Monday, January 3, 2011

(CNN) -- Delaware authorities are investigating the circumstances surrounding the recent discovery of the body of a former Pentagon official in a landfill, according to a statement released Monday by the Newark, Delaware, Police Department.

The Delaware medical examiner's office has ruled the death of 66-year-old John P. Wheeler a homicide.

Wheeler was discovered at Wilmington's Cherry Island Landfill on December 31.

Wheeler, who lived in New Castle, worked under three Republican presidents -- Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. He served as a special assistant to the Air Force secretary from 2005 to 2008.

Among other things, he also served as head of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and was the first chairman of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

A staff officer in Vietnam, Wheeler was a graduate of West Point, as well as Harvard Business School and Yale Law School.

NEW YORK (AP) -- The actor badly hurt after plunging more than 30 feet in front of a shocked audience watching the Broadway musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" says he's itching to heal and slip back into the web-slinger's costume.

"I can't wait to get back to the show. I love being Spider-Man," Christopher Tierney said in a phone interview Monday afternoon from The Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in Manhattan.

Tierney suffered a fractured skull, a fractured shoulder blade, four broken ribs and three broken vertebrae on Dec. 20 when his safety harness was accidentally left unclipped during a preview performance.

The $65-million show - the most expensive ever on Broadway - has been plagued by technical glitches, cancellations, money woes and three other injuries, including a concussion and two broken wrists. Last month, a lead actress bowed out.

Tierney, 32, blames his injuries on a freak accident and doesn't accuse the producers or the creative team of carelessness. The team is led by Tony Award-winning director and book co-writer Julie Taymor of "Lion King" fame.

"This one was a bad accident. It is somebody's fault - it was a collective fault - but it's not the producers, it's not Julie," he said. "They would give us the shirts off their backs if it was the last thing they had to make sure we were OK."

MUMBAI: Former India captain Anil Kumble on Tuesday pulled out of this weekend's Indian Premier League auction, citing his involvement in cricket administration and other commitments.

Kumble, who captained Royal Challengers Bangalore in two IPL seasons, in 2009 and 2010, said he was withdrawing from the January 9-10 auction because of business commitments, his association with cricket administration and wildlife in various capacities.

"I wish to withdraw from the players auction for IPL 4 scheduled for the 8th and 9th of January 2011 in Bangalore," said the legendary leg-spinner in an IPL release.

"I have enjoyed my stint at the IPL so far and thank all concerned for the support extended," said Kumble, who was elected as Karnataka State Cricket Association president in November last year.

Kumble was not retained by RCB for this season and was among those players put up for auction with a reserved price of $4,00,000.

The former Indian skipper was largely responsible for RCB's turnaround in the IPL. After being named captain for the 2009 season, Kumble led his team to the final of the Twenty20 league.

A year later, the leg-spinner inspired his team to a third-place finish. Consequently, the team qualified for the Champions League T20 tournament twice under his leadership. Kumble also took 45 wickets in the three editions of the IPL to prove his worth even in the shortest version of the game.
(Reuters) - Republicans in the House of Representatives plan to pass a bill next week to repeal President Barack Obama's overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system, a senior party aide said on Monday, but the effort is widely expected to fail in the Senate.

The new Congress will convene on Wednesday with Republicans in control of the House after November's midterm elections. They are set to move ahead with their campaign promise to try to rescind the new healthcare law, one of Obama's signature legislative victories.

Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for incoming House Republican leader Eric Cantor, said the House plans to vote on legislation to repeal the healthcare law on January 12.

"It will pass the House," Dayspring said.

Although Republicans will control the House, 242-193, Obama's Democrats retain control of the Senate by 53-47 and are likely to block any repeal of the healthcare law.

"Obamacare is a job killer for businesses small and large, and the top priority for House Republicans is going to be to cut spending and grow the economy and jobs," Dayspring said.

