Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Privacy fears raised as researchers reveal file on iPhone that stores location coordinates and timestamps of owner's movements


Security researchers have discovered that Apple's iPhone keeps track of where you go – and saves every detail of it to a secret file on the device which is then copied to the owner's computer when the two are synchronised.

The file contains the latitude and longitude of the phone's recorded coordinates along with a timestamp, meaning that anyone who stole the phone or the computer could discover details about the owner's movements using a simple program.

For some phones, there could be almost a year's worth of data stored, as the recording of data seems to have started with Apple's iOS 4 update to the phone's operating system, released in June 2010.

"Apple has made it possible for almost anybody – a jealous spouse, a private detective – with access to your phone or computer to get detailed information about where you've been," said Pete Warden, one of the researchers.

The United States plans to supply Libyan rebels with $25 million in urgent non-lethal aid, bolstering a European effort to help the beleaguered forces battling the army of entrenched leader Moammar Gaddafi.

The U.S. assistance, most of it from Pentagon stocks, represents the first direct American aid to the rebels and comes amid a debate over whether and how to help the Libyan opposition as it struggles to hold ground despite a NATO air campaign against Gaddafi’s forces.

President Obama has informed Congress that he intends to use his “drawdown authority” to provide the $25 million in surplus goods to help protect civilians in rebel-held areas, the Associated Press reported. The list of items is still being revised but includes medical supplies, uniforms, boots, tents, personal protective gear, radios and Halal meals, AP said.

The aid effort came as France pledged to intensify airstrikes against Gaddafi’s forces and Italy joined the French and British in announcing plans to help organize the rebel fighters.

The decisions, announced in Paris and Rome, marked another step toward deeper European involvement in the Libyan uprising as NATO and its allies struggle to break the stalemate there without directly joining the fight on the ground.

On the one-year anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, lawmakers are still debating whether to change a law that caps liabilities for oil and gas companies that cause spills at $75 million.

The inability of Congress to resolve this issue reveals a weakness in U.S. spill policies and exposes taxpayers to situations where they could be on the hook for spill-related expenses.

But Capitol Hill lawmakers are divided on the issue. Some Democrats, like Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey want to remove the cap altogether. Gulf Coast lawmakers, such as Sen. Mary Landrieu (D., La.), are looking for more modest changes and say unlimited liability will squeeze small and midsize oil producers out of business.

Efforts to change the liability caps, established under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, became a top priority for Congress last year after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and released millions of barrel of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. But lawmakers have since turned their attention to other issues and their ability to change the liability cap this year is uncertain.

"It essentially means that we have refused to learn the lessons of the nation's worst ecological disaster and we're leaving victims of oil disasters unprotected in future spills," said Regan Nelson, a senior oceans advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Current law requires oil and gas companies to pay for oil-spill cleanups, but it places a $75 million cap on liability for economic damages. These are the damages related to compensating oil-spill victims, such as restaurant or hotel owners whose businesses suffer as a result of a spill.

In the wake of the oil spill, BP PLC said it would voluntarily pay for economic damages beyond $75 million and set up a $20 billion fund for that purpose. The organization that oversees the fund, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, has so far approved about $4 billion in claims.

With nine days left until the royal wedding day, tons of exciting tidbits are pouring forth from Buckingham Palace to London's Kings Road.

For starters. Queen Elizabeth II hosted a private luncheon Wednesday to introduce herself to Prince William's future in-laws, Michael and Carole Middleton.

At storied Windsor Castle in south England's Berkshire County, the queen surrounded Kate Middleton's mom and dad with a "warm atmosphere," bringing along her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. The Middletons reside in the same county, albeit in more modest accommodations.

While the merging families took time to get to know one other, Kate hit a London boutique to gather some items suitable for her royal honeymoon.

At middle-of-the-road women's chain Warehouse, the bride-to-be and a girlfriend caused major excitement while doing a quick browse Tuesday, scoring three summer dresses and a blouse, People said.
Kate Middleton's parents, Michael and Carole Middleton "It was very exciting, and everyone said how lovely and down-to-earth she was," said a rep for the store.

Wills will presumably see Kate's purchases soon enough, but not before some last-minute male bonding. Reports this week confirmed the future king will spend his last night of bachelorhood with his father, Prince Charles, at St. James Palace.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: The names Trump and Palin have been the two most talked about people in politics in recent weeks. The duo pulled no punches in separate Tea Party speeches over the weekend, as they harshly criticized the President Barack Obama's handling of both foreign and domestic issues alike.

