Archive for June 2010

Blair To Receive US Peace Medal

Blair To Receive US Peace Medal

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is to receive a prestigious US medal and 100,000 (67,000) prize for his work in conflict resolution.
The National Constitution Centre is awarding him its Liberty Medal for “steadfast” efforts to broker peace in Northern Ireland and the Middle East.
Previous winners include Nelson Mandela and former US presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush senior.
Mr Blair said he was driven by values of “freedom, liberty and justice”.
Mr Clinton, the centre's chairman, will present the medal in Philadelphia on 13 September.
He said: “It was a privilege to work with my friend Tony Blair to help end 30 years of sectarian violence and broker a lasting peace in Northern Ireland, to stop the killing in and mass exodus from Kosovo, and to develop policies that would improve living conditions for people in both our countries.
“Now, as a private citizen, Tony continues to demonstrate the same leadership, dedication and creativity in promoting economic opportunity in the Middle East and the resolution of conflicts rooted in religion around the world, and is building the capacity of developing nations to govern honestly and effectively.”
In response, Mr Blair, who currently works as a peace envoy to the Middle East, said: “Freedom, liberty and justice are the values by which this medal is struck.
“Freedom, liberty and justice are the values which I try to apply to my work on governance in Africa and on preparing the Palestinians for statehood.
“They are the values which drive the work of my faith foundation as we try to show that people of different faiths can live together constructively in peace and harmony.”
Mr Blair's office said he would be donating the prize money to two of his charities – the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative.
Last year, Mr Blair received the highest civilian award in the US, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Source:BBC

Russian Spy Suspect Missing In Cyprus Say Police

Russian Spy Suspect Missing In Cyprus Say Police

One of 11 suspects accused by the US of spying for Russia has gone missing after being freed on bail on Cyprus.
The man, a Canadian, named by police as Christopher Metsos, was due to sign in at a police station in the coastal town of Larnaca but did not show.
He was held at Larnaca airport on Tuesday as he tried to board a plane to Budapest, a day after the US said it had held 10 other suspects.
Mr Metsos was awaiting a hearing for extradition to the US.
He had been staying alone at a hotel in Larnaca for nearly two weeks and was said by local media to have been carrying a US passport.
Aged 54 or 55, he is depicted by US prosecutors as the alleged spy ring's shadowy moneyman, visiting the US as early as 2004 to deliver bags of cash to its members. Police are to issue an arrest warrant for Mr Metsos, whose bail conditions were that he surrender his travel documents and visit the police station in central Larnaca each day.
He failed to sign in on Wednesday evening as ordered by the court, police say.
Accused of money laundering, he was released on bail of 26,500 euros (21,700; 32,500) bail to await an extradition hearing scheduled for 29 July.
“Police went to check his hotel and he could not be located,” police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos told news agency AFP.
The 10 suspects held in the US are accused of conspiracy to act as unlawful agents of a foreign government, a crime less serious than espionage but which carries up to five years in prison.
US prosecutors say they posed as ordinary citizens, some living together as couples for years. In security circles such agents are known as “illegals” or “sleepers”.
They were trained by the SVR Russian intelligence agency to infiltrate policymaking circles and collect information, according to papers filed in New York.
Investigators say some of the accused had been using false identities since the early 1990s, using codes and engaging in advanced computer operations, including posting apparently innocent pictures on the internet which contained hidden text.
Russia has said the US charges – which came just days after a US visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev – are baseless and a throwback to the Cold War.
Sources in the US say the FBI had to swoop because one of the suspects, reported to be 28-year-old Anna Chapman, had been about to leave for Moscow.
Ms Chapman has been painted as the femme fatale of the alleged spy ring, with several glamorous photos posted on her page on Facebook.
She was reportedly lured to a Manhattan coffee shop by an undercover FBI agent after which, in an intercepted phone call, she was told her cover may have been blown and she should leave the US.
Assistant US Attorney Michael Farbiarz told Associated Press news agency that Ms Chapman was “someone who has extraordinary training, who is a sophisticated agent of Russia”.
He said the arrests were “the tip of the iceberg” of the workings of Russia's intelligence agency.
Five of the suspects briefly appeared in a Manhattan federal court on Monday, where a judge ordered them to remain in prison until a preliminary hearing set for 27 July.
These included Ms Chapman, a couple known as Richard Murphy and Cynthia Murphy, who were arrested in Montclair, New Jersey; and Vicky Pelaez and a man known as Juan Lazaro who were arrested in Yonkers, New York state.
Another three – Mikhail Semenko and a couple known as Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills – appeared in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, after being arrested in Arlington, Virginia.
The final two people – a couple known as Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley – were arrested in Boston, Massachusetts, and appeared in a federal court in the city.

Source:BBC

Gen David Petraeus Confirmed To Lead Afghanistan War

Gen David Petraeus Confirmed To Lead Afghanistan War

The US Senate has unanimously confirmed Gen David Petraeus as the new commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama nominated him after sacking the previous commander, Gen Stanley McChrystal, last week.
Gen McChrystal and his aides had criticised senior administration officials in a magazine article.
Gen Petraeus earlier warned in his Senate confirmation hearing of an escalation of violence in Afghanistan in the coming months.
He is one of America's best-known military figures and is widely credited with having turned around the military situation in Iraq with a “surge” there.
He is expected to step down as head of US Central Command, a role he has held since October 2009, to take up the new post.
In written answers to the Senate Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Gen Petraeus described the security situation in Afghanistan as “tenuous” and insurgents as “resilient and still-confident”, particularly in the south of the country.
“The going inevitably gets tougher before it gets easier,” he told the committee, which backed his nomination to lead the war.
The general said troops were engaged in a contest of wills with the Taliban and promised a more co-ordinated approach.
He said he believed progress was possible, however.
The US has built up its troop strength in Afghanistan since President Obama took office in January 2009.
Gen Petraeus, 57, has said he supports Mr Obama's plan to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, subject to “certain tweaks” after the White House's year-end review.
Gen McChrystal and his team criticised senior administration officials in a Rolling Stone magazine article. He has since announced his retirement from the military.

