Monday, March 7, 2011

Style over Power

The Ford Escort has been roaming the streets of Europe since 1961, however, North American was introduced to this vehicle in 1981. This was crafted basically after inspiration hit over the success of its European model. And if the Ford Escort has been a success in Europe, it has well been another success for the Ford Motor Company, its manufacturer, with its introduction to the US.

This vehicle shares most of its parts with the European Ford Escort Mk 3. However, this vehicle, the Ford Escort of North America, bears a design and styling that is different from its European counterpart. When it was introduced, Ford made certain that it was available in two body styles that comprised of the 3-door hatchback and the wagon that sported four doors. It was also manufactured in five trim levels that include the base, the L, the GL, the GLX, and the SS. This vehicle come equipped with a small engine that starts with the 1.6 liter 68 hp upon its introduction, up until the 2.0 liter 130 hp engine that was mounted on the final version of the Ford Escort – the Ford Escort ZX2. What was standard was a 4-speed manual transmission, and given as an option was the 3-speed automatic transmission.

Somalia's president claimed victory over Islamist insurgents Monday although it was far from clear that the militia has been defeated.

Forces nominally allied with the government have taken control of two border towns in recent days and on Monday residents said the insurgents had abandoned two more towns. African Union peacekeepers and government soldiers have also wrested three key positions from insurgent control after heavy fighting in the capital of Mogadishu.

Somali president Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed told reporters in the capital that the militant group al-Shabab were on the verge of defeat.

"Our victories are consecutive and our troops continue to defeat the enemy," said the president, dressed in military fatigue. He called for the "final elimination" of al-Shabab and said "we are confident that good changes will happen soon and that the enemy suffered to a great extent."
Union workers at Lockheed Martin Corp.'s massive plant in suburban Atlanta have averted a strike by ratifying a three-year contract that was proposed by the aircraft manufacturing company.

The company said no new changes were made to the contract when union workers at its plant in Marietta agreed to the terms late Sunday night.

The Marietta Daily Journal reports Union leaders had asked about 3,500 employees represented by Local 709 of the International Association of Machinists to reject what the company called its last and best proposal for the contract.

Workers at the plant struck over contracts in 2002 and 2005 but voted to ratify a three-year deal in March 2008, ending a strike threat that year.

The Bethesda, Md.-based firm manufactures fighter jets and other military hardware.
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague says he will upgrade the status of Palestinian diplomats in London.

Hague told lawmakers on Monday that the Palestinian representation would be recognized as a full diplomatic mission. It had previously had the status of a delegation.

The change is largely symbolic, but follows Hague's calls for urgent progress on stalled talks on the Middle East peace process.

He said it would bring Britain into line with other European nations in how it treats Palestinian representatives.

Hague's ministry said it planned to inform other nations, including Israel, of the change following his statement to Parliament.
President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard (GIH'-lahrd) are pledging mutual cooperation in the increasingly important Asia-Pacific region and the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

Obama welcomed Gillard to the Oval Office on Monday in her first visit to the White House since winning election last summer as Australia's first female prime minister. The two leaders had met at overseas summits but this was the first time in the U.S.

Obama had been scheduled to visit Australia last year, but the trip was twice canceled because of domestic priorities.

The president thanked the Australian people and military forces for what he called extraordinary sacrifices made by Australian troops in Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama authorized an additional $15 million in humanitarian aid to Libya Monday as government forces there stepped up their crackdown on opposition forces.

Speaking in the Oval Office, Obama warned that the U.S. and its NATO allies are still considering military options to stop what he called "unacceptable" violence perpetrated by supporters of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Libyan warplanes launched multiple airstrikes Monday on opposition fighters in the second day of a harsh government crackdown to thwart rebels advancing on Gadhafi's stronghold in Tripoli.

"I want to send a very clear message to those who are around Colonel Gadhafi. It is their choice to make how they operate moving forward. And they will be held accountable for whatever violence continues to take place," Obama said.

U.S. sent an initial $10 million in humanitarian aid to Libya last month. The U.S. and United Nations have imposed sanctions on Gadhafi's regime, and U.S. military forces have also moved closer to Libya's shores to back up demands that Gadhafi step down.
A surprisingly fierce winter storm blanketed northern New England and upstate New York with up to 30 inches of snow Monday, while western Connecticut was deluged with so much rain that parts of homes and cars floated down a swollen river.

As of 10 a.m., 21.4 inches of snow had fallen at Burlington International Airport and the snow was expected to continue falling through the early afternoon.

