jueves, 28 de febrero de 2013

EU reaches deal to cap banker bonuses - Sky News Australia

Updated: 05:31, Friday March 1, 2013

The European Union will cap bankers' bonuses, which critics say played a major role in driving the global financial crisis, as part of new tougher rules on the banking sector.

The accord was struck early Thursday after the European Parliament and the EU's current Irish presidency agreed how to implement Basel III, an internationally-agreed set of regulations which tighten capital requirements in the hope of preventing any repeat of the 2008 banking collapse.

'For the first time in the history of EU financial market regulation, we will cap bankers' bonuses,' said MEP Othmar Karas, the negotiator for the parliament.

Parliament had wanted to limit any bonus to not more than a banker's fixed annual salary but agreed it could be twice the size, on the condition that shareholders formally approved such a payment.

Karas told a press conference later that if a wider EU political agreement could now be reached, Basel III could come into force in the EU in January 2014, one year past the original deadline.

Basel III was supposed to have been implemented from January this year but the timetable slipped steadily as the banks and some EU member states, notably Britain, baulked at the new rules, saying they would undercut management incentives and make the banks reluctant to lend.

Basel III notably requires the banks to build up their capital buffers and reserves but in doing so, they argue, they have less money left to lend to businesses now struggling in a deep economic slump.

In November, the United States said it too would not make the January 2013 target date.

Karas played down the importance of the bonus issue but in the event it has attracted most of the headlines and is particularly sensitive for Britain, home to one of the world's biggest financial markets in London.

The key issue is 'that from 2014, European banks will have to set aside more money to be more stable and concentrate on their core business, namely financing the real economy, that of small- and medium-sized enterprises and jobs,' Karas insisted.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Thursday he would 'look carefully' at the deal, staunchly defending London's role and insisting his own plans for bank reform were in some respects tougher than those in the EU.

'We have major international banks that are based in the UK but have branches and activities all over the world. We need to make sure regulation put in place in Brussels is flexible enough to allow those banks to be competing and succeeding while being located in the UK,' he warned.

Harry Styles Gets Nailed In The Crotch By Sneaker-Tossing Directioner! - MTV.com

The guys of One Direction are currently taking their act all across the globe on their recently launched Take Me Home tour. And while they are used to being showered with love and accolades, on Tuesday night Harry Styles was pelted with something a little less warm and fuzzy.

When the guys played the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow, Scotland, one of Styles' fans threw a pair of shoes at the floppy-haired heartthrob — twice. The first time, the sneaker landed onstage mid-banter and Harry picked it up. But the second time, the Directioner had better (or worse) aim, and the shoe landed right in Styles' crotch. In footage posted on YouTube, after he was struck, Styles half-jokingly fell over in pain.

Liam Payne and Zayn Malik came to Styles' side, and a few seconds later he was back on his feet, doing some deep lunges and stretches (which we assume he also does when he hits the gym) as the banter continued. He then spoke to someone offstage before the show went on as planned. The fivesome are slated to play the same venue Wednesday night (February 27).

So, who managed to make contact with Styles during the gig? Jade Anderson, a local East Kilbride teenager, who was almost escorted out of the show before the band stepped in. "I just wanted him to touch something belonging to me. I didn't mean to hit him where I hit him. I'm really embarrassed," she told a local radio show, according to The Daily Record. Not only did she get to stay for the remainder of the show, she also got her shoes back.

Now, considering that the guys are also filming their 3-D film while on the road, we wonder if cameras were rolling during the incident. That could look quite interesting in the final cut of the Morgan Spurlock-directed flick.

One Direction will play shows in Europe and Mexico through June, when the tour will circle around to the States, with the first show taking place in Sunnyside, Florida.

It's not the first time that Directioners have thrown items at the guys onstage. Last June, when they played Los Angeles on their Up All Night tour, fans threw bras at the fellas, specifically Zayn and Harry. The bottom line is, 1D should always be prepared for anything and everything.

Sir David Nicholson receives full backing of NHS board - Telegraph.co.uk

"We have come to a clear view that David Nicholson is the chief executive of the board, he is the person who we wish very strongly to lead a strong executive team on the board.

"He is the person whose command of the detail of the NHS, and his commitment and his passion to its future, we believe to be fundamental to the success of the board."

The chairman said his statement was a "statement of strength" and added: "We look, David, to you to provide us with the leadership as we take through an exceptionally challenging set of changes."

Robin Bastin, of the campaign group Cure the NHS, set up by families of those who lost loved-ones at Stafford, was one of those who walked out of the meeting.

Speaking afterwards, he said: "I'm disgusted."

"It's outrageous for him (Sir David) to say he needed to go on running this when he has been responsible for all that has happened.

"He was in charge of the strategic health authority when all this was going on."

Around a dozen people held placards displaying Sir David's photograph accompanied by the words "Resign", "The man with no shame" and "Too many deaths, no accountability".

Robert Francis QC, who chaired the public inquiry into the Mid Staffs scandal, attended the meeting of the commissioning board to tell them the NHS needed a culture of "openness, transparency and candour".

He said: "Openness about welcoming complaints and concerns, and explaining what you're doing about them.

"Transparency about how well everything is going. And that means a balanced approach of acknowledging difficulties and deficiencies as well as, quite properly, claiming the credit for things that are going right."

He added that there needed to be "rigorous rules" to ensure staff are honest about the service, "so that you are not being fooled by providers and they are telling you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, as we like to say in court".

"You, and commissioners in general, should acknowledge your own individual responsibilities for promoting the necessary culture change of individual and collective responsibility."

Sir David told the meeting that he and his colleagues needed tro "absorb the criticism".

Saying the "real enemy" was complacency, he said: "What you need to do is absorb the criticisms and understand it in a deep way and do something about it.

"We need to put the entire weight of the NHS, both the patients and the people working in it, to shift that culture in the right way."

He said he was "very passionate" about improving services to patients and "very ambitious" about the NHS.

But Julie Bailey, founder of Cure the NHS, said it was "deeply disturbing" that Sir David had been given the board's backing.

Man dragged by South Africa police truck dies in custody - South China Morning Post

South African police were caught on video dragging a man hundreds of metres from the back of a pick-up truck, hours before he died in custody, drawing a storm of protest against a force accused of routine brutality.

The 27-year-old Mozambican taxi driver, Mido Macia, was found dead in detention with signs of head injuries and internal bleeding, according to an initial post mortem report released by the country's police watchdog.

The incident, videotaped on Tuesday and broadcast nationwide on Thursday, was condemned by President Jacob Zuma and opposition politicians.

"The visuals of the incident are horrific, disturbing and unacceptable. No human being should be treated in that manner", said Zuma in a statement that described the incident as "the tragic death of a man in the hands of the police".

Police told media they detained Macia after he parked illegally, creating a traffic jam, and then resisted arrest.

The video clearly shows the man scuffling with police, who subdue him. He is then bound to the back of the pick-up by his arms before the vehicle drives off in front of scores of witnesses in the east Johannesburg area of Daveyton.

Police commissioner Riah Phiyega said she was looking into the "alleged brutal treatment" by officers "in a very serious light and it is strongly condemned".

Her force has been caught up in a series of scandals in recent months.

The lead detective in the murder case against Olympic and Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius was removed from the investigation last week when it emerged he was facing seven attempted murder charges for allegedly opening fire on a minibus full of passengers..

Police shot dead 34 striking workers at a platinum mine in August last year – the deadliest security incident since apartheid ended in 1994.

The video footage and the man's death raised fresh concerns about police brutality in a country where more than 1,200 people a year die while in custody.

The incident dominated the agenda on talk shows and social media through the day.

"How much longer must South Africans live in fear of the very people who are supposed to protect them?" the opposition Democratic Alliance said in a statement.

