viernes, 31 de diciembre de 2010

The Queen Honors British Arts Figures - New York Times (blog)

Numerous British arts figures, ranging from writers to pop stars, are included in Queen Elizabeth's annual honors list, which was released in London on Friday, in recognition of distinguished service to Great Britain. The writer Antonia Fraser, author of several widely praised biographies and widow of the playwright Harold Pinter, led the group and was designated a dame, the female equivalent of a knight, for her contributions to literature.

Two actors were among those named Commanders of the British Empire. One, David Suchet, is best-known for his portrayal of the detective Hercule Poirot on television, while the other, Sheila Hancock, is a familiar name to viewers of British television and West End theatergoers. From the pop music world, the singer Annie Lennox, formerly of the Eurythmics, and the record producer Trevor Horn, of Yes and the Buggles, were also given CBE honors. The guitarist and songwriter Richard Thompson, a founder of the folk-rock group Fairport Convention, was selected for the Order of the British Empire.

Both Ms. Lennox and Mr. Horn welcomed the news of their recognition with cheeky humor. "I'm getting my fake leopard pillbox hat dusted and ready" for the investiture ceremony, Ms. Lennox said, while Mr. Horn promised to "put my Buggles glasses on," a reference to the costume he wore in the famous video for "Video Killed the Radio Star."

Boney M: Did Bobby Farrell have the best job in the world? - (blog)

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Disco lost its king yesterday when Bobby Farrell died while touring in Russia. The cause of his death is still unknown; he was only 61. He had a staggeringly successful career with Boney M in the 70s and 80s, selling 80 million records and thrilling audiences with his flamboyant dancing and exotic costumes.

But his role in the band was quite unique – and seems dated when compared to the structure of pop groups 40 years later. He was basically a dancer with a decorative "frontman" label. Boney M's creator Frank Farian provided the male vocals on all the band's recordings and when Farrell sang on stage (he usually mimed), his voice was often supported by backing vocalists.

This strikes me as an incredibly jammy job. Hang out with three pretty girls, deck yourself out in sparkly unitards and travel the world getting your groove on and earning tons of money. Daddy Cool struck gold.

Gotta Get Home – itself a rewrite of Hallo Bimmelbahn by Nighttrain – formed the sample of the biggest dance hit of 2010: Barbara Streisand by Duck Sauce. Although Farrell is no longer with us, his legacy will live on as a new generation of music-lovers discover the disco anthems he was an unconventional but important part of.

Missing Joanna Yeates: Similarities to Melanie murder are frightening -

The discovery of what is believed to be Joanna Yeates' body draws chilling comparisons to the unsolved murder of Melanie Hall 14 years ago.

Similarities between the two cases are striking. Both were happy young professionals with everything to live for... and their disappearances baffled friends and family.

Melanie vanished in June 1996 after an argument with her boyfriend in a nightclub in Bath - 15 miles from the scene of Joanne's suspected abduction.

Despite a huge police operation, it wasn't until last October when a workman found parts of Melanie's skeleton hidden in plastic bags.

The gruesome discovery was made at Junction 14 of the M5 near Thornbury, Gloucestershire.

Several arrests were made, but no one has ever been brought to justice for Melanie's murder.

Both women were aged 25 at the time they went missing. Jo was a landscape architect and Melanie a hospital clerical worker.

They also looked similar - both 5ft 4ins, slim, pretty with blonde, bobbed hair.

Jo disappeared after drinks with friends at the Bristol Ram pub in Bristol, Melanie after a night in Cadillacs nightclub, Bath.

In the days after they vanished, Jo and Melanie's parents each gave very moving - and similar - statements indicating how the disappearances were totally out of character.

Melanie's mum Patricia said at the time: "Melanie is a home-loving, responsible girl.

"We can't understand what's happened to her."

There are also close links to missing Claudia Lawrence, 35, who vanished on March 18 last year. She was last seen near her home in Heworth, York, as she returned from her job as a chef at the University of York.

News Presenter Burgled As Family Slept - Sky News

3:49pm UK, Friday December 31, 2010

Michael Burgess, Sky News Online

The home of BBC Breakfast presenter Susanna Reid has been burgled while she and her family slept upstairs.

Susanna Reid Woke To Find Her Home Burgled

Susanna Reid and her family slept upstairs while her home was burgled

The house was broken into on Thursday morning, with thieves stealing a flat screen television and Reid's Vauxhall Zafira car.

Reid, 40, and her family were unaware they had been burgled until later in the day, when one of her three sons asked where the TV was.

She told the Daily Mail: "We found out we had been burgled when our six-year-old son came upstairs and said: 'Daddy, where's the TV?'

"They swept up a few valuable items and made a dash. Thankfully, they didn't take anything of great personal value, or the children's Christmas toys."

It appears the burglar entered the premises by forcing a front window. Property stolen included a television and the occupant's car.

Metropolitan Police spokesman

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said Lambeth Burglary Unit was investigating the break-in.

He added: "It appears the burglar entered the premises by forcing a front window. Property stolen included a television and the occupant's car."

Reid, who lives with her partner, Dominic Cotton, broke the news on her Twitter account, later adding a message of thanks for all the messages of support she had received.

She also asked followers to be on the look out for an "abandoned but well-loved silver Vauxhall Zafira in Lambeth".

Hodgson says sorry to Reds fans - The Press Association

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has apologised for offending fans with his comments made after Wednesday's defeat at home to Wolves.

The 63-year-old had to endure chants of "Dalglish" and "Hodgson for England" during the 1-0 loss. Hodgson said after the game he had never had the "famous Anfield support" in his six months in charge and that was interpreted as an attack on his critics in the crowd.

However, the Reds boss insisted that was not the case. "Things have been misinterpreted," he said. "I'm afraid people have taken one small comment where I was describing my situation."

Hodgson added: "I was responding to a question about how it felt to be jeered by fans, making it clear it hurts me and I was disappointed by it because no-one wants to feel they are unpopular.

"I understand it is up to me to take it on the chin but it's not been an easy ride for me. It's been an uphill struggle and I was not the first choice appointment with a lot of fans. But if I have offended them in any way I deeply regret that.

"All I can do is apologise and make it perfectly clear there was nothing offensive in my comments."

Hodgson claimed supporters were perfectly entitled to their views and accepted he and the team had to do more to improve their enjoyment.

"Fans always have the right to show their anger and disapproval - we've got fantastic fans but you have to give them something to be passionate about and we didn't do that on Wednesday," he said.

"I don't think they were happy with anyone and as manager you are first in the firing line.

"The Anfield support will always be there and what's more it's better in times of crisis."

Police warning to new year crowds - BBC News

Crowds have begun to gather in central London ahead of the New Year's Eve fireworks, which are expected to be seen by up to 250,000 spectators.

The eight-minute display will have a musical soundtrack for the first time.

Victoria Embankment and Westminster Bridge have been closed to traffic and other areas will be shut as the evening goes on to prevent overcrowding.

Police have urged people to set out early and to take care of their belongings in the busiest areas.

"Don't leave it to the last minute to watch the fireworks, as you are likely to be disappointed," said Metropolitan Police Supt Julia Pendry.

"The viewing area is very popular and gets full early on in the evening."

She went on: "We want Londoners and all visitors to the capital to be able to welcome the New Year in a safe and crime free environment."

'Character of London'

The organiser of the celebrations, James Donald, said the display would consist of "really high-energy fireworks".