Republicans, particularly from the fiscally conservative wing, were emboldened to attack the healthcare reform after a good showing in November's elections.

Senate Democratic leaders warned against repealing a healthcare provision that closes a coverage gap in the Medicare prescription drug program for seniors.

"If House Republicans move forward with a repeal of the healthcare law that threatens consumer benefits like the 'donut hole' fix, we will block it in the Senate," the Democrats wrote in a letter to incoming House Speaker John Boehner.

"Taking this benefit away from seniors would be irresponsible and reckless at a time when it is becoming harder and harder for seniors to afford a healthy retirement," the Senate Democratic leaders wrote.

Among other provisions, the healthcare reform extends healthcare insurance to millions of Americans without coverage, but opinion polls show voters are split over it. The reform has become a favorite target for Republicans who say it is an excessive reach by the federal government.

Even if repeal fails, Republicans will yield considerable sway over the government purse strings and try to use that power to deny the Obama administration's requests on financing to implement the new healthcare law.

Dayspring said the House will hold a procedural vote on Friday in preparation for the January 12 vote.

(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro, Editing by Stacey Joyce)
Gaza (CNN) -- With faces covered and guns loaded, Palestinian militants are training among the sand dunes of Gaza.

Shouts of "Allahu Akbar" -- God is great -- are followed by intense target practice. These militants are preparing to fight their sworn enemy, the state of Israel. But there is a difference -- they are women.

Training alongside men, they say they are ready to go into battle and are calling on more Palestinian women to join what they call the resistance against Israel.

CNN was given rare access to some of these women inside Gaza. The militant group insisted the location was kept secret, so we were blindfolded in the back of a car and driven to a house.

Five women are sitting in the back garden, all from the Salah ad-Din Brigades -- one of several militant groups in Gaza -- all veiled and armed. Only their eyes are uncovered.

Sitting beside a table of guns, rocket-propelled grenades and land mines, the scene is carefully choreographed for our camera and the message is clear.

One woman tells me: "I am trained and ready to be a suicide bomber against Israeli soldiers."

She rejects any doubt whether Islam allows women to fight.

"On the path of the Prophet they used to fight and struggle, so there is no trouble with that. They used to transport the wounded, but now we have ambulances for that."

Another woman has gold rings adorning one hand and a hand grenade in the other.

All of them assume there will be another war with Israel soon -- a prospect considered possible on both sides of this conflict as cross-border violence has increased in recent weeks.

In Gaza, they are considered by many to be freedom fighters. In Israel and in many Western countries, they are reviled as terrorists.

A second woman says she is ready to lay her life down to fight Israel. She says her children wet the bed at night because they are afraid of air strikes.

Early in 2009, Israel carried out hundreds of air strikes against targets associated with Hamas -- the group that controls Gaza -- in retaliation for rocket attacks into Israel. Palestinian medical sources said more than 1,000 people were killed in the Israeli offensive, many of them civilians.

Holding an AK-47, with a pistol resting in her lap, she says: "I want everything for my children, first for them to be able to live a happy life -- which is the right of every child in the world."

It is hard to reconcile the sight of children's rucksacks hanging on a tree next to these heavily armed women. The five women say there are tens of females fighters in Gaza and the number is rising. They claim they are as young as 20 and as old as 50.

Four years ago, a 64-year-old grandmother blew herself up near Israeli soldiers in Gaza, wounding two. She was the oldest Palestinian female suicide bomber.

And at least one of these women in a Gaza backyard wants to follow in her deadly footsteps.
Los Angeles (CNN) -- Superhero creator Stan Lee finally gets a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame on Tuesday, a week after his 88th birthday.

Lee jokingly asked why he had to wait 50 years after the first star was awarded and 70 years after his comic book career began.

"I'll talk to somebody about that," Lee told CNN.

Lee's characters include Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Daredevil, The Avengers, Silver Surfer and Dr. Strange.

