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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

WikiLeaks supporter David House lashes out against Julian Assange


Julian Assange has lost another of his dwindling band of loyal supporters. David House, one of very few people to have met both Assange and the WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning, has denounced the WikiLeaks founder in a blaze of excoriating tweets.
House, a computer scientist based at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, launched his attack on Assange out of the blue on Tuesday morning from his twitter account @VoxVictoria:
 David House@VoxVictoria
As long as #WikiLeaks remains icon of the Open Government movement, the antics of Assange will continue to reflect negatively on us all.
31 Jul 12 ReplyRetweetFavorite
The Twitter attack from House continued with a comment that as long as WikiLeaks is controlled by Assange, the shortcomings of his leadership would "continue to put WikiLeaks' supporters at risk". The implicit reference to Manning – the US soldier facing 22 charges as the alleged source of the massive WikiLeaks publication of state secrets – was made explicit in House's next tweet:
 David House@VoxVictoria
The alleged actions of Bradley Manning have not been edified by the missteps of #WikiLeaks under the direction of Julian Assange.
31 Jul 12 ReplyRetweetFavorite
House's criticisms come two days after WikiLeaks claimed credit for a hoax article under the name former New York Times editor Bill Keller which was circulated widely on the internet. The organisation's involvement in the hoax drew criticism that it had undermined its credibility for a publicity stunt.
House's decision to publicly call for Assange's removal is significant because until now he has been assumed to be a firm supporter of the Wikileaks founder. He took a defiant stance after he was called before a grand jury in Virginia investigating the possibility of bringing criminal charges against Assange for the WikiLeaks publication of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and hundreds of thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables.
Not only did House refuse to answer any questions in front of the grand jury, pleading the Fifth Amendment, he recently took the legally risky step of publishing his notes of the proceedings – a rare breach of grand jury secrecy.
House used to be one of the few people allowed to visit Bradley Manning in more than two years in military custody. House is still regularly referred to as a "close friend of Manning". However, Manning cut him off from his small list of approved visitors several months ago, for unknown reasons, and the description is no longer appropriate.
It is true, though, that House has the distinction of being in a very select – perhaps even unique – class of having met both Manning and Assange. Apart from his visits to Manning, he also met Assange in London on a few occasions. These meetings took place after Manning was arrested in May 2010.
Assange remains in sanctuary in the Ecuadorean embassy in London seeking to avoid extradition on sexual misconduct allegations to Sweden. His inner circle of supporters and WikiLeaks staff has already withered to about five or six people.
House describes himself as an "open-government advocate and information economics researcher with the MIT Center for Digital Business".
In his tweets on Tuesday House encouraged his followers to donate to the Bradley Manning defense fund and accused Assange of deviating from the core values he held for what he called "open government whistleblowers and activists":
 David House@VoxVictoria
Assange deviated from these core values. Either he must be replaced at #WikiLeaks, or WikiLeaks must be displaced within OpenGov movement.
31 Jul 12 ReplyRetweetFavorite
House declined to comment to the Guardian.
His Twitter onslaught provoked a robust response from several people who still see Assange as a free information hero. Typical was the tweet from Elizabeth Ferrari: "Attacking Assange is counter-productive to the defense of all whistleblowers being persecuted by the American gov."

Tony Blair's Iraq meetings to remain secret after government veto


The government has vetoed an order by the independent freedom of information watchdog to release the minutes of cabinet meetings held immediately before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

The decision was announced on Tuesday by Dominic Grieve, the attorney general, the only minister to have access to papers of a previous administration, in this case Tony Blair's Labour government.
Grieve said he issued a certificate under the Freedom of Information Act vetoing disclosure after consulting former Labour ministers, his cabinet colleagues, and the leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband.
He described the case as "exceptional" and one where, in his view, the public interest demanded the papers should be kept secret. He says he took into account "serious potential prejudice to the maintenance of effective cabinet government".
The attorney said he also considered the fact that "the issue discussed was exceptionally serious, being a decision to commit British service personnel to an armed conflict situation", that the issue "remains the focus of both domestic and international interest", and that "Iraq remains very much a live political issue in its own right" with links to the "overall security situation in the Middle East and the perceived link between the terror threat to the UK and military action in Iraq".
Grieve noted that most of those present at the cabinet meetings in March 2003 were still MPs or "otherwise active in public life".
Christopher Graham, the information commissioner, had argued that the "exceptional gravity and controversy" of the matters discussed meant that minutes of the cabinet meetings on 13 and 17 March 2003, days before the invasion, should be disclosed.
One of the reasons Grieve gave for vetoing disclosure was that the Chilcot inquiry meant the invasion of Iraq was still a "live" issue. Yet the panel chaired by Sir John Chilcot is being prevented by Whitehall mandarins from disclosing key documents relating to the decision to invade Iraq.
The March 2003 cabinet minutes are believed to be among them. The continuing dispute between Chilcot and Whitehall officials over disclosure is a main reason why his report has been delayed.
In a separate move last week, the Foreign Office appealed against a judge's ruling that extracts of a conversation between Blair and George Bush days before the invasion of Iraq must be disclosed. It argued that revealing Blair's comments to Bush on the telephone on 12 March 2003 would present a "significant danger" to UK-US relations.
A spokesperson for the information commissioner said on Tuesday that Graham was disappointed that a ministerial veto had been used "to override his recent decision notice concerning the minutes of two cabinet meetings held immediately prior to the commencement of military action in Iraq in 2003".
Grieve was asked through Freedom of Information Act requests to overturn a decision in 2009 by Jack Straw, then justice minister, to suppress the cabinet minutes. Straw vetoed disclosure on the grounds that in cabinet meetings "dialogue must be fearless" and "cabinet decision-making could increasingly be driven into more informal channels with attendant dangers of lack of rigour, lack of proper accountability, and lack of proper recording of decisions".
However, the Chilcot inquiry has heard evidence from former Labour cabinet ministers, senior Whitehall officials and law officers, that the Blair government took decisions – including those relating to the invasion of Iraq – without informing the cabinet and without taking a proper record of decisions.
The earlier Butler inquiry into the use of intelligence on Iraq strongly criticised the Blair government's decision-making procedures in its report published in July 2004

USA storm to Olympic gold in women's artistic gymnastics in 2012


The heavily favoured US women's gymnastics team vaulted to gold in the all-around competition at the London Olympics Tuesday, to claim their first team win since 1996.
Team USA immediately took the lead on an explosive vault performance by McKayla Maroney and never looked back. When the chalk dust had cleared, the team had posted a score of 183.596, well in front of second-place finisher Russia with 178.530 and third-place Romania with 176.414.
Defending champion China faltered early when gymnast Deng Lin fell from the balance beam. The team placed fourth with an overall score of 174.430.
American Jordyn Wieber, the favourite to win the individual all-around competition before she missed qualifying Sunday, won redemption with consistent performances on every apparatus. Both Wieber and teammate Gabby Douglas turned in a 15.933 on the vault, to bolster Maroney's astonishing 16.233.
If the individual American gymnasts suffered points of weakness, none of them surfaced in the all-around. Kyla Ross's sure-footed work on the balance beam and spot-on dismount secured an applause-worthy 15.133. Then Douglas, not known for her beam work, scored a 15.233.
The Americans proved to be flawless where the competition faltered. Russia's hopes for a late-stage boost in floor exercises were disappointed when Anastasia Grishina stopped mid-routine. She left the mat, head bowed, to be consoled by her coaches, with a lackluster score of 12.466.
Last to compete for the Americans was Aly Raisman in the floor exercises. Her team was already solidly in the lead, following a crushing 15.066 from Douglas and a 15.000 from Wieber.
Raisman needed to score just better than 10 to bring home the gold for team USA. She scored just better than 15.

