miércoles, 30 de noviembre de 2011

Over 22000 in UK unaware they have HIV - Indian Express

The number of people living with HIV in the UK reached an estimated 91,500 in 2010, with a quarter of those unaware of their infection, according to official figures published on Tuesday.

The figures came from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) before the World AIDS Day on December 1.

The HPA has called for universal testing for HIV, so that no one leaves an STI (sexually transmitted infections) clinic without knowing their HIV status.

The HPA is concerned that over half of people diagnosed in 2010 came forward for testing after the point at which treatment for their infection should ideally have begun.

Late diagnosis is associated with an increased risk of AIDS and death.

The HPA's annual 'HIV in the UK' report found 6,660 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in the UK.

The report confirmed that infections probably acquired within the UK almost doubled in the last decade from 1,950 in 2001 to 3,640 in 2010 and exceed those acquired abroad -- 3,020.

This rise is mostly due to infections acquired among men who have sex with men, who remain the group most at risk of HIV infection in the UK.

Dr Valerie Delpech, consultant epidemiologist and head of HIV surveillance at the HPA, said: "HIV is an infection which can nowadays be treated and those diagnosed promptly can expect to experience similar life expectancy as an individual without the infection.

"However, we are very concerned that a large number of people in the UK are unaware of their HIV status and are diagnosed late".

Britain Steps Up Pressure on Iran After Attacks - Voice of America (blog)

Britain has ordered the immediate closure of the Iranian embassy in London and has closed its embassy in Tehran, following a mob attack Tuesday on British embassy compounds in the Iranian capital.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced the decision in parliament Wednesday.

He said Iran's diplomatic staff has been ordered to leave the United Kingdom within 48 hours.

"If any country makes it impossible for us to operate on their soil, they cannot expect to have a functioning embassy here."

Hague added that Britain's response is not an indication it is severing ties with Iran. However, he said the action reduces relations with Iran to the "lowest level consistent with the maintenance of diplomatic relations."

On Tuesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Iran faced "serious consequences" for failing to defend the British compounds from protesters who smashed embassy windows and ransacked offices as police looked on.

The Iranian protesters had gathered in a reflection of government anger at British financial sanctions imposed on Iran last week.

Britain, the United States and Canada announced coordinated sanctions in response to Iran's pursuit of a nuclear program that U.N. experts say appears designed to build weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani said Wednesday that Iranian police tried to maintain calm during the assaults in Tehran.

"This anger was the outpouring of several decades of exploitative actions by England in Iran. Part of it dated back to early periods of constitutional revolution (1905) and part of it was because of (UK's) role in strengthening the Pahlavid dynasty. After the revolution which caused England to lose its influence, they continued their animosity with the Iranian nation."

He also said the protests reflected ongoing Iranian discontent with Britain.

The attacks drew more international criticism Wednesday.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's office said he expressed shock and outrage as he met with a British official during an aid conference in South Korea.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly condemned the embassy assault as an "affront not only to the British people but also to the international community."

China's foreign ministry said the assault was "contrary" to international law and norms and should be dealt with "appropriately." It was a rare Chinese criticism of Iran, a key supplier of energy to the Chinese economy.

France recalled its ambassador to Iran for consultations. The foreign ministry said the move was a result of Tehran's "flagrant and unacceptable violation" of international diplomacy guidelines.

Germany also recalled its ambassador from Iran.

Norway has closed its diplomatic mission in Tehran following Tuesday's mob assaults on the British facilities.

Test-drive Windows Phone 7 on your Android phone or iPhone - CNET

Hey, what's Windows Phone 7 doing on my iPhone? Giving me a taste of its sexy interface, that's what.

Hey, what's Windows Phone 7 doing on my iPhone? Giving me a taste of its sexy interface, that's what.

(Credit: Screenshot by Rick Broida)

Admit it: you're curious about Windows Phone 7. It's impossible to look at those sexy screenshots and not be.

Of course, short of driving to your local cell phone emporium and standing there like a dweeb, there's no easy way to test-drive the OS. (It's not like anyone you know has a Windows Phone. Am I right?)

As it happens, you can test-drive Windows Phone 7, and you can do it right on your Android phone or iPhone. For reals! Microsoft just introduced an interactive, browser-based Windows Phone 7 demo, one that gives you both the look and flavor of their please-won't-somebody-buy-it mobile operating system.

If you're reading this on your phone, just tap the link in the previous paragraph. Otherwise, point your mobile browser to http://aka.ms/wpdemo.

What you'll see next is an HTML5-powered page that shows you the Windows Phone 7 home screen (in all its photo-flipping glory) and lets you try all the main features: Phone, People, Messaging, Outlook, Family, and so on.

Tapping any one of these tools leads you through a semi-guided demo, one that allows you to scroll screens and flip pages along the way. If you tap where the glowing swipe and/or tap indicators tell you, you'll eventually get to the "end" of that particular demo, with the option of starting over. (On my iPhone, I discovered I could also tap Safari's Back button to return to the Windows Phone home screen.)

Truth be told, this was my first exposure to Windows Phone 7--and I liked it. The interface is just lovely, a monumental improvement over the train wreck that was Windows Mobile. There's a logic and elegance to it that, quite frankly, is lacking in both Android and iOS. I'm not saying I'd abandon my iPhone for it, only that I could see myself using and enjoying a Windows Phone.

In other words, mission accomplished, Microsoft. You gave me a little hands-on time with your redheaded stepchild of a mobile OS, and got me thinking about adoption.

What do you think of the demo? Cool? Meh? Something in between?

Leveson Inquiry: British press is 'frankly putrid', Alastair Campbell claims - Telegraph.co.uk

Mr Campbell told Lord Justice Leveson he had been suspicious about a number of stories that appeared about the Blair family during his time as communications chief at Number 10 Downing Street.

He said he believed a story about Cherie Blair's pregnancy printed by the Daily Mirror in 1999 could have been obtained by phone hacking.

He admitted that he had "no evidence" that journalists intercepted the voicemails of either Mrs Blair or her lifestyle consultant Carole Caplin, but queried the source of a number of articles about the former prime minister's wife.

"I have also never understood how the Daily Mirror learned of Cherie's pregnancy. As I recall it, at the time only a tiny number of people in Downing Street knew that she was pregnant.

"I have heard all sorts of stories as to how the information got out, but none of them strike me as credible."

Mr Campbell said he had been contacted by Ms Caplin to inform him that her phone had been hacked.

He said: "There were all sorts of stories where you would just sit there scratching your head thinking, 'How the hell did that get out?'

"I did, at times, directly accuse Carole Caplin of tipping off newspapers about what she was up to.

"I have since apologised because I now realise I was completely wrong."

Mr Campbell said he became suspicious that his own phone might have been hacked following a meeting with former Labour culture secretary Tessa Jowell.

"We set up the meeting via mobile phone, rather than through our offices. When we arrived at my house, where we had arranged to meet, a photographer was outside," he said in his witness statement.

Mr Campbell told the inquiry that he had been contacted by Scotland Yard detectives from the Operation Weeting phone-hacking investigation who showed him references to himself and his partner in notebooks owned by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

Mr Campbell added: "[I was] briefed on invoices they had found, that the Mirror had paid private investigators who were looking at me and Peter Mandelson at a certain point."

The inquiry also heard from former police officer Alec Owens and media lawyer Mark Lewis, who was recalled to the Royal Courts of Justice over a supplementary witness statement.

