The FBI has found female DNA on at least one of the two homemade bombs detonated during the Boston Marathon on April 15, according to a law enforcement official.

The presence of genetic material does not necessarily mean a woman helped build the pressure-cooker bombs, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

The genetic material could have come from a woman who was in the room where the devices were built, or from a cashier at a store where one of the bomb parts was purchased, the official said.

The test results have prompted investigators to look more closely at women who may have had contact with the alleged bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Investigators are collecting DNA samples from some women who were close to the pair to provide a comparison.

On Monday, investigators visited the Rhode Island home of the family of Katherine Russell, the widow of the elder brother, who was killed in a shootout with police on April 19.  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was wounded but captured, and faces federal charges of using a weapon of mass destruction.

The two remote-controlled bombs killed three people and injured more than 260.

 

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”


2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

“Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

 ”This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

The fugitive owner of an illegally constructed building that collapsed and killed at least 377 people was captured by commandos as he tried to flee into India. At the disaster site, meanwhile, fire broke out in the rubble and forced authorities to suspend the search for survivors temporarily.

Mohammed Sohel Rana was arrested Sunday in the western border town of Benapole, said Jahangir Kabir Nanak, junior minister for local government. Rana was brought back by helicopter to the capital of Dhaka where he faced charges of negligence.

Rana's capture was announced by loudspeaker at the disaster site, drawing cheers and applause from those awaiting the outcome of a continuing search-and-rescue operation for survivors of Wednesday's collapse.

Many of those killed worked at clothing factories in the building, known as the Rana Plaza, and the collapse was the deadliest disaster to hit the garment industry in Bangladesh that is worth $20 billion annually, supplies global retailers and is a mainstay of the economy.

The fire that broke out late Sunday night sent smoke pouring from the piles of shattered concrete and halted some of the rescue efforts — including a bid to free a woman who was found trapped in the rubble.

The blaze was caused by sparks as rescuers tried to cut through a steel rod to reach the woman, said a volunteer, Syed Al-Amin Roman. At least three rescuers were injured in the fire, he said. It forced them to retreat while firefighters frantically hosed down the flames.

Officials believe the fire is likely to have killed the trapped woman, said army spokesman Shahinul Islam. Rescue workers had delayed the use of heavy equipment for several hours in the hope that she could be extricated from the rubble first. But with the woman presumed dead, they began using heavy equipment around midnight.

An exhausted and disheveled Rana was brought before reporters briefly at the Dhaka headquarters of the commando team, the Rapid Action Battalion.

Wearing a printed shirt, Rana was sweating as two security officers held him by his arms. A security official helped him to drink water after he gestured he was thirsty. He did not speak during the 10-minute appearance, and he is likely to be handed over to police, who will have to charge him and produce him in court within 24 hours.

A small-time political operative from the ruling Awami League party, Rana had been on the run since the building collapsed Wednesday. He last appeared in public Tuesday in front of the Rana Plaza after huge cracks appeared in the building.

Witnesses said Rana assured tenants, including five garment factories, that the building was safe. Police, however, ordered an evacuation. A bank and some first-floor shops closed, but managers of the garment factories on the upper floors told workers to continue their shifts.

Hours later, the Rana Plaza was reduced to rubble, crushing most victims under massive blocks of concrete. Local authorities said the construction permit was issued for a five-story building, not the eight floors that were built.

Rana's arrest was ordered by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is also the Awami League leader.

On Saturday, police arrested three owners of two factories. Also detained were Rana's wife and two government engineers who were involved in giving approval for the building design. Local TV stations reported that the Bangladesh High Court has frozen the bank accounts of the owners of all five garment factories in the Rana Plaza.

A garment manufacturers' group said the factories in the building employed 3,122 workers, but it was not clear how many were inside when it fell. About 2,500 survivors have been accounted for.

America's blacks voted at a higher rate than other minority groups in 2012 and by most measures surpassed the white turnout for the first time, reflecting a deeply polarized presidential election in which blacks strongly supported Barack Obama while many whites stayed home.

Had people voted last November at the same rates they did in 2004, when black turnout was below its current historic levels, Republican Mitt Romney would have won narrowly, according to an analysis conducted for The Associated Press.

Census data and exit polling show that whites and blacks will remain the two largest racial groups of eligible voters for the next decade. Last year's heavy black turnout came despite concerns about the effect of new voter-identification laws on minority voting, outweighed by the desire to re-elect the first black president.

William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, analyzed the 2012 elections for the AP using census data on eligible voters and turnout, along with November's exit polling. He estimated total votes for Obama and Romney under a scenario where 2012 turnout rates for all racial groups matched those in 2004. Overall, 2012 voter turnout was roughly 58 percent, down from 62 percent in 2008 and 60 percent in 2004.

The analysis also used population projections to estimate the shares of eligible voters by race group through 2030. The numbers are supplemented with material from the Pew Research Center and George Mason University associate professor Michael McDonald, a leader in the field of voter turnout who separately reviewed aggregate turnout levels across states, as well as AP interviews with the Census Bureau and other experts. The bureau is scheduled to release data on voter turnout in May.

Overall, the findings represent a tipping point for blacks, who for much of America's history were disenfranchised and then effectively barred from voting until passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

But the numbers also offer a cautionary note to both Democrats and Republicans after Obama won in November with a historically low percentage of white supporters. While Latinos are now the biggest driver of U.S. population growth, they still trail whites and blacks in turnout and electoral share, because many of the Hispanics in the country are children or noncitizens.

And when the last pieces of its spire rise to the roof — weather permitting — the 104-floor skyscraper that replaces the fallen twin towers will be just feet from becoming the highest in the Western Hemisphere.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says the spire pieces plus a steel beacon will then be lifted at a later date from the rooftop to cap the building at 1,776 feet.

Installation of the 800-ton, 408-foot spire began in December, after 18 pieces were shipped from Canada and New Jersey.

The spire will serve as a world-class broadcast antenna.

With the beacon at its peak to ward off aircraft, the spire will provide public transmission services for television and radio broadcast channels that were destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001, along with the trade center towers.

Overlooking the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the high-rise is scheduled to open for business in 2014.

The tower is at the northwest corner of the site, which is well on its way to reconstruction with the 72-story 4 World Trade Center and other buildings.

Monday's celebration of the reconstructed trade center comes days after a grisly reminder of the terror attack that took nearly 3,000 lives: the discovery of a rusted piece of airplane landing gear wedged between a nearby mosque and an apartment building — believed to be from one of the hijacked planes that ravaged lower Manhattan.

As officials prepared to erect the spire, the office of the city's chief medical examiner was working in the hidden alley where debris may still contain human remains.

The new tower's crowning spire is a joint venture between the ADF Group Inc. engineering firm in Terrebonne, Quebec, and New York-based DCM Erectors Inc., a steel contractor.

The world's tallest building, topping 2,700 feet, is in Dubai.

Russia plans to deploy fighter jets in Belarus this year and eventually establish an air base in the former Soviet republic, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday.

The moves would increase Russia’s military presence in Belarus, viewed by Moscow as a buffer between Russia and NATO, and could unnerve neighboring members of the Western alliance.

Russia agreed in 2009 to set up a joint air defense system with Belarus and talks were held before then on establishing an air base there, but few concrete steps have been taken.

“We have begun considering the plan to create a Russian air base with fighter jets here,” Shoigu said at a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in the capital, Minsk.

“We hope that in 2015 there will be a regiment of warplanes (in Belarus) which will serve to defend our borders,” Shoigu said in a portion of the meeting shown on Russian state television.

As Korea festers, our friends in Beijing have deployed near Taiwan a powerful missile designed to take out U.S. aircraft carriers as Beijing strengthens its ability to prevent U.S. forces from aiding Taiwan.

When North Korea announced the 1953 Armistice was considered null and void and threatened renewed missile tests, the U.S. rushed naval assets to the region, including two destroyers equipped with the Aegis anti-missile defense system. We presumably would do so if things heated up between Beijing and its claimed “lost province,” Taiwan.

That option became increasingly problematical when news of China’s deployment of an anti-ship ballistic missile near Taiwan came in written testimony by the Pentagon’s head of intelligence, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, delivered to a Senate committee on Thursday.

A U.S. military spokesman says the number of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay labeled as hunger strikers has been raised to 92 based on evaluations by medical personnel at the U.S. base in Cuba.

The new figure is up by eight from a day earlier and represents more than half of the 166 men held there.

Lt. Col. Samuel House says the military arrived at the new figure Wednesday because doctors have been able to evaluate prisoners more closely after moving them to single cells out of a communal area. That move sparked a brief clash between guards and prisoners on April 13.

Lawyers for prisoners have been saying since the strike began in February that the military was undercounting the men refusing to eat in protest of their confinement.

 One of two men accused in an alleged al Qaeda-backed plan to derail a passenger train in Canada appeared in court on Wednesday and disputed the authority of Canadian law to judge him, saying the criminal code was not a holy book.

Chiheb Esseghaier, a Tunisian-born doctoral student, faces charges that include conspiracy to murder and working with a terrorist group.

He and another suspect, Raed Jaser, are charged with plotting to derail a passenger train, and U.S. security sources say they sought to attack at a bridge near the U.S.-Canada border.

In a brief hearing where he was ordered back into custody, Esseghaier, 30, said the allegations against him are based on laws that are unreliable because they are not the work of God.

"All of these conclusions was taken out based on (the) criminal code," he told a Toronto court. "The criminal code is not (a) holy book."

He added: "Only the Creator is perfect."

Esseghaier and Jaser were arrested on Monday in separate raids after a joint Canada-U.S. investigation that started last year, based on a tip from a member of the Muslim community.

Jaser was remanded into custody on Tuesday. His lawyer, John Norris, said he denies the charges against him and will fight them vigorously.

Esseghaier, who has a thick black beard and wore a blue-black windbreaker, has been a doctoral student since 2010 at the INRS institute near Montreal where he is researching the use of nanotechnology to detect cancer and other diseases.

Authorities said there is no connection to the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing in which three people were killed and 264 injured.

But U.S. officials say investigators are trying to establish if the two suspects were part of a wider network with associates in the United States, especially in New York.

Canadian authorities have said they linked Esseghaier and Jaser to al Qaeda factions in Iran. However, they said there was no indication their plans, which police described as the first known al Qaeda-backed plot on Canadian soil, were state-sponsored. Tehran has vehemently rejected any ties to the suspects.

U.S. border officers in California are seizing a large number of smuggled bladders from an endangered fish that are prized for use in Chinese soups, with seven people charged since February in connection with the trade, authorities said on Wednesday.

The bladders of the totoaba macdonaldi fish are smuggled across the border from Mexico, with each organ fetching $5,000 on the U.S. black market and over $10,000 in Asia, federal prosecutors said. The fish is found in the Gulf of California between the Mexican mainland and Baja California.

The totoaba's swim bladder is a tube-shaped organ that fills with gas to help control the buoyancy of the fish, which the U.S. Attorney's Office said can grow over 6 feet long, weigh up to 220 pounds (100 kg) and live to the age of 25.

The United States listed the totoaba as an endangered species in 1979 and they are also protected in Mexico. Officials said the fish's bladder was seen in some Chinese cuisine as a prime ingredient in a type of soup and prized for its supposed ability to boost fertility and circulation.

"The Mexican fish is very similar to a Chinese species of fish that was eaten to extinction," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agent in Charge Jill Birchell told reporters.

The totoaba spawn in the spring, and during that time they swim to shallow waters at the mouth of the Colorado River on the north end of the Gulf of California and fishermen begin to go after them, as the black market trade in the animal's swim bladders heats up, officials said.

"The shores are littered with carcasses because catching them (totoaba) is illegal and they don't want to move the entire fish," Birchell said.

In the latest case that led to criminal charges, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer inspecting a car at the Calexico-Mexicali port of entry, about 130 miles east of San Diego, found 27 totoaba bladders hidden under floor mats in the back seat of a car, U.S. prosecutors said in a statement.

Federal agents returned all but one bladder to the driver, Song Shen Zhen, 73, of Calexico, California, officials said.

"The officer thought something was fishy," said U.S. Customs officer Billy Whitford.

Federal agents followed Zhen to a rented house in Calexico. When they returned to the home with a search warrant, they found over 200 fish bladders spread out on floors and counters to dry, officials said.

They also found packing material and ledgers for other shipments that went to China and Hong Kong, said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. In all, the bladders taken from Zhen could have fetched more than $3.6 million in foreign markets, prosecutors said in the statement.

Zhen was charged last Friday with smuggling and unlawful importation of wildlife. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

No attorney for Zhen was listed in court documents, and he could not be reached for comment.

Six other people have been charged since February in connection with the smuggling of the endangered fish bladders, in cases that authorities say are not related. In two of the cases, the defendants are still at large.

The surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings acknowledged to the FBI his role in the attacks but did so before he was advised of his constitutional right to keep quiet and seek a lawyer, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

Once Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was read his rights on Monday, he immediately stopped talking, according to four officials of both political parties who were briefed on the interrogation but insisted on anonymity because the briefing was private.

After roughly 16 hours of questioning, investigators were surprised when a magistrate judge and a representative from the U.S. Attorney's office entered the hospital room and read Tsarnaev his rights, the four officials and one law enforcement official said. Investigators had planned to keep questioning him.

It is unclear whether any of this will matter in court since the FBI says Tsarnaev confessed to a witness and U.S. officials said Wednesday that physical evidence, including a 9 mm handgun and pieces of a remote-control device commonly used in toys, was recovered from the scene.

But the debate over whether suspected terrorists should be read their Miranda rights has become a major sticking point in the debate over how best to fight terrorism. Many Republicans, in particular, believe Miranda warnings are designed to build court cases, and only hinder intelligence gathering.

Christina DiIorio Sterling, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, said in an email, "This remains an ongoing investigation and we don't have any further comment."

Before being advised of his rights, the 19-year-old suspect told authorities that his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, only recently had recruited him to be part of the attack, two U.S. officials said.

The CIA, however, named Tamerlan to a terrorist database 18 months ago, officials said Wednesday, an acknowledgment that will undoubtedly prompt congressional inquiry about whether investigators took warnings from Russian intelligence officials seriously enough.

The U.S. officials who discussed the terrorist database and other details of the investigation are in addition to those who discussed the Miranda warning. They were close to the investigation and insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case with reporters.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, whom authorities have described as the driving force behind the plot, was killed in a shootout with police. Dzhokhar is recovering in a hospital from injuries suffered during a getaway attempt.

Authorities had previously said Dzhokhar exchanged gunfire with them for more than an hour Friday night before they captured him inside a boat covered by a tarp in a suburban Boston neighborhood backyard. But two U.S. officials said Wednesday that he was unarmed when captured, raising questions about the gunfire and how he was injured.

More than 4,000 mourners at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology paid tribute to a campus police officer who authorities say was gunned down by the bombing suspects.

Among the speakers in Cambridge, just outside Boston, was Vice President Joe Biden, who condemned the bombing suspects as "two twisted, perverted, cowardly, knockoff jihadis."

Investigators have said the brothers appeared to have been radicalized through jihadist materials on the Internet and have found no evidence tying them to a terrorist group.

Dzhokhar told the FBI that they were angry about the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the killing of Muslims there, officials said.

Dzhokhar's public defender had no comment on the matter Wednesday. His father has called him a "true angel," and an aunt has insisted he's not guilty.

Investigators have found pieces of remote-control equipment among the debris and were analyzing them, officials said. One official described the detonator as "close-controlled," meaning it had to be triggered within several blocks of the bombs.

That evidence could be key to the court case. And an FBI affidavit said one of the brothers told a carjacking victim during their getaway attempt, "Did you hear about the Boston explosion? I did that."

Officials also recovered a 9 mm handgun believed to have been used by Tamerlan from the site of a Thursday night gunbattle that injured a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officer, two U.S. officials said.

The officials told the AP that no gun was found in the boat. Boston police Commissioner Ed Davis said earlier that shots were fired from inside the boat.

Asked whether the suspect had a gun in the boat, Davis said, "I'm not going to talk about that."

Kurt Schwartz, director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, did respond to the report.

"Within half a mile of where this person was captured, a police officer was shot. And I know who shot him." Schwartz said. "And there were three bombs that went off, and I know where those bombs came from. ... To me, it does not change anything. This guy was captured alive and will survive. True or not true, it doesn't change anything for me."

The suspects' parents, Anzor Tsarnaev and Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, plan to fly to the U.S. from Russia on Thursday, the father was quoted as telling the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. The family has said it wants to take Tamerlan's body back to Russia.

In Russia, U.S. investigators traveled to the predominantly Muslim province of Dagestan and were in contact with the brothers' parents, hoping to gain more information.

Investigators are looking into whether Tamerlan, who spent six months in Russia's turbulent Caucasus region in 2012, was influenced by the religious extremists who have waged an insurgency against Russian forces in the area for years. The brothers have roots in Dagestan and neighboring Chechnya but had lived in the U.S. for about a decade.

After he shot his way into a home in the small town of Manchester, police say Rick Odell Smith gunned down a great-grandmother, a young couple and three young children. Then he did something that puzzled authorities.

He scooped up one of the children, a 6-year-old girl who was still alive, and carried her to a neighbor's home. Then he jumped into his white Chevy Lumina and sped off. Police caught up with him hours later and he died in a gunfight with officers.

State Police Lt. Col. Todd Kilby couldn't explain Smith's apparent concern for the girl. "All I have is that it was a neighbor" who took her in, he told reporters.

A source said the man told the neighbor to take her to a hospital. The neighbor called police.

The girl, Kassidy Ralston, remained in critical condition at a hospital in Springfield with facial injuries, according to family and a source.

The girl's great-grandmother, her parents and her younger brothers all died in the rampage. While oficials have not released their names, relatives identified them as Joanne Sinclair, 65, Brittany Luark, 22, her boyfriend Roy Ralston, Nolan Ralston, 5, and Brantley Ralston, 1.

Smith, 43, approached the family's home southwest of Springfield shortly before dawn, around 4:30 a.m. Police said he used a shotgun to blast through a back door, and was also armed with a hunting rifle with a scope and a large hunting knife.

Smith shot the people with the shotgun at close range, police said.

Roy Ralston was found in a hallway of the home, the two boys in a bedroom and Sinclair and Luark in another bedroom, Kilby said. 

"The guy broke into the house," said Brad Teeter, Sinclair's son-in-law. "I couldn't tell you about the guy, never met him, never seen him, never talked to him. He apparently broke into the home of my wife's mother and shot everybody inside."

"I'm at a loss right now," Teeter said.

State police would not comment on a possible motive. But a neighbor said Smith had been going through a custody battle with Sinclair's daughter over their 4-year-old child. Neither she nor the girl were in the home at the time of the shooting, according to authorities and the family.

"He was under a lot of stress. ... There was a lot of problems with custody with the daughter," said a neighobor of Smith's near his home in Roodhouse.

The neighbor said Smith had lived with the woman at his home until recently. The neighbor said the two had been together for about five years.

The neighbor said Smith worked as a jack of all trades. "He did odd jobs for people, he could fix anything. He was a really hard worker," the neighbor said.

The neighbor said Smith had custody of their daughter fairly often but "I know there was a lot of friction with (her) family."

Homemade twig pens stand like off-duty soldiers in a jar on Boubacar Sadeck's worktable. The morning sun steals into a room stuffed with a jumble of papers, ink bottles and stretched animal hides. He sits thoughtfully before a blank sheet of paper, with several old manuscripts — the color of dark tea and covered with Arabic script — open at his side.

Occasionally a breeze wafts in and playfully flicks one of the old brown pages to the floor.

t

Copying the words of ancient scholars in elegant Arabic calligraphy makes Sadeck feel close to heaven.

"My weakness, my love, is calligraphy," said the scribe, who fled Timbuktu, famed for its collection of centuries-old manuscripts, when Islamist militias invaded last year. "If I go a day without writing, I feel as if something is missing or strange. When I sit down with my paper and my pen, I feel wonderful. I feel at ease."

Copying and recopying old manuscripts is an ancient Timbuktu calling. In the 15th century, there were hundreds of scribes; the job was one of the most highly paid and prestigious occupations in the city, then an intellectual center and trade hub.

Adventurer Leo Africanus described a magnificently furnished court, decorated with opulent objects of gold.

"In the city are many judges, doctors and clerics, all well-financed by the king, who greatly honors lettered men," he wrote. "Hither are brought diverse manuscripts or written books out of Barbary [northern Africa], which are sold for more money than any other merchandise."

Salt comes from the north, gold from the south, money from the white men's country, but God's words, holy things, interesting tales, we can find them only in Timbuktu.

Sadeck, at 38 the youngest of Timbuktu's copyists, doesn't earn much money from his craft. It's his sheer love of the liquid, graceful Arabic script and the meaning of the ancient words that keeps him working — now in Bamako, Mali's capital.

"I found an ancient poem about tea, how to make tea, the ingredients, the importance of tea. At the end, the one who wrote this also gave information about himself. I felt such a close spiritual connection with that writer."

When he fled Timbuktu last April, he carried the family's collection of 80 manuscripts. Now he works in a small, bright studio adjacent to a sprawling garbage dump where goats and donkeys forage.

The militias were driven out of the northern cities by the French and Malian armies in January, but many fear it will be years before life returns to normal in Timbuktu.

A man holds up fragments of burned manuscripts at the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu. As French and Malian troops moved into the city in January to retake it from Islamist militants, the fleeing militants set fire to the ancient texts.

The lingering insecurity raises doubts about when or even whether Timbuktu's collection of manuscripts, many thousands of which were smuggled out during the Islamist occupation, can return to its home in the city's Ahmed Baba Institute.

Built by the South African government and opened in 2009, it was supposed to become a state-of-the-art center for international scholars to research the manuscripts. But only 9,000 of the institute's 30,000 manuscripts, some dating to the 13th century, had been catalogued before the Islamists came

 — When their beds began to shake and the dishes clattered off the shelves, people knew what to do this time.

The temblor Saturday morning in Sichuan province was a lesser replay of a killer quake that struck along the same fault line almost five years ago. Still, it was severe enough to leave at least 179 dead and more than 8,000 injured by Sunday, Chinese authorities reported.

The 8 a.m. jolt roused residents from their beds, and many people ran into the streets in their pajamas, according to reports from the scene.

"We were very calm. We have gained experience from the last earthquake," one middle-aged man told Chinese media. "It took us 30 seconds to leave everything and run."

Chinese officials assessed the magnitude of the quake at 7.0; the U.S. Geological Survey reported it at 6.6.

Residents immediately thought back to May 12, 2008 — which Chinese simply refer to as 5/12, similar to Americans talking about 9/11 — the day a magnitude 7.9 quake left about 90,000 people dead or missing, including many children crushed by collapsing schools.

The 2008 disaster left residents and government officials better prepared, said Meimei Leung, emergency response director for World Vision's China office.

"This time people knew what to do. As soon as the tremors started, they went out into open areas. The government also is working in a well-organized manner," she said.

On a subway car in Shanghai, commotion breaks out when someone spots a live chicken poking its head out of a bag tucked under one of the seats.

On a highway in Zhejiang province, a motorist is so panicked by bird droppings landing on her windshield that she stops the car and calls traffic police for help.

Internet photos of dead sparrows on a Nanjing sidewalk are ordered removed by police, fearing they might go viral.

The fowl phobia gripping China is the result of a new strain of avian flu that has led to 18 deaths and 95 diagnosed illnesses over the last month.

Health authorities are concerned because of the unpredictable nature of the virus, known as H7N9. Unlike in previous incarnations of avian flu, infected birds here are showing no signs of being sick, making it harder to stem the disease at its source.

So far, there is no evidence that the strain of flu can be easily transmitted from human to human; such transmission is an earmark of a potential pandemic.

But the number of people having direct contact with birds is limited, so researchers are not quite sure how this year's patients have been getting sick.

Although the earliest cases involved farmers and poultry dealers, in more than half of the more recent infections the people had no direct contact with birds, Michael O'Leary, head of the World Health Organization's China office, said at a briefing Friday.

Consequently, the unknown has given way to fear.

Pigeon fanciers around China have canceled events. Notices have gone up in diplomatic residences around Beijing instructing people not to take children to the zoo. Tables at Beijing's most popular Peking duck restaurant are now available without a reservation.

"People are scared. Nobody is buying chickens or ducks," said Li Guoli, a young man standing at a Beijing fresh market counter where the chicken legs weren't selling. At the next stall, business was so slow that the vendor was sound asleep.

Fifteen experts from the United Nations' top health agency

- Nicaraguan police said on Monday they had arrested an American man on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list suspected of child pornography offences, and handed him over to officials for extradition.

The suspect, former Washington schoolteacher Eric Justin Toth, was arrested on Saturday in Esteli, a city some 90 miles north of Managua, said police chief Aminta Granera, adding that Toth had entered Nicaragua in February.

Granera said Toth had been caught with a fake U.S. passport, a fake driving license, and fake bank and credit cards.

"In other words, he was an expert," Granera told a news conference in Managua.

The 31-year-old Toth taught at a private school in Washington, D.C. and had also worked as a camp counselor. He has been on the run since the District of Columbia and Maryland issued arrest warrants in 2008.

Toth is alleged to have had a school camera in his possession in June 2008 that had pornographic images on it, the FBI said on its website. He is also alleged to have produced child pornography in Maryland, it said.

"Toth has often been described as a computer 'expert' and has demonstrated above-average knowledge regarding computers, the use of the Internet, and security awareness," the FBI said.

It described Toth, who was added to the Most Wanted list in April 2012, as able to "integrate easily into socio-economic groups".

Federal law enforcement source said Toth had last been seen in 2009 at an Arizona homeless shelter where he had briefly lived and worked as a volunteer. The shelter alerted authorities and Toth vanished, the source said.

Toth attended Cornell University for a year and then transferred to Purdue University, where he graduated with an education degree, the FBI said.

New York City took the first step on Monday in outlawing sales of cigarettes to anyone under age 21, in an effort to reduce smoking among the age group in which most smokers take up the habit.

The bill, which was introduced by the City Council and has the backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, would make New York City, which already has the highest cigarette taxes in the nation, the first big city or state to set the smoking age at 21. Currently, individuals must be 18 to buy cigarettes.

Eight in 10 adult smokers in the city started smoking regularly when they were below the age of 21, and most smokers who are under age 18 obtain cigarettes from individuals who are just a few years older than them, city officials said.

While an increase in cigarette taxes contributed to a 15-point drop among youth smokers from 1999 to 2007, the number of high-school-aged smokers has held steady at about 8.5 percent over the last six years.

Cigarette packs sold in New York City currently carry a state tax of $4.35 and a city tax of $1.50 - making it the most expensive city in the nation to be a smoker.

"Too many adult smokers begin this deadly habit before age 21," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. "By delaying our city's children and young adults access to lethal tobacco products, we're decreasing the likelihood they ever start smoking, and thus, creating a healthier city."

The bill marks the latest effort in the city's decade-long fight to discourage smoking, which the city's health commissioner, Thomas Farley, said was the most significant cause of preventable death in the city. In 2003, Bloomberg outlawed smoking in bars and restaurants, and smoking has since been banned in other public places, including parks.

Quinn, who is running to become the city's next mayor, made clear that she would continue Bloomberg's aggressive public health agenda - which has led his detractors to dub him the "nanny mayor."

Richie Havens, the folk singer and guitarist who was the first performer at Woodstock, died Monday. He was 72.

Havens died of a heart attack in New Jersey, his family said in a statement. He was born in Brooklyn.

Havens was known for his crafty guitar work and cover songs, including his well-received cover of Bob Dylan's "Just Like a Woman."

His performance at the three-day 1969 Woodstock Festival, where headliners included Jimi Hendrix, was a turning point in his career. He was the first act to hit the stage, performing for nearly three hours. His performance of "Freedom" — based from the spiritual "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" — became an anthem.

