Archive for July 2010

Twitter user sends worlds 20 billionth tweet

Twitter user sends worlds 20 billionth tweet

Twitter, the social networking site which lets users say something in up to 140 characters, has had its 20 billionth message posted.
The landmark and rather opaque tweet was sent at 1544 GMT Saturday by , a Tokyo graphic designer for an advertising agency.
It said: “So that means the barrage might come back later all at once.”
Twitter took four years to reach its 10 billionth tweet, in March this year, and less than five months to double it.
GGGGGGo_Lets_Go was inundated with congratulatory messages from around the world for hitting the milestone with a tweet which appeared to have been part of a longer conversation with another user.
He later posted another message, saying: “Looks like I posted the 20 billionth tweet. I'm getting replies from people all over the world. It's scary. What are the chances? Maybe I'm going to die.
“Is it more amazing than winning the lottery? I thought it was a joke.”
The self-declared fan of Tokyo Yakult Swallows baseball team also warned any would-be followers that he tweets a lot about the sport.
The Japanese send nearly 8m tweets a day, about 12% of the global total and second only to the US, according to the San Francisco-based micro-blogging service.
Evan Williams, Twitter's 38-year-old chief executive, travelled to Tokyo earlier this month to celebrate the service's success in Japan.
Twitter is expected this year to open its first dedicated data centre, in the US state of Utah.
The company hopes the data centre will help prevent service overloads, which have been a particular problem during major sporting events like the recent football World Cup.

Source:BBC

Chelsea Clinton to wed Marc Mezvinsky on elite estate

Chelsea Clinton to wed Marc Mezvinsky on elite estate

The only child of former US President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to marry her boyfriend at a lavish wedding.
Chelsea Clinton is to wed investment banker Marc Mezvinsky on the exclusive Astor Courts estate in upstate New York.
Amid tight secrecy to protect her privacy, few details are known other than that her parents are attending.
Media have flooded the area for one of the year's biggest US society events.

  • Hundreds of people have crowded into the nearby town of Rhinebeck hoping to catch of a glimpse of the former First Couple or their publicity-shy daughter, and a no-fly zone is being imposed on the area as part of the security measures.
    Reports say that TV star Oprah Winfrey and film director Steven Spielberg will be among the 500 guests.
    The wedding is expected to cost between 2m (1.3m) and 3m (1.9m), experts told the Associated Press news agency.
    Shopkeepers, innkeepers, retailers and caterers in Rhinebeck have been sworn to secrecy about the event and inconvenienced local residents have been offered complimentary bottles of wine.Bill and Hillary Clinton arrived in Rhinebeck late on Friday. Mrs Clinton, wearing a long, green dress, waved to a cheering crowd waiting behind metal barricades and quickly went into a hotel.
    Earlier in the day, Mr Clinton, looking fit and relaxed, had lunch in a Rhinebeck restaurant.
    He took time afterwards to shake hands with kitchen staff and customers before emerging to an enthusiastic crowd of hundreds of people who shouted “Congratulations!” and “We love you!”.
    “We love it here,” he told reporters. “Chelsea loves the area as well.”
    Asked about his future son-in-law, he said: “I like him very much. I really do. I admire him. Hillary feels the same way.”
    One of the questions being asked about the wedding is whether it will follow a particular religion's traditions.
    Chelsea Clinton, 30, is a Methodist Christian while Marc Mezvinsky, 32, is Jewish.

    Source:BBC

  • California city pay scandal highlights media cuts

    California city pay scandal highlights media cuts

    “Citizen journalists are going to have to very much take up the role of watchdog for their communities,” says Mr Linder.
    But citizen journalists, while well-meaning, may not be best equipped to expose any wrong-doing by potentially secretive local authorities.
    “I'm not expecting citizen journalists to be the same as trained professionals,” says Mr Shaplen.
    “It's not just a whistle-blower role, and it's not just somebody who has the first camera on the scene or picks up the phone.
    “Citizen journalism works when people who care are heard by the organisations which buy ink by the ton.”
    Mr Linder agrees that citizen journalists would struggle to expose a scandal on the scale of Bell city council.
    “Citizen journalists do not have the clout that a major metropolitan newspaper, or the power of a TV camera has, in being able to force city officials to come clean,” he says.
    “It's going to be extremely difficult for citizen journalists to crack the core of corruption within city government.”

    Source:BBC

    Iowa town pays price of war service

    Iowa town pays price of war service

    Share this page Iowa town pays price of war service On 1 August, Iowa is to send nearly 3,000 National Guard soldiers to Afghanistan. It is the biggest deployment of the state's troops since World War II. The BBC's Zoe Conway reports from the town of Red Oak, which is no stranger to sacrifice.
    Specialist Christine Morrison of the Iowa National Guard at Red Oak begins her journey to Afghanistan – via training in Mississippi and California – this weekend.
    The 34-year-old is hopeful that her year-long deployment, during which time she will organise the movement of troops and equipment, will help bring freedom to the country and help liberate women.
    “There's this bigger picture there,” she said. “I want to help. Where we're going these people don't have freedom… Even the females, it's back to the early 20th Century, they don't want females to be highly educated.”
    This will be Spc Morrison's very first time in a war zone.
    And it will be daunting for another reason – never before has she been separated from her three young sons and stepdaughter for this long.
    She does not know when she will see them again – in fact, all she does know is that for the next 12 months she will be missing out on family life.
    “I'll miss my oldest son's first day of high school, football games, basketball, birthdays”
    As she recited the list of upcoming family events, she broke down in tears.
    Of course, Spc Morrison is not the only one making a sacrifice – her children are too. I asked her how she justifies her deployment to them.
    “That's a very good question… is it worth it? And I hope that when I come home in a year that I can say absolutely it was… that I made a difference or we made a difference.”
    This is the seventh time Red Oak has sent its citizens into combat since the Civil War.It has paid a high price for that willingness to serve. With a population of just 6,000, this small prairie town lost more men per capita in World War II than any other town in America.
    On a single night in 1943, 23 telegrams were received by families telling them that their boys were missing in North Africa.
    In a Life Magazine article about the town, an aerial photograph pinpointed the households that were gripped with dread as they waited to find out what had happened to their sons.
    One such family was the Diehls. It was several days before they were told that 22-year-old Elwin Diehl had been captured.
    He spent 27 months as a prisoner of war. He says he and his fellow prisoners “just existed, that's about all”. All they could do, he said, was “try to live from daylight till dark, and then you was hungry all the time”.
    He meets his old comrades at Red Oak's Court of Honour. It is the place where more than 1,000 flags commemorating the town's fallen are kept.Every Memorial Day, the Court hangs the flags in the cemetery.
    On the wall is a picture of Elwin Diehl and his Company M comrades. Fifty-seven Red Oak soldiers never came home from World War II.
    Mr Diehl admits that, back then, he was excited to be going to fight and didn't really understand what they were fighting for. But he sounds even less clear today about why America is in Afghanistan.
    “That's a hard subject for me to talk about because it seems to me like we're sticking our nose in everybody else's business trying to run the world.
    “We're involved in something there now that, I don't know what the outcome's going to be and I don't think anybody else does.”
    Nonetheless, ask the people of Red Oak about their commitment to military service and two words tend to be spoken most: “values” and “community”.
    Red Oak has some critics of the war in Afghanistan, but the overwhelming feeling encountered here is pride in the town's military past – and a willingness to continue to serve long in to the future.

