Tuesday, January 4, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Pau Gasol scored 21 points and the Los Angeles Lakers finally found a sub.-500 team they could beat easily, winning 108-83 against the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night.

Kobe Bryant added 17 points, moving him past Dominique Wilkins into 10th on the NBA's career scoring list with 26,671. Andrew Bynum finished with 13 points after scoring eight of the Lakers' first 14 points of the game. Lamar Odom had 16.

Tracy McGrady and Greg Monroe scored 14 points each, and Tayshaun Prince added 12 for the Pistons, who lost their fifth straight to the Lakers and fell to 3-16 on the road.

The Lakers had lost four of their previous six, including three at home. They had mixed results against their last two sub.-500 opponents, barely beating Philadelphia 102-98 before losing to Memphis 104-85. Before that, they lost by 19 to Milwaukee and by 16 against Miami, both at home.

But they had an easier time against the Pistons, even if it took them an entire half to get going.

The Lakers took control in the third quarter after stumbling through a poor-shooting first half. Bryant was 4 of 15 with nine points at the break, after going 0 for 9 in the opening quarter. Ron Artest was 1 of 4 and Derek Fisher 0 for 2, leaving Gasol and Bynum with the biggest contributions.

Bryant keyed a 16-2 run to open the third with six points, hitting two free throws after going 1 of 4 from the line in the first half and finishing Artest's steal with a fast-break driving dunk. His driving layup sent him past Wilkins and extended the Lakers' lead to 61-44.

From there, the Lakers cruised to a 76-59 lead heading into the fourth, when they were similarly dominating at the start. Shannon Brown scored seven points in a 13-2 run that made it 89-61.

NOTES: The Lakers swept the Pistons for the second straight season, having won 103-90 at Detroit. ... The Pistons are 0 for 8 in the second game of back-to-backs. ... The Lakers are 5-2 in the first game of back-to-backs, with the second game coming Wednesday night in Phoenix. ... Tom Hanks made a rare courtside appearance, while David Beckham went solo.
Kabul (CNN) -- The girls come tumbling through the door giggling and shrieking with excitement. They dash towards the neatly stacked shoes, knee guards, helmets, and skateboards.
Scarves flying, they fearlessly zip down the skateboarding ramps. This is Skateistan, Afghanistan's first and only skateboarding school -- but it provides much more than just an escape into sport.

"Teacher, this part scares me," 13-year-old Faranas cries out laughing as she tries to maneuver through the u-shaped ramp.

"It's been a year-and-a-half since I started skateboarding," she says. "When I was working on the street one of the teachers came and wrote down our names."

Two weeks later, Faranas was on a board for the first time, free from the tensions of war-ravaged Kabul.

Like half the girls at the school, she lives in poverty. UNICEF estimates that there are 50,000 to 60,000 children in Kabul who earn a pittance selling food products and trinkets on city streets.

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- Dr. Conrad Murray seemed not to know how to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation as he waited for paramedics to arrive at Michael Jackson's house, a witness at Murray's preliminary hearing testified Tuesday.

Former Jackson security chief Faheem Muhammed said he and and guard Alberto Alvarez saw Murray crouched next to Jackson's bed "in a panicked state asking, 'Does anyone know CPR?'"

"I looked at Alberto because we knew Dr. Murray was a heart surgeon, so we were shocked," Muhammed said.

When defense lawyer Ed Chernoff asked if perhaps Murray was only asking for help because he was tired, Muhammed said "The way that he asked it is as if he didn't know CPR."

Jackson appeared to be dead at that time, with his "eyes open and his mouth open, just laying there," he said.

Prosecutor David Walgren earlier said that Murray used "ineffectual CPR with one hand while the patient was prone on a soft bed." Two hands with the patient prone on a hard surface is the proper method, he said.

BEEBE, Ark. (AP) -- Blackbirds are having hard time staying alive in the Southeast.

Just a few days after 3,000 blackbirds fell from the sky in Arkansas, about 500 birds dropped to their death in Louisiana, littering a quarter-mile stretch of highway near Baton Rouge. It wasn't clear if the deaths were linked, but such massive wildlife kills are far from uncommon.