Now U.S. incomes rise, another side spending lull hurts economy


Although Americans' wages are up slightly, they're keeping  tight hold on their wallets, according to new federal data.
That's a mixed bag for the U.S. economy, providing the fuel for future consumer spending without doing much in the short-term to boost sluggish growth and reduce the nation's stubbornly high unemployment rate.
Personal income increased by $61.8 billion, or 0.5 percent from May to June, while income after social insurance and income taxes rose 0.3 percent, the U.S. Commerce Department reported today. That was the sharpest increase in income in the past three months.
Yet that increase in wages is not propelling a hike in spending. Personal expenditures fell $1.3 billion in June, or 0.1 percent, compared with the previous month. In a statement, Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank acknowledged that these economic concerns, such as the ongoing financial crisis in Europe, is damping consumer spending and restraining economic growth.
"Today's release shows that personal income grew by 3.5 percent over the past year, and that it has increased 30 out of the past 34 months," she said. "Most of these gains have come from increases in private-sector wages, which rose 4.2 percent. However, personal income growth continues to be weighed down by several factors, including flat growth in income from government employment. Further, our economy continues to face other headwinds, including the economic turmoil in Europe."
Consumer spending flat, while incomes rise 0.5 percent
GDP report: Numbers suggest a long economic slog lies ahead
How will the Fed react to the GDP report?
Consumer spending drives two-thirds of U.S. economic growth, so the economy tends to stall when personal consumption shrinks. With people pulling back on their purchases of groceries, electronics, and other goods, companies tend to cut down on production and put off hiring. Until economic demand rises significantly, unemployment is likely to remain relatively high.
Savings rates are also at their highest rate in a year, a sign that many Americans remain anxious about the economy and their future prospects. Yet putting more money away now could put Americans in a better position to spend if the economy improves later this year.
"The drop in consumer spending fits with this slowdown theme that we have experienced in the second quarter of this year," said Gary Schlossberg, senior economist with Wells Capital Management in San Francisco. "But there are a couple of silver linings. We saw a pretty good increase in income, and the savings rate moved back up. That gives consumers some dry powder to start spending again later in the year."
Households are now in the best financial shape they've been in years, with the lowest debt payments since 1993, Schlossberg said. There's also significant pent-up demand for a variety of goods and services that Americans have withheld from buying over the past five years as they tried to shed debt and rebuild their personal finances.
Of course, economics is always a balancing act between short- and long-term needs. "It's a double-edged sword," Schlossberg said. "You want to see incomes rising and savings rising so households are in a better position. On the other hand, if no one is spending, the economy is not going to recover."

Humanitarian crisis in Syrian city of Aleppo


Humanitarian conditions have grown even more dire in the besieged Syria city of Aleppo with activists reporting dwindling stocks of food and cooking gas and only intermittent electricity supplies as droves of residents flee 11 days of intense clashes between rebels and regime forces.
Government helicopters on Tuesday pounded rebel neighbourhoods across Syria's largest city and main commercial hub. Activists said the random shelling has forced many civilians to flee to other neighbourhoods or even escape the city altogether. The United Nations said late Sunday that about 200,000 had fled the city of about three million.
"The humanitarian situation here is very bad," Mohammed Saeed, an activist living in the city, told The Associated Press by Skype. "There is not enough food and people are trying to leave. We really need support from the outside. There is random shelling against civilians," he added. "The city has pretty much run out of cooking gas, so people are cooking on open flames or with electricity, which cuts out a lot."
He said shells were falling on the southwestern neighbourhoods of Salaheddine and Seif al-Dawla, rebel strongholds since the rebel Free Syrian Army began its assault on Aleppo 11 days ago.
The UN has expressed concern over the use of heavy weapons, especially in Aleppo, while Syria's neighbours in the Arab League have issued even stronger denunciations.
"The massacres that are happening in Aleppo and other places in Syria amount to war crimes that are punishable under international law," Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby said following a meeting in Cairo at the League's headquarters.
The official Syrian news agency said government forces were pursuing the "remnants of armed terrorist groups" in Salaheddine and inflicting heavy losses. President Bashar al-Assad's authoritarian regime regularly refers to opposition fighters as terrorists.
But the rebels denied that the government has succeeded in penetrating the neighbourhood with its tanks.
Tanks captured by rebels
Rebels have captured a number of government tanks in operations against army positions outside the city, including the town of al-Bab and the village of Anand. Saeed said they planned to use them in future operations.
The taking of Anand has also opened the road to the Turkish border, where the rebels get many of their supplies and manpower. It also the main escape route for refugees streaming out of Aleppo.
Many of those who have fled may be taking refuge with relatives in the countryside, remaining inside Syria.
According Turkish prime minister's office, there are some 44,000 Syrian refugees being sheltered in tent cities and temporary housing in camps along the border. While Turkish authorities say they have yet to see a massive upsurge in refugees from Aleppo, they are prepared to house up to 100,000.
Jordan, for its part, has also begun building a tent camp to house refugees along the border — something it was initially reluctant to do for fear of embarrassing Syria by calling attention to its refugee problem. But with 142,000 Syrians having already fled across the border, according to the Jordanian government, they needed to create the facilities to house them all. Jordan said this week that up to 2,000 new refugees are arriving daily.
While there had initially been speculation that Assad's regime might be in serious danger from the rebels, especially after a bomb killed four top security officials in Damascus on July 18, the core of the army has remained intact and the fight looks set to be prolonged.
A high-ranking Western diplomat familiar with the intelligence assessments on Syria said most expected the civil war to be a drawn-out affair.
There is also a great deal of concern in the West over the flow of foreign militants into Syria to fight a jihad, or holy war, against Assad's regime, said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss such matters.
Militants from Chechnya, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have been joining the rebels in significant numbers entering by way of Iraq and Lebanon and bringing along skills gleaned from battling the Americans and Russians, the diplomat added.
Syria has long branded the opposition as being foreign-funded "terrorist mercenaries" even when the anti-government movement was overwhelmingly peaceful and Syrian. Now, however, it appears that elements involved in militant jihads are increasingly joining the fight.
In the past month, the rebels have demonstrated greater capabilities and have mounted the biggest challenges to the regime so far in the 17-month-old uprising. They have been fielding more effective forces with better weaponry.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have both expressed a willingness to fund the rebellion and are believed to be sending money to rebels to purchase weapons. On Tuesday, the official Saudi Press Agency said a weeklong national campaign to support "our brothers in Syria" had collected $117 million in cash donations to outfit relief convoys for Syrian refugees.

Gunmen attack Yemen interior ministry


At least eight policemen have been killed and about 30 others injured after clashes erupted around the Yemeni interior ministry in the capital Sanaa, security officials have said.
The clashes took place between gunmen who are supporters of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the police guarding the ministry on Tuesday.
The gunmen, who had previously worked unofficially in the police department, had been surrounding the ministry's headquarters in the al-Hasaba district since Sunday, demanding that they be enrolled into the country's police force.
The exchange of fire using automatic rifles was heard intermittently throughout the morning, witnesses said.
The gunmen had served in the police when it had been led by Mohammad Abdullah al-Qawsi during the rule of former president Saleh, security sources told the AFP news agency.
Qawsi had promised to recruit them officially before President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi sacked him in May.
The assault on Tuseday was the second attempt to take control of the building. The gunmen had originally observed a sit-in, before setting two-day ultimatum for their demands to be met on Sunday.
They demanded that they be paid compensation and be employed officially in the police department.
Based on the agreement that saw Saleh replaced as president by Hadi, after a popular uprising against the former leader, the current president is obliged to restructure the military and security forces.

China swimmer defends by Olympic committee


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has defended China's teenage swim sensation Ye Shiwen, saying she passed a drug test after her world record win in the 400 medley.
Mark Adams, an IOC spokesman, urged people on Tuesday to "get real" and said it is "very sad" if great performances cannot be applauded.
"These are world class athletes competing at the very highest level with records being broken all over the place," Adams said.
Ye took at least five seconds off her personal best to break the world record by more than a second and win the gold medal on Saturday.
She swam the last 50m faster than the winner of the men's event, in a performance described by the US swimming coach as "unbelievable" and "disturbing".
John Leonard, who is also executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, told The Guardian newspaper: "History in our sport will tell you that every time we see something, and I will put quotation marks around this, unbelievable, history shows us that it turns out later on there was doping involved."
At a news conference on Tuesday, Lord Colin Moynihan, the British Olympic Association's chairman, said: "She's [Ye] been through WADA's (World Anti-Doping Agency) programme and she's clean.
"That's the end of the story. Ye Shiwen deserves recognition for her talent."
Defended online
Thousands of Chinese fans went online to defend Ye.
User JonJon wrote on Sina Weibo, China's biggest micro-blogging website: "The English media are just too short-sighted and narrow-minded.
"As a country who are famous for their spirit of gentlemen, they are not very gentlemen-like on this case. What a hypocritical country! Go Ye Shiwen, you are the best."
Later on Tuesday, user freda02024 posted: "Why is no one questioning say when [Michael] Phelps won 8 gold? Why bully a young Chinese girl?"
User cici_dongli added: "This questioning of Ye Shiwen is just pure jealousy. This is not Olympic spirit at all, it will not help [the] UK to progress."
The Chinese anti-doping agency has said that Chinese athletes have undergone nearly 100 drugs tests since arriving in London, and that not a single Chinese athlete had tested positive.
During the 1990s almost a dozen of their swimmers were banned for using performance enhancing drugs.
Seven swimmers tested positive for drugs in the 1994 Asian Games, and four years later four Chinese swimmers failed pre-tournament drug tests before swimming world championships in Australia.