"I'm pretty proud of the fact that some of the stories I wrote so many years ago are still being read and hopefully enjoyed by the public and people are making motion pictures based on them, and television series and even a Broadway show," Lee said.

Lee pays attention to everything, he said, including last month's accident that injured an actor in the Spider-Man Broadway show. "Not a sparrow falls but that I notice," he said.

His favorite creation is Spider-Man "because he's the most popular and he's known and loved worldwide," he said. "But I really loved them all and whichever one I was writing at the moment, that was my favorite."

As for his characters, he said he "just dreamed them up," and they don't have roots in his childhood.

"As a child, I didn't really know anybody who shot webs or crawled on buildings or wore suits of armor and flew or anything like that," he said. "I just imagined, and there they were."

The long life and broad success of his comic book characters were unexpected, he said. "We just hoped that the books would sell and we would continue to get our salary and be able to pay our rent."

How much longer they live depends on how producers and writers treat them in the future, he said.

"If people take the care with them that they have taken up to now, there's no reason why these things couldn't last as long as any legendary fictional characters," Lee said.

The movies based on Lee's comic books "have done so much for the characters" by giving them glamour and prestige, he said.

"When they were in comic books, they were still read all over the world and pretty well-known all over the world, but they didn't have, you might say, the respect that they have now because of movies," he said.

Lee spends time these days also working on the Stan Lee Foundation, a nonprofit group that concentrates on educating children, he said.

"To me, education is one of the most important things in the world," Lee said. "Somebody who isn't educated, it's like running in a race with one leg tied behind them."

He's still writing new stories for his POW Entertainment company.

"To me, the most important thing in the world is to keep busy, and I'm happy to say I'm lucky enought to still be busy," he said.

Lee's Hollywood star, to be dedicated Tuesday morning, will be the 2,428th on the Walk of Fame.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Eager to show who's now in charge, the House's new Republican majority plans to vote to repeal President Barack Obama's landmark health care overhaul before he even shows up in their chamber to give his State of the Union address.

Though full repeal is a longshot - the House vote would be just the first, easiest step - they'll follow up with dozens of attempts to hack away at what they derisively call "Obamacare."

The strategy is not risk-free for the Republicans, who won't have a replacement plan of their own ready by the time of the repeal vote. But they say there's no time to lose.

Senate Democratic leaders are sending their own "you-don't-scare-me" message. In a letter Monday to House Speaker-to-be John Boehner, they served notice that they'll block any repeal, arguing it would kill popular provisions such as improved prescription coverage for Medicare.

All the while, the Obama administration intends to keep putting into place the law's framework for covering more than 30 million uninsured people. Ultimately, Obama still has his veto pen, and Republicans aren't anywhere close to the two-thirds majorities they would need to override.

Most likely, both parties will carry the main issues of the health care debate into the 2012 presidential election, when Obama is expected to seek a second term and House and Senate control will be up for grabs again.

(CNN) -- Normally Germany and France are close partners at the heart of Europe -- but U.S. diplomatic cables suggest a battle royal between the two allies over satellite technology, with the German space and intelligence agencies accusing the French of bad faith and looking to the United States as a future partner to develop next-generation satellites.

At the heart of the rivalry is HiRos -- a High Resolution Optical System -- that would potentially be a leap forward in satellite surveillance. A flurry of cables obtained by WikiLeaks and published by the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten shows German officials lobbying for a "strategic US/German partnership" in 2009 to develop the system, amid French attempts to kill it.

Some thirty pages of cables show the political maneuvering and enticing technological potential of HiRos, as well as the determination of the German space agency (DLR) to get it deployed by 2013. The cables also shows the DLR's desperation to end Germany's dependence on "foreign sources of imagery."

German officials were clearly sensitive about the dual intelligence and commercial use of the program. In February 2009, U.S. diplomats were told that "to minimize possible political backlash from developing HiRos as an intelligence satellite, the program will be managed by a civil agency." But a later cable -- from September 2009 -- talks about HiRos' "primary customer" as the German intelligence service.

