be permitted to pursue practices that restrict others from innovating and offering competitive alternatives," Smith said. "That’s what it’s doing now. And that’s what we hope European officials will assess and ultimately decide to stop."
Google did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
The complaint filed with European Union regulators, the first time Microsoft has formally alleged antitrust violations by a competitor, comes as Google is under increased scrutiny back home — from the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and among state attorneys general.
Last week, a federal judge validated some of the claims of Google antitrust critics by blocking the company's plans to create a universal digital library, partly because those plans would preclude competitors from doing so. DOJ has spent months scrutinizing how Google's $700 million purchase of travel software firm ITA would affect the online travel market.
Texas last year launched a broader investigation into whether Google manipulates its search results to hurt competitors.
On Wednesday, the FTC announced a settlement with Google over the launch of the company’s Buzz social network. Under the settlement Google will have to submit to outside monitoring of its privacy policies over the next two decades.
Now the fight intensifies in Europe, where regulators since late 2010 have eyed Google for potential threats to industry competition.
A number of small but notable players have weighed into that battle, but Microsoft's new filing is likely to add an even more heightened level of intensity to the European Commission's antitrust investigation — the first of any sort targeting Google internationally.
In his 1,500-plus-word blog post describing Microsoft's concerns, Smith directly challenged Google's common retort to critics: that consumers are "a click away" from using a different search engine if Google disappoints. There are numerous other ways, Smith argued, that Google can entrench its dominance in both search and search advertising.
"Their defense ignores the hugely important fact that there are many other important ways that search services compete," Smith wrote.
"Search engines compete to index the Web as fully as possible so they can generate good search results, they compete to gain advertisers (the source of revenue in this business), and they compete to gain distribution of their search boxes through Web sites,” Smith continued. “Consumers will not benefit from clicking to alternative sites unless all search engines have a fair opportunity to compete in each of these areas."
According to Smith, Google maintains a 95 percent share of the European market -- and, as a result, has immense leverage over search and advertising. Even efforts in Washington to check Google's growth have failed to stop "the spread by Google of new and disconcerting practices in the United States," Smith wrote, noting the marketplace is "worse" in Europe because Microsoft in the United States "serves one quarter" of searches through both Bing, its network and its partnership with Yahoo!
Smith said there are several ways in which Microsoft believes Google is impeding competition -- from degrading access to YouTube for Bing and Windows Phones, to making it difficult and expensive for companies to format their advertising campaigns on Google to Bing and other search advertising platforms.
Other instances of unfair play by Google, Smith added, include search bias, or the manipulation of search algorithms so that competing sites rank lower. He also charged that Google uses exclusivity agreements to ensure that popular European websites use only Google-powered search boxes.
Microsoft also took aim at the Google Books settlement, recently nixed in federal court, charging that it threatened to lock out competitors from the e-book industry. Moreover, the Redmond giant alleged Google "discriminates against would-be competitors by making it more costly for them to attain prominent placement for their advertisements" -- an argument similar to criticism levied by opponents to the merger of Google and travel-software company ITA.
The remarkable turnabout for Microsoft -- from antitrust poster child to antitrust complainer -- was not lost on the company.
"Having spent more than a decade wearing the shoe on the other foot with the European Commission, the filing of a formal antitrust complaint is not something we take lightly," Smith wrote. "This is the first time Microsoft Corporation has ever taken this step. More so than most, we recognize the importance of ensuring that competition laws remain balanced and that technology innovation moves forward."

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Dallas Doctor Fumes, Tries to Run Over Smoker

DALLAS -- Medical professionals have explored many ways to get people to stop smoking, but running over them with a car has never been an industry-sanctioned approach.

But according to police, that apparently didn't stop a prominent Dallas doctor from trying.

Police say Dr. Jeffrey Reed Thompson, a Dallas physician who has received recognition for being one of the city's "best doctors" from D magazine, tried to run over a man who was smoking by his car.

Thompson, 54, faces a felony charge of aggravated assault with a vehicle following a confrontation with Donald Zuelly, 48, of Rowlett, according to the Dallas Morning News. Thompson was booked into the Dallas County Jail on Friday and released on Saturday morning after posting $5,000 bond. Thompson could not be reached for comment on Tuesday afternoon.