In Baghdad Deadly twin car bombings strike


Twin car bombings in the Iraqi capital Baghdad have claimed 13 lives, and left at least 47 people injured, officials have said.
The first explosion on Tuesday occured when a suicide car bomb exploded at the emergency police's headquarters.
Minutes later, the second car blew up outside an Iraqi passport office located a few kilometres away, the Associated Press news agency reported.
"We were in a patrol when we heard the first explosion. The second explosion hit another square, and we went to help ... There was a minibus with six dead passengers inside it," said Ahmed Hassan, a police officer.
The explosions followed attacks and bombings in Baghdad and across the country on July 23 that killed more than 100 people in a co-ordinated surge of violence against mostly Shia Muslim targets.
Al-Qaeda's local affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq, claimed responsibility for those attacks.
On Monday, gunmen shot dead a television presenter and wounded his mother, wife and four-month-old baby boy, according to the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory media rights group and a police officer.
Iraq regularly ranks near the bottom of global press freedom rankings. It was at 152nd place out of 179 countries in media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders' 2011-2012 World Press Freedom Index, down 22 from the year before.
Violence has eased since the height of the war six years ago when tens of thousands were killed in sectarian slaughter between Sunni and Shia Muslims. But Since the last US troops left Iraq in December, fighters have carried out a major attack at least once a month.

Zara Phillips competes on her horse High Kingdom in the jumping phase of the eventing competition


The queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips added to the family silver on Tuesday, helping team Britain to a second-place finish behind Germany in Olympic equestrian eventing in London.

Princes William and Harry and William's wife Kate were in the stands to cheer on their cousin as she competed in the show jumping final portion of the three-discipline event.

After racing through the treacherous cross-country course on Monday without any penalties, Phillips knocked down a rail on the second jump Tuesday in the stadium at Greenwich Park. Teammate Nicola Wilson knocked down one as well, dashing Britain's chances for gold.
Nevertheless, Phillips' combined score of 53.1 from three days of competition was low enough that she advanced to the individual show jump final Tuesday afternoon where she had a clean, penalty-free round.
While that score likely put her out of individual medal contention, it didn't stop Phillips from pumping her fist in the air and taking a victory lap around the ring to acknowledge the wild applause from the stands.
Germany went into the event atop the standings and maintained the lead throughout, ending with a final score of 133.7. Britain's final score was 138.2, while New Zealand had 144.4. The United States was seventh with 208.6.
In equestrian eventing the lowest penalty score wins.
"Unfortunately we couldn't quite do it," Phillips said. "We can't be disappointed with a silver medal because it's an amazing thing to be here."
German rider Dirk Schrade on King Artus, in 10th place in the individual standings with a score of 50.6, said he merely did what was required to help his country.
"That is the job I am expected to do," he said. "If someone can't do that, they don't make the team."
In the show jump phase of the team event, Phillips incurred four penalty points when her horse, High Kingdom, knocked down the second fence. He completed the rest of the course cleanly, albeit a bit over the 83-second limit. The crowd gasped when the rail came down but applauded warmly as she finished.
"It was my fault," Phillips said. "After that he jumped fantastically."
Phillips, a former world and European eventing champion who is 14th in line to the throne, said she had put High Kingdom in a tough takeoff spot as she approached the jump, leaving him little room to maneuver.
"I'm just disappointed for the team," she said.

Britain's William Fox-Pitt, who was in 15th place with Lionhart, said the presence of royals in the stands didn't affect Phillips or the rest of the team.

"Each of us is in our own bubble out there," he said. "Her family is here to support her and our families are here to support us."

Britain won silver in the 2004 Athens Games and bronze in 2008. Germany won gold in the 2008 Olympics and were in first place in Athens but dropped from medal contention after a technicality.

Phillips said she appreciated the effort her relatively inexperienced bay gelding gave her, given he lost two shoes during the arduous cross-country portion of the event on Monday.
Then, the 31-year-old granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II scored a penalty-free ride, negotiating High Kingdom over 28 obstacles and a slippery course that claimed a dozen fallen riders. Her score helped bring Britain into second place in the team standings behind Germany heading into the final portion of the event.
Some of the first horses out on the show jump course Tuesday morning looked tired, with several pulling down multiple fences and incurring time penalties beyond the 83 seconds allowed. But Fox-Pitt — the first British rider out — had a clean round, drawing raucous, foot-stomping cheers from the flag-waving hometown crowd.
The show jumping portion of eventing is designed to test the horse's agility and ability to recover from the difficult run the day before. The lowest three scores for each team count for the team total. The lowest 25 scores go forward to the individual jumping competition.
As they did on Monday, William and Harry watched the competition from the VIP section of the main equestrian arena, joined by Camilla, Prince Charles' wife, and Phillips' mother Princess Anne, herself an Olympian eventing competitor.
Germany's Jung wins individual gold
Michael Jung of Germany, riding Sam, won the individual eventing gold medal on Tuesday.
Sara Algotsson Ostholt of Sweden, aboard Wega, won the silver, while Sandra Auffarth of Germany, riding Opgun, won the bronze.

blackouts affect half the country in India


India's energy crisis cascaded over half the country Tuesday when three of its regional grids collapsed, leaving hundreds of millions of people without government-supplied electricity in one of the world's biggest-ever blackouts.
The outages left about 620 million people in the dark in about 20 states, though the Times of India newspaper reported that by 7:30 p.m. local time, around 75 per cent of the power had been restored in northern areas and about 40 per cent of eastern India was back to normal.
Hundreds of trains were stalled across the country and traffic lights went out, causing widespread traffic jams in New Delhi. Electric crematoria stopped operating, some with bodies half burnt, power officials said. Emergency workers rushed generators to coal mines to rescue miners trapped underground.
The Times of India reported that about 200 miners in the northeast were rescued in West Bengal in the evening, while another rescue operation was underway at Jharkhand to help 65 others trapped in a coal mine.
The massive power failure — a day after a similar, but smaller power failure — has raised serious concerns about India's outdated infrastructure and the government's inability to meet its huge appetite for energy as the country aspires to become a regional economic superpower.
Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde blamed the new crisis on states taking more than their allotted share of electricity.
"Everyone overdraws from the grid. Just this morning I held a meeting with power officials from the states and I gave directions that states that overdraw should be punished. We have given instructions that their power supply could be cut," he told reporters.
The new power failure affected people across most of India's 28 states — more than the entire population of the European Union plus Turkey. The blackout was unusual in its reach, stretching from the border with Myanmar in the northeast to the Pakistani border about 3,000 kilometres away.
Familiarity with frequent blackouts
Its impact, however, was softened by Indians' familiarity with frequent blackouts and the widespread use of backup generators for major businesses and key facilities such as hospitals and airports.
R.N. Nayak, chairman of Power Grid Corp., which runs the nation's power system, had said he hoped to have full power restored by 7 p.m. local time in the northeast.
The outages came just a day after India's northern power grid collapsed for several hours. Indian officials managed to restore power several hours later, but at 1:05 p.m. Tuesday the northern grid collapsed again, said Shailendre Dubey, an official at the Uttar Pradesh Power Corp. in India's largest state. About the same time, the eastern grid failed and then the northeastern grid followed, energy officials in those regions said. The grids serve more than half India's population.
In West Bengal, express trains and local electric trains were stopped at stations across the state on the eastern grid. Crowds of people thronged the stations, waiting for any transport to take them to their destinations.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said it would take at least 10 to 12 hours to restore power and asked office workers to go home.
Utilities unable to meet growing needs
"The situation is very grave. We are doing everything to restore power," West Bengal Power Minister Manish Gupta said.
New Delhi's Metro rail system, which serves about 1.8 million people a day, immediately shut down for the second day in a row. Police said they managed to evacuate Delhi's busy Rajiv Chowk station in under half an hour before closing the shutters.
S.K. Jain, 54, said he was on his way to file his income tax return when the Metro closed and now would almost certainly miss the deadline.
India's demand for electricity has soared along with its economy in recent years, but utilities have been unable to meet the growing needs. India's Central Electricity Authority reported power deficits of more than eight per cent in recent months.
The power deficit was worsened by a weak monsoon that lowered hydroelectric generation and kept temperatures higher, further increasing electricity usage as people seek to cool off.
But any connection to the grid remains a luxury for many. One-third of India's households do not even have electricity to power a light bulb, according to last year's census.