Source:BBC

World Cup 2010 Why South America Is Dominating In SA

World Cup 2010 Why South America Is Dominating In SA

Four South American teams are through to the quarter-finals of a World Cup for the first time since 1930.Hosts Uruguay were triumphant then, although, facing a three-week journey by boat, only four European teams entered the competition. In 2010, there are no excuses to dilute the achievements of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, who will play the Netherlands, Germany, Ghana and Spain in their respective quarter-finals in South Africa. This may be Africa’s World Cup off the pitch, but it is South America’s on it, as the BBC’s Daniel Gallas and Vladimir Hernandez explain.The similarities between the South American teams goes well beyond their shared culture. They all represent – to varying degrees – the same football philosophy.The way of playing puts ability before physicality and rewards improvisation and dribbling instead of punishing it. Vladimir HernandezIt is a type of football that Spain played en route to being crowned European champions in 2008 but which is seen all year round in South America. There are differences within this philosophy, of course. On one side, there is the hunger for possession from Argentina. On the other is the physical prowess of Uruguay and Paraguay. Perhaps in the middle lie Brazil, who posses a touch of beauty and a touch of beast. All four teams have graduated from a school that teaches players to cherish the ball, to hold it as much as possible. It is not just about flicks and tricks but opening up teams with quick one-twos and starving the opponents of possession. I have heard some South American and Spanish journalists ask with bewilderment why a player like England’s Joe Cole is not used more often. He is viewed as a classic number 10 – a number that carries the legacy of Pele, Diego Maradona, Zico and Enzo Francescoli.That type of player is blessed with the ability to crack open defences, just like Brazil’s Robinho, Spain’s Andres Iniesta and Argentina’s Lionel Messi. Maybe this World Cup marks a renaissance for this type of football. In Germany 2006, the four semi-finalists were European. Arguably none produced a display that will be remembered down the years. Champions Italy were hailed more for their defence than their attack. And it was a centre-half, the Italian Fabio Cannavaro, who won the award for best player at the tournament. Four years later, there are four teams – five if you include Spain – from the same footballing school through to the last eight. It could even be an all-South American affair come the semi-finals. History favours these sides. Every time the World Cup is held outside of Europe, the trophy has been lifted by a team from the Americas. Uruguay and Paraguay can capitalise on the fact that they are often underestimated.Teams forget Uruguay have amazing strikers while Paraguay are good at passing the ball long distances and have a strong defence. Still, no one expected them to do this well in South Africa. Uruguay and Paraguay are teams that South Americans like to call ‘coperos’ – they perform well in tournaments like the World Cup.Argentina have good players who know what to do on the pitch but they needed a leader who could bring spirit to the team. Coach Maradona is the right guy for the job. Argentina can go very far and are favourites to beat Germany, especially given the Germans are not looking that great in defence. As for Brazil, Dunga is beginning to win over the country’s fans. The way the team played in the 3-0 defeat of Chile in the last 16 – with Ramires and Daniel Alves in the starting line-up – delivered more of the football that Brazilians enjoy. We have to remember that Dunga has had some great results in the last four years. Winning the World Cup is really his big, big target now. I would not be surprised to see all four South American teams going through – and all of them are capable of reaching the final.

Source:BBC

Vivo Sale Deal Blocked By Portuguese Government

Vivo Sale Deal Blocked By Portuguese Government

The Portuguese government has used special voting rights to block a bid by Spain's Telefonica to buy Brazil's leading mobile phone company.
Telefonica had agreed a deal to buy Portugal Telecom's (PT) stake in mobile company Vivo for 7.15bn euros (5.87bn; 8.72bn).
Shareholders voted in favour of the deal, but Portuguese ministers have vetoed it, citing “national interest”.
The government holds a “golden share” in PT, giving it special voting rights.

Source:BBC

Haitian President Sets Date For November Election

Haitian President Sets Date For November Election

The Haitian president, Rene Preval, has set November 28 as the date when voters will elect his successor.
Legislative elections will take place on the same day Mr Preval said, in a decree signed beside the ruins of the national palace in Port-au-Prince.
The palace was destroyed in a massive earthquake in January that killed up to 300,000 people and left more than a million homeless.
The headquarters of the country's electoral council was also destroyed.
Elections were originally scheduled for dates in February and March but postponed after the earthquake.
With many voters killed and records lost, organising the elections will be a huge challenge.
The UN, the US and the Organisation of American States (OAS) have pledged their support for the polls.
The Haitian constitution does not allow Mr Preval to run again.

Source:BBC

France Demands 10year Term For Noriega

France Demands 10year Term For Noriega

French prosecutors say they want the maximum 10-year jail sentence for Panama's former dictator Manuel Noriega on charges of laundering drug money.
State prosecutor Michel Maes said in the trial's closing arguments that French authorities are determined “to follow this through to the end”.
Noriega was extradited from the US in April after two decades in prison for drug-trafficking.
A French court sentenced him in his absence to 10 years in 1999.
However, France agreed to a new trial if he was extradited.
Noriega denies taking payments from Colombian drug lords in the 1980s and laundering the money in France.
Mr Maes told the court: “We should retain the image of a perfectly structured organisation in the hands of one man, and in the interests of one man, Manuel Noriega.
“This system was conceived to launder drug money for Mr Noriega's profit.”
Mr Maes also demanded that all Noriega's money in French bank accounts be seized.
The prosecution alleges that Noriega laundered 15m francs (2.3m euros, 2.8m, 1.9m) from Colombia's Medellin drug cartel in the late 1980s through the now-defunct Bank of Credit and Commerce International.
The money was allegedly used by his wife, Felicidad, and a shell company to buy three luxury apartments in Paris. The properties have since been seized by the French state.
Noriega's lawyers argue that the charges against him are trumped up, calling the trial “a political case” and not a judicial one.
Speaking in his own defence on Tuesday, Noriega dismissed the money-laundering charges as “an imaginary banking scheme”.

Source:BBC

Texas On Alert As Hurricane Alex Sweeps In

Texas On Alert As Hurricane Alex Sweeps In

US President Barack Obama has declared a state of emergency in Texas as Hurricane Alex bears down on the coast with 80mph (130km/h) winds.
Alex is expected to make landfall near the Texas-Mexico border as a category two hurricane, forecasters say.
Heavy seas caused by the first Atlantic hurricane of the season have already disrupted BP's oil spill clean-up in the Gulf of Mexico.
Boats skimming the slick have been sent back to port by the US Coast Guard.
High waves and strong winds generated by Alex have also pushed more oil from the spill on to beaches in Louisiana.
“The sad thing is that it has been about three weeks since we had any big oil come in here,” said marine science technician Michael Malone.
“With this weather, we lost all the progress we made,” he added.
A huge oil patch has been pushed towards Louisiana's Grand Isle and the uninhabited Elmer's Island, dumping large tar balls on the beach.
Oil dispersant flights and controlled burning operations in the Gulf of Mexico have also been postponed.
However, Alex is not stopping oil recovery at the scene of the leak 50 miles (80km) off the Louisiana coast.
Two vessels are capturing oil gushing from the wreck of the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig despite waves of up to 7ft (2.1m).
The deployment of a third vessel has been delayed until the weather improves.
A containment cap is capturing up to 25,000 of the estimated 30,000 to 60,000 barrels of crude spewing from the ruptured well every day.
President Obama's emergency declaration allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) to co-ordinate disaster relief efforts, the White House said.
Alex, currently a category one hurricane, is strengthening and expected to make landfall late on Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said.
The centre warned that torrential rain could cause flash floods and mudslides in north-eastern Mexico and southern Texas.
It also warns of a storm surge of up to 5ft (1.5m) spreading several miles inland along the affected coast.