The main points of today's evidence were:

Mark Lewis, lawyer for phone hacking victims including the Dowler family, accused News International of trying to "destroy" his life in a bid to scare him off the hacking litigation. "They very nearly succeded," he told the inquiry.

Mr Lewis said he was "horrified" to discover that private investigator Derek Webb had been commissioned by the News of the World to secretly film his ex-wife and 14-year-old daughter, and to see a number of documents containing personal details belonging to him and fellow lawyer Charlotte Harris.

News International apologised to Mr Lewis for commissioning covert surveillance of his family. "They should be ashamed," he told the inquiry. The newspaper group denied ever hacking his telephone or commissioning Tectrix, a private investigators' firm, to look into his private life.

Alec Owens, lead investigator for the ICO during Operation Motorman, which unveiled data protection breaches by journalists in 2003, said Information Commissioner Richard Thomas and his deputy Francis Aldhouse were "frightened" to take on the press. He claims Mr Aldhouse told him: "We can't take them on; they're too big for us".

Mr Owens accused the ICO of not interviewing journalists listed in the notebooks of private investigator Steve Whittamore and ordering his team not to go to the press over their findings.

Mr Owens said he saw the phone number of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler in Mr Whittamore's files in 2002. He claims journalists must have known the information they asked Mr Whittamore for was going to be obtained illegally, as much of it could not be lawfully obtained.

The Leveson Inquiry into press standards will continue next week when Lord Justice Leveson will hear from a number of journalists, academics and Richard Thomas.

Craig Bellamy sets up emotional win - ESPN

An emotional Craig Bellamy set up two goals in his first game following the suicide of friend Gary Speed, helping Liverpool win 2-0 at Chelsea Tuesday night to advance to the English League Cup semifinals.

Bellamy missed Sunday's 1-1 Premier League draw with Manchester City because he was too upset to play following the death of Speed. The Wales manager hanged himself in his garage early Sunday, a police officer said.

Bellamy held back tears prior to kickoff Tuesday as fans and players from both teams conducted a moving one minute's applause at Stamford Bridge in honor of Speed. Bellamy then set up goals for Maxi Rodriguez in the 58th and Martin Kelly in the 63rd, increasing pressure on Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas.

"Speedo was regarded as his mentor," Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish said of Bellamy. "To come back and play like that speaks volumes."

Andy Carroll wasted a chance to put Liverpool ahead, sending a 22nd-minute penalty kick straight at goalkeeper Ross Turnbull after Alex was penalized for a handball in his own penalty area.

Also in London, substitute Sergio Aguero scored in the 83rd minute as Manchester City won 1-0 and eliminated Arsenal in the quarterfinals for the second time in three seasons.

Samir Nasri, who left Arsenal during the summer to sign with Manchester City, was booed every time he touched the ball. Fans chanted: "You only quit for the money."

Nasri and Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong exchanged words in the tunnel after the match.

Second-tier Cardiff reached the semifinals for the first time since 1966 by beating visiting Blackburn of the Premier League 2-0 on goals by Kenny Miller in the 19th minute and Anthony Gerrard in the 50th.

Manchester United hosts Crystal Palace in Wednesday's quarterfinal.


Barcelona bounced back from its first loss of the season with a 4-0 Spanish league victory over Rayo Vallecano.

Alexis Sanchez scored in the 29th and 41st minutes, his first goals since his club's league opener Aug. 29.

David Villa made it 3-0 in the 43rd, and Lionel Messi added his 26th goal of the season in the 50th, tying Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo for the league lead with 16.

Coming off a 1-0 loss at Getafe that ended a 27-game unbeaten streak dating to April, Barcelona (9-1-4) closed within three points of Real Madrid (11-1-1). Barcelona has outscored opponents 34-0 at home in eight league matches this season and has not allowed a goal in 11 consecutive league home games since April 9.


Goran Pandev scored twice for Napoli, which wasted a two-goal lead and wound up in a 3-3 tie with Serie A leader Juventus.

At Naples, Marek Hamsik put the hosts in front with a header in the 23rd minute and Pandev made it 2-0 in the 40th. Alessandro Matri cut the gap in the 48th, but Pandev scored his second goal in the 68th.

Juventus rallied on goals by Marcelo Estigarribia in the 72nd, his first in Italian soccer, and Simone Pepe in the 80th.

Juventus (7-0-5) opened a two-point lead over AC Milan and Udinese (both 7-2-3). Napoli (4-3-5) is sixth, nine points off the lead.

In the fourth round of the Italian Cup, Verona won 2-0 at Parma and Novara won 3-2 at Catania.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

UK Tax Breaks for Start-Up Investors Welcomed - Wall Street Journal (blog)

There is broad approval of the changes the U.K. government has made to its investment vehicles in Tuesday's Autumn statement, although some have raised concerns about making investment too easy.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, signaled changes to the Venture Capital Trusts (VCT), the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), and introduced a new scheme aimed at stimulating seed investment, called the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS).

SEIS will provide income tax relief of 50% for individuals who invest in shares in qualifying companies, with an annual investment limit for individuals of £100,000 and cumulative investment limit for companies of £150,000. In addition there is relief from capital gains, as well as tax provision for losses.

Alex Macpherson, head of the ventures division at Octopus, the U.K.'s largest provider EIS funding, said the SEIS system would do a lot to help grow the ecosystem.

"It is an incredibly tax efficient way of investing," he said. He was confident that it would help people with disposable income to become active participants and so feed the ecosystem.

A very attractive way of investing in other upcoming companies

"If you are a serial entrepreneur and have sold your company, a scheme like this would certainly be a very attractive way of investing in other upcoming companies. If you can bring skills and knowledge into a company alongside the funding, that is how you grow companies," Mr. Macpherson said.

Sherry Coutu, a successful angel investor and the driving force behind Silicon Valley Comes to the U.K., welcomed the announcement. "The introduction of the SEIS is a hugely significant step. It's a practical and useful measure that will encourage investment and benefit the next generation of British tech companies," she said.

She suggested that new angels who want to support up-and-coming businesses "invest with others or as part of a syndicate of angels rather than on their own. This will help them learn the best techniques for success and avoid some obvious mistakes."

A high risk asset class and the tax tail shouldn't wag the dog

However there was some concern that making the system too attractive could flood the market with too much cash, resulting in the wrong sort of companies getting funding.

Simon Harris, investment director for Envestors Limited, an investor network, sounded a word of caution. "We welcome the government initiative to encourage investment in young companies but enthusiasm should perhaps be tempered by remembering that this is still a high risk asset class and the tax tail shouldn't wag the dog," he said. "Seed investments currently represent a minority of the companies we represent but are the highest risk investment category. It's possible that SEIS might distort the market at the expense of higher quality later stage investments."

Brent Hoberman, investment partner at Profounders, was not that troubled by the risk of too much money. "It would be a nice problem to have," he said. "The main issue I have is the £150,000 cap. Most companies need more than that and I would worry that that would be a problem." A spokeswoman for the Treasury confirmed that qualifying companies were free to raise other money outside the scheme.

Makes it easier for people to become entrepreneurs

Mr. Hoberman said that the moves added more evidence of the change in attitude of the U.K. government, and the showed that it was small-business friendly. "What this does is to make it easier for people to become entrepreneurs."