Havens returned to the site during Woodstock's 40th anniversary in 2009.

"Everything in my life, and so many others, is attached to that train," he said in an interview that year with The Associated Press.

Woodstock remains one of the events that continues to define the 1960s in the popular imagination. Performers included The Who, Janis Joplin, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and dozens of others, and the trippy anarchy of Woodstock has become legendary. There was lots of nudity, casual sex, dirty dancing and open drug use. The stage announcer famously warned people to steer clear of the brown acid.

Havens had originally been scheduled to go on fifth but had been bumped up because of travel delays. Festival producer Michael Lang said in the book "The Road to Woodstock" that he chose Havens "because of his calm but powerful demeanor."

His performance lasted hours because the next act hadn't showed up.

"So I'd go back and sing three more," Havens said in an interview with NPR. "This happened six times. So I sung every song I knew."

Havens' website said he had kidney surgery in 2010 and that he never recovered enough to perform concerts like he used to. He performed at Bill Clinton's presidential Inauguration in 1993.

Terror suspect Dzhokhar "Jahar" Tsarnaev was charged on Monday with two federal counts of using a weapon of mass destruction to kill, injure and cause widespread damage at the Boston Marathon a week ago. If convicted, the 19-year-old could face the death penalty.

Three people were killed and more than 200 others wounded when two powerful homemade bombs exploded near the race’s finish line.

The bed-ridden Tsarnaev was informed of the charges and read his rights in his hospital room Monday morning. The college student is in serious condition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he is under heavy police guard.

Tsarnaev, who is sedated and unable to speak, suffered apparent gunshot wounds to the head, neck, hand and legs during firefights with police before his capture Friday night, authorities said. His older brother Tamerlan Tsanraev, who investigators say was part of the terror attack, died in a firefight with police during their escape attempt.

In a 10-page criminal complaint against Dzhokhar, an FBI agent says investigators have overwhelming photographic evidence showing the brothers placing two backpack bombs in the crowd at the race finish.

A large pyrotechnic and clothing Dzhokhar wore during the terror attack were later found in his dorm room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, according to the charges.

The complaint sheds no light on a motive for the attack. Miriam Conrad, Dzhokhar's federal public defender, asked the court to also appoint two more attorneys who are, “learned in the law applicable to capital cases.”

Investigators say the Tsarnaev brothers began preparing for an apparent escape attempt just hours after the FBI sought the public’s help by releasing photos of them at the bombing scene.

Shortly before midnight Thursday, one of the brothers carjacked a man at gunpoint, according to the criminal complaint.

“Did you hear about the Boston explosion?” the complaint alleges the carjacker said. “I did that.”

The complaint goes on to allege that the brothers threw improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at patrol officers who spotted them in the stolen car and gave chase. Bomb-making materials similar to what was recovered in the marathon aftermath were later found inside the abandoned getaway car, according to the charges.

In the wake of the revelations about the violent nature of accused marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, investigators in the Boston suburbs tell ABC News they are probing whether he may have been involved in an unsolved grisly triple homicide of a former roommate and two others. The murders took place around the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

"We are looking at a possible connection with the suspect in the marathon atrocity and this active and open homicide in Waltham,'' Stephanie Guyotte, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex County District Attorney, confirmed to ABC News.

Tsarnaev, the alleged bombing mastermind who died in a fierce gun battle with police early Friday morning, had been training with one of the 2011 murder victims in an attempt to transition from boxing into a possible career in the brutal sport of mixed-martial arts.

The victims were found in a Waltham, Massachusetts apartment. They had their throat slashed, their heads nearly decapitated. Their mutilated bodies were left covered with marijuana.

It was a gruesome scene – but also perplexing to law enforcement. While drugs appeared to factor into the motive, the murderer left both the marijuana and thousands of dollars in cash behind in the Waltham apartment. While the investigation has been active for more than a year, authorities acknowledged they have had few leads.

Two law enforcement sources told ABC News that may now change, with the bomb attack prompting a fresh look into Tsarnaev's alleged penchant for violence.

Even before the bombing, police records show, there was an indication of a rage growing inside of Tsarnaev. Court documents obtained by ABC News show in July 2009 he was arrested for domestic violence after his then-girlfriend made a frantic 911 to report she was "being beat up by her boyfriend." The police report, which was redacted to hide the girlfriend's name, says that Tsarnaev admitted to responding officers that he slapped her. The case was later dismissed.

Tsarnaev had also been close to one of the murder victims, 25-year-old Brendan Mess, investigators told ABC. The two had been training together in a local gym –each helping the other with a missing element from their fighting arsenal. Tsarnaev, a golden-gloves heavy weight boxer, lacked martial arts training. And Mess, an experienced jiu jitsu competitor, lacked boxing experience.

The two sparred together at an Allston, MA gym called Wai Kru. The gym's head trainer, John Allan, provided a statement to the Boston Globe via Facebook message saying that Tamerlan "came into the gym to spar from time to time."

Tsarnaev and Mess lived just a few blocks apart in Cambridge, in the same predominantly Russian neighborhood. Authorities believe there were times Mess crashed at Tsarnaev's apartment.

It was unclear if Tsarnaev knew the other men slain, Raphael Teken, 37, and Erik Weissman, 31.

A Waltham investigator who called the murders "the worst bloodbath I have ever seen in a long law enforcement career" said Tsarnaev has now proven he had the propensity for the type of violence that unfolded two years ago.

"There was no forced entry, it was clear that the victims had let the killer in. And their throats were slashed right out of an al Qaeda training video. The drugs and money on the bodies was very strange," the investigator said.

One of Mess' relatives yesterday told investigators they thought it was odd that Tsarnaev did not attend the funerals for his slain friend. The Mess relative also described animosity between the two friends "over Brendan's lifestyle,'' two law enforcement sources said. Because it is an open homicide investigation the sources were not authorized to speak on the record.

"Given how religious the older brother was, and we have heard information from the college about how the younger brother was 'a pot head' is there a chance that Tsarnaev was angry that Brendan was selling his brother marijuana? We don't know,'' said one of those sources. "But we are certainly interested in finding out."

Tsarnaev and Mess had been socializing together in the months before the murder, according to a Massachusetts correction officer who met up with a group of fighters that included Tsarnaev and Mess at a June 2011 Mixed Martial Arts event run by Burlington Brawl, a Vermont-based fighting outfit. Tsarnaev impressed the group with his golden gloves status, but largely kept to himself during the evening.

"We were all drinking beers, but not that guy. He was drinking water,'' the correction officer said.

Two men were arrested and charged with plotting a terrorist attack against a Canadian passenger train with support from al-Qaida "elements" in Iran, police said Monday.

Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, who live in Montreal and Toronto, were planning to derail a Via Rail passenger train in Toronto but posed no immediate threat, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.

"This is the first known al-Qaida planned attack that we've experienced in Canada," Superintendent Doug Best told a news conference.

RCMP Assistant Commissioner James Malizia said the two men had "direction and guidance" from "al-Qaida elements located in Iran," though there was no reason to think the planned attacks were state-sponsored. Police said the men did not get financial support from al-Qaida, but declined to provide more details.

"It was definitely in the planning stage but not imminent," RCMP chief superintendent Jennifer Strachan said. "We are alleging that these two individuals took steps and conducted activities to initiate a terrorist attack. They watched trains and railways."

Strachan said they were targeting a route, but didn't say if it was a cross border route.

Bruce Riedel, a CIA veteran who is now a Brookings Institution senior fellow, said al-Qaida has had a clandestine presence in Iran since at least 2001 and that neither the terror group nor Tehran speak openly about it.

"The Iranian regime kept some of these elements under house arrest," he said in an email to The Associated Press. "Some probably operate covertly. AQ members often transit Iran traveling between hideouts in Pakistan and Iraq."

Charges against the two men include conspiring to carry out an attack and murder people in association with a terrorist group. Police said the men are not Canadian citizens, but declined to say where they were from or why they were in the country.

They had been in Canada "a significant amount of time." He would not say how long, but said they had been under investigation since last fall.

Authorities were tipped off about one of the suspects by members of his community, said Best, who would not specify which community.

The investigation was part of a cross-border operation involving Canadian law enforcement agencies, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

There is no connection between the Canadian terrorist plot and the Boston Marathon bombings, said a U.S. Justice Department official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity because the source was not permitted to speak on the record about the matter.

Strachan said the two men will attend a bail hearing in Toronto on Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for the University of Sherbrooke in Montreal said that Esseghaier studied there in 2008-2009. More recently, he has been doing doctoral research at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique, a sokeswoman at the training university confirmed. A Linked In page says a man with Esseghaier's name and academic background helped author a number of biology research papers, including on HIV and cancer detection. The page carries a photo of a black flag inscribed with the Islamic declaration of faith.

The arrests just a few months after two Canadians were found among militants killed in a terrorist siege at a gas plant in Algeria. The siege killed at least 38 hostages and 29 militants, including Ali Medlej and Xristos Katsiroubas, two high school friends from London, Ontario.

In 2006 Canadian police foiled the so-called Toronto 18 home grown plot to set off bombs outside Toronto's Stock Exchange, a building housing Canada's spy agency and a military base. The goal was to scare Canada into removing its troops from Afghanistan. The arrests made international headlines and heightened fears in a country where many people thought they were relatively immune from terrorist strikes.

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Police believe the pair were specially trained to carry out the devastating attack

Police believe Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were specially trained to carry out the devastating attack.

More than 1,000 FBI operatives were last night working to track down the cell and arrested a man and two women 60 miles from Boston in the hours before Dzhokhar’s dramatic capture after a bloody shootout on Friday.

A source close to the investigation said: “We have no doubt the brothers were not acting alone. The devices used to detonate the two bombs were highly sophisticated and not the kind of thing people learn from Google.

“They were too advanced. Someone gave the brothers the skills and it is now our job to find out just who they were. Agents think the sleeper cell has up to a dozen members and has been waiting several years for their day to come.”



Barack Obama has been accused of reneging on his disarmament pledges after it emerged the administration was planning to spend billions on upgrading nuclear bombs stored in Europe to make the weapons more reliable and accurate.

Under the plan, nearly 200 B61 gravity bombs stockpiled in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Turkey would be given new tail fins that would turn them into guided weapons that could be delivered by stealth F35 fighter-bombers.

As many as 74 schoolgirls in Afghanistan's far north fell sick after smelling gas and were being examined for possible poisoning, local officials said on Sunday.

While instances of poisoning are sometimes later found to be false alarms, there have been numerous substantiated cases of mass poisonings of schoolgirls by elements of Afghanistan's ultra-conservative society that are opposed to female education.

Local officials said the girls became ill after smelling gas at their school, Bibi Maryam, in Takhar province's capital, Taluqan. The city is about 250 kilometers north of the country's capital, Kabul.

The Takhar governor's spokesman, Sulaiman Moradi, blamed "enemies of the government and the country" for the mass illness and said the aim was to stop girls from going to school.

The girls were taken to the provincial hospital and most were released after being treated, though several remained in a critical condition on Sunday evening, the head of the hospital, Dr Jamil Frotan, said.

"We have already sent samples of their blood to the Ministry of Public Health and it will soon become clear what the reason for their illness was," Frotan said.

The apparent poisoning came three days after more than a dozen students fell ill in another girls' high school in Taluqan. No-one has claimed responsibility for either incident.

Between May and June last year there were four poisoning attacks on a girls' school in Takhar, prompting local officials to order principals to stay in school until late and staff to search the grounds for suspicious objects and to test the water for contaminants.

Takhar has been a hotbed of militancy and criminal activity since 2009, with groups such as the Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan active.

A 19-year-old high school graduate accused of plotting to bomb a Loop bar joked in court today when he was asked about the sentence is facing – life imprisonment.

During his arraignment before U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman, Adel Daoud, a U.S. citizen who resided in Hillside with his family, was asked a series of routine questions, including whether he understood he faced a up to life in prison.

Daoud responded by asking the judge whether it could go higher than that.

His attorney, Thomas Anthony Durkin, remarked after court that his client’s “joke” seemed to reflect his age and understanding of what’s happening to him.

“I think he said something like there can’t be any more than that,” said Durkin, explaining the remark. “ … I don’t think he believes this is happening to him.  He’s a young kid.”

Throughout the half-hour hearing, Daoud was smiling and appeared relaxed, often fidgeting and rocking lightly from leg to leg, as he has done before in court.

He waved to his parents, who sat in the front row, before formally entering his plea of not guilty to charges filed against him last month of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to damage and destroy a building by means of an explosive.
 
During the judge’s questioning, Daoud also appeared to laugh a bit when he was asked if he was under the care of a psychiatrist.

“I don’t think so, no,” he said.

Federal authorities charge that Daoud spent months researching and posting about the violent world of jihad and how he was bent on killing Americans. The native Chicagoan ultimately plotted to car bomb the Cactus Bar & Grill at 404 S. Wells St., but the FBI was onto him months earlier and secretly recorded his every step, authorities said.
 
Last month Daoud allegedly stood in a Loop alley, punching the trigger of the fake bomb before agents swooped in to arrest him.

An 18-year-old Aurora man with ties to a foiled attempt last year to bomb a downtown Chicago bar was arrested as he was about to travel to the Middle East to join the al-Qaida terrorist network, federal officials said Saturday.

Abdella Ahmad Tounisi, a U.S. citizen, was held without bail Saturday after being arrested the night before at O'Hare International Airport, where he was about to board an airplane to Istanbul, Turkey, FBI officials said in a press release.

The arrest had nothing to do with the Boston Marathon bombing, officials said.

Tounisi had hoped to eventually join a jihadist militant group operating inside Syria called Jabhat al-Nusrah, according to a federal complaint unsealed Saturday and filed in U.S. District Court. The organization is an alias for al-Qaida in Iraq, the complaint said.

Tounisi allegedly expressed “a willingness to die for the cause” by joining the terrorist group that since November 2011 has claimed nearly 600 terrorist attacks in major city centers in Syria – ranging from more than 40 suicide attacks to small arms and improvised explosive device operations, according to the complaint.

“Concerning my fighting skills, to be honest I do not have any,” Tounisi allegedly wrote to an undercover federal agent who was posing as a recruiter for the terrorist group. “I’m very small (5 feet 6 inches, 120 pounds) physically but I pray to Allah that he makes me successful,” he said, according to the complaint.

He was was charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, a felony offense that could bring 15 years in federal prison.

At Tounisi’s home in Aurora, family members declared his innocence, saying that Tounisi was set up by federal agents.

“I know my kid is innocent,” said his father, Ahmad Tounisi. “I know a lot of Muslim kids are getting set up.”

Tounisi said he last saw his son Thursday and he thought he was going to a mosque for three days. He added his son didn't have money to buy an airline ticket to Turkey.

He said FBI agents were in his Aurora home Friday night and took a broken computer, a younger son's Nook and two Xbox systems. Agents also asked to talk to his 13-year-old son but Tounisi denied the request.

Tounisi described his son as a “good boy” who has been studying to become a radiologist at the College of Dupage and who doesn’t like to see others oppressed. Tounisi said his son did talk of going to Syria to fight against injustices to the people, but his father said he would never join a terrorist group.

“I never thought he'd go through with it,” he said, about the plans to go to Syria.

“If I had to tell him anything I would tell him justice is coming,” Tounisi said, adding he believed his son's innocence would be proven.

The complaint links the younger Tounisi with Adel Daoud, who is awaiting trial on federal criminal charges for trying to explode a bomb outside a restaurant bar in Chicago’s Loop.

According to the complaint, Tounisi was a close friend of Daoud, who on Sept. 14, 2012, traveled into Chicago with an undercover agent who brought him to a Jeep that had an inert explosive device in it, officials have said.

Daoud allegedly drove the Jeep to the target — identified by the Tribune as the Cactus Bar & Grill at 404 S. Wells St. — and walked to an alley a block away, where he pulled a triggering device he thought would explode the vehicle, authorities said. The bomb never exploded and Daoud was apprehended and is being held without bail.

“Tounisi and Daoud appeared to share an interest in violent jihad, a topic about which the two exchanged a number of emails, phone calls, and text messages,” according to the complaint filed Saturday.

FBI officials said that in preparation for last year's foiled attack, Tounisi had “recommended certain attack techniques, offered ideas about targeting, and researched those locations online to analyze their feasibility.”

While Daoud allegedly continued his role in the plot, Tounisi backed out in mid-August because he suspected that the person Daoud was working with was an undercover law enforcement officer, according to the complaint. Daoud told the undercover officer that Tounisi wanted to go overseas and join a terrorist group.

According to the complaint, hours after Daoud was arrested, Tounisi was interviewed by FBI agents “and admitted to assisting Daoud in target selection and acknowledged that he had contemplated traveling to Yemen to carry out jihad.”

After Daoud's arrest, Tounisi allegedly continued to research travel to Syria and terrorist organizations. He also applied for and obtained a new passport, officials said.

On March 28, Tounisi made contact with a person he believed to be a recruiter for Jabhat al-Nusrah but who was really an undercover FBI agent, the complaint says. After several emails, Tounisi allegedly wrote that he planned to get to Syria through Turkey.

On April 10, Tounisi purchased an airplane ticket to Istanbul and was given instructions by the undercover agent about how to meet up with “brothers” from Jabhat al-Nusrah who would take Tounisi to a training camp in Syria, officials said.

When Tounisi arrived at O'Hare, he told officials that he was traveling to Turkey to sight-see and that he did not plan to travel to any country but Turkey. He was arrested by FBI officials who had been monitoring his movements.

 

An effort to make Afghanistan’s vast reserves of minerals, oil, and gas accessible to foreign investment – a crucial source of income as foreign aid declines – has hit a road block.

A draft law to update regulations governing Afghanistan’s extractives sector was due to be considered by the Afghan parliament earlier this month. But it was put on hold for further review last week when Minister of Justice Habibullah Ghalib called for a number of changes, according to a Ministry of Mines official.

If passed, the law could provide a new foundation for the country’s economy as foreign governments begin to reduce their levels of foreign assistance after international troops withdraw at the end of 2014. But it’s a prospect that members of civil society say needs to be handled with caution.

“The whole survival of the government depends on getting revenues,” says Sayed Zaman Hashemi, the director of legal services at Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines. “So if there is a drawdown of international contributions, what are the sources that we’re going to get the money from? The only persistent source is the mining sector."

“We have to improve the law,” Mr. Hashemi adds, because the present legislation, which was adopted in 2009, “is not investor friendly.”

RECOMMENDED: How well do you know Afghanistan? Take our quiz.

Afghanistan’s untapped mineral resources – which include significant deposits of copper, gold, lithium, and iron ore – are worth nearly $1 trillion, according to an analysis conducted by the US Geological Survey and the Pentagon.

But the country must overcome many challenges before those mineral resources start flowing into the Afghan treasury. At the top of the list: improving the governance of the extractives sector, a topic that has caused some unease among potential investors.

“[Companies’] first concern is about regulatory and legal stability,” says Mr. Hashemi. Questions about security, he adds, are “one of the concerns, but not the main concern” that potential investors have raised.

For example, companies have complained that the existing law fails to offer sufficient guarantees that firms that invest in exploration will be granted licenses to exploit the resources that they discover in the process.

The Ministry of Mines is hoping to secure new contracts on six major extractives sites across Afghanistan, but any new bids will remain on hold until the new law is passed, several sources said.

“Companies don’t want to sign contracts based on the existing law because they think it’s not [investor-] friendly,” says Javed Noorani, a researcher at Integrity Watch Afghanistan.

The new draft law, versions of which have been under government consideration since at least last summer, would give the Ministry of Mines the option of granting a company both an exploration contract and an exploitation contract in one fell swoop. According to Mr. Noorani, who reviewed the Dari-language version of the draft law, the legislation would also remove the Afghan parliament’s role in authorizing major mining contracts. The parliament is currently required to approve contracts worth more than $50 million.

Four rhino heads have been stolen from a museum in Ireland, presumed to be headed to the Far East where they could fetch over half a million dollars as raw material for Asian folk medicine.

The heads were taken late Wednesday by three masked men from the premises in the National Museum Archives in the town of Swords in County Dublin, ten miles north of the capital city.

Three masked men entered the building, tying up a security guard on duty at around 10:40 p.m. Wednesday night. Around an hour later the thieves absconded in a large white van. Shortly after midnight the guard managed to free himself and called the police.

A statement from the National Museum of Ireland said the likely destination for the head was Asia. "The stolen rhinoceros heads have a total of eight horns that have probably been taken to supply the illegal trade in powdered horn that is used in traditional medicines in the Far East," it said.

The black market value of heads is estimated to be in the region of €500,000 ($652,200). A single horn can fetch as much as $260,000.

Heather Sohl, chief adviser for species at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) confirmed the likely destination is Asia.

"Because of the nature of the trade being illegal we can't guarantee where they're going, but the demand is coming from Asia. In Vietnam in particular, there has been exponential growth in demand, not only as an anti-fever remedy, but also as a totally unproven cure for cancer and even a trendy substance people take to cure hangovers," she says.

WWF figures indicate the demand is not only an issue for museum collections, but also wild animals. In South Africa alone, over 200 rhinos have been illegally killed in 2013 alone. In 2012, 668 were killed, whereas in 2007, only 13 rhinos were killed.

"In terms of the impact on wild populations, these horns are coming from animals that have been dead for a long time in most cases, but it does have an impact on wild populations and other species by encouraging poaching. You have to look at the illegal trade from source to end-user," says Ms. Sohl

Freedom is the ethos of the Internet, allowing people to express opinions and organize in the digital sphere. That is, unless you live in a country that manipulates users’ online experiences with a “cyber cage.”

China, at the top of this list, has allowed its citizens to benefit from the Internet’s economic mobility while still controlling its political and social impact. As some dissidents have said, “freedom is knowing how big your cage is,” reports The Economist.

It’s a method of governing the Internet that is antithetical to the Western model of free speech. Further, China’s “adaptive authoritarianism” is serving as a model for other countries (such as Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ethiopia) looking to profit from the Internet even as they control it. But even with this paternalistic approach, The Economist argues that the Internet may still have a destabilizing impact on the foundation of China’s authoritarianism. As online access spreads – especially via mobile phones – the democratic nature of the Internet may eventually bring political change to China.

“When, many years from now, history books about this period come to be written, the internet may well turn out to have been an agent not of political upheaval in China but of authoritarian adaptation before the upheaval, building up expectations for better government while delaying the kind of political transformation needed to deliver it,” states the report. “That may seem paradoxical, but it makes sense for a party intent on staying in power for as long as it can.”

A 5-year-old girl was in serious condition Saturday after being raped and tortured by a man who held her in a locked room in India's capital for two days, officials said.

The incident — which came four months after the fatal gang rape of a woman on a New Delhi bus caused outrage across India about the treatment of women in the country — sparked protests against the authorities' handling of the case.

The girl went missing Monday and was found Wednesday by neighbors who heard her crying in a room in the same New Delhi building where she lives with her parents, said Delhi police official Deepak Mishra. The girl was found alone locked in a room and left for dead, he said.

A 24-year-old man who lived in the room where the girl was found was arrested Saturday in Muzaffarpur town in Bihar state, about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) east of New Delhi, Mishra said. The man was flown to New Delhi, where a magistrate ordered that he be held in police custody.

The girl suffered severe internal injuries, as well as cuts and bite marks on her face and torso, said D.K. Sharma, the medical superintendent of the government-run hospital in New Delhi where she was being treated. Sharma described the girl's condition as "serious" and said doctors were trying to stabilize her condition.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people in New Delhi protested Saturday near the home minister's residence and outside police headquarters demanding government action against the police for allegedly failing to immediately investigate after the girl was reported missing.

Rights activists and officials said the girl's parents went to police Monday to report their daughter was missing, but that police refused to register a case. The parents are poor construction workers who had migrated to the city some years ago in search of work.

"The police did nothing. They did not register a complaint, the first step before they can begin investigations," said Ranjana Kumari, a women's rights activist and social scientist. "This heinous crime could have been prevented if police had begun investigations promptly."

Police had no immediate comment on the accusations, but Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said Saturday that an inquiry had been ordered into the handling of the case.

The growing outrage against alleged police high-handedness in India led even the country's normally reticent leader to react.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the police behavior "completely unacceptable." He conveyed to Delhi authorities "the need for the strictest possible action to be taken against the erring officials," the prime minister's office said in a statement late Friday


One of the Boston bombing suspects set off alarm bells among his family a year ago during a trip here to visit relatives, ABC News has learned.

According to a family member, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was kicked out of his uncle's house because of his increasingly extremist views.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother Dzhokhar, 19, are believed to have placed bombs at the Boston Marathon, killing three and wounding 170. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police early Friday and Dzhokhar was badly wounded and captured by police Friday night.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev spent roughly six months in Russia in 2012, but the relative, who insisted on anonymity to avoid offending other family members, insisted the young man had been radicalized in the United States before his trip.

Dagestan is one of the poorest and most violent regions of Russia, home to an Islamist insurgency that seeks to establish an independent state. So far, no links have tied him to militant groups here.

Members of Congress, however, say those six months last year were a turning point in Tamerlan Tsarnaev's radicalization.

"When he came back he starting posting more radical jihadist YouTube videos and started becoming more of a fundamentalist Muslim," Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told ABC News Friday.

"My concern is that he may have gone over there to visit his father and he received training and then became radicalized and then came back. Something happened in that period of time. He was not like that before," McCaul said.

The FBI, meanwhile, also looked into Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011.

In a statement Friday, the bureau said it investigated Tsarnaev on behalf of a foreign government, though it did not reveal which one.

"The request stated that it was based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country's region to join unspecified underground groups," the FBI statement said.

The bureau said that in response to the request it combed through its databases and interviewed the man and members of his family, but did not find any evidence he was tied to terror groups.

"The FBI did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign, and those results were provided to the foreign government in the summer of 2011. The FBI requested but did not receive more specific or additional information from the foreign government," the FBI statement said.

The family member described Tsarnaev's father and mother as good parents who are distraught at the news. They tried to evade the media today after granting several interviews a day earlier, even instructing family members to tell reporters they had left for Chechnya. The pair were briefly spotted, however, by journalists waiting outside their home.

The relative said he saw them Friday and that the mother was sobbing and the father suffered some sort of panic attack in the evening. Also on Friday, according to a security source, the parents were questioned by security services.

The relative said Tsarnaev's father is a "traditional Muslim" who eschews extremism. He couldn't imagine his son would do such a thing, the family member said.

Franklin had been ill for some time, and his last major public appearance was at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. He knew his time was short in April 1790 and worked to make sure that the proper obituary was written in advance.

The Pennsylvania Gazette announced his passing. Another contemporary newspaper, the Federal Gazette, summed up public opinions about the Founding Father in its brief obituary.

“Died on Saturday night, in the 85th year of his age, the illustrious BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. The world has been so long in possession of such extraordinary proofs of the singular abilities and virtues of this  FRIEND OF MANKIND that it is impossible for a newspaper to increase his fame, or to convey his name to a part of the civilized globe where it is not already known and admired.”

Reportedly, Franklin’s last words were, “A dying man can do nothing easily.” Newspapers in Boston said that Franklin had been ill for several weeks, and they made sure readers knew that Franklin was born there.

His passing was duly noted in Europe. Franklin’s reputation as a scientist, inventor, author, and statesman extended there for decades, where the French considered Franklin a true Renaissance man.

The French National Assembly went into mourning. “He was able to restrain thunderbolts and tyrants,” said Count Mirabeau.

Franklin’s funeral was on April 21, 1790, and at least 20,000 people attended it. By current estimates, the population of the city of Philadelphia in 1790 was 28,000.

  

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was an amateur boxer with muscular arms and enough brio to arrive at a sparring session without protective gear. His younger brother Dzhokhar was popular in high school, won a city scholarship for college and liked to hang out with Russian friends off-campus.