And in a moment I will be joined live by Governor Sarah Palin. But first, earlier today, Donald Trump appeared on "Good Morning America" and once again, raised questions about President Obama's birth certificate.

Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLI FROM "GOOD MORNING AMERICA")

DONALD TRUMP, ENTREPRENEUR: There's a real question about the birth certificate. There's a real question about the -- his own citizenship.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: There is -- there is no question. He's got a certificate of live birth that is recognized by the State Department.

TRUMP: George, George, I know exactly what you're getting at.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The facts!

TRUMP: But for some reason -- no, they're not the facts. He doesn't have a birth certificate or he hasn't provided. He's given a certificate of live birth. It's a much different instrument.

STEPHANOPOULOS: A certificate of live birth meets the standard in the State Department for anyone's citizenship.

TRUMP: George--

STEPHANOPOULOS: There were contemporaneous reports in two Hawaiian newspapers.

TRUMP: George, they have co-opted you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Given the --- no, those are the facts sir.

TRUMP: George, they've co-opted you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Who's they?

TRUMP: It's not- --obviously, Obama and his minions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: Now, Mr. Trump also appeared on the "Today Show" this morning and had some kind words about my next guest. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "TODAY")

TRUMP: I really respect her a lot. She's got a tremendous energy and a tremendous following. I think that she has been very unfairly treated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Muammar al-Qaddafi's troops clashed with opposition forces Wednesday in this besieged coastal city and shelled a mountain town, rebels said, as the Libyan leader sought to quell resistance in the western part of the country that is largely under his control.

France and Italy promised more support for Libya's opposition, saying they would join Britain in sending military advisers to help the rebels break a battlefield stalemate. A rebel spokesman welcomed the advisers as a big help.

France also said it would intensify airstrikes against Libyan military targets after a month of NATO airstrikes has failed to rout Qaddafi's forces.

Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi said sending military advisers would worsen the conflict. If NATO attacks stopped, Libya could hold discussions about elections, democracy and constitutional reform, he told the BBC. In comments to The Guardian daily, the minister was more explicit, saying Qaddafi could go as part of reforms.

Discussions on reform could include "whether the leader should stay and in what role, and whether he should retire ... Everything will be on the table," he was quoted as saying.

The U.N's top human rights official, meanwhile, said Libyan government forces may be committing war crimes by using heavy weapons against civilians in the besieged port city of Misrata. Navi Pillay said Qaddafi's troops should be aware that their actions will be scrutinized by the International Criminal Court.

The Department of Homeland Security will officially scrap the much-derided color-coded terror-alert system next week and replace it with a tailored, specific alert system designed to give the public better information about "credible" terror threats facing the U.S.

The color-coded system, which debuted in March 2002, "has faded in utility, except for late-night comics," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a conference call Wednesday. She had pledged earlier this year to replace the old system, which came under fire shortly after its inception for its lack of precision and detailed information.

The new program, called the National Terrorism Advisory System, will go live April 26. Intelligence analysts from the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, and other government agencies will decide when to recommend a specific alert.

If she concurs, Ms. Napolitano will then make a public announcement, followed by detailed information on the Homeland Security website and alerts disseminated through social-media sites.

Classified bulletins to local law-enforcement agencies will continue under the new system.

The fundamental difference with the old color codes is the explicit recognition that the U.S. faces a constant threat of terrorist activity, "an elevated baseline," Ms. Napolitano said.

When Emily Fennell walks into a store or the hair salon, people often ask, "What happened to your hand?" She gets a kick out of their reaction when she casually replies, "I had a hand transplant."

"They say, 'Can they really do that?' " she said, glancing down at the soft brace that covers her right forearm and wrist, slender fingers and neatly trimmed fingernails peeking from the bottom.
Singer also calls songwriting '15 minutes of vomiting'

Lady Gaga has called the gradual leaks of her new single 'Judas' a "slow death".

The track was rush-released last Friday (April 15) after it leaked.

Speaking in her new edition of 'Gagavision', one of her regular webisodes filmed before the track was rush-released, this week's NME cover star said: "'Judas' is leaking, it's like a slow death. They [the leaks] were tearing at the song, first it was the arm and then it was the liver."

Gaga also opened up about songwriting, describing the way she writes songs as "15 minutes of vomiting."

She said: "The creative process is 15 minutes of vomiting and then days, weeks, months, years of fine tuning."

She also added that you "must honour your vomit."

Pick up the new issue of NME to read our Lady Gaga interview. It's available to buy online and is on UK newsstands now.
Robert Pattison wasn't worried about his dramatic acting chops while making "Water for Elephants," but he is now.

