Saturday, February 19, 2011

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi's "Nader and Simin, A Separation," a drama that centers on a disintegrating marriage, won the top Golden Bear honor and swept the acting awards at the Berlin film festival on Saturday.

A jury led by actress Isabella Rossellini handed the ensemble cast of the film, led by Peyman Moadi and Leila Hatami, both the best actor and the best actress awards.

"I never would have thought that I would win this prize," Farhadi said. He added that it offers "a very good opportunity to think of the people of my country - the country I grew up in, the country where I learned my stories - a great people."

The film highlights a clash between traditional and modern ways of living and thinking. It chronicles the events that follow a wife's unsuccessful petition for a divorce, which she seeks when her husband refuses to leave Iran with her and her daughter. He worries about leaving behind his father, who suffers from Alzheimer's.

The wife then moves out and the man hires a pregnant, pious young woman who agrees to take care of his father, without telling her husband. One afternoon, a blazing argument is followed by the woman suffering a miscarriage - setting in motion a chain of events that shakes the family.

Farhadi was honored as best director in Berlin two years ago for his previous movie, "About Elly."

On Saturday, this year's best director honor went to Germany's Ulrich Koehler for "Sleeping Sickness," a film about an aid worker long based in Africa and his increasingly alienated wife.

Hungarian director Bela Tarr's starkly minimalist "The Turin Horse," the story of a farmer and his horse, won a runner-up Silver Bear.

Argentine-born first-time director Paula Markovitch's "The Prize," an autobiographical film set in Argentina during the military dictatorship of the 1970s, won two prizes for outstanding artistic achievement.

Celebrated singer from Pakistan Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and his manager, from whom undeclared foreign currency was allegedly seized by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence at the Delhi airport on February 13, will be charged with offences under the Customs Act.

The matter has now been forwarded to the adjudicating authority, Commissioner of Customs (Airport), for further action.

The adjudicating authority, a quasi-judicial body, would grant personal hearings to Mr. Khan and his manager Maroof and then take a decision on the basis of the findings. According to informed sources, in the case of absolute confiscation of seized article, penalty is levied on the accused. If the article is returned, the accused has to pay redemption fine and penalty for the violation.

Earlier on Saturday, Mr. Khan was again questioned by DRI officials. It is learnt that he then appeared before the Customs officials at the airport.

Mr. Khan, his manager and event manager Chitresh Shrivastava were detained by the DRI sleuths when they along with the other members of his troupe were on their way to board a flight to Dubai. The agency purportedly found $24,000 in Mr. Khan's baggage, whereas $50,000 each were found in the possession of Mr. Maroof and Mr. Shrivastava. The money was much above the permissible limit of $5,000 in cash and like amount in other instruments.

The DRI investigation began with the charge of carrying foreign currency beyond the permitted limit. The role of foreign exchange agents, besides some prominent Bollywood figures, came under the scanner in due course.
More than 1,000 protesters clashed with security forces in Kuwait on Friday, demanding greater rights for longtime residents who are not citizens of the country.

The crowd -- initially 300 people before quickly growing -- was attacked with water cannons.

A Kuwaiti government spokesman later claimed that the security forces were trying to protect themselves after the protesters started hurling rocks.

The "security forces on the ground talked to the protestors in a nice and civilized way," said Col. Adil Al-Hashash, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry. Members of the crowd were told "that they should go to the legal channels for their demands rather than protesting."

Al-Hashash said the demonstration was eventually dispersed and that several protesters were arrested and questioned by the security forces.

The protest took place in Al Jahra province north of Kuwait City, Al-Hashash noted.

Kuwait has been wrestling with the question of rights for non-citizen residents for decades. The country is believed to have roughly 100,000 residents who are not citizens.
Hardline Islamists from Somalia's most dangerous militant group amputated the hands of two men on Saturday as punishments for accusations of theft, witnesses and officials said.

Masked men in the town of Walaweyn cut off the hand of Abdirashid Saleban Hamud, a teenager convicted by an Islamic "court" of breaking into a house and stealing currency worth $30, said Abdinur Hussein, a witness. The self-described judge, Sheik Ayub, said the man admitted the charges against him.

On the outskirts of Mogadishu the militants amputated the hand of Ali Hashim, who also was accused of theft. Witness Salman Abdirahman said Hashim screamed and fell unconscious during the punishment.

The amputations carried out by the group al-Shabab are not traditional punishments in Somalia, and they show the influence of hardline foreign fighters from the Middle East who are part of the group's leadership.