Details of two lives, suddenly infamous, came to light Friday. Overnight, two men previously seen only in grainy camera images were revealed to be ethnic Chechen brothers suspected in a horrific act of terrorism. Tamerlan was dead; his 19-year-old brother would be captured after a furious manhunt that shut down much of Boston.

But the details of their lives shed precious little light on the most vexing question: Why would two brothers who came to America a decade ago turn on their adopted home with an attack on a cherished tradition, the Boston Marathon?

The Tsarnaev family arrived in the United States, seeking refuge from strife in their homeland. "Why people go to America? You know why," the father, Anzor Tsarnaev, said in an interview from Russia, where he lives now. "Our political system in Russia . Chechens were persecuted in Kyrgyzstan, they were problems." The family had moved from Kyrgyzstan to Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim republic in Russia's North Caucasus that has become an epicenter of the Islamic insurgency that spilled over from Chechnya.

The father set up as an auto mechanic, and the two boys (there were two sisters, too) went to school. Dzhokhar, at least, attended the Cambridge Rindge and Latin school, a prestigious public school just blocks from Harvard Yard.

From there, the boys' paths diverged somewhat — at least for a while.

Tamerlan, who was 26 when he was killed overnight in a shootout, dropped out after studying accounting at Bunker Hill Community College for just three semesters.

"I don't have a single American friend. I don't understand them," he was quoted as saying in a photo package that appeared in a Boston University student magazine in 2010.

He identified himself then as a Muslim and said he did not drink or smoke: "God said no alcohol." He said he hoped to fight for the U.S. Olympic team and become a naturalized American.

As a boxer, he was known for his nerve. "He's a real cocky guy," said one trainer who worked with him, Kendrick Ball. He said the young man came to his first sparring session with no protective gear. "That's unheard of with boxing," Ball said. But he added: "In this sport, you've got to be sure of yourself, you know what I mean?"

More recently, Tamerlan — married, with a young daughter — became a more devout Muslim, according to his aunt, Maret Tsarnaeva. She told reporters outside her Toronto home Friday that the older brother had taken to praying five times a day.

In 2011, the FBI interviewed Tamerlan at the behest of a foreign government, a federal law enforcement official said, speaking anonymously. The officials would not say what country made the request or why, but said that nothing derogatory was found.

Albrecht Ammon, 18, lived directly below the apartment of the two suspects. He said he recently saw Tamerlan in a pizzeria, where they argued about religion and U.S. foreign policy. He quoted Tsarnaev as saying that many U.S. wars are based on the Bible, which is used as "an excuse for invading other countries."

During the argument, Ammon said, Tsarnaev told him he had nothing against the American people, but he had something against the American government. "The Bible was a cheap copy of the Koran," Ammon quoted Tsarnaev as saying.

Tamerlan traveled to Russia last year and returned to the U.S. six months later, government officials told The Associated Press. More wasn't known about his travels.

According to law enforcement records he was arrested, in 2009, for assault and battery on a girlfriend; the charges were dismissed. His father told The New York Times that the case thwarted Tamerlan's hopes for U.S. citizenship.

Meanwhile, the mother of the suspects, Zubeidat Tsarnaev, was heard from only in an audio interview broadcast on CNN, defending her sons and calling the accusations against them a setup. She said she had never heard a word from her older son about any thinking that would have led to such an attack. "He never told me he would be on the side of jihad," she said.

Her younger son was described by friends as well-adjusted and well-liked in both high school and college, though at some point in college, his academic work reportedly suffered greatly.

"I'm in complete shock," said Rose Schutzberg, 19, who graduated high school with Dzhokhar and now attends Barnard College in New York. "He was a very studious person. He was really popular. He wrestled. People loved him."

In fact, Schutzberg said, she had "a little crush" on him in high school. "He's a great guy," she said. "He's smart, funny. He's definitely a really sweet person, very kind hearted, kind soul."

Dzhokhar was on the school's wrestling team. And in May 2011, his senior year, he was awarded a $2,500 scholarship from the city to pursue higher education, according to a news release at the time. That scholarship was celebrated with a reception at city hall.

The New Bedford Standard-Times reported that Dr. Brian Glyn Williams, who teaches Chechen history at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, said he had tutored Dzhokhar in the subject when he was in high school.

"He was learning his Chechen identity, identifying with the diaspora and identifying with his homeland," Williams said, adding that Dzhokhar "wanted to learn more about Chechnya, who the fighters were, who the commanders were."

Dzhokhar went on to attend UMass-Dartmouth, according to university officials. He lived on the third floor of the Pine Dale dormitory. Harry Danso, who lives on the same floor, told the AP he saw him in a dorm hallway this week.

"He was regular, he was calm," said Danso.

The school would not say what he was studying. The father of the suspects, Anzor Tsarnaev, told the AP his younger son was "a second-year medical student," though he graduated high school in 2011.

"My son is a true angel ...," he said by telephone from the Russian city of Makhachkala. "He is such an intelligent boy. We expected him to come on holidays here."

Still, The New York Times reported that a college transcript revealed that he was failing many of his college classes. In two semesters in 2012 and 2013, he got seven failing grades, including F's in Principles of Modern Chemistry, Intro American Politics, and Chemistry and the Environment.

Dzhokhar's page on the Russian social networking site Vkontakte says that before moving to the United States, he attended School No. 1 in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, and he describes himself as speaking Chechen as well as English and Russian. His world view is described as "Islam" and he says his personal goal is "career and money."

Deana Beaulieu, 20, lives two blocks away from the suspects' home on Norfolk Street, went to high school with Dzhokhar and was friendly with his sister.

Beaulieu says she doesn't recall Dzhokhar expressing any political views. "I thought he was going to branch off to college, and now this is what he's done. ... I don't understand what the hell happened, what set him off like this."

Florida Addy, 19, of Lynn, Mass., said she lived in the same college dorm with Dzhokhar this year and was on the same floor last year. She called him "drug" (pronounced droog), the Russian word for friend, a word he taught her.

Addy said she saw Dzhokhar last week, when she bummed a cigarette from him. They would occasionally hang out in his room or at the New Bedford apartment of Russian students he knew. He generally wore a hoodie or a white t-shirt and sweatpants, and spent a lot of his time with other kids from Russia.

She described him as down to earth and friendly, even a little mysterious, but in a charming way. She had just learned that he had a girlfriend, although she did not attend the university.

"He was nice. He was cool. I'm just in shock," she said.

Tim Kelleher, a wrestling coach for a Boston school that competed in 2010 against Dzhokhar's team, said the young man was a good wrestler, and that he'd never heard him express any political opinions.

"He was a tough, solid kid, just quiet," said Kelleher, now a Boston public school teacher.

Dzhokhar's uncle, too, was surprised by his suspected involvement in the attack — much more, he said, than by his brother's. "It's not a surprise about him," Ruslan Tsarni, who lives in Maryland, said of Tamerlan. "The younger one, that's something else." He said the family had placed all its hopes with Dzhokhar, hoping he would be a doctor.

Tamerlan was more defined by sports, namely boxing. USA Boxing spokeswoman Julie Goldsticker said Tamerlan registered with the group as an amateur boxer from 2003 to 2004, and again from 2008 to 2010. He competed as a heavyweight in the National Golden Gloves competition in Salt Lake City on May 4, 2009, losing his only bout.

In photographs that appeared in the student magazine, including one in which he posed with his shirt off, Tamerlan has the muscular arms of a boxer, and is dressed in flashy street-clothes that he said were "European style."

In another window onto his personality, his Amazon wish list — traced by the AP using an email address on his public record report — includes books on organized crime, document forgery, the conflict in Chechnya, and two self-help books, including Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends & Influence People."

Gene McCarthy, who trained Tamerlan at the Somerville Boxing Club, described him as a "nice kid" who already was a good fighter before he showed up at the gym years ago.

"He never lost a bout for me," McCarthy said. "He had some skills from his father before he showed up in my gym." McCarthy described the young man as "very intelligent" and recalled that he also played classical piano.

In Kyrgyzstan, the former Soviet republic where the family lived before it moved to Dagestan, Leila Alieva, a former schoolmate, remembers an educated family and a nice boy.

"He was ... a good student, a jock, a boxer. He used to win all the (boxing) competitions in town," she said. "I can't believe they were involved in the explosions, because Tamerlan was a very positive guy, and they were not very Islamist. They were Muslim, but had a secular lifestyle."

In a local news article in 2004, Tamerlan spoke about his boxing and his views of America.

"I like the USA," Tamerlan was quoted as saying in The Sun of Lowell, Mass. "America has a lot of jobs. That's something Russia doesn't have. You have a chance to make money here if you are willing to work."

———

The Pentagon is sending about 200 troops to Jordan, the vanguard of a potential U.S. military force of 20,000 or more that could be deployed if the Obama administration decides to intervene in Syria to secure chemical weapons arsenals or to prevent the 2-year-old civil war from spilling into neighboring nations.

Troops from the 1st Armored Division will establish a small headquarters near Jordan's border with Syria to help deliver humanitarian supplies for a growing flood of refugees and to plan for possible military operations, including a rapid buildup of American forces if the White House decides intervention is necessary, senior U.S. officials said.

Although the Pentagon has sent Patriot missile batteries to Turkey and several dozen U.S. troops already are in Jordan to assist with aid flights and other operations, the move marks the first deployment that Pentagon officials explicitly described as a possible step toward direct military involvement in Syria.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who disclosed the deployment Wednesday in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, made clear that both he and President Obama remained deeply wary of intervening in Syria just as U.S. forces are trying to withdraw from 12 years of war in Afghanistan.

But U.S. officials say they have stepped up preparations because the Syrian civil war shows few signs of abating, and a political settlement that includes the departure of President Bashar Assad appears increasingly unlikely.

"Military intervention is always an option, but it should be an option of last resort," Hagel said. He warned that a major deployment could "embroil the U.S. in a significant, lengthy and uncertain military commitment."

Forces loyal to Assad hold power in Damascus, the Syrian capital, and control large parts of other major cities. Rebel militias have made gains near the Turkish border in the north and in southern Dara province near Jordan.

Assad's forces are increasingly relying on air power and artillery to hold back the rebels, although reports from Syria in the last week suggest they may have been able to retake some territory in ground fighting in several areas.

Among the most formidable of the many rebel factions fighting the government is Al Nusra Front, which recently acknowledged that it is aligned with Al Qaeda.

The strength of Al Nusra Front has deepened fears in Washington and in much of the Middle East, including in Israel, that Assad's stockpiles of poison gases and other chemical weapons agents could fall into the hands of Islamist extremists.

The willingness of Jordan's King Abdullah II to accept even a small number of U.S. troops reflects the growing concern about the spillover effects of the Syrian bloodletting.

Jordan is one of Washington's closest allies in the region, but it has no U.S. bases and has never allowed a sizable U.S. military presence, fearful it would spark domestic unrest. Even during the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq, which Jordan supported, the presence of U.S. special operations forces entering Iraq from Jordan was a closely held secret.

But with Syria imploding and refugees streaming across the border, Jordanian officials have agreed to accept the small U.S. contingent and are willing to consider a larger force in the future, U.S. officials said.

Hagel is scheduled to visit the Middle East next week, with stops in Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Much of the trip is expected to focus on Syria.

Until now, the Obama administration has chiefly provided humanitarian supplies and so-called nonlethal aid, such as communications gear, to rebel factions. Officials say U.S. military and intelligence personnel also have given nonlethal training to some Syrian groups at a camp in Jordan.

The White House has refused calls by some members of Congress to start providing weapons and ammunition to the rebels, to establish a no-fly zone to halt Syrian air attacks against civilian areas, or to use U.S. troops to create a "humanitarian safe zone" in Syria.

The first U.S. troops are likely to arrive in Jordan this month, but most will go in May. They will be based at a Jordanian military installation, an official said.

Many in the initial contingent will be civil affairs officers, trained in providing humanitarian assistance.

But the Pentagon has also made plans to expand the force to 20,000 or more if necessary, including bringing in special operations teams to find and secure Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles, U.S. air defense units to guard Jordan's airspace, and conventional military units capable of moving into Syria if necessary.

The Illinois House voted to legalize marijuana for medical use in a potential breakthrough for supporters Wednesday following an emotional debate that included lawmakers’ stories of friends and relatives seeking relief from overwhelming pain and sickness.

The 61-57 vote for a four-year pilot program was cheered by supporters who say the House has long been the highest hurdle for legalization; the Senate has previously passed similar legislation and Gov. Pat Quinn said Wednesday he was “open-minded” about the proposal.

Illinois would become the 19th state to legalize medical marijuana and proponents say it would be the most restrictive program in the country, with conditions on qualifying illnesses, physician approval and production of the drug.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is not about getting high, it’s not about dope, it’s not about what our mothers told us when we went to college,” said Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, the chief sponsor. “This is about providing a product at no expense to the taxpayers to provide better health care to people who desperately need this product.”

National opinion polls have suggested Americans are increasingly comfortable with marijuana for medical use, but opponents pointed out that many in law enforcement and medicine, as well as the federal government, are not on board.

“This bill is absolutely a wrong piece of legislation,” said Republican Rep. Jim Sacia, a former FBI agent from Pecatonica who added that many Illinois sheriffs oppose the proposal.

Lang implored fence-sitting lawmakers to stop forcing people who need relief into “some back alley” to score their pot, saying “we’re turning granny into a criminal.”

The most persuasive arguments may have been those from lawmakers who related personal stories.

With her voice breaking, Rep. JoAnn Osmond, R-Antioch, told colleagues she opposed the measure in the past but changed her mind because of an ill friend and his wife who spent time at Osmond’s home while the man battled chronic pain tied to complications from cancer. Osmond wouldn’t let him use marijuana in her house. Now, two years since his death, she said she wonders about her decision because he was in a daze from a painkiller prescription that “made him extremely sick, very sick.”

Circumcision is known to reduce a man's risk of HIV infection by at least half, but scientists don't know why. A new study offers support for the theory that removing the foreskin deprives troublesome bacteria of a place to live, leaving the immune system in much better shape to keep the human immunodeficiency virus at bay.

Anyone who has ever lifted a rock and watched as the earth beneath it was quickly vacated by legions of bugs and tiny worms would be familiar with the principle, said study leader Dr. Cindy Liu: After the foreskin is cut away, the masses of genital bacteria that once existed beneath it end up disappearing.

"It's the same as if you clear-cut a forest," said Liu, a pathologist at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Flagstaff, Ariz. "The community of animals that once lived in that forest is going to change."

Of particular note is that circumcision undercuts anaerobic bacteria, the microbes that thrive in oxygen-deprived environments, she said. By reducing the number of anaerobic bacteria, the body's immune cells may be better able to destroy the virus — and less likely to fall prey to its Trojan horse-style of attack, the authors suggest.

Liu and her colleagues present their case in a paper published Tuesday in the journal mBio.

Numerous studies conducted over the last two decades have shown that male circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection in men who have heterosexual intercourse by 50% to 60%. Some researchers have speculated that the foreskin is prone to tearing, giving the virus more routes of entry. Others have argued that removal of the foreskin simply reduces the surface area available to be infected.

The FBI said it arrested on Wednesday Paul Kevin Curtis of Corinth, Mississippi, in connection with ricin letters sent to U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama.

Curtis is "believed to be responsible for the mailings of the three letters sent through the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which contained a granular substance that preliminarily tested positive for ricin," the FBI said.

The letters were addressed to a U.S. senator, the White House and a Mississippi justice official, the FBI said.

 30-year-old NFL draft hopeful who served two tours of duty in Iraq as a United States Marine is re-enlisting in the service after the Boston Marathon explosions, Chris Chase of USA Today reports.

Brandon O'Brien, a former Montana State Northern University wide receiver who was pursuing a long shot dream of making a roster in 2013, was spurred by the bombings to rejoin the military. Andy Fenelon of NFL.com shared the news on Twitter via O'Brien's agent, Brad Berkowitz.

O'Brien was a walk-on at Kentucky but left school to help out his family financially and later followed the path of other family members by enlisting in the Marine Corps. He served four years. During his second tour of duty, O'Brien received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for pulling two fellow Marines to shore after they were caught in a riptide.

New England Sports Network reports O'Brien was hoping to make a roster as a special teams player. In March, he told Yahoo if his professional football dreams didn't pan out, he had other plans.

"I'd be totally happy with my life serving my country," he said.

In a surprising twist, the wife of a jailed former justice of the peace was charged Wednesday with capital murder after authorities say she confessed to helping her husband kill two North Texas prosecutors who aggressively secured a theft conviction against him.

The overnight arrest and charge against Kim Lene Williams is the latest turn in an investigation that had recently focused on Eric Williams after authorities searched his home and a nearby storage facility stocked with guns. An arrest affidavit alleges she told investigators Tuesday that her husband shot and killed Kaufman County assistant prosecutor Mark Hasse in January and District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife last month.

The affidavit does not specify what role she played in the killings. Investigators said they would not release further details until briefing the victims' families.

Eric Williams, 46, who has not yet been charged in the slayings, remained jailed on a $3 million bond Wednesday on a charge of making a terroristic threat. Kim Williams, 46, was being held on a $10 million bond.

"I don't think anyone could have written a novel that would play out like this," said Kaufman County Judge Bruce Wood. He said county employees were relieved the case was moving forward but also were shocked by the recent developments.

McLelland and Hasse prosecuted Eric Williams last year for theft of three computer monitors from a county building. Williams was convicted, sentenced to probation and lost his law license and his elected position as justice of the peace — a judge who handles mostly administrative duties.

McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found dead March 30 in their home, two months after Hasse was gunned down near the county courthouse. Wood said the DA told him after Hasse was killed that he believed Eric Williams was behind the attack but acknowledged he had little evidence to support his suspicion.

The officer who signed the affidavit, sheriff's Sgt. Matt Woodall, said he had learned from other officers and county employees that Hasse and McLelland both believed Williams blamed them for the loss of his job. The prosecutors carried handguns after the trial because they thought he was "a threat to their personal safety," Woodall wrote.

Eric Williams was arrested Saturday on allegations he sent an email to authorities — one day after the McLellands' bodies were discovered — implying there would be another attack if authorities didn't respond to various demands.

A law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation previously said authorities were trying to build a case against Eric Williams in the prosecutors' slayings. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the ongoing investigation.

The official said ballistics experts were testing at least 20 weapons found in a storage locker under Eric Williams' name at a facility near Dallas. A Ford Crown Victoria similar to one recorded in the McLellands' neighborhood around the time the couple was killed was parked at the storage facility, the official said.

A message left with an attorney who had been representing Eric Williams was not returned Wednesday. Jail records did not list an attorney for Kim Williams.

While Eric Williams was well known in town as a family lawyer and later as a justice of the peace, county officials and neighbors said Kim Williams was rarely seen around Kaufman.

The county judge said he met her only once, briefly, at a swearing-in ceremony for public officials. A local attorney, Steve Hulme, said he knew Eric Williams' wife had health issues and called her arrest "just shocking."

Richard Mohundro, a next-door neighbor, said Kim Williams used to visit him and talk on his front porch.

"I actually had many more conversations with Kim ... than I ever did with him," Mohundro said. "She is in bad health and hasn't been outside much in the last two years."

Kim Williams testified at the sentencing phase of her husband's theft case last spring, calling him "a loving man" and contradicting the image presented in trial testimony indicating he made death threats against a former girlfriend and a local attorney.

She said she suffers from several illnesses, including rheumatoid arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome. She said her husband was her sole caregiver as well as the caregiver for her two ailing parents.

"He wouldn't do anything to hurt anybody," she testified, according to a story from the Forney Post. "I'm standing by him 100 percent."

Eric Williams has said that after the McLellands' deaths and after Hasse was gunned down Jan. 31, he submitted to gunshot residue tests and turned over his cellphone.

Two other people have been arrested for making terroristic threats during the investigation into the slayings, but authorities said they had no connection to the deaths.

 Scientists are struggling to explain a slowdown in climate change that has exposed gaps in their understanding and defies a rise in global greenhouse gas emissions.

  

Often focused on century-long trends, most climate models failed to predict that the temperature rise would slow, starting around 2000. Scientists are now intent on figuring out the causes and determining whether the respite will be brief or a more lasting phenomenon.

 

Getting this right is essential for the short and long-term planning of governments and businesses ranging from energy to construction, from agriculture to insurance. Many scientists say they expect a revival of warming in coming years.

 

Theories for the pause include that deep oceans have taken up more heat with the result that the surface is cooler than expected, that industrial pollution in Asia or clouds are blocking the sun, or that greenhouse gases trap less heat than previously believed.

 

The change may be a result of an observed decline in heat-trapping water vapor in the high atmosphere, for unknown reasons. It could be a combination of factors or some as yet unknown natural variations, scientists say.

 

Weak economic growth and the pause in warming is undermining governments' willingness to make a rapid billion-dollar shift from fossil fuels. Almost 200 governments have agreed to work out a plan by the end of 2015 to combat global warming.

 

"The climate system is not quite so simple as people thought," said Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish statistician and author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist" who estimates that moderate warming will be beneficial for crop growth and human health.

 

Some experts say their trust in climate science has declined because of the many uncertainties. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had to correct a 2007 report that exaggerated the pace of melt of the Himalayan glaciers and wrongly said they could all vanish by 2035.

 

"My own confidence in the data has gone down in the past five years," said Richard Tol, an expert in climate change and professor of economics at the University of Sussex in England.

 

Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius first showed in the 1890s how man-made carbon dioxide, fromcoal for instance, traps heat in the atmosphere. Many of the exact effects are still unknown.

 

Greenhouse gas emissions have hit repeated record highs with annual growth of about 3 percent in most of the decade to 2010, partly powered by rises in China and India. World emissions were 75 percent higher in 2010 than in 1970, UN data show.

 

 

A rapid rise in global temperatures in the 1980s and 1990s - when clean air laws in developed nations cut pollution and made sunshine stronger at the earth's surface - made for a compelling argument that human emissions were to blame.

 

The IPCC will seek to explain the current pause in a report to be released in three parts from late 2013 as the main scientific roadmap for governments in shifting from fossil fuels towards renewable energies such as solar or wind power, the panel's chairman Rajendra Pachauri said.

 

According to Pachauri, temperature records since 1850 "show there are fluctuations. They are 10, 15 years in duration. But the trend is unmistakable."

 

The IPCC has consistently said that fluctuations in the weather, perhaps caused by variations in sunspots or a La Nina cooling of the Pacific, can mask any warming trend and the panel has never predicted a year-by-year rise in temperatures.

 

Experts say short-term climate forecasts are vital to help governments, insurers and energy companies to plan.

 

Governments will find little point in reinforcing road bridges over rivers, for instance, if a prediction of more floods by 2100 doesn't apply to the 2020s.

 

A section of a draft IPCC report, looking at short-term trends, says temperatures are likely to be 0.4 to 1.0 degree Celsius (0.7-1.8F) warmer from 2016-35 than in the two decades to 2005. Rain and snow may increase in areas that already have high precipitation and decline in areas with scarcity, it says.

 

 

Pachauri said climate change can have counter-intuitive effects, like more snowfall in winter that some people find hard to accept as side-effects of a warming trend. An IPCC report last year said warmer air can absorb more moisture, leading to heavier snowfall in some areas.

 

A study by Dutch experts this month sought to explain why there is now more sea ice in winter. It concluded melted ice from Antarctica was refreezing on the ocean surface - this fresh water freezes more easily than dense salt water.

 

Some experts challenged the findings.

"The hypothesis is plausible I just don't believe the study proves it to be true," said Paul Holland, an ice expert at the British Antarctic Survey.

Concern about climate change is rising in some nations, however, opinion polls show. Extreme events, such as Superstorm Sandy that hit the U.S. east coast last year, may be the cause. A record heatwave in Australia this summer forced weather forecasters to add a new dark magenta color to the map for temperatures up to 54 degrees Celsius (129F

Soldiers with riot helmets and shields swept into recreation yards and met with resistance from several dozen prisoners, the leadership of the detention center said in interviews with journalists visiting the U.S. base in Cuba for the first time since Saturday's clash.

The confrontation ended within minutes, but not before two guards were struck in the head by prisoners and five prisoners were injured, including one hit by rubber pellets from what the military calls a "less-than-lethal" round fired from a modified shotgun.

"The appropriate amount of force was used for the situation," said Navy Rear Adm. John W. Smith, the commander of the detention center.

The guard force raided Camp 6 because the prisoners had for several weeks covered up 147 of the 160 security cameras, making it impossible to monitor them amid a weekslong hunger strike. Smith and members of his leadership team said they were concerned a prisoner might try to commit suicide. Officials said there were two attempted suicides since the protest began around Feb. 6.

To restore control, prison officials decided to move the prisoners in Camp 6 out of a communal area, where they were allowed to eat together and freely associate most of the day, into individual cells from which they are released for two hours a day for recreation.

The camp shown to journalists appeared to be well under the military's control. Prisoners could be seen pacing restlessly inside cells on closed-circuit TV monitors from the cameras, now uncovered, inside their cells. In a section of the prison that had been cleared, one prisoner had written in broken and misspelled English a message that appeared to read: "Stop torturing us. Stop desecrating our religion."

Troops trained for three weeks to carry out the raid and were "prepared for any level of potential resistance," said Army Col. John Bogdan, who is in charge of the guard force. What they encountered were prisoners with more than a dozen makeshift weapons, including broomsticks, homemade knives and long batons made of tightly coiled plastic and other materials.

Two guards were struck in the head during the confrontation but neither was seriously hurt and both have since returned to duty.

Five detainees were injured, including one who was hit by rubber pellets. Navy Capt. Richard Stoltz, who is in charge of the detainee hospital, said that "there was no significant blood loss" and the prisoner was treated at the scene.

The military said another prisoner cut his own head by banging it on a cell door. Stoltz said he was given about three stitches. Three others were scraped as guards secured the area and moved the men into the cells.

The communal areas of Camp 6 had once been held up as a model in Guantanamo.

Military officials had said prisoners had grown compliant as they were able to lessen their isolation, watch satellite TV and take classes. But prisoners in February started the hunger strike to protest their indefinite confinement and what they said were intrusive searches of their Qurans for contraband.

Smith said prisoners may later be allowed to return to the communal holding areas if they follow prison rules.

The relative ease of constructing such bombs and the powerful punch they deliver has made them attractive to insurgents and Islamic extremists, particularly in South Asia. They have turned up in past bombing plots by Islamic extremists in the West, including a plan by a U.S. soldier to blow up a restaurant frequented by fellow soldiers outside Fort Hood, in Texas. One of the three devices used in the May 2010 Times Square attempted bombing was a pressure cooker, according to a joint FBI and Homeland Security intelligence report issued in July 2010.

Al-Qaida's branch in Yemen gave a detailed description on how to make a pressure cooker bomb in the 2010 first issue of "Inspire," its magazine that only appears online, in a chapter titled "Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom."

"The pressurized cooker is the most effective method" for making a simple bomb, the article said, describing how to fill the cooker with shrapnel and gunpowder and to create a detonator using the filament of a light bulb and a clock timer.

"Inspire" magazine has a running series of such training articles called "Open Source Jihad," which the group calls a resource manual for individual extremists to carry out attacks against the enemies of jihad, including the U.S. and its allies. The magazine is targeted heavily at encouraging "lone wolf" jihadis.

An issue last year reprinted an older article by a veteran Syrian jihadi Abu Musab al-Souri addressing would-be jihadis proposing a long list of possible targets for attacks, among them "crowded sports arenas" and "annual social events."

Notably, Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison last year for the Fort Hood restaurant bombing plot, was discovered to have a copy of the "How to build a bomb in the kitchen of your mom" article, according to the FBI. Investigators found bombmaking materials in his hotel that included a pressure cooker and gunpowder, according to testimony at his trial.

