Monday, January 31, 2011

(CNN) -- Last month, Google unveiled its latest innovation, an app for phones that can near-simultaneously translate speech from one language to another.

"Google Conversation," so far only available to translate between Spanish and English, generated excited headlines speculating that a true universal translator -- an idea popularized by "Star Trek" -- might be just around the corner.

It's easy to get swept up by the buzz. Google's current text-based "Translate" online software is as good as it's ever been, allowing users to get reasonably faithful translations between scores of languages.

Howdy, Hines. Welcome to Big D.

Hines Ward was ready for a rodeo of a week leading up to the Super Bowl as he stepped off the Pittsburgh Steelers' charter flight when the team arrived in Dallas.

Pittsburgh's star wide receiver, who embraces his reputation as one of the league's most aggressive — and some say, dirtiest — players, was decked out in a big black cowboy hat, a black sequined Western-style shirt, blue jeans, boots and a Texas-sized silver belt buckle.

"I'm in Dallas, Texas," Ward said, smiling. "I wanted to put on my whole cowboy outfit and enjoy it. No nerves."

He sure looked loose, and almost like a native Texan. Not bad for a guy born in South Korea who grew up in Georgia and has played in Pittsburgh for 13 years.

"Where'd I find all this stuff?" an amused Ward asked, repeating a reporter's question. "A little place in Monroeville [Pa.]. It's my little diamond in the rough there."

(Reuters) - Google Inc launched a special service to allow people in Egypt to send Twitter messages by dialing a phone number and leaving a voicemail, as Internet access remains cut off in the country amid anti-government protests.

"Like many people we've been glued to the news unfolding in Egypt and thinking of what we could do to help people on the ground," read a post on Google's official corporate blog on Monday.

The service, which Google said was developed with engineers from Twitter, allows people to dial a telephone number and leave a voicemail. The voicemail is automatically translated into an audio file message that is sent on Twitter using the identifying tag #egypt, Google said.

Google said in the blog post, titled "Some weekend work that will (hopefully) enable more Egyptians to be heard," that no Internet connection is needed to use the service.

It listed three phone numbers for people to call to use the service.

Internet social networking services like Twitter and Facebook have been important tools of communications for protesters in Egypt who have taken to the streets since last week to demonstrate against the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak.

Internet service has been suspended around the country and phone text messaging has been disabled.

A source familiar with the matter said Google, whose corporate motto is "Don't Be Evil," was not taking sides in the crisis in Egypt, but was simply supporting access to information as it has done with other services such as video website YouTube.

YouTube has been streaming live coverage of Al Jazeera's broadcasts of the events in Egypt.

Dozens of the so-called speak-to-tweet messages were featured on Twitter on Monday. The messages ranged from a few seconds to several minutes and featured people identifying themselves as Egyptians and describing the situations in various parts of the country.

"The government is spreading rumors of fear and of burglary and of violence," said one of the messages from an English speaker. "The only incidence of theft and burglary are done by the police themselves."

Google listed the following numbers for people to use the service: +16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855.
With large protests planned for Tuesday, the Egyptian political crisis has far-reaching impact for the United States in the Middle East.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. faces its most precarious moment in the Middle East in years, with the dangers to U.S. interests growing as a tense standoff drags on between tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's embattled regime.

President Barack Obama and his aides are hoping for what they call an ``orderly transition,'' with a smooth exit for Mubarak and a hand-over of power to a transitional government that organizes new, fair elections.

The massive protests planned for Tuesday could in theory lead to this scenario for the most populous Arab country. The grimmer scenario is a lengthy crisis that debilitates Egypt further and ends in a military coup, anarchy or general chaos.

``I think there's a lot to be scared about . . . more to be scared about than to be thrilled about,'' said retired U.S. diplomat David Mack, now with the Middle East Institute. If things go badly wrong, ``you could have Somalia on the Mediterranean.''

``The longer the situation wends on, the more dangerous it becomes for American foreign policy,'' said J. Scott Carpenter, who was a State Department official dealing with Muslim democracy issues under former President George W. Bush.

