Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Colombo, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- Thousands of Sri Lankan troops have launched a massive operation to rescue nearly a million people affected by floods in the central, north and eastern provinces.

The flooding has killed at least 13 people, officials said.

More than 28,000 troops, backed by transport helicopters and navy boats, are rescuing flood victims and delivering food, authorities said. It is the biggest troops operation since the defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels one-and-a-half years ago.

The flow of food to affected areas "is going on smoothly," said Maj. Gen. Boniface Perera, Sri Lanka army's eastern commander.

Authorities are making arrangements to take baby food, mosquito repellents and medical supplies to the area, Perera said.

The operation follows President Mahinda Rajapaksa's visit to the flood-hit area Wednesday.

Rajapaksa visited the district of Polonnaruwa, and returned to Colombo after his helicopter was unable to travel to the other two affected districts of Batticaloa and Ampara because of poor visibility.

In Colombo, the president ordered government officials to speed up relief efforts.

State and private organizations were setting up centers in Colombo and its suburbs to collect relief items for affected victims.

On Wednesday, two youth were electrocuted when they climbed a tree to avoid raging flood waters in a village of Ariyampathu, south of the eastern capital of Batticaloa.

At least 966,600 have been affected by floods in the three provinces, according to the Disaster Management Center in Colombo. About 195,000 people displaced are being housed in hundreds of camps.

Government officials in the areas affected have been ordered to provide those displaced with cooked meals, authorities said. Aircraft were ferrying cooked meals to the affected areas while navy boats were delivering them to the victims.

Rajapaksa warned his Cabinet Ministers on Wednesday night that the country should brace itself for a food shortage.

About 125,000 acres of paddy land, used to grow rice, a staple for Sri Lankans, have been devastated by the floods, the president said.

Mounting prices of vegetables have also sparked concern. For the first time in post-independent Sri Lanka, the military was manning vegetable-selling outlets. The vegetables were collected from production areas in army trucks.
(Reuters) - Lebanon faces a political impasse after Hezbollah and its allies toppled the government over a U.N.-backed tribunal which is expected to accuse the Shi'ite group of killing statesman Rafik al-Hariri in 2005.

But analysts played down the prospect of open armed conflict between Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, and followers of Sunni Muslim Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, Rafik's son, who is supported by Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Hezbollah brought down Saad al-Hariri's government on Wednesday with the resignation of 11 ministers. That followed the failure of Saudi Arabia and Syria to get Lebanese leaders to limit tensions when the tribunal soon issues its indictments.

The Saudi-Syrian proposals were never spelt out by either country. According to a politician close to Hariri, they would have involved a Hezbollah pledge not to resort to violence if its members were indicted, while Hariri would ensure that any indictment was not exploited to Hezbollah's political detriment.

According to the constitution, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman should start consultations with members of parliament to nominate a prime minister to form a new government.

But political sources said no steps will be taken before Hariri returns home from abroad and holds talks with Suleiman. Hariri is due to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris Thursday and it is not clear when he is returning to Beirut.

In the meantime, officials declined to say whether Hariri, whose coalition won a 2009 parliamentary election, will be asked to form a new government, or if someone else would be nominated.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- Police say a pair of bomb attacks in northwest Pakistan have killed two officers and wounded 10 others.

Police officer Ghulam Hussain said one colleague died in roadside blast Thursday in Bannu district.

Officer Rafique Khan says the other victim fell to a nearby bombing not far from the main northwestern city of Peshawar.

Islamist militants with bases in the northwest have carried out scores of attacks on police and army targets over the last three years. They are seeking to overthrow the U.S.-allied, democratically elected government and replace it with a pro-Taliban Islamic emirate.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Police say an Indonesian toy salesman has admitted to raping at least 96 boys.

The 34-year-old man was arrested last week in the capital Jakarta after a complaint was filed by the parents of one of the alleged victims.