The confrontation began Friday morning when Thompson saw Zuelly smoking by the doctor's 1994 Mercedes coupe, which was parked in Thompson's office parking garage.

Thompson approached Zuelly and said, "You can't smoke here, " according to police. Then he reportedly snatched the cigarette from Zuelly's mouth, threw it on the ground and stepped on it.

Zuelly reportedly told Thompson, "Are you (expletive) crazy? If you put another finger on me I will put you on the ground."

During the confrontation, Zuelly threw down a can of Coke, and some of the liquid splattered on Thompson's pants.

Zuelly told police that as he walked away, he heard the squeal of tires and turned to see Thompson speeding toward him. Zuelly said he ran to seek cover behind a concrete post, scraping his right elbow along the way. Thompson reportedly then put the car in reverse, pulled up next to Zuelly and motioned for him to come out and step in front of the car. Zuelly left and called 911.

One witness told police that she saw Thompson grab the cigarette from Zuelly's mouth. Other witnesses said they saw him speeding and driving erratically in the parking garage.

Thompson told police that he would not say anything without his attorney.
by Linda Jones taken from

Girl finds boa constrictor in toilet

The girl discovered the snake in the toilet bowl when she lifted the lid on Saturday evening at her family’s apartment in the Linden-Süd district, spokesman Holger Hilgenberg said in a statement.

She informed her 39-year-old mother, who called police immediately, they said.

Officers photographed the reptile and consulted with animal rescue services at the fire department.

“But before the animal could be retrieved, it disappeared into the drain pipe, and a ‘search’ was fruitless,” Hilgenberg said.

According to the local veterinary school the snake was a boa constrictor, a non-venomous genus that poses no danger to humans.

“The reptile probably escaped from a terrarium.” Hilgenberg said, adding that the owner was still unknown.
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Photo: Hannover Polizei

'Spiderman' Alain Robert scales Burj Khalifa in Dubai

Alain Robert, the French urban climber dubbed spiderman for his feats, has scaled the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
It took him six hours to ascend the 828-m (2,717-ft) tower in the United Arab Emirates city, including the tapered spire above the top floors.
A large crowd watched from the ground as he moved up the facade, picked out by spotlights after darkness fell.
Unusually, he used a rope and harness, to comply with safety requirements.
"I know that sometimes there may be some specific requirements," he told Reuters news agency before the climb.
"I do understand. You know, this is such an iconic building so I can understand that even though they are taking care so much about my precious life, they are also taking care a lot of that precious Burj Khalifa."
Triumphant wave Strapped to a safety harness tethered more than 100 floors up, he began his climb up the silvery, glass-covered tower just after 1800 (1400 GMT) on Monday.
Moving methodically and swiftly along the metal facade, he ascended a central column, largely avoiding rows of pipes that could have slowed his climb.
Alain Robert climbs the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, 28 March    Robert appeared not to use his harness
On reaching the top, he waved triumphantly.
Robert, 48, has scaled more than 70 skyscrapers, including New York's Empire State Building and Chicago's Willis Tower in the US, and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, according to his website.
In 2004, he climbed Taiwan's Taipei 101, the world's tallest building at the time.
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Teens warned of risks from 'vodka tampon' use

Police in the Baden-Württemburg city of Tuttlingen responded Tuesday to growing online chatter among teenagers that they could become intoxicated using the vodka tampons without having alcohol on their breath.

This is not true, police said, denying that it was an effective way to get drunk. They also warned girls that the alcohol could damage vaginal walls and increase the risk of infection. Boys have reportedly also been using tampons anally.

“I believe this is very dangerous,” head of a children’s clinic in Singen told southern German paper Südkurier last week. “For us this is a new thing.”

In early March a 14-year-old girl collapsed during a street festival in Konstanz, apparently highly intoxicated from using a vodka tampon, the paper reported.

Youth researchers have since found out that this form of alcohol abuse is trendy in the region.

But teens who believe they can hide the smell of alcohol consumption are wrong, experts told the paper.

The development shows a new dimension for alcohol abuse among teens, county social worker Axel Goßner told the Südkurier.