One cable from February 2009 reveals efforts by German officials to steer development work on HiRos away from a Franco-German consortium toward a German company "in an effort to minimize French mischief." Subsequently, a senior official at the German space agency said Germany "had been pushed into a corner by the French and left little choice but to go it alone within the EU." The alliance with the United States, explained another official, would help prevent a French monopoly of the lucrative market for electro-optical imagery. But he was concerned by the "fierce and persistent" French lobbying to halt HiRos.

Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez may have more trouble convincing fans that they're not dating, now that photos appearing to show the teen idols getting intimate in the Caribbean have leaked online.

Images of Bieber, 16, and Gomez, 18, apparently kissing and embracing on a private yacht in St. Lucia surfaced on the web forum Anything Disney over the weekend. The two sport bathing suits in the photos, and in one shot, Bieber is seen with his hand on Gomez's backside.

Bieber and Gomez have been spotted together frequently in recent weeks, at everyting from an IHOP date in Philadelphia to hanging out on Bieber's tour bus in Miami. Last week, a photo allegedly capturing the two kissing surfaced online but was shot down as a fake by Bieber's representative.

Despite all the speculation, the two have stayed mum on whether or not they're dating. When asked by MTV about his rumored romance with the "Wizards of Waverly Place" star in late December, Bieber described Gomez as "an amazing person," adding, "I think that people are always gonna be interested in my personal life…but I gotta keep some things to myself. I'm just having fun being a teenager."

DOVER, Del. (AP) -- Police in Delaware are investigating the slaying of a man who served in several GOP presidential administrations whose body was found at a landfill near Wilmington.

The body of 66-year-old John Wheeler III of New Castle was discovered on New Year's Eve as a garbage truck emptied its contents at the Cherry Island landfill. His death has been ruled a homicide.

Wheeler had a long career in Washington and led the committee that oversaw construction of the Vietnam Veterans memorial there.

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) -- Officials say hackers tried to take the Brazilian government's website off the air a day after President Dilma Rousseff was sworn in.

The government says in a statement that the attack Sunday caused the website to become unstable but it was never off the air. The statement says that hackers overloaded the number of accesses to the site to try to disrupt it.

Monday's statement says that the attack "did not put the presidency's site in danger" and no confidential information was accessed or destroyed.

A congressman, meanwhile, denounced several death threats made against Rousseff on Twitter during her inauguration. Florisvaldo Fier of the ruling Workers Party said the threats must be investigated and not taken lightly.

BOSTON (AP) -- Authorities say a passenger on a flight departing from Boston was arrested after refusing to take his seat and after other passengers reported that he had placed a suspicious plastic bag in the overhead bin.

State police say 35-year-old Ognjen Milatovic (OHN'-yen mee-luh-TOH'-vich) of Hudson refused the crew's request to hang up his cell phone and sit down. The Monday morning US Airways Inc. flight was headed to Reagan National Airport in Washington.

Officials removed Milatovic and his carry-on luggage, which passengers said was making odd noises. His checked piece of luggage also was removed. No threat was found.

Milatovic was charged with interfering with a flight crew and disorderly conduct. He is scheduled to be arraigned later Monday.

The flight departed an hour late without incident.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Microsoft Corp. said Monday that it has resolved a glitch that caused some Hotmail users to temporarily lose all of their e-mails.

A chorus of frantic people had posted complaints to the Redmond, Wash.-based company's online message board over the weekend, saying their messages had disappeared. In some cases, e-mails were mistakenly sent to their deleted mail folders.

Microsoft spokeswoman Catherine Brooker said Monday that all the affected users have their e-mails back. On Saturday, she noted that the problem only applied to a limited number of people. Microsoft would not say how many people's e-mails were lost.

"Microsoft is still investigating the root cause of what happened in this particular instance to prevent this from happening again," she said.

