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.


World's biggest super-jumbos grounded after cracks are found in the wings

Australian aircraft engineers have called for Airbus A380 - the world's biggest passenger aircraft - to be grounded, after Singapore Airlines and Qantas found cracks in the wings of their super-jumbos.
'We can't continue to gamble with people's lives and allow those aircraft to fly around and hope that they make it until their four-yearly inspection,' said Steve Purvinas, secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association.
Both airlines, and Airbus, admitted that they had discovered cracks, but maintained that the aircraft were safe. In total, 67 Airbus A380s are in use worldwide, on seven airlines.The aircraft are in use by Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Air France, Lufthansa, Korean Airlines and China Southern.
Australian engineers say that Airbus A380s should be grounded, rather than flying around for four years before their next inspection, after cracks appeared in the wings of Singapore Airlines super-jumbos and one from Qantas
'We confirm that cracks were found on non-critical wing attachments on a limited number of A380s,' an Airbus spokesperson said today.
'We've traced the origin of these hairline cracks, and developed an inspection and repair procedure which can be done during routine maintenance.'
Singapore Airlines, the world’s second-biggest carrier, operates 14 A380s already and has five on order, while Qantas has taken delivery of 10 of its order of 20 A380 aircraft.   
The A380 has been in service for five years. It seats 525 passengers in a typical three-class arrangement. In total, 238 of the aircraft have been ordered by 17 airlines worldwide.
The aeroplanes are assembled in Toulouse, but parts are built across Europe, with the wings being built in Broughton, Wales.
Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Qantas Airways said on Friday they discovered cracks on the wing ribs of their Airbus A380s, but said the cracks pose no threat to safety and repairs have been carried out.    
The remarks came after Airbus said on Thursday that engineers discovered minor cracks in the wings of a 'limited number' of A380s, but said the cracks were not affecting the safety of the aircraft. 
'Cracks were found on a small number of wing rib feet on an Airbus A380 during inspections in the second half of last year. These pose no safety issue and repairs were carried out on the aircraft,' SIA’s spokesman Nicholas Ionides said in an email.   
All good: Lufthansa say it has no problems with its A380 fleet and operations continue as normal
All good: Lufthansa say it has no problems with its A380 fleet and operations continue as normal
'Repairs were subsequently carried out on a second aircraft. We have kept the relevant regulatory authorities fully informed and will be carrying out inspections and any necessary repairs on other A380s as they go in for routine checks,' he added.    
Qantas separately said that 'minuscule cracking' was found in the wing ribs of the Qantas A380 being repaired in Singapore after one of its Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines suffered a mid-air blowout in 2010. 
'Investigations have found that the cracking is unrelated to the engine failure incident experienced by this aircraft in November 2010 and is not unique to Qantas. It has now been repaired,' the carrier said in a statement.    
'No immediate action is required by A380 operators because the cracking presents no risk whatsoever to flight safety,' Qantas said.   

A Lufthansa spokesman said: ‘There is no findings on our side and we have normal operations.’
Airbus said it has traced the origin of the problem and developed an inspection and repair procedure that will be done during routine, scheduled four-year maintenance checks. 
SIA, the world’s second-biggest carrier by market value and the first operator of such aircraft, operates 14 A380s and has five on order, while Qantas has taken delivery of 10 of its 20 A380 aircraft on order, according to the airline’s website.    
Both Singapore Airlines and Qantas are using Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines on their A380 fleets. 
taken from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2084242/Airbus-A380-Worlds-biggest-planes-sky-worthy-say-engineers.html#ixzz1j4WAQuns

Incensed By Judge Judy, Florida Woman, 62, Attacks Husband, 65, With Hammer

A Florida woman who reportedly became incensed while watching TV’s Judge Judy was arrested Sunday after she allegedly struck her husband on the head with a hammer.
Janet Knowles, 62, was charged with aggravated battery following the bizarre incident at a residence in Jupiter. Knowles, seen in the above mug shot, is locked up in the Palm Beach County jail in lieu of $10,000 bond.
According to a Jupiter Police Department report, she attacked Larry Knowles, 65, since "she was upset because Judge Judy was on the television,” and "Larry was watching Judge Judy and that made her mad." The syndicated program stars Judith Sheindlin, an irascible former New York jurist.
The report does not specifically indicate why Knowles was so upset about Judge Judy, who is pictured above. The victim, who was seated in a recliner when twice hammered, suffered large cuts to his head and forearm, according to cops.

taken from http://www.thesmokinggun.com/buster/battery/judge-judy-spurs-attack-758941

Church charges for calls to mobile phone-carrying angel

An angel with a mobile phone at the St Jan cathedral in Den Bosch can still be reached by her 06 number, even though the church authorities have introduced a premium rate line, the Telegraaf reports on Monday.
A 06 number and a Twitter account in the name of ut Engelke (the little angel) were put up by an unknown woman as a joke last year, although the initiative is now attracting some thirty callers a day.
Now the church board has reacted by opening a 0900 number for the angel. ‘Success knows many church fathers’, the woman commented. She thinks the church is ripping people off by making them pay 80 cents a minute to listen to a tape. Her own service doesn’t charge for calls.
The church, which is going to use the money for the maintenance of the cathedral, says the founder of the mobile phone line had not asked for permission to set up the mobile service, but that the St Jan belongs to everybody.
The mobile phone number has a number of regular users, like the girl who rings in every Friday to report on her week, the paper says. And many people rang in seeking comfort during the Christmas holidays.
The angel is one of 25 made by sculptor Ton Mooy for the cathedral, which is being renovated.
The mobile-using angel first had to be approved by the cathedral fathers. They rejected suggestions that she should be given jet engines rather than wings.