Facebook- UBS Hit by Facebook IPO Loss


Shares in UBS plunged after the Swiss banking giant posted a worse-than-expected 58 percent fall in second-quarter profits Tuesday due to losses from the Facebook stock listing and a downturn at its investment banking division.
Switzerland's largest bank said the drop in profits to 425 million francs ($434.16 million) from 1.02 billion Swiss francs ($1.2 billion) a year earlier reflects "challenging conditions marked by increased volatility and greater client caution."
The Zurich-based bank missed analysts' estimates for more than 1 billion francs in profit, and its shares fell 5.9 percent to 10.29 francs ($10.52) Tuesday.
UBS AG incurred a 349 million francs loss due to problems executing electronic trades on the day of Facebook's listing on the Nasdaq exchange in May. That pushed the investment banking unit to a pretax loss of 130 million francs for the second quarter.
Because of those technical errors, which gave UBS more shares than its clients ordered, the bank said it will take unspecified legal action against Nasdaq to recoup the losses.
"We will take appropriate legal action against Nasdaq to address its gross mishandling of the offering and its substantial failures to perform its duties," the bank said.
Chief Executive Sergio P. Ermotti, who is cutting the investment bank's size by more than half, told investors in a statement that going forward UBS will focus more on wealth management to comply with the need for greater capital cushions. He said the bank would continue to focus on "prudent liquidity management, further reducing risk-weighted assets and delivering the best possible service to our clients."

The bank said it had surpassed requirements to increase its capital cushion and prudently cut costs that should lead to better results by the end of 2013. UBS said it plans to boost capital by 15.3 billion francs this year to comply with the urgings of the Swiss central bank.

It also said it was continuing to reduce its exposure to risky assets by 45 billion francs in the second quarter, following recent scandals such as a $2 billion loss attributed to a former London trader accused of fraud. The bank now plans to reduce its exposure to 270 billion francs of such assets by 2013.
UBS is cutting about 3,500 jobs, and had 63,520 staff at the end of June.
Its outlook remained cautious, however, because of Europe's sovereign debt crisis and the gloomy world economic outlook, even as it expressed confidence that it would continue to attract net new assets.
"Failure to make progress on these key issues, accentuated by the reduction in market activity levels typically seen in the third quarter, would make further improvements in prevailing market conditions unlikely," UBS said in a statement.
UBS is one of several global banks being investigated in the U.S. and other countries for alleged rigging of benchmark interest rates known as Libor, or London Interbank Offered Rate.
Ermotti said no further evidence of manipulation by UBS has been found other than what the bank already reported to regulators last year, when it disclosed evidence against some of its own traders in exchange for leniency or immunity from U.S. and Swiss authorities.
"We're waiting to see the results of the investigation. But there is no evidence at this stage that we have a particular position in that matter," Ermotti told reporters.
In July, a former top Barclays executive admitting ordering staff to submit false interest rates during the credit crisis in 2008 because he believed the action was sanctioned by the Bank of England. Barclays has been fined $543 million by U.S. and British agencies for submitting false reports of its interbank borrowing rates.

A massive power breakdown has hit India, more than half the country without power




Officials said the northern and eastern grids had both collapsed. All Delhi metro services have been halted and staff are trying to evacuate trains.
Monday's power failure caused severe disruption and travel chaos across northern India.
It was unclear why the grid collapsed but the power minister said some states may have been taking too much power.
Sushil Kumar Shinde said power would be restored in "another 90 minutes".
After Monday's cut, engineers managed to restore electricity to the northern grid by the evening, but at 01:05pm (0735 GMT) on Tuesday, it collapsed again.
The eastern grid failed around the same time, officials said.
"Both the northern and eastern grids have collapsed. Please allow us to address the problem," AFP news agency quoted VK Agrawal, the general manager of the northern grid, as saying.
The two grids together serve more than half of India's 1.2bn people.
The breakdown has hit a large swathe of the country including Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan states in the north, and West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Jharkhand in the east.
An official in Orissa said the blackout in the eastern grid had been triggered by a fault and could take several hours to resolve.
Railway officials said more than 350 trains were stranded, and hospitals and essential services were running on backup generators.
Across West Bengal, power went at 13:00 and all suburban railway trains on the eastern railways ground to a halt from Howrah and Seladah stations, the BBC's Rahul Tandon reports from Calcutta.
However, the city is not badly affected as it is served by a private electricity board, our correspondent adds.
Power cuts are common in Indian cities because of a fundamental shortage of power and an ageing grid - the chaos caused by such cuts has led to protests and unrest on the streets in the past.
But the collapse of an entire grid is rare - the last time the northern grid failed was in 2001.
India's demand for electricity has soared in recent years as its economy has grown but its power infrastructure has been unable to meet the growing needs.
Correspondents say unless there is a huge investment in the power sector, the country will see many more power failures.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Ark. man sentenced to death in officer's death


A judge has sentenced an Arkansas man to death for killing a police officer who was pleading for his life.
Prosecutor Scott Ellington says a Greene County judge on Saturday read the sentence for 38-year-old Jerry Lard. The jury had recommended the death sentence.
Lard was convicted of capital murder Thursday for killing Trumann police officer Jonathan Schmidt during an April 2011 traffic stop.
Lard's attorneys didn't dispute that Lard shot Schmidt, but they argued that he has a mental illness or defect.
Lard becomes the 38th death row inmate in Arkansas. The state hasn't been carrying out executions because the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down its lethal injection law earlier this year.

If Assad falls from power UN faces major obstacles


Senior officials looking into the role the U.N. could play in Syria if Bashar Assad falls from power face major obstacles, including a bitter division among world powers and the absence of an opposition leader.
A team of senior U.N. officials led by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson is consulting on the Syrian crisis and studying contingencies, and one possible model might be Afghanistan.
After the ouster of the Taliban by U.S.-led forces in 2001, the U.N. moved quickly to fill the political vacuum, convening world leaders and prominent Afghans in Bonn, Germany, to consider the country's future.
Participants adopted an accord on Dec. 5, 2001, spelling out arrangements for an interim government. The U.N. Security Council swiftly endorsed the power-sharing agreement, and on Dec. 20, 2001, it unanimously authorized a multinational force to assist the new government with security.
Emile Hokayem, a Middle East analyst at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, said that in the case of Afghanistan the major powers were united, making for an easier initial transition.
"In the case of Syria, the great powers are fighting," he said. So "U.N. action is not going to be easy."
Since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011, the U.N. Security Council's veto-wielding permanent members have been split.
Russia, the Assad government's most powerful ally, and China have vetoed three Security Council resolutions backed by the U.S., Britain and France targeting the regime's bloody crackdown. The first two resolutions would have condemned Syrian attacks on peaceful protesters but the most recent resolution went further, threatening sanctions if Assad didn't immediately withdraw heavy weapons from populated areas.
The only thing the five permanent members united to support is the six-point peace plan brokered by Kofi Annan, the U.N.-Arab League envoy, which called for a cease-fire in August and Syrian-led political talks to end the conflict and "meet the aspirations of the Syrian people."
But despite pledges by the government and opposition to implement the plan, a cease-fire never happened, and fighting continued to escalate to a point where the conflict was recently declared a civil war. For many diplomats and military experts, Annan's plan is all but dead.
If Assad were to fall, it's unclear whether the major powers could unite again at a Bonn-style summit to set a roadmap for Syria.
For the United Nations, which deals with the governments of its 193 member states, the immediate question if Assad fell would be who — or what political group — replaces him.
In the case of Syria, there is a divided opposition outside the country and disparate groups of young fighters inside the country, some aligned to the Free Syrian Army.
Attempts to unify the opposition and agree on a leader have repeatedly failed. Participants at a meeting of opposition groups in Cairo earlier this month did agree on fundamental principles for a post-Assad Syria and a general outline to guide the opposition through a transitional period — but scuffles and fistfights during the session and a walkout by a Syrian Kurdish group visibly demonstrated the opposition's disarray.
Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow and Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said even if Assad departs he doesn't think protesters will leave the streets and the Free Syrian Army will stop fighting because they want the entire regime to go.
"So what would happen is you're likely to have a contraction of the regime, controlling some parts of Syrian territory, and the opposition controlling parts — like the Balkans," he said.
In the Balkans in the 1990s, the U.N. established safe havens but Tabler said they couldn't defend themselves, so that option would likely not work.
If Assad left, the Security Council could authorize a U.N. peacekeeping force to go into Syria, which would normally take several months to deploy in the field.

