Sunday, February 6, 2011

LONDON (AP) -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his entourage of lawyers, supporters, protesters and journalists are headed back to a London court for a showdown between the secret-spilling computer hacker and Swedish authorities who want him extradited to face sex crimes allegations.

A two-day hearing that begins Monday will decide Assange's legal fate. It will also keep the spotlight away from WikiLeaks' revelations and on its opinion-dividing frontman.

Assange is accused of sexual misconduct by two women he met during a visit to Stockholm last year. At Belmarsh Magistrates' Court, a high-security judicial outpost beside a prison, defense lawyers will argue that he should not be extradited because he has not been charged with a crime, because of flaws in Swedish prosecutors' case - and because a ticket to Sweden could land him in Guantanamo Bay or on U.S. death row.

American officials are trying to build a criminal case against WikiLeaks, which has angered Washington by publishing a trove of leaked diplomatic cables and secret U.S. military files. Assange's lawyers claim the Swedish prosecution is linked to the leaks and politically motivated.

Preliminary defense arguments released by Assange's legal team claim "there is a real risk that, if extradited to Sweden, the U.S. will seek his extradition and/or illegal rendition to the USA, where there will be a real risk of him being detained at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere."

The document adds that "there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death penalty" if sent to the United States. Under European law, suspects cannot be extradited to jurisdictions where they may face execution.

Many legal experts say the Guantanamo claims are fanciful, and Sweden strongly denies coming under American pressure.

CAIRO (AP) -- Al-Jazeera's English-language news network says one of its correspondents has been detained by the Egyptian military in Cairo.

The report says Ayman Mohyeldin, an American citizen, was taken Sunday from Tahrir Square where protests calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak continue into their 13th day.

Since last week there has been a crackdown against Egyptian and foreign journalists covering the nearly two-week crisis and dozens have been detained, sometimes overnight.

One journalist, an Egyptian reporter, has been killed, dying Friday of gunshot wounds.
ANTWERP, Belgium (AP) -- Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-7 (10), 6-2, 6-1 to give Belgium an insurmountable 3-0 lead over the United States and a place in the Fed Cup semifinals.

Mattek-Sands gave the U.S. its first set of the weekend when she outlasted Clijsters in the tiebreaker, but the second-ranked Belgian dominated the No. 48 in the next two sets.

It is the first time the Americans have lost two straight Fed Cup ties. They lost to Italy in last year's final.

Yanina Wickmayer was due to play Melanie Oudin in the second reverse singles later Sunday.
A former Israeli soldier has admitted leaking secret military information to a newspaper.

Anat Kamm pleaded guilty in return for the prosecution dropping more serious charges, which included spying and harming state security.

According to the charges, she passed more than 2,000 documents to the daily Haaretz newspaper.

Kamm, 24, will be sentenced at a later date and faces a maximum jail sentence of 15 years.

The Tel Aviv District Court heard that between 2005 and 2007 Kamm copied secret documents from army computers while working as a clerk in the office of a general.

After leaving the army and while working for an Israeli website, she gave the documents to a reporter from Haaretz.

Haaretz later published a report about a possibly-illegal Israeli operation to kill Palestinian militants in the West Bank.

Kamm was arrested in December 2009 although her detainment was only made public four months later. She has since been under house arrest.

Kamm's lawyer, Eitan Leman, said that the documents leaked to the Israeli journalist did not harm Israeli security.

Under the plea bargain, Kamm pleaded guilty to possessing and distributing secret information while the original charges that included harming state security were dropped.
MOSCOW (AP) -- Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov claims to have sent a young man on a suicide mission to Moscow and has threatened more deadly attacks if Russia does not give up its Caucasus region.

Speaking in an undated video posted on a Chechen rebel website this weekend, Umarov makes no direct reference to the Jan. 24 suicide bombing at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport, which killed 36 people and wounded 180.

No one has claimed responsibility for that attack, but suspicion has fallen on militants from the Caucasus region in Russia's south, which is gripped by an Islamic insurgency that appears to be intensifying.

Investigators said the bomber was a 20-year-old man from the Caucasus, but have not released his name.

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — Thirty-five animals at a zoo in the northern Mexico state of Chihuahua have frozen to death during the region's coldest weather in six decades.

Serengeti Zoo owner Alberto Hernandez says 14 parrots, 13 serpents, five iguanas, two crocodiles and a capuchin monkey died. He said Saturday that power failures cut off electrical heating at the zoo in the town of Aldama.

Temperatures have dropped to 9 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 13 Celsius) in the area, the coldest weather in 60 years.