Somalia has not had a functioning government in two decades.

India complete revenge win

MIRPUR, 19 FEB: Virender Sehwag had said before the match that this was a "revenge match" for India and that the team hadn't forgotten the loss in 2007. If Sehwag is to be believed, he completed the revenge in grand style and kicked off India's 2011 World Cup campaign with a thumping 87-run win.

Batting first after losing the toss, India opened with Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag. At about 60 for 0 after 10 overs, India looked set for a huge score. But then Tendulkar (28) fell to a run out and India went through a period of consolidation with Gautam Gambhir (39) at the crease. Just as he and Sehwag threatened to get away from Bangladesh, Gambhir fell.

Gambhir's wicket brought Virat Kohli (100 not out) to the crease and he grabbed the opportunity he received ahead of Suresh Raina with both hands. Starting cautiously, he let Sehwag blossom and then cut loose to finish with his fifth ODI hundred. He combined with Sehwag to forge a 203-run partnership in just 24.1 overs to take the game totally beyond Bangladesh.

While Kohli, Tendulkar and Gambhir played their parts, the star of the match was undoubtedly Virender Sehwag (175). He has recently said that he wants to bat for long and score big scores in ODIs. His effort today puts him at the joint second-highest scorer for India in World Cup cricket behind only Sourav Ganguly and joint with Kapil Dev.

Sehwag's innings was his usual mix of exhilarating strokeplay and some doubtful moments! But in typical Sehwag style, he sailed through it all to register a massive total. One over in particular from Abdur Razzaq will be a memorable one. He carted the hapless bowler for two brutal fours punctuated by a massive six.

India's total of 370 was always going to be a tall order for Bangladesh to overhaul. But their start would have put doubt into the Indian players' minds. Sreesanth did everyting in his power to ensure Bangladesh got off to a flyer. At 51 for 0 after 5 overs, Bangladesh were in the match. Soon enough, though, a wicket fell and things started to get difficult.

Police are looking for a large knife with a serrated edge, believed to have been used in the brutal fatal attack on Wellington man Matthew John Hall.

Mr Hall, 35, was found by his flatmate stabbed to death in his bed at his Johnsonville home on Tuesday.

He worked as a consumer consultant for Capital & Coast DHB's alcohol and drug services and general adult mental health services as well as singing in a death metal band.

An autopsy showed he died of multiple stab wounds following a "ferocious" attack. It was not known how many people were involved.

Police had searched the house but hadn't found the weapon.

Neighbours living near the Broderick Road house needed to check their properties, bush areas and rubbish bins for the weapon, which may have been discarded by the offender or offenders, Detective Senior Sergeant Donna Howard said.

An area canvas will continue over the weekend, with police door knocking in the Johnsonville area, in order to gather information to piece together the events that led to Mr Hall's death, she said.

Yesterday, the officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Thornton said the injuries Mr Hall suffered were among the worst he had seen.

"I've been in the police for 23 years, I've done a number of homicides and when I attended that post-mortem they were some of the most vicious injuries I've ever seen.

"It's a very ferocious and vicious attack on a guy that, from our preliminary reconstruction, was lying on his bed, probably asleep," he said.

Forensic examinations have been conducted at the house and police staff will remain there for several days.
The pressure of people listening to live broadcasts of the kapa haka festival being held in Gisborne sent the server hosting internet sites for 22 iwi radio stations crashing this morning.

Te Matatini o Te Ra executive director Darrin Apanui said Streamcom, the Auckland-based company providing the service, had never experienced an overload of traffic for live streaming.

"The demand from listeners to the live festival internet stream was so high it brought the server down, cutting off thousands of listeners," Mr Apanui said.

Te Mangai Paho chief executive John Bishara said it showed the popularity of kapa haka and the importance of iwi radio for Maori.

"For many of our people who cannot make the event, access to a live broadcast is their only means of getting their kapa haka fix," he said.

The fault was later fixed.
A summary of Saturday's developments in the Arab world, as instability and anti-government protests inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia spread in the region.


Security forces fire at mourners in the eastern city of Benghazi, killing at least 15 and wounding scores. The mourners had gathered for the funeral of 35 anti-government protesters killed the day before. Benghazi is Libya's second-largest city and a focal point of the unrest that erupted earlier in the week. Government forces also wipe out a protest encampment and clamp down on Internet services.