In addition to introducing the SEIS scheme, the government announced changes to VCTs. VCTs are companies listed on the London Stock Exchange, and are similar to investment trusts. They are run by fund managers who are usually members of larger investment groups. Investors can subscribe for, or buy, shares in a VCT, which invests in trading companies, providing them with funds to help them develop and grow.

In his statement, Mr. Osborne abolished the cap of a £1 million limit on investing into a single company in 12 months, as long as a company qualified for the scheme — no more than £7 million in assets before the investment.

Guy Rainbird, public affairs director for the Association of Investment Companies, welcomed the move, saying it would increase the flexibility of the system and improve returns. But he was uncertain that it would increase the amount of money in the system.

Seriously deregulatory

"This is seriously deregulatory for VCTs. It has the potential to change the structure by which deals are done. It will have a massive impact on the ability of VCTs to extend their reach," he said.

According to Mr. Rainbird, the £1million cap had meant that a company seeking £2.5 million in funds would have to approach three companies, with three sets of due diligence, and three separate deals. "That is very inefficient," he said.

Although Mr. Rainbird said he was not sure if the moves would expand the total funds available, he did think that reducing the arbitrary cap would make the industry more efficient.

"It means better returns for investors, and it means more money goes for investment."

How tiny worms could help us colonize Mars - Christian Science Monitor

Humanity's quest to colonize Mars could receive a big boost from some tiny worms, a new study suggests.

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Scientists tracked the development and reproduction of the microscopic roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans through 12 generations on the International Space Station. Studying these space-hardened worms could help humans deal with the rigors and risks of the long trip to Mars, researchers said.

"We have been able to show that worms can grow and reproduce in space for long enough to reach another planet, and that we can remotely monitor their health," study lead author Nathaniel Szewczyk, of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, said in a statement.

"As a result, C. elegans is a cost-effective option for discovering and studying the biological effects of deep space missions," Szewczyk added. "Ultimately, we are now in a position to be able to remotely grow and study an animal on another planet." 

Worms on the space station

C. elegans is a common study animal for biologists here on Earth. Back in 1998, the soil-dwelling worm became the first multicellular organism to have its genome mapped completely. [Extreme Life on Earth: 8 Bizarre Creatures]

The roundworm has about 20,000 protein-coding genes — nearly as many as humans, who have about 23,000. Furthermore, there is a lot of overlap between our genome and theirs, with many genes performing roughly the same functions in both species.

Szewczyk and his colleagues wanted to see if C. elegans would make a good study subject in orbit as well as on Earth. So they developed a compact automated culturing system that can be monitored remotely. Then the researchers launched 4,000 C. elegans to the space station on the space shuttle Discovery's STS-116 mission in December 2006.

They were able to keep tabs on the worms for the next three months as they zipped around the Earth at 17,500 mph (28,163 kph). The tiny space travelers did encouragingly well, growing and reproducing despite the microgravity environment.

The researchers concluded that studying C. elegans could shed light on some of the challenges humans will have to overcome to become a multiplanetary species. Those challenges include the muscular deterioration and radiation exposure associated with long-duration spaceflight.

"While it may seem surprising, many of the biological changes that happen during spaceflight affect astronauts and worms, and in the same way," Szewczyk said.

The researchers report their results Nov. 30 in the journal Interface.

Worms on Mars?

Since roundworms have shown bravery in low-Earth orbit, it may be time to send them farther afield to aid human exploration efforts, researchers said.

Launching C. elegans to Mars, for example, would allow scientists to see just how dangerous the high radiation levels found in deep space — and on the Red Planet's surface — are to animal life.

"Worms allow us to detect changes in growth, development, reproduction and behavior in response to environmental conditions such as toxins or in response to deep space missions," Szewczyk said. "Given the high failure rate of Mars missions, use of worms allows us to safely and relatively cheaply test spacecraft systems prior to manned missions."

Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

U.K. Public-Sector Strike Threatens Airports, Closes Schools - San Francisco Chronicle

(Updates with airports, schools starting in second paragraph.)

Nov. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Members of 30 U.K. public-sector unions walked out in a dispute over pensions with Prime Minister David Cameron's government that's closed schools and threatens to disrupt airports and hospitals.

As many as 2 million government staff, including immigration officials, nurses and civil servants, are expected to take part in today's one-day strike, the Trades Union Congress said in a statement. London's Heathrow airport, Europe's busiest hub, Gatwick, the capital's second airport, and City airport said there were no early delays, though they warned of possible congestion later. Three-quarters of schools will be partially or totally shut, the Cabinet Office said in a statement.

Unions are striking to protest plans to make government employees retire later and contribute more to their pensions. Ministers say the move, part of Cameron's program of spending cuts to narrow the budget deficit, is fair because workers who contribute to public-sector pensions get benefits no longer available in the private sector.

"They're asking millions of public servants to pay higher contributions that won't go into their pensions, but will go to paying off the deficit," TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber will tell strikers at a rally today in Birmingham, central England, according to extracts from his speech released by his office. "They've scrapped the bankers' bonus tax and replaced it with a teachers', nurses' and lollipop ladies' tax."

'At Some Point'

Immigration was operating normally at Heathrow early this morning, though the situation might change later in the day, a spokeswoman said by telephone. There was no early disruption at Gatwick, the airport said in an e-mailed statement, though it said it expects "delays to occur at some point today as the rate of arriving flights increases."

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander announced an improved offer to the unions on Nov. 2, after they had started holding ballots for strike action. The concessions included protecting existing pension rights for people 10 years from retirement, higher limits for government contributions and improved benefit-accrual rates.

'Round the Table'

"The strike is not going to achieve anything, it's not going to change anything, it's only going to make our economy weaker and possibly cost jobs," Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said in an interview with BBC television today, after telling lawmakers yesterday that growth next year will be slower than previously forecast and the government will need to increase borrowing. "I would urge people, let's settle this, let's get back round the table and let's settle this for the next generation."

Police officers have been drafted in to assist with passport checks at airports. Heathrow, which last week warned passengers they could face delays of as long as 12 hours waiting to pass through immigration, said queues were "at normal levels" at 8 a.m. Airport management asked airlines to cut passenger numbers and there is a "possibility" of delays later in the day, operator BAA Airports Ltd. said in a statement on its website.

"As a result of the whole airport community working together over the past few days we have more immigration officers on duty and fewer passengers arriving than would otherwise be the case," BAA said. "That puts us in a better place to avoid the serious delays and widespread disruption at Heathrow that were projected last week."

Full Schedule

British Airways, the largest operator at Heathrow, which offered passengers the option to rebook their flights, said it is planning to operate its full schedule.

Other airlines scrapped flights because of the walkout. Etihad Airways said it canceled three planes to Heathrow from Abu Dhabi, while Singapore Airlines Ltd. dropped two flights to London, saying there was a "significant risk" passengers would be unable to disembark from planes.

Eurostar Group Ltd., which runs trains through the Channel Tunnel, said passengers will experience delays at check-in in Paris and Brussels "in particular in the afternoon." Travelers are advised to arrive one hour before departure rather than the usual 30 minutes, it said on its website.

Labor unions were angered by Osborne's announcements yesterday of a 1 percent cap on public-sector pay increases once the current two-year freeze is over, an increase in the pension age to 67 and an easing of health-and-safety legislation. The chancellor also said he will make it easier for private companies to take over public-sector services.

"We're taking action in a week where we see banks making big profits again, a week when we see bank bonuses are in at 4.5 billion pounds, in a week when we're told that public-sector workers have to pay to deal with this deficit," Dave Prentis, general secretary of the Unison public-sector union, told BBC Radio 4's 'Today' Show. "We're saying enough is enough."