Power outages have affected much of northern Mexico, forcing factories and businesses to close. Dozens of people are in shelters. Schools have been closed in Chihuahua state but are expected to open Tuesday as the weather warms.
Comedy can't always be safe, and sometimes entertainers need to challenge social orthodoxies. But 'saying the unsayable' is different from simply recycling offensive cliches about Mexicans

As a huge fan of Top Gear. I normally regard the presenters' brand of irreverence as a part of the rough and tumble that goes with having a sense of humour. I've been on the show three times and had a go at their celebrity-lap challenge, and I would love to receive a fourth invite. But I think that's unlikely once they have read this. If, however, it makes the Lads question their behaviour for a second – ambitious, I know – it will be worth it.

I normally remain below the parapet when these frenetic arguments about comedy and taste break out. But this time, I've had enough of the regular defence you tend to hear – the tired line that it's "just a laugh", a bit of "harmless fun".

Some of the Lads' comments again, in case you missed them. "Mexican cars are just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus, with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat" (Richard Hammond). Mexican food is "sick with cheese on it" (James May).

It's the dream of any antique collector: You impulsively spend a few bucks on a trinket at an estate sale or an antiques store, and later discover that it's worth more than what you paid for it. Much more.

And that's pretty much the dream that came true for a 79-year-old British retired worker from the Cadbury chocolate factory, who recently walked into an auction house with a near-perfect Ming vase in a cardboard box.

It's unknown how the man, who wanted the press to refrain from publishing his name, came into possession of the rare vase, but staffers at Duke's—the Dorchester auction house that took it in—were astounded by the "spectacular find."

"When my colleague initially showed me what had arrived in a cardboard box I could not believe my eyes," Guy Schwinge of Duke's told the Guardian. "The vase is in perfect condition, and it is amazing to think that it has survived unscathed for almost six hundred years."

The BBC reported that the vase, which stands 11.5 inches tall, is the largest ever found of a rare group of early Ming "moonflasks" whose production dates somewhere between the years 1403 and 1424. That means it was manufactured during the reign of an emperor named Yongle; its distinctive features—such as the small loop handles—appear to be influenced by Islamic design.

Because the vase originates from China but shows the influence of Middle Eastern craftsmanship, auctioneers at Duke's expect the vase to draw the bids of wealthy collectors from both Asian and the Arab worlds. The auction is scheduled for May, and the item is expected to fetch at least a million pounds, or roughly $1.6 million U.S. dollars.
PARIS (AP) -- Some 6,000 residents of a Paris suburb have been evacuated from their homes while specialists defused a World War II bomb discovered on a building site.

Paris police headquarters says experts successfully rendered the 880-pound (400-kilogram) bomb harmless in a few hours.

The operation Saturday forced the closure of two neighborhoods in Boulogne-Billancourt, southwest of Paris. Residents were accommodated in special centers or told to go to the movies.

The bomb was discovered Jan. 27 on an old factory site of Renault automobiles under renovation.

Such evacuations are not uncommon in France, but are mainly in Normandy where bombs rained down after the Allied D-Day invasion.
By John Whitesides

SANTA BARBARA, Calif., Feb 4 (Reuters) - Republican Sarah Palin said on Friday an explosion of government spending and debt under President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats had put the United States on "the road to ruin."

In a tribute to former President Ronald Reagan, the potential 2012 White House contender said leaders in Washington had lost sight of the values that made Reagan a Republican icon and a hero to conservatives -- a belief in limited government, low taxes and personal freedoms.

"This is not the road to national greatness, it is the road to ruin," Palin said of the growth in government spending, budget deficits, joblessness and housing foreclosures under Obama. "The federal government is spending too much, borrowing too much, growing and controlling too much," she said.

Palin said Obama had revived the era of big government, and she ridiculed the infrastructure spending and investment he outlined in his recent State of the Union speech.

"The only thing these investments will get us is a bullet train to bankruptcy," the 2008 vice presidential candidate said in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara, California, part of two days of festivities marking the late president's 100th birthday.

Reagan served two terms as president beginning in 1981, and his belief in limited government, reduced taxes and military strength has been the dominant political doctrine of his Republican Party ever since.

His legacy gained new momentum in the last year with the growth of the conservative grassroots Tea Party movement, which has focused on a push for limited government and reduced government spending.

Like virtually all Republican Party leaders, Palin and many of the other possible Republican candidates to unseat Obama go to great lengths to stress their belief in Reagan's principle.