The government's police watchdog investigated 1,276 cases of people dying in police custody in 2011. There were 30 police convicted of criminal acts for killing those in custody during the period, it said.

Zuma's African National Congress, which took power when apartheid ended, has tried to change a police force known for the arbitrary and brutal killings of thousands who wanted to end white-minority rule.

The ANC government changed the name from police "force" to police "service" and said its focus was to protect all citizens.

But the police service today is filled with underpaid officers who have done little to combat some of the highest crime rates of any of the Group of 20 global economic powers.

Great Train Robbery mastermind dies - NEWS.com.au

THE mastermind of Britain's 1963 Great Train Robbery, Bruce Reynolds, has died aged 81 after a life he said had been cursed by his role in one of the 20th century's most notorious crimes.

Reynolds was the brains of a gang that held up a mail train in southern England and made off with almost STG2.6 million - worth around STG40 million ($A60 million) today.

His son, Nick, confirmed he had died in his sleep on Thursday.

Born in London, the bespectacled Bruce Reynolds was an antiques dealer and petty criminal before his involvement in what at the time was Britain's biggest ever robbery.

Nicknamed Napoleon, he was responsible for planning the raid by 15 men on the Glasgow-London post office train as it passed through the southern English county of Buckinghamshire on August 7, 1963.

After the robbery, Reynolds went on the run with a false passport to Mexico, where he was joined by his wife, Angela, and his son.

They later moved to Canada, but their STG150,000 share of the cash from the robbery ran out and he came back to England, where he was captured in 1968.

Reynolds eventually spent 11 years in jail.

After his release in 1979, he worked as a consultant on the film, Buster, which starred rock star Phil Collins as fellow Great Train Robber Buster Edwards.

But in the 1980s he was jailed for three years for dealing amphetamines and by the end of his life he was reduced to living on state benefits in a tiny London flat.

Another member of the gang, Ronnie Biggs, famously escaped from prison after less than two years and fled to Brazil.

Reynolds and his son, Nick, travelled to Brazil in 2001 to persuade Biggs to return to Britain after 35 years on the run to serve the rest of his prison sentence. Biggs was freed on health grounds in 2009.

Nick Reynolds went on to be a member of the British band Alabama 3, who wrote the theme tune to the US TV mafia series, The Sopranos.

In 2003 Bruce Reynolds was reunited with John Woolley, the policeman who found the gang's hideout at a farm near the scene of the robbery. The pair shook hands during the meeting at a village fete and reminisced about old times.

Family friend John Schoonraad said Reynolds had been suffering from a chest condition before he died.

He said that despite his past, Reynolds was a "perfect gentleman" who no longer believed in crime.

"He said to me: 'Crime doesn't pay.'

"He's done his time, and he turned into a very nice man. I've always known him to be a real gentleman."

Rats, thousands of miles apart, communicate through brain link - Fox News

Is telepathy just around the corner?

Researchers from Duke University have allowed rats to communicate with each through brain signals.

Placed in separate cages, the rats were able to solve puzzles with the aid of microelectrodes 1/100th the width of a hair implanted into their brains. One rat was able to interpret the other's actions and intentions even when they couldn't see or hear each other.

The same experiment worked when the rats were thousands of miles apart with one in Brazil and another in North Carolina.

'The animal realizes: Oops! The solution is in my head. It's coming to me and he gets it right.'

- Miguel Nicolelis, Neuroscientist

Scientists have so far been able to interpret a rat's thoughts and intentions by downloading those brain waves into a computer, but this is the first time another rat has been able to understand the signals directly.

"Until recently we used to record this brain activity and send it to a computer," said Miguel Nicolelis of Duke's Medical Center in North Carolina. Nicolelis, who led the study, told the BBC's Science in Action program how the the system works. "And the [computer] tells us what the animal is going to do."

"We basically created a computational unit out of two brains," Nicolelis said.

He believes the findings could help shed light on therapy for those dealing with brain injuries and paralysis, such as stroke victims. Any sort of treatment coming to market is still a long way off but that hasn't deterred Nicolelis, who heads one of the leading research teams in the brain space.

They're most well known for one particularly lofty goal: allowing a paralyzed person to kick a ball at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil by developing a brain-controlled robot exoskeleton. The team has already fooled monkey brains into artificially feeling touch and given rats the ability to detect infrared light.

But getting rats to communicate with each other using only their brains was no easy feat. In the experiment, the "encoder" rat had to respond to a visual cue and press a lever to receive its reward. While it's doing this, its brain would send a signal to the "decoder" rat, who then has to interprets this information and also press the right lever to get its prize. If the decoder rat gets it right, the encoder gets an extra reward, creating a feedback loop that encourage cleaner brain signaling. 

It took a month and a half of training before the rats "got it."

"[It] takes about 45 days of training an hour a day," Prof Nicolelis said. "There is a moment in time when ... it clicks. Suddenly the [decoder] animal realizes: 'Oops! The solution is in my head. It's coming to me' and he gets it right."

The team is already developing a version of the experiment that would combine the thoughts of more than one animal. Eventually -- and Nicolelis admits this is many decades away -- we would be able to crowdsource our brainpower.

"You could actually have millions of brains tackling the same problem and sharing a solution" Nicolelis said.

Paddy Ashdown: Lib Dems have been found wanting by Lord Rennard claims - The Guardian

The former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown has admitted his party is suffering the "excruciating" pain of being found wanting in its support for women's rights.

But he has also defended Nick Clegg's handling of the crisis that has swept the party in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment against Lord Rennard.

Writing in the Guardian, Ashdown said the party has suffered a perfect storm in which the rightwing press has held all the thunderbolts, but he urged Lib Dems not to panic under fire.

"Even if we had achieved presentational perfection in the face of the most ravenous media feeding frenzy I have ever experienced as a Lib Dem in 40 years of politics, it would have made no more than the merest scrap of difference to the outcome," Ashdown writes. Rennard was director of Lib Dem campaigns under Ashdown and later the party's chief executive.

Ashdown admits the party's pride has been badly hurt by the episode and many harsh lessons must be learned.

"As Liberals, we led in the cause of equality and respect for gender and sexual orientation long before it was fashionable and often against the ridicule of the very press that now attacks us.

"So, to have been found wanting (and perhaps worse) in the Lord Rennard case is excruciating to say the least."

Clegg has been criticised for changing his story about his knowledge of the alleged misbehaviour, for failing to react speedily and then for attacking some of the media for becoming "self-appointed detectives".

But Ashdown argues: "No matter what defences we had put up, no matter how we had explained ourselves, no matter how perfectly modulated our every phrase and rational our every explanation, this was a story that was going to run and run."

But Ashdown also praised the legitimate and effective journalism of Channel 4 and the coverage provided by some newspapers.

Like Clegg's office, he does not attach any blame for the crisis to "Conservative dirty tricks". Many Lib Dems instead suspect some of the detailed stories came not just from the aggrieved women, but from elsewhere within the party. Some of the alleged victims of the harassment have claimed their names were passed to the press without their knowledge.

Alison Smith, an Oxford University politics lecturer who led complaints of sexual harassment against Rennard, told the Guardian she was "very, very annoyed" by repeated media requests to go on the record about her complaints, despite the fact she had only spoken about the allegations privately.

"It was the breach of privacy that annoyed me. I had no idea who the people were who were putting it about. I felt quite demeaned because these were quite serious things that happened to us," she said.

Smith contacted the Metropolitan police with her complaints on Thursday, along with several other women, according to reports. "The police are very keen to deal with the matter discreetly, and I agree it is important that other people coming forward should be able to do so without fear of being caught up in the current media storm," she said.

