Apr 30, 2012

A French Journalist Is Missing n Colombia

A French journalist reporting alongside soldiers is missing in Colombia after a leftist rebel group attacked their unit, killing four people and injuring six, officials said Sunday.

Romeo Langlois, who works for France 24, is a war reporter with more than 10 years experience in the country, said Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon.

According to preliminary reports, Langlois was shot in his arm before he disappeared, the minister said.

The attack by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also known as the FARC, took place in the southern Caqueta province as soldiers worked to destroy cocaine laboratories.

A sergeant, two soldiers and a national police officer were killed, the defense ministry said; six others were injured.

On Sunday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told French media that Langlois had been taken prisoner.

France 24 reported its editors were working with authorities in both countries to gather information on the journalist.

"We know that it's a difficult region," said Nahida Nakad, editorial director of Audiovisuel Exterieur de la France, of which France 24 is a part, the television network reported. "Of course we are very worried, but we have every confidence in Romeo who knows the territory very well and is an experienced journalist. We hope that he is safe and sound, and we are in constant contact with his family."

A FARC-sympathetic news agency that often publishes official statements from the group blamed the incident on the Colombian government.

His disappearance "is the responsibility of the government of Colombia for engaging in their ranks a foreign national as a correspondent of war," said an editorial posted by the New Colombia News Agency.

The soldiers had destroyed five laboratories, with a total capacity to produce two tons of cocaine per week, the Colombian defense ministry said.

Pinzon on Friday condemned the rebel group for a separate incident, attacks in Caqueta that left three civilians dead, one of them a baby.

He reported a major blow against the rebels in the northern part of the country.

A special operation by the army and national police in Antioquia killed "Brenda," the second leader of the company in the area, he said. It also led to the capture of "Richard," or "The Mechanic," chief financial officer of the Alfonso Castellanos company of FARC in Arauca.

The rebel group has been at war with the Colombian government since the 1960s, and uses kidnapping forces and civilians as a key strategy.

While severely weakened in recent years, it continues to carry out kidnappings and attacks on security forces.

Source: CNN News 

Peru Investigates Mystery Pelican Deaths

Authorities in Peru are investigating the death of over 538 pelicans, along with other birds, on the northern coast of the country, the Peruvian ministry of production said Sunday.

The new environmental investigation comes on the heels of an incident earlier in April when 877 dolphins washed up dead on the same stretch of coast.

It was not immediately clear if the deaths were connected.

The birds appear to have died on the beach, and more tests are needed to determine the cause of death, the ministry of production said.

The Peruvian Sea Institute surveyed about 43 miles (70km) of beach coastline on Sunday and estimated that 592 birds were dead along the shore.

State-run TV Peru estimated that up to 1,200 birds had been found dead on the 100 miles (160km) of northern shoreline extending from Punta Negra in Piura to San José in the state of Lambayeque.

The deaths began less than two weeks ago, local fishermen say.

The investigation into the mystery surrounding the dolphins is still ongoing. Peruvian Deputy Environment Minister Gabriel Quijandria said the dolphins may have died from an outbreak of Morbillivirus or Brucella bacteria.

The Peruvian government has put together a panel from different ministries to analyze a report by the Peruvian Sea Institute (IMARPE). Officials have been able to conclude that the dolphins' deaths were not due to lack of food, interaction with fisheries, poisoning with pesticides, biotoxin poisoning or contamination by heavy metals.

"When you have something this large, my gut would tell me that there's something traumatic that happened," Sue Rocca, a marine biologist with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, said. She raised a number of possibilities as to what could have killed the animals, including acoustic trauma.

Preliminary reports ruled out that seismic sound waves created by oil exploration in that stretch of sea could have killed the birds, the environment ministry said.

They also expressed concern for the fishermen in the area and restated their commitment to protecting the country's marine ecosystem.

Source: CNN News   

Former Libyan Oil Minister Found Dead In Vienna

Former Libyan Oil Minister Shukri Ghanem was found dead Sunday in the Danube river in Vienna, Austria, a police spokesman said.

Ghanem, who served under Moammar Gadhafi, defected as the opposition movement and NATO closed in around the then-Libyan leader.

His body, dressed in normal clothes, was found floating in the river, said Vienna police spokesman Roman Hahslinger. According to his daughter, Ghanem left the family residence early Sunday morning, the spokesman said.

He added that officials are waiting on autopsy results to determine a cause of death, but that Ghanem died in a "normal" manner. Police do not suspect violence was involved, Hahslinger said.

When he defected last year, Ghanem told CNN in Rome that he left Libya because the suffering of the people had become unbearable.

"This war is getting even worse every day and there is no end to it, and we would like to end this thing peacefully and come back to a solution quickly to reinstate democracy and constitutional government," he said.

Ghanem joined a growing list of top Libyan officials to depart from the regime since the unrest started there in February 2011.

Gadhafi was forced from office later that year and then fatally wounded in a gunbattle that broke out after his capture on October 20. His son and one-time heir apparent Saif al-Islam Gadhafi was captured by Libya's new authorities and is awaiting trial.

Oil is big business in Libya, which produced some 1.6 million barrels of oil per day before the unrest started.

Apr 29, 2012

FARC Rebels Attack Colombian Drugs Raid, Killing 4

A leftist rebel group attacked soldiers destroying cocaine laboratories in southern Colombia, killing four people and leaving six others missing, including a French journalist, authorities said.

The attack by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also known as the FARC, took place in Caqueta province, the nation's defense ministry said Saturday.

A sergeant, two soldiers and a national police officer were killed, the ministry said. In addition to the journalist, four soldiers and a national police officer are missing.

The destruction of the cocaine laboratories was part of an operation against drug trafficking. The five laboratories destroyed had the capacity to produce two tons of cocaine per week, the ministry said.

In a separate incident, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon on Friday condemned the rebel group's attacks in Caqueta, which left three civilians dead, one of them a baby.

He reported a major blow against the rebels in the northern part of the country.

A special operation by the army and national police in Antioquia killed "Brenda," the second leader of the company in the area. It also led to the capture of "Richard," or "The Mechanic," chief financial officer of the "Alfonso Castellanos" company of FARC in Arauca.

The rebel group has been at war with the Colombian government since the 1960s, and uses kidnapping forces and civilians as a key strategy.

While severely weakened in recent years, it continues to carry out kidnappings and attacks on security forces.

Hundreds of civilians remain prisoners of the guerrilla group throughout Colombia, according to the nonprofit Free Country Foundation.

FARC announced plans to release 10 military and police hostages in February, and said it would stop kidnapping civilians for money. It did not address the fate of its civilian captives then, nor did it renounce kidnapping for political purposes.

Gadhafi Gave To Sarkozy's 2007 Campaign

The campaign of French presidential front-runner Francois Hollande called for a criminal investigation into President Nicolas Sarkozy after a media report Saturday accused the president of taking 50 million euros ($66.3 million) for his 2007 campaign from then-Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

Mediapart, a French online magazine, claimed in its report to have a Gadhafi government document, detailing an agreement to fund the campaign. The alleged document, dated December 10, 2006, states that then-Libyan intelligence chief Moussa Koussa authorized secret payments to Sarkozy through an intermediary, Mediapart reports.

Sarkozy has dismissed the allegation as "grotesque."

During a television interview aired by TF1 last month, Sarkozy addressed the accusation, which has surfaced periodically since at least last year: "If (Gadhafi) had funded (my campaign), frankly, I would not have been very grateful," he said.

France supported the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya that helped to topple the longtime leader. Gadhafi was ousted, then was fatally wounded in a gunbattle that broke out after his capture on October 20. His son and one-time heir apparent Saif al-Islam Gadhafi was captured by Libya's new authorities and is awaiting trial.

During a televised interview with Euronews in March 2011, after France recognized the National Transitional Council as the legitimate authority in Libya, Gadhafi's son claimed Libya contributed to the Sarkozy campaign.