(Reuters) - Ireland has received a first tranche of 3.6 billion euros ($4.9 billion) from the euro zone rescue fund, slightly more than the initial amount agreed, a fund source told Reuters on Sunday.

The effective lending cost to Ireland was 5.9 percent, the source added.

The European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) raised 5 billion euros from a debut sale of five-year bonds late last month.

The funds are to be used to help finance the 85 billion euro EU/IMF bailout of Ireland, which followed Greece last year in seeking a rescue to cope with the huge losses of its banking sector.

"As part of the EU/IMF financial support package agreed for Ireland, EFSF transferred 3.6 billion to the Republic of Ireland," an EFSF source said, adding: "Due to the successful issue, the amount transferred to Ireland was higher than the minimum 3.3 billion agreed."

The EFSF has said its Irish programme would include two more benchmark bonds of 3 to 5 billion euros each this year. It plans to issue 17.6 billion euros in 2011 and as much as 4.9 billion euros in 2012.

The EFSF's debut bond sale was done at implied borrowing cost of 2.89 percent.
Paris (CNN) -- France suspended the sale of arms and tear gas to Egypt, a spokeswoman for French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Sunday.

It's not clear how much effect the move will have on Egypt, which has been wracked by anti-government demonstrations for nearly two weeks.

France did not deliver any arms to the country between 2005 and 2008, according to a U.S. Congressional report.

The United States is Egypt's largest arms supplier by far, delivering $4.8 billion in weaponry to the country in that period.

China was second with $500 million in deliveries, according to the Congressional Research Service report, "Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2001-2008," published in September 2009.
CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt's vice president met a wide representation of major opposition groups for the first time Sunday and agreed to allow freedom of the press, to release those detained since anti-government protests began nearly two weeks and ago and to lift the country's hated emergency laws when security permits.

Vice President Omar Suleiman endorsed a plan with the opposition to set up a committee of judiciary and political figures to study proposed constitutional amendments that would allow more candidates to run for president and impose term limits on the presidency, the state news agency reported. The committee was given until the first week of March to finish the tasks.

The regime also pledged not to harass those participating in the anti-government protests, which have drawn hundreds of thousands at the biggest rallies. The government also agreed not to hamper freedom of press and not to interfere with text messaging and Internet.

Sunday's meeting was the broadest representation of Egypt's fragmented opposition to meet with the new vice president since the protests demanding the immediate ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak began on Jan. 25.

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) -- The wife of a Pakistani man shot and killed by a U.S. official tried to commit suicide by eating rat poison Sunday, explaining that she was driven to act by fears the American would be freed without trial, a doctor said.

The U.S. has demanded Pakistani authorities release the American, saying he shot and killed two armed men in self-defense when they attempted to rob him as he drove his car in the eastern city of Lahore. He was arrested on Jan. 27, and the U.S. has said he has diplomatic immunity and is being illegally detained.

The shootings have stoked anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, feelings that could be further inflamed by Shumaila Kanwal's suicide attempt, especially if she dies. Her condition was steadily deteriorating after ingesting the rat poison, said Ali Naqi, the doctor treating her in Faisalabad city.

"I do not expect any justice from this government," said Kanwal in a statement recorded by the doctor. "That is why I want to kill myself."

Kanwal also spoke to reporters after arriving at the hospital, saying "I want blood for blood."

"The way my husband was shot, his killer should be shot in the same fashion," she said.

JAMEL, Germany (AP) -- This is a town taken over by neo-Nazis.

Wooden signposts by the main road point to Vienna, Paris, and Braunau am Inn - the birthplace of Adolf Hitler. A far-right leader runs his demolition company from home, its logo featuring a man smashing a Star of David with a sledgehammer.

Every few months, townsfolk host outdoor parties where guests sing "Hitler is my Fuehrer" to chants of "Heil" around a massive bonfire.

Formula 1 star Robert Kubica has suffered fractures to his left arm and left leg after a high-speed rally crash in Italy, BBC Sport understands.

The 26-year-old Pole crashed into a church wall and was air-lifted to a hospital near Genoa.

A spokeswoman for his British-based Renault team told Reuters the driver was conscious and a statement would be issued shortly.

It looks unlikely he will be ready for the new season, starting on 13 March.

(CNN) -- An upcoming sumo wrestling tournament has been canceled in the wake of a match-fixing scandal that has rocked Japan's national sport, officials said.

The 15-day tournament scheduled for March was canceled after an emergency meeting, the Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.

The decision comes after last week's revelation that three wrestlers had admitted to rigging bouts.