The SITE Monitoring Service, a U.S. independent group tracking militant messaging online, noted that Islamic extremists are not the only ones paying attention to the al-Qaida magazine: White supremacists have also circulated copies on their web forums. They found "Inspire" and "other al-Qaida manuals beneficial for their strategies," it said.

 

For all of the heroism shown in the wake of Monday's Boston Marathon bombings, at least one scene was, at best, an example of unfortunate timing and, at worst, a despicable display of greed.

Video footage purportedly shot in the moments after the two blasts shows people taking official marathon jackets from a tent vacated by race staffers.

"Looters stealing marathon jackets," a YouTube user who posted the footage wrote, "while others are just feet away critically injured."

It's unclear if those seen picking up the jackets, meant for finishers of the race, were aware of what had transpired minutes earlier.

It is clear, however, that some people took more than one.

The video was posted to Reddit.com, where users debated the footage and threatened to shame those in it.

"Take a high quality screenshot of each and every one of their faces," one user wrote. "Make a Tumblr. Plaster each persons face online. Get Reddit to front page it and make it go viral."

The user added, "I honestly wouldn't normally advocate this sort of mob justice, but that one piece of s--- smiling while grabbing all the [jackets] he could carry while people were dying 20 feet away got to me."

"Entirely possible that some of them were doing this for a legitimate reason," another wrote. "Namely, a runner was at the finish line but didn't have access to their belongings due to the bombing and were left in the cold."

"I'm really hoping these people are taking jackets to the injured to cover wounds," another user wrote. "But I know better."

 Federal agents zeroed in Tuesday on how the Boston Marathon bombing was carried out — with kitchen pressure cookers packed with explosives, nails and other lethal shrapnel — but said they still didn't know who did it and why.

An intelligence bulletin issued to law enforcement and released late Tuesday included a picture of a mangled pressure cooker and a torn black bag the FBI said were part of a bomb.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies repeatedly pleaded for members of the public to come forward with photos, videos or anything suspicious they might have seen or heard.

"The range of suspects and motives remains wide open," Richard DesLauriers, FBI agent in charge in Boston, said at a news conference. He vowed to "go to the ends of the Earth to identify the subject or subjects who are responsible for this despicable crime."

President Barack Obama branded the attack an act of terrorism but said officials don't know "whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization, foreign or domestic, or was the act of a malevolent individual."

Scores of victims remained in hospitals, many with grievous injuries, a day after the twin explosions near the marathon's finish line killed three people, wounded more than 170 and reawakened fears of terrorism. A 9-year-old girl and 10-year-old boy were among 17 victims listed in critical condition.

Heightening jitters in Washington, where security already had been tightened after the bombing, a letter addressed to a senator and poisoned with ricin or a similarly toxic substance was intercepted at a mail facility outside the capital, lawmakers said.

There was no immediate indication the episode was related to the Boston attack. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the letter was sent to Republican Sen. Roger Wicker, of Mississippi.

Officials found that the bombs in Boston consisted of explosives put in ordinary 1.6-gallon pressure cookers, one with shards of metal and ball bearings, the other with nails, according to a person close to the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe was still going on. The bombs were stuffed into black duffel bags and left on the ground, the person said.

DesLauriers confirmed that investigators had found pieces of black nylon from a bag or backpack and fragments of BBs and nails, possibly contained in a pressure cooker. He said the items were sent to the FBI laboratory at Quantico, Va., for analysis.

The FBI said it is looking at what Boston television station WHDH said are photos sent by a viewer that show the scene right before and after the bombs went off. The photo shows something next to a mailbox that appears to be a bag, but it's unclear what the significance is.

"We're taking a look at hundreds of photos, and that's one of them," FBI spokesman Jason Pack said.

Investigators said they haven't determined what was used to set off the explosives.

Pressure cooker explosives have been used in international terrorism and have been recommended for lone-wolf operatives by al-Qaida's branch in Yemen.

But information on how to make the bombs is readily found online, and U.S. officials said Americans should not rush to judgment in linking the attack to overseas terrorists.

DesLauriers said there had been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

He urged people to come forward with anything suspicious, such as hearing someone express an interest in explosives or a desire to attack the marathon, seeing someone carrying a dark heavy bag at the race or hearing mysterious explosions recently.

"Someone knows who did this," the FBI agent said.


 

 China's defense ministry said on Tuesday that "some countries" are increasing tension in Asia and the Pacific, in thinly veiled criticism of U.S. efforts to ramp up its military presence and alliances in the region.

China is uneasy with what the United States has called the "rebalancing" of forces as the United States winds down the war in Afghanistan and pays renewed attention to the Asia-Pacific region.

China says the policy has emboldened Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam in longstanding territorial disputes.

China faces "multiple and complicated security threats" despite its growing influence, the Ministry of National Defense said in an annual white paper, adding that the U.S. strategy meant "profound changes" for the region.

"There are some countries which are strengthening their Asia Pacific military alliances, expanding their military presence in the region and frequently make the situation there tenser," the ministry said in the paper.

"On the issues concerning China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, some neighboring countries are taking actions that complicate or exacerbate the situation, and Japan is making trouble over the Diaoyu Islands issue," it said.

The dispute with Japan over the uninhabited islands, which Japan calls Senkaku, has escalated in recent months to the point where China and Japan have scrambled fighter jets while patrol ships shadow each other.

The waters around the islands in the East China Sea are rich fishing grounds and have potentially huge oil and gas reserves.

Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines also have conflicting claims with China in parts of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands. China lays claim to almost the whole of the sea, which is criss-crossed by crucial shipping lanes.

The U.S. shift comes as China boosts military spending and builds submarines, surface ships and anti-ship ballistic missiles as part of its naval modernization, and has tested emerging technology aimed at destroying missiles in mid-air.

— Awakening in a friend's bedroom after drinking too much at a sleepover, 15-year-old Audrie Pott looked down and realized she had been sexually assaulted and her attackers had written and drawn on intimate parts of her body, her family's attorney said Monday.

Over the next week, she pieced together one horrifying detail after another. She went online and tried to confront the three boys she had known since junior high who she believed had done it.

At school, she saw a group of students huddled around a cellphone and realized that at least one humiliating photo of her was circulating.

"I have a reputation for a night I don't even remember and the whole school knows," she wrote in one Facebook message to a friend.

"I cried when I found out what they did," she wrote in another.

Eight days after the attack, she called and asked her mother to pick her up at school. She said she couldn't deal with it anymore but would not say what was wrong.

And then she hanged herself.

The Pott family disclosed the new details of the ordeal at an emotional news conference Monday in San Jose, discussing painful details of what their daughter was put through and demanding that three 16-year-old boys arrested eight months after the assault be tried as adults — a move that would be highly unlikely under California law.

The family also filed a lawsuit Monday against the three suspects and their parents, claiming the boys removed Audrie's shorts and "digitally penetrated her, and/or penetrated her with a foreign object, and/or sexually abused her" after she drank alcohol and passed out.

The boys arrested in the case are each charged with sexual battery, dissemination of child pornography and possession of child pornography. Under California law, such less severe charges are filed if a victim was unconscious and did not have the ability to fight off a sexual assault.

— A senior U.S. intelligence official says two more explosive devices have been found near the scene of the Boston marathon where two bombs detonated earlier.

The official said the new devices were being dismantled.

It was not immediately clear what kind of devices had been found Monday. The official said the first two did appear to be bombs.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the findings publicly.

The official said it was not clear what the motive was or who may have launched the attack.

The Hocking County Sheriff's office is trying to get to the bottom of who is responsible for drugging Laurelville Police Chief Mike Berkemeier. 

Berkemeier says the problem began Easter Sunday when he ate some cake sitting on his kitchen counter.

”I got up in the morning and ate it -- the entire thing,” he said.

Shortly after eating that cake, Berkemeier says he began to feel sick like never before.

”I thought I was dying,” he said.

Berkemeier says all he could think to do was make the short drive from his home to the Laurelville police station for help.

”I don’t remember much of the drive here, even though it’s just a few blocks and was met by a couple of the medics from the fire department,” he said.

Berkemeier tells 10TV medics transported him to Berger Hospital in Circleville where doctors performed tests to see what was wrong with him.

”I kept trying to explain to them this wasn’t getting any better. It just got worse,” he said. “I felt like I was out of my mind.”

Berkemeier says a phone conversation from his hospital room revealed the source of his drugged feeling. Berkemeier’s daughter told the chief’s fiancée over the phone that the cake the police chief had eaten was laced with a high concentration of cannabis oil.

”My fiancée hung up the phone and called for the nurse and said, ‘Get a nurse here right away. I know what it is,’” Berkemeier said.

Berkemeier says doctors gave him a sedative to sleep off the pot-laced cake’s effects -- effects he never wants to experience again.

”It was probably the scariest thing that has ever happened to me in my entire life,” he said.

Berkemeier says a friend of his daughter had brought the cake into their home.

The Hocking County Sheriff’s office is investigating possible charges of corrupting another with drugs and assault.

A Taliban attack killed 13 Afghan soldiers Friday at a remote Army outpost in the eastern province of Kunar, underscoring the rising challenges that face the country’s Army as foreign troops withdraw over the coming year.

Some 200 Taliban fighters ambushed the soldiers around 5 a.m., attacking the outpost before setting it on fire, The New York Times reports. Every soldier present at the base was killed, making the attack was the deadliest in the region in six months, according to local officials.

The soldiers killed were members of the Army’s Third Battalion, one of only a small number of Afghan Army units rated as fully self-sufficient by the US military. They patrolled a mountainous district on the Pakistani border that serves as a major gateway for insurgents from that country.

The attack is part of a rising tide of violence in the region as winter thaws, easing passage across the mountainous terrain.

“We know the enemy’s going to come out hard this summer, so the [casualty] numbers are going to go up,” Col. Thomas Collins, a spokesman for the NATO-led military coalition, told the Times.

There has been a steady uptick in the number of Afghan soldiers and police officers killed in recent years as they have grown their ranks and gradually assumed greater responsibility from NATO forces.

In 2012, the Afghan government estimated that some 1,000 soldiers and 1,400 police officers were killed. By the end of the year, a military spokesman estimated that 110 soldiers and 200 policemen were dying every month, the Times reports.

By contrast, 32 NATO soldiers have been killed in the first three months of 2013, according to the monitoring group casualties.

Currently about 100,000 international troops are based in Afghanistan, including 66,000 from the United States. That number is expected to drop by half by early 2014, with most of the remaining forces moving back into support and training positions.

Within the next few months, Afghan forces are expected to be responsible for security across the entire country.

"Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race." - James Joyce, 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man'

Red faces on the island of the green: A €10 coin minted to commemorate novelist James Joyce but misquoting his work will not be withdrawn, the Central Bank of Ireland has said.

He was one of Ireland's most renowned writers, and one of the few titans of modernism the country has ever produced, so it's no surprise that Ireland would seek to commemorate Mr. Joyce. It's a pity, then, that the launch of a commemorative €10 ($13) coin has been marred by a mistake.

Comedians may be inclined to ask if a €10 coin costing €46 ($60) is a sign of continuing turmoil in the eurozone. Or rather, they might have, if there wasn't an even easier target: The coin features an engraved misquote on its obverse.

The quote from Joyce's masterpiece "Ulysses," one of the key texts of 20th century modernist literature, should have read: “Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read."

The script on the coin adds the extra word "that" to the second sentence, changing it to: "Signatures of all things that I am here to read."

The coin was designed in Ireland by Mary Gregoriy but minted by Mayer’s Mint in Germany, something that is itself a source of some mirth in the land of Joyce's birth, given widespread feeling the country has lost its economic sovereignty to Germany.

The design shows a stylized Joyce wearing his trademark spectacles with the words pouring in cursive script from his head.

Despite North Korea's warnings that the threat of war on the Korean Peninsula is so high it cannot guarantee the safety of foreign residents, it literally trotted out athletes from around the world on Sunday for a marathon through the streets of its capital — suggesting its concerns of an imminent military crisis might not be as dire as its official pronouncements proclaim.

As it prepares to celebrate its most important holiday of the year, the birthday of national founder Kim Il Sung on Monday, the mixed message — threats of a "thermonuclear war" while showcasing foreign athletes and even encouraging tourism — was particularly striking on Sunday.

Pyongyang crowds lined the streets to watch athletes from 16 nations compete in the 26th Mangyongdae Prize Marathon in the morning and then filled a performance hall for a gala concert featuring ethnic Korean performers brought in from China, Russia and Japan as part of a slew of a events culminating in Kim's birthday — called the "Day of the Sun."

After racing through the capital, the foreign athletes and hundreds of North Korean runners were cheered into Kim Il Sung Stadium by tens of thousands of North Korean spectators. North Korea's official media said the marathon was larger than previous years and that enthusiasm was "high among local marathoners and their coaches as never before."

"The feeling is like, I came last year already, the situation is the same," said Taiwan's Chang Chia-che, who finished 15th.

Showing off foreign athletes and performers as part of the birthday celebrations has a propaganda value that is part of Pyongyang's motivation for highlighting the events to its public, even as it rattles its sabers to the outside world. In recent weeks, Pyongyang has said it could not vouch for the safety of foreigners, indicated embassies consider evacuation plans and urged foreigners residing in South Korea to get out as well.

But there does not appear to be much of a sense of crisis among the general population, either.

Pyongyang residents are mobilizing en masse for the events marking the birthday, rushing to tidy up streets, put new layers of paint on buildings and erect posters and banners hailing Kim, the grandfather of the country's new dynastic leader, Kim Jong Un.

Soon after learning that his son had autism, Hollywood producer Jon Shestack ("Air Force One") tried to get researchers investigating the genetic causes of the disorder to pool their DNA samples, the better to identify genes most likely to cause that disorder. But his approach to scientists at universities across the country in the late 1990s hit a brick wall: They refused to join forces, much less share the DNA.

"Each thought they needed to hold on to it to publish and patent," Shestack said in an interview. "This seemed criminal to us."

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted patents on at least 4,000 human genes to companies, universities and others that have discovered and decoded them. Patents now cover some 40 percent of the human genome, according to a scientific study led by Christopher Mason of Weill Cornell Medical College. But if foes of gene patents have their way, that percentage could be rolled back to zero.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that calls into question whether human DNA can be claimed as intellectual property, and remain off limits to everyone without the permission of the patent holder.

The lawsuit, filed in 2009 by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation, challenges seven patents held by Myriad Genetics Inc on two human genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer. A federal judge said the patents were invalid. An appeals court overruled that decision, and the case landed in the Supreme Court.

The legal issues center on whether the genes that Myriad patented, called BRCA1 and BRCA2, are natural phenomena. The ACLU says human DNA is a product of nature, and as such not patentable under the Patent Act. Myriad argues that its patents are for genes that have been "isolated," which makes them products of human ingenuity and, therefore, patentable.

As scholars debate the legal questions, two parallel issues have emerged: whether patenting genes thwarts scientific research, and whether it harms patients.

A coalition of researchers, genetic counselors, cancer survivors, breast cancer support groups, and scientific associations representing 150,000 geneticists, pathologists and laboratory professionals argue that gene patents can be problematic on both counts. The American Medical Association, the American Society of Human Genetics, the March of Dimes and even James Watson (co-discoverer, in 1953, of the double helix), among others, have filed briefs asking the court to invalidate Myriad's patents on genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2.

On the other side are Myriad and industry groups such as the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and the Animal Health Institute, which say that if gene patenting is ruled invalid, companies - with no guarantee they could profit from their discoveries - would stop investing in genetics research, to the detriment not only of patients but the economy.

SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH

Gene patent opponents say studies and surveys show that such patents tie the hands of scientists and thwart research.

A 2010 investigation by an advisory committee to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that patent holders had barred physicians and laboratories from offering genetic testing for hearing loss, leukemia, Alzheimer's, Huntington's disease, a heart condition called Long QT syndrome and other disorders affected by patented genes.

In a 2003 survey, 53 percent of the directors of genetics labs said they had given up some research due to gene-patent concerns. And in 2001, 49 percent of members of the American Society of Human Genetics said their research had to be limited due to gene patents.

"The overabundance of gene patents is a large and looming threat to personalized medicine," Cornell's Mason said. "How is it possible that my doctor cannot look at my DNA without being concerned about patent infringement? Individuals have an innate right to their own genome, or to allow their doctor to look at that genome, just like the lungs or kidneys."

Mark Capone, president of Myriad's laboratory division, counters that gene patents, by rewarding research, help patients. He said scientific research has not been hindered by the biotechnology company's patents, citing 18,000 scientists who have published 10,000 papers on BRCA.

With the possibility of North Korea escalating on the threat of a nuclear attack against US bases and possibly Hawaii or the west coast of the US mainland, Joe Biden reassured Democrats during a recent California speech that he’ll personally take the fight to the enemy.’ “I’ll get myself on a B-52 and drop the damn thing myself if that fat little pinko chink bastard Kim tries anything funny.”

Again, Biden claims it’s all a show and the North Koreans go through this each spring when food and fuel supplies have dwindled over a long winter.

“These commie clowns are just looking to stir stuff up and are trying to get a few handouts from folks like us, ” said Biden as he tried to ease the tension among west coast supporters who find themselves in the eye of the storm for the first time since WW II.

The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.

“Laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.” (Quoting Cesare Beccaria)

When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.

When wrongs are pressed because it is believed they will be borne, resistance becomes morality.

Jonathan Winters, the cherub-faced comedian whose breakneck improvisations and misfit characters inspired the likes of Robin Williams and Jim Carrey, has died. He was 87.

The Ohio native died Thursday evening at his Montecito, Calif., home of natural causes, said Joe Petro III, a longtime friend. He was surrounded by family and friends.

Winters was a pioneer of improvisational standup comedy, with an exceptional gift for mimicry, a grab bag of eccentric personalities and a bottomless reservoir of creative energy. Facial contortions, sound effects, tall tales — all could be used in a matter of seconds to get a laugh.

"Jonathan Winters was the worthy custodian of a sparkling and childish comedic genius. He did God's work. I was lucky 2 know him," Carrey tweeted on Friday.

On Jack Paar's television show in 1964, Winters was handed a foot-long stick and he swiftly became a fisherman, violinist, lion tamer, canoeist, U.N. diplomat, bullfighter, flutist, delusional psychiatric patient, British headmaster and Bing Crosby's golf club.

"As a kid, I always wanted to be lots of things," he told U.S. News & World Report in 1988. "I was a Walter Mitty type. I wanted to be in the French Foreign Legion, a detective, a doctor, a test pilot with a scarf, a fisherman who hauled in a tremendous marlin after a 12-hour fight."

The humor most often was based in reality — his characters Maude Frickert and Elwood P. Suggins, for example, were based on people Winters knew growing up in Ohio.

A devotee of Groucho Marx and Laurel and Hardy, Winters and his free-for-all brand of humor inspired Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal, Tracey Ullman and Lily Tomlin, among many others. But Williams and Carrey are his best-known followers.

"First he was my idol, then he was my mentor and amazing friend. I'll miss him huge. He was my Comedy Buddha. Long live the Buddha," Williams said in a statement Friday.

Williams helped introduce Winters to new fans in 1981 as the son of Williams' goofball alien and his earthling wife in the final season of ABC's "Mork and Mindy.

 

 

 A U.S. government agency has said North Korea has a nuclear weapon it can mount on a missile, adding an ominous dimension to threats of war by Pyongyang, but the assessment was swiftly dismissed by several U.S. officials and South Korea.

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said it had concluded with "moderate confidence" that North Korea had developed a nuclear bomb that could be fitted on a ballistic missile, but added such a weapon would probably be unreliable.

Its assessment was made public by a U.S. lawmaker amid soaring tension on the Korean peninsula and just hours before Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Seoul on a visit to the region that will include stops in China and Japan.

South Korean and U.S. officials say Pyongyang appears set to test-launch a medium-range missile as a show of strength ahead of the anniversary on Monday of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il-Sung. The unpredictable state has conducted three nuclear tests, but it was not believed to be near weapons capability.

South Korea's Defence Ministry maintained it did not believe North Korea could mount a nuclear warhead on a missile.

Despite the DIA report, the Pentagon's spokesman and the U.S. national intelligence director both said it was "inaccurate" to infer Pyongyang had the proven ability to launch a nuclear missile.

The DIA was criticized after the start of the Iraq war in 2003 for being too bullish in predicting Baghdad might have weapons of mass destruction.

Its conclusion about North Korea follows more than a month of rising tension on the Korean peninsula.

China, North Korea's only major diplomatic ally, denied reports that it was staging military drills along the North Korean border.

Eight days after allegedly being sexually battered while passed out at a party, and then humiliated by online photos of the assault, 15-year-old Audrie Pott posted on Facebook that her life was ruined, "worst day ever," and hanged herself.

For the next eight months, her family struggled to figure out what happened to their soccer loving, artistic, horse crazy daughter, whose gentle smile, long dark hair and shining eyes did not bely a struggling soul.

And then on Thursday, seven months after the tragedy, a Northern California sheriff's office arrested three 16-year-old boys on charges of sexual battery.

"The family has been trying to understand why their loving daughter would have taken her life at such a young age and to make sure that those responsible would be held accountable," said family attorney Robert Allard.

"After an extensive investigation that we have conducted on behalf of the family, there is no doubt in our minds that the victim, then only 15 years old, was savagely assaulted by her fellow high school students while she lay on a bed completely unconscious."

Allard said students used cell phones to share photos of the attack, and that the images went viral.

Santa Clara County Sheriff's Lt. Jose Cardoza said it arrested two of the teens at Saratoga High School and the third, a former Saratoga High student, at Christopher High School in Gilroy on Thursday. The names of the suspects were not released because they are minors.

Cardoza said the suspects were booked into juvenile hall and face two felonies and one misdemeanor each, all related to sexual battery that allegedly occurred at a Saratoga house party.

The lieutenant said the arrests were the result of information gathered by his agency's Saratoga High School resource officers. He said the investigation is ongoing, and Los Gatos police also continue looking into the girl's September suicide.

The Associated Press does not, as a rule, identify victims of sexual assault. But in this case, Pott's family wanted her name and case known, Allard said. The family also provided a photo to the AP.

The girl's family members did not comment and have requested privacy until a planned news conference Tuesday. Her father and step-mother Lawrence and Lisa Pott, along with her mother Sheila Pott, have started the Audrie Pott Foundation (audriepottfoundation.com) to provide music and art scholarships and offer youth counseling and support.

Discussions between the United Nations and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government on a possible investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria have reached an impasse, U.N. diplomats said on Wednesday.

Syria and the United Nations have been exchanging letters for weeks but the two sides are far from agreement on how the investigation should be run, diplomats said on condition of anonymity.

Syria has asked the United Nations only to investigate what it says was a rebel chemical attack near Aleppo last month. The opposition has blamed President Bashar al-Assad's forces for that strike and also wants the U.N. team to look into other alleged chemical attacks by the government.

There have been three alleged chemical weapons attacks - the one near Aleppo and another near Damascus, both in March, and one in Homs in December. The rebels and Assad's government blame each other for all of them.

So far, the Syrians are refusing to let inspectors go anywhere but Aleppo, while the United Nations is insisting that the team goes to both Aleppo and Homs. France and Britain wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last month saying the mission should look into all three cases.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry restated that position in a news release on Monday, saying the U.N. request to go anywhere in Syria where chemical weapons may have been used was not in keeping with the Syrian government's original request.

In an April 6 letter from Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem to Ban, obtained by Reuters, Assad's government said the inspectors should go first to Aleppo and if they are seen to be impartial, the possibility of visiting Homs could be discussed.

"After the mission completes its work, and ascertaining its honesty and neutrality and the credibility of its work away from politicization, it may be possible to look into the Homs claims," the letter said.

Moualem also complained about the leak of previous letters exchanged between Syria and the United Nations to Reuters, saying it "left the impression of a lack of seriousness on the part of the (U.N.) secretariat on cooperation in good faith."

The United Nations said it was studying a recent Syrian letter, although it was not immediately clear if that letter was Moualem's or a more recent one.

Syria's rebel al-Nusra Front, one of the most effective forces fighting President Bashar al-Assad, pledged allegiance to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri in an audio recording posted on the Internet on Wednesday.

Abu Mohammad al-Golani also appeared to distance his group from a recently announced merger with al Qaeda's Iraq branch.

The group's allegiance to Zawahri would trouble Western nations which support the revolt against Assad and will dismay Syrian moderates who want a civil state but fear the rise of extreme Islamist militancy.

"The sons of Nusra Front renew their pledge (of allegiance) to the Sheikh of Jihad Ayman al-Zawahri and declare obedience," Golani said in the recording.

Golani's statement came a day after the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, said his group and the Nusra Front would operate under a united leadership called the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant.

Golani said that his group was not consulted before that announcement and he had first heard about it through the media.

Golani said that while the Nusra Front had received assistance from the Islamic State of Iraq, his group would continue operating under its own banner, with loyalty to Zawahri.

"The banner of the Front will remain the same, nothing will change about it even though we are proud of the banner of the (Islamic) State and of those who carry it," he said.

The militant Islamist element of the Syrian conflict poses a quandary for Western powers and their Arab allies, which favor Assad's overthrow but are alarmed at the growing power of Sunni Muslim jihadi fighters whose fiercely anti-Shi'ite ideology has fuelled sectarian tensions in the Middle East.

PRIORITY

Golani said that Nusra in Syria will remain "in debt" to the help received from the Iraqi group which he said helped in the formation of Nusra.

Fifteen militants and one soldier were killed on Thursday when the Pakistani military mounted another operation in a week of fighting designed to seize control of a remote but strategic valley in the northwest, the army said.

The military has faced fierce resistance from the Taliban and its allies in the Tirah Valley in the Khyber region since troops set out to dislodge insurgents from strategically important heights above the valley six days ago.

Pakistani military officials say insurgents use the valley as a base camp that enables them to carry out raids in other semi-autonomous tribal areas near the Afghan border.

"Fresh clashes started early Thursday when the security forces launched another operation to secure control of the valley," said a military official in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, adding that 15 militants and a soldier had been killed.

On Tuesday, the military said 23 Pakistani soldiers and 110 militants had been killed in four days of fierce fighting in the area.

Since 2009, the Pakistani military and pro-government militias have clawed back territory from the Taliban, who once controlled land a few hours' drive from the capital, Islamabad.

However, a series of army offensives have failed to break the back of the Taliban, which is close to al Qaeda and is blamed for many of the suicide bombings across nuclear-armed Pakistan, a strategic U.S. ally.

South Korea and the United States were on high alert for a North Korean missile launch on Thursday as the hermit kingdom turned its attention to celebrating its ruling Kim dynasty and appeared to tone down rhetoric of impending war.

Despite threats it will attack U.S. bases and the South in response to any hostile acts, North Korea started to welcome a stream of visitors for Monday's birthday celebrations of its founding father, Kim Il-sung.

North Korea has stationed as many as five medium-range missiles on its east coast, according to defense assessments made by Washington and Seoul, possibly in readiness for a test launch that would demonstrate its ability to hit U.S. bases on Guam.

"There are signs the North could fire off Musudan missiles any time soon," an unnamed intelligence source in Seoul told Yonhap news agency.

Musudan missiles are medium range missiles that have the potential to hit U.S. bases on Guam, although it is not known whether they have been tested.

"But the North has been repeatedly moving its missiles in and out of a shed, which needs close monitoring."

Most observers say Pyongyang has no intention of igniting a conflict that could bring its own destruction but warn of the risks of miscalculation on the highly militarized Korean peninsula.

There did not appear to be any signs of panic in Seoul, the South Korean capital, and financial markets appeared to shrug off the risk of conflict with stocks posting a third day of gains.

Taiwan appeared to become the first country to warn its citizens against travelling to South Korea after a warning from Pyongyang that foreigners should leave, but hotels were reporting brisk business.