Libya is oil-rich, but an estimated one-third of its people live in poverty. The protesters demand the resignation of Moammar Gadhafi, who has ruled for 42 years. Gadhafi has clamped down, but has also promised to replace some government administrators to defuse anger.


Thousands of singing and dancing protesters return to the capital's central square after Bahrain's leaders withdraw tanks and riot police following a bloody crackdown a day earlier that left 50 injured. The royal family appears to be backing away from further confrontation after international pressure from the West.

The protesters want the ruling Sunni Muslim monarchy, a key U.S. ally, to give up its control over top government posts and all critical decisions. Shiite Muslims make up 70 percent of Bahrain's 500,000 citizens but say they face systematic discrimination and poverty and are effectively blocked from key roles in public service and the military.


Thousands of anti-government protesters march in the capital of Sanaa. Riot police kill one protester and injure five on the 10th day of unrest in Yemen, a key U.S. ally. The country's leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, blames the unrest on a "foreign plot."

Protesters demand the resignation of Saleh, who has ruled the Arab world's poorest nation for 32 years. The main grievances are poverty and corruption. Saleh's promises not to run for re-election in 2013 or to set up his son as an heir have failed to quell the anger.


Several thousand people march in the Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah to protest the shooting deaths of two anti-government protesters earlier in the week. The protests were directed against Massoud Barzani, president of the three provinces that make up the autonomous Kurdistan region. In Iraq's capital of Baghdad, hundreds of orphans and widows rally to call on the government to take care of them.

The uprisings sweeping the Middle East have galvanized many in Iraq, one of the rare democracies in the region, to demand better services from their leaders


Some 300 people march peacefully in Muscat, the capital of a Gulf nation with close military ties to the United States. They demand political reform, including the resignation of several government ministers, but pledge their loyalty to the hereditary monarch, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said. Marchers also protest corruption and social inequality. Police don't intervene.


Algerian police thwart a rally by thousands of pro-democracy supporters in the capital Algiers, breaking up the crowd into isolated groups to keep them from marching. An opposition lawmaker is hospitalized with a head injury after he is clubbed by police. The march comes a week after a similar protest brought thousands of protesters and riot police into the streets.

Protesters seek sweeping political reform, including the ouster of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and an end to the state of emergency imposed in 1992 to put down an Islamic insurgency. Critics complain of massive corruption, high unemployment and social inequality.


A moderate Islamic party outlawed for 15 years is granted official recognition by an Egyptian court in a sign of increasing political openness after the fall of autocratic President Hosni Mubarak last week.

Egypt's military-led transition government has promised to lead the country to democracy in several months.
Earthquake recovery agencies have been told at a meeting in Christchurch they need to communicate better with the public.

The message came at a quake briefing at the Christchurch Art Gallery where leaders of the recovery briefed elected officials on repair and rebuilding work.

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker said not all the jibes about lack of communication were fair, but many had to be taken on board.

''For council and others there have been some home truths which are never comfortable.''

Waimakariri MP Clayton Cosgrove said many agencies had a flawed approach to public relations.

''There is a feeling in the room that the community doesn't get it, I think they do. I think you need to treat the community like they're smart. The community wants to know when milestones are happening.''

He said better use needed to be made of community networks, starting with community boards, to keep people informed.

CanCERN spokeswoman Leanne Curtis said people with damaged homes just wanted more information.

''Don't presume you know what people want to hear and you know what's best for us. It may just challenge the way you think and move forward.''

She said quake victims were prepared to wait longer to get what they wanted, as long as they were kept informed of when work would happen.

Yordan Rodriguez hasn't showed up for work in four months, but he still has a job - for now at least.

The 25-year-old ironworker was told not to bother coming in anymore because the state-owned construction outfit he works for doesn't have any iron. Since then he's been doing odd jobs at home, drawing a salary, and waiting anxiously.

Rodriguez knows the state plans to lay off half a million unneeded workers, and he is hoping that he isn't one of them. He may be in luck: A drive to radically cut the government payroll has stalled amid resistance to implementing the layoffs, leaving many Cubans still waiting for the ax to fall.

"I love my work," said Rodriguez, a strong, stocky man with a thin beard and closely cropped hair. "I want to work, and I need to work."

Rodriguez's case offers all the paradoxes of the Cuban economic condition. Few jobs are more vital than skilled construction work, particularly in a country whose beautiful colonial buildings have been crumbling for decades. But to pay a man to sit at home for four months is emblematic of the waste that has riddled the island's economy for years - and which President Raul Castro has vowed to eliminate.

