Friday, December 31, 2010

KIRKSVILLE, Mo. (AP) — An Amish man has died after he was pinned under his buggy in rural Canton.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s office announced Thursday that 70-year-old Tobias S. Borntreger, of rural Canton, died Wednesday when he was trapped under the right rear wheel of a cart loaded with wood.

The Kirksville Daily Express reports that Borntreger apparently fell off the seat or was walking beside two horses that were pulling the cart when he was pinned.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano eats lunch
Dec. 31 with troops at Torkham base near the Pakistan border.
KABUL, Afghanistan -- During an unannounced New Year's Eve visit to Afghanistan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano traveled to the country's mountainous border region near Pakistan to see first-hand her department's efforts in the war effort there.

"Seeing is worth a thousand words," Napolitano said after the tour, to which Fox News was granted exclusive access. "This all involves safety and security in this part of the world. And that is something that has direct connection as well to the United States."

She described her department's role in war-torn Afghanistan as a "complement" to the military operations there.

Her agency has about two dozen officials in Afghanistan, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, Customs and Border Protection officers, and Border Patrol agents. Many are training Afghan security forces to manage their country's borders.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year
to all readers thanks for your visits and support.

World News eTrends
Jamshaid Yousaf

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- The first time Shane Niemeyer thought about Ironman triathlons, he had just tried to hang himself.

It was 2003 and he was a 27-year-old homeless heroin addict in an Idaho jail, awaiting sentencing for drug possession and burglary. Guards put him in a straitjacket, so he says he used his feet to turn the pages of the magazine article about the endurance sport.

There was something about triathlons - and the commitment they demanded - that tripped a switch inside him: Maybe this was his way out, Niemeyer thought. Maybe he could spend his days swimming, cycling and running, instead of beating up Honduran drug dealers or burglarizing businesses to fuel his habit.

"I read the distances," said Niemeyer, now 35. "I read the average time triathletes spend training. It was overwhelming to me. For some reason, I figured that would help occupy my time."

Since his March 2004 release from a prison drug program, he's done eight Ironman distance races, covering a combined 140.6 miles in each. He placed 19th at a 2009 Ironman race in Wisconsin, out of nearly 2,400 competitors. On Oct. 8, Niemeyer finished his first Ironman World Championship race in Kona, Hawaii.

But Kona, a race many count among the world's toughest sporting events, wasn't his biggest accomplishment of 2010.

Tragic end: In the past year, there have been several high-profile
suicides nationwide attributed to harsh treatment on the Internet.
A new state law aims to address that behavior.

Facebook profiles can be set up within minutes to catch up with old friends, but they can also be used to spread rumors and maliciously hurt people.

Starting Saturday, however, using a fake online profile or e-mail address to harm others can lead to a fine of up to $1,000 and one year in jail. The law that creates the new penalties is one of hundreds in California that is taking effect in the new year.

Introduced by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, the Facebook law is in reaction to the growing problems surrounding cyberbullying and e-impersonation that are affecting children and adults nationwide.

"What people thought was just a prank is now a violation of law," Simitian said. "I hope this is the first step in changing behavior."

SB 1411, which was signed into law in September, updates an existing impersonation law, originally passed in 1872, to make "online impersonators who assume someone else’s identity to harm, intimidate, threaten or defraud" a crime, according to Simitian.

Fireworks explode over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House during a pyrotechnic show to celebrate the New Year. The city used seven tons of fireworks, its largest since 2000.
The display in Taipei also marked the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of China
Pyrotechnics light up the night sky in Hong Kong
Rainbow-coloured lights illuminate the Marina Bay ahead of a pyrotechnic show to welcome the new year in Singapore
People release balloons at the Zojo-ji Buddhist temple as the Tokyo Tower is illuminated to celebrate New Year
Fireworks explode over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House during a pyrotechnic show to celebrate the New Year. The city used seven tons of fireworks, its largest since 2000.
Fireworks explode above the city centre of Melbourne

A penguin ice sculpture frames downtown Pittsburgh, 
Friday, Dec. 31, 2010. The Pittsburgh Penguins alumni
play the Washington Capitals in an exhibition hockey
game Friday as part of the NHL's Winter Classic 
festivities. The Pittsburgh Penguins play the Washington
Capitals Jan. 1, 2010 in the Winter Classic.