"The first thing we want this clown to do is give the money back to the Libyan people. He was given assistance so he could help them, but he has disappointed us," Saif al-Islam Gadhafi said.

The deposed Libyan leader's son then claimed that Libya had "all the bank details for the transfer operations." Despite pledging to make these transactions public, the Gadhafi regime, before and after its downfall, never produced any evidence it financed the Sarkozy campaign.

"When one quotes Mr. Gadhafi, who is dead, or his son, who is standing trial, the credibility is zero. And when you drag up their accounts with these questions you are asking, you quite degrade this political debate," Sarkozy said in the TF1 interview.

But Hollande's campaign is calling for the president to come clean.

"The fact that these revelations take place within days of the second round of the presidential election is not sufficient to demonstrate that they are 'grotesque.' It is now up to justice to reveal the truth: Either establish the facts and prosecute, or otherwise provide proof that these are false allegations," said Hollande spokeswoman Delphine Batho.

French records for the 2007 presidential election show that the Sarkozy campaign declared 21.3 million euros ($28.2 million) in contributions it received, according to the National Commission for Campaign Accounts and Political Financing, the French government body that monitors and records campaign financing.

Hollande and Sarkozy face a runoff vote for the presidency on May 6. Sarkozy, who leads the center-right UMP party, received 27.2% of the vote in the first round of voting, just behind Hollande's 28.6%. Hollande is a member of the center-left Socialist party.

If elected, Hollande would be France's first left-wing president since Francois Mitterrand left office in 1995. Sarkozy has been president since 2007.

The two contenders are expected to take part in their first head-to-head televised debate on Wednesday.

Source: CNN News 

Vehicle Flips, 7 Die Near Bronx Zoo

Seven people, including three children, died Sunday when a vehicle flipped over a guardrail and plunged up to 60 feet to the ground, landing upside down in an area of the Bronx Zoo that is closed to the public, officials said.

All the victims were inside the vehicle, a New York police spokesman said. The crash occurred near the Bronx River Parkway and East 180th Street.

"The vehicle hit the median and went across all lanes of traffic in the opposite direction," the spokesman said. The drop from the ramp, he said, was "substantial."

The victims include an 84-year-old man; three women, ages 80, 45 and 30; two girls, ages 12 and 10; and a smaller girl whose age was unclear, the New York Fire Department said. A baby bag with diapers inside was found at the scene.

The vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed, said FDNY Deputy Chief Ronald Werner.

An eyewitness told authorities it wasn't apparent what caused the vehicle, a white Honda Pilot SUV, to strike the barrier and plunge off the road, according to a law enforcement official. The van flew about 55 to 60 feet through the air before plunging the same distance to the ground, the official said.

One of the women was driving the SUV, the official said, but did not know which one. The victims' names were not released pending notification of family members.

Zoo spokeswoman Mary Dixon said the vehicle landed just inside the southeast perimeter of the 265-acre zoo.

"It's far from any public area," Dixon said. "No animals, exhibits or visitors were affected. ... It would be impossible for any visitors to see this."

The area where the vehicle fell is adjacent to where the zoo's trams are parked, Werner said.

The fire department's Howard Sickles told reporters that in his 20 years he's "seen a lot of horrific things and this is one of them."

The crushed vehicle came to rest in overgrown brush, Werner said. Authorities used thermal imaging cameras to find victims in case any had been ejected, he said.

Authorities received multiple calls about the incident at about 12:30 p.m., Werner said.

The vehicle was heading southbound on the Bronx River Parkway at the time of the incident, according to the NYPD.

Authorities said it was unclear whether any of the victims were wearing seat belts.

In 2006, six people died in an accident on the Bronx River Parkway near the site of Sunday's crash.

1 Killed, 16 Hospitalized When Storm Collapses St. Louis Tent

One person was killed and 16 others hospitalized Saturday afternoon when a sports bar tent collapsed during a storm that swept through the St. Louis area, fire officials said.

Five people suffered serious injuries. Nearly 100 others were treated at the scene, mostly for bruises, cuts, twisted ankles and one broken arm, officials said.

St. Louis Cardinals baseball fans had gathered at Kilroy's, which had a tent set up in the rear, according to fire Capt. Dan Sutter.

Wind gusts estimated to be about 50 miles per hour lifted the tent, according to Eddie Roth, the city's public safety director.

While the tent had received a city permit, manufacturer guidelines called for it to withstand winds of up to 90 miles per hour, said building commissioner Frank Oswald.

Oswald said officials had not yet determined whether there was a manufacturing or installation failure. The fire marshal was to conduct an investigation into the incident.

Up to 150 fans may have been under the tent, built of aluminum poles and guy wires, when the storm struck shortly before 4 p.m. (5 p.m. ET). They went to Kilroy's, south of Busch Stadium, after the Cardinals defeated the Milwaukee Brewers.

"We had live wires lying on the ground. We have severe injuries to quite a few people," said St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson. "This gives us nightmares."

"The music was loud and people had been in attendance at the ball game all afternoon," Deputy Fire Chief John Altmann told reporters. "I don't think they were really aware of the seriousness of the situation."

The tent came to rest on a railroad trestle.

The area had been under a severe thunderstorm watch, with a warning issued shortly before the incident.

"Anytime we put a lot of people in open areas and you have hazardous weather, it is a dangerous situation," Altmann said.

Oswald said he believed the tent met manufacturer construction specifications. The city inspects such structures for fire safety and exit lights, but installation is up to the contractor. Inspectors were on site after the permit was issued earlier this month, according to Oswald.

"Like the chief said, it is important that people are aware of the weather situation," he said. "These are temporary structures. They are certainly not designed to any stretch of the imagination to handle a severe weather event like this. Be aware of your surroundings and try to get somewhere safe."

Video shot by KSDK showed remains of the crumpled tent and dazed patrons standing outside.

A strong thunderstorm north of the city produced golf-ball-sized and larger hail, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Kramper.

A tornado warning for downtown St. Louis expired before 7 p.m.

Source: CNN News 

3 dead, 1 Missing In California-Mexico Boat Race

Three people are dead and another is missing after a boat race Saturday from Newport, California, to Ensenada, Mexico, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The four crew members were aboard the 37-foot Aegean sailboat, which was reported missing near the Coronado Islands, Mexico.

Nearby vessels reported seeing debris in the area, prompting a Coast Guard search.

On Saturday afternoon, searchers found the three deceased crew members and debris from the Aegean.

The U.S. Coast Guard, the Mexican navy and civilian rescuers are searching for the missing crew member.

The cause of the incident will be investigated, the Coast Guard said.

Gunmen Attack Nigeria University Campus

Gunmen attacked Christians worshipping on a Nigerian university campus on Sunday, with witnesses reporting multiple explosions and gunfire.

The number of casualties was not immediately clear.

Professor A.B. Baffa said he was at home on the campus of Bayero University in the city of Kano when he heard the gunfire and explosions. When he went to see what was going on, he said he saw people fleeing and saying gunmen attacked areas where Christians were worshipping.

The gunmen began their attack around 8:30 a.m., targeting a lecture hall normally used by Christians for Sunday services, journalist Salihu Tanko reported from the scene.

"Reports say that they came in one vehicle and they also came on the bike and started shooting sporadically and at the same time threw about four or five small locally made bombs," Tanko reported.

Baffa said police have closed off the area.

The attack happened while the university is on a break, so most of the students are not on campus, Tanko said.

Britain's Foreign Office said it had received reports of an explosion and gunfire at Bayero University and that the incident may be ongoing.

Source: CNN News  

Apr 28, 2012

Bomb Leaves 10 Afghan Police Dead

A roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan has killed 10 members of the country's security forces, officials say.

Wardak province officials said the dead belonged to the Afghan local police - part of a government-sponsored militia.

Taleban representatives have claimed the attack late on Friday.