More than five months after the government announced that a tenth of Cuba's work force would be laid off by March 31, it is difficult to find an unemployed person, or even somebody who knows someone who has lost their job. The delays demonstrate the bind the government is in as it desperately seeks to reduce state costs without causing a social rupture.

Dozens of Cubans interviewed in the capital and elsewhere said nothing has happened yet, and the uncertainty is excruciating.

This week, government and union leaders acknowledged for the first time that the layoff program was beset by problems. They criticized Labor Ministry employees for failing to communicate with each other, and denounced incompetence among thousands of workers' commissions set up to decide who gets laid off.

They said some positions had been eliminated in the health, tourism and sugar industries, but gave no numbers.

Left unsaid in the official account was the fact that firing so many people is potentially incendiary in a country that has billed itself since Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution as seeking to build an egalitarian utopia. Cubans have never been promised riches, but a job has always been considered a birthright in the Socialist state.

The concept of unemployment is foreign to most Cubans, who have dutifully trudged to work for decades in broken factories, overstaffed offices and barren stores - even if there wasn't much to do when they got there.

Most workers make less than $20 a month, but receive generous subsidies, including free health care and education. Before the layoffs and other economic changes were announced, the official unemployment rate was just 1.7 percent, and the state employed 84 percent of the work force.

Thousands of anti-government demonstrators have marched into Manama's Pearl Roundabout, just two days after authorities used deadly force to seize and cordon off the area.

Witnesses say police fired rubber bullets at the crowd, but eventually left the scene.
A small number of people were rushed to the hospital.

Tanks and soldiers had been stationed at the roundabout since Thursday, when authorities used deadly force to disperse people camping there.

Bahrain's foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Khalifa, justified the crackdown saying it was necessary because the demonstrators were threatening the country's stability.

Protesters attempted to march back to the scene on Friday, but again had rubber bullets, tear gas and birdshot fired at them.

Shortly afterwards, Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Khalifa called for a national dialogue to resolve the crisis.

However, the country's main opposition group rejected the offer.

Speaking from the Pearl Roundabout shortly after protesters entered on Saturday, Ali Ahmed said the people's passion for change is stronger than their fear of the authorities.

"I was coming here and I was telling myself and the family - I don't care whether I die or live, but if I die I'll bring you freedom. If I live, I'll live the freedom with you," he said.

Nabeel Rajab from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, described the mood on Saturday as "victorious."

The EU says it is deploying its border agency assets to help Italy handle the flow of Tunisian and other migrants from Northern Africa in the wake of political upheavals in that region.

EU internal affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said on Saturday the mission would assist Italian authorities in managing "these exceptional migratory flows."

Over 5,000 Tunisians have arrived in recent days on Lampedusa, a tiny Italian island that is closer to Africa than the European mainland, awaiting transfer to immigrant holding centers elsewhere in Italy. Italy has asked the EU for help.

Malmstrom said an unspecified number of border agency agents will be dispatched, together with aircraft and patrol vessels.
The real Alaska has finally joined the A-list.

Long a bit player in the entertainment world, the 49th state increasingly is sought out by TV and film producers for its unmatchable lure of spectacular beauty and peril, of wild adventures and dangerous jobs.

And they're actually shooting in the nation's largest and most remote state instead of locations dolled up to portray Alaska, as multiple projects have done.

Alaska's new film production tax credit program has only amped up the state's evolving Q quotient, attracting several dozen projects since it was launched in 2008.

"People are curious about Alaska. They're curious about Alaskans. They're curious about Alaska jobs," said Alaska Film Office manager Dave Worrell.

Most of the productions are based in TV reality: "Deadliest Catch," "Ice Road Truckers," "Gold Rush Alaska," Alaska State Troopers," "Flying Wild Alaska" and, of course, the recently concluded special eight-part series, "Sarah Palin's Alaska," to name a few.

Palin's reality show, which aired on TLC, was among productions that tapped the incentives program. It was approved for a tax credit of nearly $1.2 million after spending about $3.6 million in the state, according to film office documents.

There also has been a noticeable uptick in interest from feature filmmakers - where the big money is.

A major production starring Drew Barrymore, "Everybody Loves Whales," and a supernatural thriller starring Jon Voight filmed in Alaska last year, adding to a trickle of feature films over the years with actual footage in Alaska.

Still, Alaska's incentive program is in its infancy and movies set in Alaska continue to be filmed in other states and foreign locations such as British Columbia and elsewhere in Canada, which has a well-established incentives system.