Mario Lemieux couldn't find the net. That doesn't mean he's lost his scoring touch.
Lemieux set up two goals to offset two goals by Washington's Paul Mulvey as retired players from the Capitals and Penguins skated to a 5-all tie Friday in the Winter Classic alumni game.

The two-period game played before 10,000 fans was relaxed — most players wore ski caps rather than helmets — but competitive. Peter Bondra, a career 500-goal scorer, scored the tying goal for Washington with 45 seconds remaining.

The highlight might have been Hall of Famers Lemieux and Larry Murphy assisting on Pittsburgh's final goal by Hall of Famer Ron Francis on the power play. Also on the ice at the time were Hall of Famer Paul Coffey and former All-Star Kevin Stevens.
Two people close to the America’s Cup negotiations
have confirmed that San Francisco will be the host
of the yacht race in 2013. (Getty Images file photo)

San Francisco has won its bid for the America’s Cup, sources say.

Two people close to the America’s Cup negotiations have confirmed that San Francisco will be the host of the yacht race in 2013. The City has toiled for months over a bid that would lure the sporting event to the San Francisco Bay.

On Wednesday night, mayoral spokesman Tony Winnicker said the mayor’s office has not been “formally notified” it had won the bid, but that the mayor’s team has “had very positive discussions in recent days and we continue to be optimistic and confident in our bid.”

In recent weeks the team was also in discussion with Rhode Island about potentially hosting the race, but ultimately Rhode Island officials could not present a final offer in time for the race organizer’s self-imposed Dec. 31 deadline.

The decision of where the next America’s Cup would take place was up to billionaire Larry Ellison and his yacht racing team, BMW-Oracle Racing, who won the cup in a contest in Spain in February. The winners of the cup are allowed to determine the next location.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Severe weather moved through southwest Missouri early Friday morning causing damage in numerous locations.

The National Weather Service has confirmed one fatality and one injury in northwest Dent county on County Road 2050 where a trailer was destroyed.

The most numerous reports are coming from Fort Leonard Wood where officials report that a tornado caused damage and injuries on the base. Information is limited due to apparent communications issues at the base. The Laclede County Office of Emergency Management posted on their Facebook page: "Laclede County Emergency Operations Center Staff assisting Ft. Wood EOC staff with communications relay due to tornado damage on Fort Leonard Wood." Reports into The National Weather Service from law enforcement state that three homes were damaged at Fort Leonard Wood.

There are also numerous reports of apparent tornado damage in and around Rolla. Reports into The National Weather Service are that at least one mobile home was damaged, cars were tossed and numerous trees were damaged or uprooted.

The storms will move out of the Ozarks by late morning. Clouds will clear out Friday evening as a cold front moves through the region. Much colder air will filter in with overnight lows in the teens to start the new year.
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) -- A spokesman for an auto parts supplier says four people have been injured in an explosion at the company's plant in Virginia.

Jim Burke, spokesman for Federal-Mogul Corp. in Southfield, Mich., said the injured were employees of a local contractor that was conducting routine duct work cleaning.

He said there was no word on the cause of the explosion or the conditions of the injured.

The explosion occurred shortly after 9:30 a.m. Friday in Blacksburg, where Virginia Tech is located.

The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office said the Blacksburg Fire Department was in charge of the investigation. Calls to the fire department were not answered.

The Blacksburg plant is one of 107 facilities operated by Federal-Mogul worldwide. It specializes in bearings.
Era 1935 - 2010 in a photos covered by Steve McCurry   

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. officials pressured Afghan President Hamid Karzai to remove a former warlord from atop the energy and water ministry a year ago because of corruption and ineffectiveness, and threatened to end aid unless he went.

Karzai rebuffed the request, according to secret diplomatic records, and the minister - privately termed "the worst" by U.S. officials - kept his perch at an agency that controls $2 billion in U.S. and allied projects.

The State Department correspondence, written as Karzai was assembling a Cabinet shortly after his 2009 re-election, reveals just how little influence U.S. officials have over the Afghan leader on pressing issues such as corruption.