Police investigator Reynold Hutagalung says the suspect confessed during interrogations to raping at least 96 boys between the ages of 13 and 17 over the last two years.

Hutagalung says most of his victims were street kids found hanging out at train stations.

Hutagalung says the accused, a father of four, could face 15 years behind bars if found guilty.

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Kawhi Leonard had 15 points and a season-high 17 rebounds, and Malcolm Thomas also had a double-double as undefeated and sixth-ranked San Diego State beat UNLV 55-49 on Wednesday night to become the first team in the country to win 18 games.

The Aztecs' school-record 18-game streak is the longest current winning streak in the nation after No. 1 Duke had its 25-game streak snapped in a 66-61 loss at Florida State earlier Wednesday night. The Aztecs (3-0 Mountain West), are one of four undefeated teams in Division I.

Leonard, a sophomore forward, had his 11th double-double of the season and 28th of his career. Thomas, a senior forward, had 14 points and tied his season high with 16 rebounds for his fifth of the season and 15th of his career. Billy White scored 10.

It was Steve Fisher's 400th career victory, against 231 losses. Fisher, who led Michigan to the 1989 national championship, has turned the Aztecs into the hottest ticket in San Diego in his 12th season.

UNLV (13-4, 1-2) trailed 28-26 at halftime before going cold in the second half, when the Runnin' Rebels missed 10 of their first 12 shots. Anthony Marshall had 11 points for the Runnin' Rebels while Oscar Bellfield scored 10.

SDSU outrebounded UNLV 42-31. The Runnin' Rebels made only one of 18 3-point shots.

Tempers flared twice and there were six technical fouls called.

Australia's third-largest city has had its first flooding fatality after the death of a 24-year-old man who was checking his father's house, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has announced.

The death of the man in Brisbane takes the toll from this week's devastating flooding to 14.

Ms Bligh said going into the floodwaters cost the man his life.

"He was trying to do the right thing - checking his dad's property. But unfortunately it has claimed his life.

"Please stay safe out there."

Deputy Police Commissioner Ian Stewart echoed her call for caution in the receding water.

"This was avoidable. We don't want to see any more loss of life.
"Personal safety is paramount."


The real tablet winner will be the one that is not tied to a wireless carrier. Archos has the right idea. A great tablet that you can use on any network. All you do is tether it to your 4G phone.
The folks in the audience for Jay Leno’s safe-for-all-audiences Tonight Show clearly would’ve rather had a visit from some cuddly zoo animals than what they got: an extended and at times awkwardly tense visit from HBO’s Bill Maher.

Talking about the shootings in Arizona and Fox News chief Roger Ailes‘ reported instructions to his staff to tone down language after Tucson, Maher argued it would never happen, as “that’s the rhetoric they love. The right wing loves- the go-to rhetoric for them is ‘wouldn’t it be fun to kill the people we disagree with.’”

When the audience groaned, Maher challenged them: “Do you read?”

As the relationship between Maher and the Tonight Show audience became openly hostile, Leno–true to form–retreated, saying nothing other than soft “yeahs” and “mm-hmms.”

Prostate-removal surgery can provide peace of mind to men who hav prostate cancer, but the procedure often carries an unwelcome and hard-to-treat side effect: leaky plumbing.

Up to 65% of men who have had their prostates removed -- a procedure known as radical prostatectomy -- experience some form of urinary incontinence for years afterward, whether it's stress incontinence (leakage when they sneeze, lift something heavy, or otherwise stress their pelvic muscles), urge incontinence (a sudden and uncontrollable need to urinate), or some combination of the two.

Gotta go? 13 reasons for urine trouble

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that special training in bladder-control strategies, such as learning to contract and relax the muscles that control urine flow, can help reduce incontinence -- even in men who are a decade or more removed from surgery.

In the study, men who had been having an average of four incontinence episodes per day experienced fewer than two episodes per day after completing eight weeks of the training, known as behavioral therapy.