He said BBC Radio 1 DJ Nihal had created a dynamic soundtrack of "cool tunes".

The show would really bring to life a bit more of the character of London than in previous years, Mr Donald added.

London Ambulance Service (LAS) staff are preparing for one of their busiest nights of the year, with more than 500 emergency calls an hour expected.

Deputy director of operations Jason Killens asked people to "use the ambulance service wisely and only call us in a genuine emergency".

"We'll be prioritising our calls and going to those with the most serious conditions first."

He said LAS did not "want to be killjoys" but stressed drinking alcohol "in moderation" was important.

"Don't call the ambulance service simply because you're drunk, when you're looking to go home."

Later on Saturday more than 500,000 people are expected to watch London's New Year parade, which is marking its 25th anniversary.

GSM phones vulnerable to hacking, claim researchers - The Guardian

Don't bother with a lengthy ring-round of your friends to wish them a happy new year. Just leave one of them a message on their mobile and wait for everyone else to hack into it.

A little premature, you might think. And you'd be right. But a pair of security researchers have told a Berlin conference how they were able to eavesdrop on mobile phone calls and texts made on any GSM network – used by around 80% of the world's phones – using four cheap phones, a laptop and some open source software.

Karsten Nohl and Sylvain Munaut spent a year perfecting their eavesdropping technology, which begins by sending a "ghost" text message to a target phone that does not show up on the handset but enables the hacker to seize its unique identification number.

The pair, who gave a live demonstration to the Chaos Computer Club Congress in Berlin this week, said the whole process takes about 20 seconds, enabling phone conversations and SMS messages to be recorded and decrypted.

"Any GSM call is fair game," Nohl told the BBC. ""Now there's a path from your telephone number to me finding you and listening to your calls. The whole way."

Nohl said commercially available equipment capable of eavesdropping on other people's phone calls and text messages would previously have cost more than £35,000. He said the four Motorola phones used in their demonstration cost £9 each.

He told the conference that while computing power had continued to evolve, GSM phone software had become out of date.

"This is all a 20-year-old infrastructure, with lots of private data and not a lot of security," Nohl said. "We want you to help phones go through the same kind of evolutionary steps that computers did in the 1990s."

Nohl said there were no plans to make the eavesdropping kit available for others to use, but suggested it would not be difficult for a keen amateur to follow their lead. "I expect people to do it for the fun of doing it," he added.

Foreign Drivers Cost UK Councils Millions - Sky News

2:08pm UK, Friday December 31, 2010

Michael Burgess, Sky News Online

UK councils have been forced to write off thousands of parking tickets after failing to trace the drivers of the foreign vehicles they were issued to.

Parking Tickets Are Costing Councils Millions Of Pounds

Parking tickets issued to drivers of foreign-registered vehicles have been written off

The tickets, worth millions of pounds, were issued over a two-year period by councils and police forces which had ferry terminals, ports and other transport hubs in or near their area.

Responding to a freedom of information request, the councils revealed that thousands of parking tickets issued to foreign-registered vehicles had to be written off because they were unable to trace the drivers.

Between July 2007 and October 2010, Westminster City Council wrote off 45,437 tickets worth £3.08m, with £3.2m still owed, while Portsmouth City Council wrote off £110,965 in parking fines between April 2008 and October 2010.

Newcastle was close behind, revealing £84,470 in unpaid tickets had been written off between April 2008 and December 2010.

British taxpayers can no longer foot the bill for foreign motorists who seem to think the rules of this country do not apply to them.

Lee Rowley, of Westminster City Council

A spokesperson for Portsmouth City Council said: "On the expiry of a penalty charge notice (28 days) the DVLA will advise registered keeper details and, if they are overseas and outside Portsmouth City Council jurisdiction, then Portsmouth City Council cancels or writes off the amount."

Bill Blakemore, director of the SPARKS network, which campaigns for better cross-border traffic enforcement, said: "Local authorities will carry on losing money… until the Government sets up working arrangements with other European countries to share ownership data."

Lee Rowley, Westminster City Council's cabinet member for parking, said: "We would like to see a more rigorous system put in place to hold these drivers to account."

He added: "British taxpayers can no longer foot the bill for foreign motorists who seem to think the rules of this country do not apply to them."

Australian floods affect 200000 people, cover an area the size of France and ... - New York Daily News

Friday, December 31st 2010, 12:44 PM

Australia may have to change its nickname to the land down underwater.

Floods covering an area larger than France and Germany have swamped northeastern Australia, affecting 200,000 people.

The floods are the result of last week's heavy rains that pounded the state of Queensland, causing rivers to overflow.

"This is without a doubt a tragedy on an unprecedented scale," Queensland Premier Anna Bligh told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"Authorities think there will be a very large group of people who will be homeless in the next 24 hours," she said.

A wallaby is stranded in the middle of floodwaters. Skerman/AP

Frightened Aussies in the town of Rockhampton raced to stockpile bread and vegetables, the BBC reported.

"We've seen lots of panic buying of food. Shelves in shopping centers are empty," Rockhampton resident Petros Khalesirad said.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard visited the hard-hit town of Bundaberg and announced relief payments of $1,000 per adult and $400 per child.

The floods cover an area bigger than the state of Texas. Norrish/Getty

Resident Sandy Kiddle described the flooding to Gillard, saying, "It was just a sea of water."

"I thought the beach would never come to our house," she said.

With News Wire Services

Ed Miliband - here are the harsh facts of political life -

But there's a trap here. The danger is to talk about the threat of a return to recession. This is a dead end. There will be some growth, however weak – and no opposition party should be seen to be running down the economy, or praying for a second recession.

Instead, Ed should focus on unemployment, in particular youth unemployment. That is already high – one in five young people are without a job – and it will rise. When the education maintenance allowance is abolished, thousands of 16- and 17-year-olds will leave school and sign on. And as the public sector shrinks, graduate unemployment will rise, too.

For the Coalition, this is a huge weakness, especially since it has abolished the successful and popular Future Jobs Fund. Also, voters think it is economically, socially and morally wrong to abandon young people to the dole. If Ed Miliband can succeed in making youth unemployment a central political issue, he will have created a potent symbol of economic failure.

Of course, no criticism of the Coalition will gain traction unless Labour has a coherent narrative about the wider economy. David Cameron's deft new year message was an interesting restatement of its core message – that the cuts are necessary, not pleasurable, and that he's only doing them because of Labour's economic legacy. Ed Miliband needs to find his own simple story and stick to it. Something like: "A banking crisis brought the world to the brink of disaster. Governments across the world followed Labour's lead and increased spending. All leading economists agree that this saved us from a catastrophic collapse. Creating a deficit was far better than the alternative – and we always planned to halve the deficit in four years. Your plan to eliminate the deficit went too far, too fast – and now you've doubled the pain, you have to take the blame."

Ed and his top team have to repeat this relentlessly, given the ground that the Coalition's narrative has gained. And this is his third challenge: bluntly, is he strong enough and disciplined enough to lead? His brother, Ed Balls and Nick Brown, the former chief whip, have all felt the cold steel of Ed's ambition. But the voters haven't seen it. They need to see more edge, and – far more importantly – more purpose.

Being Leader of the Opposition is a tough gig, but with a hung parliament you are a handful of votes and revolts away from being PM. A two-year policy review is a useful ploy for the party – but the public still need to know what kind of country Ed wants Britain to be, to get some early direction, to see some symbolic policies.