Source:BBC

Profile Russias spies In The Suburbs

Profile Russias spies In The Suburbs

Most of the 11 people accused by the US of spying for Russia appear to have led middle-class, all-American lives, pursuing businesses, setting up home in leafy surburbs, raising families.
Donald Heathfield (all names here are as given in the indictment) had convinced a business contact in the UK he was an “aggressive American entrepreneur”.
Anna Chapman, the most glamorous of the 11, described herself i as a “start-up” specialist looking to connect young professionals in New York and Moscow, with a business pedigree acquired in the UK.
Moscow confirmed that at least some of the suspects were Russian citizens, but there were few immediate details from within Russia itself.
Here BBC News sketches in some of what is now known about the 11.
Western newspapers pounced on images of this green-eyed, red-haired (as she appears in some pictures) woman on social networking sites. The and a “red hot beauty” was how the New York Post described her.
According to a profile put together by the Russian news website lenta.ru, she is a 28-year-old divorcee (nee Kushchenko), the daughter of a Russian diplomat, and received her higher education in Volgograd and Moscow.
She did not seek to conceal her Russian identity when she arrived in New York from Moscow in February 2010, saying she wanted to build up a recruitment agency targeting young professionals in both cities.
Before that, she said she had lived for five years in the UK, working in the financial sector.
Moving into an apartment within walking distance of Wall Street, she launched on social networks including and Facebook to develop business contacts and market her skills.
On her LinkedIn page, Chapman is listed as the chief executive officer of PropertyFinder Ltd, which maintains a website featuring property listings in Moscow, Spain, Bulgaria and other countries.
“Love launching innovative high-tech start-ups and building passionate teams to bring value into market,” her LinkedIn summary says.
Among dozens of photos posted online is one of Ms Chapman posing with a glass of wine between two men at the – an event that cost more than 1,000 to attend.
An acquaintance in New York's property market, David Hartman, described her as “pleasant, very professional, friendly”.
“There's nothing too crazy about her that I knew of,” he added.
Aged 54 or 55, a Canadian citizen, he is the only one to have been arrested outside the US, picked up in Cyprus by police acting on an Interpol alert as he tried to board a flight to Budapest.
He had been staying alone at a hotel in Larnaca for nearly two weeks and was said by local media to be carrying a US passport.
He is depicted by US prosecutors as the alleged spy ring's shadowy moneyman, visiting the US as early as 2004 to deliver bags of cash to its members.
Lenta.ru describes him as “the most mysterious figure in the story, the spy who at first managed to get away”.
Arrested at their home in Montclair, New Jersey, he is said by US prosecutors to purport to be a US citizen born in Philadelphia and she, a US citizen from New York.
The husband is said to have lived in the US since the mid-1990s and settled in New Jersey.
Neighbors thought Cynthia was a financial consultant who commuted to Manhattan while Richard Murphy was a stay-at-home father, who “seemed kind of lazy”.
They lived with their two primary school-age daughters in a two-storey house on a quiet tree-lined street.
A fresh copy of the newspaper sat on the lawn and a green Honda Civic stood in the driveway, when visited the street after the couple's arrest.
Cynthia “said hello to everybody, there was nobody, nobody she didn't say hello to”, recalled neighbour Elizabeth Lapin.
She “didn't put a lot of time into her looks but she was sweet-looking, very pretty face with light make-up, maybe a little bit of lipstick, nothing profound”, she added.
Another neighbour, Margo Sokolow, said the daughters had played with other children.
“They would ride their bikes, they had little pink bikes and they would ride around the neighbourhood.”
Believed to be both in their 40s, they were living with their two teenage children in Cambridge, Massachusetts, home to and .
They were both business partners in , a think tank that tries to predict the shape of tomorrow's technologies, and had also been members of a board at the , a non-profit organisation that encourages scientific advancements.
Rafael Ramirez, of the Oxford Futures Forum in the UK, has told the BBC he was in regular professional contact with Mr Heathfield over internet security and strategy programmes.
“He came across as an American entrepreneur, quite an aggressive American entrepreneur, trying to work internationally,” Mr Ramirez said.
“I'm either very, very bad at second-guessing who is a Russian spy or he hid it very well.”
David Bookbinder, who knew Mr Heathfield through work, said of the spying allegation: “At the time if someone would have said to me out of the blue 'You know, do you think he is this?', I would have said 'No'.
“Looking back at it now, it is a possibility. I think if I had to pick anybody out of the people I used to work with I would say it would be him because he was very closed off and kind of to himself.”
US prosecutors said Mrs Foley, who purported to be Canadian, had travelled on a fake British passport, an allegation UK authorities were investigating.
Born in Peru, Vicky Pelaez, 55, works as a journalist for El Diario La Prensa, a New York-based Spanish-language newspaper.
She is best known for her opinion columns, which often criticise the US government.
During the 1980s, she made a name for herself in Peru at the Frecuencia Latina TV channel where she was renowned for her controversial, aggressive style of reporting.
According to US prosecutors, Mr Lazaro (age not given) purports to be a Peruvian citizen, born in Uruguay, but was once overheard in his home saying in an unguarded moment: “We moved to Siberia… as soon as the war started.”
Jonathan Kroll, a man who knows them in Yonkers, New York, described the couple as “regular nice neighbours”.
He said he had heard that Mr Lazaro told people he was a “professor of economics”.
Waldo Mariscal, who is an adult son of Ms Pelaez, said his mother was innocent and dismissed the spy case as a “farce”.
Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills were arrested in Arlington, Virginia, where they were living with their infant son.
They had moved there from Seattle after taking an advanced finance course at the University of Washington.
Celest Allred, a neighbour on the ninth floor of the apartment block where they lived, said she had guessed “they were Russian because they had Russian accents”.
The newspaper reports that the couple “did an Oscar-worthy job of maintaining their cover as a boring young Seattle couple slavishly devoted to their toddler son”.
In his job at a telecom firm in Seattle, Mr Zottoli was “known as somewhat grumpy and distractible”.
“To co-workers, Zottoli seemed henpecked, constantly taking cellphone calls at work,” the paper says.
“My wife, he would explain in a thick accent, then walk outside for privacy.”
Ms Mills, according to the paper, was a housewife who “complained about the smokers downstairs and about upstairs neighbors overwatering their plants”.
Like Anna Chapman, the youthful Mikhail Semenko, who also lived in Arlington, apparently made no secret of his Russian nationality.
He is believed to have entered the US in 2008 and was working at a travel agency called .
On , he describes himself as “multilingual with native expertise in Russian, fluency in English, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish, and intermediate skills in German and Portuguese”.
His interests are listed as “non-profits, think tanks, public policy, advocacy and educational institutions”.