Pyongyang issued a statement that appeared to be tinged with regret over the closure of the joint Kaesong industrial zone that was shuttered when it ordered its workers out this week, terming the North-South Korean venture "the pinnacle of General Kim Jong-il's limitless love for his people and brothers".

The statement on the country's KCNA news agency blamed South Korean President Park Geun-hye for bringing the money-spinning venture to "the brink of shutting down".

Kim Jong-il, Kim Il-sung's son, ruled North Korea until his death in December 2011. He was succeeded by Kim Jong-un, the third of his line to preside over one of the world's poorest and most heavily militarized countries.

Since taking office, the 30-year-old has staged two long- range rocket launches and a nuclear weapons test. The nuclear test in February triggered U.N. sanctions that Pyongyang has termed a hostile act and a precursor to invasion.

For over a month, Pyongyang has issued an almost daily series of threats to the United States and South Korea, most recently warning foreigners to leave the South due to an impending "thermonuclear" war.

A former Tennessee politician was arrested and charged with indecent exposure after he allegedly masturbated out his car window while driving 90 mph on Interstate 26 earlier this year. Apparently this is not a new multi-tasking endeavor for the former Mount Carmel vice mayor — the charges mirror complaints made him against him several years ago that were never fully investigated. And now he’s facing up to all of them.

William Lee Blakely was charged with one count of indecent exposure after a female motorist alleged that he “fondled himself” and made obscene gestures while they drove next to one another on the highway.

Now that he’s been arrested for the charges, several women have come out to testify about similar stories in the past. “It seems that every victim would tell the same story. But I knew all the victims did not know each other,” Kingsport Police Detective Terry Christian told WJHL.

According to each of the women testifying, Blakely’s high-speed masturbation super fun time started out the same: he’d wave to get the drivers’ attention, escalating to a honk, and then partially crossing over into their lanes.

“After the waving, it turned into a lot of beeping, him grabbing his chest area, and asking me going ‘please, please’ with his hands, may I… show me yours,” witness Kelly Street said.

“He was taking his hand, wetting his mouth, and masturbating,” another witness said.

“At over 90 miles per hour, he had his penis out … he was masturbating… and that’s when it got really, really bad. I wouldn’t look over any more,” Street added.

Detective Christian lamented how Blakely’s indecent acts “went on for so long and nobody’s addressed it.” Apparently the department received dozens of phone calls reporting similar behavior over the last three to four years, all from victims ranging between ages 16-65.

The Tunnel People That Live Under The Streets Of America - Photo by Claude Le Berre

Did you know that there are thousands upon thousands of homeless people that are living underground beneath the streets of major U.S. cities?  It is happening in Las Vegas, it is happening in New York City and it is even happening in Kansas City.  As the economy crumbles, poverty in the United States isabsolutely exploding and so is homelessness.  In addition to the thousands of “tunnel people” living under the streets of America, there are also thousands that are living in tent cities, there are tens of thousands that are living in their vehicles and there are more than a million public school children that do not have a home to go back to at night.  The federal government tells us that the recession “is over” and that “things are getting better”, and yet poverty and homelessness in this country continue to rise with no end in sight.  So what in the world are things going to look like when the next economic crisis hits?

When I heard that there were homeless people living in a network of underground tunnels beneath the streets of Kansas City, I was absolutely stunned.  I have relatives that live in that area.  I never thought of Kansas City as one of the more troubled cities in the United States.

But according to the Daily Mail, police recently discovered a huge network of tunnels under the city that people had been living in…

Below the streets of Kansas City, there are deep underground tunnels where a group of vagrant homeless people lived in camps.

These so-called homeless camps have now been uncovered by the Kansas City Police, who then evicted the residents because of the unsafe environment.

Authorities said these people were living in squalor, with piles of garbage and dirty diapers left around wooded areas.

 

No longer the fantasy weapon of tomorrow, the U.S. Navy is set to field a powerful laser that can protect its ships by blasting targets with high-intensity light beams.

Early next year the Navy will place a laser weapon aboard a ship in the Persian Gulf where it could be used to fend off approaching unmanned aerial vehicles or speedboats.

The Navy calls its futuristic weapon LAWS, which stands for the Laser Weapon System. What looks like a small telescope is actually a weapon that can track a moving target and fire a steady laser beam strong enough to burn a hole through steel.

A Navy video of testing conducted last summer off the coast of California shows how a laser beam fired from a Navy destroyer was able to set aflame an approaching UAV or drone, sending it crashing into the ocean.

"There was not a single miss" during the testing, said Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, chief of Naval Research. The laser was three for three in bringing down an approaching unmanned aerial vehicle and 12 for 12 when previous tests are factored in.

But don't expect in that video to see the firing of colored laser bursts that Hollywood has used for its futuristic laser guns. The Navy's laser ray is not visible to the naked eye because it is in the infrared spectrum.

Many of the details about how the laser works remain secret, such as how far its beam can travel, how powerful it is or how much power is used to generate it.

But Navy officials have provided a few unclassified details. For example, the laser is designed to be a "plug and play" system that integrates into a ship's existing targeting technologies and power grids. Those factors make it a surprisingly cheap weapon.

Klunder says each pulse of energy from the laser "costs under a dollar" and it can be used against weapons systems that are significantly more expensive. The Navy says it has spent about $40 million over the past six years in developing the weapon.

Rear Admiral Thomas Eccles, Navy Sea Systems Command, says the beam can be turned on instantly and that ultimately "the generation of power is essentially your magazine. It's the clip we have"

Hundreds of poor people waiting outside of a closed grocery store for the possibility of getting the remaining food is not the picture of the “American Dream.” Yet on March 23, outside the Laney Walker Supermarket in Augusta, Ga., that is exactly what happened.

Residents filled the parking lot with bags and baskets hoping to get some of the baby food, canned goods, noodles and other non-perishables. But a local church never came to pick up the food, as the storeowner prior to the eviction said they had arranged. By the time the people showed up for the food, what was left inside the premises—as with any eviction—came into the ownership of the property holder, SunTrust Bank.

The bank ordered the food to be loaded into dumpsters and hauled to a landfill instead of distributed. The people that gathered had to be restrained by police as they saw perfectly good food destroyed. Local Sheriff Richard Roundtree told the news “a potential for a riot was extremely high.”

“People got children out here that are hungry, thirsty,” local resident Robertstine Lambert told Fox54 in Augusta. “Why throw it away when you could be issuing it out?”

SunTrust bank is trying to confuse the issue and not take direct responsibility for their actions. Their media relations officer Mike McCoy, stated, “We are working with store suppliers as well as law enforcement to dispose of the remaining contents of the store and secure the building.” Yet he also said that the food never belonged to SunTrust Bank.

There is no need to sugar coat what happened. Teresa Russell, chief deputy of the Marshal’s Office in Richmond County, said the owner of the building ordered that the food be taken to the landfill. Some people even followed the truck to the landfill and were still turned away.

In Richmond County, there are about 20 evictions per day, and the area surrounding the supermarket is one of the poorest in the state. According to the last available data, the poverty rate is 41 percent. Many people in that parking lot probably knew all too well how evictions work, and were in desperate need of the food assistance.

This story is not some bizarre exception. It reeks of the truth of capitalism and is strikingly similar to the H&M scandal that broke in 2010 when clothes were being shredded before being thrown away, so as to make sure the value of the merchandise was unaffected.

In a capitalist society, the motive behind the production of food is not to feed people, housing is not made to give them shelter, clothing is not made to keep them warm, and health care is not offered primarily to keep people healthy. All of these things, which are and should be viewed as basic rights, are nothing other than commodities—to be bought and sold—from which to make a profit. If a profit cannot be made, usually due to overproduction in relation to the market, the commodity is considered useless by the capitalist and destroyed.

In this case, it appears the bank simply did not care. For the banks that have made their profits through evictions and foreclosures, it is little surprise that they showed no remorse in leaving people staring in disbelief, with empty bags, as they watched the food that could be feeding their families dumped into a landfill instead.

- Suspected Islamist militants shot or hacked to death 11 people on Saturday in a northeast Nigerian village, including at a deputy governor's house, police said.

Police spokesman for Adamawa state Mohammed Ibrahim said a further six people were wounded in the attack on Madube village, where Adamawa's deputy governor Bala Ngilari has a residence. The deputy governor himself was not harmed, he said.

Boko Haram, an Islamist group fighting to create an Islamic state in religiously mixed Nigeria, has killed thousands in gun and bomb attacks since launching an uprising in 2009, human rights groups say.

The militant sect and other violent Islamist groups and associated criminal gangs have become the main security threat to Africa's leading energy producer, as militancy in the southeastern oil producing Niger Delta has waned.

Northern traditional leaders appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan this week to offer Boko Haram members an amnesty, as was offered to militants in the Niger Delta 2009, ending years of attacks on oil installations there

 

A body believed to be that of Nevada's chief insurance examiner was found wrapped in a blanket and bound with duct tape Saturday in a river in Carson City, and four suspects were arrested in the case, authorities said.

Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong said while a positive identification and cause of death have not been officially established, investigators believe the body found by searchers in the Carson River is that of William McCune, who disappeared earlier this week.

Investigators suspected foul play after finding evidence Thursday of a bloody, violent struggle in McCune's apartment in Carson City. Deputies were called to the apartment after the 62-year-old McCune failed to board a flight with a co-worker and other employees found no sign of him when they went to his residence.

All four suspects are from the Carson City area, Furlong said, but detectives were unsure of their relationship to the McCune or the motive for the slaying.

Still, the sheriff said investigators continue to believe McCune's death concerned "personal" matters and was not work-related. He declined to elaborate.

Michael Evans, 23, and Anthony Elliot, 20, were booked on murder charges, while Raul Garcia, 22, and Makyla Blackmore, 20, were arrested on burglary charges.

Evans was taken into custody in Carson City, while the others were arrested early Saturday on the Las Vegas Strip. Furlong believes the latter three fled Carson City on Friday after news broke of McCune's disappearance.

At 26, Ahmad, who favors Western suits and now works for a cellphone service provider, has never known a time when his country was not at war. But he's a father now, with a 2-year-old and an infant to think about.

"I don't want to put my sons in the position that I was growing up," he said. "I want to get my family out."

Like many Afghans, Ahmad is desperately seeking an exit strategy before most foreign troops leave next year.

A recent study warned of a "contagious pessimism" among Afghan business and political leaders and the urban middle class. "Crucially, there are indications of a self-fulfilling prophecy: Fear of instability in 2014 is driving emigration of the very people and money that could prevent instability," says the report by the development consultant STATT.

The wealthy are buying second homes abroad and moving huge amounts of money out of Afghanistan, fearing that security will deteriorate and the economy will collapse. Others are applying to study overseas, seeking invitations from relatives abroad or risking their lives trying to get into countries illegally.

If he can get his wife and children to safety, Ahmad would like to keep working here. He has been trying to arrange a trip to Europe and figures the family can apply for asylum once they get there. But obtaining visas is almost impossible.

Some travel agents say they can arrange invitation letters from families in far-off countries to support visa applications. Others claim to have embassy contacts who will issue visas under the table. But it's expensive and they don't always deliver.

Decades of conflict and natural disasters have driven waves of Afghans to depart in search of safer, more prosperous lives. In one of the most dramatic refugee crises of the 20th century, millions fled to neighboring Pakistan and Iran during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s and the 1990s civil war that eventually gave rise to the repressive Taliban regime. Those migrating included much of the country's intellectual elite, some of whom resettled in the United States and Europe.

Although a large number have returned to Afghanistan since U.S.-led forces drove the Islamist militants from power in 2001, the rate has slowed. For the first time in a decade, officials with the International Organization for Migration believe that more Afghans left their country last year than moved back.

Prices for high-end real estate in Kabul have plummeted by as much as 50% as members of the business and political elite scramble to move their families and assets out of the country.

 A sophisticated airborne radar system developed to track Taliban fighters planting roadside bombs in Afghanistan has found a new use along the U.S. border with Mexico, where it has revealed gaps in security.

Operated from a Predator surveillance drone, the radar system has collected evidence that Border Patrol agents apprehended fewer than half of the foreign migrants and smugglers who had illegally crossed into a 150-square-mile stretch of southern Arizona.

The number of "gotaways," as the Border Patrol calls those who escape apprehension, is both more precise and higher than official estimates.

According to internal reports, Border Patrol agents used the airborne radar to help find and detain 1,874 people in the Sonora Desert between Oct. 1 and Jan. 17. But the radar system spotted an additional 1,962 people in the same area who evaded arrest and disappeared into the United States.

In contrast, the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, estimated in January that the Border Patrol had caught 64% of those who illegally crossed into the Tucson sector in 2011.

The new tally of unlawful border crossings could complicate White House efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform after Congress returns from recess next week.

The Obama administration contends America's borders are more strictly policed than ever, with nearly 365,000 apprehensions last year. Republicans have demanded more guards, drones, fencing and other security measures before legal status is granted to the estimated 11 million people believed to have entered America illegally or overstayed their visas.

The former chief federal judge in Montana has decided to retire at the conclusion of a misconduct investigation into a racist email about President Obama he forwarded to friends from his work computer last year.

U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull, who had taken less-active senior status on the bench after the incident, will retire in May, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ chief judge, Alex Kozinski, said in a statement.

The decision follows an appeals court inquiry into the email controversy that involved interviews with Cebull and others and a review of “voluminous” documentation, including emails, Kozinski said.

The 9th Circuit’s Judicial Council issued an order March 15 based on the inquiry, but its contents remain confidential pending an appeal period, he said.

Cebull, nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2001, had written a letter of apology to Obama last spring, saying: “I sincerely and profusely apologize to you and your family.… I have no one to blame but myself.”

The email had implied that Obama's mother was so drunk at the time of his conception that he was lucky his father was not a dog. Cebull admitted sending it, telling the Great Falls Tribune that he was “not a fan” of Obama but is not a racist.

For years, he has menaced the isolated cabins that dot the mountains of southern Utah. Residents thought of him as some sort of Bogey Man, an off-kilter survivalist who broke into dozens of unattended homesteads, leaving behind handwritten threats and bullet holes.

He became know as the Mountain Man, whose wilderness skills were compared to those of explorer Davy Crockett. And now he’s behind bars.

Authorities arrested Troy James Knapp this week in an isolated mountain region in central Utah, ending a five-year-long manhunt that frustrated sheriffs in three counties.

A release Wednesday by the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office described Tuesday’s arrest.

“Emery Sheriff’s Office had been tracking Knapp for a number of days. An observation team located Knapp and more teams converged. Knapp fired a number of shots at officers in a helicopter with a rifle and took aim at an officer on the ground,” the release said. “One round was fired at Knapp who tried to retreat. His route led him to more officers who were able to convince Knapp it was in his best interest to surrender.”

Knapp now faces 18 charges in Iron, Kane and Garfield counties. Detectives called him a ticking time bomb.

“For years, Knapp is believed to have broken into summer cabins during the winter, living off whatever supplies were inside, and then living in remote mountainous areas during the summer,” said a release announcing the arrest on the Iron County Sheriff’s Department website.

“Last October, more than 40 officers from Sevier, Sanpete, Iron and Box Elder counties as well as the Joint Criminal Apprehension Team searched an area of Sevier County where Knapp was last seen, but could not find the elusive fugitive.”

Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower told the Spectrum newspaper in St. George that he breathed a sigh of relief with the arrest. 

“I'm excited as hell,” Gower said. “We're absolutely stoked about this. It's been a long time coming.”

Knapp is suspected of leaving some cabins riddled with bullet holes, defacing religious icons and writing taunting notes.

“Hey Sheriff … Gonna put you in the ground!” he wrote in one note, according to court records. And another: “Pack up and leave. Get off my mountain.”

Last year, sheriff’s detective identified Knapp through a photograph and fingerprints left at one break-in. But for years, all authorities had to work with were grainy camera images of Knapp, photographed by motion-triggered camera on snowshoes with a stolen rifle slung over a shoulder. 
Knapp has been living off the comfort of those cabins in winter then retreating to makeshift summer camps deep in the forest with stolen guns and supplies, authorities said.

Authorities say Knapp's motives have never been clear but speculated that he was fed up with civilization.

At one point in recent months, a release on the Iron County sheriff’s website described images taken of Knapp in the woods.

"At first, his eyes light up the infrared surveillance video as he cautiously looks around,” the website dispatch said at the time. “He puts a pair of binoculars to his eyes, apparently looking for an alarm system. Still acting nervous, and with a rifle visible on a sling over his shoulder, Knapp waves his arms, trying to check for a motion sensor, before moving out of the frame and breaking into the cabin.

“Shoelaces, ammunition, guns, food [and] clothing that he thinks he can use are some of the things he has a tendency to take,” said Eric Zeeman with the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office, according to the website.

Records indicate Knapp came to Utah as a fugitive when he apparently left California in violation of his parole for a burglary conviction. He had been charged with theft in 2000 in California, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison, according to records.

Authorities lost track off Knapp around 2003.

Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Michael Wingert told the Associated Press in February 2012, “He just dropped off the face of the Earth.”

Despite all the claims made by industry-funded hacks that genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and other industrial agricultural methods are necessary for the future of humanity, it is the traditional growing methods that continue to shine through as the real sustainers of life. As reported by Gaia Health, Indian rice farmers using traditional, organic growing methods are achieving yields far higher than farmers using more modern methods.

In the case of Sumant Kumar, rice yields have surpassed the national average per hectare (about 2.5 acres) nearly ten-fold. According to reports, Kumar is currently yielding about 22.4 tons of rice per hectare, greatly surpassing that of other rice farms currently outputting roughly 2.3 tons per hectare. His secret? A traditional crop management protocol known as System of Root Intensification, or SRI.

Farmers adhering to SRI techniques will typically plant about half the number of seeds as farmers using more modern methods, and will space them out at intervals of about 10 inches. They also plant their seeds much younger, and keep the soil dryer, while paying much closer attention to weed growth. By hand-removing weeds, SRI farmers are able to allow more water and nutrients to feed their rice plants, which results in significantly higher yields.

"Farmers use less seeds, less water and less chemicals but they get more without having to invest more," says Dr. Surendra Chaurassa, agriculture minister to the region where Kumar's farm is located, as quoted by The Observer. "This is revolutionary. I did not believe it to start with, but now I think it can potentially change the way everyone farms. I would want every state to promote it. If we get 30 to 40 percent increase in yields, that is more than enough to recommend it."


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A group of leading scientists has urged President Obama’s advisers to investigate the ethical issues raised by a decision to create a highly infectious strain of bird-flu virus that could be transmitted easily between people.

The scientists, who include a former UK Government chief scientist and a Nobel laureate, said that it is “morally and ethically wrong” to create a new type of influenza virus in the laboratory that is more lethal and transmissible than what actually exists in nature.

Two teams of flu researchers – led by Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam and Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison – announced in 2011 that they had succeeded in mutating the H5N1 avian virus so that it could in theory be transmitted through the air between people.

They stopped the research last year as part of a wider voluntary moratorium following public outrage over the work. But they announced an end to the moratorium earlier this year, and even an expansion into new areas involving other viruses and diseases.

In a strongly-worded letter sent to the US Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, opponents of the research warned that there has not been enough debate over the threats posed by lifting the moratorium on increasing the transmissibility of highly lethal viruses such as the H5N1 strain of bird-flu.

They said that the 60 per cent mortality rate of the H5N1 virus – on the relatively rare occasions that it has infected humans – puts it in a “class of its own” and that attempting to make it more transmissible through laboratory experiments is tantamount to risking a devastatingly deadly flu pandemic.

April 04, 2013 03:59
Emergency crews work to clean up an oil spill near Interstate 40 in Mayflower, Arkansas March 31, 2013 (Reuters / Jacob Slaton)

The FAA announced a temporary no-fly zone would be enacted indefinitely over the Arkansas oil spill. With word that an Exxon employee was controlling the airspace, though, speculation pointed to the idea the oil company was trying to keep the media away.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced Monday that until further notice, no aircraft will be allowed to operate over the Mayflower oil spill in Conway, Arkansas. While there was scant explanation for the mandate, it was “effective immediately” - and ordered to stay in place “until further notice.”

The FAA's online posting raised some questions Wednesday, though, by noting that “only relief aircraft operations under direction of Tom Suhrhoff” are permitted in the area. On his LinkedIn profile, Suhrhoff lists himself not as an emergency expert or safety official, but as an aviation adviser for ExxonMobil. Prior to ExxonMobil, according to his profile on the professional social network, he worked as a US Army pilot for 24 years.

The only reasoning provided on FAA.gov for “temporary flight restrictions” was a “hazard” warning.

An FAA spokesman told reporters that the flying ban applied to aircraft flying at 1,000 feet or lower and within five nautical miles, so that emergency support are able to respond to the disaster immediately.

However, there’s been rampant speculation that the ban was enacted to censor news cameras from taking shots of the disaster area.

Lynn Lunsford, a spokesperson for the FAA, revealed that the restriction was requested by local disaster officials and that the order would eventually be amended to include news helicopters.

President Barack Obama sought to rally public support for proposed background checks for all gun buyers, touting new gun control measures enacted in Colorado - the scene of two of the deadliest gun massacres in American history - as "a model of what's possible."

Obama is aiming to revive stalled momentum in Congress for several gun control measures, including universal background checks for gun buyers, that he called for after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut school in December. The Senate is set to take up gun control next week.

Speaking in a Western state that Obama noted has a strong tradition of gun ownership and hunting, the president said that taking action to reduce gun violence does not have to infringe on Americans' gun rights, enshrined in the Constitution's Second Amendment.

"There doesn't have to be a conflict between protecting our citizens and protecting our Second Amendment rights," Obama told a cheering crowd in Denver.

Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper last month signed into law legislation passed by Colorado legislators to require universal background checks for gun buyers and ban ammunition magazines with more than 15 rounds.

"I've come to Denver today in particular because Colorado is proving a model of what's possible," Obama said, adding that the state has shown that "practical progress" can be made.

Obama met privately with law enforcement and elected officials as well as relatives of victims of two Colorado mass shootings: at a movie theater last year in the Denver suburb of Aurora and at Columbine High School in 1999.

Obama devoted most of his speech at the Denver Police Academy to trying to build the case for expanding the existing background checks to cover all gun buyers. Loopholes in the law have exempted many gun buyers from such checks.

"Now understand, nobody is talking about creating an entirely new system. We are simply talking about plugging holes, sealing a porous system that isn't working as well as it should," Obama said.

"If you want to buy a gun, whether it's from a licensed dealer or a private seller, you should at least have to pass a background check to show you're not a criminal or someone legally prohibited from buying one. And that's just common sense," Obama added.

- North Korea said it had "ratified" a merciless attack against the United States, potentially involving a "diversified nuclear strike".

"We formally inform the White House and Pentagon that the ever-escalating U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK (North Korea) and its reckless nuclear threat will be smashed by the strong will of all the united service personnel and people and cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means of the DPRK and that the merciless operation of its revolutionary armed forces in this regard has been finally examined and ratified," a spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People's Army said in a statement carried by the English language service of the state news agency KCNA.

Amnesty International has condemned a reported Saudi Arabian court ruling that a young man should be paralyzed as punishment for a crime he committed 10 years ago which resulted in the victim being confined to a wheelchair.

The London-based human rights group said Ali al-Khawaher, 24, was reported to have spent 10 years in jail waiting to be paralyzed surgically unless his family pays one million Saudi riyals ($270,000) to the victim.

The Saudi Gazette newspaper reported last week that Khawaher had stabbed a childhood friend in the spine during a dispute a decade ago, paralyzing him from the waist down.

Saudi Arabia applies Islamic sharia law, which allows eye-for-an-eye punishment for crimes but allows victims to pardon convicts in exchange for so-called blood money.

"Paralyzing someone as punishment for a crime would be torture," Ann Harrison, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said in a statement late on Tuesday.

"That such a punishment might be implemented is utterly shocking, even in a context where flogging is frequently imposed as a punishment for some offences, as happens in Saudi Arabia," she added.

A government-approved Saudi human rights group did not respond to requests for comment.

The Arabic-language al-Hayat daily quoted Khawaher's 60-year-old mother as saying her son was a juvenile aged 14 at the time of the offence. She said the victim had demanded 2 million riyals to pardon her son and later reduced this to 1 million. "But we don't have even a tenth of this sum," she said.

Al-Hayat said an unnamed philanthropist was trying to raise funds to pay the blood money, but it was not clear how much time remained before Khawaher's sentence was to be carried out.

Amnesty said the case demonstrated the need for Saudi Arabia to review its laws to "start respecting their international obligations and remove these terrible punishments from the law".

Saudi judges have in the past ordered sharia punishments that include tooth extraction, flogging, eye gouging and - in murder cases - death.

Pope Francis prayed Tuesday before the tomb of Pope John Paul II on the eighth anniversary of the beloved pontiff's death in what the Vatican said was evidence of Francis' "profound spiritual continuity" with popes past.

In his three weeks as pope, Francis has jolted the Catholic Church with several gestures that broke with papal tradition, including renouncing certain liturgical vestments, choosing to live in the Vatican hotel rather than the papal apartments, and washing the feet of a Muslim woman during a Holy Thursday ritual re-enacting Jesus Christ's washing of his apostles' feet.

But Francis has also visited with his immediate predecessor, Benedict XVI, and spoken on the phone with him at least three times. And on Monday, he visited the tomb of St. Peter, the first pontiff, which is located in the necropolis underneath St. Peter's Basilica.

On Tuesday, he waited until the basilica was closed to the general public to visit the tomb of John Paul II, the Polish pope who died in 2005. The tomb is located in the St. Sebastian chapel, just inside the entrance of the basilica. He also prayed before the tombs of Popes Pius X and John XXIII.

"As with the visit yesterday to the tomb of St. Peter and the Vatican grottoes, this evening's visit to the basilica expresses the profound spiritual continuity of the popes' petrine ministry, which Pope Francis lives and feels intensely, as he has shown repeatedly with his phone calls to his predecessor Benedict XVI," the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said in a statement.

Traditionalist Catholics have been devastated by some of Francis' gestures, which they have seen as a rejection primarily of efforts by Benedict XVI to revive the pre-Vatican II tradition of the church, including much of the pomp of the papacy.

As a result, Francis' visit to the tomb of Pope Pius X was particularly significant. Pius X, who lived from 1835-1914, is known to some degree as the anti-modern pope: He wrote an encyclical on the dangers of "modernism" in church doctrine and is the namesake of the schismatic group of traditionalist Catholics, the Society of St. Pius X, with whom Benedict tried unsuccessfully to reconcile during his eight-year pontificate.

Visiting Pius' tomb could be seen as a gesture by Francis to those traditionalists upset by his election. Aside from the gesture, however, he and Pius share many priorities — particularly a concern for the poor.

A late night outing turned into a six-hour-long nightmare after an American woman was gang raped and beaten aboard a public transit van while her handcuffed French boyfriend looked on helplessly, in an incident that's shocked this resort city as it gears up to host next year's World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

The police response to the attack was swift: The three alleged perpetrators, aged 20 to 22, have all been taken into custody, and investigators are combing databases to determine whether the men might have been behind any other crimes.

Many still ask whether Rio authorities, who have succeeded in cracking down on much of the city's drug violence, are up to the task of protecting the waves of tourists expected to flood the city during the upcoming double-header of mega-events. Some 2 million people are also expected to flock to the city in late July for World Youth Day, a Roman Catholic pilgrimage that Pope Francis is scheduled to attend.

Some observers said the attack came as a particular shock given that safety has improved at least in the city's tourist-friendly, seaside South Zone neighborhoods. Foreigners and moneyed local residents who even three or four years ago would have hesitated to hail a taxi in the street or walk around after dark now do both without thinking twice.

"No one expects to be attacked in Disneyland, handcuffed and roughed up," Globo newspaper quoted Alfredo Lopes, the head of an association representing Brazil's hotel sector. "Copacabana is our Disneyland."