If Ed wants a graduate tax, he should say so, and work on the detail in private. He should set out a vision on supporting manufacturing – the Coalition is struggling here, and will do worse as Vince Cable's authority diminishes. And he needs a firm but fair social policy. On welfare, he should press for real workfare. On health, he needs an alternative to the "chaos" of Andrew Lansley's reforms. There will be plenty of chances for opportunism – on crime, if it rises as prisons are emptied; on housing, if cuts and planning changes see building halted, construction workers idle and waiting lists lengthening. But without a vision, smaller attacks won't add up to anything.

It's not easy to develop and project a message on the economy, the deficit and the future all at the same time. But with them, Ed Miliband could end the year as prime minister in waiting. Without them, the danger is that next New Year's Day will be Groundhog Day for Labour, and for its leader.

John McTernan is a former Political Secretary to Tony Blair

Wayne Rooney: Manchester United striker's MUTV interview -

"But in the games we were terrible really and we just didn't get going in the tournament."

And the pressure of being built up ahead of South Africa
"I don't think so. There is always pressure on us all. The media build the team up so much that, if we don't win it, there's always going to be disappointment, but we weren't good enough.

"People say that the players don't care, but the players that were there all seemed to care and it does hurt."

On the fans booing in Cape Town...
"Of course you feel sorry for the fans. It's all the emotion of not doing well, but for the players, when you have fans booing after ten minutes -- that's what I was saying.

"You can understand it in the last ten minutes, from the first ten minutes? That's disappointing because, if the fans are behind us 100 per cent and giving you the atmosphere to kick things on, that can really help you.

On what United team-mate Ronaldo said to him during the 2006 quarter-final and did he want Rooney sent off...
"I'm sure he did, but I would have wanted him off the pitch too because he could have won the game for Portugal.

"I remember Gary Neville tackling him in the game and he didn't seem to touch him, but Cristiano went down and I went up to the ref and said, 'He's diving, give him a yellow card.'

"Nobody really saw that, but everybody saw mine because it was a red card.

On almost leaving Old Trafford...
"Obviously, towards the end when it all came out, it did look like it had gone too far.

"I went in to see the manager and David Gill and explained (my reasons) and basically asked for answers really.

"But looking back now, it really was nothing to do with me. I just wanted to make sure that signing was the right thing to do and I got the answers in the end. But it was probably wrong of me to do that. I'm just glad it got sorted and it is all over now.

On the fans turning up at his house...
"They came round to my house and, when I looked out, I think they wanted me to invite them in. I can understand that they wanted answers.

On his recent loss of form...
"I want to score in every game and win things. That's the most important thing. I've done well since I came back and I know I will score goals again -- I've no worries about that.

Is it over now?
"I hope so. I'm signed here until I'm 30 now, so I'm hoping I can stay here. I doubt I can do what Scholesy and Giggs have done because I don't think I have the right body to play so long.

On joining United...
"I'm a confident person and, when United came in for me, I felt I could do well there. When I was a young lad, United obviously lost to Everton in the FA Cup final in 95.

"I've always loved the way that United played, the attacking football, so once I knew that United wanted to sign me, I already had an interest in the team and the club."

And his career highlight?
"Winning my first title medal. Growing up, watching the Premier League as far back as I can remember, feeling the trophy and having the medal around my neck was an unbelievable feeling.

"When I was younger, I was a ballboy for Everton for four years, so I was always close to the pitch. So to win the league and lift the trophy was an unbelievable feeling.

On his determination to play every game...
"I think the manager likes that because, as a player, I want to play and train all the time. Some players don't like training and I've seen some players who aren't bothered if they play or not.

"But I want to play every game. Sometimes you have to rest in certain games, but I want to play in every game.

"Probably every player here is an international and that's why the manager is probably the best. In other teams, players who aren't playing might start saying that they want to leave, but we haven't seen that at United.

"Over the last two-three years, the manager has changed the team around a lot, so there are always opportunities to play.

"You can see sometimes in his team talks, when he has left players out, you can only imagine how difficult it is him. Especially in cup finals and games like that.

"Having to tell a player he isn't playing or not involved, can't be easy.

"If you're not playing, he will probably pull you to one side or speak to you in the pre-match hotel. He will give you some reason why he is resting you, but it's fair for the players.

"You try not to make eye contact with him on the morning of the match, especially if he is walking up to you. I try to get away from him. You are always looking around to try to see which players he has pulled aside.

On his childhood hero...
"I loved Duncan Ferguson, just because of the passion he showed for playing football. I'm sure he was a handful to play against.

"I was lucky enough to play with him as well and he was probably the one I wanted to go and watch all the time.

"I remember when he was sent to jail because I used to write to him. I got home from school once and there was letter waiting for me, from Duncan.

And the jokers in the United dressing room...
"Patrice [Evra] always likes to wind people up and Bebe, although his English isn't great, tries to take the mickey too. This club is so good for foreign players to come because the atmosphere in the dressing room is brilliant.

"It must be so easy for the foreign lads to be a part of it."

On whether Ronaldo is missed...
"As a person, he was a lovely fella and got on with everyone in the club. In that way you miss him. Football-wise it speaks for itself.

"Him and Messi are the two stand out players. I still can't believe he wasn't nominated in the top three for World Player after the last two years he's had."

On pre-match rituals...
"I always go into the physio room after the warm-up and pray. That's about it really. I'm quite relaxed. Listen to a bit of music.

And have the prayers been answered?
"It's been brilliant. I've been lucky to win three Premier League, the Champions League, two Carling Cups.

"I'm hoping we can win more and I can try and get close to what Giggs, Scholes and Gaz have achieved.

And on Evra's music tastes...
"Yeah, that's why I wear my own Ipod. Some of it's not too bad, but some of it doesn't really get me ready for the game.

On Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Perry Como...
"I actually like them singers. Growing up in my nan's house, my grandad used to listen to Perry Como all the time. That was one of the songs at my grandad's funeral.

"I went to watch Jersey Boys, the Four Seasons, Frankie Valli. It was the best show I've ever seen, brilliant.

And his musical tastes...
"Patrice likes R&B, a bit of reggae. That's not really my thing.

"Susan Boyle, yes. I like to relax before a game. Her voice is amazing - it relaxes me before a game. I get a massage while listening to it.

"Different players have different things to prepare. It's not always Susan Boyle. I just need something relaxing before I go out and do my warm up."

Rooney on privacy...
"Since I've come to United I've never had a real holiday. Everywhere there's press, people say how big United is around the world.

"When I signed for United we went out to Asia and I was literally locked in my room. You open the door and there's fans there. You see how big the club is.

"I love Barbados, it's really relaxing."

How Coleen has dealt with the intrusions...
"It was weird for her at first. She was still at school when we started dating.

"When we went on our first holiday, there were pictures in the paper. For a young girl that first picture she always wanted to dress up and look good.

"From then on we've got used to it.

And yourself?

"I hate it [the intrusion] I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

"I signed my new deal and went off to Dubai, a lot of people were saying why has he gone on holiday for a week.

"I spoke with the physios and he wanted me to do nothing for 10 days. Other players have done it but it doesn't get in the press.

"I went to the manager and said I had to do nothing for 10 days so could I get away for a week. He said fine, so I went.