Ashdown believes some rightwing newspapers pursued the issue so intensely because of the Eastleigh byelection. The story, he writes, "rolled up in a single attack three targets which they have long loved to hate: the Lib Dems, the coalition and finally (and for them most deliciously) the Leveson proposals [on press regulation]. That's why they have devoted so many column inches, so much invective and such lipsmacking relish to the task".

Ashdown has said he knew nothing of the charges until Channel 4 raised them and has only known Rennard as "an outstanding and admired servant of the party".

Google's Sergey Brin rips smartphones, shows off Glass - Computerworld

Computerworld - Sergey Brin, Google co-founder and head of the company's Glass project, said the computerized eyeglasses are more masculine than smartphones.

Brin wore the Glass device as he spoke at a TED conference in Long Beach, Calif., on Wednesday. He made it clear that his vision for the future of search is that people won't have to make queries or disconnect from personal interactions to get the information they need.

"When we started Google 15 years ago, my vision was that information would come to you as you need it," said Brin, according to a TED blog. "You wouldn't have to search query at all... But for now, we get information by disconnecting from other people, looking down into our smartphone."

Brin isn't comfortable with staring down into a smartphone screen.

"Is this the way you're meant to interact with other people?" he asked conference attendees. "Is the future of connection just people walking around hunched up, looking down, rubbing a featureless piece of glass? It's kind of emasculating. Is this what you're meant to do with your body?"

Brin talked about Glass and the future of digital connectivity on the same day that Google closed the application period for testing the wearable computers. The company on Feb. 20 announced it was looking for Glass "explorers" and asked applicants to tell how they would use the computerized glasses in 50 words or less.

Google on Thursday declined to say how many people applied to be in the first test group. However, a Google spokesman said the company is looking for several thousand explorers. The spokesman did not comment on when the first explorers will be announced.

Brin, during his talk, referred to the first explorers as "a few early, bleeding-edge adopters."

Those applicants, who must be over 18 and live in the U.S., need to be ready to pay up for being an early adopter. Google said the first explorers will need to pay $1,500 plus tax for the glasses, along with travel expenses to attend a special "pick-up experience" in New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles.

When Google called for explorer applications, the company also released a video showing people using the glasses while skydiving, dancing, playing with their children and riding a roller coaster.

The video also shows off the Glass interface, which is a translucent pane on the right eye glass that shows options for taking photos, shooting videos, getting directions, sharing, search and showing maps with graphic overlays.

The glasses, which Google noted are now called Glass instead of Google Glass, also are designed to enable users to activate all these options with voice control.

covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at Twitter @sgaudin, on or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed Gaudin RSS. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

Read more about Personal Technology in Computerworld's Personal Technology Topic Center.

Chelsea supporters' groups turn on 'isolated' Rafael Benítez - The Guardian

A leading figure in the Chelsea Supporters Trust says he was "astonished" by Rafael Benítez's condemnation of dissenting supporters and can see shades of Brian Clough's ill-fated reign at Leeds United in the Spaniard's interim stewardship at Stamford Bridge.

Tim Rolls had just left a suddenly fog-bound Riverside Stadium on Wednesday following Chelsea's 2-0 FA Cup win against Middlesbrough and was preparing for the long journey back to London when his radio began reporting Benítez's outburst. "A lot of people were pretty unhappy about his implosion," he says. "His appointment has been likened to Brian Clough going to Leeds; it seems to be one of those pairings which just don't fit.

"Benítez has isolated himself from the majority of the supporters. After Middlesbrough, I wouldn't have thought he'll get a very good reaction at the West Brom game at Stamford Bridge on Saturday."

Rolls disputes Benítez's assertion that the abuse from the stands is jeopardising Chelsea's chance of success. "People are astonished by what he said," he says. "The fans get behind the team and they will be behind the team against West Brom."

He suspects the outburst was carefully planned. "Otherwise it seems strange to come out with it at Middlesbrough where he got far less stick than usual. The criticism he got a few weeks ago when they lost at Newcastle was far worse. People didn't protest after the final whistle at Middlesbrough, the team had won, they weren't angry, they just left the ground."

While Rolls sees Benítez's assertion that prefixing his title with "interim" was a massive mistake as "totally bizarre – he must have agreed to it when he took the job"– he is more concerned with the manager's claim that it is only a minority of fans who are against him. "To say it's a minority is wrong," he says. "Most fans don't want him at Chelsea, it's just that some protest, others don't. He tends to get much less stick at away games."

Dave Dunbar, the chairman of the Swindon Blues supporters club, is far from an apologist for Benítez but he believes the opposition to Chelsea's interim manager has, on occasion, been carried too far. Dunbar listened to Benítez's suggestion that those who constantly sing abusive songs and wave "Rafa Out" banners are jeopardising Chelsea's chances of success' with interest.

"I agree that a lot of the stuff that has happened at Stamford Bridge has possibly put the players off and can be distracting," Dunbar says. "Some of it is not on but some of it is justified. I don't think too much of Benítez's tactical ability or his substitutions. He's very predictable. Or his policy of resting players when he should be fielding his strongest team and getting into winning positions before taking them off. Rafael Benítez is not a liked man at Chelsea."

Much of the dislike stems from the Champions League rivalry between Liverpool and Chelsea during the days when Benítez was in charge at Anfield and made certain comments which irritated followers of the London club.

"It was almost certainly a wind-up, all managers get involved in mind games," Dunbar says. "But his Liverpool past is a big reason why people have been digging into him since day one. He would not have been the fans' choice."

The man who chose to replace Roberto Di Matteo with Benítez seems immune from any flak. "The fans will not criticise Roman Abramovich, at the end of the day it's his money," says Dunbar, who is adamant that backing for Chelsea's owner remains staunch although there may not be a flood of season ticket renewal applications. "It's Roman Abramovich's club, he can do what he wants. Some people are saying they will review renewing their season tickets if he doesn't sort things out." Rolls agrees. "There's no criticism of Roman Abramovich but there is a disillusionment with the club's hierarchy," he says. "Season tickets are an issue. Renewals usually go out in April so Chelsea could do with knowing who next season's manager will be by then."

It is safe to assume that, even at Stamford Bridge's high prices, there will be a stampede for seats should José Mourinho be recalled. "We'd love the Special One back," Dunbar says.

It appears that, despite Wednesday's diatribe, Benítez could well stay until the summer. Should he depart earlier, Dunbar is cool on the prospect of Avram Grant again keeping the seat warm. "I'm not sure," he says. "Maybe John Terry could take a senior role."

Rolls does not necessarily see imminent change as the answer. "We've already sacked one manager this season in Roberto Di Matteo which fans are still unhappy about and there's a shallow pool out there at the moment," he says. "We don't need yet more uncertainty."

He too would like Mourinho back. "He's got that element of surprise. He can spot weaknesses early and make quick tactical changes and substitutions. He's one of those charismatic people who transform clubs."

Dennis Rodman, Kim Jong Un meet - ESPN

SEOUL, South Korea -- Ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman hung out Thursday with North Korea's Kim Jong Un on the third day of his improbable journey with VICE to Pyongyang, watching the Harlem Globetrotters with the leader and later dining on sushi and drinking with him at his palace.

"You have a friend for life," Rodman told Kim before a crowd of thousands at a gymnasium where they sat side by side, chatting as they watched players from North Korea and the U.S. play, Alex Detrick, a spokesman for the New York-based VICE media company, told The Associated Press.

Rodman arrived in Pyongyang on Monday with three members of the professional Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, VICE correspondent Ryan Duffy and a production crew to shoot an episode on North Korea for a new weekly HBO series.

The unlikely encounter makes Rodman the most high-profile American to meet Kim since the young North Korean leader took power in December 2011, and takes place against a backdrop of tension between Washington and Pyongyang. North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test just two weeks ago, making clear the provocative act was a warning to the United States to drop what it considers a "hostile" policy toward the North.

