Mar 31, 2013

At Least 18 Dead After Building Collapses In Tanzania

At least 18 people were killed when a building collapsed Friday in Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, a municipal official said Saturday, as hopes dimmed of rescuing more survivors.

Poor equipment hampered efforts to rescue more than 60 people believed to be trapped under the rubble, said a Dar es Salaam commissioner, Said Siddiq. At least 17 people, 3 seriously injured, were pulled out of the debris on Friday.

Officials said that constriction work on the building, on one of the busiest streets in Tanzania’s commercial center, was about to be completed and that the structure did not have tenants. Most of the people caught in the collapse of the 12-story building were laborers as well as those passing nearby. Some witnesses said that dozens of construction workers and food vendors were in the building when it collapsed Friday morning and that scores of children were playing soccer in a nearby playground. Others said that more than 200 casual laborers and engineers worked on the building regularly.

Mr. Siddiq said three engineers who worked on the building had been taken into custody for questioning. In recent years, building collapses have become frequent in East African countries as some property developers bypass regulations to cut costs.

The police in Dar es Salaam have halted work on a 16-story building that was under construction adjacent to the one that collapsed, saying that the construction project needed to be reviewed. Both buildings have the same owner.

2 Afghan Children Killed In NATO Airstrike In Ghazni Province

Two Afghan children were killed and seven civilians were wounded in a NATO airstrike earlier Saturday in the eastern province of Ghazni, which also claimed the lives of 12 Taliban insurgents, authorities said.

"The helicopters with the NATO-led coalition forces launched an attack against Taliban position along a road in Espand-de area outside provincial capital Ghazni city this morning," Deputy Provincial Governor Mohammad Ali Ahmadi told Xinhua.

But the bombing also claimed the lives of two children and wounded seven others aboard two vehicles parked near the site, besides killing several insurgents, he said without providing more details.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Feb. 19 issued an order banning local security forces from calling coalition's warplanes to carry out airstrike after a coalition airstrike called in by local forces killed 10 civilians including five children in eastern Kunar province early last month.

The deaths of Afghan civilians in NATO-led troops' operations against Taliban have long been a contentious issue between the Afghan government and U.S. and NATO forces in the country.

"(Saturday) in the morning the ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) and Coalition Forces conducted a successful attack on a group of armed Taliban extremists in Espand-de village in eastern Ghazni city," said a statement issued by coalition here earlier in the day. It said no civilian was killed in the operation.

It said the insurgents were preparing to attack the ANSF, adding the coalition conducted an airstrike killing 12 terrorists.

Earlier Saturday, a provincial health official, Baz Mohammad Himat, told Xinhua that eight civilians including three women and a child were wounded in the air raid in the province 100 km south of capital Kabul.

The war-hit Afghanistan has been seeing Taliban-led attacks over the past couple of weeks as spring and summer known as fighting season is drawing near.

Pope Francis To Lead Easter Celebrations At St Peter's

Pope Francis is set to celebrate his first Easter Sunday since his election with an open-air Mass in St Peter's Square.

He will then deliver a speech to Rome and to the world - the "Urbi et Orbi" address - from a balcony of St Peter's.

Easter is the most important festival in the Christian calendar.

At an Easter vigil Mass in St Peter's, the Pope appealed to non-believers and lapsed Catholics to "step forward" towards God.

"Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward," Pope Francis said.

"He will receive you with open arms."

At the start of the service, the basilica was kept dark to signify Jesus' tomb before what Christians believe was his resurrection. The Pope and the congregation held candles.

The service was shorter than usual, which the Vatican said was in line with Francis' preference for shorter Masses.

The Pope, formerly Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected on 13 March.

He is the first non-European pope for almost 1,300 years.

The BBC's David Willey reports from Rome that the 76-year-old has already set a new style at the Vatican, shortening religious services, reaching out easily to ordinary people, and expressing his thoughts in a conversational way that is easy to understand.

He has surprised many of the clerics who work at the Vatican, eating in a communal dining room with other priests and clearly finding much traditional Vatican ceremonial tedious, our correspondent says.

Rather than moving into grand papal apartments, Pope Francis has remained in a Vatican guesthouse, where he has been inviting ordinary people to morning Mass.

In the days before Easter, the Pope reached out to women and Muslims.

During a Holy Thursday Mass at a youth detention centre he washed and kissed the feet of 12 people, including two girls and two Muslims, and in a Good Friday procession he appealed to "Muslim brothers and sisters" in the Middle East.

Source: BBC News

Tulsa Dentist May Have Put 7,000 Patients At HIV Risk

Health officials in the US state of Oklahoma have warned 7,000 patients their dentist may have exposed them to HIV and hepatitis B and C.

Patients of Dr W Scott Harrington's practice in Tulsa were advised to test themselves at a free clinic set up by the state, health officials said.

Health inspectors found rusty dental instruments and poor hygiene standards at the clinic.

Dr Harrington has voluntarily closed the practice, officials said.

"Although we do not know whether you were personally exposed to blood-borne viruses," the state health department wrote to patients, "there is a possibility that you may have been exposed to infectious material."

The letters are being sent to patients treated since 2007, but health officials have said they do not know who may have been seen by the dentist before that.

'It looked clean'

The Tulsa Health Department is setting up a clinic to carry out free blood tests for people who may have been exposed.

Former patient Joyce Baylor, 69, who had a tooth removed by Dr Harrington about 18 months ago, said the office looked clean.

"I'm sure he's not suffering financially that he can't afford instruments," she told the Associated Press news agency.

The investigation into the dental practice began after a patient tested positive for both hepatitis C and HIV despite having no associated risk factors.

Officials determined the patient had received dental treatment about the time the exposure was believed to have occurred.

The dentist has voluntarily given up his licence, closed his practice and is co-operating with investigators, the Tulsa Health Department said.

Dr Harrington faces a hearing on 19 April and could have his licence revoked permanently.

Source: BBC News

Court Refuses Pregnant Man Thomas Beatie's Divorce

An Arizona judge has refused to grant a divorce to a transgender man who gave birth to three children.

The judge said there was insufficient evidence that Thomas Beatie was male when he married; the state bans same-sex marriage.

In 2008, Mr Beatie, who had lived as a man for decades, gave birth to a girl, the first of three pregnancies.

He is legally male but kept his female reproductive organs and bore children because his wife was infertile.

A spokesman for Mr Beatie, Ryan Gordon, said Maricopa County Family Court Judge Douglas Gerlach's comments came as a shock. He said his client, who hopes to marry his current girlfriend, planned to appeal the ruling.

"It's unfortunate that the judge out here doesn't recognise marriage in another state,'' Mr Gordon said.

In his ruling, Judge Gerlach wrote that the couple had failed to prove Mr Beatie was a male when they were married.

"The decision here is not based on the conclusion that this case involves a same-sex marriage merely because one of the parties is a transsexual male," he wrote.

Mr Beatie began taking testosterone in 1979 and underwent a double mastectomy in 2002. His birth certificate was changed to male at the same time.

He and his wife Nancy married a year later in Hawaii.

Mr Gordon said Mr Beatie, 39, was legally married as a man and never was required to disclose that he retained female reproductive organs when applying for the birth certificate in Hawaii as a man.

Mr Beatie halted testosterone treatments so he could give birth to his children after the couple found out his wife could not get pregnant.

"I'm clearly a man: socially, legally, psychologically, physically - the whole ball of wax," Mr Beatie told the Arizona Republic in December.

Nancy Beatie's lawyer David Higgins said Judge Gerlach's decision was thorough but not the one she had hoped for.

"He still sees a same-sex marriage, but he gave us all the rulings that we're asking for as far as the children,'' Mr Higgins said.