Biologists were trying to figure out what killed the birds in rural Pointe Coupee Parish, La. About 300 miles to the north, in the small town of Beebe in central Arkansas, scientists said celebratory fireworks on New Year's Eve likely sent thousands of discombobulated blackbirds into such a tizzy that they crashed into homes, cars and each other before plummeting to their deaths. Still, officials acknowledged it's unlikely they'll ever pinpoint a cause with certainty.

Wildlife officials in both Arkansas and Louisiana were sending carcasses to researchers at the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. and the University of Georgia, but it's not clear the bird deaths were related.

In Beebe, New Year's revelers spent the holiday weekend cleaning up between 4,000 and 5,000 dead red-winged blackbirds. Some speculated that bad weather was to blame. Others said one confused bird could have led the group in a fatal plunge. A few spooked schoolkids guessed the birds committed mass suicide.

"There was probably some physical reason, but I doubt anyone will ever know what it was," said Thurman Booth, the state's wildlife services director.

The birds were the second mass wildlife death in Arkansas in recent days. Last week, about 83,000 dead and dying drum fish washed up along a 20-mile stretch of the Arkansas River, about 100 miles west of Beebe. Wildlife officials say the fish deaths are not related to the dead birds, and that because mainly one species of fish was affected, it is likely they were stricken by an illness. Full test results could take up to a month.

The U.S. Geological Service's website lists about 90 mass deaths of birds and other wildlife from June through Dec. 12. Five list deaths of at least 1,000 birds and another 12 show at least 500 dead birds.

The largest was near Houston, Minn., where about 4,000 water birds died between Sept. 6 and Nov. 26 from infestations of various parasites.

Red-winged blackbirds are among North America's most abundant birds, with somewhere between 100 million and 200 million nationwide, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Julia Stiles will join Dane Cook and Josh Hamilton in a production of Neil LaBute's "Fat Pig" on Broadway this spring.

The three will team up beginning April 12 at the Belasco Theatre on 44th Street for the darkly comic tale of a bachelor who falls for a plus-size girl. The show officially opens April 26.

Stiles began her career on stage at New York'as downtown La MaMa Theatre, and has since appeared in "Twelfth Night" in Central Park, the Broadway revival of David Mamet's "Oleanna" with Aaron Eckhart and Bill Pullman, and opposite Mia Farrow in "Fran's Bed."

"Fat Pig" premiered off-Broadway in 2004, and LaBute, whose films include "Nurse Betty" and "Your Friends and Neighbors," will be making his Broadway debut as its director.
Some freaky things have been going down in Arkansas lately. Just before the dawn of 2011, approximately 5,000 birds fells from the sky, and days later nearly 100,000 dead fished washed up on the shores of the Arkansas River.

Although experts claim the two events are not connected, they are still trying to figure out what killed both the birds and the fish.

According to scientists, fish kills occur every year, but Arkansas state spokesman Keith Stephens indicated that a disease may have been responsible for the massive numbers of dead drum fish. “The fish kill only affected one species of fish,” he said. “If it was from a pollutant, it would have affected all of the fish, not just drum fish.”

The fish kill took place in Ozark, Arkansas only about 125 miles from the town of Beebe which is where nearly 5,000 blackbirds mysteriously fell from the sky just before midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Biologists think the bird deaths were stress-related from either New Year’s Eve fireworks or weather conditions and are unrelated to the fish deaths.

Whatever the case may be, falling birds and dead fish cannot be a good sign. I’m just saying.
Caron Butler's Injury Is Bad News For The Dallas Mavericks - SBNation.com: "Jan 4, 2011 - 'Tis the season for NBA players to get injured, apparently. Over the past couple of weeks, we've seen Dirk Nowitzki, Gerald Wallace, Andre Iguodala, Caron Butler, Danilo Gallinari, Brandon Roy and Kevin Garnett go down and be forced to miss action. It's a cruel part of basketball that often comes into play at the worst possible time.