Source:BBC

BP Fined Over Tribal Land Output

BP Fined Over Tribal Land Output

British oil firm BP has been fined 5.2m (3.5m) by the US Interior Department.
The fine was imposed after the firm was accused of making “false, inaccurate, or misleading” reports regarding energy output on tribal lands in Colorado.
The fine was levied by the department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, formerly the Minerals Management Service.
The case is not related to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
In a written statement, the Interior Department said the case related to BP's activities on Southern Ute Native American tribal lands in southwestern Colorado.
“It is simply unacceptable for companies to repeatedly misreport production, particularly when it interferes with the auditing process,” said Michael Bromwich, the director of BOEMRE.
BOEMRE said auditors found BP reported incorrect royalty rates and prices.

Source:BBC

Film Of Barack Obamas Childhood In Indonesia Debuts

Film Of Barack Obamas Childhood In Indonesia Debuts

The premiere of a film about Barack Obama's life as a child in Indonesia is taking place in the capital Jakarta.
Obama The Menteng Kid, based on a book, is a fictionalised biography of the boy who went on to become the US president.
The title refers to the Jakarta neighbourhood where Mr Obama lived and went to school for four years.
Potentially controversial scenes of a young Obama reciting the Koran with Muslim pupils have not been included.
The scenes of the future US president – a Christian – were dropped after they were deemed “too political”.
Producer Raam Punjabi said the film was meant to send a message of hope and not religion.
“We wanted to make the movie from the point of view of the children. We did not want to enter into politics. We did not want to enter into religious matters,” he told the BBC.
“The message is about the friendship, about the determination, about reaching the sky and that is the sole message of this movie.”
Mr Obama lived in the upmarket Jakarta neighbourhood of Menteng from 1967 to 1971 with his mother and Indonesian stepfather.
The film portrays the young Obama – seen wearing sarongs and Muslim caps – in a different light to the man in the White House.
The cast is made up of little-known Indonesian actors and was shot on a budget of 1m (670,000) over a month in West Java.
Hasan Farooq Ali, 14, who plays Mr Obama in the film, said he had learned a lot about tolerance and how to accept people's differences.
Clips show the young Obama learning to box to fight off school bullies, but ultimately learning to resolve conflicts by peaceful means.
Hasan told the BBC: “I'd really like it if [Mr Obama] were to watch the film… I just hope it brings [back] memories, good memories.”
There was huge excitement in Indonesia when Mr Obama was elected in 2008.
The film's release was originally timed to coincide with his first official visit to Indonesia – but the visit has already been postponed twice because of pressing domestic issues.
Mr Obama is now expected to visit in November.

Source:BBC

Rights Group ACLU Plans To Sue Over US nofly List

Rights Group ACLU Plans To Sue Over US nofly List

The American Civil Liberties Union plans to sue the US authorities over the “no-fly” list, saying it stops innocent people from travelling.
The legal action is on behalf of 10 US citizens or legal permanent US residents who say they have been prevented from flying.
Six of those are currently stuck outside the US.
The list is maintained by the US authorities as part of the measures aimed at preventing attacks.
But critics say there are problems with “false positives” where a person is stopped from flying because they have the same name as someone on the list.
And, the ACLU says, people are usually not told the reason for their inclusion on the list and have no effective way to dispute it.
Those wrongly on the list are being denied their rights to “due process” under the law, guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the US constitution, the ACLU says.
The legal action is against the FBI, the Department of Justice and the Terrorist Screening Centre.

Source:BBC

France Demands 10year Term For Noriega

France Demands 10year Term For Noriega

French prosecutors say they want the maximum 10-year jail sentence for Panama's former dictator Manuel Noriega on charges of laundering drug money.
State prosecutor Michel Maes said in the trial's closing arguments that French authorities are determined “to follow this through to the end”.
Noriega was extradited from the US in April after two decades in prison for drug-trafficking.
A French court sentenced him in his absence to 10 years in 1999.
However, France agreed to a new trial if he was extradited.
Noriega denies taking payments from Colombian drug lords in the 1980s and laundering the money in France.
Mr Maes told the court: “We should retain the image of a perfectly structured organisation in the hands of one man, and in the interests of one man, Manuel Noriega.
“This system was conceived to launder drug money for Mr Noriega's profit.”
Mr Maes also demanded that all Noriega's money in French bank accounts be seized.
The prosecution alleges that Noriega laundered 15m francs (2.3m euros, 2.8m, 1.9m) from Colombia's Medellin drug cartel in the late 1980s through the now-defunct Bank of Credit and Commerce International.
The money was allegedly used by his wife, Felicidad, and a shell company to buy three luxury apartments in Paris. The properties have since been seized by the French state.
Noriega's lawyers argue that the charges against him are trumped up, calling the trial “a political case” and not a judicial one.
Speaking in his own defence on Tuesday, Noriega dismissed the money-laundering charges as “an imaginary banking scheme”.

Source:BBC

Viewpoint Concord You Can Give Up Bottled Water

Viewpoint Concord You Can Give Up Bottled Water

A town meeting in Concord, Massachusetts recently voted in favour of banning bottled water from 1 January. Here Huw Kingston from Bundanoon, Australia – the first town in the world to go bottled-water-free – offers encouragement.
Hello all Concord residents.
I write to you from Bundanoon, a small town in Australia, a couple of hours south of Sydney. Some of you may know that last year we became the first town in the world to stop selling bottled water.