The Office of Budget Responsibility increased its estimate yesterday of the number of public-sector workers who will lose their jobs by 2017 to 710,000, or 13 percent of employees in local and central government. The office previously predicted that 400,000 posts would be cut by 2016.

--With assistance from Steve Rothwell in London. Editors: Eddie Buckle, Alan Crawford

To contact the reporters on this story: Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.net; Katie Linsell in London at klinsell@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

Katy Perry Divorcing Russell Brand? Are the Tweets True? - E! Online

If it trends, it must be true…um, right?

Not so fast—after all, if that was the case, Katy Perry would have been pregnant and divorced several times over by now, though the latest rumor to explode all over the Internet sees her doing at least one of those two things.

Early this morning, word spread like wildfire that Perry was looking to expatriate herself from her marriage to Russell Brand, with several outlets running with the supposed impending split news as fact. So what's the deal? And how'd this rumor get started?

MORE: Katy Perry blamed what for her pregnancy rumors?!

First of all, while neither Katy nor Russell has directly addressed the reports, a spokesman for the British funnyman did deny any knowledge of a bust-up to the U.K.'s Sunday Mirror editor Dean Piper.

"Spoken to Russell Brand's peeps," he tweeted this morning. "'Internet rumour—escalated out of control. Will check but we've not heard anything.' #thatsthatfornow"

Except that it wasn't, and despite the early morning denial, the rumor still hasn't slowed. So where did this rumor spring from?

MORE: Is Katy headed to Broadway?

Well, most outlets that repeated the rumor seemed to credit none other than TMZ with the supposed scoop, claiming that the site posted, and then quickly removed, a story claiming that divorce was nigh between the couple, who are no strangers to unfounded rumors.

However, TMZ's main sniffer dog, Harvey Levin, took to Twitter himself to clear his site's good name.

"A news outlet saying TMZ posted a story Katy Perry is getting divorced," he tweeted. "We did not post such a story…just made a call…100% NO DIVORCE."

Phew! Glad to hear it—though we'd much rather hear it straight from the source. If any couple has a way with words—particularly when they're shutting down rumors—it's these two.

PHOTOS: Fashion Spotlight: Katy Perry

Austerity Nation: Britain Strikes as Government Extends Spending Cuts - TIME (blog)

Thousands of public sector workers attend a march against pension cuts on November 30, 2011 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo: Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images)

In a nation where the weather changes by the hour, it's useful to consult the morning forecast. For the two million public sector workers who walked out of their jobs across the U.K. this morning, today's outlook likely seemed heavy with symbolism. Blustery winds across the northwest matched the chill of newly announced austerity cuts and severe rain in western Scotland hinted at the growing sense of doom and gloom. In an unusual move for the BBC, this morning's forecast had been pre-recorded. Weathermen are striking, too.

The political storm engulfing Britain kicked off on Tuesday when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, issued the government's annual autumn statement, which included a mini-budget and spending plans. Pointing his finger at a slowdown in growth in the eurozone, Osborne said Britain's economy could stagnate until mid-2012. "If the rest of Europe heads into recession it may prove hard to avoid one here in the U.K.," he told parliament. "Much of Europe appears to be heading into recession caused by a chronic lack of confidence in the ability of countries to deal with their debts." He forecast growth of just 0.7% next year—well lower than the 2.5% forecast he made back in March.

(PHOTOS: Nationwide public workers strikes rock Britain.)

Later that day Fitch ratings agency said the grim—and more realistic—forecast would boost Britain's credibility. At the same time, it warned that London risked losing its triple-AAA debt rating if further economic woes shake the country. To avoid that scenario—and, presumably, to give the economy firmer legs to stand on—the government also announced a raft of austerity measures that includes cutting more than 700,000 public sector jobs and capping pay increases for workers at 1 percent for two years after their current pay freeze ends in 2013.

Perhaps most egregious in the eyes of teachers, trash collectors and other public sector workers are the changes in pension provisions. Contributions will eventually rise by three percent, and schemes will move from being based on a worker's final salary at retirement to one based on his average salary over his career. The retirement age at which people can begin drawing their pension will also increase from 60 to 68. These changes come at a time British families are already coping with higher food and electricity prices.

Today's strikes—said to be the largest in a generation—haven't brought Britain to a standstill, but they are inconveniencing millions nonetheless. Of the 21,700 schools in England and Wales, 19,000 are closed or partially closed, forcing parents to take time off work or arrange childcare. In Scotland, only 30 of more than 2,700 state-run schools are open. In Newcastle, where the metro system is not running, only five percent of the city's trash collection vehicles were in operation this morning. Nationwide, around 400,000 public health workers failed to turn up to work. NHS managers say that's forced them to cancel nearly 7,000 of 30,000 non-urgent operations, and tens of thousands of other appointments. London's hospitals are currently dealing with a backlog of  emergency calls due to a lack of ambulance drivers.

Ministers claim the strikes—and the estimated 1,000 demonstrations taking place—will cost the U.K. economy £500 million ($785 million). Union leaders maintain that No. 10 was asking for it. "If the Government was operating the economy in a reasonable way, there would be no problem at all with paying our pensions," Christine Blower, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said. "We believe it is the right time to be on strike, we believe it is proportionate and reasonable."

Osborne has lobbed tough rhetoric back at the unions, saying that the strike "is not going to achieve anything." Instead, he has defended the revised austerity plan which, he claims, will result in public sector pensions that are still more generous than those offered in the private sector. And, unlike the vast majority of private sector employees, those in the public sector will have a defined beneift. He also questioned the utility of the unions striking while negotiations with the government are still ongoing. Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed the industrial action as a "damp squib."

Labour Party leaders have not yet endorsed the strikes, but they have suggested that a lack of fairness in the Government's plan justifies the public's anger. During Prime Minister's questions this afternoon, Labour leader Ed Miliband went a step further by dabbling in class warfare. "Unlike [the Prime Minister], I'm not going to demonise the dinner ladies, the cleaners, the nurses," he said. "People who earn in a week what the chancellor pays for his annual skiing holiday."

As the sun set this evening, politicians' insults gave way to more dramatic action near London's Piccadilly Circus. Members of the anti-austerity protest group U.K. Uncut stormed an office building near Haymarket, leading police to cordon off up to 300 protestors. Waving picket signs, they chanted "Shame on you!" Looks like the storms, set to hit England Thursday morning, have arrived earlier than expected.

William Lee Adams is a staff writer at the London bureau of TIME. Find him on Twitter at @willyleeadams or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME's Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

Central banks act as euro zone crisis rages - Reuters

Wed Nov 30, 2011 1:08pm EST

* Major central banks boost dollar liquidity for banks

* Italy starts emergency liquidity tenders for banks

* EU's Rehn says euro zone must "integrate or disintegrate"

* Germany, in shift, says open to raising IMF resources

* G20 source says no progress on bolstering IMF resources

By Robin Emmott and Kirsten Donovan

BRUSSELS/LONDON, Nov 30 (Reuters) - The world's major central banks acted jointly on Wednesday to provide cheaper dollar funding to European banks facing a credit crunch as the euro zone's debt crisis drove EU ministers to urge more IMF help to avert financial disaster.