The State Department Monday sent former ambassador Frank Wisner to Cairo to urge Mubarak's government to embrace political overhauls.

Tokyo (CNN) -- The Mt. Shinmoe volcano in southern Japan erupted again Tuesday morning, with the country's Meteorological Agency calling it the fourth and most powerful eruption in recent days.

About 240 residents were evacuated from the town of Takaharu over the weekend when the volcano resumed its eruptions.

Tuesday's eruption was so powerful that it broke more than 150 windows in structures in nearby Kirishima city, local officials said. A 91-year-old woman in the city suffered minor injuries when she was cut by broken glass.

The eruptions started last Wednesday and at one point ash spewed up to 9,800 feet (3,000 meters) into the air, officials said.

The last Mt. Shinmoe eruption was in July. A large-scale eruption such as the recent ones, however, was last observed about 52 years ago, the meteorological observatory said.
(CNN) -- "The guys would say they'd be tortured so bad, they'd be screaming, 'Tell me what you want me to say! Tell us what to say and we'll say it!' They'd agree to confirm anything State Security wanted."

The words are those of one Egyptian speaking to Human Rights Watch - and alleging torture by Egypt's security services against his fellow detainees.

Another man, a 22-year-old taxi-driver, told HRW last year about his detention by Egyptian police: "They had whips and hit me on the legs, on the bottom of my feet, and on my back. When they took me down, they brought a black electric device and applied electro-shocks four or five times to my arms until it started smoking."

They are two of many cases documented by Human Rights Watch in a 96-page report on mistreatment of detainees in Egypt entitled "Work On Him Until He Confesses: Impunity for Torture in Egypt."

The report, which was published Monday but compiled before the current unrest, concludes that the Egyptian security forces carry out torture and ill-treatment of detainees with impunity and the "government is failing miserably to provide victims of torture and ill-treatment effective remedy."

The international human rights group says those guilty of human rights abuses have little expectation or reason to fear they will be held to account. It cites the Egyptian government's own figures that criminal courts convicted only six police officers of such abuses between 2006 and 2009.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry reported to HRW that 10 other officers were acquitted, and three received suspended sentences. The Interior Ministry said that it had reduced the salaries of 47 officers, suspended 17, issued one warning and acquitted 11. There were at least 70 cases (some involving more than one officer) referred to the courts or a disciplinary tribunal during that period.

NEW YORK (AP) -- A human resources manager at a Toshiba America Inc. subsidiary sued the company Monday for $100 million, accusing the electronics giant of discriminating against women.

Elaine Cyphers of Mecklenburg County, N.C., brought the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan against the parent company and Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corp., a subsidiary that promotes advanced boiling water nuclear power plants. The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of women who are, or have been, employed by Toshiba in the United States.

The lawsuit says Toshiba underpays women, delays or blocks their promotion into better jobs, subjects them to stricter discipline and different rules than men and fails to respond adequately to complaints of discrimination. It says job promotions result from subjective discussions among Toshiba's male supervisors rather than by merit or equal opportunity.

"As a result, male employees have advanced and continue to advance more rapidly to better and higher paying jobs than female employees," the lawsuit says.

A Toshiba spokesman declined comment on Monday.

The lawsuit says Cyphers was told when she was hired in June 2008 that she would be the company's top human resources manager, and she relocated from Richmond, Va., to Falls Church, Va., with that expectation. But the company instead created a "senior human resources manager" position and hired a less qualified man to fill it as her supervisor, the lawsuit says.

Will Egypt's unrest spread?

(CNN) -- Thousands of Egyptians have taken to the streets of cities across the country for a seventh straight day of demonstrations aimed at forcing long-time president Hosni Mubarak to quit.

Widespread unrest broke out in Egypt in the wake of Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution, but could the upheaval go further? Are we about to witness the Arab world's equivalent of 1989, when a tide of popular protests swept away many of Eastern Europe's communist regimes?

CNN asked experts on the region for their thoughts on what will happen next in the Middle East and North Africa.