taken from http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2012/01/church_charges_for_phone_calls.php

'S***house' restaurant serves dinners in miniature toilets

The S***house restaurant serves up food in its own inimitable way The S***house restaurant serves up food in its own inimitable way (Picture: CEN)

The critics might pan it, but one restaurant in the Chinese capital Beijing has got food fans going potty for it.
The plop-up restaurant has queues around the block as punters prove that it's more than just a flush in the pan.
Co-owner Feng Lu said: 'We had the idea when we were discussing one of the worst restaurants we'd ever eaten in and one of us said it had been a real toilet. So we decided to see if we could make a restaurant that was just one big toilet.
"We can't quite believe how successful it's been. Now we're talking about opening a chain," added Feng.

By Simon Garner  taken from http://www.metro.co.uk/weird/886519-s-house-restaurant-serves-dinners-in-miniature-toilets#ixzz1j4UMFoTf

Two kittens have '18 extra toes' between them

Ned and Fred the polydactyl kittens The kittens are due to be rehomed in two weeks
Two kittens have been discovered with 18 extra toes between them.
Ned and Fred were handed in to the Gosport Town branch of Cats Protection in Hampshire.
Normally cats have five toes on their front paws and four on their rear, but Ned has an extra eight toes and his brother Fred has 10 extra.
Dr Andy Sparkes, from the Feline Advisory Bureau, said the four-month-old kittens were "very unusual" due to the large number of extra toes.
'Poor condition' Cats Protection field veterinary officer Karen Hiestand said Fred's extra toes on his back paws as well as his front paws were also an "extreme case".
She added that the extra toes did not affect their health.
The kittens had come from a "multi-cat household" and arrived at the charity branch in a "poor condition".
They are still with the centre, but are due to be rehomed with a new owner in two weeks.
Cats with extra digits are known as polydactyl and usually have just one extra toe on each paw, but some can have two or three extra on each paw.

taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-16474354

Monday, 9 January 2012

UK police smuggle fake bomb onto Olympic site

U.K. police managed to smuggle a fake bomb into Olympic Park in a security test, overshadowing a special U.K. Cabinet meeting held at the park Monday marking 200 days until the Summer Games begin.
The Olympic Delivery Authority declined to comment directly on whether a fake bomb was involved in last year's failed test, but said "testing is standard practice" in all major security operations.
"Such tests have a key role in developing our capability to ensure that London 2012 is safe and secure and that we are best prepared to detect potential threats before and during the Games," the statement said Sunday. "Members of the public with tickets should be reassured that such exercises are being staged to ensure their safety, our number one priority."
Olympic security experts downplayed the significance of the test, arguing that such tests are routine and conducted by experts trained at exposing vulnerabilities.
Peter Fussey, author of "Securing and Sustaining the Olympic City," which looks at the London 2012 games, said the only thing that was unusual was that the public heard about it.
"You can't make something completely terrorist-proof," he said. "There's always going to be some risk."
Margaret Gilmore, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said with six months to go, a successful dummy device is not the problem one might think it to be. The whole point of such tests is to expose vulnerabilities, she said.
"The key thing is that they are putting this real ring of steel around the Olympic sites," she said.
The terror threat is the biggest security worry for the London Olympics, which take place July 27 through Aug. 12. Security has been an intricate part of the games since an attack at the 1972 Olympics in Munich killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches. London itself has not been immune from terror attacks — four suicide bombers killed 52 commuters in 2005 when they targeted the city's transit network.
But creating enough security to satisfy the experts has proven to be costly — and more complicated than initially envisioned. Authorities vastly underestimated the number of people needed to search spectators and otherwise secure venues and other Olympic sites, like hotels and power stations.
Britain will have up to 13,500 troops deployed on land, at sea and in the skies to help protect the games — twice as many as had been envisioned. That's not counting the 10,000 security guards and about 12,000 police officers also working to secure the event.
But the threat goes beyond the event itself. Transit sites, shopping malls and other public gathering points, such as where people will watch the games on big-screen televisions, are also being scrutinized.
Britain's government has said it expects the terror threat level to be set at "severe" during the Olympics, meaning an attempted attack is considered highly likely.
The terror concerns, and more ticketing problems, surfaced as Britain's Cabinet gathered at the Olympic Park to mark the "200 days to go" milestone. As part of the festivities, the Olympic Delivery Authority formally handed over control of the park to games organizers.
"This is the perfect time for the Cabinet to come together and ensure we are doing absolutely everything we can to make the most of this unique opportunity to showcase all the great things the U.K. has to offer to the rest of the world," Prime Minister David Cameron said.
Meanwhile, organizers grappled with yet another ticketing problem: A limited ticket sale has been suspended indefinitely after computer problems kept causing trouble for buyers.
The tickets came from customers who decided to submit them for resale, but the online system did not work properly and sales remained suspended Monday, a spokeswoman for the organizing committee said.
The tickets are only being sold in Europe. Customers can still go to the site and get tickets for soccer and the Paralympics.
Organizers have struggled with ticket sales from the start. A complicated lottery system in which people blindly registered for tickets and handed over their credit card details before learning what tickets they obtained frustrated thousands who wished to see the spectacle.
Two-thirds of ticket seekers failed to obtain any in the first round of sales, with 22 million requests for 6.6 million available tickets.
Another round was blighted by computer problems and there is no indication when the resale efforts would be resumed.
Olympic authorities, meanwhile, also announced they had signed contracts specifying the post-Olympics use of six of eight of the permanent venues, including those used for swimming and handball as well as the ArcelorMittal Orbit observation tower.