The emergency move by the U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, and the central banks of Japan, Britain, Canada and Switzerland recalled coordinated action to stabilise global markets in the 2008 financial crisis after the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

In Italy, now the focal point of the euro debt crisis, the Treasury started emergency cash tenders for banks which have been squeezed particularly hard as Rome's borrowing costs have soared towards 8 percent, a level seen as unaffordable in the long term.

The euro and European shares surged on the central bank action, which came after euro zone finance ministers agreed to ramp up the firepower of their bailout fund but acknowledged they may have to turn to the International Monetary Fund for more help.

In a policy shift by Europe's main paymaster, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Germany was open to increasing the IMF's resources through bilateral loans or more special drawing rights, reversing the stance Berlin took earlier this month at the Cannes G20 summit.

The new openness to a bigger IMF role came as Germany presses its EU partners to agree next week on treaty changes to create coercive powers to make euro zone countries change their budgets if they breach EU deficit and debt rules.

"The economic and monetary union will either have to be completed through much deeper integration or we will have to accept a gradual disintegration of over half a century of European integration," Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn told the European Parliament.

Two years into Europe's debt crisis, investors are fleeing the euro zone bond market, European banks are dumping government debt, south European banks are bleeding deposits and a recession looms, fuelling doubts about the survival of the single currency.

Euro zone leaders have agreed belatedly on one half-measure after another but have failed to restore confidence and some analysts now see a Dec. 9 Brussels summit as a make-or-break moment for the euro.

Finance ministers agreed on Tuesday night on detailed plans to leverage the European Financial Stability Mechanism (EFSF), but could not say by how much because of rapidly worsening market conditions, prompting them to look to the IMF.

"We are now looking at a true financial crisis -- that is a broad-based disruption in financial markets," Christian Noyer, France's central bank governor and a governing council member of the European Central Bank, told a conference in Singapore.

Italian and Spanish bond yields resumed their inexorable climb towards unsustainable levels on Wednesday, as markets assessed the rescue fund boost as inadequate, but fell back on news of the central banks' joint action.

"It must also be remembered that the EFSF is already funding at very wide levels (high borrowing costs) over Germany, struggled in its last auction to raise the required funds and would have its rating put under severe pressure by any rating downgrade of France," Rabobank strategists said in a note.

"This must call into question any plans related to the EFSF. It is yesterday's solution and the market has simply moved on."


The 17-nation Eurogroup adopted detailed plans to insure the first 20-30 percent of new bond issues for countries having funding difficulties and to create co-investment funds to attract foreign investors to buy euro zone government bonds.

Both schemes would be operational by January with about 250 billion euros from the euro zone's EFSF bailout fund available to leverage after funding a second rescue programme for Greece, Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker said.

The aim was for the IMF to match and support the new firepower of the EFSF, Juncker told a news conference.

But with China and other major sovereign funds cautious about investing more in euro zone debt, EFSF chief Klaus Regling said he did not expect investors to commit major amounts to the leveraging options in the next days or weeks, and he could not put a figure on the final size of the leveraged fund.

"It is really not possible to give one number for leveraging because it is a process. We will not give out 100 billion next month, we will need money as we go along," Regling said.

Most analysts agree that only more radical measures such as massive intervention by the ECB to buy government bonds directly or indirectly can staunch the crisis.

The prospects of drawing the IMF more deeply into supporting the euro zone are uncertain. Several big economies are sceptical of European calls for more resources for the global lender.

The United States, Japan and other Asian states are hesitant to chip in unless Europe commits to first use its own resources to fix the problem and peripheral euro zone states map out more concrete steps on fiscal and economic reforms.

"Nobody wants to spend money on something they doubt would work," a G20 official said.

"That goes not only for Europe but for any other country outside Europe. The threshold for seeking IMF help is quite high. Those seeking help need to be willing to give up some of their jurisdiction on fiscal policy and willing to undergo painful reform. Mere pledges and speeches won't do."


New Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said he had received a very positive reaction from the euro zone ministers to his fiscal plans, although he was told to take extra deficit cutting measures beyond an austerity plan already adopted to meet its balanced budget promise in 2013.

He also said he had met the head of the IMF's European department on Wednesday but Italy had not considered taking help from the Fund.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Italian and IMF officials have held preliminary discussions on some form of financial support for Rome, although no decision has been taken, according to sources familiar with the talks.

Italian bond yields are now above the levels at which Greece, Ireland and Portugal were forced to apply for EU/IMF bailouts, and Rome has a wall of issuance due from late January to roll over maturing debt.

The Eurogroup ministers agreed to release their portion of an 8 billion euro aid payment to Greece, the sixth instalment of 110 billion euros of EU/IMF loans agreed last year and necessary to help Athens stave off the immediate threat of default.

Juncker said the money would be released by mid-December, once the IMF signs off on its portion early next month.

G20 leaders promised this month to boost the global lender's warchest. However, another G20 source said policymakers had made no progress since then in efforts to boost IMF resources, which at current levels may not be sufficient to overcome the crisis.

EU sources said one option being explored is for euro system central banks to lend to the IMF so it can in turn lend to Italy and Spain while applying IMF borrowing conditions.

With Germany opposed to the idea of the ECB providing liquidity to the EFSF or acting as a lender of last resort, the euro zone needs a way of calming markets and fast.

The ECB shows no sign yet of responding to widespread calls to massively increase its bond-buying although EU officials said it may have to shift, even if the EFSF gained IMF help.

A Reuters poll of economists showed a 40 percent chance of the ECB stepping up purchases with freshly printed money within six months, something it has opposed so far.

The poll forecast a 60 percent chance of an ECB rate cut to 1.0 percent next week and a big majority of economists said they expect the central bank to announce new long-term liquidity tenders to help keep banks afloat at its next meeting on Dec 8.

Audio helped sway judge to give Jackson doc jail - Houston Chronicle

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The voice of Michael Jackson helped put the man who killed him behind bars.

It wasn't the familiar voice of hits such as "Billie Jean" and "Thriller," but the slow, slurring recording of the singer that was found on his physician's cell phone that helped convince a judge to sentence the doctor to jail for four years.

The four-minute recording was one of the blockbuster revelations of Dr. Conrad Murray's involuntary manslaughter trial, a previously unknown piece of evidence that revealed an impaired Jackson describing his ambitions and aspirations as his personal physician listened.

It was also one of the trial's most haunting moments, and stuck in the mind of Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor as he considered in recent days how to sentence Murray for causing Jackson's unexpected death in June 2009. It wasn't the only thing the judge considered — he unwaveringly assailed the cardiologist's decisions and ethics for nearly 30 minutes on Tuesday — but helped convince Pastor to give Murray the maximum sentence.

Jurors unanimously convicted Murray on Nov. 7, but it was up to Pastor on Tuesday to sentence the doctor and explain his punishment.

"Of everything I heard and saw during the course of the trial, one aspect of the evidence stands out the most, and that is the surreptitious recording of Michael Jackson by his trusted doctor," Pastor said.

Murray's attorneys never explained in court why the recording was made, and prosecutors said they do not know what substances Jackson was under the influence of when the audio was recorded six weeks before his death. Murray had been giving the singer nightly doses of the anesthetic propofol to help him sleep.

The doctor's time in a Los Angeles jail will be automatically reduced to less than two years due to laws imposed due to California's prison overcrowding and budget woes.

Murray, 58, will have plenty of time if he wants to consider Pastor's harsh rebuke of him. The Houston-based cardiologist will be confined to a one-man cell and kept away from other prisoners.