The 24-year-old actor and "Twilight" heartthrob trades his pale skin and vampire fangs for a role as a veterinarian on a 1930s circus train in "Elephants," based on the 2006 bestselling novel, in theatres Friday.

Pattinson plays Jacob Jankowski, a veterinary student forced to fend for himself after his parents are killed in a car accident. He hops a train and begins his life in a travelling circus. He quickly sets his sights on the star of the Benzini Bros. show, played by Reese Witherspoon, but lives under constant watch of her husband, an ambitious and often cruel circus owner and ringmaster played by Christoph Waltz.

"There are about 15 Oscar winners at every level of the production," Pattinson says. "I had such an incredible time making it. I would love it if you could make movies and they were never released. That would be so cool. That would be the best job in the world. I'm only nervous now."

The soft-spoken British star became an instant international sensation when he was cast as romantic vampire Edward Cullen in "Twilight." He was named People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" and one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people. "Water for Elephants" is the biggest production Pattinson has appeared in post-"Twilight."

"The only thing you can do is try and work with the best people," he says.

His two Oscar-winning costars have already given his latest performance a thumbs-up.

Witherspoon calls him "the heart of this movie."

Former Two and a Half Men star Charlie Sheen went before a Los Angeles judge Tuesday seeking custody of his twin sons with estranged wife Brooke Mueller, who also attended the closed hearing.

No resolution was immediately announced. Sheen left the courthouse flanked by security and was on his way to catch a plane to Washington, DC, for a performance of his stage show. Mueller emerged from court smiling and hugged her attorney but declined to comment. Attorneys for both sides also refused to divulge details of the hearing.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Hank Goldberg sealed the hearing at the request of her attorney, saying it was "in the best interest of the children" because of "questions of abuse and other inflammatory and emotional issues."

Sheen arrived in court wearing a black suit, glasses and an orange tie. As the public filed out of the courtroom, Sheen gave a fist bump to a reporter in the audience. One of his girlfriends, whom he describes as goddesses, accompanied him to court and sat on a bench outside the courtroom.

The actor and his estranged wife have sparred in recent months, with Mueller accusing Sheen of threatening her with a pen knife.

India has opposed the proposal of western countries to expand the list of sanctioned Libyan entities by the United Nations Security Council following concerns that such a move may adversely affect its economic interests in the troubled North African nation.

Since February, Libya has been torn apart by a civil war between rebels in the western region and security forces of the long-reigning Muammar Gadaffi.

On Feb 26, the UNSC had first imposed travel bans against 16 individuals and ordered the freezing of assets of Muammar Gaddafi, four of his sons and daughter. About a month later, another UNSC resolution was passed, listing more individuals and for the first time also bringing in five entities.

In the first week of April, the western countries, which include Britain, France, Germany and the United States, circulated two different lists for expanding the group under sanctions. The proposals were made before the UNSC's Libya sanctions committee, of which India is the vice-chair.

"We have put it on technical hold, while we examine how it will affect us," a senior official of the external affairs ministry told IANS. The expansion is also being opposed by Russia and China, both of whom are also executing several projects in Libya.

While Libya's National Oil Corporation had already been sanctioned in the March 17 resolution, the new list would have named more Libyan state companies, most of them subsidiaries of Libya's National Oil Corporation.

According to officials, India is especially concerned that the asset freeze will affect the payment of contracts and salaries for Indians who had been working in that country.

"We had 18,000 Indians working in Libya. How will they be paid? It has to be made clear. There should not be any retrospective freezing of assets," he said.

Apple's iPhone is selling well but, as with any good business, it comes with a headache.

With SK Telecom now the second vendor of the iPhone, that headache, at least from the standpoint of consumers, is easing.

They are the winners.

"Customers are gaining a greater edge irrespective of whether or not to change and renew their contracts with SK Telecom and KT are selling the same products. After-sales policy might be the top concern," said a senior SK executive, asking not to be identified.

"Carriers used to have all the bargaining power. For them, consumers were out of focus. But Apple has changed everything. Carriers are uneasy but they have no option but to spend more for customer satisfaction," added the executive.

South Korea, dominated by Samsung and LG Electronics, has been regarded as a tomb for foreign handset makers as they found difficulties in spending a lot on marketing and strengthening after-sales policies for just the Korean market.

"That's the story of the so-called 'feature phone period.' Amid the smartphone era, more people are ready to endure poor after-sales services if the product is better," said a senior KT executive on the condition of anonymity because he isn’t authorized to speak to the media.

SK Telecom and KT are feeling the pinch because the word "customer" is still the most critical factor and should not be underestimated considering carriers' heavy dependence on them for profitability.