“Alcohol is no longer a stimulant, but a means to an end,” he said.

The trend arose among teens in the United States, where it is known as “slimming.” But it has reportedly caught on in Scandinavia and other places where alcohol is difficult for young people to acquire.

Some Facebook groups are even devoted to exchanging tips on the topic, complete with how-to videos and instructions.
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Bid to put flame-quelling electric wands in the hands of firefighters

Wikus van de Merwe (unwillingly) exploded a prawn with it.
And that's perfectly acceptable, because every kid who's been caught probing a socket with a fork learns the hard way that Electricity Is Dangerous.
But can you fight fire with it?
Yes, say a group of researchers from Harvard University.
In fact, it's actually a concept that's been kicking around for some 200 years that, for no particular reason, simply hasn't been developed.
Last week, team leader Ludovico Cademartiri showed the 241st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society how electricity could bend, twist, turn and flicker flame.
And yes, it can even snuff it out.
Dr Cademartiri proved it for the society by shooting a beam of electricity from a "wand" at 30cm-high flames.
Almost instantly, it was snuffed out, time and time again.
The wand was channelling about the same amount of power as a high-end car stereo system, which Dr Cademartiri said was about 10 times more than he thought was necessary.
That means a similar device could be carried in a backpack - in other words, future firefighters could all be carrying portable, fire-quelling magic wands.
"Our research has shown that by applying large electric fields we can suppress flames very rapidly," he said.
"We're very excited about the results of this relatively unexplored area of research."
Which is not surprising. Rather than douse your entire home or office with thousands of litres of water or foam, your local hero simply waves his wand, parting the flames for you and your family to escape before performing an extinguishing sweep, yes?
It's about now that we'd say the future vision doesn't quite live up to the present reality, but Dr Cademartiri says there's no reason why not.
He says carbon particles, or soot, generated in the flame are the keys to its response to electric fields.
Soot particles can easily become charged. The charged particles respond to the electric field, affecting the stability of flames, he said.
"Combustion is first and foremost a chemical reaction – arguably one of the most important – but it's been somewhat neglected by most of the chemical community.
"We're trying to get a more complete picture of this very complex interaction."
While the technology is unsuited to fighting large forest fires, Dr Cademartiri envisions such electrical devices placed alongside - or replacing - water sprinklers on our ceilings.
The idea holds particular promise for enclosed spaces, such as airplanes and submarines.
Just don't cross the streams. There - we said it.
The study was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency - otherwise known as DARPA - and the US Department of Energy.
by Peter Farquhar taken from

Woman uses child as shield against Taser

A domestic dispute that boiled over at a business led to a woman being arrested for disorderly conduct after she used a child as a shield against being Tasered.
According to Glendale police:
A 36-year-old Milwaukee woman was arrested for disorderly conduct/domestic at the service area at Andrew Toyota, 1620 W. Silver Spring Drive, at 12:15 p.m. March 24.
When police arrived, the woman was holding the hand of a child while shaking her finger in the face of her boyfriend, an employee of Andrew, while yelling, "Give me my weed back!"
She struggled with police, refused to give her name and held the child in front of her to avoid being Tasered.
The boyfriend said the two had been living together for a few months but when asked what the woman's last name was said he wasn't sure. He also said he didn't want her arrested but police told him, they had no choice.
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Israeli minister proposes Gaza artificial island