"There were 10 reporters kicked out of the hotel. They were sat on sunbeds next to us, they had holes in their newspapers, pretending to read them and taking pictures. It was a horrible time."

And your son Kai?
"We get offered a lot of money to put pictures in magazines but we said it wouldn't be fair on him, we wanted him to live his own life, make his own decisions.

"Wrote to all magazines and newspapers and asked them to not print any pictures. They turned round and said 'if you walk round Old Trafford with him on the last day, we're allowed to print it cos you're parading him, so we're allowed to print it'.

"But i didn't want it to pass by and for him not to have that experience. I know I need to be careful, I've changed the way I live my life."

And after your playing career...
"I've started doing my coaching badges, I'd like to be a manager one day.

"There's a lot of ex-United players, you see the players who have played under Sir Alex and have gone on to be good managers.

"I'm hoping I can do that. But I wouldn't like to follow this manager.

"I wouldn't like to start at an Everton or a Man United. I'd rather start by going down and learning something about the lower leagues.

"Try and build a reputation rather than just jumping in at the top. It's only fair. I don't think it's fair if a manager gets a big job with no experience."

And the hoodies turning up at his house...

"There was no harm done. I looked out and there was about 30 there all with hoods up. With my wife and kid in the house it was just a bit intimidating, but it got calmed down.

"That night I'd spoken with the Glazers, the manager and David Gill. They called me to speak to me and just said the club was going to carry on moving forward and being successful.

"From there I phoned my agent and organised a meeting with David Gill. Then I went training the next day and it took two hours to negotiate it.

"I understand many of the fans will have been disappointed and felt let down. I felt it was such a big moment in my career. I had to get it right.

"Now I understand. I've seen players leave this club.

"My wife will support me no matter where I went. We go to Liverpool four times a week so she's delighted I've stayed because we're close to our families. I don't think she'd have fancied going a long way.

"I didn't even think about where I'd go. People said I was odds on to go to Man City. That was never the case.

"There was no way I'd have gone there anyway.

"Liverpool? There was more chance of me going to City than there. They were the two I wouldn't have been going to.

"I had to get it right, it was a big time in my career, thankfully it's been sorted out now.

"I know I've made the right decision. I've made myself happy."

Happy 2011! Australia, Malaysia and Singapore celebrate the New Year as ... - Daily Mail

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 6:28 PM on 31st December 2010

Fireworks lit up the sky near the landmark Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur as Malaysia became the latest country to celebrate the start of 2011.

Auckland, New Zealand, was the first major city to celebrate the New Year before Australia, Singapore and China followed suit later today.

The iconic towers in the Malaysian capital looked dazzling as fireworks went off at midnight - temporarily banishing the misery of extreme weather which has struck countries across the world.

Spectacular: Fireworks light up the sky near the landmark Petronas Twin Towers during new year celebrations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Spectacular: Fireworks light up the sky near the landmark Petronas Twin Towers during new year celebrations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

'Reddy' for the New Year: Celebrating in Malaysia by the iconic towers

'Reddy' for the New Year: Celebrating in Malaysia by the iconic towers

Singapore: Fireworks explode over Marina Bay in front of the Marina Bay Sands casino and resort during a pyrotechnic show

Singapore: Fireworks explode over Marina Bay in front of the Marina Bay Sands casino and resort during a pyrotechnic show

Roads were due to be cordoned off in London as the capital prepared itself for its own fireworks display tonight.

Australia has welcomed 2011 with a spectacular fireworks display over Sydney Harbour. Despite losing the Ashes this week, thousands of party-loving Aussies had camped out for hours at parks alongside the Sydney Harbour Bridge to win the best view of today's spectacular New Year's Eve fireworks.

As the clock ticked closer to 2011, Europeans were looking forward to celebrations that could help them forget their economic worries.

Japan and South Korea both celebrated New Year at 3pm GMT - and India was readying itself for its celebrations in the next few hours.

In New York City, nearly a million revellers were expected to cram into the streets around Times Square to watch the traditional midnight ball drop several hours after the UK has marked the start of 2011. The 20-inch snowstorm that blanketed the city will be just a memory thanks to work crews and warmer temperatures.

At least 1.5 million people lined the harbour in Sydney, the first major city where the new year arrives after 2011 hit New Zealand. Celebrations began with aerial displays by vintage aircraft and a parade of boats around the harbour.

In Christchurch, New Zealand, two minor earthquakes on Friday did not shake plans for all-night celebrations.

'There is more reason than ever for people to get together and celebrate the beginning of a New Year,' Christchurch's acting mayor Ngaire Button said, urging residents to celebrate in the central Cathedral Square, where workers were removing loose masonry after the quakes.

A powerful 7.1-magnitude quake wrecked thousand of buildings in Christchurch on September 4, but nobody was killed.

Ready for 12: Revellers in Hong Kong, China, prepare for the New Year

Ready for 12: Revellers in Hong Kong, China, prepare for the New Year

This year marks the first time Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, officially celebrates the new year with a countdown blowout, complete with a light show and foreign DJs in front of the city's elegant French colonial-style opera house.

Vietnamese in the past paid little attention to the changing of the calendar, instead holding massive celebrations during Tet, the lunar new year that begins on Feb. 3. But in recent years, the Western influence has started seeping into Vietnamese culture with teens, who have no memory of war or poverty and are eager to find a new reason to party in the Communist country.

In South Korea, up to 100,000 people went to a bell-ringing ceremony in central Seoul, with officials and citizens striking the large bronze bell hung in the Bosingak bell pavilion 33 times at midnight.

Some South Koreans also go to the mountains or beaches on early Saturday to watch the first sunrise of the new year.

At midnight in Taipei, Taiwan, fireworks will form a spiralling dragon climbing up the city's tallest skyscraper. Some 50 dancers will beat drums in the freezing cold river in a dance to underscore how people should live with nature in harmony.

Kicking off the world's celebrations: A curtain of fireworks cascades over the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the display that began at 9pm

Kicking off the world's celebrations: A curtain of fireworks cascades over the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the display that began at 9pm

Breathtaking: As the clock struck midnight, the skies above Sydney were illuminated with this dazzling fireworks display which lasted 15 minutes

Breathtaking: As the clock struck midnight, the skies above Sydney were illuminated with this dazzling fireworks display which lasted 15 minutes

In Japan, New Year's Eve is generally spent at home with family but those who venture out go to temples to pray for good luck in the new year. At Zojoji, a 600-year-old Buddhist temple in central Tokyo, thousands were expected to release balloons at midnight carrying notes with their hopes for 2011.

In Beijing, about 500 people were expected to gather at the Ancient Bell Museum for the chance to ring in the new year on the 46-ton bell. The city is also trying to start a new tradition, with an orchestra playing a 'Hymn to China' at the China Century Monument just two minutes before midnight.

While many Asian countries famed for their firework displays were planning to light up the night skies, Myanmar's military government banned all fireworks for New Year's Eve and said severe action would be taken against anyone selling or using them.

Happy New Year! Sydney Bridge is lit up as Australia becomes the first country to welcome 2011

Happy New Year! Sydney Bridge is lit up as Australia becomes the first country to welcome 2011

First New Year: Auckland was the first major city to celebrate the start of 2011

First New Year: Auckland was the first major city to celebrate the start of 2011

A local news journal, Modern, noted that last year 62 people were given six to 12-month prison terms for violating this ruling.