Reining in graft is seen as vital to Afghanistan's long-term stability. President Barack Obama this month cited an urgent need for political and economic progress even as military successes have blunted the insurgency in some regions.

But U.S. aid to Afghanistan has continued despite the dispute over the former warlord, Ismail Khan, in December 2009.

U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry pressured Karzai to remove Khan, a once powerful mujahedeen commander, from the top of the energy and water ministry, according to two State Department reports written at the time by U.S. Embassy officials in Kabul. They were disclosed this month by WikiLeaks.

(CNN) -- Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico will not pardon legendary Wild West outlaw Billy the Kid in the death of a law enforcement officer more than a century ago, he said Friday.

Richardson made the announcement on ABC's "Good Morning America" the same day he leaves office.

The issue facing Richardson was whether one of his predecessors, Gov. Lew Wallace, promised about 130 years ago to pardon Billy the Kid -- known more formally as William H. Bonney -- for killing Sheriff William Brady of Lincoln County, New Mexico.

The negative news surrounding Clearwire, the much-vaunted next generation wireless innovator has taken a drumbeat like quality, enough for even the most optimistic among us to worry about its fate. It has now become known that company’s chairman Craig McCaw is leaving and resigning from the board of the company he masterminded into existence.

This is the latest in the string of bad news for Clearwire – earlier it was talk about the company running out of cash and thus unable to build out its network. It has cut jobs, slowed down the network build-out and has even started toying with the idea of selling spectrum. There have been reports of conflict with Sprint, the company that is the single largest shareholder in Clearwire. And not to mention looming competition from the likes of Verizon and T-Mobile, who have launched their own high-speed next generation wireless networks.
Craig McCaw. Photo
Courtesy of Wikipedia

It is tough to read what McCaw’s exit means. Some like Michael Mahoney of Falcon Point Capital wonder if this means the company is going under. Now that is a childish over-reaction. It could be something as simple as Clearwire’s largest shareholder, Sprint, finally asserting control over what is clearly its own future. Sprint currently owns 54 percent of Clearwire. One can only guess that McCaw’s exit is a precursor to some sort of a company-defining event – perhaps more money from Sprint, and a management shake-up to follow. Both Sprint and Clearwire have not responded to my queries.

Clearwire is owned by McCaw’s Eagle River Holdings, Sprint Nextel, Google, Intel Corp, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and a sundry group of investors. These companies have collectively invested about $5 billion into Clearwire, with Sprint ponying up the largest amount of cash. It also contributed a massive amount of spectrum to the company.

Funny New Year S Resolutions, Every year at starting of the year people makes their resolutions for new years but most of peoples failed to complete their desires and dreams, I remember that I make planes every year but I miss something’s, but I never lost my hope to do things and my rest of works, it makes our life complete, New Year’s resolutions are a funny thing. They seem to be one of those clever things you must do to ensure your well-being, as a wish blowing out your birthday candles.

Maybe laziness, or the fact that I was always too focused on that party, I would be on the eve of New Year to worry about serious things like resolutions, and I’ve never quite had one. I thought that this year is 22 adults, I should get somewhere. Of course, I could go to all the classics: lose weight, improve my career, organizing, being admired by a host of superb Italian men, but I already think about these things on a daily basis.

Instead, I decided my first real resolution would force me to do something I normally do not give thanks daily. Every day, I intend to write something, small or large, I am grateful.

While I was on this voyage of discovery to resolution, I also broke out in the city to hear about your resolutions. With 2011 just around the corner, many people in Agoura Hills promising a new beginning?
Alex Ovechkin has sometimes been called the most NBA-y guy in the NHL, and the Winter Classic will provide another piece of evidence. Just as NBA stars have debuted custom All-Star Game sneaker models -- guys like Jordan, Kobe, LeBron, and yes, Gilbert -- Ovechkin will be busting out these special edition CCM U+ Crazy Light skates for the Winter Classic.

Ovi's camp has worked with CCM since the summer on the skates, which feature Caps red, the Ovi8 logo in yellow and the names of Ovechkin's brother and grandfather. The skates will be available at retail in a few months, without the references to Ovi's family members.
Is the weather keeping you in tonight? Or is it too hard to find a babysitter tonight? If you are staying in, here are some suggestions for New Year’s Eve movies to watch.