    Source:BBC

    Why are some people offended by TV show Jersey Shore

    Why are some people offended by TV show Jersey Shore

    “It indicates an uneducated, boorish, stupid, low-class Italian-American,” says Mr DiMino.
    Of course, to the young people on the show, the term means something slightly different, something linked to being a fun-loving, well-groomed, sun-tanned gym-frequenter.
    This nuance didn't make the Italian-American activists happy. Their anger is likely to be reflected in the tone of the second series, which started in the US on Thursday.
    If the word “guido” is absent from the series, that would mark a major victory for the campaigners, whose actions prompted a dozen firms to pull their adverts from the first season.
    They'll also want to see fewer Italian flags punctuating the drunken antics and loudness, which in this series will take place largely in Miami.”It is basically a mindless culture – how good their tan is, how good their hair gel is, how big their muscles are. That isn't fair as a representation of Italian-Americans,” says Joseph del Raso, president of the National Italian-American Foundation.
    What annoys the activists is that MTV has commissioned a show that seems to have been tailored to be as brash and crass as possible, and it's branded as Italian-American. Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, the diminutive, uber-tanned star of the first series is already one of the most famous Italian-Americans.
    And whichever direction the new show goes in – and British fans will be able to start watching the second series on 5 September – it's part of a wider pattern of stereotyping that annoys Italian-Americans.

  • Use of word “guido”
  • Frequent display of Italian flag
  • Drunken behaviour
  • Obsession with gym, tanning and laundry
  • Macho behaviour
    “There is this tremendous sensitivity to other groups,” says Mr DiMino. “You don't see that sensitivity when it comes to Italian-Americans, the only group it is OK to bash in the media.”
    There have been countless fictional portrayals of organised crime over the years, from The Godfather to New Jersey's own, The Sopranos, which have built up a particular picture.
    “For decades, the connection was always made – if you were an Italian-American, you were in the Mafia or a mobster,” says Mr DiMino.
    The Sopranos won awards, was broadcast around the world and did address the issue of stereotyping, but the activists think it still may have influenced the thinking of simpler souls.
    “People started to really identify life in the Soprano family with life in a typical Italian American family,” says Mr Del Raso.
    But some think there is a big difference between quality drama like The Sopranos or an Oscar-winning film like The Godfather and something like Jersey Shore, says Mr Vitale.
    “They don't seek to offend, don't work in a manner that is intentionally offensive.”
    And for all that no-one really thinks that a significant proportion of Italian-Americans are criminals, the constant sniping irritates and reminds people of unhappier times past.
    “When I bought my first home the guy wanted to know if I got the money legally,” says Mr DiMino.Just having a name with a vowel at the end can be enough to cause some difficulty.
    “If you had an Italian-American moving into the mid-west to compete for a job, people see your name and think you are just like the rest of them,” says Mr Del Raso.
    A running theme among the activists seems to be that because Italian-Americans do not face serious discrimination in contemporary society, it's seen as fine to stereotype them.
    “You just can't take liberties with certain groups,” says Mr Del Raso. “There are other groups that are viewed as groups that don't need protection.
    “We mainstreamed very well into American society. We have enjoyed a lot of success. We are not a group that people will feel sorry for. We don't want to look like we are hypersensitive and cry-babies.”
    Historian Vincenza Scarpaci, author of The Journey of the Italians in America, says that despite the early Americans love of Italian culture, art and architecture, there was still a hostile reaction to the Italian immigrants who started arriving in large numbers at the beginning of the 20th Century.
    “Because we have not been marginalised like some of the other European groups people don't get as upset when someone is stereotyping Italians.
    “In general Italians are not looked upon negatively but when it comes to stereotyping very few people are going to stand up on the principle that what is an injury to one is an injury to all.”
    And that leads to the jokes.
    Ms Scarpaci winces when she recalls the friend who came up to her and said: “I tell all my friends I know Vinnie Scarpaci and they better not mess with me.” Add your comments 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