The government gave no reason for the ban but in the past has said that it feared 'unscrupulous persons' might take advantage of the fireworks to create disturbances.

In Europe, many people will be partying simply to forget their economic woes after a year that saw Greece and Ireland needing financial bailouts and others, such as Spain and Portugal, battling speculation that they will need similar aid.

If not at home or at private parties, Spaniards traditionally gather in their main town squares to eat 12 grapes one by one as the bell in the square marks the countdown to 2011.

In the Irish capital of Dublin, people will flock to the Christchurch cathedral to listen as the bells chime in the new year.

In London, thousands will witness a musical and firework display at the 135-meter high London Eye, located on the southern banks of the Thames River. The Eye, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, lies almost opposite the Big Ben clock tower at Parliament that will chime in 2011.

In Paris, tens of thousands are expected to pack the Champs Elysees and the area around the Eiffel Tower for dazzling light and firework displays.

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

The comments below have not been moderated.

oh boy DM.. no one proofread this article before it's being published? three different spellings for a city: Kuala Lumpa, Kuala Kumpa and Kuala Lumpur. and all of them refer to the same city..


- AMR, London, 31/12/2010 14:50 - Matt, Brussels, was NZ, 31/12/2010 15:01 - Pensioner, Paphos, Cyprus, 31/12/2010 15:57 Actually I think you will that a little Fijian island experiences New Year before anyone else.

Who cares which country is first or last......... all you eco warriors should be protesting against all these beautiful fireworks and the damage they are doing to the environment and all our little creatures....... but hey so long as you are having a good time, I guess it doesn't matter!

I fell asleep and missed it all.

Oh dear, I do wish that people would do a little research before making inaccurate comments. The Republic of Kiribati, is an island nation located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean. It is composed of 32 atolls straddling the equator, and bordering the International Date Line at its easternmost point. Kiritimati , or Christmas Island, is part of the Republic of Kiribati. It is in the world's farthest forward time zone, UTC+14, and is the first inhabited place on Earth to experience the New Year each year. Despite being 1,530 miles (2,460 km) east of the 180 meridian, a 1995 realignment of the International Dateline by the Republic of Kiribati "moved" Christmas Island to west of the dateline. So technically AMR, London is correct. and Matt, Brussels needs to get his geography sorted out. Facts obtained from Wikipedia.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

The Queen becomes a great gran -

THE Queen has become a great-grandmother for the first time after Peter Phillips' wife gave birth to a girl.

Her Majesty, 84, was said to be delighted at the news of the 8lbs 8oz baby, who is 12th in line to the throne.

Grandson Peter was by wife Autumn's side as she gave birth at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital on Wednesday. The couple have yet to name the little girl.

Buckingham Palace announced the birth on its website yesterday, saying: "The Queen, Duke of ­Edinburgh, Princess Royal, Captain Mark Phillips and Autumn's family have been informed and are delighted."

Peter, 33, and Canadian Autumn, 32, were married at Windsor Castle in 2008.

They controversially struck a £500,000 deal with Hello! magazine for the pictures of their special day.

They met in 2003 while they were working on the Montreal Grand Prix.

Royal wedding strikes: P15

Intel Introduces Super-Small 310 Series SSDs - PC Magazine

Intel Introduces Super-Small 310 Series SSDs

Solid-state drives (SSDs) are already much thinner and lighter than traditional spinning hard drives, so it may seem hard to believe that they need to get much smaller. But Intel will shrink them further with its new Solid-State Drive 310 series, which boasts performance on par with its regular X25-class SSDs but at one-eighth the size.

The 310-series drives measure only 30mm wide and 51mm in length—approximately the size of two postage stamps—and weigh 10 grams. According to Intel, this will allow SSDs to be used in devices and form-factors where their sizes were previously prohibitive, and could result in more dual-drive notebooks (with the SSDs paired with larger-capacity hard drives), single-drive tablets, and low-power ruggedized systems for industry or military use.

DRS Technologies has announced that it will use the drives in a new ARMOR communications tablet PC, intended to survive shock, vibration, and drops, which it will introduce at Storage Visions in Las Vegas next week.

Drives in the 310 series use 34nm Intel NANDFlash memory, and are currently shipping to customers. They are available in capacities of 40GB ($99) and 80GB ($179), in 1,000-unit quantities. The drives support SATA signals over a PCI Express (PCIe) mini-connector (similar to the way the solid-state memory works in the most recent incarnations of the Apple MacBook Air).

Paedophile colleague of Jo Yeates murder suspect abused boy in flat -

A PAEDOPHILE colleague of murder suspect Chris Jefferies abused a young boy at the flat where Jo lived.

Fellow public school teacher Stephen Johnston used to live below Jefferies in Flat 1 of the building in Bristol.

And from 1991 to 1994, Johnston sexually abused a pupil in the apartment Jo disappeared from. After Johnston's arrest, police found hundreds of photographs of boys' naked bottoms taken in the apartment.

Bachelor Johnston, now 57, was jailed for seven years in March 2008 after being found guilty of six sex offences and is currently in Dartmoor prison.

Both Johnston and Jefferies – who bought the flat when the paedophile moved to live with his mother in Sturminster Newton, Dorset, in 1999 – taught at private school Clifton College at the time of the offences, although there is no suggestion Jefferies was involved.

French master Johnston had befriended the pupil, then aged just 11, and the boy visited the flat to watch videos, with promises of alcohol and cannabis. But the child and other young boys were shown pornographic videos and the relationship became a sexual one, which continued after both the victim and Johnston had left the school, Bristol crown court was told.

Sentencing him, Judge David Ticehurst said Johnston – who also kept a pair of boy's trunks sealed in a bag for more than 12 years – was a disgrace to the teaching profession, telling him: "You have destroyed a young man's childhood."

Liverpool owners losing patience with manager Roy Hodgson following Wolves ... -

For all the latest reports and transfer rumours, visit our dedicated section here.

Liverpool's owners are losing patience with manager Roy Hodgson and have been worried by the severe breakdown in relationship between him and the club's supporters after his recent outburst, according to the Guardian. UK poll results revealed that Hodgson's popularity is at an all-time low, with only Manuel Pellegrini receiving less votes than the current boss when asked who should be manager of the club in January.

The majority of readers voted that out of work Frank Rijkaard would be the ideal replacement after Hodgson slammed Reds fans for failing to get behind him and the team after the 1-0 defeat to Wolves on Wednesday.

Liverpool are performing well below expectations in the Premier League this season and after the latest disappointing home defeat, tensions between the fans and Hodgson are at breaking point where supporters had previously expressed their desire to see the 63-year-old leave.

Owners John W. Henry and Tom Werner of New England Sports Ventures are reported to be willing to give Hodgson time, but are seemingly running out of patience with the former Fulham boss as the defeats continue to stack up.

Hancock's honour - BBC News

Actress Sheila Hancock, who has been made a CBE for services to drama, has had a long career that ranges from William Shakespeare to a role in a Carry On film.

In recent years the 77-year-old has reinvented herself as a best-selling author, a West End musical star and a TV talent show judge.

The widow of Inspector Morse star John Thaw, she wrote movingly about their 30-year marriage in her memoir The Two of Us.

Earlier this month she accepted a lifetime achievement accolade from the Women in Film and Television organisation (WFTV).

Hancock was born on the Isle of Wight in 1933 and grew up in London.