Most of those players should be okay by the end of the year, so there isn't much reason for those teams to worry. The two that probably won't be OK are Roy and Butler. Roy's injury issues were well-chronicled by Yahoo! Sports' Kelly Dwyer, so I won't rehash them here. Clearly, his debilitating knees have become a major issue for the Trail Blazers.

Butler, on the other hand, is a little bit different. There's a chance he could miss the rest of the season with a torn patella tendon, depending on the results of an MRI. Even if he has simply a partial tear, he's likely to miss a couple months. Dallas is likely going to have to soldier forward for the duration of the season without his contributions.

Unlike Roy, Butler isn't the face of the Mavericks. He's not a superstar, where you know losing him is going to kill your season. And yet, I really think Dallas is going to have a lot of problems replacing Butler's steady contributions going forward. This could be a bigger loss than people think.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today opened the 2011 tax filing season by announcing that taxpayers have until April 18 to file their tax returns. The IRS reminded taxpayers impacted by recent tax law changes that using e-file is the best way to ensure accurate tax returns and get faster refunds.

Taxpayers will have until Monday, April 18 to file their 2010 tax returns and pay any tax due because Emancipation Day, a holiday observed in the District of Columbia, falls this year on Friday, April 15. By law, District of Columbia holidays impact tax deadlines in the same way that federal holidays do; therefore, all taxpayers will have three extra days to file this year. Taxpayers requesting an extension will have until Oct. 17 to file their 2010 tax returns.

The IRS expects to receive more than 140 million individual tax returns this year, with most of those being filed by the April 18 deadline.

The IRS also cautioned taxpayers with foreign accounts to properly report income from these accounts and file the appropriate forms on time to avoid stiff penalties.
“The IRS has made important strides at stopping tax avoidance using offshore accounts,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “We continue to focus on offshore tax compliance and people with offshore accounts need to pay taxes on income from those accounts.”

The IRS also reminded tax professionals preparing returns for a fee that this is the first year that they must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Tax return preparers should register immediately using the new PTIN sign-up system available through www.IRS.gov/taxpros.

Who Must Wait to File

For most taxpayers, the 2011 tax filing season starts on schedule. However, tax law changes enacted by Congress and signed by President Obama in December mean some people need to wait until mid- to late February to file their tax returns in order to give the IRS time to reprogram its processing systems.

You have another opportunity to make your dreams a reality in the Mega Millions jackpot tonight.

Friday night's drawing failed to produce a winner for the multi-state lottery's top prize, which was estimated to be $290 million.

The jackpot has now grown to $355 million after 15 consecutive drawings that started Nov. 12.

Mega Millions jackpots begin with $12 million and roll over to the next drawing until there is a winner.

A winner of the jackpot may receive the prize in a cash option of about $208.3 million.

At least 25 percent of a lottery windfall goes to the federal government and state taxes vary by location.

Other smaller monetary prizes can range from $2 to $250,000, depending on how many numbers are matched.

The largest Mega Millions jackpot ever won was $390 million in March 2007, according to the Mega Millions website.

This week marks a turning point for many independent Mac developers, as the Mac App Store opens its doors for the first time. Over the Christmas break, we've been giving the Mac App Store a little more thought - what changes will the App Store bring to existing software developers like us, and how will it impact our product decisions in the future?
1. Apps Need To Be More Focused

With Apple including the App Store by default on Mac OS X Lion , apps will (as with iOS) be thrust into the mainstream. Apps that previously offered every option under the sun to account for every possible need will slim down, and feature sets will become much more focused on offering the majority of users the most important feature.

On Day One it's likely that we'll see some (seemingly single-purposed) focused new apps that fit this bill - a handful of Twitter clients, most likely. Most apps though will be existing apps brought to the App Store - with future iterations likely to focus the feature set.

Mac App Store will change things

Handsome Brad Womack is the first return bachelor ever. The show's first half-hour is spent reviewing his errant "Bachelor" past, in which he failed to propose to either of the two final women. “I watched the finale –- and I feel like a jerk,” he tells host Chris Harrison. As video rolls of Handsome Brad working out, shirtless, we hear a voiceover of his self-recriminations. “I was scared to commit. ... I know what I’m getting into –- it’s going to be tough.”

