Wednesday, February 2, 2011

TOKYO (AP) -- Mazda Motor Corp. sank into the red in the October-December quarter, unable to overcome a stronger yen and lackluster sales in Japan.

The Japanese automaker said Thursday it booked a quarterly net loss of 2.67 billion yen ($32.7 million). It had net profit of 4.42 billion yen a year earlier.

Revenue inched up 0.5 percent to 560.24 billion yen ($6.9 billion) while operating profit slid 90 percent to 1.05 billion yen ($12.9 million).

Demand for cars in Japan fell sharply in the quarter after government subsidies for green car purchases expired, Mazda said. It also cited foreign exchange losses and higher sales costs.

The Hiroshima-based car maker said it is implementing steps to boost profitability across the company, including expanding sales in China, Thailand and other emerging markets.

Mazda, whose models include the Miata roadster and RX-8 sportscar, is a relatively small player in the auto industry, with a 5 percent market share in Japan and a 2 percent share in the U.S.

In December, Ford cut its stake in Mazda from 11 percent to 3.5 percent, marking a symbolic shift in a longtime U.S.-Japan auto alliance.

In contrast to bigger rivals such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co., Mazda is taking a slower path when it comes to hybrid and electric cars. It has high hopes for its next-generation gasoline and diesel engines that feature significantly improved fuel efficiency. The technology will make its debut this year in the Demio, which can reach 30 kilometers per liter (75 miles per gallon).

Mazda left its outlook for the year ending March 2011 unchanged. It continues to forecast net profit of 6 billion yen on revenue of 2.3 trillion yen.

The company reported earnings after financial markets closed. In trading Thursday, Mazda's shares fell 2.5 percent on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, worse than the Nikkei 225 stock average's 0.3 percent decline.

Mazda bases its earnings on Japanese accounting standards.
(CNN) -- The fiery, bloody clashes between demonstrators in Cairo -- with soldiers watching with seeming indifference -- is an apparent maneuver by the Egyptian military to raise popular support for their intervention and the old guard police state, analysts say.

Egyptian state television on Wednesday went so far as to portray the protesters as members of a radical fringe and bluntly stated: "Let the military take over and protect you and Egypt."

"We have confirmed reports that there are radical elements heading to cause internal strife. They have balls of fire and they want to start fire in the Tahrir (Liberation) Square," Egyptian television said.

Much international media coverage has focused on the violence in Cairo's Liberation Square between antagonists and protagonists for embattled President Hosni Mubarak. It remained unclear whether such confrontations were being repeated elsewhere. Contesting rallies in Egypt's second-largest city, Alexandria, were largely peaceful. Other Cairo neighborhoods also remained calm.

But Wednesday's events in Liberation Square highlighted pro-Mubarak demonstrators charging -- dramatically on horseback and camels -- anti-Mubarak protesters, the first sign of a counter-demonstration after days of mass anti-government protests.

In stark juxtaposition, as the violence unfolded, the army did nothing.

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) -- A judge ruled Thursday that police can keep holding a U.S. Embassy employee accused of killing two Pakistanis for at least eight more days, officials said - the latest development in a case that has heightened tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan.

The U.S. says the American, identified by Pakistanis as Raymond Allen Davis, has diplomatic immunity and that Pakistan must free him. U.S. officials say he shot the two Pakistanis in the city of Lahore because they were trying to rob him.

Pakistani authorities have avoided definitive statements on Davis' level of diplomatic clearance, and have said the decision on his fate is up to the courts. Another judge, meanwhile, has instructed that the American be placed on the "exit control list" so that he cannot leave Pakistan.

If Davis is freed, it could spark backlash in a country that is a key counterterrorism ally but where anti-American sentiment is rife.

Police official Zulifqar Hameed said a judge ordered Davis be held another eight days. His next court appearance is set for Feb. 11.

OSLO, Norway (AP) -- A Norwegian lawmaker says he has nominated WikiLeaks for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.