But council members would likely be wary, and want to ensure there was a peace to keep — especially after the 300-strong U.N. observer force sent to monitor Annan's peace plan was forced to suspend most operations because of the escalating violence. It has been given a final 30-day mandate to its mission, leaving the door open for a possible extension if the government stops using heavy weapons and there is a significant reduction in violence.
"The idea of a U.N. peacekeeping force could reduce the spread of sectarian fighting," the IISS' Hokayem said. But "I don't see any readiness to approve any troops."
After the third double veto by Russia and China on July 19, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the United States and others "will have no choice but to look to partnerships and actions outside of this council to protect the Syrian people."
The Washington Institute's Tabler said he envisioned "a coalition of the willing" coming from the Friends of Syria political group, which wants to see a democratic government in Syria, being key in post-Assad decisions.
Hokayem said he suspects Syria's immediate and regional neighbors like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Jordan will be more relevant than the U.N. in a post-Assad Syria — but they might look to the U.N. to support their actions.
After U.S.-led forces ousted Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq in April 2003, the deeply divided Security Council, which had refused to authorize the U.S.-led invasion, did give its backing to a multinational security force in the country in October 2003.

Navy christens last of 3 ships honoring 9/11 sites


The USS Somerset — the last of three Navy ships named for 9/11 attack sites — was christened Saturday in honor of the passengers and crew of the plane that crashed short of terrorists' intended target after passengers stormed the cockpit.
Instead of hitting a target in Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Somerset County, Pa., killing all 40 passengers and crew members.
"The men and women of Flight 93 ... thought they were going to San Francisco to work, to play, to learn; to live their lives in peace while others guarded them," said Navy Rear Adm. David Lewis. "Instead they found themselves in a war, on the front lines, in the opening battle. It was a new kind of war, one with new rules, maybe no rules at all. They had no preparation, no training, no guidance.
"And they performed superbly."
Flight 93 was hijacked after taking off from New Jersey. It crashed after passengers and crew, some alerted by cell phone calls from loved ones about the other 9/11 attacks in New York, decided to fight the hijackers. Investigators later determined the hijackers intended to crash it into the White House or Capitol in Washington, D.C., where the House and Senate were in session that morning.
About two dozen relatives of the passengers heard Lewis and other military and shipbuilding officials praise their slain family members at Saturday's christening at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Avondale, a New Orleans suburb.
A ribbon-encased bottle of sparkling wine was smashed against a sharp-edged breaker bar on the hull by Mary Jo Myers, wife of retired Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the 15th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The $1.2 billion Somerset is an amphibious transport dock ship, also called a landing platform/dock or LPD, designed to launch helicopters, tilt-rotor aircraft and assault watercraft to bring up to 800 troops to shore.
The Somerset is the last Navy ship that will be built at Avondale, which is scheduled to close when the Somerset is delivered next year. Officials are trying to find a way to keep it open for civilian shipbuilding or other industrial work.
"We encourage those who can keep the story of this shipyard alive to heroically give their all to achieving that goal," said Patrick White, president of the Families of Flight 93.

Olympic cycling coverage Tweets, texts disrupt


The high volume of tweets sent by fans watching a men's cycling road race at the Olympic Games on the weekend disrupted the electronic updates on racers' times and positions that broadcasters rely on to cover the race in real time, causing some to resort to their own watches to estimate times.
The BBC blamed Saturday's disruption on the Olympic Broadcasting Service, a subsidiary of the International Olympic Committee that provides feeds from Olympic events to broadcasters covering the Games.
But the IOC said spectators using Twitter and other location-based technologies overloaded the network that transmits GPS signals from racers' bicycles to the commentators reporting on the races. The signals from the satellite-based navigation system are transmitted over the same wireless networks used by mobile devices.
Without the GPS signal, BBC commentators were unable to keep viewers informed about the progress of hometown favourite and gold medal hopeful Mark Cavendish in the tense final stages of the race, prompting angry viewers to vent their frustrations on Twitter, likely adding to the congestion at the source of the problem.
One equally frustrated BBC commentator, Chris Boardman, ended up estimating cyclists' times using a watch.
Urgent updates only, IOC urges
The IOC told the Guardian newspaper and other media that fans tweeting or texting from the race and posting updates on Facebook congested GPS and data networks, inhibiting the transmission of real-time race information.
"We don't want to stop people engaging in this by social media, but perhaps they might consider only sending urgent updates," IOC communications director Mark Adams told the Guardian.
At a press conference on Sunday, Adams urged those attending what have been dubbed the first "social media Games" to cut back on the over-sharing.
"Of course, if you want to send something, we are not going to say 'Don't, you can't do it', and we would certainly never prevent people," he said. "It's just — if it's not an urgent, urgent one, please kind of take it easy."
The IOC said the problem was confined to one network and that it was working on spreading the load to other networks to ease congestion.
There were some, including London Mayor Boris Johnson, who warned ahead of the Games that the event would strain the city's mobile and data networks.
Several observers have pointed out in the wake of the weekend disruption that it is the satellite Olympic venues that are especially vulnerable to problems since they did not benefit from the communications upgrades that occurred at the main Olympic Park, which was outfitted with an extensive network of fibre optic cables, cellphone towers and Wi-Fi hotspots.

To training Iraqi police US 'wasted' $200m


More than $200m was wasted on a programme to train Iraqi police that the government in Baghdad neither needed or wanted, US auditors have found.
The Police Development Programme, which was to be the single largest programme launched by the US State Department anywhere in the world, was envisioned to be a five-year, multi-billion dollar effort to train local security forces after the US military pulled out last December.
Iraqi political leaders, who were anxious to keep their distance from US initiatives, were also unenthusiastic about the programme, the audit showed.
A report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, to be released on Monday, found that the US embassy in Baghdad never received a written commitment from Iraq to participate in the programme.
Now, facing what the report called Baghdad's "disinterest" in the project, the embassy is massively cutting what was planned to be the centrepiece of ongoing US training projects in Iraq.
According to the report, the embassy now plans to turn the $108m Baghdad Police College Annex to Iraqis by the end of 2012, and will also stop training at a $98m site in the southern city of Basra.
The number of advisers, meanwhile, has been cut by nearly 90 per cent: from 350 to 36.
'Costly' decision
"A major lesson learned from Iraq is that host country buy-in to proposed programmes is essential to the long-term success of relief and reconstruction activities. The PDP experience powerfully underscores that point," auditors wrote in a 41-page summary of their inspection, an advance copy of which was provided to The Associated Press.

Auditors said that it had "clearly been difficult" for US diplomats to secure a solid commitment from the Iraqi government to participate in the programme.
Nevertheless, the report concluded, "the decision to embark on a major programme absent Iraqi buy-in has been costly" and resulted in "a de-facto waste".
The findings have called into question funding needs at the US embassy in Baghdad, the largest such mission in the world.
US President Barack Obama's administration is preparing its spending plan for the 2013 fiscal year, which begins October 1.
Auditors said that while it is currently unknown how much money is being requested for the Baghdad embassy, additional money for the police programme "may not be needed".
Despite years of training costing several billion dollars, Iraq's police force remains vulnerable to attacks from fighters targeting the government.
On Sunday, seven police personnel were killed and nine wounded in bombings and shootings near the former al-Qaeda stronghold of Fallujah, about 64km west of Baghdad.
The attack appeared to be the latest strike in a campaign to reclaim areas that fighters had been ousted from by the US military.
Findings disputed
In a July 26 letter responding to a draft of the report, Carol Z. Perez, an acting US assistant secretary of state, said that the embassy would be requesting additional funding for the police training programme in 2013.
She disputed the finding that funds had been wasted, saying that Iraqis will continue to use the Baghdad Police College facility for training, even if the US was not involved in said initiatives.
Moreover, Perez said, the embassy had been assured by Adnan al-Asadi, the Iraqi principal deputy interior minister, that his country is committed to a streamlined version of the training programme.
US diplomats will continue to work with top security officials, she said, "to ensure that our police assistance efforts meet mutual goals and objectives to sustain senior-level Iraqi commitment to the programme".
The auditors, however, said that those assurances fall short of a written commitment. They quoted al-Asadi as telling US inspectors that the police training programme was "useless".
Al-Asadi could not immediately be reached for comment, and his spokesman declined to discuss the report.
"The Iraqi federal police went through many training courses, in many fields, and that resulted in having many experts and specialist academies," Hakim al-Zamili, a key member of the Iraqi parliament's security oversight committee, said
"At this point, we don't need the American expertise, because of the expertise we have now."
Auditors said the US has spent about $8bn to train and equip Iraqi police since the 2003 US-led invasion.
At that time, there were about 58,000 police in Iraq. The report said that number had grown to 412,000 by 2010. Other estimates put the size of Iraq's federal, local and border police force at 650,000.
The training was led by the US military until last October, six weeks before the last US troops left Iraq.
The embassy then took over the programme, but with what Monday's report described as "mixed results".
Around half of the remaining 36 US advisers are to be based in the city of Irbil, capital of the northern Kurdish region, where the programme was embraced by local authorities.