And the effects of the therapy seemed to be lasting; after one year, the incontinence among the men had not measurably worsened.

"They were very grateful for the treatment," says the lead researcher, Patricia Goode, M.D., medical director of the continence clinic at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Center for Aging. "It was sort of empowering for them. ... They were very glad to find a therapy that they could do themselves."

10 things that can make incontinence worse

The treatment was far from a cure, however. Only about 1 in 6 men who received behavioral therapy saw their bladder problems disappear altogether, although this was a much better rate than in the control group, in which just 1 in 16 men stopped being incontinent.

The persistent incontinence among the men who completed therapy suggests that the treatment may not justify the cost and time investment, says David F. Penson, M.D., a professor of urologic surgery at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville.

"The question you have to ask yourself right off the bat is, is the bang worth the buck?" says Penson, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.

Even if it's covered by insurance, behavioral therapy requires a considerable time commitment, and may require patients to take time away from work, Penson notes.

Goode acknowledges that most of the men in the study continued to experience "a significant amount of leakage" post-therapy, but she stresses that the participants reported that the therapy still made a difference in their quality of life.

How to treat incontinence at home

Men are typically (though not always) offered behavioral training soon after they undergo prostate removal, Goode says, but this is the first study to show it can help men many years after surgery.

The study included more than 200 men between the ages of 51 and 84 who had their prostates removed and had experienced incontinence for at least one year, and as many as 17 years. The participants received behavioral therapy alone, or behavioral therapy in addition to biofeedback training and electrical stimulation of the pelvic floor muscles.

Men in the control group received neither treatment, but could take their pick once the study was over. The average number of incontinence episodes per week fell by more than 50% in the men who received behavioral therapy. (Biofeedback and electrical stimulation did not appear to make any difference.)

By contrast, the average number of episodes in the control group fell by just 24%. Although it's not perfect, behavioral therapy may be the best option available for incontinence besides surgical treatment, says Penson.

Surgery to correct incontinence is fairly straightforward and effective, but it isn't always appealing to men who have had their prostates removed, he points out.

"Who wants to have a second surgery?" Medications can be helpful for urge incontinence, but they have side effects Goode says.

Medication options for incontinence

The challenge of treating incontinence suggests that prostate removal may be a premature treatment for cancer in many cases, Goode adds.

"I do think we probably underuse watchful waiting, active surveillance," she says. "Particularly in the oldest age group, I think we overtreat men."

Patients can find local health professionals trained in behavioral therapy for incontinence by going to the National Association for Continence and the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society.
According to Us Magazine, Kate Hudson is expecting a baby with Muse frontman Matt Bellamy.

The 31-year-old actress and 32-year-old Bellamy have been dating since last summer, and a source now tells the magazine that Hudson is 14-weeks along. "It was not planned, but they are excited and embracing it," the source was quoted as saying.

Kate Hudson has a seven-year-old son, Ryder, with ex-husband Chris Robinson, and the source adds that she is "happy for Ryder to finally have a brother or sister."

Despite the pregnancy and ongoing romance, Hudson told Elle last fall marriage is not in the cards yet. "It's definitely not something I'm looking for. But the divorce doesn't put me off. I'll just see what happens. I think a lot of times people are terrified of love and stop themselves from experiencing it. I don't ever want to get that jaded." Then again, at the time she didn't even have a favorite Muse song, "I'm not well-versed enough on that. I'm getting there though." So maybe we'll see wedding bells in their future?
The Iran vs. Iraq game was billed as one of the highlights of the 2011 Asian Cup in Qatar. Two giants of Asian football with passionate support and a shared past that has been bloody and violent.

In anticipation of a bumper crowd, street hawkers gathered outside the remote Al Rayyan stadium, 15 miles from the capital Doha, to sell maroon vuvuzelas (the color of the Qatari flag), scarves, flags and packets of sunflower seeds. But business was surprisingly slow.