Snorre Valen of the Socialist Left Party says the secret-spilling website has promoted human rights, democracy and freedom of speech just like last year's winner, imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

The 26-year-old legislator wrote on his blog Wednesday that WikiLeaks has exposed "corruption, war crimes and torture" through its releases of classified documents. He also cited disclosures of nepotism and corruption in Tunisia's presidential family, saying WikiLeaks "made a small contribution to bringing down" that regime.

The prize committee typically receives more than 200 nominations. The nomination deadline for the 2011 prize was Tuesday.
Looks like Intel “le falta un tornillo.” You’re surely aware of the problem with its Series 6 (“Cougar Point”) support chipset, which has caused the company to stop production of its Sandy Bridge processors. It’s a nightmare, and not only for Intel. Take Asus: a fine company that produces a number motherboards and laptops that are afflicted with the rotten chipset. What to do?

Asus has taken it upon itself to offer an extended warranty to all of its doodads. If you bought a Sandy Bridge motherboard but don’t want it anymore, no worries: you can swap it for another one, or merely return it and get your money back.

Asus also notes that the glitch doesn’t affect SATA ports 0 and 1. If all you need is access to those two ports and don’t want to go through the rigamarole of contacting customer service, worry not: you should be fine.

Dell has made similar assurances, noting that it’s “committed” to working with its customers to make everything right.

The glitch, as you might suspect, will delay the release of further Sandy Bridge-based systems for several weeks—one analyst says not to be surprised if full-scale production doesn’t resume until April.

The glitch only affects Sandy Bridge, so system builders looking to use an i5 or i7 processor have nothing to worry about.
You can't tell from recent sales figures that Honda's long-running Civic small car is months away from a new, ninth-generation model debut. The current, 2011 Civic is selling fine, even setting a record for December sales at year-end 2010.

Honda's 2011 Civic retains the successful formula that has made the Civic a perennial top 10 seller in the United States - a reputation for reliability, good fit and finish, a selection of engines and transmissions, interior comfort and good fuel economy. Pricing isn't a bargain, however.

Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $16,355 for a base, 2011 Civic DX coupe with 140-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and manual transmission. The lowest starting price for a 2011 Civic sedan with the same 140-horse engine and manual is $16,555. Prices go up to $27,900 for the top, leather- and navigation-equipped 2011 Civic gas-electric hybrid model.

Competitors include the 2011 Toyota Corolla, which starts at $16,360 for a sedan with 132-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and manual transmission, and the new, 2012 Ford Focus, which starts at $16,995 for a sedan with 140-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and manual transmission. Pricewise, the 2011 Hyundai Elantra sedan, with a 148-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and manual transmission, undercuts the Civic and others with a starting retail price of $15,550.

ROME (AP) -- A male apprentice, longtime companion and possible lover of Leonardo da Vinci was the main influence and a model for the "Mona Lisa" painting, an Italian researcher said Wednesday.

But the researcher, Silvano Vinceti, said the portrait represents a synthesis of Leonardo's scientific, artistic and philosophical beliefs. Because the artist worked at it at various intervals for many years, he was subjected to different influences and sources of inspiration, and the canvas is full of hidden symbolic meanings.

"The 'Mona Lisa' must be read at various levels, not just as a portrait," Vinceti said.

This is one of many theories that have circulated over the decades about the identity of "Mona Lisa" and the meaning for her famously enigmatic smile. Others have said the painting was a self-portrait in disguise, or the depiction of a Florentine merchant's wife - the latter drawing a consensus among scholars.

Anderson Cooper and his crew were attacked by supporters of Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on Wednesday. CNN's Steve Brusk tweeted that Cooper was punched in the head ten times.

The incident came as pro-Mubarak supporters attacked protesters calling for the Egyptian president to step down. Speaking on "American Morning" after the attack, Cooper said that he and his crew had been trying to go to a neutral zone between the two groups.

"We never got that far," he said. "We were set upon by pro-Mubarak supporters punching us in the head." Cooper said that he and the crew tried to escape, but that the crowd only grew: "the crowd kept growing, kept throwing punches, kicks...suddenly a young man would look at you and punch you in the face."