When Harry Met Sally: The quote from Harry when he catches up with Sally at the New Year’s Eve party is a classic. Watching their relationship grow over the years makes this a sweet and funny choice.

Bridget Jones’s Diary: Get a good laugh out of Bridget’s New Year’s resolutions. You can see some of her funny quotes here.

Sex and the City: The Movie: Watch the girls in their big screen debut. Love the touching scene where Carrie races through the city to be able to be there for Miranda when the ball drops.

An Affair to Remember, Sleepless in Seattle, Someone Like You are all movies with New Year’s Eve scenes in them, too.

Will you be watching any movies tonight?
SEATTLE (AP) -- Firefighters have rescued six people from the rooftop of a burning house and an elderly woman jumped to safety as a blaze destroyed a home in the Seattle neighborhood.

Seattle Fire Department Lt. Sue Stangl says that one woman in her 70's had to jump from the house's roof on to the arms of a firefighter and policeman as the flames advanced. A total of eight people escaped the fire, which destroyed the two-story house.

All residents of the home were transported to the hospital. Stangl says the elderly woman was in critical condition, but expected to recover.

Stangl says the cause of the fire is not known yet.'s logo is looking a bit different today.

The multicolored "Google" logo has been spiced up with fireworks and has seen a few of its letters replaced by four Roman numerals, "MMXI", to read "GMMXIE."

Judging from the top terms that have been keyed in to Google trends, Google users seem a bit confused by the numerals, some misreading the number as "GMMXLE," "MMXE," "MMX," "MMXL," "MMXLE," and "GMMXL."

It's the last day of 2010 and today's Google "doodle" is a nod at New Year's Eve and 2011.

"MMXI" are the Roman numerals for 2011. You can see for yourself using this Arabic numeral/Roman numeral conversion chart here.

Check out Google's Roman numeral New Year's eve logo below:

The Times Square New Year’s Eve “ball drop” is arguably the most famous celebration on December 31st nationwide. With millions of people tuning in to the live broadcast, and an estimated one million people in attendance, it is one of America’s favorite holiday pasttimes – and biggest party. This year, the Times Square Alliance and some savvy sponsors are taking the party digital, and using social media channels to spread brand awareness through creative promotions and applications.

After inaugurating the tradition last year, livestream will be hosting a webcast that will allow revelers around the world to experience the festivities and interact throughout the duration of the 6.5 hour celebration. Through the livestream chat function, viewers will be able to comment and interact while watching (commercial-free of course!) via Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, you can access the webcast on your mobile device, add a widget via an app to your Facebook page, or include a widget on your blog or website.

I’d like to take this time to wish all of you who have been reading the blog, following my career,
my work, and supporting my projects and products best wishes for the new year and continued blessings.

Everything I do is in an effort to make people look, and more importantly, feel good.
And if I’ever done that for you than my mission is accomplished. If not, (lol) there’s always next year…!
(CNN) -- At least three people and two horses were killed when a suspected tornado hit northwestern Arkansas Friday morning, authorities said.

The three died in Washington County, which is now also facing power outages after the strong storm went through, said Ann Upton, the county's emergency management deputy.

The storm injured at least 12 people and caused damage in neighboring Benton County, near the Arkansas state lines with Oklahoma and Missouri, officials said.

Five victims from the area were in critical condition, said Washington Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Terry Fox.

She said she had also heard reports that "several people were trapped."

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- A U.S. missile strike killed eight suspected militants in northwest Pakistan on Friday, the final day of a year that has seen a major escalation in drone attacks targeting insurgents flowing into neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

Four missiles struck a convoy of militants traveling by car and by foot near the town of Ghulam Khan in the North Waziristan tribal area along the Afghan border, the two officials said on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

It was the third day this week that missiles have struck North Waziristan, part of a ramped-up U.S. campaign to take out al-Qaida and Taliban fighters seeking sanctuary on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border. Thirty-five suspected militants were killed in missile attacks on Monday and Tuesday, officials said.

Rafael Nadal will meet Roger Federer in the final of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship after they both won their semi-final clashes in Abu Dhabi.