"Samsung's Galaxy-branded smartphones still have a long way to go. We need to put more focus on consumers using our new iPhones for the time being," said another SK executive, without elaborating further.

Significant changes

KT, which had been reluctant to improve after-sales services for the iPhone despite numerous complaints, has recently begun its "iPhone care center" in downtown Seoul.

By the end of May KT will expand the number of centers by 10, it said in a release.

A company spokeswoman Kim Yoon-jeong said the center provides face-to-face consultation with an engineer to fix technical flaws.

British military advisers will follow American CIA teams already deployed in Libya as part of the broad Western effort – beyond any UN mandate – to help rebel forces oust the despotic and ruthless Moammar Gadhafi.

Mission creep is denied, nonetheless. “This deployment is fully within the terms of UN [Security Council Resolution] 1973, both in respect of civilian protection and its provision expressly ruling out a foreign occupation force on Libyan soil,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said. “Our officers will not be involved in training or arming the opposition’s fighting forces.”

The British advisers will take handguns but leave their uniforms at home to preserve the appearance that foreign forces are not deploying to Libya. “We will now move quickly to expand the team already in Benghazi to include an additional military liaison advisory team,” Mr. Hague said.

France, the most aggressive of the allies in pushing for robust military strikes to topple Col. Gadhafi, also has military advisers in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. However, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé rejected calls for special forces to help target air strikes. “I remain, for my part, entirely hostile to the deployment of forces on the ground,” he said.

Accusations of “mission creep” are steadfastly rejected, even as senior allied officers charged with running the war acknowledge that air strikes alone won’t save the tens of thousands in besieged Misrata from Gadhafi loyalists indiscriminately engaging in brutal urban warfare.

Although the court session was closed to the media, reports are that Charlie Sheen and Brooke Mueller's toddler twins will stay with their mother and her family, as agreed on in a March 10 settlement.

Former "Two and a Half Men" star Sheen went before a Los Angeles judge Tuesday seeking custody of the boys. Mueller also attended, and emerged from court smiling and hugging her attorney. Although nothing official was announced to the media, TMZ.com reports that the couple's custody arrangment will not be changed.

Sheen left the courthouse flanked by security and was on his way to catch a plane to Washington, DC for a performance of his stage show, "My Violent Torpedo of Truth — Defeat is Not an Option."

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Hank Goldberg sealed the hearing at the request of Mueller's attorney, saying it was "in the best interest of the children" because of "questions of abuse and other inflammatory and emotional issues."

Story: Mueller would 'never let' Richards raise her kids

Sheen arrived in court wearing a black suit, glasses and an orange tie. As the public filed out of the courtroom, Sheen gave a fist bump to a reporter in the audience. One of his girlfriends, whom he describes as goddesses, accompanied him to court and sat on a bench outside the courtroom.

The actor and his estranged wife have sparred in recent months, with Mueller accusing Sheen of threatening her with a pen knife. Recent reports have claimed Mueller has re-entered rehab for addiction issues.

Ray Allen (FSY) jumped straight up with his eyes on the basket and the game on the line for the Boston Celtics.

Swish.

Then Carmelo Anthony (FSY) had one last chance to win it for the New York Knicks.

Clang.

Allen hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 12 seconds left off a pass from Paul Pierce (FSY) and Anthony misfired on his long try at the other end, giving the Celtics an 87-85 comeback victory over the Knicks in their playoff opener on Sunday night.

"Ray's the hero with the shot," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "Paul's the hero with the pass. That's a great example of not playing hero basketball, just trusting what we drew up. And he made the shot."

Allen led the Celtics with 24 points and Pierce added 18 to go along with solid defense on Anthony. Kevin Garnett (FSY) had 15 points and 13 rebounds, and clamped down on Amar'e Stoudemire (FSY) down the stretch.

BOX SCORE: Celtics 87, Knicks 85
SCHEDULE: First-round matchups, dates, times
PHOTO GALLERY: Top images from the NBA playoffs
NBA BONUS: Wade misses practice with migraine issues

Stoudemire had 28 points and 11 rebounds for New York, and Anthony finished with 15.

"It's all about our defense and execution down the stretch," Pierce said. "We can't rest on this victory because by no means was this our best basketball."

New York may have lost more than a game. Point guard Chauncey Billups (FSY) left with 51 seconds remaining, and doctors told him the injury was a strained left knee or thigh muscle.


Heavy fighting raged Tuesday in the western Libyan city of Misrata, witnesses said, while a NATO commander complained the alliance was having trouble destroying Moammar Gadhafi's mortars and rockets attacking rebels there and Britain said it would send senior military officers to advise the opposition in the east.