  • Artemis Rowers near Scillies Bishops Rock finish line

    Artemis Rowers near Scillies Bishops Rock finish line

    Four rowers trying to break a 114-year-old transatlantic record are racing towards the finish line off the Isles of Scilly.
    The Artemis North Atlantic Rowing Challenge crew left New York on 17 June and have until 12 August to break the record set in 1896 by two Norwegians.
    George Harbo and Frank Samuelson's time of 55 days and 13 hours still stands.
    But the Artemis boat is less than 20 nautical miles from Bishop's Rock and should pass the line at about 1700 BST.
    During the record attempt, the team has survived 10m (33ft) waves, encountered whales and even rescued a man overboard.
    Two years ago an attempt by a team called The Scilly Boys nearly ended in disaster when their vessel capsized, 13 days after leaving New York.
    It is the Artemis crew's second attempt after a broken rudder at the beginning of June forced them to retire.
    The four team members are Leven Brown, Ray Carroll, Don Lennox and Livar Nystad.
    Earlier, Ray Carroll told BBC the team was “very excited”, but was also being tested by conditions at sea.
    “Fingers crossed, all's going well, but as any sailor will tell you it's not over till it's over,” he said.
    “We're in a bit of a squall now and there's also a lot of tidal currents as we get closer to land.
    “We're all very excited and delighted to be getting closer to our families, but we're a bit anxious because the final approach is like an aeroplane taking off and landing – the most difficult part.”
    Isles of Scilly Harbour Master Dale Clark said islanders will be at the quayside in St Mary's to ensure the rowers are given a great welcome.

    Source:BBC

    Americas royal wedding

    Americas royal wedding

    Whether she likes it or not, the publicity shy only child is a household name.
    And now she's getting married.
    Carl Anthony, an author and historian at the National First Ladies Library, says that Americans are interested in Chelsea's wedding because she is part of the national narrative.
    “It's a reflection of ourselves I think. It's this sense of a public event and these public people that we have sense of familiarity with,” Mr Anthony says.

  • “In Europe with its history of royal families, you've always had this. You've had national stories or national narratives.”
    For Americans, the Clintons fulfil that role.
    A wedding is a turning point in a universally recognised life narrative, which is why Chelsea's nuptials have garnered more attention than her graduations from Stanford and Oxford or her post 9/11 essay in Talk magazine.
    Chelsea's wedding has generated more interest than, for example, Jenna Bush's wedding in 2008, because she became part of the country's history at such a young age.
    Moreover, the Clintons are icons of a different, seemingly more youthful time in America's history – a pre 9/11 era when the country wasn't weighed down with wars, bulging deficits and billowing oil leaks. Chelsea is a reminder of that time, and people feel invested in the life of that young girl who held her parents hands through their darkest personal days.
    But, as Mr Anthony points out, despite her familiarity, people don't really know her.
    “It's been 10 years since the Clintons left the White House and she's not in any way chosen or indicated a preference for a high-visibility public role. She's a grad school student,” he told the BBC.
    “It's not about her, it's about her parents.”
    And therein lies the problem with Chelsea's desire for nuptial privacy.
    The Clintons and their personal lives have long been magnets for the media, and despite their efforts, details of the wedding have set the blogosphere alight.
    The 400 invitees will be hosted at an estate in the Hudson River town of Rhinebeck, New York.
    Rumours abound that the wedding will cost between 3m and 5m (1.9m – 3.2m).
    Aerial photographs which show a large marquee being erected on the property of the Astor Courts Estate have made their way onto gossip blogs.That of course raised the inevitable question: where will guests relieve themselves?
    Apparently in classy porcelain portaloos, which cost around 15,000 to rent. One New York website called the loos “nicer than your apartment”.
    For months, style watchers presumed that Chelsea would wear one of her mother's favourite designers, Oscar de la Renta.
    But this week she was snapped entering a Vera Wang store in Manhattan, attempting to hide her face under an oversized floppy hat.
    On Thursday, the Associated Press revealed that the airspace over Rhinebeck would be a “no-fly zone” on the afternoon of the wedding, further hampering the pesky paparazzi's ability to get that coveted shot.
    But mostly, the wedding details have been overshadowed by debates over the guest list – specifically which of Bill and Hillary's celebrity pals will make the cut.
    President Obama ended speculation that he would attend by telling the ladies of US talk show The View that he didn't receive an invitation.
    Famous friends like Oprah Winfrey or Barbara Streisand may appear, but the Clintons have carefully clarified that each of the 400 guests must have a personal connection to the bride and groom.
    In typical Washington fashion, that sensible decree hasn't prevented griping from political contacts hoping that campaign generosity also buys a ticket to the A-list. “I'm good enough to borrow a plane from, but not good enough to be invited to the wedding?” an anonymous political donor grumbled to the New York Times.
    It's a quintessentially Washington mindset that conflates social and political power, access to which can often be bought.
    That's a world that Chelsea has rejected. The politics of her wedding are the politics of any wedding writ large.
    Chelsea has been grappling with questions that most brides do: how many people does the bride's family get to invite? What about the groom? How do I choose bridesmaids without causing hurt feelings? How big a secret do I keep the dress?
    But when your parents are Bill and Hillary Clinton those questions take on a new level of meaning.
    Chelsea didn't have a choice about that, or how many details of the wedding have leaked. But these days, one thing she has control over is what people know about her.
    “What we perceive as secrecy about the wedding is really just privacy,” Mr Anthony says. “We forget that we don't know Chelsea. We think we do, but we don't.”

    Source:BBC

  • Canadian jets intercept Russian bombers

    Canadian jets intercept Russian bombers

    Canadian CF-18 fighter jets were dispatched to intercept Russian bombers as they skirted Canadian airspace by the Arctic, the defence ministry says.
    The bombers, which sometimes fly near Canada, were dispersed, officials said.
    Russian officials said the flight was a training exercise and the TU-95 bombers did not “violate” Canadian airspace.
    Canada's Liberal Party said the government's response was appropriate, given Russia's attempts to claim sovereignty over Arctic territories.
    A Canadian defence ministry spokesman said the bombers had been found 250 nautical miles (463km) from Goose Bay in the province of Newfoundland, “in waters in a Canadian buffer zone”.
    “We haven't violated Canadian airspace,” an official at Russia's embassy in Ottawa told the Globe and Mail newspaper. “There is no problem here.”
    Meanwhile, Canadian Parliament member Marc Garneau claimed the Conservative government was using the episode to justify its intentions to purchase new Canadian fighter jets at a price tag of 16bn (9.9bn), according to local media.