She made her West End debut in 1958, going on to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company in productions of Titus Andronicus and The Winter's Tale.

She got her first big television break playing Carol in BBC sitcom The Rag Trade in the early 1960s. Her early films included the 1964 comedy Carry On Cleo.

She went on to appear on such TV shows as Doctor Who, Now Take My Wife, Bleak House and New Tricks and was seen last year in the BBC's Moving On.

In 2009 she became a Mother Superior in the West End stage musical of 1992 film Sister Act.

She also featured as a judge on Over the Rainbow, helping Andrew Lloyd Webber find a Dorothy for his upcoming revival of The Wizard of Oz.

"When I started in the business, there were no women in executive positions, no women producers or directors and certainly no camerawomen," Hancock said this month as she received her WFTV award.

"We were destined to do very archetypal roles, very cliched things, so I was a dizzy blonde for years.

"It has changed immeasurably. Not enough, but it has changed immeasurably."

Hancock, a practising Quaker, was made an OBE in 1974.

The actress said she was "pleased" to be made a dame but had had to check if it was compatible with the group's beliefs.

"I had some worries about how it fits with our beliefs in equality," she admitted.

"But they said it was fine, because it was for my work and it was earned."

London commuters face 'staggering' New Year fare rises - BBC News

Commuters in London will face a "staggeringly large" fare rise in the new year, a transport watchdog said.

London TravelWatch said Tube, bus and tram fares will go up by an average of 6.8% but "behind these headline figures are some incredibly high increases".

Withdrawal of some travelcards will force people to buy the more expensive cards, which may be costlier than pay-as-you-go Oyster smartcards, it warned.

But London Mayor Boris Johnson said the hike was kept to an "absolute minimum".

Check fares 'carefully'

From 2 January a single Tube journey from zone 1 to 2 (central London) on an Oyster card would rise by an average of 10p from the current £1.80.

But the cap - which is the maximum that passengers could be charged in a day - will go up by 80p for peak times from £7.20, while the off-peak price will rise by £1 to £6.60.

Travelcard prices would also rise. For instance the cost of a zone 1 to 4 travelcard will rise from £6.30 to £7.30 - an 11% increase.

Some travelcards - like the zone 2 to 6 card - will disappear meaning people who paid £5.10 for a card will now have to buy a zone 1 to 6 card for £8.

On buses and trams, single cash tickets will rise from £2 to £2.20, on Oyster this will rise by 10p from £1.20. The daily Oyster cap will increase by 10p to £4.

On main line trains, travelcards will rise by an average of 5.8%, which Passenger Focus rail watchdog said could mean above-average rises and in some cases "double-digits".

Jo deBank, from London TravelWatch, said: "The complete withdrawal of the zone 2-6 Travelcard (avoiding central London), as well as the zone 1-3 and zone 1-5 Travelcards will mean a massive increase for some people, and will affect outer London and non-regular travellers particularly.

"Passengers need to check carefully before they buy: Oyster Pay As You Go is much cheaper on tube and buses for single fares, and may well be cheaper than through-tickets or Travelcards."

Mr Johnson said: "I have kept the fares for 2011 at the absolute minimum while still protecting the vital improvements that London's transport network needs.

"Those improvements include upgrades to the Tube, the delivery of Crossrail, and maintenance of London's bus network."

He added that free and concessionary travel had been protected.

Boney M star Bobby Farrell dies -

Bobby Farrell of 70s disco chart-toppers Boney M has been found dead on tour. He was 61.

Bobby, famed for his miming and dancing more than his singing, died in his hotel room in St Petersburg, his agent revealed yesterday.

He had complained of breathing problems before and after a concert in Russia on Wednesday night and the alarm was raised when he failed to respond to a wake-up call. The cause of his death has yet to be established.

Bobby lived in Amsterdam and his agent John Seine said from the Netherlands yesterday: "He did a show that night as part of Bobby Farrell's Boney M and they found him this morning dead in his hotel room. He did not feel well last night, and was having problems with his breathing, but he did the show anyway."

Born Alfonso Farrell in Aruba, off the north coast of Venezuela, he left home at the age of 15 to become a sailor. He lived in Norway and the Netherlands before moving to Germany where he worked as a DJ.

But it wasn't until German singer/songwriter Frank Farian recruited him for his new Boney M group that he got his big break.

Bobby was the only male singer in the original group, although Farian claimed he sang most of the songs in the studio and Bobby mimed them on stage.

With their wide-legged satin and fur-trimmed costumes, wild hair and bizarre dance routines, Boney M sold 80 million records through the 70s and 80s.

In 1978 their cover version of Rivers Of Babylon – backed by Brown Girl in the Ring – spent 40 weeks in the charts, becoming the second bestselling UK single in history at the time. It remains Britain's fifth best-selling single.

Other chart hits included Daddy Cool, Mary's Boy Child and the Russian-themed Rasputin, which featured the line: "There was a cat that really was gone."

In 1978 Boney M was the first Western music group invited by a Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, to perform in the Soviet Union. A Soviet military plane flew the performers from London to Moscow, where they sang for an audience of 2,700 Russians in Red Square.

However, the group drifted apart and disbanded in 1986. They re-formed many times but in recent years Bobby headed his own group, Bobby Farrell's Boney M.

He was due to fly to Rome yesterday for a TV appearance before performing in a New Year's Eve concert tonight.

Buy Cheap tickets for the upcoming X Factor Live 2011 Tour , prices start at £27 and are available now..

Our leaders need to be on the money - Herald Scotland

Published on 31 Dec 2010

Not happy but tough.

The New Year messages from party leaders provided agreement across the political spectrum: in 2011, success and happiness will be directly related to the economy.

The Prime Minister David Cameron's focus on the need to reduce the budget deficit came with a repeat prescription for a strong dose of tough medicine as the only way to cure our economic ills. If we follow his prescription to reduce spending sufficiently and decisively, he predicts 2011 will be the year Britain gets back on its feet.

As the deepest dividing line between the Coalition Government and the Labour Party, the speed and scale of public spending cuts is the hottest political issue. Labour leader, Ed Miliband, seized the opportunity to attack the Coalition for a programme of cuts born of political choice and not necessity. The public, increasingly con cerned at the looming potential disaster of job losses and cuts to public services with increased costs for food and fuel and the rise in VAT, cannot be blamed for losing patience with this political point-scoring.

Neither Mr Miliband's charge that the government's deficit reduction plan is irresponsible nor Mr Cameron's counterclaim to be the responsible antidote to Labour's profligacy will do anything to restore public confidence in politicians. Following the expenses scandal, public trust remains in abeyance pending a convincing demonstration that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats working together in coalition can produce their promised new politics and that the Labour Party has not only a new leader but a new responsiveness to the electorate. Mr Miliband's resolution to show that the cuts are due to political choice by those in power not necessity risks miring us all in groundhog day.

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts growth in the economy in 2011 and a further rise in 2012. For a prime minister who says he did not come into politics to make cuts, that ought to provide a little leeway to protect the most vulnerable and for his partners in coalition to exert some leverage.

In Scotland, Alex Salmond used his pre-election New Year message as a rallying call for Scotland to seize economic independence but sidestepped the most immediate economic challenges. The warning of a generation and more of continued cutbacks in our public services looks further into the future than most economists are prepared to do. Such a long term view is necessary, however, to make the case for the First Minister's conviction that Scotland can be the green powerhouse of Europe, generating wealth by renewable energy.