JERUSALEM, March 30 (Reuters) - Israel is considering building an artificial island with sea and air ports off blockaded Gaza, as a long-term solution to shipping goods into the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave, the transport minister said.
Yisrael Katz told Army Radio on Wednesday he wants an international force to control the island for "at least 100 years" and for unloaded cargo to be brought into Gaza along a 4.5-km (3-mile)-long bridge with a security checkpoint to prevent arms smuggling.
"The Israeli military would continue the naval blockade, but in a more localised way," he said.
Katz said he had pitched the project to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told him to put together a plan, which "has been under examination for many months" by experts.
A spokesman for the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority described the idea as "pure fantasy" and an attempt by Israel "to divert attention from the real problems of Gaza resulting from the Israeli siege".
A Hamas spokesman called it "a Zionist effort to ... internationalise" the blockade.
"I am at the stage where the prime minister has to give the green light," Katz said. "This has not happened yet ... I am certain the Europeans and the Americans and many private elements will be willing to be part of this."
Israel and neighbouring Egypt tightened their blockade of Gaza after Hamas Islamists opposed to peace with the Jewish state seized control of the territory in 2007 from forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel eased restrictions on the overland passage of goods through its Gaza border in the wake of a world outcry over the killing of nine pro-Palestinian Turks in confrontations during a raid by Israeli commandos on a Gaza-bound flotilla last May.
Citing security concerns, Israel does not allow a sea or air port to operate in the enclave.
"An island would ... give the Palestinians port services and even an airport down the line," Katz said, proposing the project include desalination and power plants, hotels -- and Hamas's rival, the Palestinian Authority, as a partner.
"We have built models and there are many entrepreneurs who are interested and prepared to invest billions and make money," he said, without giving further details.
The proposal was leaked on Tuesday to Israel's Channel Two TV, which speculated it could be included in a speech that Israeli officials have said Netanyahu might deliver in the coming weeks outlining ideas to revive peace talks.
Palestinians have refused to return to U.S.-brokered negotiations, which froze soon after they began in September, until Netanyahu halts settlement building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, areas Israel captured in a 1967 war.
Asked when the island proposal would be presented to Netanyahu's cabinet, Katz was non-committal, saying: "Soon, I hope." (Additional reporting by Mohammad Assadi in Ramallah; editing by Mark Trevelyan)
by Jeffrey Heller taken from

Cinderella, Snow White Implicated In Jail Drug Smuggling Ring

In a creative bid to smuggle drugs into a New Jersey jail, two women allegedly dissolved narcotics into a paste and then painted the drugs onto pages of a coloring book (featuring Cinderella and Snow White) that were mailed to a trio of inmates.
The smuggling attempt was derailed when officials at the Cape May County Correctional Center got a tip that the drug Suboxone was being sent into the lockup. Suboxone is usually prescribed to treat opiate addiction.
Last month, a mail room employee discovered correspondence containing the suspicious coloring book pages containing an “orangey substance” that looked like “water color paint a child would use on an art project.” Investigators released photos of the three coloring book pages seized.
As seen above, Cinderella (click to enlarge) appears with two mice in her hand on one page. A second Cinderella page has “To Daddy” scrawled at its top and is signed “EmmaLee” at the bottom. The third coloring book page, also addressed “To Daddy,” featured Snow White and a couple of dwarves.
Along with the two women accused of mailing the pages into the prison, three inmates have also been hit with felony charges.
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Obama Cuts in Line and Gets an iPad 2

Few would debate that President Barack Obama is the most tech savvy president in American history.
Mr. Obama has a custom-rigged Blackberry and he has admitted to owning an iPod.
Now the former law school professor law school lecturer is trying to prove his technical worth by telling reporters that not only does he own a computer -- a MacBook Pro reportedly -- but the leader of the free world also uses an iPad 2.
AllNewsMac for what it's worth is questioning how the president got his iPad. With Apple running shortages across the globe, it is safe to assume Mr. Obama was not waiting in line outside of an Apple store in Georgetown.
A CNN photographer also reportedly saw the president playing around with an iPad in the Oval Office shortly after Mr. Obama dined with Apple CEO Steve Jobs in the Bay Area in February. The dinner took place before the iPad 2 was unveiled.
Is it possible that Jobs gave the president a campaign donation of an iPad 2 as a parting gift for choosing him as a dinner guest?  
Possibly. The two have a history. In February, Jobs took a break from his medical leave from Apple to meet with Obama. This while tabloids had pegged Jobs with just weeks to live.
On Mr. Obama's Bay Area visit last year, Jobs met with the president at a San Francisco hotel to advise him on the economy. There were no parting gifts that we know of from that meeting.
The president has not always been a fan of Apple's toys. In a speech at Hampton University last May, Mr. Obama not only said he doesn't know how to "work" an iPad but that they are a distraction.
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‘Freelance jihadists’ join Libyan rebels, Ex-al Qaeda member speaks out