In an extensive round of media interviews and meetings with staff yesterday, EMI CEO Roger Faxon sent a singular message: Citigroup's acquisition and recapitalization relieves pressure on the music group and makes it possible for EMI to "pay attention much more directly to the operating performance of the business and to driving for growth in the future.”

"One of the things that people don’t appreciate is that EMI was able to pay the debt service on that £3.4bn." Faxon told Music Week. “I think this will relieve that pressure. And I would say that, while of course £1.2bn is a lot of money, in the scheme of a business like this it is a pretty modest level of debt and the terms under which that debt is extended to us are good. The covenants and the way the package is, gives us substantial headroom so we are not at risk of tripping up on covenants or any of those things.”

"if you'd been at Roger's townhall for London employees yesterday, or had been at one of our American offices following his conference call to staff," one EMI staffer told Hypebot, "you'd have seen staff who were incredibly motivated and excited about the future."

Faxon and EMI have clearly scored a few wins in recent months under difficult circumstances; and now his team can focus less on debt service and more on results. It remains, however, hard to imagine that Citi's board wants to own a music group for long; or that Faxon's efforts - intentionally or not - will do little more than make a sale more profitable.

Groundhog Day 2011: Flanked by acting Staten Island Zoo
Director Ken Mitchell and general curator Peter Laline,
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg presents Staten
Island Chuck after the groundhog failed to see his shadow,
thereby predicting an early spring.
(Staten Island Advance/Irving Silverstein)
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Emerging from his burrow on this gloomy Groundhog Day 2011, Staten Island Chuck, assisted by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has forecast an early end to what has been an incredible winter.

According to folklore, if a groundhog sees its shadow on Groundhog Day, it will scurry back inside its burrow and winter will continue unabated for six more weeks.

If the groundhog does not see a shadow, winter will begin to recede and the next six weeks -- at which point spring arrives -- will be milder.

Chuck's Pennsylvania rival, Punxsutawney Phil, agrees with the

CHICAGO (AP) - Dozens of motorists were stranded for hours on Chicago's iconic Lake Shore Drive after it was shut down as a blizzard battered the city.

City officials said early Wednesday that multiple lanes of cars and buses became stuck on the northbound lanes of the city's crucial thoroughfare because of abandoned vehicles, multiple accidents and generally poor traffic conditions.

Rescue officials were evacuating motorists from their cars overnight and guiding some to stranded buses to keep them warm.

Motorist Frank Ercole told WLS-TV in Chicago that no one had any information and "everything was frozen." He described the scene as "insane."

City officials say the drive was closed just before 8 p.m. Tuesday. They worried that winds up to 60 mph could push waves from Lake Michigan over the roadway.
HIRBET MADRAS, Israel (AP) -- Israeli archaeologists say they have uncovered a 1,500-year-old church, including an unusually well-preserved mosaic floor with images of lions, foxes, fish and peacocks.

Amir Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority says the church in the hills southwest of Jerusalem was active between the fifth and seventh centuries A.D.

Archaeologists began digging after discovering that thieves were plundering the site. Ganor said archaeologists uncovered a mosaic "unique in its craftsmanship and level of preservation."

Though initially identifying the building as a synagogue, they concluded it was a Byzantine church.

Reporters were given a brief glimpse of the mosaic Wednesday. It is being covered up again until funding becomes available for its proper preservation.

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) -- A man who used Facebook to post a curse directed at a northern Nigerian governor has been arrested and jailed, police said Wednesday, a chilling warning about freedom of speech ahead of the oil-rich nation's coming elections.

Officers arrested Moukhtar Ibrahim Aminu in Jigawa state in late January for being a "public nuisance," police spokesman Abdul Jinjiri said. Police held Aminu in jail for several days before bringing him to a local court, where he faced defamation charges. A judge sent him to jail pending trial.

Jinjiri said Aminu's crime stemmed from a comment he posted Jan. 18 to the social networking website. Writing in the local Hausa language, Aminu asked that divine punishment be leveled against Jigawa state Gov. Sule Lamido, a politician who helped form the ruling People's Democratic Party when Nigeria became a democracy more than a decade ago.