Nadal had the easier time of things as he beat Tomas Berdych 6-4 6-4 in repeat of this year's Wimbledon final.

It was tougher for Federer against Robin Soderling though, he dropped the first set 7-3 in a tie-break before racing back to win 6-7 6-3 6-3.

Federer had lost to Soderling at the same stage last year, but he has now qualified for the final for the first time in the invitational tournament's short three year history.

Nadal is the defending champion of the tournament that has a winner-takes-all $250,000 first prize.
Annie Lennox, Trevor Horn and Richard Thompson have all been named on the Queen's New Year's Honours list.

Lennox, the former lead singer of the Eurythmics, will receive an OBE for her charity work with Oxfam in the fight against AIDS in Africa, reports BBC News.

"As somewhat of a renegade, it either means I've done something terribly right - or they've done something terribly wrong," Lennox said. "In any case, whatever powers-that-be have deemed me worthy of such a recognition, I'm getting my fake leopard pillbox hat dusted and ready."

Meanwhile, Trevor Horn is set to receive a CBE for his services to music. Horn originally formed The Buggles, who famously had the 1979 hit 'Video Killed The Radio Star'.

Since then he has also produced for a number acts including Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Pet Shop Boys, Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, ABC, Delays and Robbie Williams.

Also on the list is Richard Thompson, who also receives an OBE for his services to music.

Thompson was previously a member of Fairport Convention and has also recorded and toured as a solo performer.
The mergers and acquisition spree of 2010 is going out on a high note, with one source telling BNN that Sony Corp. (SNE-N 35.71 0.14 0.39%) is preparing a bid for big-screen movie company IMAX Corp. 

(IMAX-Q 30.6 3.74 13.92%) at more than $40 US a share.  

The UK’s Daily Mail was first to report on the possible acquisition. But Porter Bibb, Managing Partner at MediaTech Capital Partners LLC, tells BNN Sony and IMAX are in talks.  

“I can confirm that both Sony and Disney are in serious talks with IMAX about a takeover, probably at $40 per share or more,” Bibb told BNN in an email.

IMAX, which put itself up for sale in the past, posted a third-quarter profit that blew past analyst expectations and forecast rapid expansion of its theatre network, especially in emerging markets such as China.  
IMAX has about 400 commercial movie screens and is eyeing 1,200 other potential locations, said Brett Harriss, an analyst with Gabelli & Co. 

"IMAX has done a fantastic job over the last five years becoming a powerhouse," he said. "IMAX has an advantage over others. It's a premium product. If you are going to get out the house you may as well spend an extra 5 bucks to see an IMAX (movie)." 

Toronto-based IMAX has capitalized on the latest craze for 3D movies like News Corp's Avatar and Disney's Toy Story 3, helping it weather the downturn of other theatre chains.
(Reuters) - China will crack down on what it called illegal Internet telephone providers, according to a circular from the Chinese government seen on Friday that could potentially affect Internet calling service Skype.

The statement, from the powerful Ministry of Information and Industry Technology, did not mention any carriers by name.

It called for a crackdown "on illegal VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) telephone services" and said it was collecting evidence for legal cases against them.

Skype, partly owned by web retailer eBay Inc, has been growing in popularity among Chinese individuals and businesses to make cheap or free international phone calls.

The circular, dated December 10, did not say what amounted to illegal services and did not name any VoIP providers it considered to be breaking the law.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A tornado fueled by an unusually warm winter air sliced through parts of northwestern Arkansas early on New Year's Eve, killing three people, injuring several others and knocking out power to thousands of homes and businesses.

The dead were killed at Cincinnati, a hamlet of about 100 about three miles from the Oklahoma border. Washington County sheriff's dispatcher Josh Howerton said the storm touched down near the center of the community. He said "lots of injuries" were reported, and officials in nearby Benton County said the storm injured two people and damaged five homes there.

Several flights to and from the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport at Highfill, in Benton County, were delayed or canceled Friday morning as officials worked to clear storm debris littering the runway.

The region has been bracing for severe weather for much of the week. Gulf moisture riding southerly winds pushed temperatures into the upper 60s and 70s on Thursday — ahead of a cold front expected to drop temperatures into the teens by Saturday morning.