    Source:BBC

    Afghan leak – Wikileaks Assange denies blood on hands

    Afghan leak - Wikileaks Assange denies blood on hands

    The founder of the website Wikileaks has rejected US claims he has blood on his hands after releasing 90,000 leaked classified documents on the Afghan war.
    Julian Assange told the BBC there was no evidence that any informants had died as a result of the leaks.
    He accused the Pentagon of trying to distract attention from the thousands of lives being lost in the war.
    The White House has appealed to Wikileaks not to publish another 15,000 documents in it is thought to hold.
    The US denied Mr Assange's assertion that he had asked the US government to help vet the documents to protect lives.
    Mr Assange the BBC's Newshour programme that the US government had presented no evidence that innocent people or Welcome to ainformants had been harmed by the leaks.
    And he directly addressed comments made by Adm Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who sharply criticised Wikileaks.
    “One must consider why the Pentagon is focusing on the hypothetical blood that it says might be on our hands – although there is no evidence of that – compared to the 20,000 lives that have been lost in Afghanistan that are documented and exposed by our material,” Mr Assange told the BBC.
    Mr Assange said Wikileaks had sought to engage the White House in its efforts to vet the material before it was released.
    He has pledged to continue the release of documents.”We will not be suppressed,” he said. “We will continue to expose abuses by this administration and others.”
    The documents, which Wikileaks has dubbed the , were first described in news reports late on Sunday.
    Among other revelations, they describe previously unreported civilian deaths, they claim members of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency have backed the Taliban in Afghanistan, and state that the Taliban has used surface-to-air missiles to down coalition aircraft.
    On Thursday, Adm Mike Mullen expressed his outrage over the leaks at a press conference.
    “Mr Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family,” he said.
    That was followed on Friday by a plea from White House aide Robert Gibbs for whoever possessed the Afghan files not to release any more.
    “It is important that no more damage be done to our national security,” he said on NBC's Today show.
    Meanwhile, a soldier accused of leaking video of a deadly helicopter attack in Iraq has been transferred to a base in the US.
    US Army Pfc Bradley Manning is to stand trial on charges he gave video of the attack – in which a Reuters photographer was killed – to Wikileaks.
    The Pentagon is also investigating whether he handed over the 90,000 classified documents.
    The army said on Friday that Pfc Manning, 22, had been moved from Kuwait to Quantico Marine Base in Virginia where he will be held pending trial.
    The Pentagon has said investigators were extending the helicopter attack video investigation to find out whether Pfc Manning was involved in the leak of the Afghanistan documents. A spokesman described him as a “person of interest”.

    Source:BBC

    Former US VP Al Gore will not face assault charges

    Former US VP Al Gore will not face assault charges

    Former US Vice-President Al Gore will not face charges over allegations he groped and assaulted a masseuse in his hotel room in Portland, Oregon, in 2006, law enforcement officials say.
    The authorities say there is “a lack of credible evidence” and the claims do not warrant a criminal prosecution.
    The decision comes a month after police reopened the investigation.
    Mr Gore does not dispute that he had a massage from Molly Hagerty, 54, but denies any assault took place.
    The case, which was closed previously because of a lack of evidence, was reopened in June after Ms Haggerty told the National Enquirer magazine that Mr Gore had tried to assault her.
    Having reopened the case, prosecutors reportedly chose not to pursue it because Ms Hagerty had refused a polygraph test and appeared to have been paid by the magazine.
    Mr Gore was in Portland to deliver a speech on climate change when the massage in question took place.
    Mr Gore separated from his wife, Tipper, in June.

    Source:BBC

    Charlie Rangels ethics trial poses problems for Democrats

    Charlie Rangels ethics trial poses problems for Democrats

    From the beginning of 2007 until March this year, Mr Rangel held the coveted position of chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, granting him a broad sphere of influence in both Congress and business.
    (He took leave of that position after an investigation revealed that he had allowed corporations to pay for trips to the Caribbean.)
    He was the first African American to hold that chair – one of the many moments of his career that have contributed to his reputation as a trailblazer for other black politicians.
    In the early 1980s, the congressman was arrested for protesting against apartheid outside the South African consulate in New York. He later championed a reportedly effective anti-apartheid sanction, “the Rangel amendment”, which barred companies operating in South Africa from receiving foreign tax credits.
    Now his long career is tarnished by his allegedly questionable financial dealings.
    Mr Rangel is accused of failing to report 600,000 income, not paying taxes on a property in the Dominican Republic and improperly using a rent-controlled apartment in New York as a campaign office.
    He also allegedly solicited donations for the Charles B Rangel Center for Public Policy at the City College of New York from companies who were being investigated by his committee. Mr Rangel intends to defend himself against the charges. His legal counsel issued a statement declaring that “the congressman did not abuse his official position or enrich himself financially”.
    Regardless of the outcome of Mr Rangel's trial, he is unlikely to be voted out of office.
    Mr Rangel's district is overwhelmingly Democratic, and his primary challengers are woefully under-funded by comparison.
    A familiar sight of the streets of Harlem, Mr Rangel remains popular with his constituents, and has collected a healthy stable of political allies in the district over his decades of public life.
    But many of his Democratic counterparts face a much more uncertain future. Mr Rangel's ethical quandary may contribute to a growing backlash against Democratic lawmakers.
    Still, Mrs Pelosi remains upbeat. “Drain the swamp we did, as this was a terrible place,” she told the New York Times. “We made a tremendous difference, and I take great pride in that.”
    But when draining the swamp means going after one of her own, implicating her party and her friend in the sort of behaviour she claimed to reject, it makes for prickly politics.