A senior Libyan official, meanwhile, ruled out the possibility of allowing foreign troops to escort humanitarian aid convoys in Libya, saying the government would view such a deployment as a military mission.

Explosions and gunfire were heard in central Misrata, Libya's third-largest city, with clashes between government troops and rebels, said a resident who identified himself only by his given name, Abdel Salam, for fear of retaliation. The city has been besieged by government forces for more than a month.

NATO planes flew over Misrata while the shelling from Gadhafi forces continued, he said, adding that the only targets the alliance hit were radars and air defences north of the city on Monday night.

NATO Brig. Gen. Mark van Uhm said fighting has been intense in Misrata for the past 10 days, and he said his forces have destroyed more than 40 tanks and several armoured personnel carriers there.

"The situation on the ground is fluid there, with ground being won and lost by both sides," van Uhm said at NATO headquarters in Brussels, adding: "Gadhafi's forces have shelled Misrata indiscriminately."

But he cautioned that "there is a limit to what can be achieved by airpower to stop fighting in a city."

"We are doing everything to prevent civilian casualties by our own attacks (while) degrading (Gadhafi's) ability to sustain forces there," he said.

Adm. Giampaolo Di Paola, the chairman of the alliance's military committee, said in Rome that even though NATO operations have done "quite significant damage" to the Libyan regime's heavy weaponry, what Gadhafi has left is "still considerable."

Asked if more NATO air power and bombing are needed, Di Paola said any "significantly additional" allied contribution would be welcome.

Given NATO's humanitarian mandate reflecting the U.N. Security Council resolution on Libya, which does not allow ground forces, "it's very difficult" to stop the regime's firepower on Misrata, he said.


A growing wildfire racing through parched fields and woods west of Fort Worth isn't likely to make it far enough to threaten the heavily populated metropolitan area, a state forestry official said Tuesday.

The fire started Friday near Possum Kingdom Lake, 70 miles west of Fort Worth, and linked up with several smaller blazes. By Tuesday, it had burned nearly 150,000 acres, destroyed 30 homes and a church and forced hundreds of residents to flee the area, Texas Forest Service spokesman Marq Webb said.

Webb said crews would be able to use firefighting tactics to keep the blaze from Fort Worth, one of Texas' largest cities with nearly 750,000 residents.

"It's still a long way out there. God help us if it goes that far," Webb told The Associated Press. "Stranger things have happened, but we're not even thinking that at this point."

But the statewide drought, hot temperatures and gusting winds have made for ideal conditions that have allowed wildfires to ignite and spread quickly across much of the state. Wildfires have burned more than 1 million acres in Texas in the past week alone, including several massive blazes in West Texas that firefighters continued battling Tuesday.

Authorities ordered the 400 residents of Palo Pinto, about 50 miles west of Fort Worth, to leave the city on Tuesday evening because of the advancing flames, said Trooper Gary Rozzell of the Texas Department of Public Safety. The county's jail inmates also were evacuated.

But in other towns between the fire and Fort Worth, residents didn't seem worried that the blaze could reach them.

"We don't have the underbrush here, and there are many communities and other developed areas before the fire would get to Fort Worth or Dallas," said Jimmy Peters, who lives in Willow Park, about 30 miles west of Fort Worth.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Taxpayers have until midnight today to file their returns after a three-day grace period, granted because the federal government observed Washington D.C.'s Emancipation Day on Friday.

And as last-minute filers fill out their forms, another American tradition takes place: protesting taxes.

A group of tax watchers was planning a demonstration this afternoon in downtown Tampa to voice concerns about large corporations using loopholes to get out of paying the maximum amount.

The Make Them Pay protest was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in front of the Bank of America tower, 101 E. Kennedy Blvd.

Organizer Chris Radulich said he hopes for 100 to 150 people to show up.

"There is quite a number of organizations and unions involved," he said.

"We can't stand the way the state is progressing, and the national government," he said. "This one is to point out the fact that while we individuals are paying taxes, corporations are using loopholes and even getting rebates."

Meanwhile, rank-and-file taxpayers who don't utilize online tax services are expected to hoof it to post offices to get their returns postmarked today.

Tampa's main post office at Tampa International Airport will remain open until midnight with workers stationed along the drive collecting returns. St. Petersburg's main post office will stay open until 7 p.m.

"We stopped getting the huge crush a few years ago" because of online filing, said Gary Sawtelle, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Tampa. "It's a lot slower than it used to be. We're expecting a good right-after-work crowd, but after that, it tapers off."