Hotmail is the world's most popular free Web-based e-mail service, with about 360 million users, according to Web traffic measurement group comScore Inc.

The online Hotmail message board has racked up 489 pages of complaints about lost and deleted e-mails dating back to early November.
New York (CNN) -- Many New York residents have been piling criticism on city officials over heaps of snow and uncollected garbage lining streets after last week's blizzard. But trash bags left on one curbside may have saved a man's life, police said.

iReporter Julio Ortiz-Teissonniere submitted this photo of garbage
on a New York sidewalk.
The garbage apparently broke the fall of a man who attempted suicide by jumping from the ninth floor of a building in Midtown Manhattan on Sunday, the New York Police Department said.

Police did not release the name of the man, who was still in critical condition late Sunday.

New York sanitation officials suspended garbage pickup after the blizzard, focusing on plowing instead.

They have said that limited trash collection around the city will resume Monday and that trucks began making garbage pickups at large apartment buildings Sunday.

ISLAMABAD: After holding a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was meeting with Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q) on Monday.

“He indicated he would seek our support,” said a PML-Q official prior to the meeting.

Earlier on Monday, Gilani met Shahbaz Sharif, who is also the president of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), the biggest opposition party in the National Assembly, in a bid to head off a possible vote of no confidence after the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) quit the ruling coalition.

“The Prime Minister will discuss the political situation with Shahbaz Sharif and ways and means to resolve this crisis,” an official in Gilani’s office told Reuters before the meeting with Shahbaz started.

Gilani’s government lost its parliamentary majority on Sunday after the MQM announced it would go into opposition because of what it said were unfriendly government fuel price policies.

The MQM pullout plunged the country into a deep political crisis.

It also added to uncertainty over the government’s struggle to meet economic policy demands placed on it by the International Monetary Fund in return for an $11 billion loan.

The Karachi Stock Exchange’s benchmark 100-share index was down 1.72 per cent, or 206.56 points, at 11815.90, on turnover of 43.44 million shares by 11:09 a.m.

The MQM’s withdrawal means that if opposition parties close ranks, they would be able to force a no-confidence vote on Gilani in parliament.

If the crisis deepens, an early election may be called.

The MQM pullout came after the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (JUI-F) quit the coalition last month after Gilani sacked one of its ministers.

While analyst doubt that Gilani would see out his term, which ends in 2013, the chances of the opposition forming a new ruling alliance are slim. The PML-N, headed by Nawaz Sharif, does not enjoy close ties with other opposition parties.

The political paralysis will make it even harder for leaders to tackle a wide array of problems frustrating millions of Pakistanis — from corruption, to poverty to suicide bombings carried out by Taliban militants.

Foreign direct investment fell by 21.5 per cent in the first five months of 2010 to $573.3 million because of factors such as militant violence.

The stock market closed up 28 per cent in 2010, partly due to foreign buying.

HONOLULU (AP) -- President Barack Obama is quietly but strategically stepping up his outreach to Africa, using this year to increase his engagement with a continent that is personally meaningful to him and important to U.S. interests.

Expectations in Africa spiked after the election of an American president with a Kenyan father. But midway through his term, Obama's agenda for Africa has taken a backseat to other foreign policy goals, such as winding down the Iraq war, fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and resetting relations with Russia.

Obama aides believe those issues are now on more solid footing, allowing the president to expand his international agenda. He will focus in Africa on good governance and supporting nations with strong democratic institutions.

Obama delivered that message on his only trip to Africa since taking office, an overnight stop in Ghana in 2009, where he was mobbed by cheering crowds. In a blunt speech before the Ghanaian parliament, Obama said democracy is the key to Africa's long-term development.

"That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long," Obama said. "That is the change that can unlock Africa's potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans."

The White House says Obama will travel to Africa again and the political calendar means the trip will almost certainly happen this year, before Obama has to spend more time on his re-election bid. No decision has been made on which countries Obama will visit, but deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said stops will reflect positive democratic models.