Elsewhere, two suspected Taliban militants were shot dead just outside the governor's office in southern Kandahar province.

The attackers had passed through security checks but pulled out their guns as guards noticed something suspicious and stopped them, Kandahar Governor Tooryalai Wesa was reported as saying.

The men were killed in a 30-minute gun battle in which a guard was also injured, a spokesman told AP news agency.

A statement from Mr Wesa's office said it was the ninth attempt to target the governor in the past three years.

Nearly two weeks ago Taliban forces launched a major assault on the capital Kabul, attacking sites including parliament, Nato HQ and foreign embassies.

Source: BBC News  

KFC Must Pay $8.3m To Poisoned Girl In Australia

Fast-food giant KFC has been ordered to pay $8.3m to the family of an Australian girl left severely brain damaged after being poisoned by a chicken meal.

Monika Samaan fell ill with salmonella poisoning after eating a "Twister" wrap at a KFC restaurant near Sydney in 2005.

The poisoning left her wheelchair-bound and unable to speak.

KFC said it was "deeply disappointed" by the decision and would appeal.

A judge of the Supreme Court of the state of New South Wales awarded the A$8m damages after ruling last week that KFC had breached its duty of care to the girl.

The family's lawyer, George Vlahakis, said they were relieved by the decision.

"Monika's severe brain damage and severe disability has already exhausted the very limited resources of the family," he said.

"Monika is now a big girl and they are finding it increasingly difficult to lift her and to look after her basic needs as well as look after Monika's younger siblings.

"The compensation ordered is very much needed. KFC have to date been determined that Monika does not receive a cent."

KFC, which is owned by Yum! Brands, expressed surprise at the judge's ruling, insisting the evidence did not show it caused Monika's disability. It has indicated it will appeal.

"We feel deeply for Monika and the Samaan family. However, we also have a responsibility to defend KFC's reputation as a provider of safe, high-quality food," a company manager said.

The court was told that Monika was in a coma for six months after she, her parents and brother fell ill with vomiting and diarrhea after sharing the wrap, the AAP news agency reports. The other family members all recovered.

The family's lawyer told the court that at busy times, the restaurant would reuse chicken that had been dropped on the floor.

Source: BBC News  

Israel PM Misleading Over Iran

The former head of Israel's domestic intelligence agency has accused the country's leadership of "misleading" the public on the merits of a possible military strike on Iran.

Yuval Diskin said an attack might speed up any attempt by Iran to obtain a nuclear bomb.

The comment follows remarks by other leading figures contradicting the prime minister and defence chief's views on the subject.

Iran denies it is seeking nuclear arms.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak have repeatedly said Iran must be prevented from building nuclear weapons and have not ruled out military action to disrupt its nuclear programme.

Mr Diskin, who stepped down as Shin Bet chief last year after six years, said he had "no faith in the current leadership" of Mr Netanyahu and Mr Barak, according to Israeli media reports.

"I don't believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings," he said at a public meeting.

"They are misleading the public on the Iran issue. They tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran won't have a nuclear bomb. This is misleading. Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race."

This was by any measure a stinging attack on the Israeli prime minister and his defence chief.

Mr Diskin's harsh criticism appears to be another sign of deep disquiet within the Israeli military and intelligence community over Prime Minister Netanyahu's threats to attack Iran.

The former Shin Bet chief's comments come days after Israel's military chief said he did not think that Iran had yet decided to build nuclear weapons.

Chief of Staff Lt Gen Benny Gantz said he believed international sanctions against Iran were bearing fruit in dissuading it from taking such a decision.

In March, the former head of Israel's foreign intelligence service, Mossad, publicly opposed military action against Iran.

Meir Dagan said an Israeli attack would have "devastating" consequences for the Jewish state and would not prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Such views are at odds with those of the prime minister and defence chief. Prior to Mr Dagan's remarks on US television, Mr Netanyahu had inferred he would not countenance a long delay before taking direct action against Iran's nuclear programme if all other options failed.

He said he hoped "we can peacefully convince them to tear down their nuclear programme", but that either way "the result has to be that the threat of a nuclear weapon in Iran's hands is removed".

Source: BBC News  

Syria Rebels Launch Sea Raid As Lebanon Seizes Weapons

Syrian rebel gunmen in inflatable dinghies have attacked a military unit on the Mediterranean coast, with deaths on both sides, state media report.

It is thought to be the first rebel assault from the sea. Separately, Lebanon says its navy has seized weapons destined for the rebels.

Clashes between security forces and deserting troops left heavy casualties near Damascus and Aleppo, reports say.

The violence comes despite a shaky ceasefire in force since 12 April.

On Thursday UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that Syria's government was "in contravention" of a UN- and Arab League-backed peace plan.

Saturday's violence came after the Lebanese navy said it had found and confiscated three containers full of arms and ammunition bound for the rebels.

The ship, the Lutfallah II, is reported to have begun its voyage from Libya, stopped off in Alexandria in Egypt, and then headed for the port of Tripoli in northern Lebanon before it was intercepted.

it is believed the consignment was destined for the rebels in Syria, with whom the new Libyan regime strongly sympathises.

Tripoli in north Lebanon is a hotbed of support for the Syrian opposition, and the authorities in Damascus have frequently complained about arms being smuggled from the areas into the country, our correspondent says.

The dinghy attack reportedly took place further north, about 30km (19 miles) from the border with Turkey.

Syria's official news agency Sana said a military unit had foiled a "terrorist attempt" to infiltrate the country overnight by boat in Latakia province.

"An official source told a Sana reporter that members of the military unit clashed with the terrorists who were boarding inflatable boats, forcing them to flee," the agency said.

"The source stated that the clash led to the martyrdom and injuries of a number of [members of the] military unit." Sana said it was not clear how many rebels had been killed "as they attacked the military unit at night".

The fighting north of Damascus broke out after a group of soldiers defected to the rebels and were pursued by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad into the village of Bakha, activists said.

One account said four rebels and six civilians had been killed, but the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said all those who died were army defectors.

Similar clashes were reported in the village of Burj al-Salaam near one of the presidential palaces close to the coastal city of Latakia, after a group of soldiers deserted there.

None of violence could be independently verified because of government restrictions on the media.

The UN currently has about 15 observers in Syria monitoring a shaky ceasefire, which came into force on 12 April, and hopes to have the full advance team of 30 in place by Monday.

Violence has been continuing despite the truce.

On Friday an explosion in the centre of the Damascus killed at least 10 people and wounded 20 others, state media said. Activist organisations accused the regime itself of carrying out the attack.

Mr Ban has demanded that Damascus comply with the peace plan brokered by international peace envoy Kofi Annan without delay.

The Security Council has approved the deployment of up to 300 monitors. Norwegian Maj Gen Robert Mood, who is to lead the team, was heading to Damascus on Saturday, reports said.

Our correspondent says he must be wondering how much of a ceasefire there is left for his team to monitor.

Source: BBC News  

Apr 27, 2012

Spain's King Juan Carlos Back In Hospital For Hip Surgery

Spain's King Juan Carlos was recovering Friday after being readmitted to a Madrid hospital for surgery on his right hip, the Royal Palace said.

An update on the 74-year-old king's condition is expected later in the day, according to the palace.

The surgery was performed Thursday at San Jose Hospital to "reduce a dislocation" of the hip, a palace statement said.

He underwent hip replacement surgery earlier this month after falling while on a controversial private hunting trip in Botswana.

The African trip caused an outcry in Spain and abroad for its expense during the nation's economic crisis and for including the hunting of elephants.

Last week, the king made a rare apology over the trip, saying he had made a mistake which would not happen again.

Spaniards generally hold the king in high regard for his service to the nation and his defense of democracy after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 -- especially the king's decisive stand to halt a right-wing military coup in 1981.