Cut to: mini-profiles of some of the ladies. We meet Shawntel, a funeral director from Chico. A dentist, a car saleswoman, and a “manscaper” (hair remover). Meghan says: “Finding a boyfriend is like shopping for a great pair of shoes. ... Meeting the man of my dreams would be the perfect accessory. For sure.” Wait, what? But she's rapidly out-weirded by Madison, a model whose perfect accessory seems to be the pair of vampire fangs attached to her upper canines. Temp or perm? Before there’s time to puzzle that out, we meet Emily, a picture-perfect blond with a terribly sad backstory: From her teen years, she loved a racecar driver; he died tragically six years ago –- just before she found out she was pregnant with their daughter. Too much baggage or the perfect heartstring pull?

Then, of course, someone has to pull out the “I’m not here to make friends” line.

Brad sits on the couch and tells host Chris about his dad issues, how he’s changed, how empty he had felt the first time around when he said no to his two finalist ladies Jinny and DeAnna ... who then get trucked out and parked right there, face to face. “Now I feel like even more of an -– idiot,” says Handsome Brad. “As a man, it’s really tough to admit that I wasn’t capable of being who you guys needed. I failed miserably, you know? And I’m so profoundly sorry.”

(WIRED) -- Selling 10 million units of any product in its first six months of initial release is nothing to scoff at. In the world of smartphones, it's certainly a number to notice.

That's why our eyebrows perked up when we read Samsung's e-mail this morning, announcing that the company's Android-based Galaxy S model has sold more than 10 million units worldwide since its debut in late June.

It's an admirable number, although not quite in the same league as Apple, which sold 14.1 million iPhone 4 phones during the third quarter of 2010.

And it definitely gives RIM reason to worry: RIM sold 12.1 million phones in the third quarter, down 2.8% from the previous quarter, according to Comscore data released in November.

The battle for operating system share has been heated between the big three contenders: Apple's iOS, Android and RIM's Blackberry OS. But Android has seen a surge in attention in 2010.

More than 40% of U.S. customers purchasing smartphones over the last six months have chosen Android-based phones, according to a recent report released by Nielsen, beating out the percentage of people who chose Apple, which rests at 26.9%.

But in the same Nielsen data, Apple shows its slight (if dwindling) edge in the overall number of phones out there. Apple's iOS has an overall U.S. market share of 28.6%, edging out Android, which rests at 26.1%. RIM's Blackberry OS comes in only slightly behind Android at 25.8%.

There's been a steady upward trajectory of Android-based phone sales over the past two years. Motorola's Droid sold an estimated 100,000 units over the weekend of its release in late 2009. It took the Droid 74 days to reach the 1 million mark, according to research firm Flurry Analytics.

But it took Samsung a month less to reach the same point with the Galaxy S. The company said it had sold 1 million in the first 45 days since launch.
Rapper Gucci Mane believes he's not mentally competent to fight prosecutors' efforts to revoke his probation ... this according to court documents obtained by TMZ.

The 30-year-old rapper — real name Radric Davis — appeared in a Georgia courtroom yesterday after filing a “Special Plea of Mental Incompetency” … in which he explained he was in no state to “intelligently participate in the probation revocation hearing.”

According to the document, the judge ordered Gucci into custody — and immediately committed the rapper into a mental health treatment facility pending an evaluation of his mental condition.

We’re told Gucci is currently at the treatment facility.

From TMZ.Com

What do y’all think about Waka and Gucci running into trouble with the law again? Leave your thoughts in the comment box below!
(CNN) -- Some of the nation's top experts Tuesday were looking for clues into sudden, mass deaths of birds in two states over New Year's weekend.

"This one is unusual because of the time period over which so many birds died," said LeAnn White, a field investigator with the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin. The center, part of the U.S. Geological Survey, is receiving samples from Arkansas, where as many as 5,000 red-winged blackbirds and starlings fell from the sky in a square-mile area in less than an hour on New Year's Eve, according to the Arkansas Fish and Game Commission.