A former leader of Libya’s al Qaeda affiliate says he thinks “freelance jihadists” have joined the rebel forces, as NATO’s commander told Congress on Tuesday that intelligence indicates some al Qaeda and Hezbollah terrorists are fighting Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.
Former jihadist Noman Benotman, who renounced his al Qaeda affiliation in 2000, said in an interview that he estimates 1,000 jihadists are in Libya.
On Capitol Hill, Adm. James Stavridis, the NATO commander, when asked about the presence of al Qaeda terrorists among the rebels, said the leadership of the opposition is made up of “responsible men and women.”
“We have seen flickers in the intelligence of potential al Qaeda, Hezbollah,” the four-star admiral said. “We’ve seen different things. But at this point, I don’t have detail sufficient to say that there’s a significant al Qaeda presence, or any other terrorist presence, in and among these folks.”
The military is continuing to “look at that very closely,” he said, because “it’s part of doing due diligence as we move forward on any kind of relationship” with the opposition.
Outside observers generally estimate the number of trained Libyan fighters to be about 1,000.
Concern over the makeup of opposition forces surfaced Tuesday as representatives from 40 governments and international organizations met in London and stepped up efforts to oust the Gadhafi regime and prepared for a hoped-for transition to a democratic state.
Col. Gadhafis forces, meanwhile, launched counterattacks Tuesday against rebels advancing westward toward the capital, Tripoli.
Mr. Benotman told The Washington Times that al Qaeda’s North African affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb, has tried without success to co-opt the leadership of Col. Gadhafi’s opposition. But Mr. Benotman said the interim council leading Libya’s opposition is seeking democratic elections, not an Islamic republic.
“We have freelance jihadists,” he said. “But everything is still under control of the interim national council. There is no other organization that says, ‘We are leaders of the revolution with this emir,’ like al Qaeda would. Everyone is afraid to do this; they would be labeled as undermining the people.”
The jihadist presence among the opposition to Col. Gadhafi is a critical question for Western governments conducting military operations aimed at protecting Libya’s citizens from their leader, who ordered attacks against them with warplanes, troops and pro-government militias.
If NATO countries end up sending ground forces to stabilize Libya at a later date, the al Qaeda presence could morph into an anti-Western insurgency as al Qaeda did in Iraq after the March 2003 invasion.
President Obama, in a televised address Monday, said he would not send ground troops to Libya. But Adm. Stavridis said during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the “possibility of a stabilization regime exists” based on the history of other NATO-led humanitarian interventions.
Mr. Benotman, the former jihadist, initially said the number of unaffiliated jihadists in Libya was in the hundreds but later put the number at “around a thousand.”
Last week, Libyan rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi told the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore that he had recruited 25 Islamic fighters in Dernaa and gave his view that al Qaeda members were “good Muslims.”
Like Mr. Benotman, Mr. al-Hasidi is a former member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) that in the 1990s was affiliated with al Qaeda but moved away from Osama bin Laden’s organization a decade later.
Mr. Benotman said he knew Mr. al-Hasidi and had seen the interview.
“What I do care about is not this commander’s opinions, but his actions,” Mr. Benotman said. “If he thinks al Qaeda members are good Muslims, it’s his opinion. But we should say out loud, ‘We do not allow for al Qaeda tactics, al Qaeda agenda and al Qaeda strategy in Libya.’ These are not welcome.”
Mr. Benotman was an important spokesman for the LIFG in the 1990s. In 2000, he traveled to Afghanistan to meet with bin Laden and urged him not to attack the United States, according to Peter Bergen’s 2011 book, “The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and al Qaeda.”
“I told bin Laden that our movement had failed, that the people no longer supported us,” Mr. Benotman told The Times.
Mr. Benotman is based in London and has worked in recent years with the Quilliam Foundation, a Britain-based center that focuses on “deradicalizing” extremist Muslims. He was in Libya in February.
Mr. Benotman was recruited by Col. Gadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, to participate in a deradicalization program in Libya aimed at rehabilitating members of the LIFG who would vow to give up the jihad against his father’s regime.
Mr. Benotman said many of these reformed radicals were released from prison.
“Since 2007, the LIFG has participated in the deradicalization program,” he said. “Many of them are free today. We cannot ask them to not fight and stay at home, even if they have been attacked,” he said. “This is the picture. You will find some extremists among these, without a doubt. But there is no way you can label the revolution itself as motivated by al Qaeda or anything like this.”
U.S. intelligence analysts, however, show that some elements of the LIFG split from the group that denounced violence.
A 2007 study by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center found that 19 percent of some 700 foreign al Qaeda fighters captured in Iraq came from Libya, the second-highest percentage of any country after Saudi Arabia.
The admirals comments about al Qaeda in the Libyan opposition reflect those of a senior State Department official who gave a closed-door briefing to senior U.S. officials last week, according an official who was present. The State Department official said the recently formed National Transitional Council is made up of rebel groups that are pro-democratic, but questions remain about some of its members.
A defense official said that some of the opposition includes Islamists with pro-terrorism views who are masking their true positions in order to gain Western backing.
By Eli Lake taken from