(CNN) -- The start of a new year can be stressful. The parties, the dates, the planning. And then, for the cocktail-inclined, the piercing headaches that follow.

But never fear. Smartphone apps will hold your hand through the whole confetti-splashed ordeal, from midnight Friday through those 2011 resolutions.

Here's a look at a few of our favorite New Year's apps. Think of it as app-focused guide to the holiday, in chronological order:

Step 1: Find a date

This goes out to all the procrastinators. If you're still looking for a date for the night of December 31, you only have a few hours to make this happen. Try an app called Skout (free on iPhones and Android), which finds possible mates based on your GPS coordinates. The perfect New Year's Eve date may be across the street from you right now. There, wasn't that easy?

Step 2: Get your party on

So you have a date. You two could walk into a party empty-handed. But where would the merriment be in that? Finish off 2010 in style by bringing the ingredients for a cocktail from the Mad Men Cocktail Culture app (99 cents on the iPhone), which is based on the hip AMC show.

Your friends will be dazzled by your intimate knowledge of muddling and pouring vintage drinks from the '60s -- and if you forget the steps for that Old Fashioned or Brandy Alexander, just check your phone.

When the conversation dies down, casually bring up some of the cocktail facts listed in the app. "Did you know the Old Fashioned was supposedly created for a Civil War general who didn't like the taste of straight whisky?" Why no, no we didn't, your friends will say in awe-struck unison.

(CNN) -- Mohammed Issa Matona is a man on a mission. A master of taarab music, Matona is also the co-founder of Zanzibar's Dhow Countries Music Academy, a school dedicated to preserving the island's traditional music styles.

Taarab derives its name from Arabic and means "to be moved by music," and draws on a range of influences from Africa, the Arab world, India, Indonesia and Western music.

These musical influences blend with "classical traditions of Swahili poetry, local rhythm and melody" according to the academy's website, with taarab orchestras closely resembling "classical Egyptian orchestras, with full violin section, cello and bass, but also accordion, oud, qanun, rhythm section, keyboards and ney flute."

Matona says no other music captures the movement and rhythm of the island quite like taarab.

"This music is something that reminds you of a lot of things. To know yourself, where you are coming from, which way you need to behave. For us music is not only for the joy, it is for education, social matters and politics," Matona said.

Taarab's precise origin is often debated but whether it be in Egypt or East Africa, Matona says the island's version is distinct.

"Although we play taarab it is not like the Egyptian because the way we speak is different, the way of our ideas, the way of our teaching. This taarab is from Zanzibar."

But before the school was founded in 2002, many people in Zanzibar worried that taarab's identity was under threat.

One of the academy's star pupils is 26-year-old Hassan Mahenge. When he enrolled he says he was among only a handful of students willing to take up taarab's traditional instruments.

"At my age, I was the only one at an advanced level studying this music. I love this music. This is the music of my home and I should learn this music to keep it alive," Mahenge said.

Younger musicians are still drawn to more modern instruments rather than traditional instruments like the oud (a type of lute) and the qanun (similar to a zither) , Mahenge said.

In the past, older musicians on the island rarely took the time to nurture young talent, Matona said. But he's trying to make up for lost time and spends most days teaching his young students the music and stories of taarab.

Matona said: "Since this academy started, I'm not afraid anymore, because now we have 25 young people studying these traditional instruments and traditional taarabs. My aim is to teach more and to advise young musicians to study traditional music."
(Reuters) - In a post-holiday week that has seen several announcements of celebrity couplings, singer John Mellencamp and his wife Elaine have decided to do the opposite and separate.

"John and Elaine Mellencamp are proud of their 20 years together and are very happy with their accomplishments both as parents and as a family. They will continue to raise their two children in Indiana but have decided to call it a day as a couple," their spokesman said in a statement on Thursday.

No further details were available.

Mellencamp gained fame in the late 1970s and early 1980s under the stage name John Cougar. His early rock hits include "Hurts So Good" and "Jack and Diane" and as his notoriety grew, he dropped the name Cougar and began performing as John Mellencamp.

While he has never regained the superstar status he enjoyed during the '80s, Mellencamp has kept a solid fan base and continued to put out albums and tour around the world.