The storm helped push the winter of 2010-11 up the record list. Even before the snow stopped, it became the fifth-snowiest winter on record in Burlington, at 119.5 inches, and the storm appeared potent enough to challenge the famous Valentine's Day blitz in 2007 that dumped 25.7 inches on Burlington, Taber said.

In northern Vermont, drifting and blowing snow caused whiteout conditions with near-zero visibility. A 10-to-12-mile section of Interstate 89 was closed for several hours Monday morning in the Richmond-Williston area.

As of midday Sunday, the forecast for the area called for 10 to 20 inches, but the report worsened as the day progressed.
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) -- Texas Tech has fired coach Pat Knight.

School spokesman Blayne Beal said Monday that Knight will coach the Red Raiders at this week's Big 12 tournament and then will step down.

Knight is in his third year as head coach. He took over the program from his famous father, Bob Knight, midseason in February 2008.
Egypt's military rulers on Monday swore in a new Cabinet that includes new faces in key ministries, responding to protesters' demands that the new government be free of stalwarts of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

The new Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, a U.S.-educated civil engineer, is expected to be met with the approval of the pro-reform groups that led the 18-day uprising that forced Mubarak to step down on Feb. 11.

State TV showed members of the government taking an oath during Monday's swearing-in-ceremony before the head of Egypt's Armed Forces Supreme Council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.

The caretaker government's main job and challenge will be to help steer the country through reforms and toward free elections.

Among the most significant changes in the Cabinet designed to meet with protesters' demands, Sharaf named a new interior minister. Maj. Gen. Mansour el-Essawy, a former Cairo security chief, replaces Mahmoud Wagdi, who held the post for less than a month. The Interior Ministry is in charge of the security forces.

El-Essawy, according to a report by the state news agency, pledged after meeting Sharaf Sunday that he would work to restore security and reduce the role of the hated State Security agency.
Southwest Airlines Co. has joined a sweeping increase of $10 in the price of many domestic round-trip airfares, citing the need to offset high fuel prices.

Southwest's action over the weekend may have ensured success for a price hike by major airlines that seemed to be faltering. Southwest carries more U.S. passengers than any airline and wields great influence over prices.

It's the sixth time airlines have raised fares already this year. CEO Rick Seaney says leisure travelers may now have to pay $260 for a ticket that cost $200 back on Jan. 1.

The airlines say they need the money. "As an industry, we are all feeling the cost pressures surrounding fuel prices," Southwest spokeswoman Ashley Dillon said Monday.

Jet fuel prices have risen more than 50 percent in the past year to more than $3 a gallon, although most airlines have offset some of the increase through hedging - in effect, paying extra to lock in the top price they'll pay for some of their fuel.
The Supreme Court said Monday it won't review a decision throwing out a lawsuit stemming from the New England Patriots' 2007 "Spygate" scandal.

The high court refused to revive a New York Jets fan's class-action lawsuit against their football archrivals and coach, Bill Belichick.

Carl Mayer, a lawyer in Princeton, N.J., known for filing legal actions against New Jersey politicians, is a New York Jets season ticket-holder. He wanted millions of dollars from the Patriots and Belichick, claiming they deceived customers by secretly videotaping Jets coaches' in-game signals. His lawsuit claimed fans spent large sums to see games that were essentially rigged.

The suit alleged that the Patriots taped the Jets' signals in their twice-yearly contests for seven years, and sought triple damages for Jets fans based on a rough average of $100 a ticket. Mayer sought $185 million in damages for Jets fans alone.
The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Monday he cannot guarantee that Iran is not trying to develop atomic arms, comments that reflect the lack of progress in his attempts to probe Tehran's nuclear secrecy.

Yukiya Amano, who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency, also said that Iran may have worked on a nuclear arms program past 2004, indirectly contradicting U.S. intelligence estimates in the public domain.

U. S. officials said last month that a newly drawn up National Intelligence Estimate concludes Iran's leaders are split over whether to use their nuclear program to develop atomic weapons. But they did not specify whether the new document revised a conclusion arrived at in 2007 that Tehran had abandoned attempts to develop nuclear weapons in 2003. That report was disputed by Israel and several European intelligence services.

Amano's comments Monday follow even stronger warnings in a confidential report last month, when he said Iran may be working on a secret nuclear weapons program even now.
Officials in a violent Mexican border town have fired a 20-year-old police chief for leaving her post after reportedly receiving death threats.