Yet it was in that very beachfront neighborhood, full of senior citizens in bikinis by day but seedier by night, that the two foreigners hailed one of the fleet of public transit vans often used as a speedier alternative to buses. Police investigating the case say the two foreigners, both in their early-20s, were headed shortly after midnight Saturday to Lapa, a popular downtown nightlife hotspot where Rio's youth converges on clubs, bars and samba venues.

A survey by a British organization shows a larger number of young Pakistanis believe the country should be governed by Islamic law than democracy.

The report issued Wednesday by the British Council found that 38 percent of Pakistanis between the ages of 18 and 29 thought Shariah law was the best political system for Pakistan. Thirty-two percent chose military rule, and democracy came in last with 29 percent.

Less than a quarter of young Pakistanis believe democracy has benefited themselves or their families.

The findings come as Pakistan approaches May 11 parliamentary elections — the first transition between democratically elected governments in a country that has experienced three military coups.

The British Council survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percent.

Iran will pursue its nuclear quest although it has reaped few gains from a totem of national pride that has cost it well over $100 billion in lost oil revenue and foreign investment alone, two think-tanks said on Wednesday.

A report by the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Federation of American Scientists said Iran's atomic work could not simply be ended or "bombed away" and that diplomacy was the only way to keep it peaceful.

"It is entangled with too much pride - however misguided - and sunk costs simply to be abandoned," the report's authors, Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group and Carnegie's Karim Sadjadpour, said of Iran's five-decade-old nuclear program, which began under the U.S.-allied shah.

"Given the country's indigenous knowledge and expertise, the only long-term solution for assuring that Iran's nuclear program remains purely peaceful is to find a mutually agreeable diplomatic solution," the report said.

Iran says its nuclear work has medical uses and will produce energy to meet domestic demand and complement its oil reserves.

The United States and other states suspect Iran is covertly seeking a nuclear arms capability. Israel has threatened military action to prevent the Islamic Republic from acquiring atom bombs. Tehran denies pursuing nuclear weapons.

The U.S. and its allies have demanded that Iran curb its enrichment of uranium and have imposed increasingly tough sanctions on Iran's energy, banking and shipping sectors that have cut Iranian oil exports by more than half since 2011.

Iran and six world powers are due to meet in Kazakhstan this week in hopes of finding a solution to the standoff. Their last meeting in February failed to achieve a breakthrough.

The report, entitled "Iran's Nuclear Odyssey: Costs and Risks", seeks to tabulate the opportunity costs of the nuclear program, and puts these at "well over $100 billion" in terms of lost foreign investment and oil revenues.

Relatively small uranium deposits will keep Iran from being fully self-sufficient in nuclear energy, it said, while Tehran has neglected to maintain existing infrastructure and develop other resources that could better secure its energy needs.

The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, a white supremacist prison gang, has become one of the top focuses of authorities investigating the murders of two Texas prosecutors.

Prosecutors from Kaufman County,Texas, had helped imprison dozens of Aryan Brotherhood of Texas members late last year, the sources said.

In recent weeks Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his top assistant Mark Hasse were murdered in shootings that have left investigators hunting for clues.

Cops are poring over hundreds of old cases that Hasse and McLelland prosecuted and following clues that involve not just the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, but Mexican drug cartels, local drug traffickers and other violent individuals.

But they are aggressively pursuing a possible Aryan Brotherhood link, sources said.

In November, 34 suspects associated with the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas were indicted on federal racketeering, murder and drug conspiracy charges. Ten members potentially faced the death penalty as prosecutors accused them of ruthless violence, including ordering hits on rival gang members.

A review of the case shows that the Kaufman prosecutors assisted in the investigation, along with more than a dozen agencies.

In December, Texas authorities sent out a bulletin warning that the group might seek retaliation because of the crackdown, sources said.

Authorities are also working to determine if the Texas killings are related to the March shooting death of Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements, gunned down at home. The chief suspect in the murder is ex-con Evan Ebel, an alleged member Colorado white supremacist prison gang known as 211.

Ebel had a swastika tattoo on his stomach, lightning bolt tattoos on his hands and wrists, along with the phrase "White Pride" on his arms, according to prison records released today.

Ebel was killed in a gun battle with Texas cops 100 miles from Kaufman County just days after Clements' murder.

Authorities want to know why Ebel came to Texas and whether he has any associates in the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, sources said.

As hundreds turned out today to memorialize the McLellands today, authorities released new details of their deaths. Mike McLelland, who was known to carry a gun regularly in the weeks after Hasse was killed, was shot more than a dozen times.

 

Last week's calculated attack shows that international troops still face a myriad of dangers even though they are increasingly taking a back seat in operations with Afghan forces ahead of a full withdrawal by the end of 2014.

Just one U.S. service member was killed in February — a five-year monthly low — but the American death toll climbed to at least 14 last month.

Overall, the number of Americans and other foreign forces killed in Afghanistan has fallen as their role shifts more toward training and advising government troops instead of fighting.

But a series of so-called insider attacks on foreign troops by Afghan forces of insurgents disguised as them has threatened to undermine the trust needed to help President Hamid Karzai's government take the lead in securing the country after more than 11 years at war.

The attack that killed Sgt. Michael Cable, 26, of Philpot, Ky., last Wednesday occurred after the soldiers had secured an area for a meeting of U.S. and Afghan officials in a province near the volatile border with Pakistan.

But one of two senior U.S. officials who confirmed that Cable had been stabbed by a young man said the assailant was not believed to have been in uniform so it was not being classified as an insider attack.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said the attacker was thought to be about 16 years old. He escaped so his age couldn't be verified.

Cable's brother Raymond Johnston, a 42-year-old waiter in Owensboro, Ky., said the Army told the family the basics of what happened and that his brother was stabbed in the neck from behind.

Johnston said his brother, who also did a tour of duty in Iraq, was "prepared before he left for anything that happened" in Afghanistan.

Cable met individually with Johnston and three other family members before leaving for Afghanistan and had similar conversations with each — that the deployment was extremely hazardous and that his family and friends should "continue to enjoy life" if he was killed.

 A show of force by U.S. stealth jets over the Korean Peninsula after talk of war by Pyongyang has caused only minor concern in China, a measure of Beijing's belief that the North is to blame for the tensions and that hostilities are not imminent.

The presence of U.S. forces in places like South Korea and Japan has long worried Beijing, feeding its fears that it is being surrounded and "contained" by Washington and its allies, especially following the U.S. strategic pivot to Asia.

The flying of B-2 and F-22 stealth jets in joint exercises with South Korea, bringing U.S. military might virtually to China's doorstep, has barely generated a response from Beijing except for a generic call for calm and restraint.

Last month's announcement that the United States would strengthen its anti-missile defenses due to the North's threats also elicited only relatively mild criticism from China.

"All these new actions from the U.S. side are not targeted at China," said Ni Lexiong, a military expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

"There is no possible threat to China."

Another well-connected Chinese military expert, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of discussing Chinese defense policy, said China believed the U.S. presence in Korea acted as a necessary restraint on troublesome Pyongyang, hence the lack of criticism from Beijing.

Chinese internet sites are resounding with criticism not of the United States but of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who is derided as "Fatty Kim" or "Fatty The Third", in reference to his father and grandfather, both previous rulers of the pariah state.

Blame is mostly being put on Kim for leading his country to disaster and the region close to war.

- Face-transplant recipient Dallas Wiens married a fellow burn victim on Saturday in the same church where his face was melted in an electrical accident, the Dallas Morning News reported.

In 2011, Wiens received the first full face transplant ever performed in the United States.

Wiens, 27, was married to Jamie Nash of Garland, Texas, at Ridglea Baptist Church in Fort Worth before 150 people, the newspaper said on its website.

"I am blessed beyond measure that you have chosen me, and I love you with all of my heart," the daily quoted Wiens as telling Nash.

Wiens, a Fort Worth native, met Nash in 2011 at Dallas' Parkland Memorial Hospital, where they attended the same support group for burn victims.

Nash, 29, was burned over 70 percent of her body in a one-car accident in June 2010. Today she speaks at schools and churches about the perils of texting while driving.

Wiens was in a cherry picker painting the Ridglea church in November 2008 when his left temple touched a high-voltage wire. His face was burned to the skull and he was left sightless.

Wiens was unconscious at Parkland hospital for three months and underwent more than 20 major surgeries.

It is the second marriage for both Wiens and Nash. Wiens has a 5-year-old daughter, and Nash has a 10-year-old daughter and a son, 6.

When the Renaissance physician and expert dissector Andreas Vesalius first published "De humani corporis fabrica" in 1543, he provided the most detailed look inside the human body of his time.

A previously unknown copy of the impressive anatomy textbook resurfaced a few years ago, and it apparently contains more than a thousand hand-written notes and corrections by the author himself. The annotations reveal that Vesalius was meticulously planning a third edition of the book that never made it to print, researchers say.

"This book is his work bench as much as the dissecting table," Vivian Nutton, a University College London professor emeritus, writes in a recently published analysis of the text in the journal Medical History.

Some edits show that Vesalius wanted to correct mistakes of grammar and syntax and to make his Latin more elegant. Other markings show that he wanted to draw attention to misshapen or illegible letters for his block-cutter. Vesalius also intended to add new information to the text as he learned more about the human body, including what may be one of the oldest references to the practice of female genital mutilation.

In his discussion of circumcision, Vesalius scrawled at the bottom of the page that Ethiopians "cut off the fleshy processes from new born girls in accordance with their religion in the same way as they remove the foreskins of boys, 'although in their religious ceremonies they are otherwise generally similar to those of us Christians,'" Nutton writes. "This is arguably the first reference in a medical text to female genital mutilation for non-medical purposes."

The copy of the book, on loan from an unnamed German collector, is currently available for study at the University of Toronto's Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.

India's Supreme Court on Monday rejected drug maker Novartis AG's attempt to patent a new version of a cancer drug in a landmark decision that healthcare activists say ensures poor patients around the world will get continued access to cheap versions of lifesaving medicines.

Novartis had argued that it needed a new patent to protect its investment in the cancer drug Glivec, while activists said the company was trying to use loopholes to make more money out of a drug whose patent had expired.

The decision has global implications since India's $26 billion generic drug industry supplies much of the cheap medicine used in the developing world.

The ruling sets a precedent that will prevent international pharmaceutical companies from obtaining fresh patents in India on updated versions of existing drugs, said Pratibha Singh, a lawyer for the Indian generic drug manufacturer Cipla, which makes a generic version of Glivec.

The court ruled that a patent could only be given to a new drug, she told reporters outside the court.

"Patents will be given only for genuine inventions, and repetitive patents will not be given for minor tweaks to an existing drug," Singh said.

Novartis did not immediately return calls for comment.

The Swiss pharmaceutical giant has fought a legal battle in India since 2006 for a fresh patent for its leukemia drug Gleevec, known in India and Europe as Glivec.

India's patent office had rejected the company's patent application because it was not a new medicine but an amended version of its earlier product. The patent authority cited a legal provision in India's 2005 patent law aimed at preventing companies from getting fresh patents for making only minor changes to existing medicines — a practice known as "evergreening."

— Four people were hurt Sunday when a driver crashed his car into a Wal-Mart and then assaulted customers inside, officials said.

The man hit two cars in the parking lot at about 11:15 a.m. with his red Oldsmobile Cutlass sedan then crashed through the storefront near the pharmacy and collided with a beer display before stopping, police and witnesses said.

The unidentified driver then got out of his car and used a blunt object to attack people, San Jose police Officer Albert Morales said. The driver was arrested when officers arrived.

Investigators have not determined how fast the driver — described as a man in his 30s — was going at the time of the crash but the car went about 20 feet into the Wal-Mart Supercenter that had about 70 people inside in San Jose, Morales said.

One person suffered what Morales described as serious injuries. He did not know the extent of the injuries to the three other people but said they were not life-threatening. The injured included a store employee.

Customer Sharon Kaye told the San Jose Mercury News the driver sideswiped her car as he made several runs around the parking lot before driving between poles at the entrance and crashing into the store.

"At first, I thought I may have done something to anger him while driving," she said. "But then I realized he was out to get into the store."

 

A 27-year-old woman said she was returning home with her mother Saturday night on the Red Line after a dim sum dinner when a group of girls got on the train at the Monroe station and appeared to want to pick a fight.

"This girl started blowing smoke in my face, and she flicked her cigarette ashes at me,'' said the woman, who asked not to be identified. "I said: 'You need to put that out,' and the next thing I know there's all these girls that jumped on top of us.''

They began punching her face and then went for her hair. She believes their attackers had knives or box cutters and padlocks possibly placed inside socks.

"I put my head down between my legs so they would stop beating me in the face, but they were trying to pull my face up and hit me more,'' she said. "They ripped out chunks of my hair, and I've got a black eye and bruises on my face, and all over my back and shoulder.''

The 11 teenagers arrested in that incident at the CTA's State/Lake station in the Loop about 6:35 p.m. were among a total of 28 people arrested downtown Saturday night for disturbances that ranged from bumping into passers-by on sidewalks to the attack on the CTA train, authorities said.

The victim on the "L" said she believed the women were targeting her but at one point, her mother intervened to help her. As the train stopped at the Lake station, the group grabbed her purse, ran off and jumped the turnstile, she said. The woman ran after them , though, and eventually got her purse back and went to the police station to press charges.

The sole adult arrested in the CTA attack, Stephanie Hosch, 18, of 1300 block of North Central Avenue, was charged with two counts of misdemeanor battery, police Officer Veejay Zala said.

The victim said the entire incident happened between two stations, while the train was moving. "There was nobody to help. There was no time, really. We were surrounded it happened in one stop, and then they got off the next stop, at Lake,'' she said.

The woman, who moved to Chicago from Nashville, Tenn., about four years ago, works at a restaurant and said she rides the "L" all the time. But nothing like this has ever happened, she said.

"I have never been afraid," the woman said.

The two victims were bruised during the attack but were in good condition and declined medical treatment, authorities said.

Ten juveniles were charged with battery and two of those juveniles were also charged with strong-arm robbery, police Officer Veejay Zala said.

The 11 teens told police they had agreed on Twitter to meet downtown. It appeared that several of those arrested had not met before Saturday, authorities said.

In a separate incident, 17 people were charged with misdemeanor reckless conduct after they allegedly bumped into other people on the sidewalks, blocked sidewalks and traffic on the street and started fights among themselves on the Magnificent Mile near North Michigan Avenue and East Huron Street between 7 and 7:40 p.m. Saturday, authorities said. No injuries were reported.

All but two of the 17 charged are younger than 18. The two adults are Bobby K. Rhodes, 19, of the 1100 block of North Cambridge Avenue, and Marquell Hicks, 18, of the 3200 block of West Diversey Avenue, police said.

Last month, a forest fire in the Spanish region of Valencia forced authorities to evacuate around 2,000 people from their home.

More than 184,000 hectares of land in Spain alone were destroyed by fires between January 1 and September 16, according to its agriculture ministry, the highest amount in a decade.

In its continuing campaign against the West, al-Qaeda has vowed to "bleed the enemy to death" by resorting to inexpensive, low-scale attacks it refers to as a "strategy of a thousand cuts".

In September last year David Petraeus, the director of the CIA, said that while al-Qaeda had been weakened by the death of Osama bin laden, the organisation still remained a significant threat to the US, because of a willingness to embrace these smaller-scale attacks.

A Kingsport man has been arrested for allegedly agreeing to sell his 6-year-old daughter for $1,500 — telling his assumed buyer that he needed the money to bond his girlfriend out of jail.
Shawn Wayne Hughes, 32, of 1028 Fairway Ave., was arrested by Kingsport Police on Wednesday afternoon. He was located in the parking lot of Eastman Credit Union on Wilcox Drive, reportedly thinking that's where he'd exchange his daughter for cash.
He was instead met by Kingsport officers, who had previously listened in on his alleged verbal agreement with a concerned family member. During the phone conversation Hughes also allegedly agreed to sign over custodial rights to the buyer, a 75-year-old woman who accepted his terms under direction of police.
Hughes is charged with illegal payments in connection with placement of a child, a felony, and two counts of possession of drugs. Police say that when he was arrested they located three Clonazepam pills and two unidentified pills in his possession.
According to Kingsport police records, officers were called to a residence in the Bloomingdale area shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday. The resident reported she was the grandmother of Hughes' girlfriend, and had been caring for the couple's two children since Friday.
Kingsport police records say that's when her granddaughter, Jessica April Carey, 27, was located on Clinchfield Street and arrested on a warrant out of Sullivan County. The Sullivan County jail reports the charge was for aggravated child abuse and neglect.

Five members of a Southern California family were killed Saturday when their van was rear-ended by an 18-year-old driver who was later arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, authorities said.

The dead were among seven family members who were in the van, authorities said. The other two — the 40-year-old female driver and a 15-year-old boy — were hospitalized in critical condition.

Jean Soriano of California was booked into the Clark County Detention Center after he was treated and released at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Loy Hixson said.

The crash happened at about 3 a.m. on Interstate 15 near the Utah line. Soriano's sport utility vehicle struck the van from behind, causing both vehicles to spin out of control and roll near Mesquite, some 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, investigators said.

A 23-year-old passenger in Soriano's SUV was treated at the hospital and released.

Authorities believe Soriano was returning from a visit with family in Utah to his home in California at the time of the wreck, Hixson said. They didn't immediately release his hometown or the names or hometowns of the victims.

Beer bottles were found in the SUV, Hixson said, and troopers performed a blood-alcohol test on Soriano at the hospital. The results won't be known for a couple of weeks, he said.

Hixson said only two of the seven people in the van were wearing seatbelts. The five who were not buckled in were ejected, but one survived.

"Unfortunately, so many in the van weren't wearing seatbelts, and some might have survived had they been wearing them," Hixson said. "We see it so many times where people can survive simply by having a seatbelt on."

Exxon Mobil was working to clean up thousands of barrels of oil in Mayflower, Arkansas, after a pipeline carrying heavy Canadian crude ruptured, a major spill likely to stoke debate over transporting Canada's oil to the United States.

Exxon shut the Pegasus pipeline, which can carry more than 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil from Pakota, Illinois, to Nederland, Texas, after the leak was discovered on Friday afternoon, the company said in a statement.

Exxon, hit with a $1.7 million fine by regulators this week over a 2011 spill in the Yellowstone River, said a few thousand barrels of oil had been observed.

A company spokesman confirmed the line was carrying Canadian Wabasca Heavy crude. That grade is a heavy bitumen crude diluted with lighter liquids to allow it to flow through pipelines, according to the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA), which referred to Wabasca as "oil sands" in a report.

The spill occurred as the U.S. State Department is considering the fate of the 800,000 bpd Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude from Canada's oil sands to the Gulf Coast. Environmentalists, concerned about the impact of developing the oil sands, have sought to block its approval.

Supporters say Keystone will help bring down the cost of fuel in the United States.

The Arkansas spill was the second incident this week where Canadian crude has spilled in the United States. On Wednesday, a train carrying Canadian crude derailed in Minnesota, spilling 15,000 gallons of oil.

Exxon expanded the Pegasus pipeline in 2009 to carry more Canadian crude from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast refining hub and installed what it called new "leak detection technology".

Exxon said federal, state and local officials were on site and the company said it was staging a response for a spill of more than 10,000 barrels "to be conservative". Clean-up crews had recovered approximately 4,500 barrels of oil and water.

"The air quality does not likely present a human health risk, with the exception of the high pooling areas, where clean-up crews are working with safety equipment," Exxon said in a statement.

- North Korea said on Saturday it was entering a "state of war" with South Korea in a continuing escalation of angry rhetoric directed at Seoul and Washington, but the South brushed off the statement as little more than tough talk.

The two Koreas have been technically in a state of war for six decades under an armistice that ended their 1950-53 conflict. Despite its threats few people see any indication Pyongyang will risk a near-certain defeat by re-starting full-scale war.

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un watches soldiers of the Korean People's Army (KPA) taking part in landing and anti-landing drills in the eastern sector of the front and the east coastal area

"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," a statement carried by the North's official KCNA news agency said.

KCNA said the statement was issued jointly by the North's government, ruling party and other organizations.

There was no sign of unusual activity in the North's military or anything to suggest an imminent aggression, a South Korean defense ministry official said.

North Korea has been threatening to attack the South and U.S. military bases almost on a daily basis since the beginning of March, when U.S. and South Korean militaries started routine drills.

But the North has kept a joint industrial zone with the South running. The Kaesong zone is a source of hard currency for the impoverished state and hundreds of South Korean workers and vehicles enter daily after crossing the heavily armed border between the rivals.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Friday signed off on an order putting its missile units on standby to attack U.S. military bases in the South and the Pacific, after the United States flew two nuclear-capable stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula in a rare show of force.

 Two Washington state fifth-grade boys, accused in a foiled plot to rape and kill a girl and kill or harm six other classmates, will stand trial as juveniles, a prosecutor said on Friday.

Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said the boys, 11 and 10, pleaded not guilty during an arraignment on Friday over the alleged murder-rape plot that also targeted other children in Colville, Washington, about 215 miles east of Seattle.

One of the boys wanted the girl dead because "she's rude and always made fun of me and my friends," according to court documents.

"There are very few prosecutions of a crime of this magnitude with boys of this age," Rasmussen told Reuters.

Stevens County Superior Court Judge Allen Nielson determined during the hearing that the boys had the capacity to understand right and wrong, Rasmussen said.

Under Washington state law, children ages 8 to 12 are presumed not to have the mental capacity to form an intention to commit a crime. Juvenile court is typically reserved for defendants between ages 12 and 18.

The 10-year-old suspect was charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, juvenile firearm possession and witness tampering, Rasmussen said.

The younger boy had taken a gun that originally belonged to his grandfather from his older brother's room, according to a declaration of probable cause.

The 11-year-old was charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, possession of a dangerous weapon, a knife, at school and tampering with a witness, Rasmussen said.

The boys planned to lure the girl away from school in Colville, a town of 4,600 people in eastern Washington, according to court documents.

A teacher found a list of six more targeted classmates, prosecutors said.

The fifth-graders had boarded a school bus on February 7 with a knife, a semi-automatic pistol and ammunition in a backpack on their way to Fort Colville Elementary School, prosecutors said.

A fourth-grader on the bus saw the knife and reported it to a teacher's aide, prosecutors said. One of the suspects later said he would kill the student who told school officials about the weapons, they said.

If convicted of all charges, the boys could each be sentenced to 103 to 127 weeks unless a judge finds "manifest injustice" and orders a longer sentence, Rasmussen said.

The boys have been expelled from the school district indefinitely. A status hearing is set for April 8.

I admit that when I saw descriptions by the VN government regarding “war crimes” by the Americans I feel pretty nauseated.  My first VN trip I visited Ho Chi Minh’s Museum and there was his huge concrete shrine building next door.

 

I don’t like any of it and decided to not go to the VN war museums or any of it.  I knew their version of that war was most certainly not what I want to face up to. Yet, are they wrong? 

 

I find the idea of soviet style communism deplorable. The soviets have killed 20 million of their own people because of it.  These days after my second visit to Nam I truly think the commie government in Nam is very open minded.  The people live freely doing what they want.  There is no sense of a dictator there and instead the country embraces capitalism. Perhaps the commie government is watching everything closer than I know but it seems they are trying to make BIG decisions about their financial direction. I do know the people are not free to criticize their government. 

 

I haven’t heard of any crime there although I figure there must be somebody snatching a purse or something. And, how does my sentence compare to crime here in the states?  As for the difference in their commie government instead of our “corporate government,” – which form is better?

 

Apparently on Amazing Race the contestants had to get their directions to the following location at a B-52 Memorial.  It’s a crashed American B-52 that the commies project as proving the criminal behavior by the Americans.  I don’t like it.  But, geez if I open my mind – what the hell were we doing there?  Sure, if the VN south had won the USA would be viewed differently.  We may have lost the country but the numbers sure don’t show that we lost the war.

 

And, how would we think of outside invaders and occupiers to the USA?  Wouldn’t we think of them as war criminals?

 

Our government sent all of your boomer soldiers over there and we all know how that went.  I accept that many vets can’t get past their war experiences to this day.  However that whole war is long, long gone.  One could either choose to forget it, ignore it or keep it fresh so one can feel shitty longer.  Still, for Amazing Race to set up at a fallen B-52 that Hanoi calls a “war memorial,”  is beyond stupid.

Former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Bob Welch died Thursday at his home in Nashville, in an apparent suicide. According to Reuters, Welch’s wife found his body with a single gunshot wound to the chest, and a suicide note. Police said Welch, 66, suffered from unspecified health problems.

Welch was en early member of Fleetwood Mac who went on to a successful solo career. Mick Fleetwood, Welch’s manager during his solo career, told Reuters that the suicide was “incredibly out of character.”

He was a very, very profoundly intelligent human being and always in good humor, which is why this is so unbelievably shocking,” Fleetwood said.

Mac praised Welch’s songwriting abilities and said Welch was “a huge part” of the band’s musical history. Welch played guitar and did some vocals on five of the band’s early albums, between 1971 and 1974. He left Fleetwood Mac in 1975, when the group added Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.

- North Korea said on Tuesday its strategic rocket and long-range artillery units have been ordered to be combat ready, targeting U.S. military bases on Guam, Hawaii and mainland America after U.S. bombers flew sorties threatening the North.

The order, issued in a statement from the North's military "supreme command", marks the latest fiery rhetoric from Pyongyang since the start of joint military drills by U.S. and South Korean forces early this month.

South Korea's defense ministry said it saw no sign of imminent military action by North Korea.

"From this moment, the Supreme Command of the Korean People's Army will be putting into combat duty posture No. 1 all field artillery units, including long-range artillery units and strategic rocket units, that will target all enemy objects in U.S. invasionary bases on its mainland, Hawaii and Guam," the North's KCNA news agency said.

The North previously threatened nuclear attack on the United States andSouth Korea, although it is not believed to have the capability to hit the continental United States with an atomic weapon. But the U.S. military's bases in the Pacific area are in range of its medium-range missiles.

 

South Korea's defense ministry said it had detected no signs of unusual activity by the North's military but will monitor the situation. The South and the U.S. military are conducting drills until the end of April, which they have stressed are strictly defensive in nature.

The North has previously threatened to strike back at the U.S. military accusing Washington of war preparations by using B-52 bombers which have flown over the Korean peninsula as part of the drills.

North Korea has said it has abrogated an armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War and threatened a nuclear attack on the United States.

Vice President Joe Biden and his entourage spent more than $1 million for hotels and related costs for his official trip to London and Paris last month, according to media disclosures that are likely to cause an uproar on Capitol Hill and among many taxpayers.

Biden’s trip to Paris cost $585,000. He spent one night there. His trip to London cost $459,338 and involved 136 rented rooms for several nights. Biden himself was in London for one night.