Source: BBC News

Amazon To Buy Social Network Site For Readers Goodread

Online retailer Amazon has said it will buy Goodreads, a book discovery and recommendation website.

San Francisco-based Goodreads was founded in 2007, has 16 million members and is one of the most prominent online communities for readers.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, and it is expected to be completed in the next quarter.

Amazon's electronic book service competes against a number of rivals including Google and Apple.

Goodreads is a social network for readers, where they can recommend, review and discover books. Users can also buy books from online retailers, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

"Amazon and Goodreads share a passion for reinventing reading," Russ Grandinetti, vice-president for Kindle content at Amazon, said in a statement.

Goodreads co-founder, Otis Chandler, said the deal would allow the company to move faster in bringing its user experience to more people around the world.

Tibet Mine Landslide: Hopes Fade For Survivors

Hopes are fading for more than 80 miners buried in a landslide on Friday in Tibet.

Chinese media said the first body had been found - but only 36 hours after the landslip - and that the chances of finding survivors were slim.

The miners' camp, 70km (45 miles) east of Lhasa, was destroyed by thousands of tonnes of rock.

Rescuers have been hampered by freezing weather, altitude sickness and risks of further landslides.

Xinhua news agency said that as of 10:00 local time (02:00 GMT) no survivors had been found and later reported that the first body had been discovered at 17:35 local time.

"The miners' survival chances were slim due to the scale of the landslide," it quoted one rescue worker as saying.

The landslide took place at 06:00 local time on Friday at the mine, which lies at an altitude of 4,600m (15,000ft), burying 83 workers.

Some 2,000 police, firefighters and doctors have been sent to the disaster site, setting up temporary accommodation at a safe distance. About 200 bulldozers have been deployed to shift rock.

Xinhua said cracks on nearby mountains suggested there could be further land slips.

"Temperatures as low as -3C have affected the sniffer dogs' sense of smell," it added.

More than 300,000 cu m of debris had been removed by midday on Saturday.

Source: BBC News

US Music Producer And CD Pioneer Phil Ramone Dies

The US music producer and pioneer of digital recording, Phil Ramone, has died aged 79.

Ramone is regarded as one of the most successful producers in history, winning 14 Grammy awards and working with stars such as Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Elton John and Paul McCartney.

He produced the first major commercial release on CD, Billy Joel's 1982 album 52nd Street.

Some of his awards were for soundtracks to TV shows, films and stage plays.

A native of South Africa, Ramone learnt the violin at the age of three,

He became a US citizen at 12, and opened his own recording studio in 1958.

He produced three records that won Grammys for album of the year - Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years in 1976, 52nd Street and Ray Charles' Genius Loves Company in 2005.

"My career as an engineer and producer coincided with one of the most profound periods in pop music history: that of the contemporary singer-songwriter," he wrote in his 2007 book Making Records: The Scenes Behind the Music.

Ramone also won Grammys for soundtracks to Flashdance, the Broadway musical Promises, Promises, and an Emmy for a TV special about jazz great Duke Ellington.

His last Grammy came in 2012, when he won best traditional pop vocal album for producing the Tony Bennett album Duets II.

He was known for bringing artists together for duets, producing efforts by Frank Sinatra and Bono, and Tony Bennett and Paul McCartney among others.

Ramone had been in hospital for several weeks, where he was being treated for an aortic aneurysm.

Confirming his death, his son Matt Ramone said he was "very loving and will be missed".

Texas District Attorney, Wife Found Dead

A sheriff's deputy says authorities are investigating the deaths of a North Texas county district attorney and his wife who were found dead in a home.
Kaufman County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Justin Lewis said Saturday that the county District Attorney, Mike McLelland, and his wife, Cynthia, were found dead in a home in an unincorporated part of the county. Authorities have blocked off the street where the couple's last known address is located.
Lewis said he couldn't discuss the investigation in further detail, including how the couple died and whether investigators believe their deaths are linked to the Jan. 31 slaying of an assistant Kaufman County district attorney, Mark Hasse.
The Dallas Morning News reports that Kaufman Police Chief Chris Albaugh confirmed the couple was shot at their home.

NZ Cricketer Jesse Ryder Out Of Coma

New Zealand cricketer Jesse Ryder has come out of a medically-induced coma, three days after he was attacked outside a bar in Christchurch.

He suffered serious injuries after being attacked twice in quick succession as he left the bar.

Ryder, 28, was still in intensive care but he was no longer on a ventilator and had been talking, his manager Aaron Klee said.

Two people have been charged with assault and are due in court next week.

The cricketer had been in Christchurch with team-mates after playing for Wellington Firebirds in a domestic one-day competition. He had been due to fly to Delhi to begin a $300,000 contract in the Indian Premier League.

His manager told a news conference that "Jesse is awake and talking to us" but added that while they were "absolutely thrilled with the progress", he had suffered very bad concussion and damage to his lungs.

"We're all pretty exhausted, it's been a pretty difficult few days, but having some wins over the last 24 hours has been a huge relief."

Ryder stopped playing international cricket for New Zealand in February last year after a series of alcohol-related problems. He had also had disciplinary lapses.

But police said while he had been drinking before the assault on Thursday morning, alcohol was not a factor.

The suspects charged with assaulting him, aged 20 and 37, are due to appear before Christchurch District Court on 4 April.

Justin Bieber's Monkey Quarantined In Germany

Justin Bieber had to leave a monkey in quarantine after landing in Germany last week without the necessary papers for the animal, an official said Saturday.

The 19-year-old singer arrived at Munich airport last Thursday. When he went through customs, he didn't have the documentation necessary to bring the capuchin monkey into the country, so the animal had to stay with authorities, customs spokesman Thomas Meister said.

Bieber performed in Munich on Thursday, beginning the latest leg of his European tour. He later tweeted: "Munich was a good time. And loud. The bus is headed to Vienna now. U coming?" He didn't mention the monkey.

The Canadian singer is giving several concerts in Austria and then in Germany over the next week.
Bieber had a trying stay in London recently. The star struggled with his breathing and fainted backstage at a show, was taken to a hospital and then was caught on camera clashing with a paparazzo. Days earlier, he was booed by his beloved fans when he showed up late to a concert.

Source: Fox News

Cyprus Depositors Could Lose 60%

Bank of Cyprus depositors with more than 100,000 euros ($128,200) could lose up to 60% of their savings as part of an EU-IMF bailout restructuring move, officials say.

The central bank says 37.5% of holdings over 100,000 euros will become shares.

Up to 22.5% will go into a fund attracting no interest and may be subject to further write-offs.

The other 40% will attract interest - but this will not be paid unless the bank performs well.

It was known that the wealthiest savers at the Bank of Cyprus would take a large hit from the bailout deal - but not to this extent.

Cypriot officials have also said that big depositors at Laiki - the country's second largest bank - could face an even tougher "haircut". However, no details have been released.

The officials say that Laiki will eventually be absorbed into the Bank of Cyprus.

The fear is that once the unprecedented capital controls - which are in place for an indefinite time - are lifted, the wealthiest will rush to move their deposits abroad, our correspondent says.

He adds that the larger than expected loss could also have devastating consequences for large depositors such as schools and universities. And it could spread fear in other indebted eurozone countries that Cyprus might set a precedent.

Cyprus needs to raise 5.8bn euros to qualify for the bailout, and has become the first eurozone member country to bring in capital controls to prevent a torrent of money leaving the island and credit institutions collapsing.

The original 10bn-euro bailout deal was agreed in Brussels earlier this month. It placed a one-off tax on all customers of Cypriot banks, starting at 6.75% for the smallest deposits.

But this led to mass protests across Cyprus, and the deal was later voted down by the country's parliament. MPs later backed a revised deal.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has said the financial situation has been "contained" following the deal.

