Thursday, December 30, 2010

(Reuters) - Former Obama administration auto industry czar Steven Rattner has agreed to pay $10 million to resolve two lawsuits by New York's attorney general related to alleged kickbacks involving the state's pension fund.

Rattner also agreed to be banned from appearing in any capacity before any public pension fund in New York for five years.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced the settlement, which ends two lawsuits by his office. These had sought to recover at least $26 million from Rattner and permanently bar him from the securities industry in New York.

Rattner is the last major figure to resolve allegations by Cuomo in the attorney general's long-running investigation into alleged wrongdoing in the roughly $130 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund.

(CNN) -- Nintendo is warning young children against playing 3-D video games on its upcoming handheld gaming system, the Nintendo 3DS.

Kids younger than 6 who play the 3-D games may have the growth of their eyes stunted, the company said in a statement on its Japanese website.

The warning notes that parents can turn off the 3-D functionality of the handheld 3DS. They can also set passwords that keep kids from using that feature.

The statement also asks everyone who plays the 3-D gaming system to take periodic breaks from the games as often as every hour or 30 minutes.

Three of the suspects appeared in a Danish
court on Thursday morning
Three men have been charged in a Danish court with attempting to carry out an act of terrorism.

They were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of plotting to attack the offices of a newspaper which printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

A fourth man has been released while a fifth, arrested in Sweden, is still being held in Stockholm.

The three men were remanded in custody for four weeks by a court in Glostrup, west of Copenhagen.

For the first two weeks they will be held in isolation, according to Lykke Soerensen, who heads the legal department of Danish intelligence agency PET.

She told the TV2 channel that isolation was necessary because of concerns that the three men might try to "affect the investigation and affect the witnesses".

The suspects, who pleaded not guilty, are also charged with possession of illegal weapons.

The three men charged are all Swedish residents, although one is reported to have been born in Lebanon, and another in Tunisia.

Belfast, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- Someone must be held responsible for a "shambolic" response to a water crisis that has left thousands without running water, one of Northern Ireland's top politicians said Thursday.

Speaking after an emergency meeting of power-sharing ministers in Belfast, First Minister Peter Robinson said the government water company's efforts to restore water supplies to tens of thousands of homes was "shambolic" and "ineffective."

He said a review would now be carried out by ministers and hinted at action against Northern Ireland Water's top executives .

"People must assess their own position, and of course if people don't assess their own position the review will look at where responsibility lies and decisions will be taken on the foot of that," said Robinson.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was also highly critical of the response, calling it "totally unacceptable behaviour by an arm's-length body".

"We are not prepared to accept this treatment on behalf of citizens," he said. "... Under no circumstances are we going to stand here and make excuses for a body that has failed so miserably."
(CNN) -- At least one of three men charged with planning a terrorist attack against a Danish newspaper had previous links with terrorist suspects, according to a Swedish counter-terrorism source.

The men were remanded into custody after appearing in court in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Thursday. The court said the men must remain in custody for four weeks, with the first two to be spent in isolation.

A fourth man, a 26-year-old Iraqi national, was released Thursday. He is suspected of arranging housing for the other three men, all of whom were arrested Wednesday, the intelligence service said.

The Danish newspaper allegedly targeted, Jyllands-Posten, published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in 2005 and has long been a target of Islamic extremists.

"Our assessment is that their plan was to try to get access to the Jyllands-Posten building and carry out a Mumbai-style attack," the head of Denmark's intelligence service, Jakob Scharf, said Wednesday. He described the suspects as militant Islamists.

Pakistani terrorists launched gun attacks on hotels and other targets in the Indian city of Mumbai, India, in 2008, killing more than 170 people.

Denmark's Justice Minister Lars Barfoed said the plot constituted "probably the most serious terror attempt in Denmark so far."