The center will also examine samples from Louisiana, where 500 red-winged blackbirds, starlings and grackles were found dead in Labarre.

A preliminary report conducted Monday by the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission found that the birds in Beebe, Arkansas, likely died from massive trauma.

(CNN) -- Sachin Tendulkar's 51st Test century left the decider between the top two rated nations on a knife edge after India took a two-run first innings lead over South Africa in Cape Town on Tuesday.

Tendulkar can scarcely have scored a more valuable ton as he battled a menacing home attack, led by Dale Steyn, on a helpful Newlands wicket.

By the close, South Africa had reached 52 for two in their second innings, losing captain Graeme Smith to Harbhajan Singh for 29, quickly followed by nightwatchman Paul Harris.

Tendulkar was eventually bowled by Morne Morkel for 146, having shared fine stands of 176 with Gautam Gambhir and 76 with Harbhajan, who was full of praise for the little maestro's efforts.

"It was a great day for Test cricket," said Harbhajan. "Sachin got another brilliant hundred and Steyn bowled brilliantly. You can't ask for more."

Tendulkar, who made his 50th Test ton in India's heavy defeat at Centurion, faced 313 balls during his stay at the crease and hit 17 fours and two sixes.

Gambhir, who fell seven short of his century, was one of three third day victims for Steyn, the world's number one ranked bowler finishing with five wickets for 75.

It left India with a narrow lead and the late wickets tipped the balance their way with series tied at 1-1.

Their win in Durban guaranteed they will remain world number one, but the real prize will be a rare series triumph in South Africa.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Jim Carrey and Gwyneth Paltrow will ring in the new year for "Saturday Night Live" with back-to-back hosting gigs.

NBC said Tuesday that Carrey will preside over this week's edition. His musical guest is The Black Keys.

Paltrow will take her third turn at hosting the show on Jan. 15. The star of the new film "Country Strong" will be joined by musical guest Cee Lo Green.

"Saturday Night Live" airs Saturday at 11:30 p.m. EST.
(CNN) -- Some of the nation's top experts Tuesday were looking for clues into sudden, mass deaths of birds in two states over New Year's weekend.

"This one is unusual because of the time period over which so many birds died," said LeAnn White, a field investigator with the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin. The center, part of the U.S. Geological Survey, is receiving samples from Arkansas, where as many as 5,000 red-winged blackbirds and starlings fell from the sky in a square-mile area in less than an hour on New Year's Eve, according to the Arkansas Fish and Game Commission.

The center will also examine samples from Louisiana, where 500 red-winged blackbirds, starlings and grackles were found dead in Labarre.

A preliminary report conducted Monday by the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission found that the birds in Beebe, Arkansas, likely died from massive trauma.

There had been reports of loud sounds in Beebe before the reports of birds falling began to come in. It's possible the sounds made the birds disoriented, and they went into sudden, chaotic flights, crashing into each other and into objects, White said. "You're disturbed, you're disoriented, you're trying to figure out where you are. We have seen some stuff like this before when there's heavy dense fog, and they'll run into towers and power lines," she said.

Other bird experts agree that that's a likely explanation. Still, the sudden deaths are quite unusual. "It's kind of a freak event," said Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society. "You just don't see these kinds of mass deaths very frequently at all."

NEW YORK (AP) -- After years of preparation, consumer-electronics pioneer Motorola Inc. formally split into two companies on Tuesday - one for its consumer-oriented businesses such as cell phones, and the other for police radios and other products targeted at professionals.

In midday Tuesday, shares of the consumer-focused Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. climbed $2.44, or 8.1 percent, to $32.68 after rising as high as $33.45 earlier in the session, while its other business, Motorola Solutions Inc. fell 7 cents to $37.41. The shares were trading on the New York Stock Exchange with the ticket symbols MMI and MSI, respectively.