May's inconclusive General Election result was a vote of limited approval for both approaches to the economy. With the arrival of a New Year in which there is an election for the Scottish Parliament, it is time for politicians to stop reliving old battles and spell out positive policies to address the new economic reality. 2011 must be the year when politicians make boosting the economy their priority.

Health Secretary Is Accused Of Flu U-Turn - Sky News

Andy Jack, Sky News Online

The Health Secretary has been accused of performing a U-turn and changing his mind over the launch of a flu awareness campaign.

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Shadow health secretary John Healey had accused Andrew Lansley of "a serious misjudgment" in axing the autumn advertising campaign urging people to have flu jabs.

But after Mr Lansley announced that the 'Catch it, Bin it, Kill it' campaign is to be re-launched on Saturday, he said: "It's better late than never but I welcome Andrew Lansley's U-turn."

However, the Department of Health pointed out that no flu vaccination campaign was being launched.

A spokeswoman said: "We are very clear about those who need to be called for vaccination and we have asked GP surgeries who have the lists of individuals to contact them.

Andrew Lansley

Andrew Lansley says the NHS is "well prepared" to treat sufferers

"There is no additional merit in a vaccination advertising campaign."

However, she stressed that it was important "we remind people about the need to practice good respiratory and hand hygiene".

Mr Lansley's announcement came as the latest figures from the Health Protection Agency revealed that 39 people have died of flu since October, 36 of them from swine flu.

The figure includes 12 deaths during the past week. All but one of the deaths were people aged under 65, and four of them were under five.

Anyone who has symptoms of flu-like illness should get medical advice as soon as possible and their GP will prescribe antivirals

Professor John Watson, Health Protection Agency

The Health Secretary has insisted that the NHS was "well prepared" to treat sufferers, saying: "Thanks to robust early planning, the NHS is coping well with the pressures of seasonal flu this year."

On Wednesday, the Royal College of General Practitioners announced that cases of flu rose by more than 40% in England and Wales last week.

It said the number reached 124 per 100,000 of the population in the week ending December 26 - up from 86 per 100,000 cases in the previous week, with the middle-aged particularly badly hit.

However, this is still well short of epidemic levels, which experts define as 200 cases per 100,000.

Professor John Watson of the HPA urged people in an at-risk group to have the flu jab, and added: "Anyone who has symptoms of flu-like illness should get medical advice as soon as possible and their GP will prescribe antivirals to reduce their symptoms and lessen the risk of them developing complications."

Parts of Wales 'see UK's biggest house price increase' - WalesOnline

HOUSE prices in parts of Wales showed stronger increases than any other part of the UK in the last year, according to a study published today.

The typical cost of a home in Conwy jumped by 13% to £162,691, mortgage lender Halifax said.

It was followed by East Dunbartonshire and Dumfries and Galloway, both in Scotland, which saw rises of 12% and 11%, respectively.

At the other end of the scale, Blaenau Gwent has the lowest UK house prices, at an average of £86,385.

The Halifax study comes a day after the Land Registry's House Price Index for November showed an annual price increase of 2.2%, which took the average property value in England and Wales to £164,773. But prices from October to November fell by 0.6%.

In Wales, the average house price stood at £120,290 – a monthly decrease of 3.4% and an annual fall of 3.3%.

But North Wales estate agent Robbie Howarth disputed the Halifax research, saying sales at her agency had not been as strong in 2010, with the rental sector seeing most growth.

She said: "North Wales is a lovely place to live, but this last year has been a disaster.

"Probably year on year it's been my best year, but that's all down to rentals.

"People have to bring prices down to sell."

Llandudno Junction-based Ms Howarth said difficulties in putting together a deposit for a mortgage meant the market has been relatively stagnant, like most other parts of Wales in 2010.

She said: "People are still being very cautious, I don't think it's going to get any better soon.

"The market is being affected by mortgage availability and confidence in people losing their jobs.

"I've got properties in Conwy marina where people have bought for investment and they are now renting them out because their businesses are suffering and they need the income.

"The rental market is very strong – this year and last year have been my best in that sector. I came back to work yesterday from the Christmas break and we're already getting inquiries and it's all rental."

She predicted much the same for 2011, with the UK's housing market mirroring the continent with more people renting because of the difficulty in accessing mortgages.

Suren Thiru, housing economist at Halifax, said: "Many of the counties recording the best house price performance in 2010 are in the south of England, reflecting the general out-performance of the housing market in this part of the country.

"Looking forward, we predict that UK house prices at the end of 2011 will be at a broadly similar level to that at the end of 2010. We do, however, expect some modest variations in house price performance across the country. Prices are expected to be strongest in southern England as this part of the country is likely to fare better economically.

"House prices outside southern England are likely to be constrained by a greater dependence on public sector employment at a time when this sector will be under pressure due to the Government's public spending reductions."

In a recent report for leading property firm BNP Paribas Real Estate, Professor Patrick Minford suggested prices in Wales will rise by almost 5% in 2011, largely thanks to the Bank of England's monetary policy offsetting the Government's austerity measures.

Bankers fail to censor thesis exposing loophole in bank card security - The Guardian

Paying with chip-and-pin machine
The thesis describes a flaw in chip-and-pin technology that allows criminals to use stolen bank cards. Photograph: Alex Segre/Alamy

A powerful bankers' association has failed in its attempt to censor a student thesis after complaining that it revealed a loophole in bank card security.

The UK Cards Association, which represents major UK banks and building societies, asked Cambridge University to remove the thesis from its website, but the request was met with a blunt refusal.

In a letter to university authorities, UKCA chair Melanie Johnson – a former Labour MP who was economic secretary to the Treasury in Tony Blair's government – demanded that the masters thesis be "removed from public access immediately".

The thesis by computer security student Omar Choudary, entitled "The smart card detective: a handheld EMV interceptor", described a flaw in the chip-and-pin (personal identification number) security system that allows criminals to make fraudulent transactions with a stolen bank card using any pin they care to choose.

"It is the publication of this level of detail which we believe breaches the boundary of responsible disclosure. Essentially, it places in the public domain a blueprint for building a device which purports to exploit a loophole in the security of chip and PIN," the letter states.

But in a reply to the UKCA, Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at the university's Computer Laboratory, refused to take down the thesis and said the loopholes had already been disclosed to bankers.

"You seem to think we might censor a student's thesis, which is lawful and already in the public domain, simply because a powerful interest finds it inconvenient. This shows a deep misconception of what universities are and how we work. Cambridge is the University of Erasmus, of Newton and of Darwin; censoring writings that offend the powerful is offensive to our deepest values," Anderson wrote.

Anderson and his colleagues discovered the loophole in chip-and-pin security in October 2009 and told the banks about the flaw later that year. They revealed the loophole publicly on the BBC's Newsnight programme in February 2010.

In view of the UKCA's letter, Anderson has authorised Choudary's thesis to be published as a Computer Laboratory technical report.

"This will make it easier for people to find and cite, and will ensure that its presence on our website is permanent," his reply to the UKCA states.

"It is outrageous that the banking industry should try to censor a student's thesis even though it was lawful and already in the public domain," Anderson told the Guardian.

"It was particularly surprising for its chair, Melanie Johnson, to make this request; as a former MP she must be aware of the Human Rights Act, and as a former Cambridge graduate student she should have a better understanding of this university's culture.