US embassy cable recommends drawing up list of countries for 'retaliation' over opposition to genetic modification

The US embassy in Paris wanted to penalise the EU after France moved to
ban a Monsanto GM corn variety. Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex Features
The US embassy in Paris advised Washington to start a military-style trade war against any European Union country which opposed genetically modified (GM) crops, newly released WikiLeaks cables show.

In response to moves by France to ban a Monsanto GM corn variety in late 2007, the ambassador, Craig Stapleton, a friend and business partner of former US president George Bush, asked Washington to penalise the EU and particularly countries which did not support the use of GM crops.

"Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits.

"The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory. Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices," said Stapleton, who with Bush co-owned the St Louis-based Texas Rangers baseball team in the 1990s.

In other newly released cables, US diplomats around the world are found to have pushed GM crops as a strategic government and commercial imperative.

The US Navy says it is investigating the production of lewd videos aboard a US aircraft carrier which have turned the spotlight on a veteran commander.

The videos were apparently made in 2006 and 2007, and one features gay slurs, simulated masturbation and women pretending to bathe together.

The Virginian-Pilot newspaper revealed the existence of the videos, but it is unclear why they are surfacing now.

The films' key figure is Capt Owen Honors, now USS Enterprise commander.

Capt Honors, 49, was the carrier's executive officer - second-in-command - when the videos were made. He now commands the ship, which is based at Norfolk, Virginia.

In the introduction to a video posted on the Virginian-Pilot website, Capt Honors apparently acknowledges receiving complaints about the content of the films.

"Over the years I've gotten several complaints about inappropriate material during these videos, never to me personally but, gutlessly, through other channels," he says.

'Not acceptable'

In the video, Capt Honors introduces a scene where two female sailors pretend to bathe together, saying "chicks in the shower" is his "favourite topic".

In another scene, male sailors dressed in drag mimic masturbation. Other clips in the video show a man in drag and a mock rectal examination.

Navy Cmdr Chris Sims was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that the videos "were not acceptable then and are not acceptable in today's Navy".

Executive officers "are charged to lead by example and are held accountable for setting the proper tone and upholding the standards of honour, courage and commitment that we expect sailors to exemplify," he said.

He said US Fleet Forces Command had begun an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the production of the videos.

The Virginian Pilot reported that the videos were made during the Enterprise's two six-month deployments to the Middle East in 2006 and 2007.

Samsung has officially confirmed that its Galaxy S smartphone range has eclipsed 10 million units sold, hitting the company’s target just 7 months after the device launched.

We previously reported that the handset had surpassed the 9.3 million mark, putting the company in touching distance of its 10 million unit goal as the new year loomed. It’s end of year push meant that Samsung sold some 700,000 units worldwide in just over a week, an impressive feat even if the holiday season could have helped drive demand.

Samsung Hub reports that Samsung was selling an average of 1.4 million devices per month, equating to 40,000 units per day. Device sales were strongest in North America with over 4 million units sold, 2.5 million in Europe and over 2 million in South Korea.

Samsung has already outlined its plans to become the number one mobile manufacturer worldwide, this is a very impressive start for the electronics giant.

Landslides and floods after days of heavy rain in the Philippines killed five children and an adult, officials said Monday.

Three girls are missing.

The dead included a one-year-old baby and his five-year-old sister who were buried by a landslide as they slept in the central Philippines' St. Bernard township.

More than 1,300 townspeople have sought shelter in a gymnasium and schools after the landslide hit Sunday, Mayor Rico Rentuza said. The town in Southern Leyte province had one of the Philippines' worst disasters in 2006 when a mudslide buried the entire village of Guinsaugon, with more than 1,000 people.

The body of a three-year-old boy, a neighbour of the siblings, was found Monday, said Angel Gaviola, the regional civil defence director. Rescuers pulled a seven-year-old survivor from the debris, but his condition was unknown Monday evening.