Karzai blasts US troops for gruesome Afghan deaths

KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghanistan's president on Wednesday condemned the actions of a group of U.S. soldiers charged with murdering three unarmed Afghans, charging they killed for entertainment after taking drugs.
It was Hamid Karzai's first public mention of the actions of five soldiers from the 5th Stryker Brigade who have been charged with murder and conspiracy in the deaths of the three men in southern Afghanistan.
Civilian deaths in Afghanistan have created tensions between his government and NATO forces.
Rolling Stone magazine published a series of graphic photos showing the soldiers posing next to the dead bodies. The German news magazine Der Spiegel had previously published three of them.
"They killed our youth for entertainment, they killed our elders for entertainment," Karzai said told thousands of new teachers at a graduation ceremony in the capital Kabul. The president said the American soldiers used opium and marijuana supplied by their Afghan translators.
"So during the night they smoked marijuana and opium and in the morning they went out to kill local people," he said, referring to the drugs mentioned in court documents on the case.
Rolling Stone posted 17 photos from a cache of about 150 photos linked to the ongoing war crimes probe involving the soldiers from an Olympia, Washington-based platoon.
Two of the photos show soldiers charged in the case — Spc. Jeremy Morlock and Pvt. 1st Class Andrew Holmes — crouching alongside an Afghan youth and lifting the victim's head by his hair. Two other photos show the body of the same Afghan youth, Gul Mudin, one of the victims in the case. Karzai said the boy was 15 years old.
Morlock, the first of the five to be court-martialed, was sentenced last week to 24 years in prison after pleading guilty to three counts of murder, as well as conspiracy and other charges. He said the killings were part of a deliberate plan to murder Afghan civilians.
Up to now, reaction to the photos has been muted in Afghanistan, and Karzai said earlier that incidents of Afghan civilian deaths at the hand of American soldiers should be seen as an exceptional case.
"Without a doubt the Americans are very good people, just like the Afghan people and other peoples of the world. They are not cruel people, they helped us with their own resources to develop our education and health sectors. They are working day and night to help us," Karzai also said during the speech Wednesday. But he added that he wanted Americans to know that U.S. soldiers "killed a 15-year-old boy and an old man in front of their families."
In northeastern Afghanistan, NATO announced on Wednesday that four of its service members were killed by insurgents, bringing Tuesday's total number of NATO casualties to six. The troops were killed in three separate incidents during an operation in the northeast province of Kunar, said British Maj. Tim James, a NATO spokesman. No other details about the deaths were released pending notification of their next of kin. Their deaths bring the number of coalition troops killed in Afghanistan this month to 33. So far this year 100 have been killed.
There has been intense fighting in the region for the last week.
On Sunday the Taliban abducted 40 police officers in Kunar, although elders in the Chapa Dara district managed to convince the insurgents to free about half of the officers.
The Taliban and other insurgent groups control large swaths of Nuristan, Kunar and other northeastern provinces near the Pakistani border. Insurgents retain safe havens in Pakistan's neighboring lawless tribal regions and cross the border into Afghanistan to attack NATO troops.
NATO also announced Wednesday the results of its review into a March 26 coalition airstrike in southwestern Afghanistan that killed four civilians. The strike targeted a suspected Taliban commander and his associates who NATO believed were traveling in two vehicles in the Nawzad district of Helmand province.
The coalition relied on video surveillance to determine the commander's location, according to a summary of NATO's report provided to reporters. A weapons system video shows two vehicles traveling together with motorcycles riding at the front and rear of the movement, but the Taliban commander was not in either vehicle, NATO concluded.
Three lower ranking Taliban fighters were killed in the first vehicle and four civilians were killed in the second vehicle. Three other civilians were injured in the blast, NATO said, and three children in the vehicles were unharmed.
"This is a deeply regrettable incident and our condolences go out to those affected by this tragedy," said Brig. Gen. Tim Zadalis, joint command director of air plans for the international coalition.
Though the number of civilian casualties attributed to NATO attacks have declined this year, accidental deaths continue to be a source of tension between the international force and the Afghan government.
by  SOLOMON MOORE taken from