But after news emerged of the expensive hunting trip, with widespread Spanish media reports that it included the hunting of elephants, even normally-staunch political allies of the monarch said publicly that they considered the timing of the trip a mistake.

The criticism of the trip initially focused on the expensive safari in the midst of the nation's deep crisis, with 23% unemployment, 5 million Spaniards out of work, and the government applying austerity cuts and tax increases to make up for budget shortfalls.

The king himself had previously expressed his concern over the impact of the crisis on Spaniards and called on the nation to come together to get through the tough times.

The royal household has a budget of 8.26 million euros ($10.8 million) this year, 2% less than last year, and had recently announced cuts of about $222,000, including trimming salaries of the highest-paid staffers at the royal palace.

Some critics also wondered how much public money was spent for security on the king's private trip.

Animal rights activists also voiced criticism, as reports emerged that the king was hunting elephants.

At least one photo, said to be from an earlier trip, showed the king, rifle in hand, standing in front of a dead elephant. It was widely published in Spanish media, which said it was taken from the website of an African safari outfitter, and that the photo was later removed from the company's site.

Source: CNN News  

3 Arrested In Denmark Over Suspected Terror Plot

Three people were arrested in Copenhagen Friday on suspicion of planning a terror attack, Denmark's Security and Intelligence Service said.

The three are a 22-year-old Jordanian citizen, a 23-year-old Turkish citizen who lives in Denmark, and a 21-year-old Danish citizen who lives in Egypt, a statement from the intelligence service said.

They have been charged with illegal possession of automatic weapons and ammunition, the statement said.

Steen Hansen, in the communications department of Copenhagen police, confirmed that a number of arrests had been made.

The investigation will be led by Copenhagen police in collaboration with the intelligence service, he said.

The three suspects are expected to appear before a judge in the Danish capital Saturday, he said.

The arrests were made at two addresses in connection with an terror investigation, the intelligence service said, and searches are taking place at a number of properties in the Copenhagen area.

Source: CNN News  

27 Hurt In Ukraine Blasts; Terror Probe Starts

Four explosions that rocked an eastern Ukrainian city on Friday have prompted a terror probe, the Ukrainian News agency reported.

A regional prosecutor's office has started a "terrorist case" into the blasts in Dnepropetrovsk. The explosions went off in the course of 70 minutes and injured at least 27.

Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych said a special investigation team will be set up to probe the explosions.

"This is another challenge to the entire country," the president told reporters in the country's Crimea region. "We are thinking how to respond it properly. I am sorry this happened."

The first blast went off in a trash can at a tram stop, injuring 13 people, the country's Emergencies Ministry said. The second followed 40 minutes later near a movie theater. That injured 11, nine of them children. Three were injured in the third blast, and no one was hurt in the fourth, the ministry said.

Of those hurt, 24 have been hospitalized, it said.

Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko and other government officials traveled to the city after the blasts occurred.

The city, with just over 1 million in population, is one of the largest in the country, the CIA World Factbook says.

Source: CNN News   

Chinese Activist Escapes From House Arrest

A prominent Chinese human rights activist has called for an investigation into corrupt and cruel officials after he escaped from house arrest in an eastern province and fled to Beijing.

Chen Guangcheng addressed the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, in a video posted on YouTube on Friday, detailing the abuses he said he and his family had suffered at the hands of the authorities during more than 18 months of heavily guarded detention in their home.

"They broke into my house and more than a dozen men assaulted my wife," he said. "They pinned her down and wrapped her in a comforter, beating and kicking her for hours. They also similarly violently assaulted me."

Chinese authorities have not commented.

The activist, who is blind, was driven to Beijing on Sunday after evading his guards in the tiny village of Dongshigu in Shandong Province, said He Peirong, a friend and fellow activist said Friday.

His high-profile breakout appears to have angered the local authorities who were holding him captive, with members of his family already reporting that they have suffered reprisals.

Chen, 40, is a self-taught lawyer who rose to fame in the late 1990s thanks to his legal advocacy for what he called victims of abusive practices, such as alleged forced abortions, by China's family-planning officials. He had been confined to his home along with his wife, mother and daughter since he was released from years in prison in September 2010.

In the video posted Friday, he said the treatment of him and his family by the local security forces "was so cruel it has greatly harmed the image of the Communist Party."

Calling on Wen to investigate his case, he asked: "Is it just local officials flagrantly violating the law or do they have the support of the central government? I hope you will give the public a clear answer in the near future."

The blind activist had prepared for his escape for months, He Peirong said, by lying in bed for prolonged periods so that the guards wouldn't be suspicious if they didn't see any activity from him for a long time.

Once free, Chen contacted He Peirong and a few other activists.

"We learned that he had escaped and needed our help," she said, in an interview via Skype from her home city of Nanjing.

They met him at a rendezvous point, and then drove him to Beijing and hid him in a safe house, He Peirong said.

She said that Chen's fellow activists had decided to publicize his flight from captivity after hearing that Shandong authorities, upon discovering his disappearance, had sent people to assault members of his family.

Chen Kegui, the blind activist's nephew, said in a phone conversation with a Chinese activist that local officials broke into his family's home. He said he used kitchen knives to defend himself when the officials tried to arrest him.

"I was afraid they might knock me down unconscious or beat me to death, so I went out to find somewhere safe," the nephew said in the conversation, a recording of which was posted online. He added that he had since called the police and was waiting for them to come and pick him up.

Repeated attempts to reach Chen Kegui by phone were unsuccessful.

The blind activist expressed concern in the video Friday about his family's welfare.

"Although I'm free, my worries are only deepening," he said. "My wife, mother and children are still in their evil hands. They have been persecuting my family for a long time and my escape would only prompt them into a mode of revenge."

Repeated calls seeking comment from the local authorities in Shandong rang unanswered.

The whereabouts of Chen's wife, mother and daughter -- who did not escape with him -- remained unknown Friday.

Chen is relatively weak physically but his spirits are high, said He Peirong. There have been concerns about Chen's health during his more than 18 months under house arrest, surrounded by a heavy police presence.

"He said he wants to live freely in his own country," He Peirong said. "He said he hopes to hold my hand and take me to his village one day."

The authorities reaction to Chen's escape appeared to have ensnared He Peirong, too, after she spoke to CNN and other news media organizations Friday to publicize the situation.

Bob Fu, the head of the U.S.-based nonprofit group ChinaAid, said that he was communicating with He Peirong via Skype when she said that state security agents had arrived at her home. Attempts to contact her since then have been unsuccessful.

She had acknowledged that by speaking out about Chen's escape, she was putting herself at risk.

"I'm not concerned about my own safety," she said during the Skype interview. "I hope they'll arrest me, not my friends."

Chen's period of home detention came after his time in jail. A local court had sentenced him to four years in prison for damaging property and disrupting traffic in a protest. His supporters maintain authorities used trumped-up charges to silence him.

Last year, in a video smuggled out of the country by a U.S.-based human rights group, Chen described his dire conditions of being a prisoner in his own home.

"Those people stand at the four corners of my house, spy on my family and monitor what we do," he said. "They installed floodlights and surveillance cameras around my house."

Sympathizers and journalists were prevented from visiting him, including the Hollywood actor Christian Bale, who was roughed up by security guards during an attempt to see Chen in December.

Chen's incarceration and allegations of abuse by local officials have drawn international criticism from the likes of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Gary Locke, the U.S. ambassador to China.

Women's Rights Without Frontiers, a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization that has been advocating Chen's release, urged Clinton to raise the case when she visits Beijing next month.

"We are grateful that Chen is no longer under house arrest, but we are concerned about his safety and that of his family," Reggie Littlejohn, the organization's president, said in a statement.

"We call upon the entire international diplomatic community to make urgent, official interventions on behalf of Chen with the Chinese government," Littlejohn said.