A 10-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy drowned in two other flooded towns of Southern Leyte, Gaviola said.

In the southern Philippines, a 60-year-old woman was killed in a landslide and three missing girls were last seen playing near a swollen river, said Senior Supt. Aaron Aquino, police chief of Compostela Valley province. The girls are between six and eight years old.

The woman's body was retrieved Monday after her house in the gold-mining area of Mt. Diwalwal was buried Sunday night, Aquino said.

A shapely blond with a beauty mark next to her lower lip, the New York native also played the title role in 'Honey West,' the mid-1960s TV series about a sexy female private detective with a pet ocelot.

Anne Francis, who costarred in the 1950s science-fiction classic "Forbidden Planet" and later played the title role in "Honey West," the mid-1960s TV series about a sexy female private detective with a pet ocelot, died Sunday. She was 80.

Francis, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007 and underwent surgery and chemotherapy, died of complications of pancreatic cancer at a retirement home in Santa Barbara, said Jane Uemura, her daughter. Friends and family members were with her, said a family spokeswoman, Melissa Fitch.

A shapely blond with a signature beauty mark next to her lower lip, Francis was a former child model and radio actress when she first came to notice on the big screen in the early 1950s.

She had leading or supporting roles in more than 30 movies, including "Bad Day at Black Rock," "Battle Cry," "Blackboard Jungle," "The Hired Gun," "Don't Go Near the Water," "Brainstorm," "Funny Girl" and "Hook, Line and Sinker."'

She also achieved cult status as one of the stars of "Forbidden Planet," the 1956 MGM movie costarring Walter Pidgeon and Leslie Nielsen and featuring a helpful robot named Robby.

Francis, however, never became a major movie star and was more frequently seen on television as a guest star on scores of series from the late '50s and decades beyond, including an episode of "The Twilight Zone" in which she played a department store mannequin who comes to life at night.

But it's as the star of "Honey West," the first female detective to be featured in a weekly TV series, that Francis may be best remembered.

Based on the title character in G.G. Fickling's series of Honey West paperback mysteries launched in 1957, Francis' Honey West was introduced to TV viewers in an episode of "Burke's Law" in the spring of 1965.

(FT) -- Facebook has raised $500m from Goldman Sachs and Digital Sky Technologies, the Russian investment firm, in a deal that values the social networking site at $50bn, according to the New York Times.

A map showing the global distribution of Facebook users -- 
an investment deal values the social networking site at $50 billion.
Goldman invested $450m and DST contributed $50m, according to people close to the transaction, the paper reported. Under the terms of the deal, Goldman can sell up to $75m of its stake to the Russian group.

The investment values Facebook at more than Time Warner, Yahoo and Ebay, and follows a surge in the social media company's implied value on the secondary market since last June.

Facebook passed Google as the most-visited website in the US in 2010, according to a recent report from Experian Hitwise, the internet research firm.

DST bought a 2 per cent stake in Facebook for $200m in 2009 and is understood to have increased its stake to about 10 per cent by buying shares from Facebook employees.
BERLIN (AP) -- Germany's aerospace center denied Monday that it is working with the U.S. on a $270 million high-tech secret spy program, insisting that its plans for a high-resolution optical satellite have purely scientific and security uses.

U.S. State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks and revealed by Norwegian daily Aftenposten say Germany joined a partnership with the U.S. to create a satellite spying program that was presented as a commercial enterprise, but is actually run by the German intelligence service and the German Aerospace Center, DLR.

German Aerospace Center spokesman Andreas Schuetz said that such a project for a high-resolution optical satellite has been in discussion for the past two years under the name HIROS.

"HIROS is neither a spy satellite, nor a secret project," Schuetz said. He insisted that the project was to be used only for government purposes, "for example crisis management during natural catastrophes and for scientific uses."

He refused to give any further details, saying the plan was still in the project stage and could not be discussed.