The supporters from both sides - largely ex-pat Iraqis and Iranians living in Doha mixed with several who had flown in from as far as Shiraz, Tehran, Oslo and London - were loud and vociferous outside the ground, chanting their teams' names as they entered the stadium. But inside, a different picture was painted.

The match was seen as a clash of the heavyweights, not to mention bitter rivals, but you would not have known from the half-empty stadium. That this represented a relatively good turnout compared to the other matches tells its own story, and points to the big challenges – not insurmountable ones but challenges nonetheless – facing Qatar in 11 years' time.

Beirut, Lebanon (CNN) -- Members of the powerful Hezbollah movement and its allies resigned from Lebanon's unity government Wednesday, raising fears of renewed political crisis in the region.

As the Lebanese government faced collapse, Prime Minister Saad Hariri was meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House.

It would take 11 resignations in the 30-member Cabinet to dissolve Hariri's unity government. The opposition bloc, known as the March 8 Alliance, has 10 members. It's not clear whether an 11th member would join with the other 10 to dissolve the government.

Lebanon's government has been at an impasse over the United Nations-backed tribunal's investigation of the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the current premier's father. It is widely expected the tribunal will indict members of Shiite Muslim Hezbollah, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

Hezbollah has blamed Israel for the 2005 bombing that killed Hariri and has pressured the government to denounce the tribunal's probe.

(CNN) -- Just a few days after Verizon announced a slew of new 4G phones and built hype for its recently launched 4G network, executives from the largest U.S. cell carrier announced that it would finally get the iPhone.

But it's a 3G version.

And because it runs only on Verizon Wireless' older CDMA network, not the fourth-generation technology, users won't be able to make phone calls and connect to the internet at the same time.

The iPhone 4 will be available in stores February 10, with pre-orders for Verizon customers beginning a week before, the two companies announced in New York on Tuesday.

"The number one question I've gotten is: When will the iPhone work on Verizon?" Apple COO Tim Cook said.

Perhaps the new question he'll get will involve an iPhone 4G. Cook got one of those immediately after the announcement, during a question-and-answer session with reporters.

"Verizon customers told us they want the iPhone now," Cook said, explaining why the carrier will begin selling a 3G version first. The first batch of chips designed for Verizon's 4G network would require Apple to rework the phone's casing and "force design changes we wouldn't make," he said.

Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show, Verizon Wireless said it will have 10 devices that take advantage of its faster 4G network, including four phones, by midyear.

Motorola's Xoom tablet, which is coming out in the next few months, will have only a 3G chip to start, but owners will be able to upgrade to 4G at Verizon stores later in the year.

Verizon and Apple gave no indication that the Verizon iPhone 4 can be upgraded. However, images on tech blogs Tuesday suggest that some changes appear to have been made to the phone's casing, including an extra ridge in the top corner.

Apple traditionally releases new iPhones during the summer. When asked when an upgraded version of the phone for Verizon would debut, Cook declined to comment.

By launching an iPhone with 3G first, Verizon may be playing it safe in anticipation of an upgraded phone later, one analyst said.

"Verizon has a very large, very deep CDMA network, whereas their 4G LTE network is still relatively new, not completely pervasive and somewhat unproven," said Dan Hays, a consultant for PRTM who works with major U.S. carriers but declined to say which ones because of non-disclosure agreements. "I think that this opens the door for Apple to have the iPhone 5 be a 4G device."

Apple's partnership with Verizon involves a "multiyear, non-exclusive deal," Cook said Tuesday. "We've been looking forward to today for a long time."

Verizon COO Lowell McAdam said talks with Apple began in 2008. The pair has been testing the phone for a year, McAdam said.

"We have a tremendous 3G network," Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead said. He said Verizon hasn't identified a problem with the antenna, which plagued the AT&T model, on its version of the iPhone.