"Allah curse Sule Lamido and all his useless friends," the posting reads. "Allah make Sule Lamido and his friend useless."

Such curses can carry tremendous importance in Nigeria, a nation where animist beliefs mix with Christianity and Islam. Some believe the curses can damage them for life, while others take them as an insult.

Nigerian law provides for freedom of speech in Africa's most populous nation. A 1983 court decision clearly shows that politicians and others cannot demand the arrest of individuals who slander, libel or defame them, said lawyer and civil rights activist Femi Falana.

Julie K. Schenecker, 50, is charged with two counts
of first-degree murder.
(CNN) -- A search warrant filed in Tampa, Florida, Tuesday says a mother was unconscious and wearing a bloody robe and her two deceased children were covered in blankets when police arrived.

Julie K. Schenecker was awakened and taken from a screened-in pool area to inside the home, where evidence was recovered, according to the warrant filed in Circuit Court in Hillsborough County.

The search warrant was posted on the website of CNN affiliate WTSP.

Schenecker, 50, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the January 28 deaths of her 13-year-old son, Beau Powers Schenecker, and her 16-year-old daughter, Calyx Powers Schenecker.

She was denied bond at a court appearance Monday, a court spokesman said.

The warrant provides new details in the case: Five bullets and a Smith & Wesson box and instruction manual were found in the master bedroom; 15 live rounds and five spent shell casings were in the master bath. Also indicated in the search warrant -- both inside and outside the house -- were cigarette butts, note pads, undisclosed medication and paperwork.

Amazon is developing a film streaming service that would compete directly with Netflix in a move that could have a big impact on the fortunes of Hollywood studios struggling to cope with declines in DVD sales.

The company is planning to bundle access to the service with Amazon Prime, a premium service that guarantees Amazon customers unlimited free shipping of books and other items sold by the online retailer after paying an initial fee.

Amazon could not be reached for comment on Tuesday evening. But it may have inadvertently revealed its plans by publishing a screen shot promoting the new service.

The screen shot, which appeared only briefly before being removed, was revealed by the Engadget tech blog. It contained text saying: "Your Amazon Prime membership now includes unlimited, commercial-free, instant streaming of 5,000 movies and TV shows at no additional cost."

A person familiar with Amazon's plans told the Financial Times that it had been working on the streaming service. This comes as Amazon is stepping up its efforts to compete with Netflix. It recently acquired Lovefilm, the UK DVD subscription service, for £200m.

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greek police destroyed a letter bomb that was sent to the Justice Ministry in Athens on Wednesday and warned other state offices and ministries to watch out for more potentially booby-trapped packages.

The attempted attack was similar to a spate of letter bombs sent to embassies in the Greek capital in November. A militant anarchist group has claimed responsibility for those bombings, which caused no serious injuries. A number of suspects have since been arrested and face charges.

No injuries were caused by Wednesday's controlled detonation outside the ministry building near central Athens.

The booby-trapped package had been addressed to the office of the minister, with the sender listed as an "independent initiative of lawyers," said police spokesman Athanasios Kokalakis. Staff at the ministry deemed the package suspicious and called the police.

"We have a similar package to those sent in November," Kokalakis said, adding that the letter was believed to have contained a small amount of explosives.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- NASA's planet-hunting telescope is finding whole new worlds of possibilities in the search for alien life. An early report from a cosmic census indicates that relatively small planets and stable multi-planet systems are far more plentiful than previous searches showed.

NASA released new data Wednesday from its Kepler telescope on more than 1,000 possible new planets outside our solar system - more than doubling the count of what astronomers call exoplanets. They haven't been confirmed as planets yet, but some astronomers estimate that 90 percent of what Kepler has found will eventually be verified.

Kepler, launched in 2009, has been orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars, conducting a planet census and searching for Earth-like planets since last year. It has found there are more planets that are much smaller than Jupiter - the biggest planet in our solar system - than there are giant planets.

Some of these even approach Earth's size. That means they are better potential candidates for life than the behemoths that are more easily spotted, astronomers say.