According to the cables, sent in 2009 and last year, the satellites were to be in place by 2013, but it wasn't clear if the funding for the project had been secured.

Caught on camera (CNN)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The senior U.S. Marine general in Afghanistan says the leaders of the largest tribe in a Taliban stronghold in the southern Helmand province have pledged to halt insurgent attacks and expel foreign fighters.

Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, who commands coalition forces in the southwest, said Monday the deal was struck between local elders in the violent Sangin district, coalition forces, and Helmand Governor Gulabuddin Mangal.

The area has witnessed some of the heaviest fighting of the war. But the agreement is likely to meet strong resistance from die-hard Taliban.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Gunmen opened fire in a mosque northwest of the Afghan capital, killing four civilians, while a fifth was killed in a bombing outside a butcher's shop in the western part of the country, officials said Monday.

The shop in Herat supplies meat to the Afghan army, and officials think the bomb targeted security forces, said Noor Khan Nekzad, the spokesman for Herat province's police chief. At least four other civilians were wounded in the explosion, Nekzad said.

A day earlier, gunmen entered a mosque in Baghlan province's Markazi district, killing four civilians and wounding two, the provincial governor's office said Monday. Officials said they did not know why the mosque was targeted. Past mosque attacks have targeted government officials.

The attacks were a sobering reminder that the war against the Taliban, approaching the start of its 10 year, is far from won.

Insurgents have expanded their operations beyond their traditional strongholds in southern Afghanistan to areas that were previously relatively calm, even as NATO forces and their Afghan counterparts carry out daily operations against the Taliban.

The international coalition confirmed Monday that it had detained an insurgent linked with the Haqqani network, a feared al-Qaida-linked militant group that operates out of neighboring Pakistan. NATO said the insurgent, who it claimed was involved in bombings against Afghan and coalition forces in the eastern Khost province, was detained on Saturday.

Coalition and Afghan forces also captured three Taliban leaders in operations around the country, NATO said.

NATO has said it is making progress in the country. But officials caution that the gains are reversible and that more needs to be done to stabilize Afghanistan amid an amalgam of security woes, poverty and complaints of rife corruption.
(Reuters) - The manufacturing sector grew for a 17th straight month in December, adding to recent evidence that a recovery in the economy was picking up steam, according to an industry report released on Monday.
The Institute for Supply Management said its index of national factory activity rose to 57.0 last month from 56.6 in November. That was in line with the 57.0 median forecast of the 57 economists surveyed by Reuters.

A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector.
Australia slid from 105-1 to 134-4 as England ended day one of the final Ashes Test on top in rainy Sydney.

Tim Bresnan was the most successful bowler, taking 2-47 as England made the most of overhead cloud cover and a pitch offering some seam movement.

Rain took the players off for 90 minutes in the middle of the day and England picked up two late wickets before a second and final stoppage.

Michael Clarke made just four in his first Test as Australia's captain.

His fortunes contrasted with those of debutant Usman Khawaja, the 24-year-old left-hander displaying plenty of confidence before coming unstuck late on and top-edging a sweep off Graeme Swann to depart for 37.

Khawaja was caught by Jonathan Trott at square-leg, and that was the last act of a day which had seen Shane Watson (45) make yet another start without registering a major score, while Phillip Hughes (31) compiled his best score in eight Test innings against England.

Hughes fell to Chris Tremlett, while James Anderson got through 20 overs and was unlucky not to pick up at least one wicket of his own.

In his first Test as captain with Ricky Ponting out injured, Clarke arrived early for the coin toss, and looked a little nervous. He could be granted the role on a permanent basis later this year if Australia pull off a win in Sydney, and thus stop England winning the series.

After undisciplined performances from the top order in previous Tests - and whether or not galvanised to change tactics by Clarke - Watson and Hughes addressed the new ball with caution. Even so, the first hour was a difficult period for the batting side.