Military cadet forces in every school, says schools commissioner

The Schools Commissioner said the Combined Cadet Force (CCF), along with debating societies and music tuition, should no longer be the “province of the middle classes”.
Dr Elizabeth Sidwell also signalled that schools could face much tougher academic targets, with 80 per cent of children in all state primaries and secondaries expected to reach required scores in exams and tests, regardless of the intake. The new benchmark would mean far more schools being classed as inadequate and subject to intervention from the Department of Education.
Her comments come days after Mr Gove provoked controversy by branding opponents of academies and free schools as “enemies of promise”.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Dr Sidwell – a senior adviser to Mr Gove, and the official leading the expansion of the Government’s academy schools programme – said that many extra-curricular activities in the independent sector should be offered across the board.
“These wonderful extra-curriculum elements such as wellbeing and CCF did originate in the independent sector but for a number of years they have been there in City Technology Colleges, strong comprehensives and grammars. Good state schools have these things. We must not say we can’t afford it, we find a way,” she said.
“The all-round curriculum that children need, CCF, debating – that’s not the province of the middle classes, it’s the province of every child.”
The CCF was created in 1948 but its antecedents date back to 1859 when public schools and universities were asked to form volunteer corps.
Today, more than 200 independent schools but only around 60 state schools run CCF units, according to the Ministry of Defence, which sponsors the organisation. Members learn drill and are trained to fire weapons.
In 2008, the then-prime minister Gordon Brown backed a government-commissioned report which said more state schools should sign up to CCF. Although there has been no major rise, it is increasingly offered in academies.
Dr Sidwell, the former chief executive of the Haberdashers’ Aske’s Federation, a cluster of academies in south-east London, said schools needed a balance of extra curricular activities and academic focus.
In comments that will provoke a debate across the state school sector, she suggested that Government performance targets were too low.
Currently, primary schools are considered to be underperforming if less than 60 per cent of pupils reach level 4 – the standard expected of the average 11-year-old – in the maths and English tests taken at age 11.
Some 1,300 primaries fall in to this category. The 200 with the most persistent poor performance have been told they must convert to academies within the year.
At secondary level, the “floor target” for underperformance is 35 per cent of teenagers gaining five good GCSEs including maths and English, rising to 40 per cent this year and 50 per cent by 2015.
But Dr Sidwell said schools should have even higher expectations.
“We need to get well above these floor targets that we fiddle about with. You want your child to do better than level 4. The floor at primary is 60 per cent, but let’s have it higher than that – because even at that you have 40 per cent, nearly half, who are not achieving.
“When you look at secondary, we are saying 35 per cent, rising to 50 per cent, but I believe that we could get to a point where 80 per cent can get GCSE grade C in English and maths and three others. After 11 years of schooling we should be able to do that.”
Many inner-city schools argue that it is impossible to match the standards reached in more affluent areas because they have more pupils from dysfunctional homes who struggle with the basics, disrupt lessons or have special educational needs.
But Dr Sidwell dismissed the link: “I don’t buy that. You can’t buy that can you?” she said. “The famous phrase we hear is 'These children can’t do it.’ But whether it is Deptford or Haringey or Grimsby, those children can do it.”
Dr Sidwell was appointed by Mr Gove last year to the role of Commissioner, which was created by Tony Blair in 2006 with a remit to “challenge schools and local authorities to improve”. The Commissioner, working with civil servants at the Department of Education, is charged with finding sponsors for academy schools and brokering arrangements with them. She is now trying to persuade sponsors of secondary schools to take on primaries.
Some 1,154 secondaries, more than a third of the total, have so far become independent, state-funded academies, free from local authority control. But the programme is in its infancy in the 20,000-school primary system, with just 335 having converted.

By taken from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/8999455/Military-cadet-forces-in-every-school-says-schools-commissioner.html

David Cameron: Britain 'still has a problem with racism'

In an interview after the high-profile trial over the killing of the black teenager, who was attacked by a racist gang in 1993, Mr Cameron said the UK was a "less racist country" than at the time of Stephen's death.
But he said people from minority ethnic backgrounds still faced disadvantage.
Asked about the future of the Metropolitan Police's Lawrence inquiry team on Sky News's Boulton and Co show, Mr Cameron declined to comment.
"It's a matter for the police," he said. "They must feel empowered to seek the truth and find justice.
"The Metropolitan Police and Metropolitan Police Authority – I believe in trusting them to make those decisions and I think it is right that they should."
Asked whether race relations had improved since 1993, Mr Cameron said: "I think we are a less racist country but we have still got a problem with racism.
"We have still got a problem of people from different racial backgrounds being disadvantaged in Britain.
"I think the country has come a huge way since that dreadful murder, but there is still a lot more to be done."
His comments came after the only witness to Stephen's killing described how he had been victimised in the 18-year wait for justice.
Duwayne Brooks told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "For 18 years, I have endured harassment, victimisation, being blamed for the first prosecution failing, being brutalised and having false charges brought against me.
"To see two members of that gang being convicted – for me it was all worth it.
Stephen Lawrence's father says he has been able to dance for the first time in nearly 19 years since the murder of his son.
Neville Lawrence, reportedly an accomplished jazz, soul and blues dancer, said he had pledged never to dance again until somebody was "doing time" for the 1993 murder of his son.
He told ITV Daybreak that the convictions last week of Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, for the murder of 18-year-old Stephen had been a "watershed" moment for him.
"It is like you are underwater and holding your breath - when the verdict was read out, 'guilty', I could not even believe it, because we had been waiting for so long, it is almost 19 years," he said.
"Tears just started to roll out of my eyes - the relief.
"One of the things which I have done over the years is to make a promise to myself that I would never dance again until somebody was doing time for the murder of my son.
"This weekend I was able to dance for the first time in 18 years."