With Jackson's family and Murray's mother and girlfriend looking on, the judge called the doctor's actions a "disgrace to the medical profession," and said he displayed a "failure of character" and had showed a complete lack of remorse for his significant role in causing Jackson's death.

"It should be made very clear that experimental medicine is not going to be tolerated, and Mr. Jackson was an experiment," Pastor said. "The fact that he participated in it does not excuse or lessen the blame of Dr. Murray, who simply could have walked away and said no as countless others did.

"But Dr. Murray was intrigued with the prospect of this money-for-medicine madness," the judge said.

Defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan said after the sentencing hearing that Murray made the recording accidentally while playing with a new application on his iPhone. He deleted it, but a computer investigator recovered it from the doctor's phone after Jackson's death.

Pastor said he believed the recording was made with more sinister intent.

"That tape recording was Dr. Murray's insurance policy," the judge said. "It was designed to record his patient surreptitiously; at that patient's most vulnerable point."

"I can't help but wonder if there had been some conflict between Michael Jackson and Dr. Murray at a later point in time in their relationship, what value would be placed on that tape recording, if the choice were to release that tape recording to a media organization to be used against Michael Jackson," Pastor said.

Pastor said Murray was motivated by a desire for "money, fame and prestige" and cared more about himself than Jackson.

After sentencing, Murray mouthed the words "I love you" to his mother and girlfriend in the courtroom. Murray's mother, Milta Rush, sat alone on a bench in the courthouse hallway.

"My son is not what they charged him to be," she said quietly. "He was a gentle child from the time he was small."

Of her son's future, she said, "God is in charge."

Jackson's family said in a statement read in court that they were not seeking revenge but a stiff sentence for Murray that would serve as a warning to opportunistic doctors.

"We're going to be a family. We're going to move forward. We're going to tour, play the music and miss him," brother Jermaine Jackson said.

Defense attorney Ed Chernoff implored Pastor to look at Murray's life and give him credit for a career of good works. "I do wonder whether the court considers the book of a man's life, not just one chapter," Chernoff said.

The judge responded: "I accept Mr. Chernoff's invitation to read the whole book of Dr. Murray's life. But I also read the book of Michael Jackson's life, including the sad final chapter of Dr. Murray's treatment of Michael Jackson."

A probation report released after sentencing said Murray was listed as suicidal and mentally disturbed in jail records before his sentencing. However, Murray's spokesman Mark Fierro said a defense attorney visited the cardiologist in jail last week and found him upbeat.

"That time is behind him," Fierro said.

What lies ahead for Murray is more flogging, with medical authorities in California, Nevada and Texas looking to strip his medical license and Jackson's father, Joseph, suing the physician for wrongful death.

Chernoff, who had advocated Murray receive probation instead of jail, said his client will forever live with the stigma of having caused Jackson's death.

"Whether Dr. Murray is a barista or a greeter at Walmart, he is still the man that killed Michael Jackson," he said.


AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch contributed to this report.


Follow Anthony McCartney at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP

Iranian protesters attack British Embassy - San Francisco Chronicle

Tehran --

In scenes that evoked the seizing of the U.S. Embassy in 1979, hundreds of demonstrators stormed two British diplomatic compounds in Tehran on Tuesday, hurling gasoline bombs, ransacking offices and tearing down the British flag.

The hours-long attacks, which followed a move by the Iranian parliament to expel Britain's ambassador over new sanctions, marked a sharp escalation in the tension between Iran and the West over the Islamic republic's nuclear program.

Britain promised "serious consequences" and summoned Iran's charges d'affaires in London to the Foreign Office. The incident also drew rebukes form the United States, France and the U.N. Security Council.

Iran's Foreign Ministry expressed regret for "the unacceptable behaviors" by some demonstrators and said it had requested an immediate investigation.

The protest was organized to mark the anniversary of the death of nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari in an attack Iran blamed on British and Israeli intelligence agencies.

A few hundred demonstrators gathered outside the British Embassy in downtown Tehran, chanting "Death to Britain" and demanding the immediate withdrawal of Ambassador Dominick Chilcott.

Some of the protesters climbed over the gates into the complex, where they tossed gasoline bombs and hoisted the Iranian flag in place of the British banner. They ripped down satellite dishes, tossed out papers and carried away a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.

Other protesters forced their way into a British diplomatic compound in the north of the city, where they seized documents and staged a sit-in, according to a report by the semiofficial Fars news agency.

Iranian riot police appeared slow to respond, but regained control of both compounds within hours.

This article appeared on page A - 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Man held after 'RoboCop' injured - The Press Association

A man has been arrested after a policeman once nicknamed RoboCop for his work on a city estate was injured in a hit-and-run collision.

Pc Diederik Coetzee, from Nottinghamshire Police, was struck by a car from behind as he cycled along Blidworth Lane in Nottingham.

The 54-year-old, who joined the force in June 2001, was off-duty when the incident happened at around 6pm on Friday. Police said he was wearing a high-visibility vest and had his bike lights turned on.

A force spokeswoman said a 32-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving, failure to stop at the scene of a collision and failure to report a crime.

Pc Coetzee remains in a critical but stable condition at King's Mill Hospital in Nottinghamshire, she added.

The Mansfield South beat officer made headlines in 2005 after making hundreds of arrests in a year, patrolling Mansfield's Ladywood estate on his bike.

Hundreds of messages of support and well wishes from the public have flooded into Nottinghamshire Police for him and his family since the collision.

The force spokeswoman said that along with a surge of goodwill from his colleagues, the switchboard at headquarters at Arnold has received scores of calls from concerned members of the community.

Phone operator Martin Sharpe said: "We have been inundated with calls from people wanting to pass on get well soon messages to Diederik. It is extremely heart-warming to hear them. He is obviously a very popular man and people are very worried about him."

Police have been examining CCTV footage, visiting mechanics and scrap metal dealers and speaking with local residents as part of their investigations. Witnesses or anyone with information about the collision are urged to contact the Crash Investigation Team on 101 extension 800 2225 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

76% of UK oysters contain norovirus - The Press Association

More than three-quarters of British-grown oysters contain norovirus, new research has found.

The study, conducted on behalf of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), discovered that 76% of oysters tested from UK oyster growing beds had traces of the infectious bug.

Low levels of the virus, which causes symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea, were found in 52% of the positive samples, according to the data.

The FSA said it was "difficult" to assess the potential health impact of the findings, as researchers were unable to differentiate between infectious and non-infectious norovirus material in the shellfish.

However, it said the results of the study would be used as part of a review by the European Food Safety Authority, which is to advise the European Commission on what a legal safe level for norovirus in oysters should be. Currently a safe limit for the highly infectious virus, commonly know as the "winter vomiting bug", has not been established.

Andrew Wadge, chief scientist at the Food Standards Agency, said: "This research is the first of its kind in the UK. It will be important to help improve the knowledge of the levels of norovirus found in shellfish at production sites.

"The results, along with data from other research, will help us work with producers to find ways to reduce the levels of norovirus in shellfish, and work within Europe to establish safe levels."

As part of the study, scientists from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) took samples from 39 oyster harvesting areas across the UK.

David Lees, the lead investigator at Cefas, said: "Norovirus is a recognised problem for the sector, and this study provides important baseline data to help the industry and regulators to focus on the key risks."

Between 600,000 and one million people in the UK catch norovirus every year.