Like on AT&T, the Verizon iPhone will cost $200 for the 16-gigabyte version and $300 for 32 gigabytes.

Verizon did not announce service pricing or say whether customers would be able to purchase an unlimited data plan.

AT&T, which is now no longer the exclusive U.S. carrier for the iPhone, released a statement Tuesday saying Verizon's network may produce slower download speeds and poorer battery life. The statement also pointed out that you can't talk and Web-surf on the Verizon phone at the same time.

"The fact that you can't do voice and data simultaneously on CDMA gives an opening to AT&T for advertising," analyst Hays said. In fact, AT&T and Apple have run commercials touting the ability to talk and access data at the same time.

"I think that Apple and Verizon's choice of using the CDMA network for the initial launch of the Verizon iPhone was actually very much anticipated," Hays said. The first iPhone, released in 2007, could access only AT&T's 2G Edge network.

Because the hardware is CDMA-only, the Verizon iPhone may be impractical for international travelers. AT&T runs on a GSM network, which is common around the world. By contrast, CDMA is not widespread overseas.

However, the 2G network technology Verizon uses is also used in parts of Asia. Apple could sell these models to carriers there, whereas a dual-band handset might not as easily recoup the costs to make it, said Tina Teng, an iSuppli wireless-communications analyst.

Verizon Wireless sells 10 "global-ready" smartphones that pack GSM chips in addition to Verizon's CDMA. Verizon and Apple did not say whether the new iPhone 4 would have a GSM chip, but it's unlikely. Verizon says the iPhone 4 can be used to access data in more than 20 countries, though plans aren't cheap.

"I think that if there was (GSM inside), they would have said so," Hays said. "I didn't expect a world-phone version. I think that would be uncharacteristic for Apple. They tend to have very tightly designed solutions."
Daniel Craig will be back to stirring martinis soon.

The actor will reprise his role for the third time as British spy James Bond in the 23rd flick in the popular franchise, which is set for release on Nov. 9, 2012, according to reports. Production had been placed on hold while the parent studio, MGM, underwent new financing.

Craig, 42, first slipped into the iconic role with Casino Royale in 2006, then acted another day on the next one, Quantum of Solace.

Now for the burning questions: Who will the next Bond girl be – and is there any chance it'll be his alleged real-life love interest Rachel Weisz?

Green Hornet actor Eddie Furlong was arrested Tuesday morning for allegedly violating a court order to stay at least 100 yards away from his estranged wife.

Furlong, 33, who also starred in Terminator 2, was taken into custody while he was in court for a hearing on the restraining order obtained by Rachael Kneeland, according to a spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office.

Furlong and Kneeland, who are parents of 4-year-old Ethan, are in the midst of a contentious divorce that has included allegations of drug use and suicide threats by the actor.

In her court papers, Kneeland alleged that last Sept. 23, Furlong "grabbed me, bruised me, pushed me ... left messages saying he would hire people to come and beat me with chains and bats. He is smoking cocaine and doing other various drugs. He is very unpredictable."

Furlong has denied the latest allegations. But a judge issued a three-year restraining order against the actor, along with ordering him to undergo counseling.

Furlong’s arrest came the morning after he attended the Green Hornet premiere in L.A. He was “in the best mood,” says a friend of the actor, who had a busy few weeks ahead of him.

According to the source, he was planning to head to Mexico City for the Jan. 27 world premiere of the movie Tequila and then fly to Park City, Utah, for a screening of his film Attack on Darfur.

• Additional reporting by ALEXIS CHIU

(Reuters) - U.S. manufacturer ITT Corp (ITT.N) plans to split itself into three companies that it says will be better able to react to changing market demands such as U.S. defense budget cuts.

Its shares rose 18 percent on Wednesday, reaching their highest point since the fall of 2008. Analysts saw the move as clearing the way for its water and industrial control businesses to grow more quickly.