By taken from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9002758/David-Cameron-Britain-still-has-a-problem-with-racism.html

Swiss National Bank chairman Philipp Hildebrand resigns

The chairman of the Swiss National Bank (SNB), Philipp Hildebrand, has resigned with immediate effect.
It follows revelations his wife Kashya bought $504,000 (£323,024) in August, three weeks before the central bank intervened to cap the Swiss franc.
He told a news conference he had "no knowledge" of his wife's transaction, which she later made a profit on.
The SNB said last week that Mr Hildebrand's wife had broken no rules by making the currency trades.
According to an investigation carried out by accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on the bank's orders, Mrs Hildebrand bought $504,000 on 15 August because she wanted to have half of the family's assets in US dollars.
In early September, the central bank intervened to try to weaken the strong franc.


Central bank governors are the world's great unelected economic powers - setting interest rates, bossing banks, trying to curb inflation and maintain economic stability.
So they are supposed to be beyond reproach, never once thinking of their own wealth, only that of their respective nations.
That's is why it was so embarrassing for the Swiss central bank governor, Philipp Hildebrand, that his wife made a SFR 75,000 profit from buying dollars ahead of a decision by her husband to stem a rise in the Swiss currency.
He has quit - not because this former hedge fund manager was involved in the transaction, but because (he says) he can't prove beyond a shadow of doubt that he wasn't.
"The moment a governor gets the impression that he doesn't have full credibility anymore, he needs to resign," said Mr Hildebrand.
His departure will be seen as unfortunate by his British counterparts, because he was seen as one of their rare and important allies in international negotiations to strengthen banks.
That meant that four weeks later, when the family sold $516,000, converting it back into Swiss francs in order to buy a new property in Switzerland, they made a profit on the transaction. That was because the franc had fallen against the dollar in that time.
Speaking at a press conference in Berne, Mr Hildebrand said: "I have come to the conclusion it is not possible to provide conclusive and final evidence that my wife did initiate the transaction without my knowledge.
He added: "I would like to think I have been a damn good central banker.
"I personally advocated strongly and early for stricter capital requirements for the big banks," he added. "The policy of the central bank was a success in recent years."
The Swiss National Bank cleared Mr Hildebrand of any wrongdoing in a report in late December.
This report, which detailed his wife's dealings, was published last week as new allegations surfaced.
The Swiss weekly magazine Weltwoche alleges Mr Hildebrand personally authorised foreign exchange dealings using his personal account three weeks before, and three weeks after Switzerland introduced a currency cap.
The Swiss National Bank said it will continue to defend "with the utmost determination" the exchange rate floor of 1.20 francs a euro.
It added it "regretted the decision and the circumstances" that led to Mr Hildebrand to step down as chairman.
Tony Nyman, an analyst at Informa Global Markets, said Mr Hildebrand's position was "almost untenable and so it has proved".
"The Swiss franc has actually gained on the news possibly due to hopes of increased integrity ahead, but also market positioning too," he said.
"Once the news gets digested, we do not expect a lasting impact on the franc from the news, however."

taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16472416

Chief executive pay outstrips company performance

But there was no corresponding rise in the value of their companies, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), which carried out the analysis.
Total remuneration of chief executives increased by 33pc, while the average increase in company value was 24pc, the think tank said.
The figures are based on companies' individual year-end periods, which could have ended in December 2010 or March 2011.
The IPPR said reforms to tackle "excessive" boardroom pay should go beyond "shareholder activism".
The report comes as David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has pledged to crackdown on out-of-control salaries by granting shareholders the right to veto top pay and perks.
Nick Pearce, director of IPPR, said: "This new analysis confirms that boardroom pay is running far ahead of company performance in many of the UK's major businesses.
"Attempts to link pay to performance haven't worked well because it's hard for shareholders to monitor the performance of individual executives.
"Instead, pay deals for top earners have become increasingly complex as well as increasingly generous.
"Tackling excessive top pay should include steps to ensure that employees get a fairer share of rewards.
"To reflect the contribution that all employees make to company success, we should make sure that employee representatives sit on remuneration committees and that boards report to all staff annually on pay levels across the company."
However, hitting back at proposals from Mr Cameron, the Institute of Directors said allowing shareholders to reject a wage or bonus would create a litigious minefield that could also damage a company's ability to attract top-notch directors.
"It wouldn't be practical or a good idea after the remuneration committee had set pay, not only from a legal point of view but recruitment, too," a spokesman said.