Maha Azzam
Egyptian commentator and writer

We are already seeing the reverberations of the call for political reform which started in Tunisia -- in Egypt, but also in Yemen, in Jordan.

It's not going to stop here. It is difficult to counter the urge for political reform once it has begun.

For decades, authoritarian regimes have remained in power, and now we have a whole new generation who have grown up under them, and they want to see a different political system, one that is accountable, that will do something about the corruption.

This doesn't mean it will happen in other places on the scale of Egypt or Tunisia, but we can see the beginnings of people going out onto the streets and asking for reform, for change.

(Reuters) - Egypt's armed forces pledged not to fire on peaceful demonstrators on Monday as thousands of people, freed from fear after decades of oppression, tried to press home their campaign to oust President Hosni Mubarak.

The army, which put Mubarak into power in 1981, seemed to be weighing whether to shift its loyalties as the former general's opponents spoke of getting a million people onto the streets on Tuesday to mark a week since the unprecedented protests began.

The military command, which may be keener to preserve a 60-year-old system of army-backed government than to prolong the personal rule of the 82-year-old Mubarak, issued a statement on Monday calling protesters' demands "legitimate" and promising not to use force against people expressing themselves peacefully.

The White House and the European Union renewed their calls for Mubarak to accept the will of the people, though refrained from telling their veteran ally outright that he should quit.

Egyptians in the streets had no such reservations.

"The people want the president out!" chanted thousands in Cairo. "Wake up, Mubarak! Today is your last day!" was the cry of a crowd in Mahalla, a textile mill town in the Nile Delta.

On the sixth day of rallies that have roused fellow Arabs and undermined the long-entrenched assumptions of diplomats and investors, tens of thousands on the streets of Cairo and other cities poured scorn on Mubarak's bid to save his 30-year rule by naming a new set of loyalists to his government.

"There is no turning back. There is no fear," 35-year-old Hassan Shaaban said at the permanent rally in central Cairo. "After Mubarak, no other president will dare to oppress us."

Washington (CNN) -- Politics is serious business -- but not all the time. From the halls of Congress to the campaign trail to the international stage, there's always something that gets a laugh or a second glance.

How do you really feel?

Comedian Tracy Morgan is if nothing but brutally honest. Maybe too honest.
At the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, Morgan weighed in on "mama grizzly" herself, Sarah Palin.
"Sarah Palin, you're the hottest MILF in the world," he said to one interviewer. MILF is a crass acronym for a mother with whom one would like to have sexual relations.
This isn't the first time he has expressed his love for the former governor of Alaska -- though his comments came under fire.

Something's fishy

Salmon is serious business in Alaska. Just ask the state's Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, who recently sent smoked fish -- along with a letter -- to President Obama, Politico's Glenn Thrush reports.
It was in response to Obama's State of the Union address where he discussed the inner workings of government -- and used salmon as an example of how multiple agencies can oversee one thing.
"Begich took the president's humor in stride, reminding him in writing that smoked salmon is 'as healthy as it is delicious' -- but he would rather the president taste it for himself."

(Reuters) - A Florida judge could on Monday become the second U.S. judge to declare President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law unconstitutional, in the biggest legal challenge yet to federal authority to enact the law.

The judge, Roger Vinson of the U.S. District Court in Pensacola, Florida, was expected to rule on a lawsuit brought by governors and attorneys general from 26 U.S. states, almost all of whom are Republicans. Obama is a Democrat.

The plaintiffs represent more than half the U.S. states, so the Pensacola case has more prominence than some two dozen lawsuits filed in federal courts over the healthcare law.

No specific time has been given for Vinson's ruling, which was unlikely to end the legal wrangling over the contentious reform law, which could well reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

But an aide said he was determined to issue his opinion in the course of Monday on the suit filed on March 23, 2010, just hours after Obama signed the reform into law.

The healthcare overhaul, a cornerstone of Obama's presidency, aims to expand health insurance to cover millions of uninsured Americans while also curbing costs. Administration officials insist it is constitutional and needed to stem huge projected increases in healthcare costs.