"Investors have become increasingly concerned about the earnings headwind from impending U.S. defense budget cuts, which was likely to have depressed ITT's earnings growth potential for the foreseeable future," Deutsche Bank analyst Nigel Coe wrote in a note to clients.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week said he plans to cut $78 billion from the nation's military budget over the next five years because of the government's growing budget deficit.

Shareholders will own stock in all three companies, which likely will be traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Talks next week between Iran and major powers concerned about its nuclear programme could be the "last chance" for the West because Tehran's atomic capability is improving, a senior Iranian official was quoted as saying.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Tehran's nuclear ambassador, raised the stakes for the January 21-22 meeting with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, which want assurances that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.

Once Iran can make its own fuel for a research reactor, which it has said will happen this year, it may not return to negotiations if the talks to be held in Istanbul fail, the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying on Wednesday.

"It might be the last chance because by installing fuel rods produced by Iran in the core of the Tehran Research Reactor, probably parliament will not allow the government to negotiate or send its uranium outside the country and the Istanbul meeting might be the last chance for the West to return to talks."

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has the ultimate say on its nuclear policy and diplomacy.

A similar round of talks concluded in October 2009 with a tentative pact for Iran to export some of its low-enriched uranium in exchange for fuel rods made from higher-enriched, 20 percent uranium to run the reactor which makes medical isotopes.

But that deal, meant as a confidence building step leading to further talks, unravelled when Tehran backed away from the terms, ultimately leading to a new wave of sanctions which some analysts say helped push Tehran back to the negotiating table.


Acting Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Saturday that Iran would be able to produce its own fuel material for the Tehran reactor later this year, making any swap deal "lose its meaning".

Bruno Tertrais, Senior Research Fellow at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris, said Soltanieh's statement was largely bluff.

"In any case, Mr Soltanieh's argument is reversible -- we could always say it's the last chance for Iran.

"When I say bluff, I mean I am not at all certain that Iran has the technical capacity to make the fuel necessary for this type of reactor," he said, echoing the general assessment of Western officials and nuclear experts.

"Now if Iran wants to go down that road then, good luck!"

The U.N. Security Council has urged Iran since 2006 to suspend its uranium enrichment -- which yields fuel for nuclear reactors or, if done to a much higher level, for nuclear bomb -- in exchange for a packet of economic and diplomatic incentives.

Western diplomats do not anticipate a major breakthrough in Istanbul, in view of Iran's refusal to even discuss enrichment.

"I think the best outcome would be agreement to another meeting," said one senior Western diplomat in Vienna, the home of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Soltanieh reiterated Iran's stance. "We consider the possession of peaceful nuclear technology, especially uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes and under the supervision of the IAEA, as our absolute right," IRNA quoted him as saying.

"By no means will we give up on our undeniable peaceful nuclear technology."

Tertrais said Iran had no interest in walking away from the negotiation process, rather in stretching it out.

"The Iranian strategy is one of maintaining a diplomatic process while pursuing all their nuclear activities and limiting the risk of coercive options like new sanctions of even the risk of military action. It is in Iran's interests to keep the diplomatic process alive."

(Additional reporting by Robin Pomeroy and by Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; Writing by Robin Pomeroy; editing by Mark Heinrich)
At least 17 people have been killed as a suicide car bomber rammed a heavily fortified police station in north-west Pakistan, officials say.

Up to 20 others were injured as the explosives-laden Toyota Stout caused a huge blast at the Merian police station in Bannu district.

Witnesses say parts of the building have collapsed, along with a mosque inside the compound.

The Pakistani Taliban reportedly said they carried out the attack.

Bannu is close to Pakistan's troubled tribal areas, which border Afghanistan.
'Retaliation for drones'

Police told the BBC the car bomber had rammed the outer wall of the Merian police station, which is in a densely populated area.

They said more than 50 police officers were in the station at the time of the attack.

The official Pakistan Television Corporation reports that all the dead were members of the Frontier Corps, a federal paramilitary police force.