Source: CNN News  

Sudans Conflict Leaves 37,000 Desperate For Water

The spiraling conflict between the Sudans has exacerbated issues for tens of thousands of Sudanese refugees who are desperate for water and facing the threat of fatal diseases, an international aid organization says.

As South Sudan and Sudan continue to battle over border and oil issues, 37,000 refugees in South Sudan's Jamam camp are running out of time, Oxfam said.

"There is simply not enough ground water available to sustain the growing number of people who need it," said Pauline Ballaman, head of Oxfam's operations at the camp. "Women have to queue for hours in the burning sun just to collect a fraction of the water they need, and the situation is getting more desperate by the day. The only solution is for people to be moved urgently."

Oxfam says this large number of refugees fled to the camp since December and more are on their way.

South Sudan split from Sudan last year as part of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of war in Africa's largest nation. The war left 2 million people dead and ended with the peace agreement that included an independence referendum for the south.

Despite the split in July, unresolved issues remain between the two, including status of their citizens, division of national debt, disputed border areas and sharing of oil wealth.

Simmering tensions peaked this month when South Sudan seized the oil-producing region of Heglig from Sudan, raising the stakes by targeting a resource that fuels the economies of both nations.

Heglig oil facilities account for about half of Sudan's production of 115,000 barrels a day.

Sudan claims ownership for the region, and lodged complaints with the United Nations and the African Union to pressure South Sudan to withdraw troops from its territory.

A day after South Sudan withdrew from the disputed region, it accused Sudan of launching ground and aerial attacks on its territory.

Source: CNN News   

Philadelphia Man Finds Self On Missing Children's Website

More than a year ago, Steve Carter was browsing online and came across a missing children's website.

To his astonishment, after clicking through the pages, he found himself.

What followed was a yearlong story of self-discovery.

Carter, a 35-year-old software salesman, was adopted at age 4 from an orphanage in Honolulu. When he grew up, got married and thought about having his own children, the Philadelphia resident grew more curious about his own roots.

"It popped up on my iPad, and right from there I went to the center's website," Carter said, referring to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

White, an Atlanta woman who made headlines last year after she found her own baby picture on the website, discovered that she had been kidnapped as a 3-week-old infant from a Harlem hospital in 1987 by a woman posing as a nurse. She reunited with her biological family in an emotional meeting last January.

Reading White's tale, Carter said, made him wonder about his own.

On a hunch, he clicked on Missingkids.com in hopes of answering the unanswered questions about his origins.

It was there he found an age-progression image made from a photograph of him as an infant.

Carter recognized himself immediately, he said, and contacted the Honolulu Police Department.

"I let them know my info and they ran with it," he said. "They were the ones who did all the legwork" of investigating the case.

Carter then volunteered for a DNA test in February 2011. Eight months later its findings revealed fragments of his story and the name he'd been given at birth: Marx Panama Moriarty Barnes.

His biological father, Mark Barnes, reported him missing more than three decades ago after his mother, Charlotte Moriarty, took him for a walk and didn't return.

Carter says he believes Moriarty put him in the Hawaiian orphanage and told authorities his name was Tenzin Amea. CNN could not independently confirm that account.

Barnes, who now lives in California with his two daughters, was not immediately available for comment, and Moriarty's whereabouts are unknown.

This January, Carter decided to contact his newfound relatives over the phone.

"They knew I had been located, but they were very surprised," Carter said, describing the experience as "a lot to digest."

"You see a lot of these reunion stories and a day later they're meeting their parents," he said. "I'm still going forward, testing the waters."

Carter says that while he intends to meet his kin at some point, he also wants to uncover what happened in the three-week period between his reported disappearance and his arrival at the orphanage in Hawaii.

And yet authorities say stories like Carter's and White's are rare.

Thousands of children under the age of 18 go missing each year, the center for missing children reported. Many of those youths are considered runaways and return home, though hundreds of the long-term missing often prove far more difficult to track down.

"We encourage folks who have doubts to look on the website," said Robert Lowery, the center's executive director.

Carter described his experience as "a happy ending to a story that usually isn't a happy ending."

"Good things do happen," he said.

Source: CNN News   

Zimmerman Misled Court About Money

The tens of thousands of dollars in donations that George Zimmerman has received are expected to be discussed at a court hearing Friday in Florida, his attorney said.

The hearing was originally scheduled to discuss issues about the unsealing of Zimmerman's criminal file, but the donations could overshadow that issue.

The attorney for Trayvon Martin's family says Zimmerman should be back in jail because during a recent bond hearing he failed to tell a judge he had $204,000.

"They tried to portray themselves as indigent that they did not have any money," said Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump. "We think the court should revoke his bond immediately, and he should be held accountable for misleading the court."

Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Martin, has been given about $204,000 from supporters, his lawyer Mark O'Mara said Thursday.

The donations will be discussed at Friday's hearing, O'Mara said.

O'Mara said on CNN's "AC360" that Zimmerman told him of the donations Wednesday as they were trying to shut down his Internet presence to avoid concerns about possible impersonators and problems with his Twitter and Facebook accounts.

"He asked me what to do with his PayPal accounts, and I asked him what he was talking about," O'Mara told Anderson Cooper. "He said those were the accounts that had the money from the website he had. And there was about ... $204,000 that had come in to date."

O'Mara had said earlier this month that he believed Zimmerman had no money. "I think he's indigent for costs," he said, adding that Zimmerman's relatives had few assets.

Zimmerman, 28, was released Monday on $150,000 bail, 10% of which his family put up to secure his release. He is accused in the February 26 death of Martin, who was African-American.

Critics have accused Zimmerman of racially profiling Martin and unjustly killing him. Zimmerman said he shot Martin in self-defense.

Asked whether knowledge of the money might have made a difference to Judge Kenneth Lester Jr., who presided at Zimmerman's bond hearing, O'Mara said, "It might have."

O'Mara continued, "I'm certainly going to disclose it to the court tomorrow -- coincidentally, we have a hearing."

Crump said Zimmerman's failure to reveal that he had the money shows that he is being dishonest.

"If his testimony at the bond hearing is any indication of what is to come, then the lying has already begun," Crump said.

O'Mara said he was prepared to "deal with any fallout," but predicted Lester would not feel misled. "I told him what I knew at the time, which was exactly what I was aware of."

The money has been placed in a secure account since O'Mara learned about it, he said, adding, "Nobody's touching it until we figure out how to handle it."

But criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos said Lester might not react benignly. "I know a lot of judges who would remand the guy back into custody immediately," he said. "If you've got more money stashed in an account and you could just pay the bond and be gone, that gives a lot of judges concern."

Though the account has been closed, O'Mara said he intends to open a legal defense fund for Zimmerman. "I've had dozens, hundreds actually, of people wanting to donate," he said.

O'Mara, who said he charges $400 per hour for family law cases, estimated Zimmerman's defense costs could reach $1 million. "You can really go through a lot of money on a case like this, with the intensity of it," he said.

Although details of the shooting remain murky, it is known that Martin ventured out from the Sanford home of his father's fiancee and went to a nearby convenience store, where he bought a bag of candy and an iced tea. On his way back, he had a confrontation with Zimmerman, who shot him.

Zimmerman had called 911 to complain about a suspicious person in the neighborhood, according to authorities.

In the call, Zimmerman said he was following Martin after the teen started to run, prompting the dispatcher to tell him, "We don't need you to do that." Zimmerman pursued Martin anyway but then said he lost sight of him.

According to an Orlando Sentinel story later confirmed by Sanford police, Zimmerman told authorities that after he briefly lost track of Martin, the teen approached him. After the two exchanged words, Zimmerman said, he reached for his cell phone, and then Martin punched him in the nose. Zimmerman said Martin pinned him to the ground and began slamming his head onto the sidewalk, leading to the shooting.

Police have said Zimmerman was not immediately charged because there was no evidence to disprove his account that he'd acted in self-defense. A police report indicated he was bleeding from the nose and the back of his head.