Colorado suspect faces 142 criminal counts


The former graduate student accused of opening fire at a Denver-area screening of the latest "Batman" film, killing 12 people, has been formally charged with 24 counts of first-degree murder and 116 counts of attempted murder.
James Holmes, 24, was formally charged on Monday during his second court appearance since his arrest after the massacre during a packed showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" shortly after midnight on July 20.
The rampage left 12 dead and 58 injured, several critically.
Holmes, wearing jail garb with his hair still dyed orange but with the color fading to pink in places, sat impassively with two defence attorneys through the 45 minute hearing.
But he looked more alert than during his first court appearance one week ago, when he looked dazed and groggy. The courtroom was packed with members of the media and family members of victims.
Holmes spoke only once on Monday, answering "yes" when Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester asked if he understood the charges against him.
Unopened parcel
Prosecutors essentially charged Holmes with two murder counts for each victim - one standard first-degree murder charge plus one count of murder with extreme indifference.
In all, prosecutors have charged Holmes with 142 criminal counts in the shooting, the 24 murder and 116 attempted murder counts plus one count of possession of an explosive device and one count of committing a crime of violence.
During the hearing, defence attorneys asked that prosecutors turn over evidence collected in the case. They are seeking a package that news reports have said was sent by Holmes to a University of Colorado psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton.
Prosecutors responded that they had not yet opened that parcel, which according to Fox News contained a notebook outlining the shooting scenario, including stick-figure drawings.
Holmes, a San Diego native, was a doctoral student of neuroscience at the university's Anschutz campus before filing paperwork to drop out in June.
Court documents filed on Friday by defence lawyers said Holmes had been under Fenton's care.

In Iran bank Death terms scandal


An Iranian court has sentenced four people to death for a billion-dollar bank fraud that tainted the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, state media has reported.
Iranians, hit by sanctions and soaring inflation, were shocked by the scale of the $2.6bn bank loan embezzlement that was exposed last year and by allegations it was carried out by people close to the political elite or with their assent.
Of the thirty-nine people tried for the fraud, the biggest in the country's history, four were sentenced to hang, the IRNA state news agency reported on Monday.
"According to the sentence that was issued, four of the defendants in this case were sentenced to death," prosecutor general Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei told IRNA.
Two people were sentenced to life and others received jail sentences of up to 25 years, Mohseni-Ejei said. In addition to jail time, some were sentenced to flogging, ordered to pay fines and banned from government jobs.
'Mastermind'
Mohseni-Ejei did not name the defendants and Iranian media have identified them only by their initials. State television broadcast parts of the trial but blurred out the faces of the accused.
The man described by Iranian media as the mastermind of the scheme, businessman Amir Mansoor Khosravi, is said to have forged letters of credit from Iran's Bank Saderat to fund dozens of companies and buy a state-owned steel factory.
Mahmoud Reza Khavari, the former head of Iran's biggest bank, state-owned Bank Melli, resigned over the affair and fled to Canada where records show he owns a $3m home, Iranian and Canadian news agencies reported.
The case has been politically awkward for Iran's leadership as it aims to show it is tough on corruption and raised questions about whether the government's privatisation drive has largely benefited friends of the political elite.
Ahmadinejad has rejected claims that the investment company at the heart of the scandal has links to his closest aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, a powerful figure who has become the prime target for the president's adversaries within the hardline ruling elite.
Ahmadinejad's economy minister, Shamseddin Hosseini, survived an impeachment vote last year, where members of parliament accused him of lax banking supervision.
'Fighting corruption transparently'
Acknowledging the political damage, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, while criticising financial corruption, said in televised comments last year that the media should not "drag out the issue".
"Some want to use this event to score points against the country's officials," Khamenei said. "The people should know the issue will be followed up on."
Mohseni-Ejei has held up the case as a demonstration that Iran can deal appropriately with high-level fraud.
"The government, parliament, and all available devices were used to pursue the issue so that corruption can be fought in an open manner," he was quoted as saying earlier this month by IRNA.
But one of the defendents complained that, while the judiciary had pursued some low-level players in the fraud vigorously, senior officials involved in the scandal had gone unpunished.
"Many other banking officials are outside of prison right now. Why are you able to put us on trial and have nothing to do with them?" the unnamed steel company official said, according to Iran's Fars news agency.
The anti-corruption group Transparency International ranked Iran 120 out of 183 countries on its 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index, which measures countries according to their perceived levels of government corruption.

NZ & Australia restore full ties with Fiji


Australia and New Zealand agreed to restore full diplomatic relations with military-run Fiji on Monday, which had been suspended since tit-for-tat expulsions of each other's top envoys in 2009.
"As a consequence of today's meeting, all three sides agreed to restore diplomatic relations," Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr told the AFP news agency.
The restoration of ties followed Carr holding talks with his New Zealand and Fiji counterparts, Murray McCully and Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, in Sydney.
"It was considered that the move to democratic reform was encouraging and irreversible," Carr added.
Relations deteriorated when Canberra and Wellington had led condemnation of Fiji military leader Vorege Bainimarama who had seized power from the elected government in December 2006 in the country's fourth coup in two decades.
The government of Fiji ordered their high commissioners out, claiming interference in its judicial affairs. The next day Australia and New Zealand expelled Fiji's envoys in November 2009.
Bainimarama took control pledging to root out corruption and introduce a one-person, one-vote system intended to end entrenched racial inequalities in the nation of 840,000, but reneged on a promise to hold elections in 2009.
Instead, he tore up the constitution and introduced emergency laws that muzzled the media and banned public meetings, saying the country would not be ready for elections until 2014.
Australia and New Zealand, major aid donors in the South Pacific nation, responded by successfully pushing for Fiji's suspension from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum.
But since January, the military government has gradually relaxed some its emergency powers and announced plans to finalise a progressive constitution ahead of elections in 2014, leading to a thaw in relations.

In Olympic tennis events Williams sisters progress


The Williams sisters continued their march towards more Olympic success with three victories between them in London on Monday.
Fourth seed Serena romped into the third round of the women's singles with a 6-2 6-3 win over Poland's Ursula Radwanska, whose older sister Agnieszka she beat to win her fifth Wimbledon title earlier this month.
The American will next face Russian 13th seed Vera Zvonareva, who knocked out 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone.
Zvonareva, the bronze medalist at Beijing four years ago, triumphed 6-3 6-3.
"It was tough conditions, a little windy. I'm glad I was able to pull through," said Williams, who faces a possible quarterfinal against former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki or Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova as she seeks the only major title missing from her collection.
Her older sibling Venus, who is in the same half of the draw, bounced back from her early exits at the French Open and Wimbledon by thrashing Roland Garros runnerup Sara Errani 6-3 6-1 in her delayed first-round match.
"Another gold medal would be amazing," said the 32-year-old, who won the singles title in 2000 along with the doubles, which she and Serena won again in 2008.
"I can't even imagine the feeling, I think my head would be too big and no one would even like me anymore. I've got to get there first, I have two chances and I'll go for it."
Venus will next play Canada's Aleksandra Wozniak, who progressed into the second round by winning 6-2 6-1 against Marina Erakovic of New Zealand.
If she wins that game, Williams will play either German seventh seed Angelique Kerber or Hungary's Timea Babos for a place in the quarterfinals.
That could mean a last-eight clash with world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, who survived a second-set scare to beat 79th-ranked Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-1 3-6 6-1 in her opening match on Centre Court.
The Belorussian, who lost to Serena in the Wimbledon semifinals, will next face Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain.
Serena and Venus also won their opening doubles match, beating Romania's Sorana Cirstea and Simona Halep 6-3 6-2 to set up a clash with Kerber and Sabine Lisicki.
Lisicki also moved into round two of the singles, coming from behind to beat Tunisian teen Ons Jabeur -- ranked 297th -- and securing a match against Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova.
The winner of that tie will likely face world No. 3 Maria Sharapova, who next plays Britain's Laura Robson.
Former world No. 1s Kim Clijsters and Ana Ivanovic will meet in round three, while Czech sixth seed Petra Kvitova -- whose Wimbledon defense was ended by Serena Williams in the quarterfinals -- will take on Italy's Flavia Pennetta.