Witnesses say the district was plunged into darkness by the blast as electricity lines were damaged.

The station is 12km (seven miles) south-west of Bannu town, near the border with Janikhel tribal area, which serves as a buffer between Bannu district and North Waziristan tribal region.

"We claim responsibility for this attack. We will continue such attacks unless the drone attacks are stopped," a Taliban spokesman, Azam Tariq, told AFP news agency by telephone.

He was referring to the missile raids by unmanned US aircraft which have killed hundreds of militants and civilians.

The drones target tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, a region known as a sanctuary for the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Militants have killed hundreds of people in a wave of attacks in recent years in Pakistan.

Hundreds of FBI agents are working on an investigation aimed at understanding why a former community college student, with no history of violence, went on a shooting rampage outside a Tucson, Ariz., supermarket last weekend. The suspect, Jared Loughner, 22, allegedly killed six people, gravely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and injured 13 others as he opened fire during a political event at a local shopping center on Saturday morning.

Inside the FBI, the investigation is known as a "Bureau Special," which means that agents from across the country are being called in to help gather evidence and construct a timeline of Loughner's movements in the days and weeks before the attack. Investigators tell NPR that they are trying to understand what motivated Loughner to lash out.

Loughner has taken the Fifth Amendment and officials say he has refused to speak to authorities or help in the investigation. He has been in custody since Saturday and, officials say, has barely exchanged a word with law enforcement officials. That's why FBI agents are trying to piece together much of his life without his help.

(Reuters) - Prominent Republican Sarah Palin on Wednesday accused critics of "blood libel" by blaming her rhetoric for contributing to the shooting rampage in Tucson that killed six and wounded 14, including Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

"Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them," the conservative Tea Party favorite and former Alaska governor said in her first major response to critics.

"Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible."

Palin, the Republican Party's 2008 vice presidential nominee, posted her remarks to her Facebook page in both a video and text.

Suspected gunman Jared Lee Loughner faces five federal charges, including the attempted assassination of Giffords, who was in critical condition with a bullet wound to the head after being shot at a constituent outreach event at a Tucson, Arizona, shopping mall.

Some commentators and bloggers questioned whether last year's election rhetoric from conservative Republicans including Palin and some Tea Party candidates created a climate that bred violence.

Politicians from both parties have urged a softening of the often bitter political tone.

Authorities have not cited a motive in the shootings.

Palin urged conservatives to "reload," not retreat, after a fierce debate over President Barack Obama's plans to overhaul the healthcare system. She also published an electoral map identifying vulnerable Democratic congressional districts, including Giffords', with rifle cross-hairs.

Palin said blame should rest "not with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election."

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Vicki Allen)
Brisbane, Australia (CNN) -- Anxious Brisbane residents scooped up flashlights and batteries, raided grocery store shelves for supplies and carted valuables away from the reach of rising waters Wednesday as the region prepared for what the Queensland premier described as "the worst natural disaster in our history."

A wave of water was sweeping through the city's main river system and the prediction was ominous.

The Brisbane River, which cuts through the city center, was expected to rise beyond the record set in 1974 when it broke its banks, flooding more than 6,000 homes and killing 14 people.

This time, models predict that 19,700 homes will be "completely flooded" in Brisbane, which is home to more than 1 million people, and another 4,000 homes are likely to be affected in Ipswich, said Queensland Premier Anna Bligh.

"We are preparing for the worst natural disaster in our history," she said.

Throughout the day Wednesday, emergency personnel ferried residents from low-lying suburbs. The numbers at evacuation centers swelled. Water had already swallowed the bottom levels of many houses and was lapping at the second floor.

A group of church workers knocked on doors, offering to help move belongings. No one refused.

"I was surprised by people coming in. I have to move all the stuff to upstairs to ensure its safety. But where I can go I don't know," said Hao Hu, as the church workers carried his belongings upstairs.