Source: CNN News  

Apr 26, 2012

Charles Taylor Guilty Of Aiding Sierra Leone War Crimes

International judges have found former Liberian leader Charles Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war, at his trial in The Hague.

Taylor has been on trial at the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone for almost five years.

He was accused of backing rebels who killed tens of thousands during Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war.

But he was cleared of ordering their crimes.

Taylor is the first former head of state convicted by an international court since the Nuremburg military tribunal of Nazis after World War II.

Human rights groups described the judgement as historic.

"This is an incredibly significant decision," Elise Keppler from the campaign group Human Rights Watch said. "Today is a landmark moment."

Rights group Amnesty International said the verdict sent an important message to all high-ranking state officials.

"While today's conviction brings some measure of justice to the people of Sierra Leone, Taylor and the others sentenced by the Special Court are just the tip of the iceberg," the group's Brima Abdulai Sheriff said in a statement.

Judge Richard Lussick said Taylor had sold diamonds and bought weapons on behalf of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels - and knew they were committing crimes.

"The chamber finds beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is criminally responsible... for aiding and abetting the commission of the crimes 1 to 11 in the indictment," judge Lussick told the Special Court for Sierra Leone, sitting in the outskirts of The Hague, as he read the verdict.

The accused had substantial influence over the RUF, but this fell short of effective command and control, the judge said.

The military support provided by the accused to the RUF had a significant impact on the commission of crimes, the judge added.

Judge Lussick also said the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was individually responsible for some of the crimes committed in Sierra Leone or part of a joint criminal enterprise.

A sentence hearing will be held on 16 May, with the sentence to be handed down on 30 May, he added.

Taylor is expected to serve his sentence in a British prison as the Dutch government only agreed to host the trial if any ensuing jail term was served in another country.

Source: BBC News   

Syria: Massive Hama Explosion Kills 70

Up to 70 people have been killed in an attack on a house in Hama, according to Syrian activists.

They said several houses in the Masha at-Tayyar district in southern Hama were destroyed by a big explosion.

State media said 16 people died in the blast in a house used as a bomb factory by "armed terrorist groups".

The violence comes despite a UN-brokered ceasefire - part of a peace plan proposed by the joint UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
Scud attack?

Following the blast in Hama, activists posted video on the internet showing a scene of devastation, with bodies being pulled from the rubble.

One report said 13 children and 15 women were among the dead.

They said the blast was caused by government shelling or even a Scud missile attack.

The opposition Syrian National Council has called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting "so that it can issue a resolution to protect civilians".

It says nearly 100 people have been killed in Hama in recent days.

The level of devastation seen would have been difficult to achieve by conventional shelling.

State television showed pictures of injured children in hospital and says that a group using the house to make bombs detonated them accidentally.

The reports cannot be independently verified owing to government restrictions on foreign media.

Meanwhile, a video has emerged which purportedly shows a man being buried alive by security forces, allegedly for sending material to TV stations.

Its authenticity could not be confirmed.

The unnamed man, who is said to be a media activist, is seen pleading for his life as earth is shovelled over his head. He then goes silent.

What appear to be members of the security forces are then heard cursing him for receiving money for sending material to Arabic satellite TV stations.

The video was leaked by sympathisers.

Continuing violence has been reported across Syria since a ceasefire was introduced earlier this month - including in towns where UN observers are present.

France now says the Security Council should consider the use of force in Syria if Mr Annan's peace plan fails to stop the violence.

The plan calls on Damascus to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from cities.
"Totally unacceptable"

Mr Annan told the Security Council on Tuesday that the Syrian military had not withdrawn from population centres.

He condemned as "totally unacceptable and reprehensible", reports that troops entered Hama after UN observers departed on Monday, and carried out summary executions as punishment for having spoken to them.

Two observers have now returned to Hama. They form part of a small advance team, ahead of a team of 300 that the UN would like to deploy.

The US permanent representative to the UN, Susan Rice, told reporters on Tuesday that all Security Council members wanted the observers to be deployed quickly.

Ms Rice said that it was hoped 100 observers would be in Syria within a month, but said Syria had made clear it would not admit UN staff from any country in the "Friends of Democratic Syria" group.

The UN says about 9,000 people have died since pro-democracy protests began in March 2011. In February, the Syrian government put the death toll at 3,838 - 2,493 civilians and 1,345 security forces personnel.
Source: BBC News  

Related Stories

Hollywood Release: Safe [Watch Trailer]

A second-rate cage fighter on the mixed martial arts circuit, Luke Wright lives a numbing life of routine beatings and chump change…until the day he blows a rigged fight.

Wanting to make an example of him, the Russian Mafia murders his family and banishes him from his life forever, leaving Luke to wander the streets of New York destitute, haunted by guilt, and tormented by the knowledge that he will always be watched, and anyone he develops a relationship with will also be killed.

But when he witnesses a frightened twelve-year-old Chinese girl, Mei, being pursued by the same gangsters who killed his wife, Luke impulsively jumps to action…and straight into the heart of a deadly high-stakes war.

Mei, he discovers, is no ordinary girl, but an orphaned math prodigy forced to work for the Triads as a "counter." He discovers she holds in her memory a priceless numerical code that the Triads, the Russian mob and a corrupt faction of the NYPD will kill for.

Realizing he’s the only person Mei can trust, Luke tears a swath through the city’s brutal underworld to save an innocent girl’s life…and perhaps even redeem his own.

Hollywood Release: Pirates! Band of Misfits [Watch Trailer]

In The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Hugh Grant stars in his first animated role as the luxuriantly bearded Pirate Captain - a boundlessly enthusiastic, if somewhat less-than-successful, terror of the High Seas.

With a rag-tag crew at his side (Martin Freeman, Brendan Gleeson, Russell Tovey, and Ashley Jensen), and seemingly blind to the impossible odds stacked against him, the Captain has one dream: to beat his bitter rivals Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek) to the much coveted Pirate Of The Year Award. 

It's a quest that takes our heroes from the shores of exotic Blood Island to the foggy streets of Victorian London. Along the way they battle a diabolical queen (Imelda Staunton) and team up with a haplessly smitten young scientist (David Tennant), but never lose sight of what a pirate loves best: adventure!

Hollywood Release: Five-Year Engagement [Watch Trailer]

The director and writer/star of Forgetting Sarah Marshall reteam for the irreverent comedy The Five-Year Engagement.

Beginning where most romantic comedies end, the new film from director Nicholas Stoller, producer Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) and Rodney Rothman (Get Him to the Greek) looks at what happens when an engaged couple, Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, keeps getting tripped up on the long walk down the aisle.

The film was written by Segel and Stoller.

Hollywood Release: Sound Of My Voice [Watch Trailer]

Upcoming film Sound of My Voice is a crazy, time-traveling journey that follows a young couple as they try to unmask a mysterious cult leader named Maggie. But it started out as a small-budget labor of love.

In the making-of video above, exclusive to Wired, Sound of My Voice writer/director Zal Batmanglij and writer/star Brit Marling talk about the raw cinematic experience of watching their film, and the precise way its tale of a cult and its enigmatic leader will mess with audience members’ heads. They also explain the stripped-down way in which they made their movie.

“It was communal filmmaking,”Batmanglij says. “We wanted to tell a story. We just kept climbing up the mountain every day, little bit by bit, without thinking about how it was going to be received or any of those things.”

The director also notes that there is “something really beautiful about a lo-fi film” and said he hopes that’s the feeling audiences take away. Marling, who plays cult leader Maggie, said she hopes Sound of My Voice serves as a mirror for what’s happening in the culture right now.

“You’re trying always to get better at telling the truth — both from the writing perspective and the acting perspective — to let go of artifice,” says Marling (who starred in last year’s indie hit Another Earth).

Sound of My Voice, which got a lot of buzz when it screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011, was made for less than $500,000. But even so, Batmanglij told Wired back when it was still showing in festivals that he and Marling have an outline for a three-film series.