    Source:BBC

    California building explosion kills two

    California building explosion kills two

    Share this page California building explosion kills two Two people have died after a two-storey industrial building exploded in Los Angeles, California, officials say.
    One victim was electrocuted by a 34,500-volt power line that was brought down and another died when he was hurled into the street by the blast.
    The explosion occurred at about 0615 local time (1115 GMT).
    The cause of the blast remains under investigation, but officials suspect a natural gas leak caused the disaster.
    “I was very lucky,” worker Daniel Ibarra told the Associated Press news agency. Mr Ibarra had stepped out of the building to take the rubbish out when the blast hit.
    A search-and-rescue team sent dogs into the debris to find a person they thought might be trapped.
    Fire Captain Steve Ruda said the dogs did not detect anyone and that large equipment would soon be brought to the site to move the rubble and continue the search.

    Source:BBC

    Whale fossil stuck in Egypt customs wrangle

    Whale fossil stuck in Egypt customs wrangle

    Its name in Arabic is Wadi Hitan but it is known as the Valley of the Whales.
    For years archaeologists have been unearthing a remarkable collection of whale fossils, all the more surprising because the area is now inland desert in upper Egypt.
    It is believed that about 40 million years ago the area was submerged in water, part of the Tethys Sea. As the sea retreated north to the Mediterranean it left a series of unique rock formations and also a cornucopia of fossils.
    One of the most exceptional finds was a 37 million-year-old whale from the species Basilosaurus Isis, unearthed by a team led by Prof Philip Gingerich of the University of Michigan in the United States.
    But now it has become the subject of a bizarre customs wrangle at Cairo airport.
    Prof Gingerich explained that this was the only complete specimen from this species of whale.
    It provides evidence of how whales evolved from being land-based creatures to go back into the sea – a reverse of the usual evolutionary process.Basilosaurus Isis retained tiny feet, a useless reminder of its evolution from land animal to sea-dweller.
    The limbs are human sized, even though the creature is 15m-16m long.
    For the past two years Prof Gingerich and his team have been painstakingly reassembling the skeleton back in Michigan. It is now being returned to Egypt for a new museum, planned for the Valley of the Whales.
    But according to the Egyptian media the whale skeleton is stuck at Cairo airport.
    Customs agents are demanding a 40,000 fee.
    It is not clear how they came to that figure as prehistoric fossils have no agreed market value.
    In any case the Egyptian authorities who are importing the fossil are refusing to pay.
    A senior official from the ministry of tourism has warned that the issue needs to be resolved speedily, otherwise it could cause a “big scandal” for Egypt, he said.
    Prof Gingerich joked that it had taken two and a half years to be allowed to export the fossil to the United States, and it could take another two and a half years to get it back.

    Source:BBC

    Northwest Airlines agrees to pay $38m pricefixing fine

    Northwest Airlines agrees to pay $38m pricefixing fine

    Northwest Airlines is to plead guilty and pay a 38m (24m) fine for its role in fixing air-cargo prices, the US Department of Justice has said.
    The department said as part of a plea deal Northwest would co-operate with an ongoing anti-trust investigation.
    Northwest Airlines Cargo, which is no longer operating, conspired to fix air-cargo rates from July 2004 to February 2006, the department added.
    Northwest was taken over by Delta Air Lines in a 1.7bn deal in October 2008.
    Northwest has agreed to plead guilty to a single offence, said the DoJ.
    So far a total of 16 airlines have pleaded guilty or agreed to do so in an ongoing investigation into price-fixing in air cargo, it added.
    More than 1.6bn in criminal fines has been paid by airlines, and four executives have received prison sentences.

    Source:BBC

    Christian shop manager dissuades wouldbe armed robber

    Christian shop manager dissuades wouldbe armed robber

    Share this page Christian shop manager dissuades would-be armed robber A 20-year-old Christian mobile phone shop manager in Florida stopped a would-be armed robber by preaching to him about Jesus.
    Nayara Goncalves spent nearly five minutes persuading the man that he was doing the wrong thing.
    The man eventually apologised, explained his gun was a replica and left the shop in Broward County.
    “She was able to remain calm and keep him calm,” a sheriff's office spokeswoman said.
    During the incident on 23 July, Ms Goncalves told the would-be robber: “I'm just going to talk with you about Jesus.”
    The man said he was a Christian and was “embarrassed” to be doing what he was doing but that he needed 300 (190) to avoid being evicted.
    The shop manager told him: “I don't know what you're going through, but all of us are going through a hard time right now.”
    When she explained that she would have to make up any shortfall, he decided to leave.
    Ms Goncalves told the BBC she had been inspired by God and that she hoped the man would turn to the church.
    “He didn't look that bad. He didn't look like a criminal. It made me a bit more confident about what I wanted to tell him.
    “It touched me. I could never be able to think I could to talk or preach to someone with a gun.
    “I just felt like hugging him and saying please don't do this.”
    Veda Coleman-Wright, of Broward County sheriff's office, said she had never seen anything like it in her 14 years on the job.
    The man is being sought for attempted armed robbery, she added.