- Italy's top court on Tuesday ordered a retrial of American Amanda Knox and former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito in the murder of British student Meredith Kercher, re-opening a case that prompted harsh criticism of the Italian justice system. Kercher's half-naked body, with more than 40 wounds and a deep gash in the throat, was found in the apartment she shared with Knox in Perugia, where both were studying during a year abroad in 2007. Prosecutors accused Knox and Italian Sollecito of killing the 21-year-old Leeds University student during a drug-fuelled sexual assault that got out of hand. The two, who always professed their innocence, were initially found guilty in 2009 and sentenced to 26 and 25 years in prison respectively after a trial that grabbed headlines around the world. In 2011, their convictions were quashed after forensic experts challenged evidence in the original trial, prompting accusations of a botched police investigation and leaving many aspects of the killing unexplained. They were released after four years in prison and Knox returned to her family home near Seattle immediately afterwards. On Tuesday, the Court of Cassation overturned the acquittal and accepted a request for a retrial from prosecutors and Kercher family lawyers who had criticized the earlier ruling as "contradictory and illogical". Unlike law in the United States and some other countries, the Italian system does not contain so-called "double jeopardy" provisions that prevent a defendant being tried twice for the same offense. The court has not yet provided a full reasoning of its decision and a date has not yet been set for the new trial, which will be held in an appeals court in Florence, rather than Perugia, where the original trials were conducted. The decision was immediately welcomed by the Kercher family lawyer Francesco Maresca who said it would provide an opportunity to find out what happened to Meredith. "This is an important day for the Italian justice system," he said outside the court, criticizing the earlier judgment acquitting Knox and Sollecito as "extremely superficial". "I've spoken to the family and Stephanie, her sister, is very happy, she's trying to understand what happens now." PAINFUL Knox released a statement through her spokesman David Marriott describing the court's decision as "painful" and said the prosecution's theory had repeatedly been revealed as "unfounded and unfair,". She has not yet discussed whether she will return to Italy for the trial, Marriott said. Knox, dubbed "Foxy Knoxy" in many early media reports, was initially portrayed as a sex-obsessed "she devil" by prosecutors but a lobbying campaign by her family helped change perceptions and she is due to publish a book of memoirs in April. "She was very sad, she thought that this nightmare was over," Carlo della Vedova, one of her legal team told reporters after speaking to Knox. "At the same time she is ready, we went through all this before, we are strong enough and strong enough to fight again." Tuesday's ruling examined whether there were procedural irregularities which gave grounds for a retrial, rather than assessing the details of the case, which remain obscure in many particulars. Maurizio Bellacosa, a criminal law professor at Rome's LUISS University, said he expected the new trial would begin in less than a year.

A new United Nations study has found that more people around the world have access to a cellphone than to a working toilet.

The study’s numbers claim that of the world’s estimated 7 billion people, 6 billion have access to mobile phones. However, only 4.5 billion have access to a toilet.

At a press conference announcing the report, U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson announced the organization is launching an effort to halve the number of those without access by the end of 2015.

“Let’s face it—this is a problem that people do not like to talk about. But it goes to the heart of ensuring good health, a clean environment and fundamental human dignity for billions of people,” Eliasson said at the press conference.

In August 2012, the Bill Gates Foundation began its own effort to “reinvent the toilet” as a way to help curb the number of people around the world without access to sanitary waste disposal.

Crab mentality is a phrase popular among Filipinos, and was first coined by writer Ninotchka Rosca, in reference to the phrase crabs in a bucket It describes a way of thinking best described by the phrase “if I can’t have it, neither can you.” The metaphor refers to a pot of crabs. Individually, the crabs could easily escape from the pot, but instead, they grab at each other in a useless “king of the hill” competition which prevents any from escaping and ensures their collective demise. The analogy in human behavior is that members of a group will attempt to “pull down” (negate or diminish the importance of) any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envy, conspiracy or competitive feelings.

An Ohio jury recommended the death penalty on Wednesday for Richard Beasley, who was convicted of murdering down-on-their-luck men who responded to a Craigslist ad for a non-existent job.

Beasley, 53, was found guilty earlier this month for the kidnapping and murder of David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Virginia; Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron; and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, Ohio.

He was also convicted of the attempted murder of Scott Davis, a South Carolina man who answered the Craigslist ad and was shot in the arm while escaping after meeting Beasley and a teenage accomplice, Brogan Rafferty.

The jury took less than three hours to come to a decision recommending the death penalty, and Judge Lynne Callahan said on Wednesday she will sentence Beasley on March 26.

Beasley and his accomplice were convicted in separate trials over the deadly scheme, in which they lured three of the men by promising a bogus $300-a-week job as a ranch hand in rural Ohio.

Prosecutors said Beasley was the mastermind and trigger man behind the murders and contend he first lured Ralph Geiger, a homeless man, to Noble County where he shot and killed him to steal his identity and escape arrest on an outstanding warrant.

Jordan is struggling under the burden of a half-million refugees from the Syrian civil war — a conflict that King Abdullah II fears could create a regional base for extremists and terrorists who are already "establishing firm footholds in some areas."

In an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, the 51-year-old monarch also said the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad would not survive the revolt that already has killed an estimated 70,000 Syrians.

"I believe we are past that point, too much destruction, too much blood," Abdullah said.

As for his own country, Abdullah says reforms he has launched in Jordan will lead to a greater democracy and will serve as a model to other Arab states that have been undergoing two years of upheaval that have toppled longstanding leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

He wants Jordan's monarchy to "take a step back," explaining his vision of a new style in which future kings — and possibly himself — will serve as arbitrators between different political factions but still hold sway over foreign and defense policies.

The Federal Reserve foresees unemployment remaining high into 2015, suggesting it will keep short-term interest rates near record lows at least until then.

In its latest economic forecasts released Wednesday, the Fed predicts that the unemployment rate will stay above 6.5 percent for about two more years. Fed policymakers also expect the economy to grow modestly this year and next despite economic gains so far in 2013.

The Fed's updated forecasts are nearly identical to projections it made in December. The Fed has said it plans to keep its benchmark rate near zero as long as unemployment exceeds 6.5 percent and the inflation outlook is tame.

The policymakers expect the economy to grow as little as 2.3 percent this year — not enough to quickly drive down unemployment — or as high as 2.8 percent. In 2014, growth could range from 2.9 percent to 3.4 percent in 2014, they predict.

The Fed has slightly upgraded its outlook for unemployment. It now sees the rate falling to between 7.3 percent and 7.5 percent by the end of this year. That's down from a previous range of 7.4 percent to 7.7 percent.

The rate fell to 7.7 percent in February, the lowest in four years.

By the end of 2014, the Fed expects the rate to fall between 6.7 percent and 7 percent. That's a narrower range than in December, when it forecast a range of 6.8 percent to 7.3 percent.

It's that time of year again: the first day of spring.

On this special date, the length of the day and night are about the same for most of the planet. The amount of solar energy delivered to the Northern and Southern Hemisphere is also equal.

You can see that effect in an image taken this morning (March 20) at 7:45 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (11:45 a.m. Universal Time) by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's GOES-13 satellite. The photo shows both hemispheres equally lit. As spring wears on, the Northern Hemisphere will receive more sun than the Southern Hemisphere, creating the familiar seasons in each region (summer and winter, respectively).

This image was taken moments after the exact occurrence of the equinox, which happened at 7:02 a.m. EDT (11:02 a.m. Universal Time).

The dawning of spring comes on different dates (from March 19-21) and different times each year for two reasons. First, the year is not an exact number of whole days; it takes the Earth about 365 and one-quarter days to orbit the sun (which is why we have a leap day every four years). Second, Earth circles the sun in a slightly non-elliptical orbit, and that, in addition to the gravitational pull of the other planets, changes Earth's orientation to the sun from year to year. Equinoxes (which mark the onset of spring and autumn) and solstices (which mark the beginnings of summer and winter) are points in time and space that designate a transition in the planet's annual trip around the sun.

In the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, the time of "equal day and night" occurs a few days before the spring equinox, while in the Southern Hemisphere that date comes after the March equinox, according to the National Weather Service

A police officer carried the child out of a house in Fort Wayne about 4:30 p.m., and police announced soon after that the suspect, 45-year-old Kenneth Knight, was dead.

Police said from the outset that they did not believe the shooting was random, but the relationship, if any, between Knight, the woman and the child was not immediately clear.

Police spokeswoman Raquel Foster said a protective order had been filed against Knight in the past few days, but she did not say who had requested the order.

Police said Knight and the woman, 49-year-old Jacqueline Bouvier Hardy, had both been riding a city bus when Knight pulled her off and shot her about 25 feet away in front of several people. The shooting took place about 8 a.m. along a busy street. Children waiting at school bus stops were among the witnesses, a school official said.

A backpack lay at the feet of the victim, whose body was covered by a sheet.

Knight fled after the shooting into the surrounding neighborhood. Several hours later, police said a standoff had ensued and the child was being held hostage. A few hours later, Police Chief Rusty York told reporters Knight was dead, killed by a single shot from a sniper.

Darnell Glaspie, who has lived in a nearby house for about four months, said he watched from his window as the standoff reached its climax.

"They're going in right now. They were all in the front yard, I heard a big boom and then I saw a bunch of them run up there in the house. I just saw about eight of them go up there in the house,"

A dog left behind at a checkpoint along the route of the Iditarod sled-dog race in Alaska was smothered by windblown snow, in the event's first canine death since 2009, officials said on Saturday.

The fatality broke a safety streak that race supporters had cited as evidence of good care for the animals at the center of the contest.

The dog, a 5-year-old male named Dorado in the team of musher Paige Drobny, was found dead on Friday at Unalakleet, an Inupiat Eskimo village and race checkpoint on the Bering Sea coast.

A necropsy, which is the animal equivalent of an autopsy, determined the cause of death was asphyxiation from being buried in snow in severe wind conditions, race marshal Mark Nordman said.

Iditarod mushers begin the race with up to 16 dogs, but they typically leave some at checkpoints as their animals tire. Most mushers finish with a team of about 10 dogs.

Dorado had been left at Unalakleet and was among a group of dogs set to be flown back to Anchorage, Nordman said. The animals were left outside, with their condition checked at 3 a.m. on Friday, he said.

"Between that time and daylight, drifting snow covered several dogs and Dorado was found to be deceased," Nordman said.

Dorado had been dropped off at Unalakleet because of sore muscles, said Iditarod spokeswoman Erin McLarnon.

Most dogs in the Iditarod are huskies or husky mixes.

Animal rights activists have criticized the Iditarod, saying competitors push the dogs too hard in racing and training and subject the animals to dangerous conditions.

"Our stance on the Iditarod has always been that people who care about dogs should not support the race. It's a cruel spectacle," said Ashley Byrne, campaign specialist for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The Russian warship Varyag (photo credit: CC BY randychiu, Flickr)
The Russian warship Varyag

Three Russian warships anchored in Beirut en route to the port of Tartus in Syria, Sky News reported Friday.

According to the report, the ships carry hundreds of Russian soldiers as well as advanced missile systems.

The reports have given no information so far regarding the ships’ intent.

Moscow has operated the naval facility at Tartus since signing an agreement with Damascus in 1971. Although it is merely a ship repair and refueling station with a limited military presence, it is the sole remaining Russian military base outside of the former Soviet Union.

In January, a flotilla of five Russian warships laden with hundreds of troops, headed toward Syria, as a show of force meant to deter Western armies from intervening in the war-torn nation, the London-based Sunday Times reported.

Previous reports cited Russian diplomats to the effect that the vessels were being put in place in order to evacuate thousands of Russians who still remained in Syria, if the situation in the country called for it.

However, a Russian intelligence source was quoted in the London Times as saying that the presence of over 300 marines on the ships was meant as a deterrent to keep countries hostile to the Bashar Assad regime — a key ally of the Kremlin — from landing special forces in the country.


Who should possess the land of Israel? Christian evangelicals say it should be the descendants of Abraham. They point to the Old Testament and claim that God gave this land forever to the descendants of Abraham and that God demands they and they alone own the land.

To the Christian evangelical, this means the Jews. Yes, it is the Jews who own this land, and it is their land forever.

Itil, capital of Khazaria
In 2008, Russian archaeologist Dmitry Vasilyev unearthed Itil, the long lost capital of the Kingdom of Khazaria. New DNA science proves that today’s “Jews” come from Khazaria and are not the seed of Abraham.

The Jews, then, according to Christian evangelicals, are the descendants of Abraham, his seed.

DNA Science Confounds the Common Wisdom

There is only one problem. And it is a huge one. Science proves those who call themselves “Jews” are notJews! DNA Science has confounded the Christian evangelicals by proving conclusively that most of the people in the nation of Israel and in World Jewry are not the descendants of Abraham.

Those living today who profess to be “Jews” are not of the ancient Israelites, and they are not the seed of Abraham. In fact, the new DNA research shows that the Palestinians actually have more Israelite blood than do the “Jews!”

The nation of Israel today is populated with seven and half millionimposters.

The “Jews” Are Not Jews But Are Khazarians

Dr. Eran Elhaik, geneticist researcher at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, found that today’s “Jews” originated from Khazaria and not Israel. They are not the seed of Abraham.

The newest DNA science finding is from Dr. Eran Elhaik (“a Jew”) and associates at the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In research accepted December 5, 2012 and published by the Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society of Molecular Biology and Evolution, it was found that the“Khazarian Hypothesis” is scientifically correct.

What exactly is the “Khazarian Hypothesis?” Simply stated, it holds that the Jewry genome is a mosaic of ancestries which rise primarily out of the Khazars.

Jews are Khazars, not Israelites.

The “Jews” of America, Europe, and Israel are descendants not of Father Abraham but of King Bulan and the people of ancient Khazaria. Khazaria was an amalgam of Turkic clans who once lived in the Caucasus (Southern Russia) in the early centuries CE. These Turkic peoples were pagans who converted to Judaism in the eighth century. As converts, they called themselves “Jews,” but none of their blood comes from Israel.

Geneticists report that less than 2% of “Jews” living in Israel are actually Israelites.

Later, the “Jews” (Khazars) emigrated, settling in Russia, Hungary, Poland, Germany, and elsewhere in Europe. As “Jews,” the Khazars then left the European nations in 1948 and settled the fledgling, new nation of Israel.

The people of Israel are not the seed, nor the ancestors, of Abraham. They call themselves “Jews,” but in fact, DNA science shows them to be Khazars. They say they are “Jew,” but they are not.

“There are no blood or family connections among the Jews,” said Dr. Elhaik in an interview with Haaretz, Israel’s daily newspaper. “The various groups of Jews in the world today do not share a common genetic origin. Their genome is largely Khazar.”

Navy aims to be presentin the Atlantic Ocean in
the next Iranian year (starts March 21), Navy Commander Rear Admiral
Habibollah Sayyari said on Friday.  

He made the remarks in a ceremony held to celebrate the end of the current
Iranian year.

‘Iranian navy’s presence in the Pacific Ocean and in particular in the South
China Sea this year was a very important step forward for the Islamic
Republic’s navy which aims to be present in the international waters.’

The commander also said that for the first time Iran’s naval forces crossed
the equator in the Pacific Ocean.

Sayyari added that Iran will be holding joint exercises with Oman in the
Persian Gulf next Iranian year.

He said the joint exercises will feature rescue and relief operations.

The commander previously said that Iran and Oman together with other
friendly and brotherly countries in the region can establish security in the
important region which includes the sensitive and strategic Strait of
Hormuz.

The Omani commander, for his part, said Muscat is eager to develop military
ties with Iran in naval fields and hold more joint naval drills.


No, the world ISN'T getting warmer (as you may have noticed). Now we reveal the official data that's making scientists suddenly change their minds about climate doom. So will eco-funded MPs stop waging a green crusade with your money? Well... what do YOU think?

The Mail on Sunday today presents irrefutable evidence that official predictions of global climate warming have been catastrophically flawed.

The graph on this page blows apart the ‘scientific basis’ for Britain reshaping its entire economy and spending billions in taxes and subsidies in order to cut emissions of greenhouse gases. These moves have already added £100 a year to household energy bills.

global warming graph

global warming graph

Steadily climbing orange and red bands on the graph show the computer predictions of world temperatures used by the official United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The estimates – given with 75 per cent and 95 per cent certainty – suggest only a five per cent chance of the real temperature falling outside both bands.

 

But when the latest official global temperature figures from the Met Office are placed over the predictions, they show how wrong the estimates have been, to the point of falling out of the ‘95 per cent’ band completely.

The graph shows in incontrovertible detail how the speed of global warming has been massively overestimated. Yet those forecasts have had a ruinous impact on the bills we pay, from heating to car fuel to huge sums paid by councils to reduce carbon emissions. 

The eco-debate was, in effect, hijacked by false data. The forecasts have also forced jobs abroad as manufacturers relocate to places with no emissions targets.

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez slid into a coma the day before he died of respiratory failure after cancer spread into his lungs, sources say.

Chavez's precise condition was one of the world's best-kept secrets since his cancer was announced in June 2011.

Since his death this week, however, details have emerged of the 58-year-old president's battle with cancer and the last moments in the hospital with close family and senior aides.

"They used iPads and other tools to give him policy presentations," one government source told Reuters, referring to ministers' visits to the Havana and Caracas hospitals where he spent his final weeks, unable to speak and breathing through a tube.

When appointing a new foreign minister, aides showed Chavez a list of several possible names, and he put a tick mark beside one - Elias Jaua - before signing the document, the source said.

After announcing in 2011 that cancer had been detected in his pelvic area, and a "baseball-sized" tumor removed, Chavez insisted on extreme privacy over the details of his health.

That was one of the reasons he chose to be treated in Cuba, where his friendship with past and present leaders Fidel and Raul Castro and the ruling Communist Party's firm grip on information guaranteed him discretion.

Chavez spent several months there on various visits, and underwent four operations, the last of which on December 11 was the most complicated.

His last words to aides before flying to Havana for that operation were: "I'll be back for sure."

METASTASIS IN LUNGS

Chavez did, indeed, fly home, but in such a bad state he could not be seen in public. He died of respiratory failure on Tuesday afternoon after the cancer had metastasized into his lungs, two sources said.

During two initial operations in mid-2011, Chavez had a tumor removed from his intestines, and was diagnosed with sarcoma in the psoas muscle that runs from the lower part of the vertebral column to the pelvis, a medical source said.

Though chemotherapy and radiotherapy kept the disease at bay and allowed him to run for re-election in October 2012, Chavez took heavy doses of medicines to enable him to make some heavily-staged campaign appearances - in a lot of pain.

On the last day of campaigning, standing for hours under a heavy rainfall, Chavez could bear it no longer, and a final rally was canceled. After the October 7 win, by an impressive 11 percentage points, an exhausted and suffering Chavez made few more public appearances before returning to Cuba weeks later.

The December 11 operation lasted six hours and left Chavez in a dire state, with hemorrhaging and a severe lung infection. He lost his pulse several times during the surgery and had to be resuscitated by doctors.

Cuban medics designed a special antibiotic to counter the infection, the medical source said, but even so Chavez had to undergo a tracheotomy to enable him to breathe through a tube in the windpipe.

In his last few days, a heavily-dosed Chavez met only with his closest family and aides despite a clamor from Venezuelan supporters - and opponents - to see him.

Even one of his closest friends and allies, Bolivia's leftist leader Evo Morales, was not allowed in to see him on visits to Caracas and Havana.

On Saturday, ministers were with him for about five hours, before a rapid deterioration began. He slipped into a coma on Monday and died at 4:25 p.m. local time (2055 GMT) on Tuesday.


Alvin Lee Lee became acclaimed for his guitar solos at Woodstock in 1969

British rock guitarist Alvin Lee, a member of the band Ten Years After, has died aged 68.

His family announced on his official website that he unexpectedly died on 6 March following complications during routine surgery.

The Nottingham-born musician rose to fame after appearing at the Woodstock festival in 1969.

The band, who had eight Top 40 albums in the UK, had their biggest hit in 1971 with I'd Love To Change the World.

"We have lost a wonderful and much loved father and companion, the world has lost a truly great and gifted musician," said the statement from his wife and daughters.

Lee worked with The Beatles' George Harrison, Steve Winwood, Ronnie Wood and Mick Fleetwood on his first solo album, On the Road to Freedom, in 1973.

He released his 14th record, Still on the Road to Freedom, in August last year.

He was due to play a concert at Olympia Hall in Paris on 7 April with blues guitarist Johnny Winter.

Immortalised

In an interview with Guitar World he said he still picked up a guitar "pretty much every day".

The Woodstock Festival, held outside New York in August 1969, featured legendary performances from Jimi Hendrix and The Who.

Lee's 11-minute rendition of, I'm Going Home, was immortalised in the 1970 documentary of the event.

"I've still got the original Woodstock  335."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose country is in conflict with China over islets in the East China Sea, cited former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s reflections on the 1982 Falkland Islands war to stress the importance of the rule of law at sea. During a speech to parliament on Thursday, Abe said Japan’s national interests “lie in making the seas, which are the foundation of our nation’s existence, completely open, free and peaceful,”

The Japanese Prime Minister, who took office in December, quoted Thatcher’s memoirs reflecting the Falkland Islands war, in which she said Britain was defending the fundamental principle that international law should prevail over the use of force, 

“Looking back at the Falkland Islands conflict, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said the following: ‘The rule of international law must triumph over exertion of force,’” the Wall Street Journal quoted Abe as saying to his fellow lawmakers.

Thatcher rallied Britain to support the 74-day armed conflict, which started when Argentine troops landed on the Falkland Islands on April 2, 1982. It drew skepticism at the time from other British leaders — and some British allies, who didn’t think the territory was worth defending after Argentina seized control, according to the Wall Street Journal. The conflict killed about 650 Argentine and 255 British troops.

 

Abe continued in his own words: “The rule of law at sea. I want to appeal to international society that in modern times changes to the status quo by the use of force will justify nothing.” Ties between Tokyo and Beijing have been shaky after the Japanese government last September bought three of the five islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. The islands are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China.

 

An escalation in tensions in the territorial dispute has raised fears of an unintended military incident near the islands, where both countries’ militaries have each started to mobilize in the surrounding area, the Wall Street Journal pointed out. The U.S. has said the islets fall under a U.S.-Japan security pact, but “Washington is keen to avoid a clash in the economically vital region,” theTelegraph reported. Abe reiterated in his speech that the islands are Japanese territory and urged Beijing not to escalate tensions. However, he added that Sino-Japanese relations were vital for Japan and that he was always willing to a discussion.

Egypt’s finance ministry sent a proposal to the country’s antiquities ministry to consider offering key monuments, including the pyramids, to international tourism firm as a quick solution to generate funds needed to overcome the financial crisis, an official has said.

Rumors about the proposal, which some described as preposterous, have circulated online for weeks. 

But on Wednesday, Adel Abdel Sattar, the secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, in an interview with Egypt’s ONTV channel confirmed the existence of a proposal to offer Egypt’s monuments, including the pyramids in Giza, the Sphinx, the Abu Simbel Temple and the temples of Luxor, to international tourism firm.

There have been reports that the rich Gulf state of Qatar, which strongly supported efforts to oust former president Hosni Mubarak from power, is interested in a deal to exploit Egypt’s most precious historical assets for a period of five years. The return for Egypt would be a substantial amount of money, estimated at $200 billion, enough to pay the country’s national debt and heal its economic woes for years if not decades to come.

Abdel Sattar confirmed the proposal to rent out Egypt’s monuments but denied that Qatar or any Gulf state was involved.

Abdel Sattar said he was “surprised” at the end of January when the finance ministry forwarded him a proposal by Abdallah Mahfouz, identified as an Egyptian intellectual, to offer in a public auction the rights to exploit Egypt’s most famous sites to international tourism firms.

Sattar said the proposal indicated that such a move would provide a quick solution to the country’s financial deficit as it will generate about $200 billion over five years.

Despite his objection to the proposal, Sattar said he sought legal advice from the Ministry of State of Antiquities and following a meeting with the Supreme Council of Antiquities the ministry decided to send rejection letter to the finance ministry.

Monica Hanna, Egyptian archaeologist and researcher, was quoted by the Egypt Independent was a “a litmus test” to test how far can Egypt go in its struggle to overcome the economic crisis.

A new "miracle" drug for the treatment of multiple sclerosis turns out to have been stolen ("derived") from cordyceps mushrooms. The drug is called Gilenya and it's being sold in the USA by Novartis AG -- at the monopolistic price of $4,000 / month per person.

The drug is projected to be a blockbuster seller, with estimates putting it in the top 10 drugs by 2018 when it is expected to reach $5.3 billion in sales. A one-year course of Gilenya costs $48,000.

Now that the drug has been approved by the FDA, it is legal to claim that this isolated molecule can treat muscular sclerosis, but it remains illegal to claim that the fungus from which it was derived -- cordyceps -- can accomplish the same thing.

This is routine for the drug industry: Steal from nature, patent the molecules, "approve" the isolated molecules as medicine, then attack the original source as "quackery."

If you are ever in doubt about the dangers of aspartame, have a look at the following disorders directly connected to the chemical:

- Epileptic seizures

- Headaches and migraines

- Severe depression, including suicidal tendencies

- Dizziness and vertigo

- Aggression

- Anxiety

- Phobias

- Irritability

- Personality disorders

- Confusion

- Memory loss

- Slurring of speech

- Hyperactivity

- Irreversible brain damage

- Mental retardation

Just add SSRIs and you've got a recipe for disaster.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro said President Hugo Chavez's enemies had poisoned him with cancer before announcing that two US Air Force officials would be expelled from the country for spying on the military and plotting to destabilize the country.

Maduro identified one American as the Air Force attaché and said he had 24 hours to leave the country.

 

"We are aware of the allegations made by Venezuelan Vice President Maduro over state-run television in Caracas, and can confirm that our Air Attache, Col. David Delmonico, is en route back to the United States," spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breasseale said in a statement.

 

Foreign Minister Elias Jaua later announced that two Air Force officials in total had been named "persona non grata" and were being kicked out of  Venezuela, AFP reports.

 

Maduro also accused President Hugo Chavez's enemies of poisoning him with the cancer he has been battling for nearly two years.

Plaza Bolivar in downtown Caracas quickly filled with Venezuelans tonight, mourning the death of their president and commandante, Hugo Chávez. Many rushed directly from work to the spot named after Simon Bolivar, the liberator of South Americaand Chávez’s hero. The late president's signature red dotted the crowds.  As car horns blasted, thousands waved campaign posters and cradled photos of the man who led a socialist revolution that has left both Venezuela and communities acrossLatin America markedly changed.

A chant rose from among the crowd: “The people united will never be defeated.”

Chavez stood at the helm of Venezuela for the past 14 years, winning his most recent reelection in October. Soon thereafter he announced that his cancer, which he had been battling for at least a year and a half, had returned. He flew to Cuba in December for treatment and surgery, and was not seen publicly again. Vice President Nicolas Maduroannounced his passing on national TV this afternoon.

 

The family of Marco McMillian, who had returned to his hometown of Clarksdale to run for office as a Democrat, said he was beaten, dragged and set on fire before his body was dumped near the Mississippi River.

McMillian was one of the first viable openly gay candidates to run for public office in Mississippi, according to the Victory Fund, a national organization that supports homosexual candidates.

Law enforcement officials arrested Lawrence Reed, 22, who is also black, and charged him with murder. Police have released few details about the case or possible motive. They have said the killing was not being treated as a hate crime.

U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, said in a statement that he wants the FBI to "review the circumstances and evidence of this case to determine whether a violation of federal law has occurred and provide any necessary assistance to local and state law enforcement officials."

Thompson represents the impoverished Delta region where McMillian had sought elected office. His statement came hours after the National Black Justice Coalition made a similar request to the U.S. Justice Department.

"If there is the possibility that McMillian was murdered because of who he is, that warrants the Department of Justice's involvement," the coalition said in a statement.

McMillian's family has said it does not believe the 33-year-old was the victim of a random act of violence, based on the gruesome details surrounding his death.

Coahoma County Coroner Scotty Meredith declined to comment. The Justice Department and the FBI did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

McMillian had been missing since February 26. His sport utility vehicle was involved in a head-on collision in Coahoma County, but McMillian was not in the vehicle at the time of the accident. His body was found the following day.

McMillian had faced state Representative Chuck Espy, a Democrat, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Luckett and two other candidates.

McMillian's campaign focused on reducing crime and unemployment in Clarksdale, a city of roughly 18,000 people, campaign spokesman Jarod Keith said. A once-booming agricultural community, the city has steadily bled residents and jobs over the years and faces high levels of violence and unemployment.


 
Three former Blackfeet tribal leaders pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges they held illegal big-game hunts for country musicians participating in an outdoors television show on the northwestern Montana reservation.