While Kepler hasn't yet found planets that are as small as Earth, all the results are "pointing in the right direction," said University of California Santa Cruz astronomer Jonathan Fortney, a Kepler researcher.

Yale University exoplanet expert Debra Fischer, who wasn't part of the Kepler team but serves as an outside expert for NASA, said the new information "gives us a much firmer footing" in eventual hopes for worlds that could harbor life.

"I feel different today knowing these new Kepler results than I did a week ago," Fischer said.

NASA's Kepler mission:
Queensland residents have been told it is now too late to escape as the most dangerous storm ever predicted to hit the Australian state closes in.

Cyclone Yasi, a category five storm - the most severe level, is expected to make landfall in the next few hours.

State Premier Anna Bligh said those in coastal areas expected to flood should have left their homes already.

The state disaster co-ordinator warned residents they would be on their own for up to 24 hours when Yasi strikes.

"The time for movement and evacuation has now passed," Mrs Bligh said, adding that Yasi would be "the most catastrophic storm to ever hit our coast".

"People should be sheltering wherever they are."

Many fear this could be worse than Cyclone Tracy, which hit Darwin on Christmas Eve in 1974 and killed 71 people. That was a category four storm - Yasi is a category five.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) -- Mattel says its net income during the crucial holiday quarter slipped 1 percent on higher costs even though revenue rose on strong sales of Barbie and Fisher Price toys.

The nation's largest toy maker says net income edged down to $325.2 million or 89 cents per share, from $328.4 million, or 89 cents per share last year.

Analysts expected 86 cents per share, according to FactSet.

Revenue rose 9 percent to $2.12 billion. Analysts expected net income of $2.07 billion.

Barbie revenue rose 8 percent and Fisher Price revenue rose 6 percent.

For the year, Mattel Inc., based in El Segundo, Calif. Said net income rose 30 percent to $684.9 million, or $1.88 per share, while revenue rose 8 percent to $5.86 billion.

Veteran leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, 64,
has been the focus of recent protests

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh says he will not seek to extend his presidency when his current term expires in 2013, according to reports.

Mr Saleh, who has been in power for three decades, also pledged that he would not pass on power to his son.

He spoke to parliament ahead of a rally in the capital on Thursday which, echoing protests in Tunisia and Egypt, has been dubbed a "day of rage".

Mr Saleh came to power as president of North Yemen in 1978.

When the country was united with South Yemen in 1990 he became president of the new republic.


Speaking during an emergency session of the country's parliament and the consultative council, he laid out his plans to move aside.

"No extension, no inheritance, no resetting the clock," Mr Saleh said.

WASHINGTON (AP) President Barack Obama is prodding Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to quickly loosen his grip on power, sternly telling the world that the longtime leader's transition from the presidency "must begin now."

Obama spoke at the White House not long after Mubarak, a key U.S. ally in the volatile Middle East, announced Tuesday evening that he would not seek re-election in balloting now set for September. But Mubarak said he would stay in office until then to oversee a political changeover from his authoritarian 30-year reign to an uncertain future.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was to address U.S. diplomats Wednesday at the State Department, where she was expected to discuss the evolving situation in Egypt.

(Reuters) - A classified U.S. document obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks shows three previously undisclosed participants in the September 11, 2001 plot, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

The three Qatari men arrived in the United States on August 15, 2001, conducted surveillance of targets and left the country on the eve of the September 11 attacks, according to the leaked U.S. diplomatic cable.

The three men "visited the World Trade Center, the Statue of Liberty, the White House, and various areas in Virginia" before flying on to Los Angeles, according to the leaked document.

A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the three Qataris were "looked at" within days of the attacks and that investigators concluded they could not be charged, The Washington Post reported.

"There is no manhunt," the official was quoted as saying. "There is no active case. They were looked at, but it washed out," he was quoted as saying, downplaying a report by Britain's The Daily Telegraph, which said the FBI has launched a manhunt for the previously unknown team of men suspected to be part of the attacks.

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) -- Prosecutors in California have charged Jaime Pressly with misdemeanor drunken driving.