Defendant Munir Awad, a 29-year-old Swedish citizen born in Lebanon, was in a group of Swedish militants that traveled to Pakistan in 2009, where he was arrested and deported, according to a Swedish counter-terrorism source,

DANVILLE, Pa. (AP) -- A 900-pound bull escaped on his way to slaughter and led his owners and authorities on a two-mile chase through two eastern Pennsylvania townships for an hour.

Wayne Myers of Bald Top was headed to the butcher with the raging 2-year-old bull when he stopped at a red light near a middle school Wednesday. He says that's when then the bull made a break for it.

The bull fled ran at least two miles before being shot to death by its owners.

No one else was hurt.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week, a positive sign that the job market is slowly improving.

The Labor Department says applications dropped by 34,000 to 388,000, the lowest number since the week of July 12, 2008. The level of applications has either fallen or remained unchanged in five of the past six weeks.

Unemployment applications below 425,000 signal modest job growth. But economists say applications need to fall to 375,000 or below to indicate a significant decline in unemployment. Applications for unemployment benefits peaked during the recession at 651,000 in March 2009.

The level of applications can be particularly volatile during the holidays. But a department analyst said there were no unusual factors affecting the report.
(Reuters) - Police released video footage on Wednesday of three robbers they said jumped from one Manhattan building to another to loot over $500,000 in jewelry from a store on Christmas Day.

Police are on hunting for the trio who robbed the Ultra Diamonds jewelry store in a large commercial shopping district on 6th Avenue Saturday afternoon.

The men got into the closed store by initially breaking into a nail salon on the first floor of an adjacent building, police said.

From there, the robbers climbed onto the rooftop and jumped across to the building of shops that housed the jewelry store. Police believe the men might have then used a sledgehammer to knock a hole into the outside wall of the jewelry store, and snaked themselves inside.

Video footage shows the masked men rapidly ransacking several glass displays of jewelry and dumping the contents into black bags. Police said the men escaped back through the hole they smashed into the wall.

Employees at the Ultra Diamonds store declined to comment on the robbery on Wednesday beyond saying they were spending the day repairing the damage.

However, a spokeswoman for the national jewelry retailer praised the police's work.

"We don't have any additional information at this time but I know the New York Police Department has this under investigation," said Kris Land, Ultra Diamond's chief marketing officer.

"We're very pleased with how many people they've put on the case and how they're really digging into this."
(Reuters) - The United States is voicing concern over reports from human rights groups that Pakistan's security forces are holding thousands of political separatists without charge, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

Citing a State Department report to Congress last month, the Times said the Obama administration was alarmed by reports that separatists, mostly from Pakistan's Baluchistan province, had been detained over the past decade and were being held incommunicado.

Some of the missing were guerrillas and others civilians, the newspaper said. The State Department report, obtained by the newspaper, also cited concerns that Pakistan's military had killed unarmed Taliban insurgents instead of putting them on trial.

The report urged Pakistan, an important U.S. ally in the fight against Islamist insurgents, to address the issue and other rights abuses, the paper said. "There continue to be gross violations of human rights by Pakistani security forces," the report said.

"The Pakistani government has made limited progress in advancing human rights and continues to face human rights challenges." Pakistani intelligence officials accuse human rights groups of exaggerating the numbers of people held incommunicado, according to the Times.

The United States in late September asked Pakistan for information about a video posted on the Internet purporting to show men in Pakistani military fatigues lined up in a firing squad shooting bound and blindfolded men in traditional clothing.

The Pakistani government has launched a probe into the video.

The United States in October announced $2 billion in military aid for Pakistan, but the relationship has been strained by Washington's pressure on Islamabad to step up its efforts against Taliban and al Qaeda militants launching attacks on Western forces in Afghanistan from Pakistani sanctuaries.
(Ars Technica) -- About 65% of Internet users have paid for some kind of online content, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.

Pew found that digital music and software are the two most common purchases, yet almost half of the users have only bought one or two kinds of content, and most have only used one method of access, such as streaming or downloading.

Of the 1,003 people surveyed, 75% were Internet users, which is consistent with the general proportion of Internet use in the U.S.