Kim, a diehard basketball fan, told the former Chicago Bulls star he hoped the visit would break the ice between the United States and North Korea, VICE founder Shane Smith said.

Dressed in a blue Mao suit, Kim laughed and slapped his hands on the table before him during the game as he sat nearly knee to knee with Rodman. Rodman, the man who once turned up in a wedding dress to promote his autobiography, wore a dark suit and dark sunglasses, but still had on his nose rings and other piercings. A can of Coca-Cola sat on the table before him in photos shared with AP by VICE.

"The crowd was really engaged, laughed at all of the Globetrotters antics, and actually got super loud towards the end as the score got close," said Duffy, who suited up for the game in a blue uniform emblazoned with "United States of America. "Most fun I've had in a while."

Kim and Rodman chatted in English, but Kim primarily spoke in Korean through a translator, Smith said after speaking to the VICE crew in Pyongyang.

"They bonded during the game," Smith said by telephone from New York after speaking to the crew. "They were both enjoying the crazy shots, and the Harlem Globetrotters were putting on quite a show."

The surprise visit by the flamboyant Hall of Famer known as "The Worm" makes him an unlikely ambassador at a time when North Koreans are girding for battle with the U.S. Just last week, Kim guided frontline troops in military exercises.

North Korea and the U.S. fought on opposite sides of the three-year Korean War, which ended in a truce in 1953. The foes never signed a peace treaty, and do not have diplomatic relations.

Thursday's game ended in a 110-110 draw, with two Americans playing on each team alongside North Koreans, Detrick said. The Xinhua News Agency first reported on the game, citing witnesses who attended.

After the game, Rodman addressed Kim in a speech before a crowd of tens of thousands of North Koreans, telling him, "You have a friend for life," Detrick said.

At a lavish dinner at Kim's palace, the leader plied the group with food and drinks as the group made round after round of toasts.

"Dinner was an epic feast. Felt like about 10 courses in total," Duffy said in an email to AP. "I'd say the winners were the smoked turkey and sushi, though we had the Pyongyang cold noodles earlier in the trip and that's been the runaway favorite so far."

Duffy said he invited Kim to visit the United States, a proposal met with hearty laughter from the North Korean leader.

"Um ... so Kim Jong Un just got the (hash)VICEonHBO crew wasted ... no really, that happened," VICE producer Jason Mojica wrote on Twitter.

Rodman's trip is the second attention-grabbing U.S. visit this year to North Korea. Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, made a four-day trip in January to Pyongyang, but did not meet the North Korean leader.

Extending an invitation to a man known as much for his piercings, tattoos and bad behavior as for his basketball may seem inexplicable. But Kim is known to love the NBA, and has promoted sports since becoming leader.

"We knew that he's a big lover of basketball, especially the Bulls, and it was our intention going in that we would have a good-will mission of something that's fun," Smith said. "A lot of times, things just are serious and everybody's so concerned with geopolitics that we forget just to be human beings."

Rodman's agent, Darren Prince, said Rodman wasn't concerned about criticism about making a visit to an enemy nation.

"Dennis called me last night and said it's been a great experience and he made this trip out of the love of the USA ," he said. "It's all about peace and love."

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press

David Cameron pledges to fix UK economy after loss of AAA rating - Irish Independent

DAVID Cameron said his Government will go "further and faster" in efforts to repair the nation's finances in response to the loss of the UK's prized AAA credit rating.

'; document.write(s); return; } window.google_adnum = window.google_adnum || null; google_ad_client = "ca-pub-9024837700129787"; google_ad_output = "js"; google_ad_type = "text"; google_ad_channel = '9868211012,6682650729'; google_max_num_ads = '2'; google_skip = window.google_adnum; /* insert this snippet for each ad call */

The Prime Minister said the decision by rating agency Moody's was a warning to politicians who believed the country could "walk away" from addressing the nation's debt problems.

But at Prime Minister's Questions, Labour leader Ed Miliband said the loss of AAA status meant Mr Cameron had failed the economic test he had set himself.

"It's not just our credit rating that's been downgraded, we have a downgraded Government, a downgraded Chancellor and a downgraded Prime Minister," Mr Miliband said.

But the Prime Minister compared the Labour leader to former premier Gordon Brown, saying all he could offer was increased borrowing and debt.

Ahead of the Eastleigh by-election tomorrow Mr Cameron also challenged Mr Miliband to condemn comments by Labour candidate John O'Farrell about the Brighton bombing.

The Prime Minister said: "The decision of the ratings agency is a reminder of the debt and the deficit problem that this country faces and, frankly, it is a warning to anyone who thinks we can walk away from it.

"It is absolutely vital that we continue with the work of this Government that has cut the deficit by a quarter, that has a million extra private sector jobs and has interest rates at record low levels."

He said it was Mr Miliband's policy "to address excessive borrowing by borrowing more".

The Labour leader said the Tory manifesto in 2010 said safeguarding Britain's credit rating was the first of Mr Cameron's "benchmarks for Britain against which the British people can judge the economic success or failure of the next government".

He asked Mr Cameron: "Do you accept that by the first test you set yourself you have failed?"

The Prime Minister said Moody's, which lowered the UK's rating by one notch to AA1, had warned of further downgrades if there was "reduced political commitment to fiscal consolidation".

Mr Cameron said the Government accepted that was the "vital work we have to do" but Labour wanted to increase borrowing.

Mr Miliband said Chancellor George Osborne had said the loss of AAA would be a "humiliation" and challenged Mr Cameron to accept he had failed his self-imposed test.

Mr Cameron told the Labour leader: "I'm not arguing that the rating agency doesn't matter, that's your argument.

"Your argument is the rating agency doesn't matter, the answer to debt is to borrow more and not to take any responsibility for the mess you left."


Tomb Raider review - NDTV

It's been four years - almost a generation in video game years - since Lara Croft embarked on a "Tomb Raider" expedition. The unenviable task of rebooting the well-known and well-worn series seemed impossible, but with a gritty and focused approach, it's one developer Crystal Dynamics got almost completely right with Croft's latest adventure.

"Tomb Raider" (for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC, $59.99) finds an inexperienced young Croft shipwrecked and separated from her crew on a mysterious island in Japan's brutal Devil's Triangle. This isn't the savvy, sexy and sassy Croft that hunted down relics in the previous eight games and two films starring Angelina Jolie.

This is a vulnerable Croft, one who's never had to resort to killing another person. Over the course of the lengthy single-player experience, this Croft must survive the elements, amass an arsenal, rescue her friends and battle a cult of castaways. It's the tale of her transformation from thrill-seeker to superheroine. It's "Batman Begins" for Lara Croft.

"Tomb Raider" is mostly a story about survival, so Croft begins with almost nothing, eventually accumulating some firearms, as well as climbing tools like an ax and rope. It's the first weapon Croft finds, a silent but deadly bow and arrow, that's the most satisfying to employ. This "Tomb Raider" does for the bow what "GoldenEye" did for the sniper rifle.

Game-Review-Tomb Raider-635-01.jpg

The game's winding trails, claustrophobic caves and perilous cliffside formations created by lead level designer Jason Botta and his team are some of the most imaginative and thrilling platforming elements crafted in recent years. Some tombs that Croft comes across are optional excursions, but they're all so well done, it shouldn't be a choice to skip 'em.

"Tomb Raider" also sounds as good as it feels. Jason Graves' powerfully tense score and Camilla Luddington's performance as Croft hit the right tone, and the conversations Croft overhears between many of the island's all-male goons are so enlightening and humorous, players will want to let the reticle linger a bit longer to eavesdrop on all the chatter.

