Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Swedish Bar Association is investigating one of Julian Assange's lawyers after a British judge said he gave misleading information in the WikiLeaks founder's extradition proceedings.

Judge Howard Riddle last week ruled that Assange can be extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sex crimes. Riddle also said Assange's Swedish lawyer, Bjoern Hurtig, had submitted misleading information to the court about a Swedish prosecutor's attempts to contact his client.

Swedish Bar Association secretary-general Anne Ramberg said Wednesday she has sent Hurtig a letter asking him to explain himself.

Assange denies the sex allegations and has appealed the extradition ruling.

A long exposure photo shows a child spinning a ball of fire during rituals in
celebration of Mesni Zagovezni (Shrovetide) in the village of Lozen near the
capital Sofia, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011. People in this region believe they can
chase away evil spirits with fire rituals on Mesni Zagovezni (AP Photo)
Google has draped its Bulgarian and Romanian home page with red-and-white woolen tassels, paying tribute to an old Balkan spring tradition, for its latest logo change for special events.

The search giant on Tuesday chose a Martenitsa - from the Bulgarian word for March - a red-and-white spring charm made from yarn that symbolizes love, health and fertility.

Millions of Bulgaria and Romanians observe the centuries-old regional custom, handing out spring charms to loved ones, every March 1.

The white symbolizes male strength and longevity and the red represents the female spirit and is associated with health, blood, and fertility.

A Martenitsa is worn until March 22 - unless you see a stork or spring blossom. Then it is tied to the branch of a tree to make a wish.

Bangladesh's government ordered Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus from his post as head of his microfinance bank Wednesday - a humiliating blow for an activist whose revolutionary idea of giving out small loans lifted many out of poverty. But the Grameen Bank said he remained in charge and that it would fight the decision.

The demand for Yunus' removal as Grameen's managing director capped a string of problems that faced the outspoken government critic, including an apparently politically motivated defamation trial and accusations of an unauthorized bank transfer 15 years ago.

Bangladesh's central bank ordered him out, arguing that he violated the country's retirement laws, A.F.M. Asaduzzaman, an official at Bangladesh Bank, told The Associated Press. Grameen Bank has been notified by letter, Asaduzzaman said, providing no further details. The government owns a 25 percent stake in Grameen, while the remainder of the bank is owned by its borrowers.

In a statement, however, Grameen said Yunus was still holding his post.

Yunus is "continuing his work as the managing director of the bank," said the brief statement signed by Jannat-E-Quanine, general manager of the bank. "Since it's a legal issue, we will fight it legally."

Yunus founded the bank three decades ago, pioneering the concept of reducing poverty by making tiny loans to the poor. His work, which spurred a boom in such lending across the developing world, earned him and the bank the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.

Recently, Yunus has been under pressure at home. In addition to his legal troubles, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has accused Grameen Bank and other microfinance institutions of charging high interest rates and "sucking blood from the poor borrowers."

But he remains a hero to the poor.

Shefali Akter, 25, who has taken out two loans totaling 70,000 takas ($1,000) from Grameen since 2002, called Yunus' removal "bad news."

Police in London have arrested a man suspected of participating in an attack on a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife Camilla in December.

Metropolitan Police said they arrested a 34-year-old man on Wednesday on suspicion of violent disorder and criminal damage in connection during a student protest on Dec. 9. The suspect was not identified and he was not immediately charged.

The couple's car was surrounded by protesters who hit the car with stocks and bottles. It was the most serious security breach involving the royal family in recent years.

The International Air Transport Association has cut its forecasts for 2011 global airline profits because of the recent surge in crude oil prices.

Geneva-based IATA said on Wednesday that it had downgraded its forecast for industry net profits to $8.6 billion from the $9.1 billion it had estimated in December. That's a sharp 46 percent drop on the $16 billion earned by the industry in 2010.

IATA, which represents more than 240 airlines around the world, expects industry revenues of $594 billion.

Political unrest in Libya and the Middle East has pushed oil over $100 a barrel in recent weeks - significantly higher than the $84 a barrel that IATA used to make its December forecast. Fuel accounts for almost 40 percent of an airline's operating costs.
The problem of so-called "designer drugs" is running out of control in many regions of the world, the U.N. global drugs watchdog said Wednesday.

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said detailed instructions for how to make designer drugs, which are slightly altered to bypass existing control systems, are often shared via the Internet.

The report said the problem was "escalating out of control" and "major efforts" were needed to counter it.

"Given the health risks posed by the abuse of designer drugs, we urge governments to adopt national control measures to prevent the manufacture, trafficking in and abuse of these substances," Hamid Ghodse, the INCB's president, said at a briefing in London as the board's annual report was published.