He has also stressed that Cyprus has no intention of leaving the euro, stressing that "in no way will we experiment with the future of our country".

On Thursday, banks in Cyprus opened for the first time in nearly two weeks. Queues formed of people trying to access their money, but the mood was generally calm.

By Friday, banks had returned to their normal working hours and there were no longer reports of big queues.

In a separate development, Cyprus launched an investigation after Greek media published the names of politicians who allegedly had loans forgiven by three Cypriot banks at the height of the crisis.

The Bank of Cyprus, Laiki and Hellenic Bank apparently wrote off loans of millions of euros to companies, local authorities, and politicians from some of the island's biggest parties.

The list has now been handed to the ethics committee of the Cypriot parliament.

Source: BBC News

N Korea In State Of War With South

North Korea has said it is entering a "state of war" with South Korea in the latest escalation of rhetoric against its neighbour and the US.

A statement promised "stern physical actions" against "any provocative act".

North Korea has threatened attacks almost daily since it was sanctioned for a third nuclear test in February.

However, few think the North would risk full-blown conflict. It has technically been at war with the South since 1953 as no peace treaty has been signed.

An armistice at the end of the Korean War was never turned into a full treaty.

The North carried out its third nuclear test on 12 February, which led to the imposition of fresh sanctions.

The annual US-South Korean military exercises have also taken place, angering Pyongyang further.

A North Korean statement released on Saturday said: "From this time on, the North-South relations will be entering the state of war and all issues raised between the North and the South will be handled accordingly.

"The long-standing situation of the Korean peninsula being neither at peace nor at war is finally over."

In Washington, Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said the US had "seen reports of a new and unconstructive statement from North Korea".

"We take these threats seriously and remain in close contact with our South Korean allies," she said.

North Korea has made multiple threats against both the US and South Korea in recent weeks, including warning of a "pre-emptive nuclear strike" on the US and the scrapping of the Korean War armistice.

On Thursday, North Korean state media reported leader Kim Jong-un "judged the time has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists".

He was said to have condemned US B-2 bomber sorties over South Korea during military exercises as a "reckless phase" that represented an "ultimatum that they will ignite a nuclear war at any cost on the Korean peninsula".

US mainland and bases in Hawaii, Guam and South Korea were all named as potential targets.

State media in the North showed thousands of soldiers and students at a mass rally in Pyongyang supporting Kim Jong-un's announcement.

North Korea's most advanced missiles are thought to be able to reach Alaska, but not the rest of the US mainland.

On Wednesday, Pyongyang cut a military hotline with the South - the last direct official link between the two nations.

A Red Cross hotline and another line used to communicate with the UN Command at Panmunjom have already been cut, although an inter-Korean air-traffic hotline still exists.

The jointly run Kaesong industrial park, just north of the border, is still in operation. However on Saturday, Pyongyang's official KCNA news agency said it would be closed if insults to the North's "dignity" continued.

On 16 March, North Korea warned of attacks against South Korea's border islands, and advised residents to leave the islands. In 2010, it shelled South Korea's Yeonpyeong island, causing four deaths.

'Maximum restraint'
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the latest rhetoric only deepened North Korea's isolation.

China, North Korea's biggest trading partner, has reiterated its call for all sides to ease tensions.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news conference that "joint efforts" should be made to turn around a "tense situation".

On Saturday, Russian foreign ministry spokesman Grigory Logvinov told the Interfax news agency: "We expect all sides to show maximum responsibility and restraint and that no-one will cross the line after which there will be no return."

He said: "Naturally, we cannot remain indifferent when an escalation of tensions is taking place at our eastern frontiers. We cannot but worry."

One South Korean resident, Lee Gae-hwa, told Reuters news agency she felt "very scared", adding: "I hope we can find a good solution since we're from the same nation."

Source: BBC News

Eiffel Tower Evacuated Over Threat

The Eiffel Tower in Paris has been evacuated after an anonymous phone-call threatening an attack.

An estimated 1,400 people were visiting the site when France's anti-terrorism police made the decision to clear it.

A security perimeter was set up around the world-famous monument and police said a search could take several hours, local media reported.

The tower has been threatened several times in recent years. In 2011, 4,000 people were cleared from it.

L'Express news website said that tourists and staff were told to come down from the tower at around 19:00 local time (18:00 GMT) on Saturday.

Security guards were also ordered to leave, a decision described as unusual.

Police then searched the area with sniffer dogs for possible explosives.

Security has recently been stepped up across the country amid concerns about threats to France over its military campaign in Mali.

Mar 30, 2013

Hollywood Release: G.I. Joe: Retaliation [Watch Trailer]

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a 2013 American science fiction action film directed by Jon M. Chu, based on Hasbro's G.I. Joe toy, comic and media franchises. It is a sequel to 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. The film was written by Zombieland writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. G.I. Joe: Retaliation features an ensemble cast, starring Bruce Willis and Dwayne Johnson, with Channing Tatum, Arnold Vosloo, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, and Lee Byung-hun reprising their roles from the first film. The film was released in North America on March 28, 2013.

The G.I. Joes are framed for stealing nuclear warheads from Pakistan by Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) who is impersonating the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce). The entire team is eliminated in a military strike with Duke (Channing Tatum) as one of the casualties. Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) are the only survivors.

Meanwhile, Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun) and ex-Joe Firefly (Ray Stevenson) rescue Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey) from a penitentiary in Germany. Storm Shadow is injured during the escape and retreats to a temple in the Himalayas to recover. Upon learning that he is alive, the Blind Master (RZA), leader of the Arashikage Clan, sends Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and his apprentice Jinx (Elodie Yung), Storm Shadow's cousin, to capture Storm Shadow so he can answer for the murder of his uncle, the Hard Master.

Roadblock, Flint, and Lady Jaye return to the United States where they set up a base of operations in a rundown gym. After Zartan announces that Cobra will replace the Joes as America's main protective unit, Lady Jaye deduces that someone is impersonating the President and Roadblock leads them to General Joseph Colton (Bruce Willis) who provides them with weapons and helps them infiltrate a fundraising event that the President will be attending, where Lady Jaye steals a sample of his DNA and confirms that he is Zartan. They escape after a brief confrontation with Firefly and Zandar (Matt Gerald), the head of the Presidential Detail and a member of Cobra.
Snake Eyes and Jinx locate and capture Storm Shadow after a battle with ninjas and take him back to Japan where Storm Shadow reveals that Zartan murdered the Hard Master and he joined Cobra to avenge his uncle, embittered that the clan didn't believe in his innocence. Storm Shadow then accompanies Snake Eyes and Jinx as they join the Joes' efforts to stop Cobra.

Zartan invites the world leaders to a summit, where he blackmails them into disabling their nuclear arsenals, and reveals that he has created Project Zeus: Seven orbital kinetic bombardment weapons of mass destruction at his command. He destroys central London to prove his superiority and threatens to destroy other capitals if the countries don't submit to Cobra. However, Storm Shadow betrays Cobra Commander and kills Zartan, revealing Cobra's deception to the world leaders. While Snake Eyes, Jinx and Flint fight Cobra's soldiers, Cobra Commander activates the remaining six weapons and instructs Firefly to protect the launch device. Firefly is killed in combat with Roadblock, who deactivates and destroys the orbital weapons. Meanwhile, Colton and Lady Jaye rescue the President.

Cobra Commander escapes during the battle and Storm Shadow disappears after avenging his uncle. The President initiates a global massive manhunt on Cobra Commander, who is now considered to be a terrorist, and reinstates the Joes with Roadblock leading Flint, Lady Jaye, Snake Eyes and Jinx, and recruiting more soldiers to join them. Roadblock swears to avenge Duke by capturing Cobra Commander.