"Tomb Raider" isn't perfect though. Sometimes it's sloppy. Croft falls - off cliffs, through roofs, into the ocean - more than those dwarfs in "The Hobbit," and that's not even including the moments when the X button isn't mashed quickly enough. Surely there must be more creative ways for Croft to go from Point A to Point B on the mythical Yamatai island.


The weakest link is Croft's laughably underdeveloped shipmates. Each is a cliche bespectacled geek, gentle giant, angry black woman, wise old man. It's difficult to sympathize with Croft for putting herself through hell to save them, or understand why the writers couldn't create multidimensional supporting characters like in the "Uncharted" games.

Speaking of that epic treasure-hunting franchise, while the developers have clearly borrowed some of Nathan Drake's moves, they've created more than an "Uncharted" clone. The tone is darker, and the levels are less linear. This is not just "Uncharted" or "Assassin's Creed" with Lara Croft, it's "Tomb Raider" for a new era. Three-and-a-half out of four stars.

Widow speaks of grief over rescue death - Herald Scotland

Mark Phillips, 51, from Spean Bridge, was climbing with a friend in the Raeburn's Buttress area on the north face of Britain's highest peak when he fell around 160ft.

The father-of-one was still roped to his fellow climber, which broke his fall, and it is believed that although seriously injured, he was still alive when the helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth arrived on Monday.

German boffins turn ALCOHOL into hydrogen at low temp - Register

Hydrogen is one of the cleanest-burning fuels known, but storing and transporting it can be a problem – as anyone who's seen footage of the Hindenburg disaster knows. But researchers at Germany's University of Rostock say they've come up with a solution that could make hydrogen fuel safe and practical, by storing it as liquid methanol.

Not that this hasn't been proposed before. It's easy enough to make methanol from hydrogen; all you need is some carbon and a little oxygen, and any of a number of chemical processes will get you there. The trick, however, is getting the hydrogen back out again when you want to burn it.

Hydrogen fuel cells are twice as efficient as fuel cells that burn methanol, but extracting hydrogen from methanol has meant heating the methanol to 200° C at high pressure – which is hardly practical, given that the goal is to burn hydrogen as fuel, not to burn fuel to extract the hydrogen.

But Matthias Beller and his team at the University of Rostock say they've figured out a way to get hydrogen out of methanol at much lower temperatures, and at ambient pressure.

The key to Beller's research, which was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, is a new kind of soluble catalyst based on the rare metal ruthenium. By adding this material to his chemical process, Beller says he was able to extract hydrogen from uncompressed methanol at temperatures between 65° and 90° C.

That's still hot – water at 65° C is scalding – but according to Edman Tsang of the University of Oxford, such temperatures are within the range of the waste heat produced by an operating fuel cell.

That means some of that waste heat could potentially be harnessed to power the reaction that releases more hydrogen from the methanol, making Beller's method more energy-efficient than other recently proposed methods, such as extracting the hydrogen using nano-materials.

Just how efficient it is, though, is hard to say. "It is difficult to estimate how much energy will be saved," Beller says.

And there are still problems with Beller's method, not least of which will be obtaining the ruthenium needed for the catalyst. So far, Beller has only been able to keep the catalyst stable for three weeks, which means it could need to be renewed often. And yet ruthenium is extremely rare, with current global reserves estimated at around 5,000 tonnes. By comparison, more than 2,000 tonnes of gold are mined each year.

Worse still, Beller's reaction produces a lot of carbon dioxide – that infamous bugbear of climate scientists – an unfortunate side effect that could sully hydrogen's reputation as a clean fuel, unless the CO2 could somehow be prevented from escaping into the atmosphere.

But such concerns are still a long way off for Beller, whose current problem is scaling his reaction to a level where it could be commercially viable. A hydrogen-powered car engine would burn about 24 liters of the gas per second. So far, the rate at which Beller has been able to extract hydrogen from methanol can be measured in just milliliters per minute. ®

EU decides firm cap on banker bonuses - New Zealand Herald

Top European Union officials have struck an agreement on a package of financial laws that includes capping bankers' bonus payments at a maximum of one year's base salary.

The bonuses will only be allowed to reach twice the annual fixed salary if a large majority of a bank's shareholders agrees, said Othmar Karas, the European Parliament's chief negotiator.

"This overhaul of EU banking rules will make sure that banks in the future have enough capital, both in terms of quality and quantity, to withstand shocks. This will ensure that taxpayers across Europe are protected into the future," said Ireland's Finance Minister Michael Noonan, who led the negotiations for 27 governments.

The bonus cap legislation was part of a sweeping financial reform package introducing higher capital requirements for banks, the so-called Basel III rules.

Wednesday's agreement - reached at during an eight-hour make-or-break negotiating session between EU lawmakers, the EU Commission and representatives of the bloc's 27 governments in Brussels - ensures the package can take effect next year.

Top bankers and traders may currently earn bonuses multiple times their base salary based on their performance, given that there is no legal pay limit yet. But public outrage has grown across Europe over large bonus payments to executives of banks that received huge state bailouts during the financial crisis.

Proponents of the bonus cap say the payments encouraged bankers to take massive risks at the expense of the long-term future of their businesses, which helped to destabilize the financial system.

"For the first time in the history of EU financial market regulation, we will cap bankers' bonuses," Karas said in a statement. "The essence is that from 2014, European banks will have to set aside more money to be more stable and concentrate on their core business, namely financing the real economy, that of small and medium-sized enterprises and jobs."

Britain, home to Europe's biggest financial industry, had vehemently rejected the proposal, saying the rules will drive away talent and hamper growth. London tried to rally other EU governments behind its position, but failed to garner enough support. Most governments said they'll accept the bonus cap to ensure the more important Basel III rules come into force by January 2014.

The negotiations on the package have been dragging on for 10 months. After a meeting last week broke down without a compromise, the European Parliament - which has insisted on adding the banker bonus legislation to the wider Basel III package - gave the EU governments an ultimatum until Wednesday's negotiating session.

Now the final approval by parliament and government leaders of the package is expected to be a formality, although it was not immediately clear what position Britain would take. But even if London would not back the package, the remaining EU members could still force the legislation through by adopting it by qualified majority.

The key part of the package is requiring all banks to gradually increase their capital over the coming years to stabilize the financial sector across the European Union's member states, which together form the world's largest economy.

The legislation is part of global efforts to prevent another shock to the financial system like that prompted by Lehman Brothers' 2008 collapse, when banks were highly leveraged while enjoying low capital requirements. The lack of solid financial cushions meant that many banks were vulnerable, and eventually required taxpayer-funded bailouts to avoid bankruptcy.

- AP

Benitez says he'll leave Chelsea at end of season - NBCNews.com

LONDON (AP) - Worn down by constant criticism by fans, Rafael Benitez announced Wednesday he will leave as Chelsea's manager at the end of the season.

Benitez made his decision public during an extraordinary post-match outburst in which he also took aim at the Premier League club's hierarchy.

The Spanish coach spoke during the news conference after the Blues won 2-0 at Middlesbrough and advanced to an FA Cup quarterfinal against Manchester United, saying his position had been untenable since he was appointed "interim manager" in November.

"I will leave at the end of the season - they don't need to waste time with me," said Benitez, referring to a section of fans who jeered him at Riverside Stadium.

Benitez was hired as the replacement for the fired Roberto di Matteo, and has never been accepted by a large section of Chelsea fans.

Many are still angry at Di Matteo's departure after he led the club to its first Champions League title last season. Others haven't forgiven Benitez for allegedly disparaging comments he made toward Chelsea earlier in his career while he managed Liverpool. Others don't like his style of soccer.

Benitez said some fans have had an "agenda" against him and made a passionate defense of his managerial record.