Lebanese bishops will meet this month to elect a new spiritual head for Lebanon's Maronite church, the largest Catholic church in the Middle East.

The head of the Maronite Church, which has up to 5 million followers worldwide, exerts significant influence in Lebanon, a volatile nation where Christians make up about 40 percent of the country's 4 million people.

The outgoing patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, was deeply involved in the nation's fractious politics. In particular, he took positions against Syria's years of interference in the country's affairs and against the Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah.

Sfeir, who is 90 years old, asked to be relieved of his post because of his age, and Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation last week.

A statement read out by the Rev. Youssef Tawk after a meeting of the Council of Maronite Bishops on Wednesday said the Synod of bishops will begin meetings to elect a new leader on March 9.

Assailants purportedly sent by al-Qaida and the Taliban killed the only Christian member of Pakistan's federal Cabinet Wednesday, spraying his car with bullets outside his mother's home. It was the second assassination in two months of a high-profile opponent of blasphemy laws that impose the death penalty for insulting Islam.

Shahbaz Bhatti, a 42-year-old Roman Catholic, had been aware of the danger, saying in a video-taped message meant for broadcast in the event of his death that he was being threatened by the Taliban and al-Qaida. The threats would not deter him from speaking for persecuted Christians and other minorities, he said. "I will die to defend their rights," he said on the tape released Wednesday.

His assassination further undermines Pakistan's shaky image as a moderate Islamic state and could deepen the political turmoil in this nuclear-armed, U.S.-allied state where militants frequently stage suicide attacks. The Vatican said the slaying shows that the pope's warnings about the danger to Christians in the region are fully justified.

Despite the threats, Bhatti, who had been assigned bodyguards, was without protection when he visited his mother in the capital of Islamabad on Wednesday afternoon, police said. The politician had just pulled out of the driveway of the house, where he frequently stayed, when three men standing nearby opened fire, said Gulam Rahim, a witness.

Two of the men opened the door of the car and tried to pull Bhatti out, Rahim said, while a third man fired his Kalashnikov rifle repeatedly into the dark-colored Toyota, shattering the windows. The gunmen then sped away in a white Suzuki Mehran car, said Rahim who took cover behind a tree.
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal will return to the court later this week in Spain's Davis Cup tie in Belgium and claims he is "100 percent" fit after his latest injury setback.

Nadal strained his left thigh during his shock quarterfinal defeat to Spanish teammate David Ferrer at the Australian Open a month ago.

There were fears it could signal a repeat of the injury problems that plagued Nadal in 2009, but the 24-year-old is returning to the fray for the World Group first round clash in Charleroi.

"If I am here, it is because, physically, I am 100 percent," he told his official website.

Nadal faces the possibility of playing two five-set matches in three days under the Davis Cup format, but he is confident of being able to cope.

Two major foreign radio stations stopped broadcasting Wednesday in Ivory Coast in what appeared to be a renewed clampdown on foreign media amid an increasingly violent political crisis.

The country's regulatory agency for television and radio, which cut off all foreign television and radio broadcasters for more than a month last year, said Wednesday it had not cut off Radio France International and the BBC.

"We aren't aware of any measure against these stations," said Felix Nanihio, the agency's secretary general.

Over the weekend, partisans of the internationally recognized president, Alassane Ouattara, attacked the state television antenna, and successfully prevented it from broadcasting for more than a day.

State television is controlled by incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to cede power after a presidential election in November that the U.N. says he lost.

Leader Moammar Gadhafi says Libya's oil fields and ports are "safe" and "under control."

He said Libya will replace Western banks and companies by others from China, Russia and Brazil.

He spoke in the capital Tripoli as his forces were launching a counteroffensive Wednesday against the rebel-held eastern half of the country. His forces battled government opponents for control of a key oil installation and airstrip on the Mediterranean coast.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi battled government opponents for control of a key oil installation and airstrip on the Mediterranean coast in a counteroffensive Wednesday against the rebel-held eastern half of the country.

A startup California developer of electric cars said Wednesday its first model will be manufactured in China and go on sale in the United States this year.

CODA Automotive Inc.'s four-door sedan will be produced by a Chinese partner based on one of its models that has been adapted for electric drive and to meet U.S. safety standards, said CODA's CEO, Philip F. Murtaugh. He said CODA will produce batteries in China with another partner and supply technology and engineering skills.

CODA plans to begin sales in California this year and expects to sell 10,000 to 14,000 vehicles in its first 12 months, said Murtaugh, a former chairman of General Motors China who joined Santa Monica-based CODA last month.

"I'm very confident we will launch our vehicle in the second half of this year," he said in an interview with a group of reporters.