By taken from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs/9001840/Chief-executive-pay-outstrips-company-performance.html

Picasso painting stolen from Greek gallery

A Picasso painting, given to the Athens National Gallery by the artist himself, was stolen on Monday along with two other valuable works of art.
Picasso's Woman's Head was given to Greece in 1949 in recognition of the country's resistance to Nazi Germany.
In a statement, police said a Mondrian painting and a sketch by Italian artist Guglielmo Caccia had also been stolen.
The heist took place shortly before 05:00 local time and took just seven minutes, police added.
The thief or thieves broke into the back of the gallery after forcing open a balcony door.
All three artworks were stripped from their frames.
A guard was alerted by a burglar alarm and caught sight of the silhouette of a person running from the building.
He ran after the thief, who dropped another painting - Mondrian's Landscape - as he made his escape.
Gallery refurbishment Police said the guard had been distracted by several alarms going off at various points in the building earlier in the evening. When he went to investigate, he found no-one in the gallery.
Guglielmo Caccia's St Diego de Alcala Caccia is also known by another name, Il Moncalvo
The police added that the theft occurred on the final day of an exhibition called Unknown Treasures, which included works by German artist Albrecht Duerer and Rembrandt.
Picasso's Woman's Head is a Cubist bust created by the artist in 1939; The Mondrian work dates from 1905 and is an oil painting of a riverside windmill; Caccia's religious scene of St Diego de Alcala is a pen and ink drawing.
Museum officials have not yet determined the worth of the stolen artwork, but closed the gallery on Monday as a result of the break-in.
It was already scheduled to to close for expansion and refurbishment work following the end of the Unknown Treasures exhibition.
It has a large permanent collection of post-Byzantine Greek art, as well as a small collection of Renaissance works and some El Greco paintings.

taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-16470459

Cameron denies 'dictating' terms of Scottish referendum

David Cameron has denied trying to "dictate" the terms of a Scottish referendum and has said the country's future must be decided by its people.
It is understood Downing Street may set a time limit for any binding vote, and insist it be a straight choice between leaving or remaining part of the UK.
Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused Westminster of "trying to interfere in Scottish democracy".
But David Cameron said he wanted the vote to be "legal, fair and decisive".
The Scottish National Party has pledged to hold a referendum in the latter half of its term, with 2014 thought to be the preferred date.
'Moral force' The UK government is expected to say that Scotland can hold a referendum on any subject it chooses but the result would only have advisory status.

Start Quote

Were Scots to back independence, this would mark the beginning and not the end of a long, tortuous process of negotiation between the Scottish and Westminster governments ”
End Quote
It is expected to confirm that Westminster could give it the backing to hold a binding vote - but conditions are likely to be attached.
BBC political editor Nick Robinson said Westminster could formally lend Holyrood the legal power to set their own referendum conditions but such a move would usually come with a "sunset clause" attached - a time limit within which the extra power must be used.
It could also rule out a third choice in any vote - for greater powers to be devolved to Scotland without full independence - which Mr Cameron fears could split the unionist vote.
'Legal and decisive' Following Monday's cabinet meeting, the prime minister's spokesman said the 1998 Scotland Act, which brought about devolution, made clear that constitutional issues were reserved for Westminster.
"Clearly, a number of independent commentators and legal experts have highlighted the fact that a referendum Bill passed by the Scottish Parliament could be open to legal challenge," he added.
Mr Cameron told Sky News he wanted to resolve that "legal uncertainty" and wanted to work with the Scottish government to give the people of Scotland the option of "a fair and more decisive question", put earlier rather than later.
David Cameron: "I strongly support the United Kingdom"
"But we're not going to dictate this, this is something we want to resolve, the legal position," he added.
But Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused Mr Cameron of "a blatant attempt to interfere" in a decision that should be for the Scottish government and Scottish people.
"It's the attachment of conditions that gives the game away - this is Westminster trying to interfere," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"Perhaps I should be relaxed about that because the more a Tory government tries to interfere in Scottish democracy then I suspect the greater the support for independence will be, but there is a key issue of democratic principle here.
"The SNP was elected on a clear prospectus and it's right that now that we have the mandate we can proceed on that basis."
'Absurd' In its 2011 manifesto the party did not suggest a date for a referendum, stating simply that it would bring forward its Referendum Bill "in this next Parliament".

Start Quote

It's necessary for the people of Scotland to be given the opportunity to decide their constitutional future sooner rather than later”
End Quote Johann Lamont Scottish Labour leader
But Ms Sturgeon said Mr Salmond had made it "abundantly clear that our position was to have a referendum in the second half of the parliamentary term" during the 2011 election campaign.
She called the idea of a sunset clause "absurd" and said referendums in the UK were always "consultative and advisory" so talk of a binding vote was unnecessary.
She also said the SNP would prefer a straight yes/no referendum, but there was "a significant body of opinion" in Scotland which was in favour of financial independence, but not full political independence.
The Scottish government's website states that, even if a non-binding referendum was held: "The moral and political force of a vote for independence would be enormous, and impossible for a future government to ignore. A negative vote would similarly have a political consequence."
'Resentment' But Conservative peer Lord Forsyth, a former Scottish secretary, said the SNP had not set a firm date for a referendum because they knew the majority of people were currently opposed to full independence and "they are afraid they will lose it".
"They want to spend the next two or three years creating resentment on both sides of the border," he told BBC Radio 4's World At One.
"It is quite extraordinary that the party which stands for independence for Scotland won't take yes for an answer from David Cameron when he says the Scottish people can decide".
Chancellor George Osborne led discussions on Scotland at Monday's cabinet meeting and set out his concerns about the impact of uncertainty over a referendum on Scotland's economy. The PM's spokesman said both Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne had been told in private by business leaders that uncertainty was deterring inward investment.
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont told the BBC she agreed with the prime minister that a vote should take place "as soon as possible" on "a clear question".
"It's necessary for the people of Scotland to be given the opportunity to decide their constitutional future sooner rather than later in order that the uncertainty around the economy, around business and all the rest of it is addressed," she said.

taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-16463961

Antony Worrall Thompson 'sorry' for Tesco shoplifting

TV chef Antony Worrall Thompson said he has "let down" his family after being cautioned by police for shoplifting and said he will "seek treatment".
Police arrested the 60-year-old at the Tesco store in Reading Road, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, on Friday.
Worrall Thompson, from High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, was questioned and given a formal caution.
He apologised for his "stupid and irresponsible actions" and said he hoped he could "make amends".
'Low value goods' In a statement, he added: "I am of course devastated for my family and friends, whom I've let down and will seek the treatment that is clearly needed.
"I am not the first, and I certainly won't be the last person to do something without rhyme or reason - what went through my head, only time will tell.