Facebook drops uprising page after Israel protest

ERUSALEM – A Facebook page calling on Palestinians to take up arms against Israel has been removed from the social-networking site after a high-profile Israeli appeal.
Entitled "Third Palestinian Intifada," the page had more than 350,000 fans before it was taken down. Facebook didn't comment the removal on Tuesday.
Israeli Cabinet Minister Yuli Edelstein said in a letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg that the page included calls to kill Jews and for "liberating" Jerusalem through violence.
It urged Palestinians to take to the streets after Friday prayers on May 15 and begin an uprising. It read: "Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once the Muslims have killed all of the Jews."
Edelstein said the page incites to violence and violates Facebook content regulations.
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U.S. Spy Agency Is Said to Probe Hacker Attack on Nasdaq

The National Security Agency, the top U.S. electronic intelligence service, has joined a probe of the October cyber attack on Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. (NDAQ) amid evidence the intrusion by hackers was more severe than first disclosed, according to people familiar with the investigation.
The involvement of the NSA, which uses some of the world’s most powerful computers for electronic surveillance and decryption, may help the initial investigators -- Nasdaq and the FBI -- determine more easily who attacked and what was taken. It may also show the attack endangered the security of the nation’s financial infrastructure.
“By bringing in the NSA, that means they think they’re either dealing with a state-sponsored attack or it’s an extraordinarily capable criminal organization,” said Joel Brenner, former head of U.S. counterintelligence in the Bush and Obama administrations, now at the Washington offices of the law firm Cooley LLP.
The NSA’s most important contribution to the probe may be its ability to unscramble encrypted messages that hackers use to extract data, said Ira Winkler, a former NSA analyst and chief security strategist at Technodyne LLC, a Wayne, New Jersey-based information technology consulting firm.
The probe of the attack on the second biggest U.S. stock exchange operator, disclosed last month, is also being assisted by foreign intelligence agencies, said one of the people, who declined like the others to be identified because the investigation is confidential and in some cases classified. One of the people said the attack was more extensive than Nasdaq previously disclosed.

Motive Undetermined

Investigators have yet to determine which Nasdaq systems were breached and why, and it may take months for them to finish their work, two of the people familiar with the matter said.
Disclosure of the attack prompted the House Financial Services Committee in February to begin a review of the safety of the country’s financial infrastructure, according to the committee’s chairman, Spencer Bachus, an Alabama Republican.
The widening investigation may also complicate Nasdaq’s ability to strike deals to buy or merge with other exchanges at a time when several competitors have announced such moves, according to Alexander Tabb, a partner at Tabb Group LLC, a financial-markets research firm based in Westborough, Massachusetts.
“For an organization like Nasdaq, it does have an impact on the overall perception of their security, their resiliency and their value,” Tabb said. “For potential partners of the company, that has to be a concern.”

Exchange Acquisitions

More than $20 billion of exchange acquisitions have been announced in the past five months, including Singapore Exchange Ltd.’s $8.3 billion offer for ASX Ltd., London Stock Exchange Group Plc’s agreement to acquire TMX Group Inc. for $3.1 billion, and Deutsche Boerse AG (DB1)’s $9.5 billion deal for NYSE Euronext. (NYX)
Nasdaq operators will be hard pressed to assure potential partners that they have resolved the matter, Tabb said.
“Uncertainty in the functioning of the market is the biggest blow-back to this event,” Tabb said.
Nasdaq reported in February that the breach of its computers was limited to a single system known as Directors Desk, a product used by board members of companies to exchange confidential information. The company said that as far as investigators could determine, no data or documents on that system were taken.