If it can meet that deadline, CODA could become one of the first companies to sell a Chinese-made car in the United States following announcements by several brands of plans for such sales. CODA has postponed previously announced sales timelines, but Murtaugh said it should be able to stick to its latest schedule.

CODA's plans and the unusual structure of its manufacturing partnership expand on fast-growing ties between auto companies in the United States and China, the world's two biggest vehicle markets.

NATO has apologized for killing nine civilians in Kunar province, a hotbed of the insurgency in northeast Afghanistan.

In a statement Wednesday, the coalition said preliminary findings indicate that NATO forces accidentally killed nine civilians in the Pech district of Kunar province on Tuesday. Local officials say nine boys, ages 12 and under, were killed as they were gathering firewood.

The coalition says there apparently was miscommunication in passing information about the location of militants firing on a coalition base.

Top NATO commander Gen. David Petraeus said the coalition was "deeply sorry" for the tragedy and said the deaths should never have occurred. Petraeus says he will personally apologize to President Hamid Karzai when he returns from London.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi addressed supporters in Tripoli Wednesday amid international criticism of his regime and ongoing unrest in the country.

Gadhafi blamed the problems on former prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who were released to Libya and then freed by Libyan authorities after they pledged to reform. However, Gadhafi said, they were actually members of al Qaeda sleeper cells.

In speech in which he briefly discussed several topics, Gadhafi responded to protesters' demands that he step down by saying he has "no authority" that he can relinquish. He said the Libyan people hold power in the country, explaining that he and others gave it to them in 1977.

Hours earlier, opposition members successfully fought to regain control of al-Brega in eastern Libya after armed forces loyal to Gadhafi tried to take over the town, a resident said. The town is home to a refinery and natural gas processing plant.

The resident said there were casualties in the fight, but the number is unclear.
 Investors rattled by spreading Mideast unrest drove stocks across the Arab world down sharply Wednesday, with regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia's exchange suffering another day of steep declines.

The kingdom's benchmark Saudi All Shares Index tumbled 4.4 percent in late afternoon trading, piling on to losses sustained in a 6.8 percent rout late in the previous session after most other regional markets had closed.

"Investors are very jittery. There is clearly panic selling," said John Sfakianakis, chief economist with the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Banque Saudi-Fransi, who said he expects the sell-off to continue. "Whenever this jittery panic sets in, it has a snowball effect."

The Saudi index has lost about a fifth of its value since the start of the year even as oil prices - the kingdom's main source of revenue - are pushing back toward $100 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Investors fear the demonstrations that have shaken Bahrain and Oman could spread elsewhere in the Gulf, including OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy. Anti-government organizers are calling for rallies in Saudi Arabia on March 11, though it remains unclear how much support opposition groups have.

Pope Benedict XVI's has tackled one of the most controversial and critical issues in Christianity in a new book, making a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people in the death of Jesus Christ.

In "Jesus of Nazareth," excerpts of which were released Wednesday, Benedict uses a biblical and theological analysis to explain why there is no basis in truth to claims that Jews as a whole were responsible for Jesus' death.

Interpretations to the contrary have been used for centuries to justify the persecution of Jews.

While the Vatican has long echoed Benedict's conclusion, Jewish scholars said the argument laid out by the German-born pontiff, who has had his share of missteps with Jews, was significant and would help fight anti-Semitism today.

France and Britain said Wednesday they will airlift and ferry some of the thousands of Egyptian refugees stranded at the border between Libya and Tunisia.

The French Foreign Ministry says the operation will involve large airliners and a French Navy ship heading to the region. It says the operation will allow the evacuation of at least 5,000 people over the course of a week. It said that the operation is being carried out in coordination with the European Union

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced Wednesday that UK will also be sending aircrafts to pick up the stranded Egyptians, who are fleeing chaos and violence in Libya.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron says the UK has launched an operation to airlift Egyptian refugees stranded on the Libyan-Tunisian border.
The public's fascination with Charlie Sheen's melodrama showed no sign of slackening as his new Twitter account took only hours to attract more than a half-million followers.

On Tuesday, the day production was to resume on CBS' "Two and a Half Men" after a break for Sheen's personal troubles, his Twitter postings were the only fresh entertainment starring the actor - unless news interviews also counted.

The Charliesheen Twitter account, which had been verified, featured a family-friendly photo of him and porn star Bree Olson, smiling and holding up bottles of chocolate milk and juice over the caption, "Winning! Choose your vice."

Another picture showed Sheen and a fake cake illustrated with an Oscar statuette bearing his face and "Oscar 2011."