Source: Wired  

Hollywood Release: The Raven [Watch Trailer]

The Raven is an American thriller film directed by James McTeigue, produced by Scott Levy, and based on a screenplay by Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare. It stars John Cusack, Alice Eve and Oliver Jackson-Cohen. It was released March 9, 2012 in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland and will be released in the United States on April 27, 2012.

It is a fictionalized account of the last days of Edgar Allan Poe's life, in which the poet and author pursues a serial killer whose murders mirror those in Poe's stories.

When a mother and daughter are found brutally murdered in 19th century Baltimore, Detective Emmett Fields (Luke Evans) makes a startling discovery: the crime resembles a fictional murder described in gory detail in the local newspaper--part of a collection of stories penned by struggling writer and social pariah Edgar Allan Poe.

But even as Poe is questioned by police, another grisly murder occurs, also inspired by a popular Poe story.

Realizing a serial killer is on the loose using Poe's writings as the backdrop for his bloody rampage, Fields enlists the author's help in stopping the attacks. But when it appears someone close to Poe may become the murderer's next victim, the stakes become even higher and the inventor of modern detective story calls on his own powers of deduction to try to solve the case before it's too late.

Apr 25, 2012

Peter Jackson Unveils New Hobbit Footage

Director Peter Jackson has unveiled 10 minutes of footage of The Hobbit to a mixed reaction at the CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas.

The prequel to his Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy, starring British actor Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, is due out in cinemas in December.

The new film has been shot at a rate of 48 frames per second, compared with the industry standard of 24 frames.

However some attendees claimed the scenes looked like low-budget TV.

In a video introduction, Jackson told the audience that using 48 frames per second produced a smoother image.

"The movement feels more real - it's much more gentle on the eyes," he said.

The footage included scenes featuring Bilbo Baggins lost in Gollum's cave, trolls engaged in battle and Sir Ian McKellen and Orlando Bloom reprising their roles as Gandalf and Legolas.

'Too accurate'

Jackson said the new approach would take time to adjust to and some attendees agreed, branding the footage as a failure in digital technology.

The Los Angeles Times said the footage was "hyper-realistic": "An opening aerial shot of dramatic rocky mountains appeared clearer than the images in most nature documentaries.

"But the effect was different when applied to scenes with actors dressed in period costume, whose every move - and pore - was crystal clear," it added.

One projectionist told the newspaper it "looked like a made-for-TV movie".

"It was too accurate - too clear. The contrast ratio isn't there yet - everything looked either too bright or black," they said.

However the Associated Press reported the footage was "vivid, with grass blades, facial lines and soaring mountains appearing luminous and pronounced. The actors looked almost touchable, as if they were performing live on stage".

Other digital pioneers are making the same push for higher film speeds.

Avatar creator James Cameron has promised to shoot the sequel to his science-fiction blockbuster at 48 or 60 frames per second.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first chapter in Jackson's two-part adaptation of JRR Tolkien's fantasy classic.

The two films were shot back-to-back in 3D, with the second part, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, due in cinemas in December 2013.

Google Offers 16TB Cloud Storage

 Google has launched a new consumer service offering up to 16TB (terabytes) of storage for photos and other online content.

Dubbed Google Drive, the service goes head to head with rival cloud services such as Dropbox and Microsoft's SkyDrive.

It offers 5GB (gigabytes) of storage for free. People pay on a rising scale for more space.

Experts say that Google is "late" to the market.

16TB of space could hold more than 4,000 two-hour movies coded in 720p high-definition resolution.

"Today, we're introducing Google Drive - a central place where you can create, share, collaborate and keep all of your stuff," said Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome and Apps in a blog post.

"Whether you're working with a friend on a joint research project, planning a wedding with your fiancé or tracking a budget with roommates, you can do it in Drive."

The service will allow users to upload and access videos, photos, Google Docs, PDFs and other documents.

It can be installed to a Mac or PC or as an app to an Android phone or tablet. Google said that it was working on an app for Apple's mobile operating system, which should be available in the coming weeks.

For blind users, Drive can be accessed with a screen reader.

"Google Drive will hit some competitors very hard and shake up the market," said Hanns Kohler-Kruner from tech research firm Gartner.

"It will also create another stream of more focused and potential ad revenue for Google around the content of personal files on Google Drive."

Google will draw on its search expertise to help differentiate the service.

Users will be able search by keyword and filter by file type, owner or activity. Drive will also recognise text in scanned documents using optical character recognition (OCR) technology.

This would allow someone, for example, to upload a scanned image of an old newspaper clipping and search for a word from the text of the news article.

Google Drive will also use image recognition.

"If you drag and drop photos from your Grand Canyon trip to Drive, the next time you search for Grand Canyon, photos of it will pop up," said Mr Pichai.

The first 5GB of storage comes free.

After that users can choose to upgrade to 25GB for $2.49 (£1.50) a month, 100GB for $4.99 a month, 1TB for $49.99 or 16TB for $799.99.

When users upgrade to a paid account, their Gmail account storage will automatically expand to 25GB.

By contrast, Microsoft offers yearly contracts. It charges $50 for maximum storage of 100GB.

Dropbox offers individual users up to 100GB at a rate of $19.99 per month or $199 per year. It also sells larger amounts to groups with the cost and size determined by how many people share the space.

Cloud services have become hugely popular as people seek to access content from a variety of places and devices.

Richard Edwards, principal analyst at research firm Ovum, said that Google was "very late" to the market but that its move could spur others.

"Facebook doesn't have a cloud service but this may prompt it into an acquisition," he said.

"If Facebook was to buy Dropbox that would be a game-changer."

In anticipation of Google's announcement, rivals updated their own services.

Dropbox now allows users to give non-members access to files via emailed links. Until now it had required both parties to sign up to its service and have shared folders.

Microsoft has also improved its SkyDrive service.

Among other features, it has integrated the drive into Windows Explorer and Apple's Finder so that it works as an extension of the desktop.

It also added capability to access files stored on the drive from an iPad as well as the iPhone and Windows Phone-based handsets.

Source: BBC News  

Mozilla Smartphone To Go On Sale In Late 2012

Mobile phones running an operating system developed by makers of the Firefox web browser will go on sale in late 2012.

The first handsets running Mozilla's "Boot to Gecko" (B2G) software will be available in Brazil on Telefonica Vivo's mobile network.

Brazilian tech blog Ztop broke the news but had no details about which firm will make the handsets.

Announced in July 2011, B2G aims to be an open rival to Google's Android.

The Mozilla Foundation is best known for its Firefox browser that adheres strictly to official standards for writing and viewing web pages.

B2G was started as a way to bring the same discipline to mobiles and give people more control over what their phones do and the applications they run.

It gets the name "Gecko" because that is the part of Firefox that decides how to display pages in a web browser.

Speaking at a press conference in Sao Paulo, Gary Kovacs, chief executive of Mozilla, said this openness would make a difference to the way applications on phones operate.

B2G aimed to make apps more like webpages and able to share data and links, he said. It did this by basing everything on the latest web standard known as HTML5.

No details were given on who would make the handsets that Telefonica Vivo was planning to offer to its 90 million customers. It said the phones would cost about the same as existing feature phones.

No specific date for the launch was given but Telefonica said it should happen at the end of 2012 or in early 2013.

Apr 24, 2012

Jennifer Hudson Testifies At Trial Of Man Accused Of killing Her Relatives

Proceedings are set to resume Tuesday morning in the trial of the man accused of killing the mother, brother and nephew of the actress and singer Jennifer Hudson.

On Monday, Hudson -- the prosecution's first witness -- broke down in tears several times on the stand as she remembered her family.

She identified the defendant, William Balfour, the estranged husband of her sister, Julia.

"None of us wanted her to marry him," she said. "We did not like how he treated her."