His wife, whose maiden name is Irwin, is a model who met the singer when she was hired to appear on the cover of his "Whenever We Wanted" album. She was 23 when they married.

The week after Christmas has seen a series of celebrity marriage engagements including Reese Witherspoon to talent agent Jim Toth, singer LeAnn Rimes and actor Eddie Cibrian, actress Natalie Portman to dancer Benjamin Millepied and Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and Crystal Harris.
(Reuters) - A 5-year-old girl and 23-year-old man who were killed in a collision on a Wyoming ski slope on Christmas Eve both died from massive chest injuries, coroner's officials said on Monday.

Craig Shirley, 23, was snowboarding at a high rate of speed Friday afternoon at a ski area south of Casper, Wyoming, when he slammed into Elise Johnson, 5, and her mother, 31-year-old Kelli Johnson, authorities said.

Elise Johnson and Shirley died of blunt force trauma. Kelli Johnson suffered a head injury and was in stable condition at a Casper hospital, Natrona County Coroner Connie Jacobson said.

Jacobson said her research shows a double fatality from a ski collision is rare at best. "I can't find any literature that shows where an accident between two skiers killed both; this is very unusual," she said.

Wyoming officials said the Johnsons and Shirley, all of Casper, Wyoming, were experienced skiers, with Kelli Johnson a member of the area's ski patrol. Elise Johnson was the only one of the three wearing a helmet.

The Johnsons had stopped near the end of an advanced run at Hogadon Ski Area so Kelli Johnson could help her daughter with her skis when Shirley crashed into them, said Lt. Mark Sellers of the Natrona County Sheriff's Office.

"It's the first fatality of this magnitude that anyone can remember at Hogadon," Sellers said.

The double fatality at the modest-sized Hogadon, one of nine ski areas in Wyoming, comes amid an overall decline in serious injuries or deaths at developed ski areas in the United States, according to the National Ski Areas Association.

Roughly 40 people die in accidents at ski resorts every year, or about four people per million skiers and snowboarders, according to a study by the ski association.

The overall rate of reported ski injuries has dropped in half since the early 1970s because of improved equipment, the use of helmets and stepped-up safety campaigns, according to association findings.
(CNN) -- The flooding in the Australian state of Queensland will cost "hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars," Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Friday as she toured the devastation.

Towns across the northeastern state have been flooded since monsoon rains a week ago caused rivers to spill their banks and reach record levels.

The flooding has moved farther south, and the mining town of Emerald and coastal city of Rockhampton could face their worst flooding in decades this weekend.

"This is a natural disaster across Queensland that is going to occasion, between levels of government, literally hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in expenditure," Gillard said.

(Reuters) - The euro currency area has only a one-in-five chance of surviving in its current form over the next 10 years because of competitive imbalances between its members, a leading British think tank said on Friday.

The Center for Economics and Business Research said Spain and Italy would have to refinance over 400 billion euros ($530 billion) of bonds in the spring, potentially sparking a fresh crisis within the 16-nation euro area.

"The euro might break up at this point, though European politicians are normally able to respond to a crisis," said CEBR Chief Executive Douglas McWilliams in a list of 10 forecasts for 2011.

Sovereign debt crises in Greece and Ireland have rocked euro nations this year, leading some commentators to speculate that Germany could eventually lose patience with bailing out its more profligate neighbors, triggering a split in the currency bloc.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly stressed Berlin's commitment to the euro and she said so again in her New Year message to the country on Friday.

"The euro is the foundation of our prosperity," she said. "Germany needs Europe and our common currency. For our own well-being and in order to overcome great worldwide challenges. We Germans assume our responsibility, even when it is sometimes very hard."

McWilliams argued that the deeper imbalances between the euro zone's stronger and weaker economies, which have become increasingly apparent since the 2008 financial crisis, would undermine the project in the long term.

"I suspect that what will break up the euro will be the failure of most of the countries to take the tough medicine necessary to make their economies competitive over the longer term," McWilliams said:

"We give it only a one in five chance of surviving in its present form for 10 years. If the euro doesn't break up, this could be the year when it weakens substantially toward parity with the dollar," he added.