  • The town meeting in April voted to ban bottled water at the urging of 82-year-old Jean Hill
  • Ms Hill began her campaign after a grandson told her about a vast area of plastic waste in the Pacific
  • Town officials say a ban would be hard to enforce, and want advice from the state's attorney general
  • The bottled water industry has threatened to sue, if the ban is put into effect
    We called our initiative . We're a bit smaller than Concord with a population of about 2,000. We're a town situated on the edge of a huge national park and a town that depends upon tourism.
    Last year I had the idea for the town to voluntarily give up the sale of bottled water.
    We had a well-informed community, given that we'd been fighting a water extraction plant for some years (a company wanted to truck 50 million litres a year from our aquifer to Sydney to stick in plastic bottles and then truck it around the country).
    Almost 12 months ago, we held a community meeting to look at how we could do it. It turned into the largest community meeting ever in our small town and resulted in a 355 to 1 vote in favour of getting rid of bottled water.
    We did this by convincing the local stores that they'd do better without bottled water. That the sale of refillable bottles, the increased tourism and increased support (by way of dollars across the counter) from the local community would more than make up for any loss of revenue.
    Our plan was to make public drinking water more available than ever before.
    We did this by installing four beautiful refill stations and water fountains across the town, including one at our local primary school.
    Also, many businesses installed chilled, filtered water units in their stores, cafes etc. Bundanoon officially went bottled-water-free on 26 September last year, on a day of great celebration for all ages.
    We ran bottled-water-free events such as our big Scottish festival, with 15,000 visitors. Free water was on hand from “water bars” at the festival and from mobile backpacks dispensing chilled water to fill people's bottles or from paper cups. So easy.
    What we didn't account for was the massive worldwide coverage our plan received. Just about every major media outlet across the world covered the story. I did over 200 interviews in two days and town was crawling with TV crews from across the world.
    We had touched a nerve – a small community sending a message upwards.
    A message about the environment and a message about people making the right choices for themselves. Our state government followed by announcing the banning of bottled water that same day in all government premises.
    We received hundreds of messages of support from across the world. Dozens of communities and municipalities have asked advice on how to reduce their bottled water consumption.
    The bottled water industry was not very happy (of course) and has tried various initiatives to try to stop the bandwagon rolling on.
    But the movement grows, and you, good people of Concord, are part of it.
    To succeed you must maintain the drive. (I'm thinking Jean Hill will not waver.)
    You must understand that the industry may try to unsettle you and you must, above all, focus on having good public water sources on the streets and in the parks.
    With this, the argument that you are somehow forcing people to drink “sugary” drinks fails completely. If you can look down the main street of Concord and see a water fountain or two then you are on the right track.
    Tourists will love it, locals will love it. Have available refillable bottles in your stores and cafes.
    In Bundanoon we didn't actually “ban” bottled water. We have no legislation on it, no regulation. It is voluntary.
    In bigger towns such voluntary action becomes harder. It's harder to get every business on side. But remember, by just having good public water sources, you will automatically reduce the amount of bottled water sold.
    You will impact upon this most crazy and environmentally destructive of products – a product that is perhaps the ultimate manifestation of the consumer age. Selling people what they already can have almost for free – in bottles produced from oil, 70% of which are never recycled.
    So next Tuesday, 6 July, we gather again in our community hall for an anniversary party to celebrate a huge year for our small town.
    We will tell stories from around the world. Of the . Of school children in France learning of Bundanoon in their school books.
    Of the last bottles of bottled water from Bundanoon turning up for sale on eBay. We'll raise a glass of beautiful Bundy on Tap to Jean Hill and all you Concord residents.
    I'm sure you've got the bottle Concord. Go for it.
    Add your comments on this story, using the form below. The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.

    Source:BBC

  • Superhero Wonder Woman Gets Trendy Make Over

    Superhero Wonder Woman Gets Trendy Make Over

    Wonder Woman has changed her looks and dons a trendy new outfit in issue 600 of the comic book series.
    The super hero's star-spangled swimsuit is to be replaced by a radical new style that includes leggings.
    The visual make over goes hand in hand with changes to the Wonder Woman story, publisher DC Comics says.
    DC Comics has hired a new writer, J. Michael Straczynski, to give Wonder Woman's life a new direction.
    Mr Straczynski told the New York Times that it had been time to bring the iconic character into the 21st century.
    “She's been locked into pretty much the exact same outfit since her debut in 1941″, Mr Straczynski said. “What woman only wears only one outfit for 60-plus years?”
    He said the redesign of Wonder Woman's outfit had been his priority when he took on the job.
    “I wanted to toughen her up and give her a modern sensibility”, Mr Straczynski said.
    Wonder Woman is an Amazon with superhuman powers and the alter ego of Princess Diana of Themyscira.
    During the last 69 years, she has fought a range of villains and also appeared in other comic series such as Justice League.
    In the 1970s, Lynda Carter played the super heroine in the series “The New Original Wonder Woman” and “The New Adventures of Wonder Woman”.
    An animated film animation was released last year, starring Keri Russell.

    Source:BBC

    Russia Plays Down US Spy Arrests

    Russia Plays Down US Spy Arrests

    Moscow has played down the arrest of alleged Russian spies in the US, saying the issue would “not negatively affect relations”.
    The Russian foreign ministry said it had “noted” a similar White House statement that ties should not be hurt.
    Russia had said on Tuesday that the US charges were baseless and a throwback to the Cold War. PM Vladimir Putin said US police had “let themselves go”.
    Ten people were arrested in the US and one in Cyprus after an FBI inquiry.
    A Russian foreign ministry spokesman, quoted by the Interfax news agency, said on Wednesday: “We expect that the incident involving the arrest in the United States of a group of people suspected of spying for Russia will not negatively affect Russian-US relations.
    “In this connection, we take note of the statement of White House official representative Robert Gibbs.” On Tuesday Mr Gibbs said: “I think we have made a new start to working together on things like the United Nations, dealing with North Korea and Iran.
    “I do not think that this will affect those relations.”
    US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Phil Gordon echoed Mr Gibbs, saying: “We're moving towards a more trusting relationship. We're beyond the Cold War; our relations absolutely demonstrate that.”
    But he added: “I don't think anyone was hugely shocked to know that some vestiges of old attempts to use intelligence are still there.”
    Russia had initially reacted strongly to the allegations, rejecting them as groundless and saying they could damage the attempts to “reset” US-Russian relations.
    Mr Putin had said he hoped the new relationship would be “preserved”, but he also said: “Your police have let themselves go. They are putting people to prison.”
    Russian media on Wednesday said the issue reflected a rift between the FBI and the Obama administration.
    The Moskovsky Komsomolets said “the main target in this story is Obama who has a lot of ill-wishers in his own country”.
    Kommersant said top Russian officials had been ordered not to comment on the matter.
    The 10 people arrested in the US are accused of conspiracy to act as unlawful agents of a foreign government, a crime less serious than espionage but which carries up to five years in prison.
    Eight also face a charge of conspiracy to launder money.
    The 11th suspect, arrested on Tuesday on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, is awaiting extradition to the US on suspicion of espionage and money laundering.
    The arrests came just days after a US visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
    Sources in the US say the FBI had had to move because one of the suspects, reported to be 28-year-old Anna Chapman, was set to leave for Moscow.
    Ms Chapman has been painted as the femme fatale of the alleged spy ring, with several glamorous photos posted on her page on the Facebook social networking site.
    She was reportedly lured to a Manhattan coffee shop by an undercover FBI agent after which, in an intercepted phone call, she was told her cover may have been blown and she should leave the US.
    Assistant US Attorney Michael Farbiarz told Associated Press that Ms Chapman was “someone who has extraordinary training, who is a sophisticated agent of Russia”.
    He said the arrests were “the tip of the iceberg” of the workings of Russia's SVR intelligence agency.
    According to US court papers, most of those arrested purported to be citizens of the US or Canada.
    The 11 were allegedly part of an operation where agents posed as ordinary citizens, some living together as couples for years. In security circles such agents are known as “illegals” or “sleepers”.
    They were allegedly trained by the SVR to infiltrate policy-making circles and collect information, according to papers filed in New York.
    Investigators say some of the agents had been using false identities since the early 1990s, using codes and engaging in advanced computer operations, including posting apparently innocent pictures on the internet which contained hidden text.
    Five of the suspects briefly appeared in a Manhattan federal court on Monday, where a judge ordered them to remain in prison until a preliminary hearing set for 27 July.
    These included Ms Chapman, a couple known as Richard Murphy and Cynthia Murphy, who were arrested in Montclair, New Jersey; and Vicky Pelaez and a man known as Juan Lazaro who were arrested in Yonkers, New York state.
    Another three – Mikhail Semenko and a couple known as Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills – appeared in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, after being arrested in Arlington, Virginia.
    The final two people – a couple known as Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley – were arrested in Boston, Massachusetts, and appeared in a federal court in the city.
    All the suspects except Ms Chapman and Mr Semenko have also been charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