In Afghanistan US building projects

 Costly US efforts to build major infrastructure projects in Afghanistan are running far behind schedule, and may fall short of counter-insurgency goals central to the US military campaign there, a government watchdog has warned.
Almost $400m in power grid, roads and other construction projects from fiscal 2011 "may not achieve the desired COIN effects," the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said.
The COIN acronym refers to the military strategy, credited with helping turn around the war in Iraq, that is now a mainstay of the Pentagon's bid to weaken the Afghan Taliban.
With the strategy, the counter-insurgency campaign depends on winning the local populace's backing, turning it away from the fighters.
"In some instances, these projects may result in adverse COIN effects because they create an expectations gap among the affected population or lack citizen support," the inspector general said of activities under the Afghanistan Infrastructure Project (AIP), jointly backed by the US defence and state departments and carried out by the US Agency for International Development.
SIGAR found that procurement and funding delays - from many sources including poor security, personnel changes, faulty cost estimates and slow transfer of funds between government agencies - had put five of seven projects from fiscal 2011 six to fifteen months behind schedule.
"And most projects may not achieve desired COIN benefits for several years," SIGAR said.
The report comes as the Obama administration pushes ahead with its gradual exit from Afghanistan, where the Taliban
remains a dire threat after more than a decade of US and NATO efforts to defeat it.
Incomplete projects
Equally daunting, as NATO nations plan the removal of most troops by the end of 2014, is the challenge of making sure that billions of dollars in aid since 2001 makes a permanent,positive mark.
While donor nations are pledging to give $16bn in development aid through 2015, annual Western assistance is already shrinking. US assistance peaked in 2010.
The AIP is a US effort to provide better roads, power grids and water supplies for Afghans, in part to erode support for the Taliban and its allies, who have deep roots in much of the Afghan south and east.
The report also found that the projects could remain uncompleted or fall into disrepair because officials had not properly arranged for future maintenance and funding, or because they planned to rely on Afghan government agencies of "questionable capacity."
"The success and viability of many ... projects hinge, in part, on unidentified, unfunded infrastructure projects and the successful, timely completion of other projects that the US government has been unable to complete for more than 7 years," SIGAR said.
Widespread public corruption remains a major concern in Afghanistan even as President Hamid Karzai promises outside
donors he will crack down on fraud.
In its response, the defence department said that SIGAR's study revealed "a clear lack of understanding of US counterinsurgency doctrine" and failed to note that Afghans might rally around a building project long before it was finished.
"Clearly, if dashed hopes can produce adverse effects, then that very hope produces positive COIN effects in advance of project implementation," it said.

iPhone 5 Rumors Continue & Release September


A new week, a new set of next-generation iPhone rumors (what many keep calling the iPhone 5, even though there’s no saying that Apple will).
A Japanese site, iLab, has now posted a series of photos of what it suspects is the next iPhone. The site said it got hold of a number of leaked iPhone parts and assembled them.
The photos, which can be seen here, look very similar to the leaked photo 9to5Mac printed a few months ago (seen above). The design includes a slightly larger display than the one on the iPhone 4S, a two-toned black and silver body, and a smaller dock connector on the bottom. The headphone jack has also been moved to the bottom. The photos are of a black model, but given 9to5Mac’s earlier photo, Apple is likely also to release a white version.
Previous rumors suggest the new iPhone will have a thinner display and a faster processor and graphics.
On the heels of the photos comes the first substantial suggestion of a release date. iMore, a technology site that has had a decent track record on these sorts of things, reports that Apple is planning to hold an event on Sept. 12 to announce both the new iPhone and the iPad Mini. According to the site’s sources the phone will start shipping on Sept. 21, though they aren’t as sure about the mini-iPad’s release date. AllThingsD, a consistently reliable tech site, has also heard that Apple is planning to hold an event that week.
Apple plans to release the next version of its iOS 6 for the iPad and iPhone in the fall. The new operating system will include Apple’s own maps app, Facebook integration, and a new Passbook app, which collects all passes, tickets, and coupons in one central app. Check out our guide to iOS 6 below.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

In Afghanistan 2 NATO service members killed


KABUL, Afghanistan - The NATO military coalition on Sunday said two service members were killed in an insurgent attack in the west of the country.
The military alliance known as ISAF didn't provide further details. NATO also did not provide the nationalities of the dead. The deaths bring the number of international service members killed in Afghanistan so far this month to at least 44.
The latest casualties underscored the volatility of Afghanistan as NATO scales back its operations, planning to hand over security responsibility to local forces by the end of 2014.
The coalition also denied as "incorrect" Pakistani claims that its military had informed NATO 52 times in recent months that insurgents were crossing from Pakistan into Afghanistan.
"Whenever the Pakistani military has requested assistance, ISAF immediately dispatched the appropriate force to deal with the issue," the coalition said in a statement. "In the spirit of recent improving relations with the Pakistani military, ISAF will continue to take every Pakistani military report of cross-border movement very seriously and will assist whenever and wherever possible."
Pakistan's ambassador to the United States on Saturday claimed that Pakistan had reported 52 times to NATO in recent months when militants were spotted crossing into Afghan territory.
Sherry Rehman made the comments during the Aspen Security Forum being held in Colorado. She spoke via video teleconference.
The United States has criticized Pakistan for not doing enough to crack down on militants sheltering in safe havens in that country's lawless tribal areas, which border Afghanistan. They include the al Qaeda affiliated Haqqani network thought to be mostly in the North Waziristan region.
"We have many shared interests, including our respective commitments for coordinated action against the cross-border attacks of the Haqqani terrorists from North Waziristan who threaten Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region,' the NATO statement said.
Earlier, Afghan officials said insurgents shot and killed a government official in eastern Afghanistan.
The Wardak province governor's office said in a statement that the head of volatile Chak district was driving to his office Sunday when gunmen overtook his car. They shot both Mohammad Ismail Wafa and his adult son. The son was wounded.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message. The Taliban regularly target Afghan government officials, whom they label collaborators with international forces.

Iran Stop exporting oil, make new economy


Iran's supreme leader has outlined a new approach to overcome Western sanctions — stop selling oil and build knowledge-based industries instead.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's says what he calls a "resistant economy" can effectively counter the sanctions.
This month the European Union enforced a ban on oil imports from Iran, after the U.S. stepped up its banking sanctions.
The sanctions aim to force Iran to stop enriching uranium. The West suspects Iran is aiming to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies that.
Khamenei said Iran should stop selling raw materials, including oil, and instead promote "knowledge-based companies which can make a resistant economy more sustainable."
He gave no timetable or details of what would amount to a total overhaul of Iran's economy.
Khamenei's remarks were broadcast on state TV Sunday night.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

In Ethiopia ethnic clashes Many killed


Ethnic clashes in southern Ethiopia over land rights have left 18 people killed and caused thousands to flee across the nearby border to Kenya, the Kenyan Red Cross has said.
Members of the Borana and Garri groups clashed around the town of Moyale, which is on Ethiopia's border with Kenya.
"Garris have been settled into the disputed lands that Boranas claim ownership of," the Red Cross said in a statement on Saturday.
An estimated 20,000 refugees were being registered at temporary camps set up in Kenyan schools in the border area.
At least six people were wounded. Their injuries included gunshot wounds and internal bleeding, the group said.
The Red Cross said the situation was worsened by the effects from a drought that hit the area earlier this year.

Obama sharpens language against House GOP


Tossing aside friendlier language from weeks past, President Obama for the second time used his weekly address to urge House Republicans to vote the "right way" on a bill to extend middle class tax cuts.
Whether the "typical family" will be hit with $2,200 in tax hikes next year now rests in the Republican-controlled House, the president said, lauding the Senate's passage this week of his plan to extend the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for American families making less than $250,000 a year. "If 218 Members of the House vote the right way, 98 percent of American families and 97 percent of small business owners will have the certainty of knowing that that their income taxes will not go up next year," he said.
While his message was not unfamiliar (he delivered similar remarks two weeks ago), Mr. Obama's language was noticeably more aggressive. Whereas his prior plea recognized House Republicans and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney as having "different" economic ideas from his own, this week he said their "top-down" approach is flat-out "wrong," holding up the contrasting plans as props.
But while the president chided Congress for "holding these tax cuts hostage," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, charged Mr. Obama in the Republicans' weekly address with "holding America's economy hostage."
Hatch made the case most conservatives support, agreeing with Mr. Obama that middle-class tax cuts should be extended but arguing for the extension of all Bush-era tax cuts, including for the wealthiest Americans. "Unfortunately, Washington Democrats' default position appears to be to let everyone's taxes skyrocket, if Congress doesn't agree to their plan to raise taxes on one of the most productive segments of our economy," he said.
"This isn't the time for political games and vilifying job creators," Hatch continued. "The president and his Washington allies need to stop holding America's economy hostage in order to raise taxes on those trying to lead our economic recovery. Let's roll up our sleeves to ensure that America remains the leader we know it to be."