A statement from the city government of Praxedis G. Guerrero says Marisol Valles Garcia was given permission to travel to the United States for personal matters.

It says she failed to return to her post Monday as agreed, leading the mayor to dismiss her.

Valles Garcia made international headlines when she accepted the job in October.

Local news media have reported that Valles Garcia is seeking asylum in the United States after getting threats against her life, but there has been no confirmation of that.

Her whereabouts are unknown.
A new vent has opened at one of the world's most active volcanoes, sending lava shooting up to 65 feet high, scientists at Kilauea volcano said Sunday.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said the fissure eruption was spotted shortly after the floor at the Pu'u O'o crater collapsed around 5 p.m. Saturday. It occurred along the middle of Kilauea's east rift zone, about 2 miles west of Pu'u O'o.

"As a volcanologist, this is what we do. These are the moments we wait for," volcanologist Janet Babb told KHON2. "It is exciting to see an eruption begin particularly if you can see it from the very start."

Kilauea has been in constant eruption since Jan. 3, 1983.

At the summit, lava receded rapidly late Saturday but seemed to slow Sunday. There were also about 150 small earthquakes were recorded within Kilauea in the past 24 hours.
The man suspected of sexually assaulting at least 17 women from Virginia to Rhode Island over 12 years is scheduled to appear in court in Connecticut.

Authorities say Aaron Thomas, an unemployed truck driver, is expected to appear Monday in New Haven Superior Court.

Police say DNA confirmed that Thomas is the man law enforcement dubbed the East Coast Rapist.

Thomas tried to hang himself Saturday in his cell and was returned to jail after a brief hospital stay.

The East Coast Rapist is wanted for 17 rapes and other attacks in Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island and Virginia that began in 1997. The cases were linked by DNA.

It is not clear if Thomas has a lawyer.
An American woman living in Scotland on Monday admitted stabbing her three children to death amid a custody battle with their father.

Theresa Riggi, 47, pleaded guilty in an Edinburgh court to culpable homicide on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Her lawyer, Donald Findlay, said she was suffering from narcissistic, paranoid and hysterical personality disorders and acute stress.

She had originally been charged with murdering 8-year-old twins Austin and Luke and their 5-year-old sister Cecilia.

The children's bodies were found in August after a gas explosion at their Edinburgh apartment. Their mother was hospitalized after falling or jumping from an upper-floor balcony. She was found to have self-inflicted stab wounds.

Riggi and her husband, American oil industry executive Pasquale Riggi, were getting divorced and contesting the custody of their children at the time of the killings.

Riggi wept in court as her lawyer called the case "the most tragic and difficult case that I have ever had to deal with in over 35 years in these courts."
Pirates off the coast of Nigeria's commercial capital of Lagos have attacked a chemical tanker in an unsuccessful bid to board and rob the ship in the Gulf of Guinea.

A report by the International Maritime Bureau shows the failed attack happened Thursday about 3 nautical miles off the coast. Three people aboard a green fast boat approached the tanker at anchor and fired their weapons in the air.

The report, obtained by The Associated Press Monday, says the robbers demanded that the gangway be lowered, but that the shipmaster refused and moved away from the anchorage. It says the crew is safe, and pirates did not board.

Pirate attacks have risen around Nigeria in recent years. They mostly occur off the port of Lagos.

Georgia's top court has upheld a state law that requires voters to show photo identification before they cast ballots.

The Georgia Supreme Court's 6-1 decision Monday is the latest court ruling to conclude that the rules are constitutional. The decision found the 2006 law was a "minimal, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory restriction."

Georgia attorneys said the measure is needed to prevent voter fraud, but the Democratic Party of Georgia countered that state legislators have no proof anyone tried to illegally cast a ballot.
Critics have also long claimed the law creates an undue burden on the poor, the disabled and minorities.
Pakistan and the United States cannot afford any downturn in their relationship, President Asif Ali Zardari told the new U.S. envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan on Monday amid a dispute over a detained American CIA contractor.

The contractor, Raymond Allen Davis, shot dead two Pakistanis on Jan. 27. The United States says he has diplomatic immunity and acted in self-defense against robbers in the eastern city of Lahore. Pakistan has resisted releasing him, saying the matter will be decided by the courts.

Envoy Marc Grossman was appointed to the post in February after the death of Richard Holbrooke, who led a broad policy review that led to changes in priorities in dealing with insurgencies in the two countries and hopes for improved cooperation. It is Grossman's first trip to the region.