'Steal this Record,' Elvis Costello Urges in Protest Over Boxed Set - PC Magazine

Singer Elvis Costello's Web site argues that the artist's latest boxed set is too expensive, and that fans should steal it instead. Well, sort of.

"The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook," the boxed set of Elvis Costello and the Impostors, is priced at $202.66 on Amazon. That's way too high for even a true fan, the ElvisCostello.com site wrote earlier this month.

"Unfortunately, we at www.elviscostello.com find ourselves unable to recommend this lovely item to you as the price appears to be either a misprint or a satire," the site's authors wrote, without specifying if they represented Costello's personal views.

"All our attempts to have this number revised have been fruitless but rather than detain you with tedious arguments about morality, panache and book-keeping - when there are really bigger fish to filet these days - we are taking the following unusual step."

That step was to recommend users buy the much more reasonably priced "Ambassador Of Jazz" boxed set by Louis Armstrong, priced at $149.99 on Amazon. "Frankly, the music is vastly superior," the elviscostello site wrote in its post.

"If on the other hand you should still want to hear and view the component parts of the above mentioned elaborate hoax, then those items will be available separately at a more affordable price in the New Year, assuming that you have not already obtained them by more unconventional means," the authors wrote in the post, titled "Steal This Record".

But in a followup, the site clarified its stance. "If you should still want the component items in the above mentioned elaborate hoax, they will be available separately at a more affordable price in the New Year, unless you are one of those pirates who imagines they are evangelists or that other people's rights absolve their own thievery, in which case this is between you and your dim conscience," the post noted.

For more from Mark, follow him on Twitter @MarkHachman.

For the top stories in tech, follow us on Twitter at @PCMag.

Liquid living worms survive space - BBC News

Worms have survived their first space mission in liquid form.

The result, published in a Royal Society journal, means worm colonies can be established on space stations without the need for researchers to tend to them.

The animals are helping scientists understand the effects of weightlessness and high radiation levels experienced in space.

Lessons learned could one day assist humans to explore the Solar System.

In 2001, Stephen Hawking is reported to have said: "I don't think the human race will survive the next 1,000 years, unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet. But I'm an optimist. We will reach out to the stars."

But space is no easy amble. Humans must first learn to cheaply and safely propel themselves into space regularly, and then, once there, must adapt to high levels of radiation and to weightlessness.

In preparation for longer spaceflight, scientists have designed shields to deflect harmful energetic particles, and continue to study the ill-effect of weightlessness on astronauts.

The gravity studies have mostly focused on a group of muscles - broadly known as anti-gravity muscles - that seem to deteriorate without the gravitational pull of the Earth. However, there is some evidence for the weakening in all muscles, including the hearts of astronauts.

Weightlessness not only sees animals use their muscles less, but causes changes in the chemical reactions within the muscle cells, explained Nathaniel Szewczyk from the University of Nottingham, who is the lead author on the new study in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

Dr Szewczyk, and his team, looked at the effects of weightlessness on the muscles of worms, because these multicellular animals share many genes with humans, and can therefore help scientists gauge the long-term impacts of deep spaceflight on human life.

The recent mission saw Dr Szewczyk's worms return to Earth with the space shuttle Discovery. It was the longest time worms have survived and been recovered, he said.

Liquid lunch

This was possible because the international team established an automated setup for growing worms that transferred a subset of worms to fresh food every month, filming the worms' progress as they went.

The technique was dependent on establishing that worms fare just as well in liquid as they do on their usual agar plates.

He explains that "because we had the bad experience with shuttle STS-107, which of course is the shuttle that broke up, we are keen [to] avoid being dependent on getting the worms back."

This way, the researchers can gather data on the worms from space, and automating the worm culturing also means less work.

Dr Szewczyk, like all UK scientists, is currently dependent on collaborating with international space programmes to get their animals into space.

However, the UK is in the process of considering whether to join the European Programme for Life and Physical Science (Elips), a European Space Agency-run programme that would give British scientists more direct access to the space station. The decision will be taken next year.

Scientists ask public to help decode whale song - The Guardian

Marine scientists have launched an appeal asking wildlife enthusiasts for help in decoding the secrets of whale song in a global "crowdsourcing" experiment.

Experts in the UK and north America are asking "citizen scientists" to study and sift through about 15,000 recordings of calls by pilot whales and killer whales around the planet, to see if new phrases, meanings and dialects can be uncovered.

The Whale Project, launched on Tuesday by Scientific American and the online citizen science organisation The Zooniverse, is similar to the first major attempt to use crowdsourcing by amateur astronomers to help discover new galaxies by studying images taken by the Hubble space telescope in July 2007.

Participants visiting whale.fm will be asked to study and then compare the sound wave patterns, or spectograms, of calls made by whales in different pods and families of whales around the world.

They will be asked to identify identical or very similar sound wave patterns, and will be able to play back each sound excerpt to help them match segments. Every sound recording is linked to a specific location in the sea, or geotagged, allowing scientists to precisely place clusters of calls in the areas where specific families of whale are known to inhabit.

Prof Ian Boyd, one of the project's collaborators from the University of St Andrews' sea mammal research unit, said scientists had discovered that people were often naturally much more able than computers to see similarities in complex spectograms.

"The first thing we want them to do is compare the images because what the human brain is very, very good at doing is comparing images, and is much better than a computer," Boyd said. "For someone like me who's tone deaf, who isn't very good at telling sounds apart, we're very, very good at making distinctions between small changes in shapes and objects."

He said pilot and killer whales had very complex calls or repertoires. Marine scientists now wanted to investigate the differences in each group's calls, like a dialect, and whether they could discover different kinds of messages from analysing these calls.

"If these animals have some form of linguistics or language tradition, we're wanting to try to find the words within that repertoire of sounds. We don't know what they mean but what we do find is they have different lexicons; different groups have different types of sound, and they probably inherit these sounds from their parents," he said.

"It's like a dialect. We want to be able to compare them; both these species have such complex sorts of sounds, and some of these sounds are repeated again, again and again. So they are not random."

Every matched group of sounds would be compared with the whales' location and activities that the whales were involved in. "We want to try and take that back to the context where they're produced, such as hunting or social situations."

Scientific American has previously run "citizen science" projects to track dragonfly swarms, the Gulf oil spill and a "great sunflower project", recording their observations of the natural world. Mariette DiChristina, the editor in chief, said: "One doesn't need a science degree to be a citizen scientist. All you need is a curiosity about the world around you and an interest in observing, measuring and reporting what you hear and see."

Ivory Coast 7th African probe for ICC - News24

2011-11-30 08:09

The Hague - Ivory Coast is the seventh African country for which a probe has been launched by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which was set up in The Hague in 2002.

Former president Laurent Gbagbo, becomes the first ex-head of state to be handed over to the ICC.

Ivory Coast

The court's prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo was given the green light in October to probe alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by troops loyal to long-time leader Gbagbo and newly elected President Alassane Ouattara after violence wracked the country following disputed presidential polls in November 2010. About 3 000 were killed in the bloody conflict, which was sparked after Gbagbo refused to step down.


The court on June 27 announced arrest warrants against the late Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and security services chief Abdullah al-Senussi, suspected of crimes against humanity committed after the rebellion which toppled Gaddafi's regime broke out in mid-February.

Interpol issued "red notices" in September on the ICC warrants, as well as one against another Gaddafi son, Saadi, who is wanted by the Libyan authorities. Libyan rebels took power on August 23 in Tripoli, backed by Nato air strikes. The conflict ended in controversial fashion when Gaddafi was shot dead on October 20, a killing that was criticised even by Western allies of the interim regime. On November 22 the ICC announced it was formally dropping the case against Gaddafi after seeing his death certificate.