Tokyo Police found suspicious messages on various wrestlers' phones that suggested the outcome of several fights had been planned, Kyodo said.

''Sumo is our national sport. If match-fixing has occurred, it is a very serious betrayal of the people,'' said Hanaregoma, chairman of Japan Sumo Association. He addressed the scandal Sunday at a televised news conference.

"This (scandal) left the worst dirty point in the long history of sumo," the chairman said.

Japan's prime minister also spoke about the scandal.

''Sumo is our national sport. If match-fixing has occurred, it is a very serious betrayal of the people,'' Naoto Kan, the country's prime minister, has said.

It is the latest sumo controversy after a gambling scandal emerged in July when 34-year-old wrestler Ozeki Kotomitsuki allegedly bet on baseball games.
MUNICH (AP) -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Sunday he was concerned that the unrest in Egypt could have "serious implications" for the Middle East peace process.

Ban, who was in Munich for an annual security conference, told a small group of reporters at his hotel that President Hosni Mubarak and the Egyptian government have been key in the negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel.

"This is why we are concerned," he said.

"Egypt has been playing a very strategic role in the Mideastern peace process; President Mubarak was one of the key players in trying to facilitate reconciliation."

Mubarak has said he won't seek another term in office but demonstrators are demanding that he go now.

On Saturday Ban met with the so-called Quartet of Mideast peacemakers - the U.N., the U.S. the EU and Russia - on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

The group said in a statement that in view of the developments in the Mideast, "further delay in the resumption of negotiations is detrimental to the prospects for regional peace and security."

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Police say a machete-wielding mob of Muslims attacked the home of a minority sect leader in central Indonesia, killing 3 and wounding six others.

Local police chief Let. Col. Alex Fauzy Rasyad says about 1,500 people - many with machetes, sticks and rocks - attacked about 20 members of the Ahmadiyah Muslim sect who were visiting their leader in his house in Banten province on Indonesia's main island of Java.

The attackers stabbed to death at least three men. Rasyad said Sunday that six others were rushed to a nearby hospital, four with critical injuries.

The attack was the latest targeting the Ahmadiyah sect in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation. Some Muslims see followers of Ahmadiyah as holding heretical beliefs.
LAS VEGAS -- MMA Fighting spoke to UFC president Dana White following UFC 126 about Anderson Silva's finish of Vitor Belfort, a potential Silva vs. GSP fight, why the UFC booked Jon Jones vs. Shogun Rua and his thoughts on Miguel Torres and Forrest Griffin's wins.

TUNIS — Behind the shabby walls of a nondescript building in Tunis, Taoufik Bouderbala is tasked with perhaps one of the most distressing jobs of the new government: investigating 23 years of abuses committed by the former regime on thousands of Tunisians.

Surrounded by the smell of stale coffee and sweat, Bouderbala, a lawyer, is leading an inquiry into abuses and crimes committed under Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Already, in just a matter of days, he has received thousands of complaints.

On this particular day, the crowds milled around the iron gates leading to the building, restlessly waiting their turn to apply for compensation for offences committed by Ben Ali and his henchmen.

Others simply wanted to describe what they had suffered under Ben Ali's rule.

"There is impatience and an incredible thirst for justice," said Bouderbala.

"We are going to investigate, hear out the victims, the witnesses, but also the suspects," he added.

Mehdi Benahassen had waited since 4:00 a.m for his turn.

At 54, the farmer from Mahdia region dared to hope that he finally had a chance of getting even with the old regime -- and recovering land he said a corrupt official had stolen from him.

"I have been fighting for 20 years," he said, having taken the case to court three times between 1990 and 1994.

"The tribunal didn't even look at my property deeds," he said. "Instead, they just said they had lost my file."

BANGKOK (AP) -- Thailand's prime minister called Sunday for a peaceful solution to a border dispute with Cambodia, but warned Thai soldiers will defend national sovereignty if attacked.

The fiercest border clashes in years erupted Friday and Saturday between troops stationed along the border. Sporadic artillery fire left at least five people dead - one civilian and one soldier from Thailand and one civilian and two soldiers from Cambodia. A shaky cease-fire reached Saturday appeared to be holding.

Both sides have blamed each other for the fighting, which also caused minor damage to the landmark 11th century Preah Vihear temple near a strip of disputed land that Thai nationalists have seized on as a domestic political issue.

"I insist that the dispute on the border issues must be solved through nonviolent means," Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajvia said in his weekly Sunday morning address to the nation. "Thailand never thought of invading anyone, but if our sovereignty is violated, we have to protect it ultimately."