The 33-year-old "My Name is Earl" co-star was arrested Jan. 5 after Santa Monica police say she was stopped for a traffic violation. She was released after posting $15,000 bail.

Deputy City Attorney Melanie Skehar says Pressly was charged Tuesday morning with driving under the influence and having a blood alcohol content of .20 or higher.

An e-mail message for Pressly's publicist was not immediately returned.

The charges were first reported Tuesday by celebrity website TMZ.
(CNN) -- Microsoft's search engine Bing is copying results from Google, the dominant search engine on the internet, has claimed.

Suspicious of their new rival, Google engineers set up random results on their site for a series of unlikely search terms, such as "hiybbprqag." (Google arranged for the nonsense word to point to a Los Angeles theater seating plan on its search engine.)

"Within a couple weeks of starting this experiment, our inserted results started appearing in Bing," Google said in a statement on its official blog Tuesday.

Google said it welcomed honest competition, but sneered at Bing's "recycled search results from a competitor."

CAIRO (AP) The Egyptian military called Wednesday for an end to more than a week of demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak, throwing its support behind his embattled regime hours after he defiantly rejected demands to step down immediately and said he would serve out his term in office.

The declaration was a clear shift in the stand of the army, which gave a tacit endorsement to the movement on Monday by saying it would not use force against protesters, and that they had legitimate demands.

The emboldened protesters brought more than 250,000 people into Cairo's main square Tuesday to demand Mubarak leave within days. The president responded before midnight with a statement pledging to serve seven more months in office and "die on Egyptian soil."

Representatives of his National Democratic Party immediately began making public statements trying to project the image of the regime as Egypt's sole path back to stability and security after the disruption of normal life caused by eight days of protests, and a wave of looting and arson that gripped the country over the weekend after the government pulled police from the street.

The army's message to the demonstrators had a more conciliatory tone, appealing to young protesters to stand down "out of love for Egypt."

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- After years of watching Muslims portrayed as terrorists in mainstream TV and movies, an advocacy group hopes to change that image by grooming a crop of aspiring Muslim screenwriters who can bring their stories - and perspective - to Hollywood.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council is hosting a series of workshops taught by Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated veterans over the next month, an initiative that builds on the group's outreach for a more representative picture of Muslim-Americans on the screen.

The workshops are the natural evolution of MPAC's efforts to lobby TV networks and movie studios from the outside, and they fit into a small, but growing, movement to get more Muslim-Americans behind the cameras.

MPAC dubbed its effort the Hollywood Bureau, while Unity Productions Foundation recently started a similar project called Muslims on Screen and Television. Other nonprofit arts foundations, such as the Levantine Cultural Center and Film Independent, have joined forces by planning networking events for Muslim actors and training and mentoring young filmmakers.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- A car bomb killed nine people close to the main northwestern city of Peshawar on Wednesday, the latest in a rash of attacks that are challenging recent police claims of progress against Islamist militants in the region.

Twenty others were wounded in the blast on a main road leading to Pakistan's border area with Afghanistan, said government official Siraj Ahmed Khan. Three children were among the dead.

The possible target of the bombing was not immediately clear. It was the third major bombing in or near the city in the last week.

Government and security force targets in Peshawar have been often attacked by the Pakistani Taliban, who have bases close to the frontier with Afghanistan. Pakistani security forces have traditionally had very little presence or authority in the tribally ruled region.

In December, city police chief Liaquat Ali Khan pointed to a drop in attacks in 2010 as evidence authorities had "broken the back" of the insurgency in the city. He said the improvement was because of offensive police and army actions close to the border area and more police patrols and checkpoints in the city.

Also in the northwest, a group of militants on Wednesday attacked a security post in the Anarggi area of Mohmand tribal region, killing three paramilitary soldiers and wounding four. The troops returned fire and killed 16 insurgents, said Javed Khan, a government administrator.

In the nearby Orakzai tribal region, fighter jets pounded suspected militant hideouts, killing 15 alleged militants and wounding 10 others, said local government administrator Aurangzeb Khan.