While previous surveys had looked at online purchases in general, the goal of this one was to isolate purchases of content only, rather than physical items. Of the people who where online, less than two thirds had ever used it to buy some kind of content.

33% of those who bought online content had gotten either digital music or software, and 21% had bought apps for cell phones or tablet PCs.

Ars Technica: 1 in 5 Americans want internet regulated like TV

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Abu Dhabi is taking over management of the city's port from neighboring Dubai's port firm DP World, which runs similar facilities around the world.

DP World and Abu Dhabi Terminals said Thursday that ADT will assume control of Mina Zayed in the new year, when an existing management services agreement expires. The move won't have a material effect on DP World's earnings, according to a regulatory filing.

Plans for management of a far larger deep-water facility known as Khalifa Port opening in 2012 have not been decided, the companies said. They say they will continue to work closely together.

Abu Dhabi controls the United Arab Emirates federation's presidency and most of the OPEC member's oil wealth. Like Dubai, it's working to diversify its economy with help from state-sponsored companies and is eager to build its own industrial expertise.

"We are committed to improving the capabilities of ADT to better serve our customers and to enhance the capabilities of the company in anticipation of the move to the new Khalifa Port," ADT Chairman Tawfeeq al-Mubarak said.

Server overloads and a bug in Skype for Windows caused the two-day outage for the net phone firm.
Details of what caused the service to be unusable for millions of users prior to Christmas have been posted on the firm's blog.

The two events combined to create a cascade of problems that managed to knock out much of the network underpinning the phone service.

Skype is assessing how its network is built to stop the problem recurring.

Traffic cascade

Writing on the Skype blog, Lars Rabbe, chief information officer at the company, said the problems started on 22 December, when some of its servers that handle instant messaging started getting overloaded.

This meant that the responses they sent to Windows machines running Skype were slightly delayed. Unfortunately, a bug in one version of Skype for Windows meant this delay caused the program to crash.

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) -- This New Year's Eve, for the first time he can remember, Ted Prior won't be gyrating on a stage somewhere, warning someone not to step on his blue suede shoes.

Cancer that has spread throughout his body and took root in his brain is forcing the Atlantic City native to miss a scheduled concert in Ocean City, N.J. It will be the first time in a 50-year career that spans close to 10,000 performances that south Jersey's answer to The King has had to miss a show.

"That's the one thing that bothers me," he said, reclining on a couch in his living room, wearing a multicolored Elvis bathrobe, rings on almost every finger, bracelets and necklaces aplenty, and a smashing Elvis-like wig standing in for the once-flowing hair that chemotherapy and radiation has wiped out.

"One time I went onstage with a 101-degree fever," he recalled in an interview with The Associated Press. "There was only three of us in the band, and I sang and played the guitar, so I couldn't not go on. The bartender kept giving me shots of ginger brandy between sets to bring me back to life. But I did it."

This New Year's, however, he won't be doing it. The medication he takes several times daily has made him weaker and weaker. He walks with a slight limp and his left leg won't do quite what the right one will. The leg is too swollen to fit one of his trademark Elvis boots, too.

"When I do a performance, I slide across the floor," he said. "I do certain leg movements. I go into the audience and I make sure damn near every woman gets a scarf, if I can. I just can't do that right now."

So some friends of his will stand in for him at St. Peter's Church in Ocean City on Dec. 31 while Prior climbs the walls at his home in the Atlantic City suburbs.

The 67-year-old Prior first suspected something was wrong in October during a show at a firehouse in his hometown, where 350 people were rocking out to a "Blue Hawaii"-era performance. As he hula-danced with the women, one of his legs started dragging. No one noticed, and the show went on.

A few days later at an elementary school in Ocean City, "I picked up the guitar and I couldn't hold the pick," Prior said.

An MRI found three tumors in his brain. Other tests found cancer in his pancreas and liver, too.

He started radiation and chemotherapy, but the shows went on: an elementary school Nov. 12, a nursing home the 14th, a Christmas parade in Stone Harbor the 27th, and a Christmas party outside the Somers Point municipal building on Dec. 3.