Hollywood Release: The Host [Watch Trailer]

The Host is an American science fiction film, adapted from Stephenie Meyer's novel of the same name. Written and directed by Andrew Niccol, the film stars Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, and Jake Abel. It was released on March 29, 2013.

Earth has been inhabited by an intellegent alien species known as "Souls." Although an incredibly peaceful race, Souls can only survive by being inserted into a host body, taking control of their minds.

In an effort to discover the secret whereabouts of some of the last remaining human resistances, the Soul Wanderer has been inserted into the human being Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan), who was captured while attempting to locate her family. After insertion, Wanderer comes to realize an unsettling fact- Melanie has not faded away in consciousness, and in fact is putting up walls in her mind to prevent her family from being found. As time passes and Wanderer tries to break Melanie's walls, she begins to feel sympathetic toward the humans Melanie loves so dearly- her brother Jamie and her partner, Jared Howe.

Wanderer becomes torn between loyalty to her own race, trying to give information to the argumentative Seeker assigned to her, and her blossoming love for the humans in her memories. As Wanderer's and Melanies trust builds, they embark on a journey through the desert to find the resistance, nearly dying in the process. Wanderer awakens to find herself captive in the den of the enemy, and realizes her problems have just begun: the humans want her dead, the doctor wants to experiment on her, and she may have accidentally lead the Seekers to some of the very last humans remaining.

Hollywood Release: The Place Beyond The Pines [Watch Trailer]

The Place Beyond the Pines is a 2013 crime drama film directed by Derek Cianfrance, written by Cianfrance, Ben Coccio and Darius Marder. It stars Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, and Ray Liotta. The film reunites Cianfance and Gosling, with whom he worked on 2010's Blue Valentine. The title is the English meaning of the city of Schenectady, New York, which is derived loosely from a Mohawk word for "place beyond the pine plains."

A mysterious and mythical motorcycle racer, Luke (Ryan Gosling), drives out of a traveling carnival globe of death and whizzes through the backstreets of Schenectady, New York, desperately trying to connect with a former lover, Romina (Eva Mendes), who recently and secretly gave birth to the stunt rider's son. In an attempt to provide for his new family, Luke quits the carnival life and commits a series of bank robberies aided by his superior riding ability.

The stakes rise as Luke is put on a collision course with an ambitious police officer, Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), looking to quickly move up the ranks in a police department riddled with corruption. The sweeping drama unfolds over fifteen years as the sins of the past haunt the present day lives of two high school boys wrestling with the legacy they've inherited. The only refuge is found in the place beyond the pines.

Mar 29, 2013

Car Bombs Hit Iraqi Worshippers

Shia worshippers in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and the northern city of Kirkuk have been targeted in a series of car bomb attacks.

At least 17 people are reported to have died and dozens have been wounded.

Blasts hit mosques in the Baghdad areas of Zafaraniyah, Binook, Qahira, and Jihad during Friday Prayers. The Kirkuk attack was reported at the same time.

Violence has decreased in Iraq since the peak of the insurgency in 2006 and 2007, but bombings are still common.

Sunni Islamist militants linked to al-Qaeda have vowed to step up attacks on Shia and official targets this year, in an attempt to weaken the Shia-led government.

As many as 60 people were killed in a series of car and suicide bombings in mainly Shia areas in and around Baghdad on 19 March - the 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

The violence comes at a time of deep political crisis in Iraq, with Prime Minister Nouri Maliki sharply at odds with a range of political forces, including the Kurds, most of the Sunni groups, and many factions within his own Shia community.

With its massive oil reserves, Kirkuk - home to a mixture of Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen - is one of the most bitterly contested of Iraq's disputed territories.

The Kurds want to incorporate it into their largely autonomous region, while Arabs and Turkmen oppose any change to its current status, ruled directly from Baghdad.

Militants often exploit tensions between the Iraqi and Kurdish security forces by launching deadly attacks in the city, correspondents say.

Source: BBC News

Harry Potter Actor Richard Griffiths Dies

Actor Richard Griffiths, who starred in the Harry Potter movies and Withnail and I, has died at the age of 65 after complications following heart surgery.

Griffiths enjoyed a long career of success on film and on TV, but also on the stage where he was a Tony-winning character actor.

TV roles included a cookery-loving detective in Pie in the Sky.

He was best known for playing Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter films and Uncle Monty in Withnail and I.

His Harry Potter co-star Daniel Radcliffe - who also appeared on stage with him in Equus - was among the first to pay tribute, saying: "Richard was by my side during two of the most important moments of my career. I was proud to know him."

On stage, Griffiths most acclaimed performance was as the charismatic teacher Hector in Alan Bennett's The History Boys.

After achieving a rare double of winning a Tony Award in New York and an Olivier Award in London, he recreated the role in a 2006 film version.

But it was his role as the predatory Uncle Monty in Withnail And I - which has become of one of the biggest cult classics in British cinema history - which made him a fan favourite.

In a message to his co-star on Twitter, the actor Richard E. Grant said: "My beloved Uncle Monty Richard Griffiths died last night. Chin-Chin my dear friend."

Griffiths was born in Thornaby-on-Tees, North Yorkshire, and left school at 15 but later returned to education to study drama, before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company.

He married Heather Gibson in 1980 after they met during a production of Lady Windermere's Fan in 1973.

His TV career saw him land bit parts in series such as Minder, The Sweeney and Bergerac, while he also played small parts in major movies such as Chariots of Fire, Superman II and Gandhi.

Well respected by his peers, was appointed an OBE in the 2008 New Year Honours for his services to drama.

Sir Nicholas Hytner, director of the National Theatre, said Griffiths's unexpected death would devastate his "army of friends".

He said: "Richard Griffiths wasn't only one of the most loved and recognisable British actors - he was also one of the very greatest.

"His performance in The History Boys was quite overwhelming: a masterpiece of wit, delicacy, mischief and desolation, often simultaneously.

"His anecdotes were legendary. They were, literally, endless. They would go on for hours, apparently without destination, constantly side-splitting."

In 2012 he appeared alongside Danny Devito in Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys at London's Savoy Theatre.

One of his most recent roles was in the drama Private Peaceful where he played The Colonel alongside Frances de la Tour and Maxine Peake.

Actor Warwick Davis told BBC News he had the upmost respect for someone with such a great filmography behind them.

"You got a great deal of support (as an actor) for having Richard about.

"He was lovely, he would always make time for his fans, that's what makes a great actor, it's about having a good persona."

His agent Simon Beresford described him as a "remarkable man".

He said: "On stage he allowed us to share in our own humanity and constantly question our differences.

"Richard gave acting a good name. He was a remarkable man and one of our greatest and best-loved actors. He will be greatly missed.""He was lovely, he would always make time for his fans, that's what makes a great actor, it's about having a good persona."

His agent Simon Beresford described him as a "remarkable man".

He said: "On stage he allowed us to share in our own humanity and constantly question our differences.

"Richard gave acting a good name. He was a remarkable man and one of our greatest and best-loved actors. He will be greatly missed."

Source: BBC News

Clashes As Chile Students March For Education Reform

Thousands of Chilean students have clashed with police on the streets of the capital, Santiago, during a protest calling for education reforms.

Some threw petrol bombs at the riot police, who responded with tear gas and water cannons.

This was the first demonstration of 2013 calling for high-quality and free education, but protests on the issue date back to 2011.

Authorities said 60 people were arrested and one policeman was injured.

The clashes occurred after authorities changed the agreed route, students say.

But the government said they only kept the march within the authorised course and blamed "vandals" for the violence.

"Again, a group of students feels they have the right to create disorder, damage property, interrupt the traffic and generate violence in Santiago," Interior Minister Andres Chadwick, told reporters.

A spokesman for the student union criticised the government for using "excessive repressive action".

Hundreds of riot police were ready before the start of the demonstration. Armoured vehicles with water cannons and dogs were deployed.