WASHINGTON (AP) A type of diabetes that strikes during pregnancy may disappear at birth, but it remains a big red flag for moms' future health - one that too many seem to be missing.
Graphic shows gestational and postpartum screening rates of women by race

Roughly half of women who've had gestational diabetes - the pregnancy kind - go on to develop full-fledged Type 2 diabetes in the months to years after their child's birth.

Yet new research shows fewer than one in five of those women returns for a crucial diabetes test within six months of delivery. That's the first of the checkups they're supposed to have every few years to guard against diabetes' return, but no one knows how many do.

The research, by testing-lab giant Quest Diagnostics, is sobering because if they only knew, many of these new mothers could take steps to reduce their chances of later-in-life diabetes that can bring with it such complications as heart disease and kidney damage.

"It's almost as if you got a preview . a window to the future," says Dr. Ann Albright, a diabetes specialist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "This is a population that really should be targeted for intervention."

And more mothers-to-be soon may join the ranks. The American Diabetes Association is recommending a change in how pregnant women are tested that will identify more mild cases than today, based on some recent studies that found treating even those mothers leads to easier deliveries. If obstetricians eventually sign on, it has the potential to double diagnoses - although most mild cases would need only better nutrition and exercise, not diabetes medications, the association cautions.

The federal government unveiled new dietary guidelines Monday that urge certain people to cut down on salt.

The guidelines, which are updated every five years, recommend that people over age 51, African-Americans and people with a history of hypertension, diabetes or kidney problems limit their daily salt intake to a little over a half a teaspoon. For everyone else, the daily recommendation remains at 2,300 milligrams -- about one teaspoon of salt.

But that could be tough. A cup of spaghetti and meatballs has approximately 1,000 milligrams of salt in it, and an average frozen meal can have up to 1,500 milligrams in just one serving.

"Most of that salt comes from processed, packaged pre-prepared foods," said Cheryl Achterberg, dean of the College of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University. "So, cutting back a little bit on that and doing some more home-food preparation will make a big difference."

"I think it is attainable," Achterberg said of the guideline. "It's within reach of many, if not most Americans."

AT least 17 civilians were killed yesterday when a Somali government soldier fired on a crowd in Mogadishu, according to hospital sources and witnesses.

Witnesses said the soldier accidentally triggered an anti-aircraft machine gun after a dispute with other soldiers on a crowded street in the south of the Somali capital. It was unclear what caused the dispute.

"There was a disaster in Mogadishu today [Monday]. We have received around 56 injured people, 12 dead bodies and five others died of their injuries at the hospital," said Mohamed Yusuf, the director of Mogadishu's Madina hospital.

Defence Minister Abdihakin Mohamed Fiqi expressed regret over the incident and promised government assistance to the wounded.

"On behalf of the Somali government, the president, his prime minister and the speaker, we are very sorry about the sad incident," Mr Fiqi said at the hospital.

"We will help the wounded and promise to bring those behind the brutal killing to justice."
Composer John Barry, famous for his work on Born Free, Out of Africa and the James Bond films, has died in New York of a heart attack aged 77.

Born John Barry Prendergast in 1933, the York-born musician first found fame as leader of the John Barry Seven.

His arrangement of Monty Norman's James Bond theme led to him composing scores for 11 films in the series, among them Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice.

His work saw him win five Oscars, while he received a Bafta fellowship in 2005.

His most recent film score featured in the 2001 war thriller Enigma, while a musical version of Brighton Rock, created with lyricist Don Black, had its London premiere in 2004.

Black, who worked with the composer on his Born Free, Thunderball and Diamonds are Forever theme songs, said Barry remained unaffected by his international success.

(Reuters) - A helicopter from a huge luxury yacht owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, made an emergency landing on water in Argentina on Monday, but neither Allen nor Bill Gates were on board.

Paul Allen's spokesman said a co-pilot was hurt when the helicopter came down on chilly waters in the bay off the southern Argentine tourist city of Ushuaia, a jumping off point for Antarctic cruises.