(CNN) -- Defending champions Chelsea secured their first win in seven league games to beat Bolton 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, but title rivals Arsenal dropped vital points.

A goal on the hour mark by Florent Malouda ended Chelsea's dire run and lifted the London club back into fourth in the English Premier League, four points behind leaders Manchester United and having played a game more.

Arsenal, who beat Chelsea 3-1 on Monday night, missed the chance to go level on points with United after being held 2-2 at lowly Wigan, who came from behind despite having a man sent off.

Ben Watson put the home side ahead from the penalty spot after 18 minutes, but two goals in six minutes near the end of the first half from Arsenal's Andrey Arshavin and Nicklas Bendtner saw the Gunners 2-1 up at the DW Stadium.

Will Wenger's genius finally bring success back to Arsenal?

BANGKOK (AP) -- A Thai court has ordered prison terms for 79 members of the right-wing "Yellow Shirt" movement who stormed a state television station two years ago.

Thursday's convictions marked the first major court ruling against members of the People's Alliance for Democracy. The group is best known for seizing a government compound and Bangkok's two airports in 2008 in a bid to bring down the government allied with deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Leaders of the airport takeover have never been prosecuted, leading to growing complaints from the rival "Red Shirt" protesters that they were spared because of support from the monarchy and ruling elite.

Street clashes between the "Red Shirts" and the military left more than 90 people dead earlier this year.
Rome, Italy ( -- The Vatican will establish a new authority to combat money laundering as the tiny state seeks the blessing of international regulators who have refused to include it on lists of countries compliant with international norms.

In a papal document to be published on Thursday, the Vatican will promise to adhere to European rules targeting money laundering. The decree, or motu proprio, will apply to all government bodies at the Holy See including the Vatican Bank, also known as the Institute for Religious Works (IOR).

The Vatican's new Financial Information Authority will enforce rules "concerning the prevention of illegal financial activity" and join "the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing", the Holy See said in a statement on Wednesday.

Cardinal Attilio Nicora, head of the body responsible for Church properties and funding, will oversee the new anti-money laundering regime.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Abu Dhabi is taking over management of the city's port from neighboring Dubai's port firm DP World, which manages similar facilities around the world.

DP World and Abu Dhabi Terminals said Thursday that ADT will assume management control of Mina Zayed in the new year, when an existing management services agreement expires. The move won't have a material effect on DP World's earnings, according to a regulatory filing.

Plans for management of a larger deep-water facility known as Khalifa Port that is expected to open in 2012 have not been decided, the companies said.

The companies didn't provide a reason for the change but say they will continue to work closely together.

Abu Dhabi controls the United Arab Emirates federation's presidency and most of the OPEC member's oil wealth. Like Dubai, it's working to diversify its economy with help from state-sponsored companies and is eager to build its own industrial expertise.

"We are committed to improving the capabilities of ADT to better serve our customers and to enhance the capabilities of the company in anticipation of the move to the new Khalifa Port," ADT Chairman Tawfeeq al-Mubarak said.

ADT is a division of the state-owned Abu Dhabi Port Co., which was set up in 2006 to manage sea trade in the emirate.

DP World is considered one of Dubai's industrial crown jewels. It is the world's fourth largest port operator, with business at 50 cargo terminals on six continents, including the Mideast's largest in Dubai. It is part of struggling state conglomerate Dubai World, but is not included in its parent's $24.9 billion debt restructuring.

Last week, DP World sold the bulk of its Australian businesses to a Citi investment fund and an unnamed investor for $1.5 billion in a bid to trim its debt. The deal left it with a 25 percent stake in the operations and ongoing management oversight of the ports in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle.

DP World is hoping to offer a secondary listing for its shares on the London Stock Exchange in the new year, prompting speculation Dubai might sell off a bigger stake in the firm. About a fifth of DP World's shares are currently available to investors through a listing on the Nasdaq Dubai.
PARIS (AP) -- Media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders says 57 journalists were killed worldwide in 2010.