"I think Alaska theme shows are going to entice more feature films to Alaska because they're going to see all of the different, great stories that Alaska has to tell," Worrell said. The new film office offers incentives including a 30 percent tax credit to qualifying productions spending at least $100,000 in the state. Added incentives for Alaska hires, as well as offseason and rural shoots, boost credits to a maximum of 44 percent.

Phil Neville believes Everton's FA Cup win over Chelsea can give them the boost they need to rescue their season.

Neville struck the winner in a penalty shoot-out after Saturday's fourth-round replay ended 1-1 after extra-time.

"This could be the springboard for us," said Neville, whose side are fighting for their Premier League survival.

"We've set the standard today and we must not drop below that. There is still plenty to play for in the league if we pull our socks up."

Everton are 13th in the table and only three points above the relegation zone.

And it looked as if their season was getting worse as they appeared to be heading out of the FA Cup when Frank Lampard put Chelsea ahead in the first half of extra time and the Toffees still trailed with only two minutes remaining.

But Leighton Baines curled a free-kick into the top corner with 75 seconds remaining, and although the left-back failed to convert Everton's first penalty in the ensuing shoot-out, misses from Nicolas Anelka and Ashley Cole allowed Neville to step up and fire home the decisive kick.

"I knew I was going to score, I knew where the ball was going to go - and that's half the battle," said Neville.

"We've been practising [penalties] all week. The manager just told us to hit them as hard as possible.

The terrifying "beast", thought to be up to 50ft long, was captured on camera by two pals out kayaking on Lake Windermere.

Shocked Tom Pickles and Sarah Harrington told how the mystery creature swept through the still waters at ten miles per hour - creating a giant wake.

They claimed they watched it for 20 seconds before it vanished into the mist, leaving them to scramble 360 yards to the safety of the bank.
Astonishingly, theirs is the EIGHTH sighting reported in the Lake District in just five years.

Last night experts hailed the snap as the best proof yet that "something" lives in Windermere which - at 10.5 miles long and 220ft deep - is England's biggest natural lake.

The mortgage market has started the year on the back foot, with lending diving by 13 per cent in January.

A total of £9.2 billion was advanced during the month, down from £10.6bn in December and the lowest level since February last year, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML).

The fall is likely to have been caused partly by the severe December weather, which stopped people going house-hunting. But it also reflects the state of the market, as a combination of the high deposits required by lenders and the uncertain outlook for the housing market and wider economy suppresses demand.

Mortgage advances were 5 per cent higher in January than they had been in the same month of 2010, the first year-on-year increase since August last year. But the CML said lending levels in January last year had been distorted by people rushing to beat the end of the stamp duty holiday.

There is little sign of the mortgage market picking up in the near future, with a Bank of England report showing only 41,000 mortgages approved for house purchase in January. This was in line with December's figure, which was the lowest since March 2009 and 11 per cent below the level seen in November.

The issuing of a UK Foreign Office warning advising against "all but essential travel to Bahrain" has increased Formula 1 teams' concerns about the viability of the season-opener, amid continuing political tension in Bahrain.

After further violence in Manama on Friday, the Foreign Office strengthened its warning against traveling to Bahrain today. Renault team boss Eric Boullier said this move makes the decision much more serious for teams.

"As a team principal, my only concern is the safety of my people," he said.

"If, and I think it happened this morning, the Foreign Office in the UK says 'don't travel to Bahrain', this is my legal responsibility that none of my people are injured or hurt if I take the decision to send them there.

"Now I am concerned that if the FIA or FOM say we'll go and race there, I'll need some guarantees that obviously the security is guaranteed for my people."

At present, the final test of the winter is scheduled for March 3-6 at Sakhir, with the season-opening race following on March 11-13. Bernie Ecclestone has indicated that a decision about both the race and test will be made early next week, which Boullier says is essential.

"There are two issues. The first one is we are supposed to organise pack-up for Tuesday to send everything over to Bahrain for testing. This is now compromised. It is very unlikely to happen," he said.

"The race event itself, I wish it would happen - for the first reason because that would mean there is no more death and everything is quiet in Bahrain.

"The second thing is, there are so many interests involved here and we love to go and race in Bahrain, so we want to go, definitely we want to go. But obviously there is a security issue which has to be solved.

"For the test, we need to take a decision on Monday, and for the race I heard that Bernie wants to wait until Tuesday maybe, or Wednesday.

"When there is a Foreign Office decision, then we are more concerned."

Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor, has criticized Mervin King, governor of the Bank of England, says he should get off the political arena and stop tying his credibility to the coalition "extreme" deficit-reduction plans.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Balls drew comparisons between the attitude of Mr King and the backing lent by the Bank of England on the fiscal hawks in the Treasury during the Great Depression.

"The last thing you would ever want is for the Bank of England to draw into the political arena," said Mr Balls, one of the architects of the plan of Labour in the year 1990 to the Bank its independence. "The governors should be very careful about tying themselves too closely to tax strategies, especially if they are extreme and make their work on monetary policy is complicated."

Mr Balls believes that the governor of the Bank is risking its reputation by endorsing the policy that could tip Britain into a double-dip recession and a period of mass unemployment.

In a comprehensive interview, Mr Balls said that George Osborne, Chancellor, was the "fatal mistake" of drafting of economic policies to suit its political goals.

However, Mr Balls' claim was undermined by Mr King's apparent endorsement of the approach of the Minister of Finance. This week the governor said: "We need a plan A. This country needs a fiscal consolidation from its largest peacetime deficit ever."

David Cameron, Prime Minister, on Friday attacked Mr Balls for "misguided" criticism of Mr. King, saying they showed a "complete lack of decision".

"What the governor of the Bank of England said this week about the rescheduling is extremely powerful and I must say that I think Ed Balls is not only misleading, I think he showed a complete lack of understanding of attacking the governor of The Bank of England in the way he did, "said Mr Cameron. "Very, very wrong. But not atypical."

In his FT interview, Mr Balls said a double-dip recession was a possibility - although "not the most likely outcome" - and argued that Mr. King and the monetary policy committee have so far to the right to maintain interest rates at 0.5 percent.

The criticism of the political role that Mr King's echoes that of some of the MPC members who expressed concern about the "overly political" attitude of the governor to sobriety of the coalition program.

 The Tunisian government and a long-banned Islamist party both denounced Saturday the grisly slaying of a Catholic priest, while several hundred people gathered outside the French embassy in the capital to demand the recall of France's new ambassador.

The 34-year-old priest Marek Marius Rybinski was found on Friday with his throat slit and stab wounds in the parking lot of the religious school in the Tunis suburb of Manouma.

The slaying of the Polish priest was the first deadly attack on members of religious minorities since last month's ouster of Tunisia's longtime autocratic president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The Interior Ministry said the killing appeared to be the work of a "group of extremist terrorist fascists," judging by the way it was carried out, and vowed that those responsible for the "odious crime" would be severely punished.

The long-outlawed Islamist Ennahdha, or Renaissance, party called on authorities to "cast light on the real circumstances of this incident ... before making accusations."

The statement, signed by the party's leader Rached Ghannouchi - who returned to Tunisia last month after decades in exile in London - urged "vigilance in order to ward off anything that could spark anarchy in our country."

In a separate statement, the party also distanced itself from a recent anti-Semitic incident in front of Tunis' Grand Synagogue, as well as small protests targeting bordellos and stores selling alcohol.

Ennahdha was considered an Islamic terrorist group and outlawed under Ben Ali, but is widely considered moderate by scholars.

Meanwhile, several hundred people gathered outside the French embassy in Tunis on Saturday, demanding that France recalls its new ambassador, Boris Boillon.

The protesters denounced what they called Boris Boillon's "insulting behavior" at his introductory press conference last week, though it is not clear what exactly he said or did to anger them.

Some of the protesters complained that Boillon had a dismissive and arrogant tone during Thursday's news conference, while others brandished signs reading "Tunisia: respect it or leave it."

World oil prices spiked this week to a two-year peak above US$104 per barrel, propelled by simmering tensions in the Middle East and North Africa, traders said.

Global financial markets were on edge amid violent protests from Bahrain to Libya, with tensions also heightened by Iran’s reported efforts to send naval ships into the Mediterranean.

“As anti-government protests have spread from Tunisia and Egypt to the streets of Bahrain, Yemen and OPEC member countries Algeria, Libya and Iran, concerns about geopolitical risk and the potential for supply disruptions have returned aggressively to the global oil market,” Deutsche Bank analyst Soozhana Choi said.

“While disruptions have not been reported thus far, immediate market fears center on the fact that these five countries — Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, Libya and Iran — represent 10 percent of global crude oil production,” she added.

OIL: London Brent oil jumped to US$104.52 per barrel on Wednesday — the highest level since late September 2008 — after Israel said Iran was sending two warships into the eastern Mediterranean.