Moreno-Ocampo revealed the names of six men on December 10 last year including the country's Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who he said were suspected of being the main figures behind Kenya's post-election violence in 2007-08 which claimed 1 200 lives. The court began deliberating over whether to accept the charges against Kenyatta and others in September.


Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir faces an arrest warrant for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the western region of Darfur.

A civil war that broke out in 2003 has claimed about 300 000 lives according to UN figures, while Khartoum puts the figure at 10 000. In 2010, the ICC added a genocide charge against Bashir. Two arrest warrants have also been issued against a former minister and a militia leader.

Democratic Republic of Congo

The ICC reached a milestone with the end of its first trial in August against former militia chief Thomas Lubanga, accused of war crimes for enrolling child soldiers in 2002-03. He is awaiting a verdict.

Congolese militia leaders Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes, have been before the court for an attack on a village in 2003.

Senior Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana, suspected of crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Kivu provinces in the eastern DRC, has been held in The Hague since 2009. He is awaiting trial.

Central African Republic

Former Congolese deputy president Jean-Pierre Bemba has been in detention in The Hague since 2008, suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by his Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) rebels in the neighbouring Central African Republic between October 2002 and March 2003. Bemba's troops supported CAR President Ange-Felix Patasse against a rebellion led by former army chief of staff Francois Bozize.


The ICC in 2005 issued arrest warrants against Joseph Kony and other top commanders of the notorious Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) for crimes against humanity and war crimes including the enlisting of child soldiers and sexual slavery, committed between 2002 and 2004.

Larger, revamped version of euro-zone bailout fund unveiled - Globe and Mail

Faced with an unrelenting debt crisis that has reached the heart of Europe, eurozone finance ministers unveiled a larger, revamped version of the bailout fund they hope will buy them enough time to salvage their battered currency union.

The Europeans also signalled they will seek more help from the International Monetary Fund in an effort to thwart bond-market attacks that have driven the cost of government financing to unmanageable levels across much of the region. Italy's borrowing costs soared to nearly 8 per cent on Tuesday, well above the 7 per cent considered sustainable and a record for its dozen years in the euro.

The bailout fund would be boosted through new investment structures involving public and private money. The ministers also agreed to guarantee up to 30 per cent of new debt issued by troubled governments.

But European officials could not say how much more firepower the bailout fund, known as the European Financial Stability Facility, would be able to deploy. The IMF has warned that more resources to tackle the debt crisis would have to come from Europe. And skeptical analysts doubt the changes will be enough to stem the speculative attacks in the market that have driven the most fiscally troubled governments to the brink of collapse.

"It's impossible to give one number, it's a process," EFSF chief executive Klaus Regling said, refusing to be pinned down to an earlier stated goal of €1-trillion. "We will need money if countries make a request, and market conditions change over time."

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads the eurozone ministers' group, said: "We haven't lowered our ambitions, but the conditions have changed, so it will probably not be €1-trillion but less."

Early reaction in the markets was muted. The euro was largely unchanged, reflecting a view that the Europeans repeatedly talk a better game than they have delivered throughout the course of the two-year-old crisis.

"Juncker came out and stated what analysts have known for a long time, which is that if you start with nothing, and you multiply it by a gazillion, you still come up with nothing," said Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics in Valhalla, N.Y.

The worry is that even the new larger, leveraged version of the bailout fund and an accompanying bond-insurance scheme simply will not be big enough to stop the speculative attacks in the bond market that have raised the spectre of debt restructurings or defaults that could spell the death knell for the common currency.

"We're no further forward because we don't know who is going to invest [in the bailout fund] and how much the IMF will be involved," said Michael Hewson, a market analyst in London at CMC Markets. Officials "were deliberately short on detail on this point. As such, the credibility gap remains and wasn't helped by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble admitting that it [the EFSF] wouldn't be able to contain the debt crisis."

Economists have repeatedly argued that the solution lies in turning the European Central Bank into a lender of last resort with unlimited capacity to buy euro-zone sovereign debt and in replacing the unloved debt of various governments with eurobonds guaranteed by the strongest countries in the union. Germany flatly rejects both avenues.

Dalglish hails Bellamy heroics - Capital FM Kenya

LONDON, England, NOvember 30 – Kenny Dalglish paid tribute to Craig Bellamy for his contribution to Liverpool's 2-0 League Cup quarter-final triumph at Chelsea just 48 hours after the death of the forward's close friend Gary Speed.

Bellamy withdrew from Liverpool's game against Manchester City two days previously after learning of the passing of the Wales manager — who was found hanged at his home on Sunday — but returned to the line-up for the trip to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

And he overcame his personal grief to produce an outstanding performance, capped by assists for both Liverpool's goals scored by Maxi Rodriguez and Martin Kelly.

"We know he's a fantastic footballer and he had a hugely disappointing day on Sunday, when Speedy, who he regarded as a mentor, passed away," Dalglish said.

"For someone to come back and play like that – for any of the players who played at the weekend – it speaks volumes for him."

Liverpool moved into the last four and remain on course for a first trophy of Dalglish's second spell in charge at the Anfield club.

But while the manager was pleased to have progressed, he repeated his criticisms of the competition after being forced to play such a significant tie so soon after a high-pressure Premier League clash with City.

"The way we're progressing is very significant in any cup, especially a cup that's been cheapened by the actions of the people who run it," he added.

"But we just brush ourselves down. We've got our reward and look forward to the next game.

"I know we're in the semi-final. At least we've got a home game now. Three teams in the quarter-finals have got problems with fixtures and that's totally irresponsible.

"Man City (who beat Arsenal on Tuesday) and us played on Sunday, and Crystal Palace (due to play Manchester United on Wednesday) have got a game on Friday."

However, Liverpool's victory came at a cost with Lucas Leiva stretchered off in the second half.

"He's damaged his knee," Dalglish said. "We're not sure how it is. We don't know what it is. Rather than speculate, we'll best get a proper synopsis. We'll need to get it scanned."

The defeat was Chelsea's third in their last four home games and threw fresh scrutiny on the position of manager Andre Villas-Boas.

Villas-Boas conceded his side's form at Stamford Bridge wasn't good enough and with the do or die Champions League group decider with Valencia looming in seven days time, he admitted they must improve quickly.

"The Champions League is a competition which is life and death," he said. "This standard won't be enough. We need to up the tempo and play that game with the ultimate desire.

"Away from home we've been more solid, statistically and as a team. That is a fact. At the moment at home we've just not been good enough. I think we need to get our fans behind us when we play at home.

"We need to get the emotions right. I know, and you can feel, Stamford Bridge has become anxious about Chelsea playing at home, but we need their full support behind. That's the only way you can build the atmosphere to take us through this period."

Villas-Boas had made nine changes and restored Fernando Torres to the starting line-up, although he indicated the Spain forward had not done enough to retain his place for the weekend trip to Newcastle when Didier Drogba is likely to return.

"We believe in him and will continue to pursue his individual form," he said. "Our task, as technical staff, is to get the best out of a player so if we don't do that we've failed. It takes time.

"He faces tough competition. We'll go back to 4-3-3 against Newcastle and he's still going to have to compete. Didier is showing good signs of returning. Fernando has shown that ability before and can again."

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