"I have been in charge in football for 26 years - I have won the Champions League, won the FIFA Club World Cup, the FA Cup, the Italian Super Cup, the Spanish league twice, nine trophies, all the trophies you can win at club level," he said. "A group of fans, they are not doing any favors for the team when they are singing and wasting time preparing banners. It's because someone made a mistake. They put my title (as) `interim manager.'

Ahead of the game, Benitez played down reports of a confrontation with players at a training session after Sunday's 2-0 loss at Manchester City. John Terry, dropped for the City match, was reported by British media to have been involved.

"I am the manager and I will be managing the team I like to manage - players and no names," Benitez said Wednesday. "I have proved in these three months that I want to win every single game ... If a group of fans continue their agenda ... they are not making any favors for the team.

"They should concentrate on supporting the team," he continued. "They put pressure on the players and don't create a good atmosphere at Stamford Bridge. They have to realize they rare making a big mistake. ... it would be much better to have a good atmosphere."

More news
Can Red Bulls finally run the table?

PST: New York has the makings of a team that will again challenge for the Eastern Conference crown, but can Thierry Henry deliver that elusive MLS Cup?

Loved ones salute New Zealand dad killed by shark - Businessweek

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — About 150 friends and family of a man killed in a shark attack wrote messages to him in the sand Thursday and stepped into the water at a New Zealand beach to say goodbye.

Adam Strange, 46, was an award-winning television and short film director and the father of a 2-year-old girl. He was training for an endurance swim near popular Muriwai Beach on Wednesday when he was attacked by the shark that was possibly 14 feet (4 meters) long. Surf lifesavers say they are convinced it was a great white shark.

Police attempting to save Strange raced out in inflatable boats and fired gunshots at the enormous predator, which they say rolled away and disappeared. Police were able to recover Strange's body, and lifeguards believe the shark is dead.

Muriwai will remained closed for swimming until Saturday after the fatal attack, one of only about a dozen in New Zealand in the past 180 years.

Friend Adam Stevens said the Thursday beach service was run by indigenous Maori who removed the "tapu" or spiritual restriction at the beach. He said it was a "perfect tribute" to a man who spent much of his time swimming and surfing.

"He was a very robust, big, barrel-chested surfer," Stevens said. "He was basically completely obsessed with the ocean, with paddle boards and body surfing, everything. His garage was like a museum of surf craft."

According to Police Inspector Shawn Rutene, Strange was about 200 meters (650 feet) from the shore when he was attacked by a shark that police estimated was up to four meters (14 feet) long.

Stevens said his friend had planned to swim about 1 ½ kilometers (one mile) Wednesday as he tested new goggles and trained for an annual endurance swim from Auckland to Rangitoto Island. The 4.5-kilometer (2.8-mile) swim takes place on Sunday.

Pio Mose, who was fishing at the beach Wednesday, told the New Zealand Herald newspaper he saw Strange struggle against the huge shark. Mose yelled at Strange to swim to the rocks, but it was too late.

"All of a sudden there was blood everywhere," Mose said. "I was shaking, scared, panicked."

About 200 people had been enjoying the beach during the Southern Hemisphere summer at the time of the attack.

Stevens said he's been comforting Strange's wife, Meg, and their daughter since the accident. He said the girl is too young to understand what has happened but is aware of the emotions.

Stevens said his friend, whom he had known about 15 years, was very creative and always positive.

"He lived in the moment brilliantly. It was completely infectious," Stevens said. "He feasted on the details."

Stevens said he and Strange worked together for a number of years at a film production company, Silverscreen.

On his site, Strange said he studied as a graphic designer and art director before getting into directing. He said he'd worked on commercials all over the world and had been a finalist for a number of advertising awards.

Strange won a Crystal Bear award at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival for a short film called "Aphrodite's Farm," a magical tale set on a dairy farm in the 1930s.

Tim Jago, chairman of the Muriwai Lifeguard Service, said a number of beaches near Muriwai reopened Thursday and that Muriwai would open for beach visits Friday and then swimming on Saturday. He said the closure at this point is to give surf lifesavers a break and he doesn't fear a repeat attack.

"We are quite comfortable the beast is dead," he said. "Footage from a helicopter indicates that when the shark rolled over and rolled off, it also sank to bottom."

Jago said witnesses spotted one or two other large sharks circling at the time of the attack, but that no sharks have been seen in the area since then.

Clinton Duffy, a shark expert with the Department of Conservation, estimated that only 12 to 14 people have been killed by sharks in New Zealand since record keeping began in the 1830s.

Around the world, sharks attacked humans 80 times last year, and seven people were killed, according to the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File. The death toll was lower than it was in 2011 but higher than the average of 4.4 from 2001 to 2010.

Clock runs down on Pope's last day - NEWS.com.au

Pope Benedict will spend his last day as pontiff, following an emotional public farewell. Source: AAP

POPE Benedict XVI will meet cardinals from across the world in his final hours as leader of 1.2 billion Catholics before he becomes the first pontiff to resign since the Middle Ages.

The 85-year-old pontiff stunned the globe when he announced his momentous decision in a surprise speech in Latin on February 11, saying he no longer had the "strength of mind and body" to carry on in a fast-changing modern world.

"I took this step in full awareness of its gravity and novelty but with profound serenity of spirit," the pope told a cheering crowd of 150,000 pilgrims in St Peter's Square in his final public farewell on Wednesday.

The theologian pope - a shy academic who seemed out of touch with scandals that plagued the church in recent years - said his eight-year pontificate had seen "sunny days" and "stormy waters" but added: "I never felt alone."

The Vatican has said that the moment the pope's powers officially expire at 8pm local time on Thursday (0600 AEDT Friday). The ex-pontiff will officially be known by the new title of "Roman Pontiff Emeritus" although he will still be addressed as "Your Holiness".

He will also keep his papal name of Benedict XVI and will not be referred to by his original name as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in more firsts for the Vatican, where the traditional system is geared towards popes dying in office.

Once he takes up residence as planned in a former convent on a hilltop within the Vatican walls, the church will be in the unprecedented situation of having a pope and his predecessor living within a stone's throw of each other.

Vatican analysts have even suggested his sudden exit could set a precedent for ageing popes in the future and many Catholics say a more youthful, pastoral figure could breathe new life into a church struggling on many levels.

From Catholic reformers calling for women clergy and for an end to priestly celibacy, to growing secularism in the West and the ongoing scourge of decades of sexual abuse by paedophile priests, the next pope will have a tough agenda.

The run-up to the exact moment that will go down in history as only the second voluntary resignation of a Roman pontiff in the church's 2000 years has been filled with emotion but perhaps surprisingly low-key for the Vatican.

There will be a small parting ceremony with some of his staff in a Vatican courtyard at 4.30pm on Thursday and a few minutes later the pope will board a white helicopter emblazoned with the papal insignia from the Vatican grounds.

The soon-to-be former pope will see the Vatican City - the world's smallest state - from the sky one last time as its sovereign ruler and fly to the 17th-century papal residence of Castel Gandolfo on a rocky outcrop near Rome.

There the pope will begin a quiet life of prayer and academic research.

Within a couple of months, the pope is expected to return to the Vatican and take up residence in an ex-nunnery with breathtaking views of Rome surrounded by extensive well-manicured gardens where he could bump into his successor.

Benedict has said he will live "hidden from the world" but the Vatican has said he is ready to help and could provide "spiritual guidance" to the next pope although he could not intervene directly or contradict him in public.

"I am not abandoning the cross," Benedict said on Wednesday - a response to Stanislaw Dziwisz, secretary to his popular predecessor John Paul II who said his mentor's agonising final years showed "you don't come down from the cross".

At a meeting with hundreds of tearful priests of Rome - the pope's diocese - Benedict spoke off-script about his experiences as a young reformer during the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s which changed the face of Catholicism.