Although Motorola began by making car radios, TVs and cell phones, the company has since expanded into police radios and barcode scanners aimed at government agencies and large businesses. The company has become increasingly diverse, and the breakup that began in 2008 is motivated by the desire to present two simple businesses to investors rather than one complicated one.

New York (CNN) -- The ex-boyfriend of a swimsuit designer whose body was found at a chic New York hotel has been indicted on one count of murder in connection with her death, according to a statement from the Manhattan District Attorney's office Tuesday.

Nicholas Brooks, son of "You Light Up My Life" composer Joseph Brooks, was initially charged with attempted murder and strangulation. He'll be arraigned on the charge of second-degree murder Tuesday afternoon. If convicted, Brooks could face 25 years to life in prison.

The bruised body of Sylvie Cachay, 33, was discovered at the Soho House club and hotel on December 9, police said.

A guest staying on a lower floor of the hotel reported to hotel management that water was leaking through the ceiling of that guest's room, according to court documents.

A hotel employee investigating the source of the leak entered Cachay's room and discovered her body submerged in water in an overflowing bathtub, the documents said.

Her death was later ruled a homicide, according to New York medical examiner spokeswoman Grace Brugess.

But Brook's attorney, Jeffrey C. Hoffman, said last month his client believes at least one other person had been in the room.

"I believe he is, in fact, not guilty," Hoffman said.

According to court documents, police said the only person in the hotel room with Cachay, besides Brooks, was a hotel employee who delivered ice and was inside for about one minute.

Brooks escorted the employee into the room and remained after the worker left, police said.

Authorities said they relied on interviews with hotel employees and surveillance videos from the location.

Police said they are investigating a time frame in which the killing occurred.

Cachay's body sustained bruising on the neck and bite marks, police said. An autopsy indicated that the designer suffered injuries that were consistent with neck compression, court records show.

Cachay suffered internal hemorrhaging, injuries to her scalp and cuts to her lips and mouth, the documents said.

"Sylvie Cachay was one of those rare individuals who truly sparkled when she spoke," said publicist Kate Godici. "She will be deeply and painfully missed, yet celebrated, honored and never forgotten."
New York (CNN) -- The troubled musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" announced a replacement early Tuesday for Natalie Mendoza, who played villainous Arachne but officially dropped out after suffering a concussion during a performance last month.

T.V. Carpio, who covered the role several times throughout the preview period, officially assumes the role beginning with Tuesday night's performance, the show said.

"She is fantastic," said producer Michael Cohl added. "When she was covering the role, we kept seeing the crowd leap to its feet as she took her bow. After about the sixth or seventh night, we realized we'd be fools not to give her the part."

Carpio appeared in the movie 'Across the Universe,' which was directed by "Spider-Man" director Julie Taymor.

Mendoza officially announced her departure last week.

"It has been a difficult decision to make, but I regret that I am unable to continue on 'Spider-Man' as I recover from my injury," Mendoza said in a statement last week. "I wish Julie and the cast and crew every success with this production."

Lahore, Pakistan

The governor of Pakistan’s most populous and powerful province, Punjab, was assassinated Tuesday in the country's capital, Islamabad.

Salman Taseer was shot by a member of his personal security detail while in Kohsar Market, a posh area of the capital popular among foreigners, authorities say.

"[His security guard] confessed that he killed the governor himself because he had called the blasphemy law a black law," said Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

Mr. Taseer drew anger from Islamists for his outspoken opposition to the country's blasphemy laws, which have recently led to a Christian woman being sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad. The killing comes at a time of political crisis for the country, as the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led government, in which Taseer was a key leader, struggles to hold on to power after a key coalition partner quit the government Monday.
A wave of sympathy?

The killing of Taseer the second major political assassination in recent years following the killing of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Dec. 2007. Her death sent the nation into convulsions and sparked a wave of sympathy that political experts believe helped the PPP ascend to power in the 2008 elections.

Red hair can be estimated with around 90% accuracy,
the study says
Scientists say they have developed a way to predict a person's probable hair colour using markers in their DNA.

The study paves the way for a forensic test that could estimate the hair colour of a suspect from DNA left at a crime scene.