A statement from Zardari's office did not mention the Davis case, but said Zardari told Grossman both nations had to remain focussed on long-term strategic ties and not be swayed by "misperceptions and some isolated incidents."

Tibet will likely experience small shock waves when the Dalai Lama dies, but a Chinese official said Monday that the government would not now allow any serious instability to rock the region.

Although the Tibetan region is quiet now, it was roiled by violent anti-government riots three years ago that killed at least 22 people and set off a wave of protests across Tibetan areas of western China. Beijing blamed the unrest on followers of the Dalai Lama, who it says are seeking to separate Tibet from China. The Tibetan spiritual leader has denied that, saying he is working only for a high degree of autonomy under Chinese rule.

In the wake of the riots, China closed off the remote Himilayan region, barring international tourists for about a year. On Monday, Chinese travel agents said they had been ordered not to allow foreign visitors into the region around the upcoming third anniversary of the riots. Foreigners heading to Tibet have always needed special permits in addition to their Chinese visas and must travel with tour groups.

As part of its efforts to maintain control over Tibet, China regularly maligns the Dalai Lama, who is the head of Tibet's government-in-exile, and tries to play down his importance to the people in the region. Tibet's former Beijing-appointed governor, Qiangba Puncog, said Monday that the exiled spiritual leader still has religious clout but no political influence in China.
Tunisia's prime minister has named a new government after a spate of resignations.

Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi kept the heads of the key defense, interior, justice and foreign affairs ministries.

He named new figures to six posts vacated last week amid new questions about Tunisia's direction. Weeks of protests drove out longtime iron-fisted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January, sparking revolts around the Arab world.

Essebsi himself was named just a week ago after his predecessor quit.

He says on his website Monday that his new appointments have been approved by the interim president.
AOL has completed its $315 million purchase of online news hub The Huffington Post. The acquisition is the latest move by CEO Tim Armstrong to reinvent the Internet icon as a go-to source for online news and other content.

This is the largest purchase AOL Inc. has made under Armstrong, a former Google advertising executive hired by AOL to engineer a turnaround.

Huffington Post is one of the top 10 current events and global news sites, with over 27 million U.S. visitors each month. The website covers a host of topics from politics to style to food, combining original work by Huffington Post's staff with links to articles and video from other news outlets.

The site has also become well-known for blog posts from celebrity contributors who work for free in return for a platform to express their opinions. Bill Gates and Robert Redford have written for Huffington Post as have several university presidents.

All told, AOL says the combined site will attract about 117 million U.S. visitors each month and 253 million worldwide.

The deal also adds Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington to AOL managerial roster. She will run AOL's expanding stable of websites, which include popular technology blogs Engadget and TechCrunch,'s network of suburban news sites and online mapping service MapQuest.

Huffington, a media star in her own right, became a prominent public figure as the wife of a multimillionaire running for the U.S. Senate in 1994. At the time, she disavowed any interest in becoming a political candidate herself, but made an aborted run for California governor in 2003.

Armstrong has been trying to build AOL's online news business since he was hired to reshape the company in April 2009. The makeover is designed to attract more visitors to AOL's websites to help boost ad sales. AOL had just a 5.3 percent share of the U.S. display advertising revenue in 2010, down from 6.8 percent in 2009, according to eMarketer. Facebook, meanwhile, accounted for 13.6 percent of display revenue last year, up from 7.3 percent in 2009.

Armstrong has also slashed thousands of jobs in an effort to stem costs. Several unconfirmed reports have suggested that that the company will lay off more workers now that the Huffington Post purchase has closed.

Founded in 2005, Huffington Post was owned by Huffington, Kenneth Lerer and other investors. They will get $300 million of the purchase price in cash. The remaining $15 million will be paid in AOL stock.

On a conference call with analysts last month, AOL Chief Financial Officer Arthur Minson said the company expects Huffington Post will generate $50 million in revenue this year, with a profit margin of 30 percent. By comparison, AOL drew $2.42 billion in revenue last year. About 53 percent came from ads, and most of the rest from its shrinking base of dial-up Internet subscribers.

Minson said the deal will save AOL $20 million a year by allowing it to eliminate operations that overlap with Huffington Post.

A man who pulled his car over to the side of the road after a fender bender was killed when a tour bus hit him, then rolled on an icy interstate, injuring numerous passengers, police said Monday.