Jay St. Goddard, Jay Wells and Gayle Skunkcap Jr. admitted to holding four hunts between 2010 and 2011 without obtaining the limited and expensive hunting licenses for non-tribal members to shoot elk, moose, deer and a black bear. The three men also admitted to using tribal funds and personnel to outfit and guide the musicians, television show hosts and a fly fishing expert.

The men are not accused of personally profiting from the hunts. Rather, they exchanged them for free concerts by country artists that included Josh Thompson, Justin Moore and Mark Cooke, and for exposure on a satellite television show called "Sovereign Sportsman" they estimated was worth $150,000.

Federal prosecutors say the tribal leaders' actions amounted to an illegal sale of the tribe's wildlife. The men's attorneys say they were only trying to raise the poverty-stricken reservation's profile and economy but admit they did not obtain the proper licenses.

"Did they violate the law? Yes. Are they morally wrong? No," Thane Johnson, St. Goddard's attorney, said after the hearing.

Thompson's 2010 debut album is titled "Way Out Here." Moore's "Outlaws Like Me" was a top 10 country album in 2011. Cooke's single "Any Way The Wind Blows" cracked the top 60 in Billboard's country charts.

Country star John Michael Montgomery also performed a free concert on the reservation, but a scheduling conflict prevented him from returning for a hunt, prosecutors said.

"Sovereign Sportsman" co-owner Eric Richey approached the tribe about the hunts in 2010 after shopping the idea to other reservations to promote the show available on DirecTV and Dish Network, according to prosecutors.

Thompson shot a bull elk in an October 2010 hunt with a film crew in tow. The video of that hunt is still on the show's website.

Richey later shot a black bear, and co-host Forrest Parker shot a moose. Curtis Flemming, host of a fly-fishing TV show, shot a mule deer during that hunt.

In 2011, Moore shot a bull elk during a hunt and Cooke shot a moose.

None of the artists or others participating in the "Sovereign Sportsmen" hunts are accused of a crime.

There are only between five and 10 hunting licenses for each big-game species available to non-tribal members each year, with each license costing between $1,500 and $12,000 depending on the animal.


BANGKOK (AP) — Conservationists say there's a new threat to the survival of Africa's endangered elephants that may be just as deadly as poachers' bullets: the black-market trade of ivory in cyberspace.

Illegal tusks are being bought and sold on countless Internet forums and shopping websites worldwide, including Internet giant Google, with increasing frequency, according to activists. And wildlife groups attending the 178-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Bangkok this week are calling on global law enforcement agencies to do something about it.

The elephant slaughter, which has reached crisis proportions unheard of in two decades, is largely being driven by skyrocketing demand in Asia, where tusks are often carved into tourist trinkets and ornaments.

"The Internet is anonymous, it's open 24 hours a day for business, and selling illegal ivory online is a low-risk, high-profit activity for criminals," Tania McCrea-Steele of the International Fund for Animal Welfare told The Associated Press on Tuesday from London.

In one investigation last year, IFAW found 17,847 elephant products listed on 13 websites in China. The country, which conservationists call the world's top destination for "blood ivory" from Africa, is not alone.

IFAW says illegal ivory trading online is an issue within the U.S., including on eBay, and it is rife on some websites in Europe, particularly nations with colonial links to Africa.

It is often advertised with code words like "ox-bone," ''white gold," ''unburnable bone," or "cold to the touch," and shipped through the mail.

Another conservation advocacy group, the Environmental Investigation Agency, said Tuesday that Google Japan's shopping site now has 10,000 ads promoting ivory sales.

About 80 percent of the ads are for "hanko," small wooden stamps inlaid with ivory lettering that are widely used in Japan to affix signature seals to official documents; the rest are carvings and other small objects.

The trade is legal within Japan, but banned by Google's own policies. The EIA said hanko sales are a "major demand driver for elephant ivory."

"While elephants are being mass slaughtered across Africa to produce ivory trinkets, it is shocking to discover that Google, with the massive resources it has at its disposal, is failing to enforce its own policies designed to help protect endangered elephants," said Allan Thorton, EIA's U.S.-based president.

Google said in an emailed response to The Associated Press that "ads for products obtained from endangered or threatened species are not allowed on Google. As soon as we detect ads that violate our advertising policies, we remove them."

The EIA said it had written a letter to Google CEO Larry Page on Feb. 22 urging the company to remove the ads because they violate Google's own policies. It said Google had not responded to the letter or taken down the advertisements.

About 70 years ago, up to 5 million elephants were believed to have roamed the African continent. Today, just several hundred thousand are left.

As Asian economies have grown, so has their demand for ivory. Over the last 12 months, an estimated 32,000 elephants were killed in Africa, according to the Born Free Foundation, which says black-market ivory sells for as much as $1,300 per pound, a huge multibillion-dollar business.

CITES banned the international ivory trade in 1989, but the move did not address domestic markets. Since then, Japan has imported ivory stocks from Africa in at least two legal, controlled sales.

McCrea-Steele said IFAW has advised Google on illicit trading, as well as China's Alibaba Group, which runs the popular e-commerce platform Taobao. She said both were "very responsive" and had taken action to stamp out illicit activities.

IFAW has also worked with eBay, which it once called "one of the main channels through which trafficking in wildlife and wildlife products are conducted online." The company imposed its own voluntary ban in 2007 after IFAW persuaded them that ivory was indeed being trafficked with the help of their site.

"They've cleaned up, that's sure," said Adrian Hiel, an IFAW official attending the CITES conference in the Thai capital. "But there are so many ads that come out every day, you have to be vigilant. You have to keep checking."

Even now, concerned Internet shoppers still allege ivory is being sold on eBay. One called attention to a carving of a rural Asian village scene selling for $1,000 that is labeled as "Fine Chinese Ox Bone." The item is advertised by a seller in Los Angeles with the note, "Ships to: Worldwide."

Hiel said it can be tough, based on photos alone, to determine whether such products are really elephant tusks. You can always make an educated guess based on where the object is being sold and how much it goes for. But "unless you buy it and examine it, it's hard to tell for sure what's legal and what's not."

"Our argument is that the onus should be on the seller to prove the legality of what they're selling," Hiel said. "Because law enforcement can't go around ordering stuff of eBay just to test the legality of it."

Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said that when elephant poaching last reached crisis levels several decades ago, web-based trafficking was not something anybody had to consider.

Now, "Internet-based crime is an important aspect of control," he said. "It makes it much more difficult, but we have to deal with it."

The son charged with murdering and dismembering his mother's body allegedly posed with his mother's severed head in a photo taken on his cellphone.

The Daily News reports 23-year-old Bashid McLean appears "almost gleeful" in the disturbing photo.

He has reportedly confessed to the charges and has been placed on suicide watch.

bashid mclean head photo
Shot of the alleged killer taken from his cell phone according to a New York Daily News report.

On Tuesday, a man walking his dog discovered the dismembered remains of 45-year-old Tanya Byrd. Body parts were found in four separate bags throughout several close blocks.

Sources say McLean had harbored resentment towards Byrd who worked as a home health aide and was described as a "beautiful mother" and a "hard worker" by her sister.

McLean however, has been said to have been troubled for some time.

His lawyer says McLean's been off his medication for days, and according to the Daily News, McLean is schizophrenic.

McLean's father discussed his son's history of violent tendencies and said, "He did destructive things. He set fires. Nobody could control him."

DNAinfo reports McLean allegedly fatally hit his mother while she was sleeping before stealing money from her to purchase a saw to cut up her 

Florida rescue workers ended their efforts on Saturday to recover the body of a man who disappeared into a sinkhole that swallowed his bedroom while he slept and will demolish the suburban Tampa home due to its dangerous conditions, a rescue spokeswoman said.

Two nearby houses have been evacuated because the sinkhole has weakened the ground under them, and their residents probably will never be allowed inside again, said Jessica Damico of Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

Jeff Bush, a 36-year-old landscaper, is presumed dead after vanishing into the sinkhole that opened suddenly beneath his room on Thursday night. Five other people in the house were getting ready for bed when they heard a loud crash and Jeff screaming.

His brother was rescued after jumping into the hole and furiously digging in an effort to find him.

Authorities used listening devices and cameras at the scene of the 30-foot (9-meter) wide hole in the ground but detected no signs of life.

"There's nothing compatible with life in this situation," Damico said. "There's no way of possible survival."

She said demolition of the home would begin early on Sunday.

"Our data has come back, and there is absolutely no way we can do any kind of recovery without endangering lives of workers," she said.

Jeff Bush's brother, 35-year-old Jeremy Bush, feared earlier on Saturday that his brother was lost forever. A small memorial of balloons and flowers for Jeff Bush had formed near the home on Saturday morning.

- Chadian soldiers in Mali have killed Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the al Qaeda commander who masterminded a bloody hostage-taking at an Algerian gas plant in January, Chad's military said on Saturday.

The death of one of the world's most wanted jihadists would be a major blow to al Qaeda in the region and to Islamist rebels already forced to flee towns they had seized in northern Mali by an offensive by French and African troops.

"On Saturday, March 2, at noon, Chadian armed forces operating in northern Mali completely destroyed a terrorist base. ... The toll included several dead terrorists, including their leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar," Chad's armed forces said in a statement read on national television.

On Friday, Chad's president, Idriss Deby, said his soldiers had killed another al Qaeda commander, Adelhamid Abou Zeid, among 40 militants who died in an operation in the same area as Saturday's assault - Mali's Adrar des Ifoghas mountains near the Algerian border.

France - which has used jet strikes against the militants' mountain hideouts - has declined to confirm the killing of either Abou Zeid or Belmokhtar.

In Washington, an Obama administration said the White House could not confirm the killing of Belmokhtar.

Analysts said the death of two of al Qaeda's most feared commanders in the Sahara desert would mark a significant blow to Mali's Islamist rebellion.

"Both men have extensive knowledge of northern Mali and parts of the broader Sahel and deep social and other connections in northern Mali, and the death of both in such a short amount of time will likely have an impact on militant operations," said Andrew Lebovich, a Dakar-based analyst who follows al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Anne Giudicelli, managing director of security consultancy Terrorisc, said the al Qaeda commanders' deaths - if confirmed - would temporarily disrupt the Islamist rebel network but would also raise concern over the fate of seven French hostages believed to be held by Islamists in northern Mali.

McDonald's is getting rid of its Chicken Selects and Fruit & Walnut Salad and is considering the removal of Angus burgers.

The changeup comes as the world's biggest hamburger chain plans to step up the number of limited-time menu items in the year ahead.

Most recently, the chain introduced its Fish McBites. It plans to introduce McWrap chicken sandwiches with lettuce, tomato and cucumber and a choice of three sauces later this year. The McWrap sandwiches will be larger than the chain's Snack Wraps.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based company said in an emailed statement that it is "evaluating options as it relates to the Angus Third Pounders," which were introduced in 2009. The Selects chicken fingers were introduced in 2004 and the Fruit & Walnut Salad was introduced in 2005.

Earlier this week, the Kentucky New Era quoted a McDonald's franchisee's Facebook post noting the discontinuation of the three items.

"Sorry if one of these were your favorite, they just did not sell well enough nationally," the site quoted McEnaney Enterprises as saying. That post has since been removed.

After years of outperforming rivals, McDonald's has been struggling as competitors including Burger King and Wendy's step up their marketing and menu offerings. Fast-food chains are also fighting to attract customers at a time when people are being more careful about where they spend their money.

In a shakeup late last year, McDonald's ousted the head of its U.S. business. The move came after a key sales figure dropped for the first time in nearly a decade. CEO Don Thompson, who took the top spot this summer, has said the company has a strong pipeline of new items for 2013.

In the meantime, some McDonald's operators may welcome the company's plans to stop serving some items.

"The menu at McDonald's has gotten so broad and so jumbled that nothing sells in large numbers," said Richard Adams, a former McDonald's franchisee who now consults for franchisees. "This business was built on simplicity, and that's kind of gone out of the window in the last decade."

Harvey Munford has heard a lot of talk about the dangers of texting while driving. Now the Nevada assemblyman wants to focus on what he considers an equally perilous scourge: texting while walking, especially across a busy street.

Munford (D-Las Vegas) on Thursday introduced Assembly Bill 123, saying the new law could be applied not to just urban streets but to all state roads, even in residential neighborhoods.

The penalty for offenders: a pricey ticket, including $250 for a third offense. First-timers would get a warning.

Nevada is following the town of Fort Lee, N.J., which last year issued a ban against texting while crossing the street.

Munford told the Los Angeles Times that he began watching for the practice while behind the wheel last year after a complaint by a constituent.

“I was just amazed by what I saw,” he said. “So many people are almost oblivious. They are texting and texting, totally unaware as they cross even six-lane highways.”

He said young people are the biggest offenders.

“When kids get out of school, where they’ve been banned from using their phones all day, they go immediately to their texts,” he told The Times. “I’ve seen several close calls myself where people have almost been hit. Kids are so addicted to those things. It’s almost become a plague.”

Munford said he spoke with officials in Seattle, which he says is also considering such a ban. He said there is little research into how many injuries and deaths might result from the practice, but suggested that his law might lead to a study, at least in Nevada.

- See more at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/la-na-nn-texting-while-walking-nevada-assemblyman-wants-to-ban-it-20130301,0,7816812.story#sthash.bI0RE2cl.dpuf

Chinese state television Friday broadcast live images of the last moments of four foreign drug traffickers who were about to be executed for the 2011 killings of 13 Chinese fishermen on the Mekong River. Although the cameras pulled away before the lethal injections, the coverage was unprecedented, unleashing a storm of criticism and debate about the death penalty.

Psychologists decried the coverage as distressing to children. Lawyers complained that it violated a clause in the criminal code against parading the condemned before execution

China executes about 4,000 people each year, more than all other countries in the world combined, although the numbers and the crimes carrying the death penalty are gradually being reduced.

Public executions once were common, but nowadays there is usually no more than a brief news report and video of the condemned before an execution. A feisty regional television station in Henan province ran a popular talk show called "Interviews Before Execution" with death row prisoners, but it was canceled last year amid objections that it was exploitative.

"I don't know of any other country, not Iran, Afghanistan or North Korea, that has nationally broadcast in this way the last moments of an executed prisoner," said Nicholas Bequelin, Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch. "It is a step backward at a time we thought China was making progress with the death penalty."

Although many Chinese were shocked by the live coverage, they applauded the death sentences as just retribution for a particularly violent crime. The 13 Chinese fishermen were ambushed, shot to death while tied up with rope, their bound, bullet-ridden bodies dumped in the river Oct. 5, 2011, in the Golden Triangle — a longtime haven of drug production and trafficking in the border region of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. Authorities said their two boats, splattered with blood, were recovered after a police shootout with gang members.

The outraged Chinese government considered a drone attack to kill the drug traffickers, but in the end launched an international manhunt. Its Public Security Ministry formed a special investigation group of 200 officers and worked with authorities in Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.

Ultimately, investigators arrested six suspects in Laos last spring. The men were extradited to China, tried and convicted in November. Four were condemned to death and two received long prison terms.

China subsequently established a multinational river patrol that has led to an expansion of Chinese influence in the area.

The kingpin executed Friday was Naw Kham, 44, a Myanmar national who allegedly commanded a militia of 100 men in the Golden Triangle region. Two of the other men executed were Laotian, and the third was Thai.

The nearly two-hour broadcast included live coverage of the men being taken from their prison cells in southwestern Yunnan province with their hands trussed behind their backs with ropes. A doctor in a white coat was shown examining the prisoners in preparation for execution.

The television commentator went on at some length about how well the men had been treated in prison.

"From the appearance of these criminals, you can clearly tell our prison has carried out humanitarian spirit. These criminals clearly look healthier ... with better skin complexion than when they were arrested," the commentator said.

At one point, the broadcast cut away to show a gala-style award ceremony complete with patriotic music and small children carrying bouquets of flowers for the investigators who had helped capture the drug traffickers.

Chinese television also broadcast an interview of Naw Kham taped this week in which he said, "I am afraid of death. I want to live. I don't want to die. I have children. I am afraid."

The Yunnan Province Public Security Bureau issued a one-sentence report on its website at 2:55 p.m. Friday confirming that Naw Kham and his accomplices were dead.

Johns Hopkins Hospital gynecologist accused of secretly videotaping patients wore a pen around his neck that may have been used to conceal a camera, according to the employee who reported the doctor.

The employee told hospital officials of her suspicions Feb. 4, according to a letter from the hospital's CEO, Dr. Paul B. Rothman. The letter was dated Tuesday and sent to the law firm of Silverman Thompson Slutkin & White, which is working with the Maryland Crime Victims' Resource Center. The law firm gave a copy of the letter to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The employee's report to officials ultimately led to the discovery that Dr. Nikita Levy had been recording patients during exams at a Hopkins clinic. Police have said Levy, 54, killed himself in his home on Feb. 18.

Rothman's letter said the Hopkins employee had noticed what she believed to be a device, like a writing pen, that Levy had worn around his neck while examining patients. She said she believed the device was a camera.

Rothman writes that Hopkins security personnel questioned Levy at his office on Feb. 5, and devices similar to the one described by the employee were seen in the office and on Levy.

Levy was barred from patient contact that day and escorted off hospital grounds. Hopkins notified Baltimore police the day after, and investigators have said they found large amounts of multimedia evidence.

Police have said more than 2,000 patients and former patients of Levy have called a hotline set up by the hospital. Class-action lawsuits have been filed against Hopkins.

Meanwhile, investigators are trying to determine if anyone else was involved in making the records, and whether any have been posted on the Internet or sold.

The "marijuana cannon" (Mexicali Public Safety Department)

Mexican police have confiscated an improvised cannon that they say was used to fire packages of marijuana across a border fence into California.

The makeshift cannon was made of plastic pipe and powered by compressed air sourced from an old car engine, police in the border city of Mexicali said. The device was able to fire cylinders packed with up to 30 pounds of pot.

The cannon was discovered on Tuesday after U.S. officers told Mexican police that they had been confiscating a large number of drug packages that appeared to have been fired over the border, the Associated Press said.

It's not the first time drug traffickers have used a cannon to transport marijuana across the border. In December, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials recovered more than 30 cans of marijuana scattered in Yuma, Ariz., near the Colorado River.

According to NBC, an investigation of the area "determined that the cans were fired from about 500 feet away with a pneumatic-powered cannon" and that a "carbon-dioxide tank was found nearby."

In that case, the cannon was not found. But Mexican border police said on Tuesday that they have confiscated similar devices in recent years.


The result: the second rat received the thoughts of the first, mimicking its behavior, researchers reported on Thursday in Scientific Reports, a journal of the Nature Publishing Group.

Adding to its science-fiction feel, the advance in direct brain-to-brain communication could lay the foundation for what Duke University Medical Center neurobiologist Miguel Nicolelis, who led the research, calls an "organic computer" in which multiple brains are linked to solve problems solo brains can't.

If that sounds like an ethical minefield, several experts think so too, especially since Nicolelis is now working on brain-to-brain communication between monkeys.

"Having non-human primates communicate brain-to-brain raises all sorts of ethical concerns," said one neuroscientist, who studies how brains handle motor and sensory information, but who asked not to be named. "Reading about putting things in animals' brains and changing what they do, people rightly get nervous," envisioning battalions of animal soldiers - or even human soldiers - whose brains are remotely controlled by others.

That could make drone warfare seem as advanced as muskets.

Nicolelis's lab received $26 million from the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for work on brain-machine interfaces, as this field is called.

The linked rat brains in the study built on 15 years of research in brain-machine interfaces. These interfaces take electrical signals generated from the brains of severely-paralyzed people and translate them into commands that move a mechanical arm, a computer cursor or even the patient's own arm.

Such work led Nicolelis to ask, can one brain decode the electrical signals generated by another?

The answer - at least for rats - was yes.

In one experiment, the Duke researchers trained rats destined to be message senders, or encoders, to press a lever when a red light above them turned on. Doing so earned the animals a sip of water. Rats intended to be message receivers, or decoders, were trained to press a lever when the scientists electrically stimulated their brains via implants.

The scientists next connected the rats' brains directly, inserting microelectrodes roughly one-hundredth the width of a human hair. Now when an encoding rat saw the red light and pressed the lever, its brain activity sped directly into the brains of seven decoder rats.

The decoders did not see a red light. Nevertheless, they usually pressed the correct lever and earned their after-work libation. The encoder rats got the same treat, reaping the rewards of their partners' success.

The encoder rat did not get that reward if a decoder rat goofed. In that case, the encoder rat, apparently realizing what had happened, seemed to concentrate harder on its task: it decided more quickly to choose the correct lever and quashed extraneous thoughts so as not to muddy the signal with, perhaps, daydreams about escaping the lab or pressing the wrong lever.


 

 A nonprofit foundation wants to recruit a man and a woman - possibly a married couple - for a bare-bones, 501-day journey to Mars and back that would start in less than five years, project organizers said on Wednesday.

The mission, expected to cost upwards of $1 billion, would be privately financed by donations and sponsorships.

Project founder Dennis Tito, a multimillionaire who in 2001 paid $20 million for a trip to the International Space Station, said he will pay start-up costs for two years to begin development of life-support systems and other critical technologies.

Currently, there are no U.S. human spaceships in operation, but several are under development and expected to be flying by 2017.

That leaves little time to take advantage of a rare planetary alignment that would allow a craft to loop around Mars, coming as close as about 150 miles to the planet's surface, before returning to Earth.

The launch window for the mission opens on January 5, 2018. The next opportunity is not until 2031.

"If we don't make 2018, we're going to have some competition in 2031," Tito told Reuters.

"By that time, there will be many others that will be reaching for this low-hanging fruit, and it really is low-hanging fruit," said Tito, who set up the nonprofit Inspiration Mars Foundation to organize the mission.

Project chief technical officer Taber MacCallum said U.S. industry is up for the challenge.

"That's the kind of bold thing we used to be able to do," said MacCallum, who also oversees privately owned Paragon Space Development Corp.

"We've shirked away from risk. I think just seriously contemplating this mission recalibrates what we believe is a risk worth taking for America," he said.

TIGHT QUARTERS

The spacecraft will be bare-bones, with about 600 cubic feet (17 cubic meters) of living space available for a two-person crew. Mission planners would like to fly a man and a woman, preferably a married couple who would be compatible during a long period of isolation.

The capsule would be outfitted with a life-support system similar to the one NASA uses on the space station, which recycles air, water, urine and perspiration.

"This is going to be a very austere mission. You don't necessarily have to follow all of NASA's guidelines for air quality and water quality. This is going to be a Lewis and Clark trip to Mars," MacCallum said, referring to the explorers who set out across the uncharted American Northwest in 1803.

If launch occurs on January 5, 2018, the capsule would reach Mars 228 days later, loop around its far side and slingshot back toward Earth.

The return trip takes 273 days and ends with an unprecedented 31,764-mph (51,119-kph) slam into Earth's atmosphere.

Once the spaceship is on its way, there is no turning back.

"If something goes wrong, they're not coming back," MacCallum said.

The crew would spend much of their time maintaining their habitat, conducting science experiments and keeping in touch with people on Earth.

An Afghan police officer drugged 17 colleagues and shot them dead on Wednesday with the aid of the Taliban, police said. The attack is the latest in a series of so-called "insider", or "green-on-blue," attacks involving Afghan security forces and the Taliban.

The attacks have undermined trust between coalition and Afghan forces who are under mounting pressure to contain the Taliban insurgency before most NATO combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014.

The killings, the worst in a string of similar attacks in recent months, occurred at a remote Afghan Local Police (ALP) outpost in the eastern province of Ghazni.

"An infiltrated local policeman first drugged all 17 of his comrades, and then called the Taliban and they together shot them all, -

What profit has not that fable of Christ brought us!"
Pope Leo X (As attributed by John Bale, Bishop of Ossory, in The Pageant of Popes, p. 179, 1574)

"I am surrounded by priests who repeat incessantly that their kingdom is not of this world, and yet they lay their hands on everything they can get." -- Napoleon Bonaparte

Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.
~ Denis Diderot

Many have made a trade of delusions and false miracles, deceiving the stupid multitudes.
~ Leonardo da Vinci

Blinding ignorance does mislead us. O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!
~ Leonardo da Vinci

You know your god is man-made when he hates all the same people you do.
~ [Usenet]



Molten steel is a by-product of a thermite reaction.

A combination of an uncontrolled fire and the structural damage might have been able to bring the building down, some engineers said. But that would not explain steel members in the debris pile that appear to have been partly evaporated in extraordinarily high temperatures, Dr. Barnett said. [New York Times]

Burning diesel can't produce enough heat to melt steel, so it certainly can't evaporate it, but thermite can.


Consider the facts:
  • The fires in WTC 7 were not evenly distributed, so a perfect collapse was impossible.
  • Explosions occurred in WTC 7 before it sustained any damage from the twin towers' collapses.
  • Silverstein said to the fire department commander "the smartest thing to do is pull it."
  • Firefighters withdrawing from the area stated the building was going to "blow up".
  • An explosion can be heard when the building's penthouse collapses.
  • Cutter charges can be heard immediately before the collapse.
  • The building subsequently collapsed perfectly into its footprint at freefall speed.
  • Molten steel and partially evaporated steel members were found in the debris.


Note the white smoke

There can be only one conclusion as to what happened to WTC 7 - it was demolished.

The fires in WTC 7 were supposedly started by the collapse of WTC 1 meaning there would have been no time the rig the building for demolition on 9/11, therefore this had to have been done whilst the building was still occupied prior to 9/11.

Doesn't this strike you as an odd and dangerous thing to do?

If there were no terrorist attacks on 9/11 then a disgruntled employee could have brought down WTC 7
by simply thumping a red button.


"You can stick your lousy job up your ass!"

If someone threatened to punish you unless you did something you didn’t want to do, how would you respond? Unless the threatened punishment was really horrible you’d refuse, because giving into threats encourages the threatener to make more demands. But what if someone offered to pay you to do something you didn’t want to do? If the price were right you’d agree, because that act of cooperation on your part sends a very different message. Instead of showing that you can be intimidated over and over, it simply lets people know that you’re willing to cooperate if you are adequately compensated.

This simple logic has thus far escaped most of the people involved with U.S. policy towards Iran. Today, the conventional wisdom is that the only way to elicit cooperation from Iran is to keep making more and more potent threats, what Vice-President Joe Biden recently called ”diplomacy backed by pressure.” Even wise practitioners of diplomacy like my colleague Nicholas Burns maintain that the U.S. and its allies must combine engagement with sanctions and more credible threats to use force, even though the United States and its allies have been threatening Iran for over a decade without success

As my opening paragraph suggests, this approach ignores some important scholarly work on how states can most easily elicit cooperation. Way back in the 1970s, MIT political scientist Kenneth Oye identified a crucial distinction between blackmail and what he called “backscratching” and showed why the latter approach is more likely to elicit cooperation.  States (and people) tend to resist a blackmailer, because once you pay them off the first time, they can keep making more and more demands. And in international politics, giving in to one state’s threats might convey weakness and invite demands by others. By contrast, states (and people) routinely engage in acts of “backscratching,” where each adjusts its behavior to give the other something that it wants in exchange for getting something that it wants. Backscratching — which is the essence of trade agreements, commercial transactions, and many other types of cooperation — establishes a valuable precedent: it shows that if you’ll do something for me, then I’ll do something for you. 

Not surprisingly, this is precisely what Iran’s government has been trying to tell us. Their bottom line for years has been that they were not going to negotiate with a gun to their heads. Or as Supreme Leader Khameini said in rejecting the most recent proposals for direct talks:

“The ball, in fact, is in your court. Does it make sense to offer negotiations while issuing threats and putting pressure? You are holding a gun against Iran saying you want to talk. The Iranian nation will not be frightened by the threats.”

With his striking beard and starched uniform, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop became one of the most recognizable figures of the Reagan era — and one of the most unexpectedly enduring.

His nomination in 1981 met a wall of opposition from women's groups and liberal politicians, who complained President Ronald Reagan selecte