The information could then be used to refine the description of an unknown but wanted person.

A Dutch-Polish team of researchers have published details in the journal Human Genetics.

The researchers found that it was possible to determine with an accuracy of more than 90% whether a person had red hair, with a similar accuracy for people with black hair

They could estimate with an accuracy of more than 80% whether a person's hair color was blonde or brown.

Diplomats will be shown Iran's Bushehr nuclear
power plant, reports say
Iran has invited foreign diplomats to tour its nuclear facilities, ahead of fresh talks with key world powers over its controversial nuclear programme.

The offer was reportedly extended to Russia, China and several EU countries, but not the US.

US State Department spokesman, Philip J Crowley, has dismissed the offer as a "clever ploy".

Many Western countries suspect Iran is developing nuclear weapons, but Tehran says its programme is peaceful.
US 'snub'

"The representatives of some European Union countries, NAM [Non-Aligned Movement], and some representatives of the five-plus-one [world powers] have been invited to visit our nuclear sites," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters.

He said the invitation was part of the Islamic republic's attempt to demonstrate "co-operation with the IAEA", referring to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

LONDON (AP) -- British police released Tuesday a video of a mob kicking and hitting a limo carrying Prince Charles and his wife during student protests last month, hoping to find witnesses and suspects in one of the worst royal security breaches in recent years.

The closed-circuit security camera video shows several people attacking the vintage Rolls-Royce after the car was forced to slow down during the violent central London demonstrations.

A young woman is shown hitting the Rolls-Royce twice, before picking up a trash can and throwing it at the back of one of the convoy cars, smashing its back window. Two other men wearing dark hooded tops, are also seen running along the royal car and hitting it.

Thousands of students took to the capital's streets on Dec. 9 to protest university tuition fee hikes. While the majority were contained by police near Parliament, breakaway groups ran to shopping areas near Regent Street, where they came upon the royal couple's car.

An Associated Press photograph captured the future king and his wife Camilla, who were dressed in evening wear and were on their way to a charity event at a theater, looking shocked as the rowdy crowd surrounded the car.

They were unharmed but appeared visibly shaken afterward.

Police said they hoped the video released Tuesday can help them trace witnesses and suspects believed to have broken the law.

British media reports said protesters at one point poked Camilla with a stick through an open or broken car window. Officials confirmed that "contact was made," but did not elaborate.

Critics have questioned the security measures for royals and how protesters could have gotten so close to the royal car. They have also criticized the choice of vehicle, which had large clear windows and wasn't bullet-proof.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Facebook tale "The Social Network," the British monarchy drama "The King's Speech" and the sci-fi blockbuster "Inception" are among the nominees for top honors from the Producers Guild of America.

Other nominees announced Tuesday are the survival story "127 Hours," the psychosexual thriller "Black Swan," the boxing saga "The Fighter," the lesbian family tale "The Kids Are All Right," the heist thriller "The Town," the animated hit "Toy Story 3," and the Western "True Grit."

Winners will be announced in a ceremony Jan. 22, three days before Academy Awards nominations come out. The Producers Guild lineup typically is a close match of top Oscar contenders.
LONDON (AP) -- As Britons return to work after the New Year, millions are discussing, debating - even mourning - the death of a well-loved character on a long-running soap opera.

That's not unusual - except that the show, "The Archers," has for six decades focused on mostly uneventful lives in an English farming community. Its plots often center on tractor parts, crop rotation and hay thefts. And it's on the radio.

Despite the unglamorous setting and sedate pace, 5 million listeners a week in Britain - and others around the world over the Internet - follow the everyday travails of the landowning Archers, the working-class Grundys and their neighbors in the fictional village of Ambridge: Does that cow have mastitis? How's lambing season going? And how is octogenarian Peggy Archer coming along with her computer lessons?

Inga McVicar, who writes the blog "Pondering the Archers," vividly remembers the first time she heard the show.

(Reuters) - New orders received by factories unexpectedly rose in November, and orders excluding transportation recorded their largest gain in eight months, providing more signs the economic recovery was on sustainable path.