The deadliest country for journalists this year was Pakistan, where 11 reporters were killed in connection with their jobs.

Overall, the worldwide death toll is down 25 percent from 2009. But Reporters Without Borders says in its annual year-end report that kidnappings increased dramatically in 2010 to 51 cases, up from 33 in 2009.

The Paris-based group said Thursday that journalists are "turning into bargaining chips" for kidnappers.

Earlier this month the Committee to Protect Journalists said 42 media workers were killed worldwide in 2010. The two groups have slightly different criteria on what kind of media staff they include in their counts.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- The Dubai property developer behind the emirate's manmade islands says it will use government financial support funds to repay more than $800 million in debt coming due next month.

Nakheel said in a regulatory filing to the Nasdaq Dubai stock exchange that the Dubai Financial Support Fund has made the cash available to repay the sukuk, a type of Islamic bond.

It matures on January 16 and is the last sukuk Nakheel has listed on the exchange.

Nakheel says investors will be paid a total of $871.6 million.

The state-run firm is still in talks to restructure at least $10.5 billion in debt.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) -- One of five men arrested possibly hours before a planned shooting attack on the office of a newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad is to be released, a Danish intelligence official said Thursday.

The official told the AP that the man, an Iraqi asylum seeker who was arrested in Denmark, is being freed but remains a suspect. He gave no other details. Three other men still face hearings in Copenhagen on Thursday.

The Wednesday arrests rattled Danes and brought renewed attention to simmering anger at the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, which has been the target of several attacks and threats since publishing cartoons of Muhammad in 2005, in what it called a challenge to perceived self-censorship.

Four of the suspects, including the Iraqi, were arrested in the suburbs of Copenhagen in two raids while the fifth suspect, a Swedish citizen of Tunisian origin, was arrested in Sweden.

Israel's former President Moshe Katsav has been found guilty of rape by a court in Tel Aviv.

He had faced two allegations of rape by an employee when he was tourism minister in the 1990s. He was also convicted of later sexual offences.

The judges said they believed the evidence of Woman A, whose testimony had led to both charges of rape.

Moshe Katsav resigned from the post of ceremonial head of state in 2007 and was indicted in March 2009.

He could now face a jail term of at least four years, although he is thought to be likely to contest the conviction in Israel's supreme court.

Before Katsav arrived for the verdict a crowd built up outside the district court, including many women's rights activists.

'Riddled with lies'

The former president, in office for seven years from 2000, had denied the charges, the most serious levelled against an Israeli head of state.

He had rejected a plea bargain in 2008 that would have seen him plead guilty to sexual misconduct but avoid more serious charges.

Hodgson on Agger rumours

Roy Hodgson has dismissed rumours linking Daniel Agger with a January transfer away from Anfield.

The centre-back has been the subject of press speculation recently, but the boss insists he's going nowhere.

Hodgson said: "Daniel Agger has not been 'offered' to anybody. Daniel Agger is a Liverpool player and there's a good chance he'll be in the Liverpool team on Saturday (against Bolton).

"So if ever you hear Daniel Agger is being 'offered', it's not by Liverpool Football Club - it's by unscrupulous people who are second guessing and looking at players who have not been in the team in the last couple of weeks and suggesting they might be available.

"But anytime you read that, it is untrue."
Owen Wilson is the latest victim of a sick, FAKE death hoax.

According to yet another gross prank from Global Associated News, “Actor Owen Wilson is reported to have died shortly after a snowboard accident earlier today -December 29, 2010.”

Wilson is NOT dead.

The FAKE report claimed that while at a ski resort in Zermatt, Switzerland, “Wilson lost control of his snowboard and struck a tree at a high rate of speed… Wilson was air lifted by ski patrol teams to a local hospital, however, it is believed that the actor died instantly from the impact of the crash.”

So, does this rumor sound familiar?

It should.