"I will always be with you," he said, as they chanted "Long live the Pope!"

In the crowd at the pope's last general audience, Sharon Clark, a retiree from the United States, said the church needed some new energy.

"I admire Benedict, but I hope the next pope will have the strength to unite the church and help it grow again - and bring back a bit of morality."

After studying Russian meteor blast, experts get set for the next asteroid - NBCNews.com (blog)

The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd takes a "deep dive" look into the meteor that hit Russia and why NASA did not have earlier notice of its coming. Rep. Rush Holt explains NASA's tracking system and discusses budget cuts to NASA and the department's future.

The meteor that blew up over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk 11 days ago has provided a new focus for the effort to establish an international asteroid warning system, one of NASA's top experts on the issue says.

Lindley Johnson, the executive for the Near Earth Object Observation Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said that the Feb. 15 impact is certain to become "by far the best-documented meteor and meteorite in history" — but at the time, he and his colleagues could hardly believe it was happening.

"Our first reaction was, 'This can't be. ... This must be some test of a missile that's gone awry,'" Johnson told NBC News.

The Chelyabinsk meteor exploded at an estimated altitude of 12 miles (20 kilometers) over the city of 1.1 million in Russia's Urals Mountains, setting off a shock wave that blew out windows, caused an estimated $33 million in property damage and injured more than 1,200 people.

It was doubly coincidental for Johnson and his colleagues: The meteor was thought to have been caused by the breakup of a 17-meter-wide (55-foot-wide), 10,000-ton asteroid that entered Earth's atmosphere and released the equivalent of 500 kilotons of TNT in explosive energy. All this happened just hours before a 45-meter-wide (150-foot-wide) asteroid, capable of setting off a city-killing blast, passed within 17,200 miles (27,680 kilometers) of our planet. Adding to that coincidence, researchers from around the world were gathered in Vienna for talks aimed at moving forward with an international network to deal with ... asteroid threats!

The spectacle in Russia "certainly brought renewed interest to our efforts here," said Johnson, a leader of NASA's delegation to the Vienna talks.

He said the recommendations from the researchers were "well-received" and are moving up the ladder to the next phase in a U.N.-led process for addressing outer-space threats. An action plan could be considered by the U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space during its next meeting in Vienna in June.

Johnson summarized the three main points of the recommendations:

  • Set up an international asteroid warning network, or IAWN, supported with existing detection assets but incorporating additional contributions. "The basis of such a network already exists," Johnson said, thanks to NASA, the European Space Agency, the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center and the NEODyS asteroid-tracking center at the University of Pisa in Italy. NASA also has partnered with the U.S. Air Force to share tracking data about near-Earth objects. Just this week, a $25 million Canadian-built satellite known as NEOSSat was launched to look for small asteroids in Earth-threatening orbits.
  • Bring the world's space agencies together in a new working group called the Space Mission Planning and Advisory Group — also known as SMPAG (pronounced like "Same Page"). The group's purpose, Johnson said, would be to "get all the agencies on the 'same page' as far as assessing what capabilities could be brought to bear should there be a threatening asteroid detected."
  • Put asteroid experts in contact with countries around the world, to advise disaster response agencies about the nature of a potential impact event — that is, the area expected to be affected, the potential effects and the scale of the evacuation if necessary. "It's an offshoot of the warning network," Johnson said. If the asteroid behind the Russian meteor had been detected in advance, for example, the expert network might have advised emergency workers about the potential for a midair blast and the resulting shock wave (although Johnson said he was "surprised" by the shock wave's effect).

Until last year, NASA spent about $4 million a year to track near-Earth objects, or NEOs, and Johnson said the program "has accomplished quite a bit in the relatively short time that it's been in existence." About 95 percent of the potentially threatening asteroids bigger than a kilometer (half-mile) wide have been detected. However, now NASA is working on charting the asteroids down to a width of 100 meters (330 feet). To fund that more difficult task, the annual funding level for NEO research was raised to $20 million a year.

NASA is using that money to beef up its capabilities for spotting smaller asteroids, through programs such as the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System, or ATLAS, which is due to get $5 million over the next five years. Less than a million dollars a year is going toward studies aimed at figuring out what to do if a threatening asteroid is found, Johnson said. After all, you have to identify the risky rocks before you can do anything about them. The potential strategies range from diverting it gently with the aid of gravity tractors or space paintball guns, to blasting it with nukes, Bruce Willis-style.

"It really depends on the scenario that we'd be faced with," Johnson said. "It depends on how big the object is. It depends on how long we have to do something about it. And if we do the search-and-detection job right, we will find a potential hazard many years if not decades before it becomes an immediate threat. There may be technologies available at that time that we never thought about. I don't get too worked up about trying to find an immediate technology that we've got to have right now to do that. Our focus is to find them as early as we can, and have the maximum amount of time to do something about it."

Update for 7:30 p.m. ET Feb. 26: Looking for a practical tip? The large majority of the people injured by the meteor blast were hurt by flying glass, which led Johnson to give this advice during a Vienna news conference: "When you see a white flash and a large trail in the sky, it's probably not a good time to stand at the window and look at it, because it may be a blast coming."

Update for 8:15 p.m. ET Feb. 26: As reported in Technology Review's Physics arXiv Blog, Colombian researchers used video from dashboard cameras and other sources to reconstruct the orbital path of the Russian meteor — and they classified it as an Apollo asteroid, a type of space rock whose path crosses Earth's orbit. That's consistent with NASA's analysis, which said the asteroid traced an orbit that ranged between the main asteroid belt and the region of outer space inside Earth's orbit.

"The preliminary orbit indicates it takes about 2.1 years to go around the sun once ... so this thing was out at its farthest distance from the sun roughly a year ago," Bill Cooke, head of the Meteoroid Environments Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, told reporters during a Feb. 15 teleconference.

The space rock was on its way back out toward the main asteroid belt, coming from Earth's sunward side, when it entered the atmosphere and blew up. That's why it wasn't possible to predict the impact in advance: At a width of 55 feet, the object was too small to show up in traditional sky surveys, and it would have been lost in the sun's glare during its final approach.

So far, searchers have recovered just bits and pieces of the shattered space boulder. "The largest I've heard is a kilogram and a half," or about three pounds, Johnson told NBC News. 

NASA budgeted $20 million dollars last year to look for objects that may hit the earth, but some scientists say more money should be spent on detection and ways to avoid a possible collision. NBC's Michelle Franzen reports.

Yekaterina Pustynnikova / Chelyabinsk.ru via AP

Click through scenes from Russia's Chelyabinsk region, where a huge meteor fireball set off alarms, injured hundreds of people and caused a factory roof to collapse.

More about asteroids:

Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with Cosmic Log as well as NBCNews.com's other stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.

This story was originally published on

miércoles, 27 de febrero de 2013

Eurozone crisis live: Deadlock deepens in Italy as Grillo rejects centre-left - The Guardian

In the UK, one of the Bank of England's deputy governors has tried to shoot down speculation that Britain might experiment with negative interest rates -- a day after a fellow deputy suggested it might.

Charlie Bean insisted that the Bank was not about to ask to be paid to hold commercial banks' deposits, despite Paul Tucker hinting that it was under consideration.

Speaking at a conference organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs, Bean said:

Any suggestion that we have a plan to introduce negative interest rates immediately, I should make absolutely clear, is not the case.

The ECB cut its deposit rate to 0.0% last year, in an attempt to get banks to lend. But as our economics correspondent, Phillip Inman, reports, Bean says the Bank of England couldn't easily folow.

Bean did his best to demolish the policy, saying it would create huge problems for banks that have tied mortgages to the current bank base rate of 0.5%.