The campaign for educational reform is the biggest protest movement Chile has seen since the return to democracy in 1990.

It started with a wave of mass demonstrations in 2011, which carried on throughout 2012.

Students say Chile's education system, traditionally viewed as the best in Latin America, is profoundly unfair.

They say middle class students have access to some of the best schooling in Latin America, while the poor have to be content with under-funded state schools.

Last year, President Sebastian Pinera, Chile's first conservative leader for 20 years, announced tax reforms aimed at raising money to help fund the country's education system.

At the height of the protests, in 2011, the president's popularity was significantly affected.

Two Boys Beaten To Death In China School

Two boys have died after they were beaten by a member of staff at a primary school in southern China, state media report.

The boys, who attended a private school in Yulin City, in the Guangxi Zhuang region, died later in hospital, Xinhua news agency says.

A male employee reportedly hit the boys, causing critical injuries.

This comes a day after a man killed two before slashing six children at a school in Shanghai on Thursday.

Police in Yulin have detained the male employee and are investigating the case. The boys were in the fifth grade, which generally has children aged between 10-12.

China has seen a number of attacks at primary schools in recent years.

On 14 December 2012, 22 young children were wounded by a man wielding a knife at a primary school in Henan province.

In 2010, a series of knife attacks in schools were also reported.

Mali Conflict: Hollande Sets French Troop Timetable

France will reduce the number of its troops fighting in Mali to 1,000 by the end of the year, President Francois Hollande says.

"We have achieved our objectives," Mr Hollande said in a TV interview.

He said troop levels would be halved to 2,000 by July. Withdrawals are due to start next month.

A French-led intervention that began in January has taken back the main cities of northern Mali from Islamist groups, though fighting continues in the north.

Mr Hollande acknowledged that one goal, the release of six French hostages being held in the Sahel, had still not been achieved.

He stressed that France would not pay ransoms to get the hostages freed. It is feared that one of the hostages has already been killed.

The French president also said he was determined that Mali should hold elections as planned in July, though he said France would not back any favoured candidate.

"The time when France chose African heads of state is over," he told France 2 TV channel in a wide-ranging interview.

Islamist groups took over major cities, including Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu, in the aftermath of a coup in March 2012. They imposed a strict form of Islamic law in the area.

France intervened after saying the al-Qaeda-linked militants threatened to march on the capital, Bamako.

Troops from several West African countries have been deploying to Mali to take over from the French-led mission.

The African force currently numbers about 6,300 soldiers.

Mr Hollande said the French troops left in Mali at the end of the year would probably be part of a UN peacekeeping mission that France has called on the Security Council to set up.

Tanzania: Dar Es Salaam Building Collapse Traps Dozens

At least three people have been killed and dozens more are trapped after a multi-storey building collapsed in the centre of the main Tanzanian city, Dar es Salaam, rescue workers say.

Thirteen people have been pulled out of the ruins alive, officials say.

Some 45 people, including construction workers, residents and children from a Koranic school, are missing.

The 12-floor building under construction is now a "huge pile of chaos".

"I thought there was an earthquake and then I heard screaming. The whole building fell on itself," eyewitness Musa Mohamed told the AFP news agency.

Our reporter says a huge crane is pulling out a mass of iron bars to get access to the centre of the building, where some people are thought to be still alive.

Trapped victims are said to have been making phone calls to friends and relatives.

Bulldozers are also being used to move the rubble, our reporter says.

He says there are large crowds of onlookers, as well as rescue workers and armed police officers at the scene.

The collapsed building was near a mosque, as well as other residential and commercial properties in central Dar es Salaam.

Source: BBC News

North Korea Tensions: Russia's Lavrov Fears Spiral

Russia has warned of tensions in North Korea slipping out of control, after Pyongyang said it was placing its missile units on stand-by.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the situation could slip "toward the spiral of a vicious circle".

Kim Jong-un made the missile order after talks responding to US stealth bomber flights over the Korean peninsula, state news agency KCNA said.

The time had come to "settle accounts" with the US, KCNA quoted him as saying.

Annual military drills and fresh UN sanctions have angered North Korea.

After a late-night meeting with the army's strategic rocket force, Kim Jong-un "judged the time has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists", KCNA reported.

He was said to have condemned US B-2 bomber sorties over South Korea as a "reckless phase" that represented an "ultimatum that they will ignite a nuclear war at any cost on the Korean Peninsula".

US mainland and bases in Hawaii, Guam and South Korea were all named as potential targets.

The US - which flew two stealth bombers over the peninsula on Thursday as part of the ongoing annual US-South Korea military drills - has said it is ready for "any eventuality" on the peninsula.

Thousands of North Korean soldiers and students later took part in a mass rally in the centre of Pyongyang in support of Kim Jong-un's announcement, beneath large portraits of his father Kim Jong-il and grandfather Kim Il-sung.

A South Korean defence ministry spokesman described the North Korean decision as a "continuing measure", after its announcement to adopt "combat posture".

China, North Korea's biggest trading partner, immediately reiterated its call for all sides to ease tensions.

But Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov went further, voicing concern that "we may simply let the situation slip out of our control and it will slide into a spiral of a vicious circle".

While condemning Pyongyang's actions as "unacceptable", he gave a more general warning that "unilateral steps being taken around North Korea that manifest themselves in a build-up of military activity".

He added what was needed was not a build-up of military muscle and a pretext for using military means to achieve "geopolitical objectives", in remarks seen as an implicit criticism of US bomber flights.

Mar 28, 2013

University Of Damascus Hit By Mortars

Mortar fire has hit the University of Damascus, killing at least 10 students, Syrian officials say.

Syrian state TV blamed rebels for the attack, saying a number of people had also been injured.

It said the mortars had hit the university's faculty of architecture.

The Syrian capital is in the grip of heavy fighting between government and rebel forces, who have recently intensified the use of mortars in the city.

The attack on the university was also reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based activist group. It said several rounds had hit but did not give further details.

At least five people have been killed by mortar fire in the centre of Damascus since Monday.

Putin Orders Surprise Black Sea Military Exercises

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered surprise military exercises in the Black Sea region, to test the armed forces' battle readiness.

The president's spokesman said the exercises would involve 36 ships and up to 7,000 troops.

He added that Russia was not obliged to give warning of exercises involving fewer than 7,000 personnel.

Russia moved to reform its military after the 2008 war with Georgia showed up weaknesses.

Sarkozy Bettencourt: Lead Judge Receives Death Threat

The lead examining magistrate in a corruption case against former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has received a death threat in the post.

Blank cartridges were included in the letter sent to Jean-Michel Gentil in Bordeaux, which also threatened those close to him and other magistrates.

Reporting the threat, the French magistrates' union appealed for calm.

Mr Sarkozy denies receiving illegal donations from L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt in 2007.

The former conservative president has been placed under formal investigation, accused of accepting thousands of euros from the 90-year-old widow, the country's wealthiest woman, whom experts consider to have been in a state of dementia since at least 2006.

On Monday, Mr Sarkozy went public for the first time about the investigation, saying he had never betrayed his public duties and pledging to clear his name.

"I will devote all of my energy to prove my probity and honesty," he wrote on Facebook. "The truth will prevail eventually. I have no doubt about it."

Mr Sarkozy won the presidential election of 2007 comfortably, only to be defeated last year by Socialist candidate Francois Hollande.

Mr Gentil is the most prominent of the three judges conducting the investigation.

The magistrates' union said the threat had come on Wednesday after "unworthy if not insulting remarks by certain politicians following the placing under investigation of Nicolas Sarkozy and questioning of the impartiality of one of the magistrates (Mr Gentil)" by Mr Sarkozy's lawyer, Thierry Herzog.