Hudson, dressed in black, also testified about her relationship with her mother, saying she spoke with her every day and slept in the same bed with her until she was 16.

Through tears, she talked about the last time she saw her family together and the day she found out about the deaths.

"I did everything in my power to get home," Hudson said. She testified that she identified her relatives' bodies for authorities.

During cross-examination, the singer-actress returned to the subject of Balfour.

"Where he was, I tried not to be," Hudson said.

In the afternoon, her sister, Julia Hudson, took the stand.

She said Balfour threatened to kill her family after she told him she didn't want to be with him.

"'If you leave me, you'll be the last to die. I'll kill your family first,' " she quoted him as saying. She also said Balfour was jealous of her son.

Julia Hudson recounted arriving home the day of the killings, finding a bullet hole in the door and running inside. "I'm saying, 'Mama, mama, mama,'" she said. "She didn't answer."

She testified that she ran screaming from the home after finding her mother lying in blood on the floor.

When police asked her who could have done it, Julia Hudson said, she told them "William."

Eighteen people have been selected to serve on the jury in the murder trial: 10 women and eight men. The group includes six alternates.

The trial comes more than three years after Hudson's relatives were killed.

Balfour is accused of fatally shooting Hudson's mother and brother inside their Chicago home in October 2008. The body of Hudson's 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, was found three days later inside an abandoned vehicle.

Balfour, Julian's stepfather, has also been charged with one count of home invasion.

Julia Hudson testified that her main goal after the killings was finding her son. When she learned that he had been found dead, "I hollered, and I screamed," she recounted Monday.

The judge has said he expects the trial to last three to four weeks.

Balfour was detained for questioning the day after the victims were found at the Chicago home. The authorities said at the time that they were holding Balfour for an unspecified parole violation, but he was indicted for murder two months later.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his lawyer has said in court that there is no forensic evidence linking him to the killings.

Prosecutors have portrayed Balfour as a jealous man who murdered three people in a rage at the thought that his wife had a boyfriend.

The deaths took place a year after Hudson, who rose to fame as a contestant on "American Idol," won an Oscar for her role in the movie "Dreamgirls."

In a recent interview with CNN's Piers Morgan, Hudson reflected on the life of her mother, Darnell Donerson.

"My mother was a very wise and strong person. I feel like she raised us well, and she prepared me well, and so that's what I live by," she said.

Her career has continued to blossom and remain varied since her relatives' deaths.

Her recent milestones include penning a memoir detailing her struggles with her weight; being cast to play Nelson Mandela's ex-wife, Winnie, in an upcoming movie; releasing a new album; and singing a well-received tribute to Whitney Houston at the most recent Grammy Awards show in February.

Source: CNN News  

K-9s Raise Alarm While Looking For Signs Of Missing Arizona Girl

FBI K-9 dogs hit on items around the southern Arizona home of a missing 6-year-old girl on Monday, prompting authorities to take over the house, a police chief said.

Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor said Monday night that the "specialized K-9s (were) flown in" to help in the case of young Isabel Mercedes Celis, who was reported missing on Saturday morning. The dogs "did alert on some things that caused us to go back" to the house, said the chief.

While they've described her disappearance as suspicious, local authorities have not identified any suspects in Isabel's case nor have they indicated what they believe may have happened to her.

They have launched an extensive search in a 3-mile radius of the girl's home, where she lives with her parents and two older brothers, as well as contacted all registered sex offenders living nearby.

Villasenor said on Monday morning that authorities had combed through the area "at least three times now," with neighbor Cynthia Mort vouching that they'd "searched inside and outside every home in the neighborhood."

The girl's small stature -- at 3 feet, 8 inches tall and weighing 44 pounds -- makes it critical to leave no stone unturned, given that she may be in any number of places.

"We ... are checking every corner, every nook and cranny that could possibly hold a child," Tucson police Sgt. Maria Hawke said.

Isabel was last seen by family members when she went to bed at 11 p.m. Friday. When her father went to wake her at 8 a.m. Saturday -- a half-hour after her mother had gone to work -- he said the girl was nowhere to be found, according to police.

A screen was found removed from one of the house's windows. Hawke said the missing screen "could be suspicious" and indicate someone broke through the window to get into the residence or get out, though she stressed "there's nothing conclusive at this point."

Villasenor did not specify what the FBI K-9 dogs hit on, or the possible significance. He did say that, because of their reaction, authorities sought and obtained a search warrant to occupy the house.

He said they asked for a warrant "just to make sure everything is done correctly," not because the family at the center of the case isn't cooperating. Hawke said the family left voluntarily.

"We have asked the family if they would be willing to leave so that we can avoid any potential evidence contamination, ... (and) they have agreed to do so," the police sergeant said.

One street away from one of Tucson's busiest thoroughfares, the Celis' home is in a neighborhood of largely middle-class, single-family residences. A fence and wall surround the yard of the house.

Mort described Isabel's family as "wonderful, caring people."

"They are always helping, you always see them together," said Mort, who has lived next door to Isabel's grandparents for the past 25 years. "They are very, very loving. I couldn't imagine anyone in this family doing anything to anyone."

She added that Isabel's disappearance has rocked the community, leaving "everybody ... totally distraught."
"We're just afraid to let our children out," Mort said. "We're terrorized."

Source: CNN News   

Deion Sanders Accuses Estranged Wife Of Assault, To Press Charges

The estranged wife of former football star Deion Sanders was arrested on domestic violence-related charges Monday night, hours after Sanders sent a series of bizarre tweets saying she assaulted him.

In one of the messages posted on his verified Twitter account, Sanders even posted a picture of what he said were his children filling out complaints to give to police in Texas.

"Pray for me and my kids now! They just witnessed their mother and a friend jump me in my room," the first tweet posted at 6:15 p.m. read. "She's going to jail n I'm pressing charges!"

Two minutes later, Sanders tweeted again.

"I'm sad my boys witnessed this mess but I warned the police department here that she was gone try n harm me and my boys. This is on my mama!" it said.

Shortly after that, Sanders tweeted a picture that showed him and his two boys, ages 10 and 12, filling out paperwork.

"filling out police reports now! Thank God for this platform to issue the Truth," the caption read.

Pilar Sanders was booked into jail Monday night on suspicion of assault family violence, a misdemeanor, according to booking records at the Collin County Jail.

Bond was set at $264.

Sanders played for several NFL teams including the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame and currently works as an analyst for the NFL Network.

The NFL Network as well as Sanders' business manager Constance Schwartz declined to comment about the incident.

But a clearly emotional Sanders spoke to Dallas television station KXAS Monday night, and appealed for help.

"My kids, they are scared for their life," Sanders told the station. "They just saw two women jump their dad in his own house, in his room, in my room. It's sad."

"I got locks on my doors right now," he added. "Is somebody going to have to die? Is it going to be me before the court does something and get this woman out of my house? It's absurd."

The couple has three children together. Sanders also has two other children from an earlier relationship.
The couple married in 1999 and starred in a reality show, "Deion & Pilar Prime Time Love," that aired on the Oxygen network.

The marriage, however, soured, and the two are in the midst of a very public, bitter divorce.
In February, Pilar Sanders filed a suit against her husband and his aunt, Laura Jones. She said the aunt attacked her in their 10-bedroom, 29,000-square foot home in Prosper, Texas, while Deion Sanders watched.

At the time, the football star tweeted that his wife was the aggressor and the aunt was in the home merely to fix his phone.

Pilar Sanders also filed a separate suit against her husband and his daughter, Deiondra, after she called her stepmother a "gold-digging (expletive)" and "the number one gold digger of the year" in Twitter posts.

In the second suit, Pilar Sanders demanded $200 million in damages for libelous and slanderous comments. She claims that her husband "endorsed Deiondra's false statements" and himself tweeted he was "tired of all (Pilar's) lies and foolishness."

Source: CNN News  


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