"Paul landed in Ushuaia soon after the accident ... He was going to join up with the Octopus on a private vacation to explore Antarctica," spokesman David Postman said, referring to the $200 million Octopus yacht.

Facilities on the vessel -- once the world's largest privately owned yacht -- include two helicopters and a professional recording studio. It has a permanent staff of 60 crew members.

The helicopter took off from the Octopus carrying two crew members at about 8 a.m. local time (1100 GMT). It was not clear why an emergency landing was necessary, Postman said.

Crew members rushed to activate flotation devices and landed upright. A photograph showed the helicopter bobbing in the water, its rotor blades twisted.

"This was a close call," Postman said. "We're glad that the there was no danger to guests or crew."

Allen, who founded Microsoft with Gates in 1975, is one of the world's wealthiest people and a well-known philanthropist and adventurer.

Gates was in New York when the accident occurred.

(Reuters) - Chrysler Group LLC forecast a return to profit for 2011 as it gears up for an initial public offering in the second half of the year and launches an array of new and revamped vehicle models to stimulate its recovery.

The automaker, which is managed and 25 percent owned by Fiat SpA, on Monday projected net income between $200 million and $500 million for 2011. It expects its 2011 revenue to jump by nearly one-third to $55 billion.

Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne has said Chrysler must report a "couple" quarters of net income before its expected IPO this year. The company must also refinance high-interest government loans for lower-cost debt before a public offering.

Chrysler, the No. 5 automaker by sales in the United States, emerged from a U.S. government-funded bankruptcy in mid-2009.

(CNN) -- The scenes in Egypt have been dramatic, as thousands turn out onto the streets demanding that President Hosni Mubarak resign after 30 years in power.

Few images have been more powerful than those of demonstrators dropping to the ground to pray in the face of security forces. And while some have been inspired by the role of religious faith in the protests, there are definite worries that the banned Muslim Brotherhood is waiting in the wings, hoping for a chance to take over.

"You don't just have a government and a movement for democracy," former British Prime Minister Tony Blair cautioned on Monday. "You also have others, notably the Muslim Brotherhood, who would take this in a different direction. We need to be anxious to meet the aspirations of the people, but do it in a way that produces something better."

Former Israeli diplomat Eli Avidar argues that elections put the militant Islamist Hamas movement in power in Gaza.

"President (George W.) Bush and (Secretary of State) Condi Rice pressured the State of Israel to allow democratic elections in the Palestinian Authority and what happened was that Hamas took over and these were the first and last democratic elections," he said.

The Muslim Brotherhood could do the same thing in Egypt, he fears.

CAIRO (AP) -- A coalition of opposition groups called for a million people to take to Cairo's streets Tuesday to demand the removal of President Hosni Mubarak, the clearest sign yet that a unified leadership was trying to emerge for Egypt's powerful but disparate protest movement.

In an apparent attempt to defuse the weeklong political upheaval, Mubarak named a new government Monday - dropping the widely hated interior minister in charge of security forces. But the lineup was greeted with scorn in Tahrir Square, the central Cairo plaza that has become the protests' epicenter, with crowds of more than 10,000 chanting for Mubarak's ouster.

"We don't want life to go back to normal until Mubarak leaves," said Israa Abdel-Fattah, a founder of the April 6 Group, a movement of young people pushing for democratic reform.

In what appeared to be a reaction to the opposition call, state TV aired a warning from the military against "the carrying out of any act that destabilizes security of the country." But it also said the military underlined that it "has not and will not use force against the public."

If Egypt's opposition groups are able to truly coalesce, it could sustain and amplify the momentum of the week-old protests. A unified front could also provide a focal point for American and other world leaders who are issuing demands for an orderly transition to a democratic system, saying Mubarak's limited concessions are insufficient.

But unity is far from certain among the array of movements involved in the protests, with sometimes conflicting agendas - including students, online activists, grassroots organizers, old-school opposition politicians and the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, along with everyday citizens drawn by the exhilaration of marching against the government.