"It has significant negative side-effects which is why I do not support it," explained Bean.

He pointed out that the European Central Bank has a separate rate for some commercial bank deposits because they are forced to keep particular reserves, whereas UK banks are allowed flexibility.

Disaggregating some bank deposits with Threadneedle Street from others would be a minefield, Bean added.

I just chatted with economist Shaun Richards, who argued that the ECB's move hadn't worked:

Zero rates had zero effect. The ECB cut the deposit rate to zero, and all the money just moved to another account in the ECB.

Richards said he wasn't surprised to see Tucker discussing negative rates, given the weak state of the UK economy and the Bank's failure to stimulate output. But he pointed out that previous rate cuts haven't had much effect, and warns that savers would inevitably suffer.

Just to be clear, this is different from the Bank of England's base rate, which is at a current record low of 0.5%. Our Q&A explains all....

...unlike a certain radio station this morning, it seems:

Centrica Plans US Purchases to Grow North American Profit - Businessweek

Centrica Plc (CNA), the biggest power and gas supplier to U.K. homes, plans acquisitions in the U.S. as the utility tries to double profits from North America.

More than half of the U.S. expansion will come through small and larger purchases, Chief Executive Officer Sam Laidlaw said today on a conference call presenting the Windsor, England- based company's strategy.

"As some U.S. states deregulate and open markets, we've the scope to make acquisitions of customer blocks," Chief Financial Officer Nick Luff said on a conference call with journalists. "From a downstream energy supplier's perspective, it's a growing market."

Centrica is looking for growth in North America as a stagnant U.K. economy holds back demand. It has 5.5 million customers in the U.S. and Canada concentrated in New England and Texas, where energy markets are deregulated.

Centrica reported a 5.5 percent rise in 2012 adjusted earnings to 1.4 billion pounds ($2.1 billion) as U.K. gas demand increased because of cooler weather. The company expects U.K. gas imports to rise while supplies from the North Sea dwindle on aging fields.

The shares declined 0.4 percent to 347.80 pence at the close in London trading, valuing the company at about 18 billion pounds.

Centrica's North American division made 331 million pounds last year from 312 million in 2011, according to an earnings statement. It added more than 200,000 residential customer accounts, it said. Profit at its British Gas unit increased 9 percent last year to 1.09 billion pounds.

The company has appointed Chris Weston as head of the international downstream business to oversee supply business in the U.K. and U.S. Badar Khan will replace Weston as head of the North American division from April 1. Phil Bentley, head of British Gas, will leave the company by the end of the year.

Build Reactors

Centrica earlier this month opted out of a plan to build nuclear reactors at two power plants in the U.K. with Electricite de France SA, writing off 200 million pounds it spent on advanced costs. It also completed a 500 million-pound share buyback program.

Global oil and gas production is expected to rise to 75 million barrels of oil equivalent a year in 2013, Centrica said in a presentation on its website. That compares with 44 million barrels in 2009.

The U.K. is becoming increasingly reliant on imports and liquefied natural gas will intensify the link between the U.K. and global gas markets, Centrica said in the presentation.

"As the U.K. imports more gas, maximizing production of gas in the U.K. is important," Luff said. "We're interested in all sources of gas supply."

To contact the reporter on this story: Nidaa Bakhsh in London at nbakhsh@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net

Jack Nicholson, Jennifer Lawrence chat post-Oscars - Christian Science Monitor (blog)

Jack Nicholson, Jennifer Lawrence, and George Stephanopoulos talked after the Oscars when Nicholson snuck up on Lawrence while the actress was being interviewed by the ABC journalist. Jack Nicholson complimented Jennifer Lawrence on her work.

By Staff Writer / February 27, 2013

Jack Nicholson and Jennifer Lawrence (pictured) talked after the Oscars while Lawrence was being interviewed by journalist George Stephanopoulos. 'You did such a beautiful job,' Nicholson told her.

Matt Sayles/Invision/AP


Lawrence was chatting with Stephanopoulos when actor and Oscar staple Jack Nicholson, who often attends the ceremony, whether he's nominated or not, came up behind her.

Lawrence let out a huge gasp when she realized who was over her shoulder, and it turned out Nicholson wanted to let her know he was a big fan.

"You did such a beautiful job," Nicholson told her of her movie. "I don't mean to crash your interview."

"Yeah, you're being really rude," Lawrence joked.

"You look like an old girlfriend," the "Shining" actor then added.

"Oh, really?" Lawrence inquired. "Do I look like a new girlfriend?"

After Nicholson left, she buried her head in her hands. "Oh my God. Is he still here?"

Nicholson then popped up in view of the camera again, said, "I'll be waiting!," and disappeared.

"I need a rearview mirror!" Lawrence exclaimed.

Lawrence took home the Best Actress award for her work in "Silver Linings Playbook," and was nominated previously for her work in the 2010 movie "Winter's Bone."

She'd also received praise for her graceful handling of an accident in which she tripped on the way to receive her Oscar. When some members of the audience gave her a standing ovation when she reached the stage, she said, "You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell."

In addition to her other films, Lawrence is currently the head of a young adult movie franchise in her role as Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of the dystopian "Hunger Games" trilogy. The second installment in the series, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," is due out this November.

Check out the full video of Lawrence chatting with Nicholson.

A Network of Nuclear-Detection Sites All Around the World Recorded the Sound ... - The Atlantic

Monitoring stations normally used to keep tabs on the nuclear tests of regimes like North Korea's captured the arrival of a rock from outer space.



On the morning of February 15, a rock from outer space blazed above Chelyabinsk, Russia, for a few seconds and then it was gone -- just fragments and dust scattered across the Earth below.

For scientists trying to piece together the story of this meteor that no one saw coming, they need evidence. But what is there? The moment is gone; all that's left are the meteorite fragments and any recordings that happened to be rolling the moment the meteor arrived. And scientists lucked out: The prevalence of dashboard cams in Russia has provided a rich set of data. But that's not all -- another of humanity's constantly rolling transcription devices captured the event loud and clear: 17 infrasound-recording stations around the globe heard the boom.

The stations are part of the global monitoring network of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which keeps the Treaty's member states apprised of any possible nuclear explosions around the world. Just days before the Russian Meteor, the CTBTO had detected such a blast: North Korea's February 12 nuclear test.

Around the world, the CTBTO has 45 monitoring stations that are constantly listening for sound waves far too low for the human ear to hear. Such infrasounds, as they are known, can travel much farther than the frequencies we are used to, sometimes wrapping around the entire planet several times, as was the case with the Krakatoa volcanic eruption in 1883, the Tunguska meteorite in 1908, and nuclear tests in the middle of the 20th century.

A video from the CTBTO shows what these stations are like (this one in Qaanaaq, Greenland):

Normally, these stations are there waiting for signs of a nuclear explosion. But on February 15, sites as far away from the Ural Mountains as Antarctica (15,000 km away) and Alaska (6,500 km away) detected infrasounds resulting from the Russian meteor.

Here, for example, is what CTBTO's Kazakh sound station heard, sped up *135 times* -- making it is audible to the human ear.

Based on the sounds the CTBTO recorded, scientists are able to study the meteor's direction, energy release, and duration. "We know it's not a fixed explosion because we can see the change in direction as the meteorite moves towards the earth. It's not a single explosion, it's burning, traveling faster than the speed of sound. That's how we distinguish it from mining blasts or volcanic eruptions," said acoustic scientist Pierrick Mialle in a statement.

The data revealed that the asteroid was 17 meters in diameter, weighed 10,000 metric tons, struck the atmosphere at 40,000 miles per hour (damn!), and exploded into piece 12 to 15 miles above ground, according a video report from NASA.

Watch the video in its entirety for more (but beware of NASA's comparison of the meteor to a nuclear explosion):