Start Quote

Hopefully in the future I can make amends”
End Quote Antony Worrall Thompson
"Of course, I must also apologise sincerely to Tesco, with whom [I've] had a long and genuine working relationship, and to all the staff at the Henley branch, many of whom I've got to know over the years.
"I am so sorry for all my recent stupid and irresponsible actions.
"Hopefully in the future I can make amends."
A police spokesman said the incident involved "low value goods".
Ready, Steady, Cook Tesco declined to comment, describing it as a "police matter".
In a statement, police added: "Thames Valley Police arrested a 60-year-old man from High Wycombe following a report of shoplifting offences.
"The man has been issued with a formal caution for these offences."
The chef has appeared on shows including the BBC's Ready, Steady, Cook and ITV's Daily Cooks Challenge.
He opened his first restaurant in London in 1981.
In 2009, he had to close four of his restaurants because of an "unexpected but decisive fall in revenue across the businesses from September 2008".

taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-16465934

More sex please we're Christians

An evangelical pastor and his wife will spend 24 hours in bed on the roof of his church in Texas this week in an effort to underline the importance of regular sex between married Christian couples.
Ed Young, who leads the Fellowship megachurch in Grapevine, near Dallas, will not be practising what he preaches during the event, which will be streamed live on his website.
Instead he and his wife, Lisa, will be "doing interviews, answering relationship questions and teaching about God's purpose for intimacy in marriage", he said.
Young's book Sexperiment poses a "seven-day sex challenge" for married couples. After having sex every day for a full week, he advises, couples will be able to "experience the power of marriage done God's way".
Young, whose other books include The Ten Commandments of Marriage and Rating Your Dating While Waiting for Mating, first called for his flock to systematically reinvigorate their sex lives several years ago, and has developed his programme into a self-help guide.
On Young's site one commenter, Cori, said: "Good on pastor Ed Young for talking about this in the church – for too long we've been embarrassed to talk about sex, and the devil has had a field day – time for the Christians to take back what belongs to us!"
Lisa Young, who co-authored the book with her husband, told CNN: "For far too long the church has been silent about a subject God was not silent about. He certainly is the author and creator of sex, so why would we not, in the context of church, speak about something that he was not bashful about?
"We believe very strongly that the family unit is the number one place to talk about sex and the church is the second best place to talk about sex."
Young's stance on sex applies inside heterosexual marriage, which he describes as "the only relationship on planet Earth that's analogous to God's relationship to his people". He has in the past made his opposition to gay unions clear: in 2007 he wrote that "to allow gay marriage means to redefine marriage as it has been in the social structure of humankind since the very creation of man and woman".
Recent estimates of the Fellowship church's size put its congregation at about 20,000. Young is the son of Homer Edwin Young, leader of Second Baptist Houston, one of the 10 biggest churches in the US.

by taken from http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/jan/09/texas-pastor-church-rooftop-bedin

Snoop Dogg to W.H.: Legalize pot

Lots of celebrities want to meet the president and they often come with their own pet requests: Sign this or that, take a picture with my kid, how can I steal a hand towel from a White House bathroom?
But Snoop Dogg wants something different. The rapper (real name: Calvin Broadus) has been a longtime advocate for the legalization of marijuana (and a frequent user of it) and spoke to Hot 99.5’s Toby Knapp about the subject and how he might convince President Barack Obama to support a change in the country’s drug laws.
“Before I even said ‘Hi’ to President Obama, I would change the aroma of the room.…And then we could start conversing after we had that aroma change. You know what I’m talking about?” (transcript via Jezebel).
Snoop also proposed to have rapper Wiz Khalifa do the same, adding, “They legalized alcohol, they legalized tobacco. What is it gonna hurt to legalize this medicinal, medical marijuana that’s used for purposes of cataracts?”
Obama is opposed to the legalization of marijuana.

By PATRICK GAVIN  taken from http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0112/71224.html#ixzz1iynBfEm9

Old Penny Sells For $1.38 Million

As Benjamin Franklin once wrote ‘A penny saved is a penny earned’.
In Orlando on Saturday an old penny saved was sold for $1.38 million.
The one-cent copper coin was made at the Mint in Philadelphia in 1793, the first year that the U.S. made its own coins. James Halperin of Texas-based Heritage Auctions said the sale was “the most a United States copper coin has ever sold for at auction.”
Heritage officials said in a news release that the name of the buyer was not revealed but that he was “a major collector.” One of the coin’s earliest owners was a well-known Baltimore banker, Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.
“Mr. Eliasberg was nicknamed, ‘the king of coins’ because before his death in 1976 he assembled a collection that consisted of at least one example of every coin ever made at the United States Mint, a feat never duplicated,” Halperin said.
The final bid for the coin last week was one of the largest sales at the Florida United Numismatists coin show and annual convention. Halperin said a five-dollar gold piece from 1829 also was sold.
Halperin said there remain a few hundred 1793 coins in different condition, but that the one auctioned off is rare because it wasn’t in circulation.
Officials say it shows no wear on its lettering, on its Lady Liberty face or on the chain of linking rings on its back.
The coin is known as a “Chain Cent” because its chain of linking rings was supposed to represent the solidarity of the states. The design was changed to a wreath after some critics claimed it was symbolic of slavery.