Much like yesterday’s rumor about Adam Sandler having died – and the same disgusting rumor three days ago about Charlie Sheen – this is NOT TRUE.


A rep for Wilson tells Gossip Cop the rumor is “absolutely false.”

Two weeks ago, there was an equally vile death prank about Morgan Freeman, and this morning there was a death hoax about Aretha Franklin.

These hoaxes have happened many times before.

They’re not funny. They’re not cool. They’re not entertaining.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Gossip Cop is at a total loss as to why anyone would concoct phony fatalities, and sincerely hopes the only thing that dies out are these horrible hoaxes.
“Burqa woman, with your sexy feet”, croons the male singer, to the unforgettable tune of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman”. The video parody is a YouTube hit, but has earned the comedian some hate mail from angry Islamists.

The song’s cheeky lyrics tell the story of Pakistani comedian Saad Haroon’s chaste romance with a burqa-clad woman, describing his hilarious efforts at wooing his “sexy ninja”. “Burqa woman, my love for you grows, every time I see your toes”, he sings, adding that he will “practice flirting with his living-room curtain”.

The clip has divided its YouTube audience since it was uploaded on December 9. Some viewers criticised Haroon for giving the West a chance to laugh at Islam, while more radical comments called on the comedian to be “stoned to death”.

Haroon, who has received e-mail threats after the video's release, told The Telegraph that he only wanted to make people laugh. “I’m a comedian, it’s my job to make jokes about things”, he said, adding that he has also received many supportive comments from women in burqas who come to see his shows.

"How I Met Your Mother" star Neil Patrick Harris is offering Elton John his congrats on the rocker's new bundle of joy.

"Great congratulations to David Furnish & Elton John on the birth of their son, Zachary! Can't wait for play dates in the south of France...," Neil tweeted Tuesday.

Sir Elton and his partner David Furnish welcomed their baby boy on Christmas Day, while Neil and David Burtka's twins, Gideon Scott and Harper Grace, arrived in October.

Also excited about Elton's new addition? Elizabeth Hurley! "Massive congratulations to David and Elton on having their beautiful son. Can't wait for my first cuddle," the actress tweeted on Monday, adding to, "Elton and David have been wonderful godfathers to my son and I know they will be wonderful parents… I couldn't be happier for them."
A Citibank employee in India has been accused of defrauding wealthy individual and corporate clients of millions of dollars.

The alleged fraud was discovered earlier this month in a branch of the global bank in Gurgaon, a wealthy suburb of the Indian capital, Delhi.

The employee solicited investment in a fictitious scheme, promising high returns in a short time, the bank said.

Police say the wanted staff member has now gone missing.

Earlier he was suspended after a complaint was lodged by the bank with the police.
'Fake investment scheme'

Citibank has refused to publicly put a figure on the alleged fraud but senior police officers told Indian newspapers that at least $20m (£12,951,188) was stolen.

According to the official police complaint filed by Citibank, which has been seen by the BBC, the suspicious transfer of funds at its branch in the wealthy Delhi suburb of Gurgaon, began in October 2009.

The US bank, which has a large presence in India, accused the missing employee of forging documents and persuading a number of clients to put money into a fake investment scheme.

A blast outside a court in central Athens sent smoke billowing over the city early on Thursday after a warning phone call had given police time to evacuate the area.

AFP - A bomb exploded outside a court in Athens on Thursday, causing damage to the building after a warning phone call had enabled police to evacuate the area, a police source said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries as television footage showed smoke billowing in front of the Athens court complex near the city centre. Several of the building's windows were smashed.

Early information indicated that the device had been placed on a motorbike, the police source said.

"It was a rather strong explosion," a local kiosk owner told Alter television, which received the warning phone call some 40 minutes before the blast and notified police.

"I am 100 metres (yards) away and all my wares have fallen off the shelves," he said.

There was no claim of responsibility for the bombing, which comes some two weeks before the scheduled trial of more than a dozen suspected members of a radical anarchist group.
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