    Source:BBC

    Arizona immigration law – Your views

    Arizona immigration law - Your views

    Share this page Arizona immigration law: Your views Arizona's governor has appealed against a US federal court's decision to block parts of an anti-immigration law hours before it came into effect.
    The court issued a temporary injunction against a requirement that police check the immigration status of suspects they stop, while enforcing other laws.
    A section making it a crime not to hold immigration papers was also blocked.
    Here, readers in Arizona debate the law and discuss whether it should be blocked or allowed to proceed.
    I'm a Hispanic US citizen and this law rubbed me the wrong way.
    I would find it offensive if I had to carry documentation of US citizenship everywhere I went to prove that I'm American.
    I've been living in the US since I was two, when I was adopted.
    Yet when I go near the southern border of Arizona, I get lots of nasty looks, as though I shouldn't be there.
    People assume I'm an immigrant and question whether I'm legal. I even get snide comments on how Hispanics should go back to where they came from.
    I recognise that there is a problem with immigration but I don't see how this law would change that – it would just create more hostility.
    There needs to be a better way of controlling how people are getting into the country, but we should also address the reason why people are so desperate to come here.
    If we could improve their lives in Mexico, that would help.
    The entire immigration system in the US needs a radical overhaul.
    Until then, Governor Brewer has without doubt acted in the best interests of the state in trying to change immigration policies.
    Law enforcement officials in Arizona have always had the right to ask any person they stop for proof of identification.
    Regardless of a person's race, colour or religion, if the person couldn't prove their identity they were taken down to the local police station until their identity was confirmed.
    This has happened multiple times to American citizens. There are no exceptions.
    The new immigration law in my opinion will not increase racial profiling.
    Nobody is telling people they can't come to live and work in Arizona.
    They are simply requesting that they do it the right way and through the right channels, like so many other people have to do every year for the right to live and work in the USA.
    As a natural born US citizen, I must prove my citizenship to work.
    I must be able to prove my citizenship when questioned at checkpoints – internally entering Arizona and at the US border.
    I must provide my birth certificate when applying for a driver's licence, and I cannot obtain any government benefits without proving citizenship.
    A US citizen is not permitted to enter Mexico illegally and no foreigner in Mexico is permitted to work in Mexico without proper authorisation and documentation.
    While in Mexico I have been stopped for the single purpose to have my documents checked.
    It's unreasonable that an illegal alien in Arizona or anywhere else in the US should have more rights than a citizen.
    It's also unreasonable that Mexico, a country with harsher immigration laws than Arizona's immigration law, would complain about our laws in the US.
    Arizona is overwhelmed with illegal immigrants; the federal government does little to make real progress at reducing illegal immigration.
    Mexico receives an influx of cash from those working in the US illegally who send money home, so there's little motivation for the government to stimulate business or jobs there.
    Recent polls show 70% of Arizona residents support the immigration law, so if the federal government wishes to overturn it they may be looking at a long road of political discontent.
    This lawsuit against Arizona by the federal government is about authority and control – not rights.
    I support the federal court's ruling.
    Arizona's immigration law clearly violates the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution.
    The federal government has the sole authority to determine immigration laws.
    The United States clearly needs immigration reform. We need to look at what other countries are doing.
    We need a guest worker programme and a method for children brought into the US by undocumented parents to apply for citizenship.
    We need a high-tech virtual fence on our border with Mexico – not one made of bricks.
    We Americans can't afford to build it or man it with troops.
    The real key is what happens in Mexico and whether it will become a failed narco-state or a democracy.
    If it fails, American military intervention may become necessary.
    We need to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan and focus on helping our southern neighbour stabilise its country and improve its economy.
    Then Mexicans will not have to flee to America. They can stay home and enjoy their lives in safety and security.
    This law is unfair and targets Hispanics.
    As a resident of Arizona for seven years, I find the news reporting of the “illegals” problem very biased, as it provides no actual number of how many “illegals” are in the state.
    Also the situation along the border is not as severe as the media makes it sound.
    The biggest problem we have is with the white supremacists who are flooding our state and spreading messages of hate, which only incite mass hysteria among our citizens.
    Furthermore, Arizona police do not track crimes based on citizenship status, so we do not have an accurate number on how many crimes are committed by “illegal immigrants”.

    Source:BBC

    Accused Wikileaks source Manning moved to US for trial

    Accused Wikileaks source Manning moved to US for trial

    Share this page Accused Wikileaks source Manning moved to US for trial A soldier accused of leaking video of a deadly helicopter attack in Iraq has been transferred to a base in the US.
    US Army Pfc Bradley Manning is to stand trial on charges he gave video of the attack, which killed a Reuters photographer, to website Wikileaks.
    The Pentagon is also investigating whether he gave the site 90,000 documents on the war in Afghanistan.
    On Friday a White House aide begged whoever possessed the Afghan files not to release any more.
    “It's important that no more damage be done to our national security,” Robert Gibbs said on NBC's Today show.
    The US Army said on Friday Pfc Manning, 22, had been moved from Kuwait to Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, where he will be held pending trial.
    The Pentagon said this week investigators were extending the helicopter attack video investigation to find out whether Pfc Manning was involved in leak of the Afghanistan documents, with a spokesman describing him as a “person of interest”.
    But a Pentagon spokesman has said the investigation is “broader” than Pfc Manning.
    The US government maintains the massive dump of documents onto the website put lives at risk.
    “We can do nothing but implore the person that has those classified top secret documents not to post any more,” Mr Gibbs said on Friday.
    And, on Thursday, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said: “The truth is [Wikileaks] might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family.”
    Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has dismissed the accusation, saying the US government has presented no evidence innocent people or informants have been harmed by the leaks.
    On Friday, he pledged to continue document releases.
    “We will not be suppressed,” he said. “We will continue to expose abuses by this administration and others.”
    The documents, which Wikileaks have called the , were first described in news reports late on Sunday.
    Among other revelations, they describe in new detail civilian deaths, claim members of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency have backed the Taliban in Afghanistan, and state the Taliban has used surface-to-air missiles to down coalition aircraft.

    Source:BBC

    BP boss Dudley says oil cleanup will be scaled back

    BP boss Dudley says oil cleanup will be scaled back

    New BP chief executive Bob Dudley has said it is time to scale back some parts of the oil spill clean-up in the Gulf of Mexico.
    Virtually no oil has been released into the Gulf since a new cap was closed on 15 July.
    And skimming crews have reported only tiny quantities of oil out at sea.
    But Mr Dudley insisted BP's commitment to tackling the environmental damage would continue, saying: “We'll be here for years.”

  • “You will see the evidence of a pullback because we have boom across the shores all the way from Florida to Louisiana. Those only last for a certain number of tide cycles,” Mr Dudley told reporters in Biloxi, Mississippi.
    “And where there is no oil on the beaches you probably don't need people walking up and down in Hazmat suits. So you'll probably see that kind of a pullback. But commitment, absolutely no pullback.”
    BP has just reported a record 17bn (11bn) loss, having set aside 32bn to cover the costs of the spill.
    On 20 April, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and causing an oil spill that soon became the worst environmental disaster in US history
    For three months, a massive slick has threatened the shores of Louisiana and other southern Gulf Coast states.