"Her intervention was completely counterproductive for the banks who employ her: Omar's thesis will now be read by thousands of people who would otherwise not have heard of it," he said.

This article was amended on 30 December 2010. The original picture showed a cash machine, which would not be affected by the security loophole.

Lobbyist's Client List Puts Him on the Defensive - New York Times

Since leaving the White House, Mr. Davis has built a client list that now includes coup supporters in Honduras, a dictator in Equatorial Guinea, for-profit colleges accused of exploiting students, and a company that dominates the manufacture of additives for infant formula. This month, he agreed to represent the Ivory Coast strongman whose claims to that country's presidency have been condemned by the international community and may even set off a civil war.

Mr. Davis withdrew from his $100,000-a-month contract with Ivory Coast on Wednesday night, saying that the embattled government refused to accept his suggestion to talk to President Obama. Still, his role in West Africa has stoked growing criticism that Mr. Davis has become a kind of front man for the dark side, willing to take on some of the world's least noble companies and causes.

Many lobbying firms have clients with checkered records. Indeed, those are the people who need help the most in Washington. But many activists — and even some government officials — said the list of clients in Mr. Davis's firm stood out.

"You look at who he represents, and the list is just almost unseemly, tawdry," said Meredith McGehee, a lobbyist for California WIC Association, which represents agencies that serve poor women with infant children, and who faced off against Mr. Davis this year in the fight over baby formula, which his client won. "It is an illustration of what most of the American people think of as wrong with Washington."

Mr. Davis says he is aware of the criticism, particularly since his representation of Ivory Coast became an issue. And he is pushing back with some of the same message-molding that earned him a label as a "spinmeister par excellence." He says he's lining up State Department officials, members of Congress and business leaders to testify about how much he has helped them.

Mostly, however, he's single-handedly flooding the zone, writing long, detailed responses to reporters and columnists, and making himself available to anyone interested in directly hearing his side of his story.

"My credibility is the only thing I have," he said in a long, emotional interview on Thursday. "If I defend people in indefensible, corrupt acts, then I lose everything I have, and I'm just another gun for hire. But when I see that I can help get out the facts, and improve people's lives, and peacefully resolve conflicts, then I feel an obligation to do so."

The 65-year-old native of Jersey City said his client list reflected his philosophy that everyone deserved a voice, particularly companies and causes that challenged conventional wisdom or the public's sense of the politically correct. In his career, he has not only embraced controversy, but has also sought it out, portraying himself above all as a crisis manager committed to peacefully resolving conflicts.

That is essentially how Mr. Davis explains his decision to work for the self-declared president of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to accept that he lost his country's presidential election this month, despite the sanctions and threats of force by his African neighbors.

"I felt great pressure that I could accomplish the avoidance of bloodshed by convincing this man to seek a fair hearing, and to stand down if the result didn't go his way," Mr. Davis said, referring to Mr. Gbagbo. Later, he added, "I thought I could do some good."

He similarly explained his work as one of three foreign agents for the government of Equatorial Guinea, which has been governed for three decades by Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Rights groups and anticorruption activists have accused Mr. Obiang of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars from his tiny oil-rich West African state, while most of its people scrape by in dire poverty.

"I'm a liberal Democrat," Mr. Davis said, referring to his work for Mr. Obiang. "I've been a liberal Democrat all my life. I haven't changed my values. But what am I supposed to do if the leader of a country comes to me and says he wants to get right with the world, and get right with the United States? Am I supposed to say no, and let him go on doing what he's doing? Or should I try to help him get right?"

Obama administration officials say Mr. Davis is on the wrong side of some of these fights.

Helene Cooper contributed reporting.

jueves, 30 de diciembre de 2010

UK's Thatcher appealed to Iran over US hostages - The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Newly disclosed records show Britain's iconic prime minister Margaret Thatcher snubbed aides who questioned Ronald Reagan's credentials as U.S. president.

Files released on Thursday under the country's 30-year disclosure rule also show she made a previously unknown effort to intervene in the U.S. Embassy hostage-taking.

Notes supplied to Thatcher by aides on the U.S. 1980 election campaign show diplomats questioned whether Reagan had the "mental vitality and political vision" to be a successful leader.

Thatcher dismissed the criticism, insisting Reagan would "prove himself to be a man of peace."

Separate files show that Thatcher sent a message to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1980 appealing for the release of U.S. hostages in Iran.

AP Top News at 11:20 a.m. EST - Newsday

Photo credit: AP | Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav, second from right, arrives at the court in Tel Aviv, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010. An Israeli court has convicted former President Moshe Katsav on two counts of rape. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell to its lowest point in nearly two and a half years, a sign that the job market is slowly improving. Applications dropped by 34,000 to 388,000, the fewest since July 2008, the Labor Department said Thursday. The number of applications has either fallen or remained unchanged in five of the past six weeks.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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EU Bodies Deliver Universal Phone Charger Standards - PC Magazine

shopping on iphone

Two European standards bodies on Wednesday delivered standards for a universal micro USB phone charger, which will let Europeans use one charger for multiple phones.

The European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) this week released charger standards for data-enable mobile phones, or phones that can be connected to a computer.

"I am very happy that the European Standardization Bodies have met our request to develop within a short space of time the technical standards necessary for a common mobile phone charger based on the work done by industry," European Commission vice president Antonio Tajani said in a statement. "Now it is time for industry to show its commitment to sell mobile phones for the new charger. The common charger will make life easier for consumers, reduce waste and benefit businesses. It is a true win-win situation."

The Commission expects the first common chargers and mobile phones compatible with the new standards to hit the European market in early 2011.

In June 2009, more than a dozen mobile phone makers ? including Apple, Nokia, and Research in Motion ? agreed to standardize on the micro USB plug in Europe. It received the backing of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in October 2009. The European Commission then handed down a mandate in December 2009 requiring CENELEC and ETSI to deliver common charger standards. The groups have now delivered on that requirement.

Other companies that joined the agreement were Emblaze Mobile, Huawei Technologies, LGE, Motorola Mobility, NEC, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, TCT Mobile (ALCATEL), Texas Instruments, and Atmel.

In a statement, the Commission said incompatible chargers are not only an inconvenience for customers, but also an environmental concern. "Users who want to change their mobile phones must usually acquire a new charger and dispose of the old one, even if it is in good condition," the Commission said.

Queen Elizabeth Welcomes First Great-Grandchild! - Us Magazine

Perhaps there'll be one more royal attending Prince William and Kate Middleton's April wedding.

Peter Phillips, son of Princess Anne and cousin to Princes William and Harry, and his wife Autumn became the proud parents of a baby girl Wednesday.

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Born at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, the baby -- whose name has yet to be released -- weighed in at 8 lbs, 8oz.

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"Mr. Peter Phillips was present at the birth," Queen Elizabeth's press secretary tells in a statement. "The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Princess Royal, Captain Mark Phillips and Autumn's family have been informed and are delighted with the news."

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Autumn and Peter have been living in Hong Kong since tying the knot in 2008, but they returned to the UK just before their daughter's birth. Both attended the Queen's pre-Christmas family lunch at Buckingham Palace (Middleton was also present).

The new addition is the first child for the couple, as well as the first grandchild for Princess Anne and the first great-grandchild for the The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh. She is twelfth in line to the Throne, pushing Zara Phillips into 13th place.