"Today this magistrate was sent a letter to which blank cartridges were attached, clearly making a threat of death to him, those close to him and members of the magistrates' union," the union said on its website.

Rejecting attempts to "discredit" magistrates, it said: "Everyone should demonstrate the utmost responsibility in their words and we firmly condemn this intolerable escalation of violence."

Mr Herzog questioned Judge Gentil's impartiality in an interview with Sunday newspaper Journal du Dimanche.

The judge was among those who signed an opinion column in Le Monde newspaper in June accusing Mr Sarkozy and his predecessor Jacques Chirac of "wishing to protect the corrupt", Mr Herzog pointed out.

"Five days after signing this column, the same judge ordered four raids on Sarkozy's home, his office and his secretary's house," the lawyer said.

Judge Gentil unexpectedly summoned Mr Sarkozy for a face-to-face encounter with Mrs Bettencourt's butler, Pascal Bonnefoy, in Bordeaux last week.

The judge wanted to determine how often the politician had met Mrs Bettencourt in 2007.

While Mr Sarkozy has maintained he only saw her once during that year, the butler gave a different account.

Following the hearing, the ex-president was placed under formal investigation "for taking advantage of a vulnerable person during 2007 to the detriment of Liliane Bettencourt".

Under French law, the court's decision falls short of a formal charge.

Source: BBC News

Thailand Begins Peace Talks With Southern Rebel Group

Thailand is holding peace talks with Muslim insurgents aimed at curbing violence in the south.

Government officials are meeting representatives of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) rebel group in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

The talks follow a deal reached in February with the group, which is one of several operating in the area.

More than 5,000 people have been killed since a separatist insurgency reignited in the Muslim-majority region in 2004.

The Muslim militants, who are fighting for greater autonomy from Buddhist-majority Thailand, carry out almost daily gun and bomb attacks against civilians and security forces across three southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.

Hours before the talks, police said suspected militants killed three soldiers in a road-side bomb attack in Narathiwat.

"Today's main focus is to reduce violence. Today we will focus on building mutual trust and good relations," Thai National Security Council head Paradorn Pattanatabut said in Kuala Lumpur.

"I am confident that they will communicate our message to their militants but because BRN is a large organisation we have to give them some time."

On Wednesday he told AFP news agency that negotiators would seek a halt to attacks on civilians as proof that rebel leaders had influence on the ground.

But it is not clear how much influence the BRN has or the extent to which it speaks for other groups involved in the insurgency.

The insurgents are being represented by Hassan Taib, a veteran campaigner for autonomy, whose authority over the armed militants who carry out the attacks is questionable.

He has asked Thailand to withdraw troops from the south, to give an amnesty for insurgents and to declare the area a special administrative zone.

The Thai side, which does not yet include representatives from the army, has said it will not discuss any of these demands yet, our correspondent adds.

Instead, in these first talks the two sides will be sizing each other up, to assess whether either is really able to deliver the concessions needed to end the conflict.

Source: BBC News

US Stealth Bombers In South Korea Drill

The US has flown two B-2 stealth bombers over South Korea as part of a military exercise.

The US said it demonstrated its forces could conduct "long-range, precision strikes quickly and at will".

The move follows strong rhetoric from Pyongyang and comes a day after it cut a military hotline with the South.

The hotline had been used mainly to facilitate cross-border travel at a joint industrial complex, which was said to be operating normally.

More than 160 South Korean commuters went through border control on Thursday morning to start work at the Kaesong complex, after being approved for entry by North Korea, officials said.

North Korean authorities had used a civilian phone line to arrange the crossing, they added.

The joint project is a source of badly-needed hard currency for the North. Around 120 South Korean firms operate at Kaesong industrial park, employing an estimated 50,000 North Korean workers.

Pyongyang has been angered both by annual US-South Korea military drills, and the fresh UN sanctions that followed its third nuclear test on 12 February.

The hotline it severed was the last direct official link between the two nations. A Red Cross hotline and another line used to communicate with the UN Command at Panmunjom have already been cut. An inter-Korean air-traffic hotline still exists.

North Korea has also made multiple threats against both the US and South Korea in recent weeks, including warning of a "pre-emptive nuclear strike" on the US and the scrapping of the Korean War armistice.

North Korea is not thought to have the technology to strike the US mainland with either a nuclear weapon or a ballistic missile, but it is capable of targeting some US military bases in Asia with its mid-range missiles.

The US military said in a statement that the B-2 flight showed US "capability to defend the Republic of Korea [South Korea] and to provide extended deterrence to our allies in the Asia-Pacific region".

The two nuclear-capable planes flew from Whitman Air force Base in Missouri to South Korea as part of a "single, continuous" round trip mission during which they dropped "inert munitions on the Jik Do Range", the statement said.

The US said earlier this month that nuclear-capable B-52 bombers were taking part in the annual joint exercises with South Korea, prompting an angry response from Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, in a phone call on Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told his South Korean counterpart Kim Kwan-Jin that the US would provide "unwavering" support to South Korea.

He also told his South Korean counterpart that the US-South Korea alliance was "instrumental in maintaining stability on the Korean peninsula", Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement.

Source: BBC News

NZ Cricketer Jesse Ryder In A Coma

New Zealand cricketer Jesse Ryder is in a medically induced coma after being attacked twice in quick succession as he left a Christchurch bar, police say.

He is believed to have suffered serious head injuries after the assaults and is now in intensive care.

Local media quoted doctors as saying that Ryder suffered a fractured skull and a collapsed lung.

He was in Christchurch playing for Wellington against Canterbury in the domestic one-day competition.

The 28-year-old cricketer had been due to fly to Delhi to start his $300,000 (£200,000) contract in the Indian Premier League.

Ryder has a history of disciplinary lapses and alcohol-related incidents. Although he had been drinking before the assault on Thursday morning, police said alcohol was not a factor.

The cricketer had chosen not to play for New Zealand since the Napier ODI against South Africa in February 2012 after he was disciplined by team management for breaking team protocol by being out drinking while carrying an injury.

"It appears that Jesse has been the victim of a serious assault and suffered head injuries as a result," Detective Senior Sergeant Brian Archer told a nationally televised news conference.

"Jesse was taken to hospital where he remains in intensive care in a critical condition in an induced coma after suffering multiple injuries."

Mr Archer said that "two or three men" carried out the attacks on the cricketer - but he did not think that alcohol was a "contributing factor".

A witness to the assaults told New Zealand's One News that she could hear the impact of the blows from inside the bar.

"As soon as the fight started there were probably four or five guys that ran out to pull them off him and hold them back while he stumbled off over the road," the witness said.

Mr Archer said that Ryder was attacked again by one of the men after he moved across the road.

He said that no weapon was believed to have been used and that so far no motive had been established for the attack.

"At this stage we have not identified the people involved in the incident but are following positive lines of inquiry," he added.

"We are asking for witnesses to come forward and to speak to us about it."

Ryder's friends and domestic and international cricketers have been sending messages of support via social media.

The attack has been condemned by Prime Minister John Key, who expressed his shock over the "sinister" incident.

Pakistani Schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai To Publish A Book

Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban in October, has signed a book deal worth about $3m.

Malala, 15, who campaigns for girls' education, says the memoir is her own story and that of millions of others denied the chance to go to school.

She was shot by a Taliban gunman in her home region of Swat.

She and her family now live in the British city of Birmingham where she has been receiving treatment.

The book, titled I am Malala, is scheduled for publication in the autumn.

"I want to tell my story, but it will also be the story of 61 million children who can't get education.

"I want it to be part of the campaign to give every boy and girl the right to go to school. It is their basic right."

Publishers Weidenfeld and Nicolson say that her memoir will tell what happened on the day she was shot "and the inspiring story of her determination not be intimidated by extremists".