    Source:BBC

  • Canada court weighs retrial for convicted serial killer

    Canada court weighs retrial for convicted serial killer

    The Canadian Supreme Court is to decide whether to grant a new trial to a pig farmer convicted of killing six women.
    Lawyers for Robert Pickton, found guilty of killing and butchering six Vancouver sex workers, say he did not receive a fair trial.
    He was convicted in 2007 after a lengthy trial in which gruesome evidence of the killings and disposal of the women's bodies was presented.
    Prosecutors say if he is tried again they will charge him over 26 killings.
    The women's butchered and frozen body parts had been found in outbuildings on Pickton's property in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, prosecutors said during the trial.
    The trail followed the largest serial killer investigation in Canadian history.
    Prosecutors said that over a four-year period, Pickton had killed Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Georgina Papin, Marnie Frey and Brenda Wolfe.
    Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for at least 25 years.
    In his appeal, Pickton argues that Crown prosecutors presented evidence he acted alone in the six killings. But toward the end of the trial the judge said he could be convicted if jurors found he had killed the women “or was otherwise an active participant” in the killings.
    Last year, a British Columbia appellate court .

    Source:BBC

    US economic growth slows to 2.4%

    US economic growth slows to 2.4%

    US economic growth slowed between April and June, with GDP growing by an annualised rate of 2.4%, the US Commerce Department has said.
    This compares with an annual rate of 3.7% in the previous quarter.
    The second quarter figure is a first estimate, and could be revised either up or down in the coming months.
    There are growing fears about the strength of the US economic recovery, particularly concerning the country's high unemployment rate of 9.5%.
    A large increase in imports and a fall in sales of goods such as cars partly explain the slowdown in GDP growth, while personal consumption grew at a slower rate than in the first quarter.
    These factors more than offset an increase in spending on property, as Americans looked to take advantage of tax credits for home buyers that expired during the quarter.
    The Commerce Department also revised its previous estimate for growth in the first three months of the year up sharply, from 2.7% to 3.7%.
    The US economy has now grown for four straight quarters.
    “The economy entered the second quarter with plenty of momentum, but exited with very little,” said Nigel Gault, chief US economist at IHS Global Insight.
    The second quarter GDP growth figure was slightly lower than analysts' expectations.
    “This number will cast a pall on today's trading,” said Jack Ablin at Harris Private Bank.
    He also expressed commonly-held fears that growth could slow further as government stimulus measures are withdrawn.
    “My sense is that we're operating in a weakening environment without the help of a lot of stimulus. If the stimulus package was a box of doughnuts dumped on the economy, we only have one or two doughnuts left in the box.”
    The US pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy during the downturn to try and stimulate demand.
    Earlier on Friday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that the US might have to increase its stimulus spending to support the recovery.

    Source:BBC

    Life among the cyberelite

    Life among the cyberelite

    Joichi 'Joi' Ito is to start-ups what Brian Epstein was to the Beatles.
    With a talented eye for a promising idea, the 44-year-old has spotted and nurtured some of the web's most famous names, with the likes of Twitter, Flickr and Last.fm all receiving his help on the path to social-networking success.
    Time Magazine has described him as a member of the cyber-elite, a select band of internet personalities who command enviable levels of influence on the web.
    Born in Japan before moving to North America, Joi dropped out of two universities before embarking on a career that spans all corners of the web.
    His CV reads like a history of the web.
    In March 2004, he joined blog listings site Technorati, a site which helped an infant blogosphere grow.
    In April of the same year, he became CEO of Six Apart Japan – a subsidiary of the company that produces Movable Type, a blogging platform used by millions, including the BBC.
    He sits on the board at the Mozilla Foundation – responsible for the Firefox browser and other open-source projects – and had a three-year stint on the board of ICANN, which oversees the net's addressing system.
    But arguably his most significant work is with Creative Commons – first as a board member and then later as CEO – which has seen him pioneer the copyright-free, sharing movement online.
    It is not all success, however. For every Twitter or Flickr, there are countless failures that will never make it.
    “Investors only talk about their successes,” said Mr Ito.
    “The good thing is, the cost of failure for open-source is nearly zero. The cost of failure for start-up companies is very small.
    “There's a website called Sourceforge, where people start open-source and free software projects. And I think close to 99% of those projects are complete failures – no-one downloads them, ever.
    “But the cost to society for all of those failures is nearly zero because it's some kid in a bedroom, comes up with an idea, posts the idea, generates an interest around it, spends a couple of hours of his own time – and that's it.”
    In amongst those failures, the likes of Linux, Firefox and Wikipedia are born.
    “The author Clay Shirky talks about this: The cost of failure being low allows you to swing the bat a lot.”
    He says this approach to business makes the start-ups far more flexible than bigger companies when it comes to innovation.
    “[As] a large corporation, if you want to try out an idea, you have to organise, you have to get a budget.
    “Just thinking about the idea can cost millions of dollars. The risk of failure is huge. So you become, by nature, conservative.”
    For those who persevere with the flops, the rewards are huge.
    “What you find is approximately one in ten will do something that returns a decent amount.
    “I would say that for a typical venture capitalist the way that you look at it is that Googles and Yahoos come once every five years.”
    And when those opportunities arise, for investors, reputation is everything.
    “Because these companies require so little money at the beginning, most of the good companies are over-subscribed. You can't get in.
    “And so the good entrepreneurs tend to be able to choose investors that they want, and so it really is a beauty contest where the seller is the investor and not the entrepreneur.
    “What you're really trying to do is make enough money so you're not losing money, but you want to get invited to the party when Google comes through town.
    “And the way you get invited to the party is being a good guy, being somebody who contributes value, being well-known, having successes.”
    Which is where Mr Ito's non-profit efforts set him apart from other investors.
    As CEO of Creative Commons, he evangelises the “open” web, a network which allows people to share their content with others, forgoing the usual copyright laws which restrict such actions.The movement – as it is often described – has aided fledgling designers, musicians, developers, and others, to produce work that would have not otherwise have been possible.
    Mr Ito says that on the web, the line between for-profit and non-profit is constantly blurred, and that they complement each other.
    “The non-profit work is a great way to do several things. You meet all the bright people, and also the non-profits that I've worked in are all non-profits that work on the standards and the infrastructure that we use.”
    Mr Ito does not relish being described as a member of the cyber-elite.
    “I don't like elitists, and I'm very much into empowering the grassroots, and that's my whole message. Being called cyber-elite makes me somewhat uncomfortable,” he said.
    “I think there are people who get more attention, and maybe get more than their fair share of attention, and I think there are people who have influence.”