Other Systems

The NSA-assisted probe is now focused on how far the attack may have reached, including the breach of other systems, said one of the people familiar with the probe.
Frank De Maria, a Nasdaq spokesman, declined to comment on the effect the security breach might have on the company’s future strategic moves. He said Nasdaq is pursuing its probe and has no new information about the scope of the attack.
“With every company now, searching the networks for break- ins and insuring they’re secure has got to be a full-time job,” De Maria said in an interview.
NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines declined to comment and referred all questions to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the lead agency in the investigation. Jenny Shearer, a spokeswoman for the FBI, declined to comment.
Directors Desk, where the break-in was discovered, is designed to allow directors and executives of Nasdaq client companies to share private files, nonpublic information that cyber criminals could trade on. Nasdaq bought Directors Desk in 2007 as part of its effort to diversify into corporate services.
Sophisticated hackers often enter computer networks through a single system, like Directors Desk, then hop to other secure parts of a computer network, the people familiar with the investigation said.

Network Vulnerabilities

Tabb said investigators are likely trying to chart which parts of Nasdaq’s network might have been accessible through Directors Desk and to ensure those vulnerabilities weren’t exploited -- a time-consuming process, he said.
Brenner, the former counter-intelligence chief, said he couldn’t independently confirm the NSA’s role in the probe. He said the agency rarely gets involved in investigating cyber attacks against companies.
Brenner said that the NSA played a part in probing the 2009 attack against Google Inc. (GOOG), saying that represented “a major change” for the agency, which monitors the electronic communications of foreign entities and helps secure the networks of U.S. government agencies.
“It’s part of an increasing awareness that the distinction between economic and national security is rapidly breaking down,” he said.

Unique Tools

The NSA, based at Fort Meade, Maryland, has the government’s most detailed knowledge of cyber attackers and their methods, Brenner said. A 2008 executive order signed by President George W. Bush expanded the NSA’s responsibilities to include monitoring U.S. government computer networks to detect cyber attacks.
The NSA could help identify and analyze electronic clues left behind by the hackers, including communication between the malicious software used in the attack and the outside computers that controlled it, Winkler said.
One challenge in analyzing the scope of cyber attacks is that the information captured by intruders is often sent out in an encrypted form, making it difficult to tell what was taken, according to the FBI.

Stealthy Software

Another obstacle, Brenner said, is that the most sophisticated cyber attacks employ stealthy software that’s programmed to go dormant for months and can be altered by hackers in response to changing security measures. That makes it difficult for investigators to be sure they’ve found all the malicious software and removed it from the network.
“In theory, the NSA should have the ability to reconstruct the data that is being obfuscated,” said Winkler, the former NSA analyst.
One line of inquiry pursued by investigators is whether the attack is linked to state-based cyber espionage or sabotage, which would raise national security concerns, one of the people familiar with the probe said.
De Maria, the Nasdaq spokesman, said in February in response to an article in the Wall Street Journal that the exchange had been hacked, that there was no evidence the trading platform the company runs was breached.
Security dangers include the potential for intruders to alter trading algorithms and cause a market crash, according to Larry Dignan, who writes for ZDNet, a technology publication that’s a unit of CBS Interactive.

Doubts on Trades

Brenner said intruders might do just as much damage by manipulating trading to create doubt about the validity of trades. More than 93 billion shares were traded on the Nasdaq exchange in the fourth quarter of 2010, equal to almost 20 percent of the U.S. equities market, according to the company’s final quarterly report to the Securities and Exchange Commission last year.
Initial reports that the computers used in the attack were based in Russia weren’t correct, the people familiar with the probe said. The investigation has yet to determine the origin of the attack, they said.
The attack’s sophistication doesn’t rule out that an organized crime group was responsible, Brenner said. Criminal enterprises have narrowed the skills gap with state-sponsored hackers, launching attacks that can penetrate even the best- guarded computer networks, he said.
by Michael Riley taken from