    Source:BBC

    AstraZeneca Shares Up After Winning US Court Challenge

    AstraZeneca Shares Up After Winning US Court Challenge

    Shares in drug company AstraZeneca have risen after the firm's US court victory to protect a patent on big-selling cholesterol drug Crestor.
    Winning its three-year battle means cheaper, generic, versions of the drug can not enter the US market until 2016.
    In London, AstraZeneca shares were up nearly 10%, or 285.50p, at 3232.50p.
    The US District Court in Delaware said the Crestor patent was “valid and enforceable” after a challenge by nine generic drugs manufacturers in 2007.
    Crestor generated 2.1bn (1.4bn) in US sales last year.
    “The court's decision reaffirms the strength of the intellectual property protecting Crestor,” said AstraZeneca chief executive David Brennan.
    Industry observers had believed AstraZeneca would win the case.
    However, the verdict came as a relief to the firm, given that billions of dollars were at stake.
    Some analysts estimate that as much as 80% of a branded drug's sales vanish when faced with generic competition.
    “Yesterday's ruling removes a major risk, given that Crestor is by far the company's most important product in terms of potentially achieving the top end of the 2014 guidance range and returning to sustainable growth after this point,” said Citigroup analyst Kevin Wilson.

    Source:BBC

    Puerto Rico Targets ID Fraud With New Birth Certificates

    Puerto Rico Targets ID Fraud With New Birth Certificates

    July will mark a fresh beginning for Puerto Ricans – literally – as the government of the US territory begins issuing new birth certificates in an attempt to tackle identity theft.
    Existing birth certificates for Puerto Rico's 3.9 million inhabitants – and the estimated 1.4 million citizens who live on the US mainland – will be invalid from 30 September.
    Criminal gangs have targeted Puerto Rico because anyone born there is a US citizen from birth, and the certificates can be used to make fraudulent US passport applications.
    Faustino Fuentes School on Puerto Rico's eastern coastline has an idyllic setting, between the lush green hills of the national park and the azure blue of the Caribbean Sea.
    There are a few tourists, but otherwise life is usually quiet.
    The calm was shattered three years ago when identity thieves broke in and stole the birth certificates and other documents of 105 pupils here.
    Ana Esquilin, the school secretary, showed me where the thieves broke down the door with a baseball bat.
    The filing cabinet still bears the marks of the break-in.
    The criminals were after the children's birth certificates, which they knew they could sell on the black market for up to 10,000 (6,600).
    After a series of school burglaries across Puerto Rico in 2007, including the raid on Faustino Fuentes, the FBI discovered that up to 12,000 Puerto Ricans were the victims of an identity theft ring.
    Two of Ana's children, Katyshia and Nanushka, had their birth certificates stolen. Ana said the experience was devastating – her children were being impersonated by strangers.
    Puerto Rico has been a US territory since the Americans captured it from the Spanish in 1898, and people born here are American citizens.
    A US Department of State study found that 40% of fraudulent American passport applications made with birth certificates involved documents from Puerto Rico.
    So after pressure from the US, Puerto Rico's legislators voted to invalidate all the old birth certificates and issue the new, secure ones starting on 1 July.
    “Most of the people that are seeking quickie US citizenship are people with Hispanic names and Hispanic surnames,” said Kenneth McClintock, Puerto Rico's Secretary of State.
    “And most of the birth certificates issued in Puerto Rico are to people with Hispanic surnames.”
    A second reason for the huge black market was the way Puerto Rican organisations, from schools to junior sports clubs, asked for birth certificates as proof of identity and kept them on file.
    “Unfortunately we had the custom for many decades of asking you to turn over an official copy of your birth certificate for virtually everything you did in life,” said Mr McClintock.
    Under the new rules, organisations will no longer be able to keep multiple copies.
    The new birth certificates have special anti-fraud properties which neither McClintock nor Wanda Llovet, director of Puerto Rico's Demographic Registry, would divulge, citing reasons of security.
    Mrs Llovet showed me the new birth certificates, which she said were made of paper specially ordered from France, and then printed in the US, where watermarks and other unspecified security features were added.
    Only the signatures of Puerto Rico's governor and Mrs Llovet are printed on to the certificates here.
    Mr McClintock says the new system should prevent almost all of the identity theft experienced on the island.
    “Up to now, you broke into one school and you would take away 700 birth certificates at a time. Now, to steal 700 different birth certificates, you're going to have to break into 700 different homes,” he said.
    At the Demographic Registry office in San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital, most people queuing to find out more about the new law seemed to support the aim of eradicating identity theft.
    Only one woman complained, telling me it wasn't necessary, and that it was going to take too long for her to apply for a new birth certificate.
    On the US mainland, Latino Rights groups have been critical of the change, saying the invalidation of Puerto Rican birth certificates is yet another problem for Hispanics to deal with.
    Some Puerto Ricans living in the US say their birth certificates were rejected when they applied for a driving licence, before the new law came into effect.
    I asked Kenneth McClintock if making all Puerto Ricans apply for new birth certificates could lead to discrimination against those living in the 50 states. Most certainly not, he replied.
    “People who have biases will always try to find some sort of an excuse to discriminate against people, but I think what this issue has done is remind America that people living in Puerto Rico are American citizens from birth,” he said.
    “Therefore people who previously may have thought, oh Puerto Ricans, Costa Ricans, isn't that more or less the same thing, now they know that Puerto Rico is part of the US.”

    Source:BBC

    Oaxaca In Southern Mexico Hit By Quake

    Oaxaca In Southern Mexico Hit By Quake

    The state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico has been shaken by a strong magnitude 6.5 quake.
    The quake hit early on Wednesday morning, the US Geological Survey reported.
    Buildings in the capital, Mexico City, shook, leading some people to run out onto the streets, witnessesses said.
    There are so far no reports of damage or injuries.