It will also be about the schoolgirl's family, who "gave her remarkable courage".

Malala writes in the memoir that Tuesday 9 October 2012 was "not the best of days as it was the middle of school exams - though as a bookish girl I don't mind them as much as my friends do".

At the time of the attack she was "squashed between friends and teachers on the benches of the open-back truck used as a school bus".

The gunman walked onto the vehicle and shot her in the face at point-blank range.

Since the shooting and her recovery after treatment in Pakistan and the UK, Malala has received numerous peace awards around the world.

Her father has been appointed a UN educational advisor, and 12 July has been designated by the United Nations as Malala Day.

The Malala Fund, set up on behalf of her and her family, is dedicated to the education and empowerment of girls in Pakistan and around the world."I hope the book will reach people around the world, so they realise how difficult it is for some children to get access to education," she said.

India Maoist Rebels Die In Clash

A gun battle between two groups of Maoist rebels in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand has claimed the lives of 15 rebels, police say.

Fighting in Chatra district started on Wednesday night, police said. Ten bodies have been recovered so far from the spot.

Maoist rebels are active in more than a third of India's 600-odd districts.

They say they are fighting for the rights of the poor peasants and labourers.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described them as the biggest internal security challenge facing India.

Jharkhand police chief Rajeev Kumar said that bodies of five rebels had been identified so far.

"Those identified are some of the top local leaders. This is a big jolt for the Maoists," he said.

Many Maoist commanders have parted ways with the main rebel organisation to float rival groups in the region, says the BBC's Salman Ravi.

There are many such groups active in Jharkhand and neighbouring Chhattisgarh state.

The rebels have accused these commanders of siphoning off money collected from mining industries and local contractors as illegal taxes.

Rival rebels groups have often clashed in Jharkhand - and the police been often accused of backing some groups, our correspondent says.

Madagascar Hit By Plague Of Locusts

A severe plague of locusts has infested about half of Madagascar, threatening crops and raising concerns about food shortages, a UN agency says.

The UN's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said billions of the plant-devouring insects could cause hunger for 60% of the population.

About $22m was urgently needed to fight the plague in a country where many people are poor, the FAO added.

It was the worst plague to hit the island since the 1950s, the FAO said.

FAO locust control expert Annie Monard said that on Africa the plague posed a major threat to the Indian Ocean island.

"The last one was in the 1950s and it had a duration of 17 years so if nothing is done it can last for five to 10 years, depending on the conditions," she said.

"Currently, about half the country is infested by hoppers and flying swarms - each swarm made up of billions of plant-devouring insects," the FAO said in a statement.

"FAO estimates that about two-thirds of the island country will be affected by the locust plague by September 2013 if no action is taken."

It said it needed donors to give more than $22m in emergency funding by June so that a full-scale spraying campaign could be launched to fight the plague.

The plague threatened pasture for livestock and rice crops - the main staple in Madagascar, the FAO said.

"Nearly 60% of the island's more than 22m people could be threatened by a significant worsening of hunger in a country that already had extremely high rates of food insecurity and malnutrition," it added.

An estimated 85% of people in Madagascar, which has a population of more than 22 million, live on less than a dollar a day.

The Locust Control Centre in Madagascar had treated 30,000 hectares of farmland since last October, but a cyclone in February made the situation worse, the FAO said.

The cyclone not only damaged crops but created "optimal conditions for one more generation of locusts to breed", it added.

Source: BBC News

Deaths As Gang Attacks Kenya Casino

At least seven people have been killed in a Kenyan coastal town during a raid on a casino by a machete-wielding gang, police say.

Police intervened, shooting dead six of the attackers, officials said. At least one officer also died.

The 50-strong gang struck in Malindi, some 120km (75 miles) north of Mombasa, early on Thursday, police said.

A spokesman linked the attackers to the Mombasa Republic Council (MRC), an outlawed separatist group.

"A gang of 50 MRC suspects armed with machetes and other crude weapons raided a casino in Malindi and started attacking patrons before police were called," Ambrose Munyasia told Reuters news agency.

The attack was thought to have happened at about 02:00 local time (2300 GMT, Wednesday).

There was no immediate confirmation about whether any casino guests were hurt.

The MRC says it is campaigning on behalf of the "oppressed" people of Kenya's coastal region, many of whom are Muslims who say they face discrimination.

"The objective of our movement is to lift the coastal people from the neo-colonialism of the government of Kenya," Randu Ruwa, the MRC's secretary general, told the BBC before the elections earlier this month.

The group was blamed for a series of attacks before the election, in which some 12 people were killed.

Last week a spokesman for the group was arrested on suspicion of links to the attacks.

There was no statement from the MRC after Thursday's attack.

Mombasa is a popular hub for tourism in Kenya, with its Indian Ocean coastline drawing visitors from around the world to a string of luxury resorts.

Source: BBC news

Oscar Pistorius Wins Travel Right After Bail Challenge

South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, charged with murdering his girlfriend, will be allowed to travel after challenging his bail terms.

A judge said the Olympic and Paralympic star would be allowed to leave South Africa to compete as long as he complies with certain conditions.

He will also be allowed to return to his home in Pretoria, where Reeva Steenkamp was shot and killed.

He denies murdering the 29-year-old, saying he mistook her for an intruder.

In the hearing at Pretoria's High Court, Mr Pistorius also sought an end to supervision by a probation officer and compulsory drug and alcohol testing.

The state opposed the application. Mr Pistorius, 26, was not in court for the hearing.

The bail conditions were imposed by Magistrate Desmond Nair on 22 February - including the travel restrictions.

Mr Pistorius was originally ordered to hand over his two South African passports, avoid his home in Pretoria and all witnesses in the case, report to a police station twice a week and to abstain from drinking alcohol.

But they were relaxed but Judge Bert Bam, who described the decision not to grant Mr Pistorius permission to travel as "wrong".

Defence lawyer Barry Roux said the bail conditions amounted to "house arrest".

"Why would this athlete go to a country without extradition and go and hide," he asked the court.

"It is not as if the appellant is travelling for holiday in Mauritius; it's only to gain an income, there's no other reason."

Reports said the athlete had not yet resumed training and had no current plans to compete internationally.

In an unrelated case, the athlete's brother, Carl Pistorius, appeared in court on Wednesday charged with the culpable homicide of a female motorcyclist in a 2008 road crash. He pleaded not guilty and is due to appear in court again next week.

Source: BBC News

Nelson Mandela Back In Hospital

Former South African President Nelson Mandela has been readmitted to hospital with the recurrence of a lung infection.

A statement from the South African presidency said Mr Mandela, 94, had been admitted just before midnight.

Mr Mandela spent 18 days in hospital in December undergoing treatment for a lung infection and gallstones.

He is widely regarded as the father of the nation for leading the struggle against apartheid.

Mr Mandela served as South Africa's first black president from 1994 to 1999. However, his health has caused concern for some time.

A presidential spokesman said that Mr Mandela was conscious and was receiving the best possible medical treatment.

"I think we need to be clear that the doctors are attending to Madiba [Mr Mandela] on a continuous basis," spokesman Mac Maharaj said.

"They prefer to act on the side of caution, and the moment they felt there was a recurrence of the lung infection, they felt that it warranted immediate hospitalisation given his age and given his history."

However, the abrupt nature of Mr Mandela's late-night admission is likely to raise concerns.

The presidency has not identified the hospital where he is being treated.

The government statement said President Jacob Zuma wished Mr Mandela a speedy recovery.

"We appeal to the people of South Africa and the world to pray for our beloved Madiba and his family and to keep them in their thoughts. We have full confidence in the medical team and know that they will do everything possible to ensure recovery," President Zuma said.

The former president is often fondly referred to by his clan name, Madiba.