"Winner! 2012," says the caption, apparently an optimistic prediction of glory days ahead in theaters for the "Wall Street" and "Major League" film star of the 1980s and early '90s.

Sheen, who joined Twitter the day after his publicist, Stan Rosenfield, resigned, had posted just a few tweets by Tuesday night. They included a one-liner about Chuck Lorre, the "Two and a Half Men" executive producer who's taken the brunt of Sheen's attacks in an escalating dispute with Warner Bros. Television and CBS.

They've got the carriage, the abbey, and a national holiday in their honor. Now Prince William's marriage with Kate Middleton is getting what every young engaged couple really needs - a wedding website.

Tech-savvy couples the world over set up websites to feature their nuptials. Such sites give guests a handy way to get directions, browse photos, buy gifts, or even choose the music. Although Internet users aren't likely to get much say in the royal reception's playlist, fans will find photos, updates, videos and more on , a site that Prince William's office, St. James' Palace, says may be used to livestream the event itself.

On Wednesday much of the site seemed to consist of content from the royals' existing social media ventures, such as Buckingham Palace's Flickr account, Clarence House's Twitter page, the Royal Channel on YouTube and the British monarchy's Facebook site.

But officials are promising exclusive content about the wedding, including that most coveted detail of all - details about Middleton's gown when they are made public.

A Libyan oil official said Wednesday that exports from the rebel-held east were proceeding normally and that funds for the shipments would continue to be deposited in the country's accounts even if the OPEC nation comes under international sanctions.

The official said production in the east had declined by just over 50 percent, but that full storage tanks meant exports were continuing at normal levels for now. The country's de facto oil minister, Shukri Ghanem, said several days ago that production nationwide has also declined by half.

But given the fluidity of the political developments in Libya and the lack of credible information on actual field production levels, analysts and experts are at a loss to offer more than guesses about how much of the country's daily output of roughly 1.6 million barrels is still onstream.

Some experts were skeptical that more than a trickle of oil could still be flowing out of Libya.

"There is a long cue of tankers," said the official with the Arabian Gulf Oil Co., stressing that his firm had broken ties with its parent company, the state-run National Oil Co. "We don't want to stop the exports. It's not in our interest, or the interest of the global market. We're trying to ease the market."

Recent research has shown an Iceman now approaching the tender age of 5,300 years. Affectionately nicknamed Oetzi — after the Oetztal Alps in South Tyrol, northern Italy, where he was found in a glacier on September 19, 1991 — the Iceman is believed to have died around the age of 45. He was about 1.60 metres (five foot, three inches) tall, weighed 50 kilogrammes (110 pounds) — about average for his time – and did not have blue eyes as previously believed. If he had lived today, he would have worn size 38 shoes, research shows.

Visitors will get to see Iceman Oetzi under a new light starting Tuesday at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, which celebrates the 20th anniversary of the mummy’s discovery. – Photos by AFP

TWO US warships carrying marines and equipment have entered the Suez Canal en route to Libya, as the US and Europe piled pressure on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

"The USS Kearsarge and the USS Ponce entered the Suez Canal from the southern entrance at 3pm today (AEDT) and are making their way to the Mediterranean sea," a canal authority official said.

On average it takes 12 to 14 hours for a ship to transit the canal.

The Kearsarge amphibious ready group, with about 800 marines, a fleet of helicopters and medical facilities, could support humanitarian efforts as well as military operations.

"We're certainly moving assets to be closer (to Libya)," a US defence official told AFP in Washington yesterday.

"A ship like the Kearsage is capable of many types of missions."

Western powers are arguing over imposing a proposed no-fly zone over Libya to support rebels fighting Gaddafi's regime. Some opposition figures in Libya have begun calling for air strikes.

An American aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise - which has fighter jets that could enforce a possible no-fly zone - could also be called upon for the Libya crisis.

COCA-Cola is dismissive of a US radio show's claim it has discovered the secret recipe for the popular soft drink.

The photo published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1979
that reportedly shows the recipe for Coca-Cola: Picture:
This American Life
Coca-Cola South Pacific's public relations manager Susie Crumpton declined to comment on whether This American Life's recipe, which it claimed it had found in a 32-year-old newspaper, were genuine.

But she said the main ingredients used in the popular soft drink are no secret.

"The ingredients used in our beverages are listed on the product labels and many people have tried over time to crack the secret formula of Coca-Cola," said Ms Crumpton.

"That secret combination of ingredients holds a special place in the history and mythology of Coca-Cola – something we continue to celebrate as we mark our 125th anniversary this year."

See the "secret recipe" below

The US website today posted a photo of a book it said contained a hand-written replica of the original recipe for Coca-Cola.