    Source:BBC

    Tennis Wimbledon 2010 Tsvetana Pironkova Stuns Venus Williams

    Tennis  Wimbledon 2010 Tsvetana Pironkova Stuns Venus Williams

    Tsvetana Pironkova produced a brilliant display to shock second seed Venus Williams in the quarter-finals.The unseeded Bulgarian returned almost everything her American opponent threw at her and won 6-2 6-3. The five-time champion was out of sorts and although she had two break points in the fifth game, Pironkova saved them and broke twice to win the first set. The players swapped breaks early in the second but Pironkova broke again in the sixth game and closed out the match. The 22-year-old played well but Williams, 30, had problems with her serve, twice serving consecutive double faults and several times throwing the ball up and then delaying before starting her service action again. She also made 29 unforced errors during the match. “It seems like a dream,” Pironkova told BBC Sport. “Coming here, I never thought I’d play this well and reach this part of the tournament. I’m very happy. I think I played pretty well. I’m happy with my game. She also did well, but I have one win over her and I actually thought I could win and I was going for it. “I love this tournament. Every time I come here I enjoy it, the atmosphere and everything. I can imagine people are really happy in Bulgaria and maybe I’ll be on the news there!” Court One was disappointingly only two-thirds full when the match started under grey skies. Pironkova started confidently and wrapped up her first service game with a 111mph ace but Williams also had little trouble in her first service game, although she was hesitant before delivering her opening serve. The Bulgarian produced a 114mph ace in her next service game which she held to 15 but as the sun briefly came out Williams also held – although a couple of rallies showed how fiercely Pironkova was returning. The pivotal moments of the match arrived in the next two games. In the fifth the world number 82 started with a double fault and although Williams went long in the next rally, she dinked the ball over the net to win the next point and Pironkova netted in the next rally to give the American two break points. BenAs spots of rain started to fall, Pironkova held her nerve in two more rallies which saw Williams go long and then net – and her chance of an advantage had vanished. The underdog held serve and in the next game produced some brilliant tennis from 40-15 down to level at deuce. An advantage came and went for Williams, who then served a double fault before putting a shot into the tramlines to hand her opponent the break. Pironkova held again to lead 5-2 and Williams was then in all sorts of trouble on her serve – amazingly putting five consecutive deliveries into the net before getting a second serve in but still losing the point. That gave the Bulgarian three set points but Williams showed why she has won this title so many times by winning the next three points, surviving a challenge on the first, to take it to deuce. However Pironkova was not to be denied and after Venus put a forehand out, the unseeded player hit a brilliant passing shot to take the set in 38 minutes. She held serve at the start of the second set despite falling 15-30 behind to Williams, who had a chance to stage a comeback when breaking to lead 2-1. But Pironkova broke straight back and then held her serve to lead 3-2 before Williams’s serving let her down again. Two consecutive double faults in game six handed the initiative to the Bulgarian and although the second seed went on to save a break point she could not repeat the trick to leave Pironkova two games from victory.Both women held their next service games, Williams after saving two match points, but in the next game Pironkova kept calm and wrapped up a famous victory in an hour and 25 minutes. Pironkova revealed there had already been a great reaction to her victory in Bulgaria, saying: “I received a few phone calls saying everyone was happy and excited as nobody expected me to play a semi-final at Wimbledon and beat Venus like that. “If I have to be honest, on coming here I really just wanted to play a good game and maybe win one or two rounds. The semi-final looked to me very far away. “I didn’t have a particular strategy against Venus, I just tried to play my game, move her as much as possible and try to put my first serve as much as I could in the court. “Wimbledon has always been like a religion to me and I don’t think it’s just for me, I think it’s for all of the players.” Williams rued her missed chances to get back into the match but was quick to head off any thoughts that the defeat would hasten her retirement. “I didn’t get enough balls in today,” she said. “I had a lot of opportunities and a lot of short balls and seemed to hit each one out and I don’t think I did anything right today. “I work hard every day and I hate losing. Any time you accept losing is definitely a good time to walk away but at this time feel like I am playing great tennis – but obviously I have to avoid days like this. “She played solid but to not be able to bring my best tennis and to make that many errors is disappointing in a match where I wasn’t hit off the court or anything.”

    Source:BBC

    Spy Row Highlights Schizophrenic USRussia Ties

    Spy Row Highlights Schizophrenic USRussia Ties

    Less than a week ago, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was visiting factories in California's Silicon Valley, eager to enlist US firms in Russia's own technological revolution.
    All the talk was of the relative success of the “re-setting of ties” between Washington and Moscow undertaken by the Obama administration.
    But now the headlines are harking back to a very different, older, more adversarial relationship following the arrest of a network of alleged Russian agents by the FBI.
    Charles Kupchan, professor of international affairs at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, believes this episode “has come at a very awkward moment – just as Moscow and Washington are in the midst of pursuing rapprochement and deepening strategic cooperation”.
    “Nonetheless, espionage – for better or worse – remains a fixture of international politics,” Prof Kupchan said.
    “The revelation of the alleged Russian spy ring thus represents primarily a public relations challenge to the policy of re-setting relations, not a discovery that promises to scuttle improving ties between the US and Russia.”
    Jeffrey Mankoff, a fellow for Russian studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, agrees the wider impact of this affair will in all likelihood be limited. “There are friendly countries, there are no friendly intelligence agencies,” Mr Mankoff explained.
    “The fact of widespread espionage and counter-espionage between the US and Russia is a legacy of the Cold War and has little to do with the state of bilateral relations at any given moment,” he said.
    Mr Mankoff accepts that “the timing of this case is unfortunate”.
    “It threatens to take some of the glow off President Medvedev's successful US visit last week,” he said.
    He argued there would probably be a brief period of muted recriminations, but that then this episode would fade.
    His colleague, Stephen Sestanovich, one of Washington's leading commentators on Russian affairs, also believes the fall-out from this affair will be limited.
    “In both countries espionage and counter espionage efforts are only very loosely tied to diplomacy. Both governments will want to keep the affair from taking on too much significance,” said Mr Sestanovich.
    For a Russian take on the affair, I turned to Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Centre.
    His hope was that its impact would be short-lived.
    But in Mr Trenin's view “both Russia and the United States still keep much more of the Cold War infrastructure than is needed by either”.
    He had an intriguing point of view on the specific timing of this announcement. While most US commentators have been speculating about Russian motives, Dmitri Trenin believes the timing of the announcement of these arrests is telling.
    Mr Trenin sees two groups of interest in this matter. The first he says are “those in the US who are unhappy about the re-set in relations, who argue that Russia is getting much more out of it and want it to slow down”.
    Mr Trenin says the second group is the “FBI, which wants to burnish its reputation after the Times Square bomb incident and the Chicago Christmas airline bomb-plot”.
    Of course there are clearly different constituencies at work in Moscow, too.
    As Charles Kupchan said: “When it comes to re-setting relations with the United States and with Nato, Russia's security, defence and foreign policy bureaucracy tend to drag their feet. President Medvedev seems to be in the lead on this front, pulling a reluctant bureaucracy behind him.”
    Earlier this month, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates described Russia's foreign policy as “schizophrenic”. He was referring to Moscow's ambivalent approach towards Iran's nuclear activities.
    But when asked whether this might be an appropriate label to describe Russia's whole approach to the Obama administration as well?
    Dmitri Trenin said: “I think the US-Russian relationship as a whole is somewhat schizophrenic.”
    But what really worried him was the way in which the legacy of the past intruded into the present. Should we really be so surprised by these espionage allegations?
    “I trust there are US spies in Russia and will be for a long time, never mind the re-set,” Mr Trenin said.
    He added: “But I am even more troubled that 20 years after the end of the Cold War, Moscow and Washington are still targeted by very real nuclear missiles of the 'other side'. The nukes may have had a real deterrence mission in the Cold War, but now it's like the light of a star that is long dead – dead but dangerous.”
    Charles Kupchan too believes that Russian foreign policy has a “schizophrenic” quality to it.
    He said: “On the one hand, Moscow seems sincerely intent on pursuing rapprochement with the West and finding its place within the Euro-Atlantic order.”
    But Prof Kupchan said that, on the other hand, “its policies toward Georgia and missile defence and its use of its energy supplies to coerce its neighbours indicate otherwise”.
    Everyone I spoke to in both Washington and Moscow wondered if the US might in due course throw out the Russian handlers of these alleged agents if, that is, these diplomats are still on US soil.
    That would be playing pretty much to form – you are found out and you walk.
    If this happens maybe Moscow might reciprocate with expulsions of its own. But after that things would in all probability calm down.
    All of the commentators and analysts were pretty much of one mind: Both the re-set and the diplomatic schizophrenia in relations between Russia and the US look set to continue.