taken from http://miami.cbslocal.com/2012/01/08/old-penny-sells-for-1-38-million/

How NASA kept astronauts from swearing on the Moon

In the 1960s, NASA's astronauts were the cool, calm, and collected faces of the space program who represented American values - most were married and had some sort of religious affiliation. NASA's public affair office took great pains to keep its astronauts' images clean, but they were still men who occasionally cursed when faced with a bad situation. As NASA gathered steam and took a firm place in the public eye, the organization had a job covering up some of the less radio- and family-friendly transmissions.
Every so often, astronauts forgot that their every word was broadcast live throughout the world. Some slip-ups, like Tom Stafford's on Apollo 10, were easier to cover.
How NASA kept astronauts from swearing on the MoonFour days, four hours, and forty-four minutes after launch, Commander Stafford and Lunar Module Pilot Gene Cernan were taking the LM Snoopy to a low lunar orbit; Command Module pilot John Young remained in the CM Charlie Brown. As Snoopy passed over the lunar surface, Stafford and Cernan took pictures of surface features to give future crews a better idea of the terrain they'd be facing when coming in for a landing. (Image: Tom Stafford poses with his LM's namesake, Snoopy. 1969.)
At one point, Stafford recognized a landmark crater, Censorinus A. He was momentarily distracted by the dramatic shadows and giant boulders surrounding the crater. "I've got Censorinus A right here," he said out loud to the world, "bigger than shit!"
How NASA kept astronauts from swearing on the MoonA shocked reporter listening to the transmission in mission control turned to astronaut Jack Schmitt. "What did Colonel Stafford just say?" Thinking quickly, Schmitt covered for his colleague and replied "He said, ‘Oh, there's Censorinus… bigger than Schmitt!'"
Stafford's was an isolated incident, but some astronauts were harder to censor. One in particular had the unfortunate habit of filling space when his mind wandered with profanities. This posed a problem for NASA - with the world watching astronauts walking around the lunar surface, how could the organization be sure the his transmissions from the Moon would be family-friendly? (Image: Al Bean, Apollo 12 LMP, on the Moon. 1969.)
How NASA kept astronauts from swearing on the MoonIn preparing for his mission, NASA had the astronaut hypnotized. Rather than curse, a psychiatrist put the idea in his head that he would rather hum when his mind wandered. The hypnotized astronaut is rarely named, but only one man can be heard humming as he skipps across the lunar surface. Transmissions from Commander Pete Conrad are punctuated with "dum de dum dum dum" and "dum do do do, do do" making him the likliest candidate. (Image: Pete Conrad visits samples he returned from the Moon.)
Suggested Reading:
Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox. Apollo. 2004.
Tom Stafford and Michael Cassutt. We Have Capture. 2004.

By Amy Shira Teitel taken from http://io9.com/5873762/how-nasa-kept-astronauts-from-swearing-on-the-moon

Stem cells reverse aging in mice

Scientists may one day slow down aging with a simple injection of youthful stem cells. They’ve just proven this can be done in mice, according to a study published Tuesday in Nature Communications.
The mice, which had been engineered to mimic a human disease called progeria, would normally have grown old when they were quite young.  But that changed when researchers injected muscle stem cells from healthy young mice into the bellies of the quickly aging mice. Within days, the doddering and frail mice began to act like they were living the storyline of “The Strange Case of Benjamin Button” as they started looking and acting younger.
“It was mind boggling,” said study co-author Johnny Huard, a professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “When I saw them I thought, ‘Oh my God, I must have made a mistake and put the normal mice in the wrong cage.’ But they were indeed the mice we’d injected with the stem cells.”
Normal mice live about two years, Hoard explained. But mice with progeria age very quickly and die by the time they are 21 days old.  Somehow the muscle stem-cells from the younger mice managed to reverse that premature aging process – at least temporarily.
The stem-cell injected mice didn’t live as long as normal mice, but they did survive about three times as long as would have without the treatment. Huard suspects if he re-injected the mice they would live even longer.
Huard and his colleagues aren’t exactly sure what’s happening, but they’ve got some theories. Scientists have discovered that we grow frail when our stem cells age and lose the ability to self-repair. These “tired stem cells” divide slowly, Huard explained.
He and his colleagues suspect the same thing happens, just more quickly, in mice and people with progeria.
“People with progeria look like they are in their 80s when they are 20 years old,” Huard said. “Their skin looks very wrinkled and old when they are very young.”
One of the biggest surprises for Huard and his colleagues was the impact on the brain from  muscle stem cells injected into the belly. Even though the cells didn’t get to the brain, they still improved its health.
“The number of blood vessels in the brains of progeria mice are significantly reduced,” Huard said. “But when you inject stem cells from a normal mouse into the belly of the progeria mouse, the number of blood vessels increases.”
That means that the normal stem cells must be releasing some kind of protein that spurs the growth of healthy cells, Huard said.
Huard can the big implications of his research.
“There’s a lot of money being spent in the world trying to delay aging,” he said. “It would be fantastic if we can apply this to human beings. It’s a very simple approach.”
Huard can’t say how far in the future this might be, but his group has been using muscle stem cells to repair damaged hearts, bones, and cartilage.
One day it might be standard for people to stash away stem cells when they are young so they can use this fountain of youth elixir when they start aging, he said.