The convenience for those mailing returns at the airport office is the drive-thru feature. Postal workers will collect returns from drivers and postmark them without the customers having to get out of their cars, Sawtelle said.

The trend away from paper returns means fewer people mailing at the last minute, he said.

"A few years ago, we opened up other post offices," around the Tampa Bay area, he said. "But now we don't need it. It's been very, very light the last couple of years."

IRS officials said about 6.4 million Floridians have already filed returns, with 2.4 million still missing.

Electronic filing is gaining popularity, up 7 percent from last year. Officials said that electronically filed returns made up 84 percent of the returns the IRS has received.

That percentage will drop, as a majority of those filing close to the deadline use paper forms, officials said.

Those who can't make the deadline can request an extension, but that request has to be sent by today. Filers who want more time need to send the IRS a Form 4868 by mail or electronically. Typically, the government grants a six-month grace period for taxpayers who properly file requests for extensions.

The IRS expected to get more than 10 million requests for extensions, tax experts said.

The IRS has penalties for failing to file or pay on time. Typically, the failure to file on time carries a heftier fine, so if taxpayers can't pay right way they still should get their forms filed. There are options available for payments after the tax returns are in.
Gasoline declined as equities tumbled after Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services revised its outlook on the U.S.’s long-term sovereign credit rating to negative from stable.

Futures fell from a 33-month high as Standard & Poor’s said there’s a “material risk” that U.S. policy makers may not agree on a plan to address long-term budget issues by 2013. Prices rose 0.9 percent last week as East Coast refinery shutdowns curtailed fuel production and a jump in consumer confidence indicated fuel demand may increase.

“What’s really moved the market is the S&P downgraded our outlook to negative,” said Phil Flynn, vice president of research at PFGBest in Chicago. “This raises concern that the U.S. is going to have to raise interest rates to attract equity, which will slow demand for oil down the road.”

Gasoline for May delivery dropped 4.34 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $3.2458 a gallon at 1:04 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

At the same time, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index retreated 1.6 percent in New York.

Standard & Poor’s affirmed its AAA long-term and A-1+ short-term sovereign credit ratings on the U.S.

Gasoline fell before the S&P report, following crude oil, after Saudi Oil Minister Al al-Naimi said the global “market is oversupplied” and China increased bank reserve requirements.

As we previously reported, Pia and Mark went out on a date the NIGHT AFTER she got the boot from "Idol" ... and have since ratcheted up their romance.

There's a report out that Pia unceremoniously dumped her caterer boyfriend Carlos Nunez to trade up to Ballas.

But our "Dancing with the Stars"/"American Idol" spies tell us ... Carlos was history long before Mark entered the picture.

Check out the pics we got of Pia and her ex. Ah, what could have been.
The most famous yet-to-be revealed dress in the world is being designed by the bride herself. Kate Middleton’s wedding dress is top secret, but that hasn’t stopped the British media from trying to parse the details together from leaked snippets here are there.

The latest breathless news, quoting an “impeccably placed source,” London’s Daily Mail suggests that Ms. Middleton began designing her own dress immediately after her engagement, taking her cue from “the Renaissance period,” (For fashion samples click here)which she studied in Florence during her gap year.

The dress will also offer a “nod” to Princess Diana’s wedding gown, minus the “flounce,” the Mail reports. It has reportedly been created by 34-year-old Sophie Cranston, whose label Libelula was created in 2002, and includes a bridal collection. (Kate Middleton has worn Libelula before- in January she sported this velvet coat.)

The dress, kept under lock and key at Clarence House, is made of “ ivory satin and lace, with a pearl button detail and 10 foot train,” according to the Mail.

And some lucky bidder will have the pleasure of taking the gown home after royal wedding. It will be put up for auction to raise money for charity.
Sean Bean’s latest role didn’t require him to master many new skills from scratch. “I’m pretty good at horse riding and sword-fighting already,” he chuckles in his gruff Northern burr, “though I did have to brush up on them both a bit before filming.” It has, after all, been 18 years since Bean saddled up as Sergeant Richard Sharpe in the first of 16 swashbuckling adventures on ITV1. “Though generally,” he says, “we practise with sticks instead of swords.”

Bean is discussing his latest heroic incarnation: Lord Eddard Stark, the lead character in the new HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones. Comparisons with his biggest film role, as Boromir in Lord of the Rings, are inevitable. But Game of Thrones, says Bean, is quite different – “an edgier, sexy, dark, brooding piece, where no one is safe” and that has more “brutality, betrayal, back-stabbing, corruption and hordes of unsavoury characters.”