So it was not clear how much the groups that met Monday represent everyone. The gathering of around 30 representatives, meeting in the Cairo district of Dokki, agreed to work as a united coalition and supported a call for a million people to turn out for a march Tuesday, said Abu'l-Ela Madi , the spokesman of one of the participating groups, al-Wasat, a moderate breakaway faction from the Muslim Brotherhood.

The combination of real estate investment trusts AMB Property Corp. and ProLogis will create a global powerhouse in warehouses and other industrial real estate.

The companies said Monday they reached a deal to combine in an all-stock deal, after news leaked last week that they were in talks. Wall Street sees opportunities for significant savings from the merging operations of the two companies.

AMB and ProLogis own huge warehouse and distribution centers that dot the sides of interstate highways, enabling companies to ship products quickly. The combined company's largest customer will be the shipper DHL, with about 2.6 percent of the total rent.

Some analysts estimated the two control about 75 percent of the market in North America, and more in certain parts of the country, which will give the combined company stronger control over its prices.

The combined company will have operations in 22 countries. Both companies operate in Western Europe and Japan. ProLogis is established in the United Kingdom and Central and Eastern Europe, while AMB has a significant presence in China and Brazil.

AMB CEO Hamid R. Moghadam said during a conference call that the combined company will save about $80 million a year from merging administrative operations.

Lower expenses could push funds from operations, the most commonly used measure of earnings for real estate investment trusts, up by as much as 8.8 percent, said Jefferies & Co. analyst Steven Benyik in a note last week.

Moghadam will share leadership responsibilities with ProLogis CEO Walter C. Rakowich through the end of 2012. During the call, Rakowich said he would handle the integration of the companies. Moghadam, who will handle strategy and the private capital business during the integration period, will become sole CEO and chairman of the combined company after Rakowich retires.

The companies also have significant financing arms. "We're going to be in a great position to offer our private capital partners a wide range of industrial funds," Rakowich said.

Under the agreement, each ProLogis share will be converted into a 0.4464 AMB shares. That values ProLogis at $8.36 billion based on AMB Property's closing price on Friday. That means ProLogis investors are not getting a premium on the stock, which closed at $15.21 on Friday. Shares fell 29 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $14.91 in midday trading.

WASHINGTON Obama administration officials say the United States is pressing embattled ally Hosni Mubarak to institute a set of key reforms in Egypt. The most significant is credible presidential elections in September, preferably without the 82-year-old leader as a candidate.

Two American officials say the other gestures the U.S. is seeking are for Mubarak to lift emergency laws in place since 1981, allow non-governmental organizations to operate and free political prisoners.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of diplomacy and the difficult situation the Obama administration finds itself in. It is trying to usher in an orderly transition to democracy without alienating pro-democracy protesters or its ally over three decades.
DETROIT (AP) -- Police in Michigan say a California man accused of planning to attack the Islamic Center of America was driving near the mosque wearing a ski mask when police stopped and arrested him.

Dearborn Police said in a statement Monday that 63-year-old Roger Stockham had open intoxicants, spray paint and fireworks in his car. Police did not specify which intoxicants.

Police Chief Ronald Haddad (huh-DAD') told The Associated Press that Stockham had more than two dozen class-C fireworks, including M-80s, which are illegal in Michigan.

Police say a local business owner tipped them off about Stockham. They say the suspect was heard making comments about an explosion at a mosque and seen taking pictures of the building.

Stockham was arrested a week ago in the mosque's parking lot.

ATLANTA (AP) -- Some local law enforcement agencies, particularly in the Southeast, are turning over illegal immigrants who commit even minor offenses to federal authorities for deportation, while others are focused on deporting more violent criminals, according to a report released Monday.

The report by the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based nonpartisan think tank, said conflicting messages from the U.S. government and local political pressure may account for the discrepancy.

The study, which examined a program that allows participating local agencies to enforce federal immigration law, found that several agencies in the Southeast were turning over every illegal immigrant taken into custody. An influx of immigrants in the generally conservative region has heightened political tension, the report said. North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina were in the top six in terms of growth rates of foreign-born populations from 1990 to 2009.

"This regional pattern reflects common political pressures that stem from rapid demographic change," the report said.