Commanders stationed on both sides of the border met Sunday, saying they would continue to respect the cease-fire and pledges not to deploy more troops to the area. They also agreed that thousands of residents evacuated from the area would be allowed to return home.

"The situation along the disputed border is going back to normal, but Cambodia still maintains its positions of self-defense," said Maj. Gen. Srey Doek, commander of the Cambodian forces based at Preah Vihear temple.

Thai army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd indicated the return of residents would not happen immediately.

"We have to consider if it's safe for villagers to return, area by area," he said. "If the two sides keep their promises and the situation gets resolved, eventually all of them will go back. But safety for the villagers must come first."

Egypt's largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, said it would begin talks Sunday with the government to try and end the country's political crisis.

The announcement by the fundamentalist group came on the 13th day of mass demonstrations calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's authoritarian ruler of nearly 30 years. Mubarak has said he would not run for the presidency again in elections slated for September, but has insisted he will serve out the remaining seven months of his current term to supervise a peaceful transfer of power.

The outlawed Brotherhood said in a statement that its representatives would meet with Vice President Omar Suleiman to press its "legitimate and just demands."

Senior Brotherhood leader Mohammed Mursi said the group was sticking to the protesters' main condition that Mubarak step down. He told The Associated Press the talks will take place later Sunday.

These would be the first known discussions between the government and the Brotherhood in years, suggesting the group could be allowed an open political role in the post-Mubarak era.

Some opposition leaders met with Suleiman on Saturday but said there was no breakthrough.
Wildfires tore through the suburbs of an Australian city on Sunday, destroying a number of homes, news reports and authorities said. There were no reports of injuries.

Two fires fanned by hot summer winds were burning in forested areas to the north and southeast of Perth in Western Australia state, said Fire and Emergency Services Authority spokesman Rick Tyers said.

A fire at Roleystone to the southeast of the city flared suddenly on Sunday, and television news footage taken from a helicopter showed several houses fully ablaze.

Tyers said the authority had reports of homes lost in the fire but could not confirm them while efforts to battle the blaze were under way.

Further north, in the Swan Valley district, some 150 firefighters using six water-bombing helicopters and trucks were battling another wildfire.

About 100 people were told to evacuate their homes as authorities tried to contain the blaze, which started Saturday night and had scorched about 2,000 acres (800 hectares) of forest land by Sunday.

The fires in Australia's far west come as huge areas of the east coast recover from a huge cyclone that struck in Queensland state last week and from flooding from drenching rains in Queensland and in southern Victoria state.
An Iranian court is holding a closed-door session to begin proceedings against three Americans detained 18 months ago and accused of spying.

Authorities imposed a blanket ban for observers, including Swiss Ambassador Livia Leu Agosti who represents U.S. interests in Iran.

The Americans were detained in July 2009 along the Iraqi border. They claim they were hiking in Iraq's Kurdistan region and - if they crossed into Iran - it was inadvertent.

One of the Americans, Sarah Shourd, was released on bail in September. Two others, her fiance Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, remain in custody.

It was unclear whether the two men were present Sunday in the Tehran Revolutionary Court, which deals with security-related charges.
The sci-fi smash "Inception" and the Facebook drama "The Social Network" took top screenplay honors Saturday night at the Writers Guild Awards.

"Inception" writer Christopher Nolan won for best original screenplay and "The Social Network" writer Aaron Sorkin won for best adapted screenplay. The awards were handed out by the Writers Guild of America in simultaneous ceremonies at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles and the AXA Equitable Center in New York.

"The Social Network," which Sorkin adapted from the Ben Mezrich book "The Accidental Billionaires," was expected to win Saturday. But the original screenplay category was considered a toss-up between "Inception," the psychosexual thriller "Black Swan" and the boxing drama "The Fighter" because current awards-season darling "The King's Speech" was not eligible for a WGA award as it was not made under the writing union's contract guidelines.

Other of the top films of 2010 like "Toy Story 3" and "Winter's Bone" were ineligible for the same reason.

Sorkin will be the prohibitive favorite in the adapted category, and "The King's Speech" and "Inception" will vie for original screenplay honors at the Academy Awards on Feb. 27.

"The Social Network," was also considered an early favorite for a best picture Oscar. But it has been trumped in recent award ceremonies including the Golden Globes and Producers Guild Awards by "The King's Speech," which features Colin Firth as the stammering father of Queen Elizabeth II and is expected to sweep several categories on Oscar night.