“The Middle East alone represents 30 percent of global crude oil production; including North Africa the region combined represents 35 percent of global crude oil production,” Choi said.

Since protests erupted in Egypt in late January, the price difference between the New York and Brent contracts has expanded dramatically.

By Friday afternoon on London’s Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April stood at US$101.95 a barrel, compared with US$100.75 a week earlier for the March contract.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, Texas light sweet crude for March delivery increased to US$87.14 a barrel from US$86.13.

Foreign Secretary William Hague has said he is "deeply concerned" by the "unacceptable violence" used against protesters in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen.

In a statement, Mr Hague condemned the violence in Libya, saying reports of the use of heavy weapons fire and a unit of snipers were "horrifying".

He called on the government to stop using force and rein back the army.

He also urged the Bahraini authorities to hold to account those responsible for deaths of protesters in Bahrain.

Mr Hague said: "Governments must respond to legitimate aspirations of their people rather than resort to the use of force, and must respect the right to peaceful protest."
Media access 'restricted'

He said he had received reports that 35 bodies were brought to one hospital alone during the violence in Libya and media access had been "severely restricted".

"I call on the authorities to stop using force and to rein back the army in confronting the demonstrators.

"The absence of TV cameras does not mean the attention of the world should not be focussed on the actions of the Libyan government," he said.

He went on to say he was "deeply concerned" by reports of the harassment of journalists in Bahrain.

"I urge the Bahraini authorities to reach out to the protesters and to hold to account those responsible for deaths," he said.

At least 50 people were wounded in Bahrain on Friday as the army fired on protesters following the funerals for four demonstrators killed when troops cleared Pearl Square early on Thursday.

In Libya, the number of people killed in three days of protests has risen to 84, according to the New York-based group Human Rights Watch.

The main focus of the demonstrations against Col Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year rule has been the second city Benghazi, where security forces are said to have attacked protesters again on Saturday.

Thousands of protesters have returned to celebrate a square that has been the symbolic heart of their protest after the leaders of Bahrain has ordered the military to withdraw tanks and other armored vehicles that had received earlier this week.

Military vehicles away Saturday from Pearl Square, the symbolic center of the Sunni insurgency against the monarchy in the Shiite-majority country, and riot police also removed.

The protesters waved flags of Bahrain cheers, flowers and signs that said "Quiet, peaceful" marched in place. They chanted: "We are victorious."

Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Deputy Supreme Commander of Armed Forces, made a brief speech on state television and called for calm and political dialogue.

Bahrain has ordered his army to the streets Saturday to meet a key demand of the opposition to initiate a dialogue in the political crisis a day after security forces opened fire on protesters anti-government.

But an important leader of the Opposition said that the withdrawal of tanks and armored personnel carriers of the capital Manama is not enough to open negotiations with the leaders of the nation devastated by the Gulf crisis .

Ibrahim Sharif, head of the company Waad, demanded guarantees that the demonstrators can organize events without fear of being attacked. Waad is an umbrella group of factions to protest.

Jubilant Bahrainis honked car horns, waving flags and signs flashed V-for-victory as armored vehicles began to move away from Pearl Square, the symbolic center of the Sunni uprising against the monarchy in the Shiite-majority country.

It may have looked like chaos at times, but House Speaker John Boehner got what he wanted from a five-day debate on a bill that 61 billion U.S. dollars would be cut from the budget this year and setting up a showdown with President Barack Obama Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in the two weeks before the government any more money on March 4.

The new speaker turned his legion of loose tea party for an epic first battle lines and the Republicans gave free rein to go after all aspects of government operations. The new GOP majority responded by targeting dozens of federal programs for the cuts, including Planned Parenthood, the new health law, and even an engine for the Joint Strike Fighter military benefits that Boehner of Ohio, the home region. Democrats joined in the action, with members of both parties to combine to 583 amendments to write.

It was not beautiful, it was not on track and it was not the least bit predictable.

Nairobi, Kenya  - The U.S. government on Saturday said it was possible to assess the reactions after the Somali pirates hijacked a yacht with four Americans on board in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Somalia.

Pirates hijacked the yacht Quest on Friday, two days after a Somali pirate sentenced to 33 years in prison by a New York court for the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama. That case ended in a spectacular Navy rescue when two snipers who pirate captain, Richard Phillips slain.

The Quest is the home of Jean and Adam Scott, a couple who already sail around the world since December 2004, according to a website to keep Adams.