Based on A Song of Fire and Ice, the popular series of books by America’s contemporary answer to Tolkien, George RR Martin, Game of Thrones is indeed a sumptuous, sprawling tale of feuding families and the pursuit of power. Bloody and barbarous, but also beautiful, it has no shortage of sex, swords and savagery.

Told across 10 intense and, at times, eerie 60-minute episodes, the epic, multilayered story is set in the fictional land of Westeros, where competing clans, or Houses, have fought for generations, each dominating a different realm. Years ago, one tribe, the Targaryens, invaded to unite the Seven Kingdoms under the Iron Throne; now there’s a battle brewing to regain that throne once more.

Maybe you saw that actor Nicolas Cage was arrested in New Orleans after an argument with his wife. He was booked on suspicion of domestic abuse battery, disturbing the peace and public drunkenness.

nicolas cage crop 320What intrigued me was that the police said Cage and his wife were standing in front of a home and arguing about whether it was where they lived.

Well, I can get behind that in a big way. If there’s one thing my wife and I always argue about, it’s which house is ours.

Honey, this is our place! No, our house is on another street! Hold on, it’s that green one! Wait, this isn’t even our city!

Because I’ve been through this so often, I’ve devised some helpful tricks. They’ve saved my marriage, and maybe they’ll work for other guys:

Look in your pocket. If you have a key to the front door, it’s probably your house.
Check the address on your diver’s license to see if the numbers match the ones on the door.

Use your cell phone to dial your home number, then listen carefully for a ring inside the house.

Go to nearby homes and ask the neighbors if you look familiar.

Stumble back to the bar. Another drink could help jog your memory.

By using these simple tricks, you and your wife will be back at home in no time. I mean, assuming she’s really your wife.
Around Wyoming this week, the National Weather Service and emergency agencies are taking part in Severe Weather Awareness Week, with each day focusing on a different theme.

Keith Meier is a Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Billings. He explains the purpose of the week.

Speaking of a tornado watch, the entire state of Wyoming will be undergoing a Tornado Warning test this Wednesday, April 20th, at around 10 or 10:30 a.m. Meier.

Meier says that it will be very clear throughout the Tornado Warning test on radio and television broadcasts and electronic media alerts that this is a test. He adds that if the weather happens to be inclement that day, they will postpone running the test so as not to confuse citizens.

Meier indicates that local emergency management agencies around the state are involved as well.

Along with that big test on Wednesday, the rest of the week highlights a different theme under the campaign of “Ready, Set, Go.”

“Ready” signifies the habit of monitoring hazardous weather outlooks seven days in advance. “Set” indicates that as confidence in a system increases, watches will be issued to give you a heads up that preparations are in order. And “Go” is an upgrade to warnings that will be issued when the weather service is certain a storm is producing severe weather and shelter should be sought.
A furious storm system that kicked up tornadoes, flash floods and hail as big as grapefruits has claimed at least 45 lives across the southern U.S.

Emergency crews searched for victims in hard-hit swaths of North Carolina, where 62 tornadoes were reported from the worst spring storm in two decades to hit the state. Authorities warned the death toll was likely to rise further Sunday as searchers probed shattered homes and businesses.

The storm claimed its first lives Thursday night in Oklahoma, then roared through Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. They hit North Carolina and neighbouring Virginia on Saturday before the sprawling, potent storm bands moved eastward over the Atlantic.

When Jonathan Robinson saw a tornado moving toward his mobile home in Dunn, N.C., he grabbed his cousin's 3-month-old son and dashed for a closet in his bedroom. But as he dove for safety, the twister took his home apart around him and swept the baby into the dark, swirling afternoon sky.

“As soon as I jumped in the closet, it came down and that little baby flew out of my hand,” he said. “I seen him leave my arms. That's how strong the wind was.”

Immediately after digging himself out, Mr. Robinson joined family members at the Cedar Creek Mobile Home Park frantically digging through the rubble for little Ayden.

“I thought he was lost,” Mr. Robinson said.

Tension between Gulf states and Iran has risen again, with the Sunni monarchies accusing their Shiite neighbour of "flagrant" meddling and Tehran charging Washington with sowing regional discord.

In a strong statement on Sunday, Gulf Cooperation Council member states told Iran to stop its "provocations," a month after Bahrain quelled a Shiite-led uprising, triggering a tirade of Iranian condemnation.

The group called on "the international community and the (UN) Security Council to take the necessary measures to stop flagrant Iranian interference and provocation aimed at sowing discord and destruction" among GCC nations.

Saudi Arabia on Sunday also threatened to recall its diplomats from Tehran unless they were better protected, a week after students protested outside the Saudi embassy against Riyadh's military intervention in Bahrain last month.