The Commerce Department said on Tuesday orders for manufactured goods increased 0.7 percent after dropping a revised 0.7 percent in October.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast factory orders slipping 0.1 percent in November from a previously reported 0.9 percent decline in October. Orders have risen in four of the last five months.

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- The governor of Pakistan's wealthiest and most populous province was shot dead in the capital Tuesday by one of his own guards, who later told interrogators that he was angry about the politician's stance against the country's blasphemy law, officials said.

The killing of Punjab province Governor Salman Taseer was the most high-profile assassination of a political figure in Pakistan since former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007, and it rattled a country already dealing with crises ranging from a potential collapse of the government to a virulent Islamist insurgency.

The killing could also add to concerns about inroads by Islamist extremists and fundamentalists into Pakistan's security establishment and represented another blow to the country's Pakistan's embattled secular movement.

Taseer was a member of Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party and a close associate of the president. The governor was vocal on a range of subjects, even using Twitter to get across his views.

Punjab is a major base and recruiting ground for Pakistan's powerful military and security establishment, which many fear is coming under the increasing influence of religious fundamentalists as Islamist movements have spread in Pakistan. Some analysts have suggested that fundamentalist members of the security establishment pose a greater threat of Pakistan nuclear proliferation than militant groups such as the Taliban.

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Police shut down two blocks of Hollywood Boulevard -- in the heart of Hollywood's tourist district -- on Tuesday morning as they dealt with a barricaded suspect, they said.

Officers with the Los Angeles Police Department, including members of a SWAT team, were trying to convince the suspect to surrender after finding a woman dead with gunshot wounds, police spokeswoman Norma Eisenman said.

Authorities responded to a call about shots being fired in an apartment building near Hollywood's Walk of Fame and found the dead woman, who was about 25, police said.

The suspect is barricaded in the building, Eisenman said.
(Reuters) - Floodwaters eased in Australia's major coal mining region on Tuesday to allow some mines to slowly resume production, although most remain idle as devastating floods affect some 200,000 people and force towns to be evacuated.

Floods have submerged or disrupted life across an area the size of France and Germany combined, according to the premier of Queensland state, and more people evacuated their homes on Tuesday as others built moats and sandbag levees to stop waters surging downstream.

The weather bureau has declared flood warnings for seven river systems in Queensland, with monsoon rains forecast for the state's tropical north and thunderstorms for the southeast.

The state is the world's biggest exporter of coal used in steel-making and the floodwaters have brought production and shipments overseas to a virtual standstill, pushing world coal prices higher.

Queensland Resource Council said it would take until next week to determine when exports would return to normal.

"This is a three part drama: first mining production has to resume, then transport and then ports," said a council spokesman.

(Reuters) - A gunman assassinated the governor of Pakistan's central Punjab province, a senior member of the ruling party, in Islamabad on Tuesday, an aide said, as a new political crisis gripped the strategic U.S. ally.

Salman Taseer was killed by one of his guards probably because of his opposition to Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said.

Rights groups say the law is often exploited by religious extremists as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle personal scores.

Islamist groups have been angry over what they believe were government plans to change or scrap the law.

The killing came as Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani tried to muster support for the government after a key coalition partner quit.

A witness at the scene said Taseer was stepping out of his car at a shopping area when he was shot.

"The governor fell down and the man who fired at him threw down his gun and raised both hands," said the witness, Ali Imran.

The shooting left blood stains on a parking area on the edge of the Kohsar shopping center, which is popular among foreigners in Islamabad.

Pakistan's main opposition group said on Tuesday it would not force a no-confidence vote in the government, offering a reprieve but leaving the coalition weak after a main ally quit at the weekend.

The second-biggest opposition party also said it would not push for a no-confidence vote, suggesting the opposition may prefer to wear down a weak prime minister by blocking legislation or even through street protests to force a call for an early election.

The political turmoil adds to the difficulties of a government trying to push through economic reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund, which has been propping up the economy with an $11 billion loan agreed in November of 2008.

(Reporting by Augustine Anthony; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Robert Birsel)