A U.S. military spokesman at Central Command in Florida said: "We are aware of the situation and we continue to follow."

Matt Goshko, a spokesman at the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, Somalia, which monitors said preliminary reports indicate four U.S. citizens aboard the Quest.

"All relevant U.S. agencies are monitoring the situation in the further information to develop options and assess possible solutions," said Goshko.

Pirate attacks have increased off the coast of East Africa in recent years, despite an international fleet of warships devoted to protect ships and stopping the pirate attacks.

Multimillion-dollar ransom to increase trade, and prices for the release of a ship and hostages have risen sharply. A ransom last year was reported at $ 9.5 million. Pirates currently have 30 ships and more than 660 hostages, not counting the attack against the Quest.

The wide unrest in the Middle East took a more violent turn Friday US-allied governments in Yemen and Bahrain opened fire on their citizens, prompted Britain and France to a halt in arms sales to announce.

The use of live ammunition against the pro-democracy demonstrators also triggered sharp criticism of Obama, who appeals to authorities in Yemen, Bahrain and Libya to show restraint and "the rights of their people to respect." Obama later said the Bahraini king Friday night and insisted that "those responsible for violence" be held accountable.

Clashes erupted in the region Friday, Jordan to Djibouti. An eighth consecutive day of violence in Yemen claimed at least one life in the southern city of Aden, where police fired shots to break a crowd. In Libya, the death toll was reported in the dozens after four days of fighting in the coastal city of Benghazi, where security forces have also fired on demonstrators.

But the reaction of the security forces was the most brutal in tiny Bahrain, home to the U.S. 5th Fleet, where soldiers used tanks and machine guns fire on the demonstrators, wounding dozens, at least four of them critically.

Bahrain king tried to restore calm following the appointment of his son, the crown prince, to a dialogue with the anti-government protesters lead, most of them Shiite Muslims, a greater representation and other democratic reforms requirements in a country where most power is exercised by the Sunni minority.

After CBS correspondent Serene Branson's frightening on-air lapse into slurred and incomprehensible speech during a post-Grammy newscast Sunday night, neurologists offered an array of potential diagnoses. Was it a stroke? An epileptic seizure? Or the isolated "mini-stroke" episode known as a transient ischemic attack?

None of the above. It turns out that Branson suffered a "migraine aura"--a speech and sensory-impairing side effect of certain severe headaches--according to Dr. Andrew Charles, director of UCLA's Headache Research and Treatment Program, who treated the Emmy-nominated entertainment reporter following the unfortunate episode.

"She has no residual symptoms. I expect this not to be a significant problem for her moving forward," Charles told the Los Angeles Times.

Branson, who works for a local Los Angeles CBS affiliate, appeared on Friday's CBS "Early Show" in the first TV interview she's given since the Grammys broadcast. You can watch the video below:

"I knew something wasn't right as soon as I opened my mouth," Branson told "Early Show" co-host Erica Hill. "I hadn't been feeling well a little bit before the live shot. I had a headache, my vision was very blurry. I knew something wasn't right, but I just thought I was tired. So when I opened my mouth, I thought, 'This is more than just being tired. Something is terribly wrong.' I wanted to say, 'Lady Antebellum swept the Grammys.' And I could think of the words, but I could not get them coming out properly."

CAIRO - Women think as differently as they dress here, but they have emerged from the barricades agreeing on one thing: This is their moment in history, and they cannot afford to lose it.

During 18 days of demonstrating for freedom and democracy, Egyptian men and women walked into Tahrir Square separate and unequal, divided by gender as they passed through checkpoints. Men were scrutinized by men, and women had their bags and person searched by other women. There were several lines of men to every one for the fewer numbers of women.

Beyond the checkpoints, distinctions vanished and they stood side by side, defying the police, challenging the government, one and the same before the thugs throwing rocks and molotov cocktails. They died next to men and did not falter, steadfast for freedom and democracy.

Now, as they leave the square behind them, they want to use the strength they revealed to address long-standing inequities, to make sure women have the equality in day-to-day life that they earned in Tahrir Square.

"It was amazing to see men and women together when we took to the streets," said Marwa Faroak, a political activist. "A lot of people were saying Tahrir Square was the future of Egypt, men and women equal, fighting for freedom. And now we have to translate this into action and change."

Soha Abdelaty, deputy director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said Egyptians are building a new country, and women must be at the forefront so they can be effective advocates for their interests. She is optimistic but not yet ready to predict that women will indeed achieve more rights.