"The main reason (for the GCC move) is the uncovering of Iranian (espionage) cells in Gulf countries, in addition to direct and indirect interference," said the head of the Dubai-based Gulf Research Centre, Abdulaziz Sager.

Zuma gave Gaddafi a call

Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma phoned Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi at the weekend, his spokesperson said on Monday, after the collapse of a truce he had brokered with a team of African leaders.

Zuma's spokesperson Zizi Kodwa told AFP that the two leaders spoke after Zuma returned from a Brics emerging markets summit in China, which also includes Russia, India and Brazil.

"The conversation was between the two leaders," Kodwa said. "I can't disclose the conversation between the two leaders."

After the summit on Thursday, the five nations spoke out against using force in Libya and across the Arab world, with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev saying force was not authorised by the United Nations.

Zuma visited Tripoli on April 10 as part of a high-ranking African Union delegation to broker a truce between Gaddafi and rebels, but a peace plan fell through when the rebels insisted the strongman step down.

South Africa voted for the UN resolution authorising the no-fly zone over Libya, while the other four Brics countries abstained.

Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said South Africa's vote had not emerged as a sore point during the summit in China.

"In our bilateral meetings, not a single member said they were aggrieved by South Africa voting the way we did," she said. "There was no awkwardness whatsoever."
Despite the sense of relief after Monday's deal for a humanitarian corridor into the besieged city of Misrata, some rebels remain skeptical of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi's motives for the gesture.

The city's name has become a rallying cry for the rebellion, and a shorthand among international diplomats for the compelling reasons to escalate efforts in Libya. In that context, Col. Gadhafi made a politically astute decision by cutting a deal with the United Nations to allow overland shipments of food and medicine into Misrata. Such supplies are desperately needed in the embattled city, and the deliveries will soften the impression that the regime wants to wipe Misrata from the map.

Libya's third-largest city stands as the biggest exception to the east-west split emerging in the country, and it's now perhaps the most hotly contested patch of ground. Rebels hold the neighbourhoods around the port, sneaking boatloads of food and weapons into the city at night. Government troops occupy the main avenue. Nobody knows precisely how many have been killed, after almost two months, but it's easily into the hundreds.

The deal could prove tactically useful for the regime, as well, if it allows the government to eventually claim that only armed rebels remain in some areas. A spokesman in Tripoli was quoted saying the deal will allow “safe passage for people to leave Misrata,” presumably clearing the way for more intense offensives against the fighters who stay behind.

Col. Gadhafi's forces have already faced criticism for using cluster bombs in Misrata, and some rebels fear the humanitarian corridor could become a prelude to further attacks with heavy weapons. One rebel sympathizer commented on Twitter: “The UN is doing Gadhafi's work for him. What the ---- is wrong with you?”
Movie fans are going to "Rio" in big numbers, but they're not quite screaming over the latest installment of a horror-comedy franchise.

Anne Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg's animated family flick "Rio" led the weekend box office with a healthy $40 million debut, according to studio estimates Sunday.

But the slasher comedy "Scream 4" opened at No. 2 with just $19.3 million, a fraction of the business for the previous two sequels, which both debuted at over $30 million more than a decade ago.

After two weekends in the No. 1 spot, Russell Brand's Easter bunny tale "Hop" slipped to third-place with $11.2 million, raising its total to $82.6 million.
The assassination today of the top law enforcement official in Kandahar province signals a dangerous escalation of Taliban violence and tactical sophistication that has chilled Afghanistan’s second-largest city.

The provincial police chief, Khan Mohammad Mujahid, died inside his headquarters in the early afternoon, the victim of a suicide bomber who somehow breached what is supposed to be one of the most heavily guarded places in the city.

Over the last six months, American-led forces have concentrated on wresting rural districts near the city from the Taliban, and NATO officials have insisted they have turned a corner in disabling the insurgency. But their operations have been accompanied by a surge of suicide attacks on local police in the provincial capital, killings of Afghan officials and threats to anyone working for the government.

In an interview earlier this week, the Afghan-Canadian provincial governor, Tooryalai Wesa, worried out loud that the Taliban was switching from battles with foreign forces to targeted attacks by militants who can blend into the crowds in the city’s serpentine alleyways and markets.

That a human bomb strapped with explosives could penetrate the headquarters compound, where every man entering is usually patted down, is a devastating blow to both the Afghan and NATO attempts to demonstrate they are in control.

Mr. Mujahid had survived three other Taliban assassination attempts in the last few months, including an all-out assault by insurgents who shelled the police compound and blew themselves up at its gates.