By Linda Carroll taken from http://vitals.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/01/03/9917514-real-benjamin-button-stem-cells-reverse-aging-in-mice

NASA looks at using microbes to power up space robots

Today's robotic space missions take careful steps to avoid carrying tiny bacterial life from Earth that could contaminate the surface of Mars or other planets. That may all change if a NASA-funded effort can harness microbes as an almost endless power source for the next generation of robotic explorers.
Such microbial fuel cells could power space robots almost indefinitely, as long as their bacteria have the tiny amounts of food needed to stay alive and create electricity through their chemical reactions. That would offer an alternative to space missions that rely upon either nuclear or solar power for their batteries — NASA's Spirit Mars rover was officially declared dead last May after the Red Planet's harsh winter deprived it of sunlight for its solar panels.
"Whether you're looking at satellites or planetary explorers, to have a power system that's not reliant on the sun of the solar system, day or night cycles, and hazardous materials such as nuclear or other harsh chemicals, means you really open a lot of doors for expanding the duration of scientific missions," said Gregory Scott, a space robotics engineer at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.
Naval Research Laboratory
An electron microscope image of the microbe, Geobacter sulfurreducens, the core of the microbial fuel cell-based system.
The microbial fuel cells won't power huge robots such as NASA's car-size Curiosity rover in the near future, even if the experimental technology might eventually scale up to do so. Instead, they would trickle small amounts of electricity that can slowly charge a battery until enough energy exists to power a scientific instrument or move a tiny robot.
That process could ideally keep almost any small space mission going for as long as necessary.
"Given the fact that they are living organisms, they have a really long shelf life," Scott told InnovationNewsDaily. "The bacterial colony will live as long as you give it food — in our case, sugar — or one of the other biomass fuels we're looking into. The colony will be able to survive pretty much indefinitely."
Scott and his colleagues hope to make a prototype robot powered by microbes and weighing just over 2 pounds (1 kg) within the next 10 years. Their first year of funding comes from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program.
But shrinking down microbial fuel cells — some prototypes weigh 35 pounds (16 kg) on the small side — to something that fits on a 2-pound robot will take years of work. The researchers must also figure out how to boost the small energy outputs of such microbial fuel cells even as they shrink the overall size and weight.
Another challenge comes from making even lower-power electronics for the next generation of tiny space robots or rovers. Such electronics must use very little or even no power in some periods to survive on the electricity supplied by microbial fuel cells.
The researchers also want to figure out a simple, reliable way for their tiny robot or rover to move about. One of their leading ideas involves a spring-loaded hopping system.
Once a working prototype robot has been built, researchers would begin to consider the challenges of sending microbes on missions headed for deep space, asteroids or distant planets — including the question of protecting extraterrestrial surfaces from contamination. Their current microbes consist of Geobacter sulfurreducens, a bacterium that does not require oxygen.
"There are planetary protection concerns, as well as concerns about protecting the microbes themselves from radiation," Scott said. "Sometime down the road we also have to consider whether the microbes we're looking at are most effective for radiation environments or extreme temperatures."

By http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45902844/ns/technology_and_science-innovation/#.TwrJa5jOGiY

Japan to open robot farm in tsunami disaster zone

The project, masterminded by the Ministry of Agriculture, will involve unmanned tractors working the fields of the farm on a disaster zone site spanning 600 acres.
Robots will then box produce grown on the farm, including rice, wheat, soybeans, fruit and vegetables as part of the “Dream Project” scheme, according to the Nikkei.
The growth of crops will also be boosted by recycled carbon dioxide generated by the operation of the machinery in a bid to reduce reliance on chemical fertilisers.
An expanse of farmland in Miyagi prefecture, northeast Japan, which was flooded in last year’s tsunami, has been earmarked by the government for the project.
On-site research is expected to begin later this year, with a forecast government investment of £33 million (four billion yen) over the next six years, according to ministry officials.
Miyagi was one of Japan’s three worst hit prefectures in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which left more than 19,000 dead or missing and triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis in decades.
Farming was hit particularly hard by the disaster, with tsunami water leaving soil laden with salt and oil deposits, as well as radiation contamination as a result of the leaking Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
More than 59,000 acres of once fertile farmland were damaged as a result of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear fallout, with the agricultural industry still struggling to recover.
The government is hoping to bolster the new robot farm project by inviting leading Japanese technology companies, including Panasonic, Fujitsu and Hitachi, to become involved.
"We hope the project will help not only support farmers in the disaster-hit regions but also revive the entire nation's agriculture," said a spokesman for the agriculture ministry.

By http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/8996505/Japan-to-open-robot-farm-in-tsunami-disaster-zone.html

Saudi father puts son up for sale on Facebook

A Saudi man reportedly put his son up for sale on Facebook. The asking price? $20 million.
Qatar’s Al-Sharq (Arabic) newspaper reported Wednesday that Saud bin Nahr al Shahry, 35, fell on hard times after his business was closed down by Saudi authorities.
He opted to sell the boy, whose age was not given but who looked quite young in this photo, to save his wife and daughter from inevitable poverty, he said.
Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product was $622 billion in 2010, according to the CIA World Factbook. It possesses roughly 20 percent of the world’s oil reserves.
But as one Egyptian blogger who posted the story on Twitter said: "not all Saudis bleed oil."

by taken from http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/the-casbah/saudi-father-puts-son-sale-facebook