It is the fourth time Mr Mandela has been admitted to hospital in just over two years.

He first contracted tuberculosis in the 1980s while detained on the windswept Robben Island where he served 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned for sabotage.

His lungs are said to have been damaged when he worked in a prison quarry.

Despite his long imprisonment, Mr Mandela forgave his former enemies and as president urged South Africans of all races to work together and seek reconciliation.

In 1993 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The treatment he received in December 2012 was his longest spell in hospital since leaving prison in 1990.

Earlier this month he spent a night in hospital following a check-up.

Mr Mandela retired from public life in 2004 and has been rarely seen in public since.

His main home is in Qunu, a small rural village in Eastern Cape province, where he says he spent the happiest days of his childhood.

However, doctors said in December he should remain at his home in the Johannesburg neighbourhood of Houghton to be close to medical facilities.

Source: BBC News

Cyprus Banks Reopen With Tough Curbs

Banks in Cyprus have reopened after a two-week closure sparked by discussions on an EU-IMF bailout, amid tension over possible large-scale withdrawals.

Branches were replenished with cash overnight and police were deployed amid fears of a run on the banks.

Some queues did form but customers face strict controls on daily withdrawals and the mood was generally calm.

The restrictions on the free movement of capital represent a profound breach of an EU principle, correspondents say.

However, the European Commission on Thursday justified the move, saying the "stability of financial markets and the banking system in Cyprus constitutes a matter of overriding public interest".

Cyprus is the first eurozone member country to bring in capital controls.

Cyprus needs to raise 5.8bn euros to qualify for a 10bn-euro bailout from the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the so-called troika.

As part of the bailout plan, depositors with more than 100,000 euros will see some of their savings exchanged for bank shares.

An earlier plan to tax small depositors was vetoed by the Cypriot parliament last week.

Loss of trust
Branches began to open at noon local time (10:00 GMT) and will close at 18:00 (16:00 GMT).

Some did not open on time, causing tension among customers. The longer queues were forming outside branches of Laiki, which is being wound up.

One customer in a queue in Nicosia said that he was withdrawing the allowed daily amount of 300 euros but would take out all of his money if he could.

Our correspondent says the predictions of a stampede did not materialise and in some places there were more journalists than depositors.

Another customer, jewellery shop owner, Roula Spyrou, said. "There's going to be queues so I'm not going to spend so many hours there to get 300 euros."

Some armed police have been deployed in cities and hundreds of staff from the private security firm G4S are guarding bank branches and helping to transport money.

The stock exchange, shut since 16 March, remains closed on Thursday and will not reopen until after Easter.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the ministry of finance insisted the capital control measures were temporary and were needed to "safeguard the stability of the system".

It read: "The Central Bank of Cyprus and the government of Cyprus will review them each day, with a view to progressive lifting of the measures as soon as circumstances allow. "

The severe new rules have been imposed to prevent a torrent of money leaving the island and credit institutions collapsing.

As well as the daily withdrawal limit, Cypriots may not cash cheques.

Payments and/or transfers outside Cyprus via debit and or credit cards are allowed up to 5,000 euros per person per month.

Transactions of 5,000-200,000 euros will be reviewed by a specially established committee, with applications for those over 200,000 euros needing individual approval.

Travellers leaving the country will only be allowed to take 1,000 euros with them.

On Wednesday night, hundreds of protesters rallied outside the presidential palace, chanting: "I'll pay nothing; I owe nothing," the Reuters news agency reported.

Many economists predict the controls could be in place for months.

The unprecedented restrictions represent a profound breach of an important principle of the European Union that capital, as well as people and trade, should able be to move freely across internal borders, says the BBC's economics correspondent Andrew Walker.

However, the European Commission said member states could introduce capital controls "in certain circumstances and under strict conditions on grounds of public policy or public security".

But it added that "the free movement of capital should be reinstated as soon as possible".

The vice-president of the Cypriot Employers Federation, Demetria Karatoki, said that he believed the country could pull through.

"Although there is going to be hardship, at the end of the day we can start rebuilding our economy on a sound basis," he said.

But British Cypriot businessman, Costa Thomas, said he had lost faith in the system.

"No-one really trusts politicians. So why should we believe them that these controls are going to last only a few weeks and we're going to get shares and get the money back?" he asked.

One employee of the Bank of Cyprus said that everybody's jobs were at risk.

"If the Bank of Cyprus collapses, all the small business, the large businesses, everything collapses. They cannot buy anything, import anything, export anything. There is nothing," she said.

Source: BBC News

Mar 27, 2013

Two Tourists Kidnapped In Sinai Released

Two tourists abducted by Bedouin gunmen last week have been freed.. Authorities been been negotiating with the kidnappers for their release.
The Israeli man and Norwegian woman, were seized on March 23 while driving between the resort towns of Dahab and Taba on the Red Sea coast.
Bedouin kidnappers have held tourists hostage in the past to pressure the authorities to release fellow tribesmen from jail. Two American female tourists were kidnapped in Sinai in February 2012 but Egyptian authorities negotiated their release a few hours later.

TV Does Not Breed Badly Behaved Children

Spending hours watching TV or playing computer games each day does not harm young children's social development, say experts.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) team who studied more than 11,000 primary school pupils says it is wrong to link bad behaviour to TV viewing.

Although researchers found a small correlation between the two, they say other influences, such as parenting styles, most probably explain the link.

But they still say "limit screen time".

This cautionary advice is because spending lots of time in front of the TV every day might reduce how much time a child spends doing other important activities such as playing with friends and doing homework, they say.

US research suggests watching TV in early childhood can cause attention problems at the age of seven.

We found no effect with screen time for most of the behavioural and social problems that we looked at and only a very small effect indeed for conduct problems, such as fighting or bullying”

In the US, paediatric guidelines recommend that total screen time should be limited to less than two hours of educational, non-violent programmes per day. There are currently no formal guidelines in the UK.

For the MRC study, published in Archives of Diseases in Childhood, Dr Alison Parkes and colleagues asked UK mothers from all walks of life to give details about their child's TV viewing habits and general behaviour.

Electronic entertainment
Almost two-thirds (65%) of the 11,014 five-year-olds included in the study watched TV between one and three hours a day, 15% watched more than three hours and less than 2% watched no television at all.

Watching more than three hours' TV a day at this age predicted a very small increase in "conduct" problems at the age of seven.

After their seventh birthday, these boys and girls were slightly more likely to get into fights, tell lies or be bullies than their peers, according to their mothers' reports.

Time spent playing computer games bore no such relationship.

And there was no association between TV or any screen time and other issues such as hyperactivity or problems interacting with friends.

Dr Parkes, head of the MRC's social and public health sciences unit in Glasgow, said it was wrong to blame social problems on TV.

"We found no effect with screen time for most of the behavioural and social problems that we looked at and only a very small effect indeed for conduct problems, such as fighting or bullying.

"Our work suggests that limiting the amount of time children spend in front of the TV is, in itself, unlikely to improve psychosocial adjustment."

She said interventions focusing on the family dynamic and the child were more likely to make a difference and that much may depend on what children are watching and whether they were supervised.

Sonia Livingstone, professor of social psychology, at the London School of Economics, said the findings were a "good reason to ask why some children spend so much time watching television".

Prof Annette Karmiloff-Smith, of Birkbeck, University of London, said that rather than focusing on the possible adverse effects of TV and video games, it would be better to look at what positive impact they could have on children.

Prof Hugh Perry, chair of the MRC's neurosciences and mental health board, said: "We are living in a world that is increasingly dominated by electronic entertainment, and parents are understandably concerned about the impact this might be having on their children's wellbeing and mental health.

"This important study suggests the relationship between TV and video games and health is complex and influenced by many other social and environmental factors."

Source: BBC News


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