Hepatitis-C 'Serial Infector' Could Have Spread Disease to Thousands


The New Hampshire hospital lab technician indicted last week for infecting 31 people with Hepatitis C might have infected "tens of thousands" of patients in at least 13 hospitals, ABC News has learned.
David Kwiatkowski, a former lab technician at Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire, had allegedly been stealing the Fentanyl syringes intended for patients, injecting his own arm and then refilling those empty syringes with another liquid-like saline, according to a statement from the United States Attorney's Office in New Hampshire.
Since Kwiatkowski tested positive for Hepatitis C in June 2010, he passed it on to the hospital patients who were injected with his used, saline-filled syringes, according to the affidavit.
"If he knew that he was infected and he put those needles back on the shelf, that is the definition of evil," Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' Chief Health and Medical Editor, told Good Morning America. "Anyone who was in those hospitals when he was working there is potentially at risk. We're talking tens of thousands of people."
Kwiatskowski, 32, was a temporary employee at Exeter Hospital who has worked in at least eight hospitals in 13 states, Besser said.
Exeter Hospital issued a press release this week, indicating that the state department of Health And Human Services and its Division of Public Health Services have decided to expand Hepatitis C testing to anyone who was a patient in one of the hospital operating rooms or the intensive care unit. Government health officials are urging about 6,000 patients to get tested in Exeter Hospital alone, according to the release.
"You go under and you wake up hours later and you don't know who was around you," a former patient told The Boston Herald on condition of anonymity this week. "I'm scared. I have no idea who was around me when I was under and unfortunately, I was there three different times."
Kwiatkowski was arrested and indicted on July 19 for acquiring a controlled substance by fraud and tampering with a consumer product with "reckless disregard" for the risk of others, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire.
"The evidence gathered to date points irrefutably to Kwiatkowski as the source of the Hepatitis C outbreak at Exeter Hospital," U.S. attorney John P. Kacavas said in a press release. "With his arrest, we have eliminated the 'serial infector' posed to public and health safety."
But Marlborough Police actually picked Kwiatkowski up at a Massachusetts Holiday Inn nearly a week before his arrest, on a July 13 medical call, according to police narrative obtained by ABCNews.com. After finding Kwiatkowski intoxicated and surrounded by pills and a note, officers determined he was "trying to harm himself."
"I noticed he was very unsteady on his feet and had a strong odor of alcohol coming from his breath," Officer James O'Malley wrote in the report.
O'Malley said he noticed pills strewn about the floor and on a glass table. He also found what appeared to be a suicide note signed by Kwiatkowski.
"Please call [redacted] and let her know I've passed away," it said. "Tell her I couldn't handle this stress anymore."
Officers took six medication bottles from the room and transported Kwiatkowski to a nearby hospital, where he was arrested a week later.
Exeter Hospital employees discovered the outbreak in May 2012, prompting an investigation that spanned several local, state and federal government agencies, including the FBI, according to court documents obtained by ABCNews.com.
Investigators wrote that they suspect Kwiatkowski grabbed the loaded Fentanyl syringes when he brought lead aprons into the procedure room, into an area he didn't need to be inside at all. They suspect Kwiatkowski then replaced the Fentanyl syringes with saline syringes that were tainted with his strain of Hepatitis C.
Fentanyl, an anesthetic more powerful than morphine.
Kwiatkowski was known for erratic behavior and suspected of abusing controlled substances, according to the affidavit. Other hospital employees said he would often sweat through his scrubs and made frequent trips to the bathroom.
One employee told investigators she saw "fresh track marks" when she tried to draw his blood. Another told investigators he remembered seeing Kwiatkowski with "a red face, red eyes and white foam around his mouth" during a shift at the lab.
Kwiatkowski also had a tendency to lie, employees told investigators. He told coworkers that he played baseball in college, and that his one-time fiancée died "under tragic circumstances," neither of which were true. He also once excused bloodshot eyes by saying he was crying all night about a dead aunt who never existed.
When his roommate inquired about the needles in his laundry, Kwiatkowski told her he had cancer and was being treated at Portsmouth Regional hospital, according to the affidavit. Investigators found no documentation to prove this.
Kwiatkowski was arrested on July 19 in Massachusetts, where he was being treated at a hospital. He faces up to 24 years in prison. Each offense could also result in a $250,000 fine.

Olympics: In Judo events 2 new champions crowned


Judo crowned two new Olympic champions on Saturday.
In the men's 60-kilogram division, Russian Arsen Galstyan surprised spectators and opponents alike when he took the gold.
Galstyan defeated the category's two favorites to win the medal: top-ranked Uzbeki fighter Rishod Sobirov in the semifinal, and Japanese judoka Hiroaki Hiroaka in the final.
It took less than a minute for Galstyan, 23, to score a match-ending ippon over Hiroaka. It was the first Olympic medal for the Russian, who won bronze at the world championships. The bronze medals were won by Sobirov and Felipe Kitadai of Brazil.
On the women's side, Brazil's Sarah Menezes beat defending Olympic champion Alina Dumitru of Romania in a final that had both fighters on the defensive.
Menezes frequently had her hands up like a boxer as both struggled to get a dominant grip. Neither had much success throwing the other off balance, with Menezes using her flexibility to avoid being tossed on her back. In the last minute of the match, the Brazilian finally managed to throw Dumitru.

Menezes, 22, finished 19th at the Beijing Olympics and won a bronze at last year's judo world championships. Before arriving in London last week, Menezes said she planned to skip the Olympics' opening ceremonies to ensure she would be ready to fight on Saturday.
The women's bronze medals went to Hungarian Eva Csernoviczki and Charline van Snick of Belgium.

Kills 14 in Uganda Ebola outbreak


The deadly Ebola virus has killed 14 people in western Uganda this month, Ugandan health officials said on Saturday, ending weeks of speculation about the cause of a strange disease that had many people fleeing their homes.
The officials and a World Health Organization representative told a news conference in Kampala Saturday that there is "an outbreak of Ebola" in Uganda.
"Laboratory investigations done at the Uganda Virus Research Institute...have confirmed that the strange disease reported in Kibaale is indeed Ebola hemorrhagic fever," the Ugandan government and WHO said in joint statement.
Kibaale is a district in midwestern Uganda, where people in recent weeks have been troubled by a mysterious illness that seemed to have come from nowhere. Ugandan health officials had been stumped as well, and spent weeks conducting laboratory tests that were at first inconclusive.
On Friday, Joaquim Saweka, the WHO representative in Uganda, told The Associated Press that investigators were "not so sure" it was Ebola, and a Ugandan health official dismissed the possibility of Ebola as merely a rumour. It appears firm evidence of Ebola was clinched overnight.
Health officials told reporters in Kampala that the 14 dead were among 20 reported with the disease. Two of the infected have been isolated for examination by researchers and health officials. A clinical officer and, days later, her 4-month-old baby died from the disease caused by the Ebola virus, officials said.
Officials urged Ugandans to be calm, saying a national emergency taskforce had been set up to stop the disease from spreading far and wide.
Killed 224 in 2000
There is no cure or vaccine for Ebola, and in Uganda, where in 2000 the disease killed 224 people and left hundreds more traumatized, it resurrects terrible memories. There have been isolated cases since, such as in 2007 when an outbreak of a new strain of Ebola killed at least 37 people in Bundibugyo, a remote district close to the Congolese border, but none as deadly as in 2000.
Ebola, which manifests itself as a hemorrhagic fever, is highly infectious and kills quickly. It was first reported in 1976 in Congo and is named for the river where it was recognized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A CDC factsheet on Ebola says the disease is "characterized by fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, and weakness, followed by diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. A rash, red eyes, hiccups and internal and external bleeding may be seen in some patients."
Scientists don't know the natural reservoir of the virus, but they suspect the first victim in an Ebola outbreak gets infected through contact with an infected animal, such as a monkey.
The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person, or objects that have been contaminated with infected secretions. During communal funerals, for example, when the bereaved come into contact with an Ebola victim, the virus can be contracted, officials said, warning against unnecessary contact with suspected cases of Ebola.
In Kibaale, some villagers had started abandoning their homes in recent weeks to escape what they thought was an illness that had something to do with bad luck, because people were quickly falling ill and dying, and there was no immediate explanation, officials said.
Officials said now that they've verified Ebola in the area they can concentrate on controlling the disease. Ebola patients were being treated at the only major hospital in Kibaale, said Stephen Byaruhanga, the district's health secretary.
"Being a strange disease, we were shocked to learn that it was Ebola," Byaruhanga said. "Our only hope is that in the past when Ebola broke out in other parts of Uganda it was controlled."
The challenge, he said, was retaining the services of all the nurses and doctors who are being asked to risk their lives in order to look after the sick.
"Their lives are at stake," he said.
Officials also worry that other villagers suffering from other diseases might be afraid to visit the hospital for fear of catching Ebola, he said.

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