  • The Interview is a weekly programme broadcast from the BBC World Service, and hears from the major players who shape our world
  • It is broadcast on Saturday at 0932GMT and repeated on Sunday at 0632GMT, 1432GMT and on Monday at 0332GMT
  • That influence, he says, is distinctly different to reputation in the “real world”.
    “I think that the biggest difference between influence on the internet and influence in real life is usually privilege comes from some sort of bottom up.
    “The people choose who their leaders are. Whereas I think in the real world a lot of privilege comes from where you were born and how much money you have.”
    Web influence can of course be measured in many different ways, from how much money your online businesses make to how many followers you have on Twitter. But Mr Ito argues influence is simply about getting things done.
    “When you need something, all the people and all the things that you need suddenly come together.
    “The network doesn't owe me anything, but when I need something to happen, when I need to find a bunch of people who can help me with this or help me with that, it's quite easy for me to find the people I need because of the way my network is constructed.”
    .

    Source:BBC

  • Addiction drugs may boost weight loss

    Addiction drugs may boost weight loss

    A combination pill of two drugs used to treat addiction may help people lose weight, say US researchers.
    The Lancet reports that Naltrexone, commonly used to treat alcoholics and heroin addicts, and the anti-smoking drug bupropion led to greater weight loss than diet and exercise alone.
    It is thought the treatment may help beat food cravings.
    However, one UK expert said he would like to see much higher weight loss for the drug to be used in clinics.
    Professor Nick Finer, an obesity expert from University College London (UCL), said the drug may prove more useful if researchers can better identify who would benefit.
    In the study, 1,700 overweight and obese adults were all offered a weight-loss programme with diet and exercise advice.
    Two-thirds were also given the combination treatment (in one of two doses) and a third were given a placebo, or dummy pill, to take twice a day.
    Only half completed the trial, which lasted a year.
    Overall those taking the treatment lost an average of 5% to 6% of their weight depending on the dose, compared with 1.3% in the placebo group.
    The researchers said if only those who completed the trial were included, weight loss was 8% of body weight for those on the anti-addiction drugs.
    The treatment was not without side effects which included nausea, headaches, constipation, dizziness, vomiting and a dry mouth.
    The drug is designed to target both the parts of the brain controlling appetite but also reward.
    Regulators in the US are currently looking at whether the treatment, which will be marketed as Contrave, should be licensed.
    Study leader Professor Frank Greenway, from Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, said although 5% may not seem like a huge weight loss, it could make a real difference in terms of health risks.
    “I think the weight loss we saw was significant even if it might not be as much as many people would like to see,” he said.

  • He said a separate trial of the same drug but with a more intensive diet and exercise programme had shown a 10% average weight loss, compared with 5% in the placebo group.
    “This is the first drug I'm aware of that targets both the appetite and reward centres in the brain,” he said.
    “People who struggle with cravings seem to have better control with their eating.
    “In practice it is likely to be used in people who feel cravings get in the way of their ability to lose weight.”
    Professor Finer, from UCL, said combination treatments were likely to be the future for obesity drugs.
    But he said he was not overly impressed with the weight loss seen in the trial, especially given the side-effects.
    “The question will be can they define who the responders are and also can you get better results by combining the drug with a more effective weight loss programme,” he said.
    “We desperately need effective drugs but we have to have very high standards of safety and acceptability to patients.”

    Source:BBC

  • Ellen DeGeneres quits American Idol

    Ellen DeGeneres quits American Idol

    Share this page Ellen DeGeneres quits American Idol Comedienne and chat show host Ellen DeGeneres is leaving American Idol after one season on the judging panel.
    She said in a statement that while she “loved discovering, supporting and nurturing young talent, it was hard for me to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings”.
    US reports have tipped singer Jennifer Lopez to take over from DeGeneres.
    A replacement has yet to be announced for Simon Cowell, who has left to start a US version of The X Factor.
    “A couple months ago, I let Fox and the American Idol producers know that this didn't feel like the right fit for me,” DeGeneres said.
    It had not been announced straight away because producers had wanted time “to figure out where they wanted to take the panel next”, she added.
    DeGeneres, who replaced Paula Abdul, reportedly joined the four-judge panel on a five-year contract.
    Sir Elton John, Justin Timberlake, Steven Tyler and Harry Connick Jr have all been linked to the vacancy created by Cowell's departure.
    Meanwhile, panel member Kara DioGuardi is out of contract and Fox has yet to announce whether she will return.
    Original judge Randy Jackson is the fourth member of the panel.
    May's finale was the lowest rated since the first series in 2002 with 24.2 million tuning in to see former paint salesman Lee DeWyze take the crown.
    But the programme remains the most-watched TV show in the US.

    Source:BBC

    Suspect mail found at US embassy in Paris not harmful

    Suspect mail found at US embassy in Paris not harmful

    Employees at the US embassy in France have been taken for medical check-ups after a suspect package was identified at the building's mail room.
    The State Department has said initial tests indicated the package was not harmful.
    But two employees were given medical attention after coming into contact with the package, a statement said.
    “We have no indication that anyone is in danger or hurt,” embassy spokesman Paul Patin told reporters in Paris.
    The police are investigating, he said.
    “Preliminary results indicate that the envelope was not harmful,” a statement from the State Department said.
    “The embassy confirms that a suspicious envelope was received. Per embassy security procedures the two employees who were exposed to it were evaluated by medical professionals and the envelope is being analysed by a laboratory.”

    Source:BBC