The crash involving a Martz bus happened around 11 p.m. Sunday along Interstate 380 in Clifton Township, near Scranton, in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Trooper Bill Satkowski said 41-year-old Lamont Phillips, of Pittston, was fatally struck by the bus as he stood outside his vehicle after a minor collision with another car.

Phillips had returned to his vehicle and was talking to his wife through the window when he and his car were struck by the bus, Satkowski said.

The bus then rolled onto its side, injuring numerous passengers, Satkowski said.
Spanish drivers slowed down Monday, obeying a new speed limit designed to reduce energy use as oil production chaos in Libya sends fuel prices soaring.

The maximum highway speed limit dropped from 120 kph (75 mph) to 110 kph (68 mph), and government workers spent the weekend plastering speed limit signs with new stickers.

Reaction from drivers was mixed. Some cheered the move because it will lower fuel consumption and probably reduce accidents, but others questioned whether the savings justify longer driving times.

"I don't know if this is really going to save the money the government thinks it will," taxi driver Jesus Gonzalez said. "And for us, it is really uncomfortable to drive (this slow)."

The fine for violating the new speed limit is euro100 ($140). Drivers who exceed the limit won't be penalized on Spain's new points-based driving licenses, but many are expected to obey anyway because Spaniards are hurting financially, with unemployment of more than 20 percent and grim Spanish economic growth prospects.
MALAM JABBA, Pakistan (AP) -- The chairlift and hotel were destroyed, the snow was not the greatest, and the apres-ski was tea and rice. But at least the Taliban were gone and no shots were fired.

That made for a good day's skiing in the Swat Valley, "the Switzerland of Pakistan" until the Taliban moved in and turned the country's only public ski resort into a training and logistics base.

The military ran the insurgents out in 2009 and now I was in Malam Jabba to fulfill my dream of carving a few turns in Swat alongside a handful of local enthusiasts, some in colorful ski suits, some in traditional robes, and some with sticks for ski poles.

Unused to foreigners, who usually are under orders to stay out of Swat for their safety, my fellow skiers stared in disbelief as I hopped out of my truck after the seven-hour trip from Islamabad, strapped skis to my backpack and set off for the main 800 meter-long (2,600 foot-long) piste.

They followed me to the slope, those who could speak English goodnaturedly asking me how on earth I came to be here. It turned out that they were holding a "Peace Ski Gala" in hopes of whipping up support for rehabilitating the resort.
Oil prices climbed to near $106 a barrel Monday as intense fighting between Libyan government forces and rebels appeared to be turning into a civil war and raised the prospect of a prolonged cut in crude exports from the OPEC nation.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for April delivery was up $2.25 to $106.67 a barrel, the highest since September 2008, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract had gained $2.51 to settle at $104.42 a barrel on Friday.

In London, Brent crude for April delivery was up $1.80 to $117.77 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Over the weekend, supporters and opponents of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi fought in several cities, heightening fears that the country is headed for a protracted conflict. Libya's oil output has fallen by at least 1 million barrels per day from 1.6 million since the uprising began last month.

A federal judge in Nigeria has ordered the two men accused of orchestrating an illegal weapons shipment from Iran to be moved from secret police custody to jail before their trial.

Justice Okechukwu Okeke's order Monday places Iranian citizen Azim Aghajani and Nigerian Ali Usman Abbas Jega in the custody of the oil-rich nation's prison service. Lawyers for the two men say that will give them better access to their legal representatives before their next court appearance Tuesday.

Aghajani and Jega face four charges over the weapons shipment seized Oct. 26 in Lagos' busy Apapa Port. The shipment included 107 mm artillery rockets, rifle rounds and other weapons bound for Gambia.

Hackers have infiltrated French government computers in search of information about France's leadership of the Group of 20 leading economies, the country's budget minister said Monday.

The head of France's network security agency said it was the biggest-ever hacker attack against the government.

Budget Minister Francois Baroin says it's too early to say who was behind the attack in recent weeks and months on Finance Ministry e-mail accounts and servers.

"It was the information about the G-20 that interested the hackers," Baroin said in an interview on radio station Europe-1.

France holds the rotating leadership of the G-20 this year and is hosting a series of meetings aimed at improving relations among the world's top economies, including the U.S. and China.

Officials at the Finance Ministry would not elaborate on Baroin's comments.

Network security agency chief Patrick Pailloux said "sensitive" information had been obtained in the attack, which he said was carried out by "a number of professional, determined and persistent hackers."