    Source:BBC

    Suburban Lives Of Agent Suspects

    Suburban Lives Of Agent Suspects

    The arrest of nearly a dozen suspected Russian agents has shocked the suburban US communities where they lived.
    The accounts of the lives of the 10 people arrested in the US for spying for Russia emphasise their ordinariness.
    A media scrum gathered outside the unremarkable, wooden suburban home of the couple known as Richard and Cynthia Murphy in Montclair, New Jersey, after their arrest.
    Jessie Gugig, 15, told the New York Times she did not believe the couple could be Russian agents.
    “They couldn't have been spies. Look what she did with the hydrangeas.”
    Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley lived on Trowbridge Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
    Their neighbours were again shocked at the idea that they might be involved in anything untoward.
    “I didn't have a clue about that at all,” neighbour Montse Monne-Corbero told the Boston Globe. “They were my neighbors, and they were nice people. I thought they were from Europe.''
    Ms Foley was courteous, nice and pretty, Ms Monne-Corbero told the newspaper.
    The same neighbour told the New York Times that the couple's sons had shovelled snow for her in the winter, but that they had had loud parties.
    Mr Heathfield had been a sales consultant at consulting firm Global Partners since 2000, the Boston Globe reported.
    The company's website said: “Don has gained global experience as a manager, entrepreneur and scholar.”
    The website said his expertise was in “Global Business Development, Sales, Global Account Management, Global Leadership and Global Strategy Deployment” and listed his education as a degree in international economics from York University in Toronto, an MBA from Paris and some training at the London School of Economics.
    Travel agent
    “I'm absolutely floored,” said Paul Hesselschwerdt, president of the firm. “He's a good person. He's lived in the United States for a long time. We're just completely shocked.”
    Mikhail Semenko, who lived in Virginia, had worked at the Travel All Russia agency for more than a year, the Washington Post reported. Mr Semenko was a conscientious and polite worker who specialised in travel plans for Chinese and Hispanic visitors, co-owner Slava Shirokov said.
    “It's straight from a movie. I would never think of anything like this happening to Mikhail. It still seems quite surreal.”
    Vicky Pelaez, another of the suspects, works for El Diario/La Prensa, a Spanish language newspaper in New York.

    Source:BBC

    Guatemala Government Rejects Gangs Prison Demands

    Guatemala Government Rejects Gangs Prison Demands

    The Guatemalan government says the latest in a series of gruesome murders will not make it give in to demands by gangs to loosen prison rules.
    On Monday, a female prison official was kidnapped, tortured and killed.
    Her dismembered body was found along with a message addressed to the prison authorities, saying attacks like that would continue unless inmates' demands were met.
    Guatemala introduced stricter prison rules earlier this year.
    Under them, prisoners are no longer allowed to receive parcels from the outside, or conjugal visits. They are also moved more often from one prison to another.
    The authorities say the measures were taken to stop convicts continuing to run criminal enterprises from behind bars.
    But the backlash has been fierce. Less than three weeks ago, four severed heads were left in public places around the capital with similar messages to the interior minister and the director of prisons.
    At a news conference at the time, Interior Minister Carlos Menocal read out one of the messages, which had been written on cardboard and propped up against the remains.
    “This is happening because of the mistreatment and the injustices in the country's jails,” the message read.
    “If you don't do anything about these mistreatments, what happens from now on will be the fault of the government and the prison system, who are the ones abusing their authority.”
    Monday's victim was identified by local media as the 45-year-old head of personnel at a men's prison.
    Police said alleged gang members had shot her husband, a former guard at the same prison, and kidnapped her.
    Her dismembered body, which showed signs of torture, was dumped in four separate plastic bags in front of a radio station.
    A message found in one of the bags read: “If you continue violating our rights, this will go on.”
    A spokesman for the interior ministry blamed gangs for the murders and said their demands would not be met.
    He said the “savage way” in which they had acted would be met with a further increase in security checks at the country's prisons.

    Source:BBC

    Larry King To End Longrunning US TV Chat Show

    Larry King To End Longrunning US TV Chat Show

    Veteran broadcaster Larry King has announced that he will be ending his nightly show on CNN in the autumn.
    Over 25 years of the show, King, famous for wearing braces, has conducted more than 40,000 interviews.
    Larry King Live recently made it into in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-running show with the same host in the same time slot.
    The news comes at a time of falling ratings for the show. King, 76, said he would spend more time with his family.
    His marriage to seventh wife Shawn Southwick had appeared to be on the point of breaking up earlier this year when King filed for divorce.
    The couple have since reconciled their differences.
    On his blog, King wrote that CNN had agreed to his request to wrap up the show in the autumn “giving me more time for my wife and I to get to the kids' little league games”.
    He said he would “still be a part of the CNN family” and planned to host special programmes on major national and international events.
    “With this chapter closing I'm looking forward to the future and what my next chapter will bring, but for now it's time to hang up my nightly suspenders (braces),” he concluded.
    Over the course of his career, King has interviewed every US president since Gerald Ford. His most recent interviewees include Bill Gates and singer Lady Gaga.
    However, his show has slipped behind those of rivals such as MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and Fox News's Sean Hannity in the ratings battle.
    The news of King's decision to end his show comes only a week after New York Times media critic David Carr suggested CNN needed to find a worthy successor for him soon.
    “As it is, Mr King has been left to dangle, battered by tabloid reports, sliding ratings and his own daily battle to anchor the show five days a week,” he wrote.
    “The more legendary the talent, the more delicate the endgame.”

    Source:BBC