Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dangerous levels of radiation leaking from a crippled nuclear plant forced Japan to order 140,000 people to seal themselves indoors Tuesday after an explosion and a fire dramatically escalated the crisis spawned by a deadly tsunami.

In a nationally televised statement, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said radiation had spread from the four stricken reactors of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant along Japan's northeastern coast. The region was shattered by Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the ensuing tsunami that is believed to have killed more than 10,000 people, plunged millions into misery and pummeled the world's third-largest economy.

Japanese officials told the International Atomic Energy Agency that the reactor fire was in a fuel storage pond - an area where used nuclear fuel is kept cool - and that "radioactivity is being released directly into the atmosphere." Long after the fire was extinguished, a Japanese official said the pool might still be boiling, though the reported levels of radiation had dropped dramatically by the end of the day.

Late Tuesday, officials at the plant said they were considering asking for help from the U.S. and Japanese militaries to spray water from helicopters into the pool.

That reactor, Unit 4, had been shut down before the quake for maintenance.

If the water boils, it could evaporate, exposing the rods. The fuel rods are encased in safety containers meant to prevent them from resuming nuclear reactions, nuclear officials said. But they acknowledged that there could have been damage to the containers. They also confirmed that the walls of the storage pool building were damaged.

A soccer player from Montenegro who fell out of favor with his Russian club says he was beaten into terminating his contract.

Nikola Nikezic played for Kuban Krasnodar in the Russian Premier League. He has written to the governing bodies of European and international soccer, contending he was beaten March 7 by two men in an office at the club's headquarters in Krasnodar in southern Russia.

Nikezic also says in a video message on a website that the men had guns and threatened to "make an invalid" out of him. He says he signed a contract termination out of fear for his life.

The 29-year-old forward says he has been told he's not wanted at Kuban. The team began its league season Sunday, losing 2-0 to Rubin Kazan.

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- The creator of 3-D epic "Avatar" says studios that rework movies filmed conventionally into 3-D,rather than shooting originally in the format, risk hurting their business.

James Cameron told a media conference in Abu Dhabi Tuesday that Hollywood is undergoing a shift from conventional films to 3-D that is similar to the transition from the first color films to a world of all color movies.

He cautioned that studios that try to hedge their bets by adding 3-D effects only in post-production, once they decide the film is worth the investment "are harming themselves in that cautious approach."

He recommends the more expensive process upfront of shooting in 3-D directly, because customers are willing to pay more for it.

Thousands of Palestinians thronged major squares in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank on Tuesday to deliver an impassioned appeal to their leaders to end the long-running feud that has divided the Palestinian people between two rival governments.

Demonstrators on each side of the Palestinian divide hoisted banners urging their leaders to unite the government that split after Hamas militants seized control of Gaza in June 2007, leaving Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah Party ruling only the West Bank.

Past reconciliation attempts have failed and the marches seemed unlikely to bring the sides together because Fatah nor Hamas do not seem inclined to relinquish the power they have.

But if the campaign gains strength, it could pressure the rival governments to start talking again. Hamas, in particular, is waiting to see how the situation in neighboring Egypt evolves. The group hopes the next Egyptian government will ease or lift a crippling blockade of Gaza - a development that would strengthen Hamas and boost it in any future negotiations with Fatah.

Speaking to his government in Gaza, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said it was time for the sides to meet and set aside their differences and called on Fatah leaders begin the process of reconciliation.

Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assaf rejected the offer later Tuesday, saying it wasn't genuine.

"This call of Hamas for unity is not serious, it's rather a way to bypass the people's movement aimed at ending the split. Hamas turned down several initiatives for unity and if it was serious, it would have accepted these initiatives rather than calling for more talks."

The pro-reconciliation demonstration originally was organized by independent activists on Facebook influenced by the changes sweeping through the region. But Fatah and Hamas quickly jumped on the bandwagon, and the two parties clearly dominated Tuesday's rallies.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Gaza City to protest.

Young Hamas supporters were most prominently represented in Gaza, but small groups loyal to Fatah and other small Palestinian factions were also out, as were Facebook activists. There were some scuffles over internal disputes among the groups and four people were treated for wounds sustained by knives and rocks.

In Ramallah, the seat of the West Bank government, some 8,000 demonstrators - most of them university students and youths - marched through a central square, calling for national unity.

The division between the West Bank and Gaza - territories located on opposite sides of Israel that would one day make up a Palestinian state - is a major obstacle to Palestinian independence.

Abbas favors a peaceful settlement with the Israelis, though he halted talks late last year to protest Israeli settlement construction. Hamas has not renounced its commitment to Israel's destruction and opposes negotiations.

COLUMBUS, Georgia - Aflac Inc. said Monday it has fired Gilbert Gottfried, the abrasive voice of the insurer's quacking duck in the U.S., after the comedian posted a string of mocking jokes about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan on Twitter over the weekend.

The tasteless tweets are particularly problematic for Aflac because it does 75 percent of its business in Japan. One in four homes in Japan buys health insurance from Aflac. The insurer's CEO, Daniel Amos, flew to Japan on Sunday to show support for the company's employees and agents.

The company said in a statement Monday that Gottfried's jokes do not represent the feelings of the company, which previously announced it would donate 100 million yen ($1.2 million) to the International Red Cross to help with disaster assistance.

"There is no place for anything but compassion and concern during these difficult times," Chief Marketing Officer Michael Zuna said.

The tweets in question were removed from Gottfried's Twitter feed Monday after Aflac announced it would stop working with the comedian. On Saturday, Gottfried tweeted: "I just split up with my girlfriend, but like the Japanese say, 'They'll be another one floating by any minute now."

Gottfried has voiced the duck in numerous Aflac commercials since 2000. His career includes a run as a cast member on "Saturday Night Live" and a role as the voice of the parrot in Disney's "Aladdin." He has also recorded a 50-minute show of dirty jokes.

The insurer said it will start a casting search for his replacement. The company also noted that Gottfried is not the voice of the duck in Japan. Aflac's mascot in has a softer, sweeter voice in Japanese commercials.

Aflac is gearing up for an influx of claims in the wake of the disaster, though it expects only a minimal financial impact to total results. The company, which has been doing business in Japan since 1974, said less than 5 percent of Aflac Japan's new sales and in-force premiums come from the hard-hit Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures there.
A political operative charged with bilking New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg out of more than $1 million has lost a bid to have the case thrown out.

A Manhattan judge denied John Haggerty's request Tuesday. Haggerty has pleaded not guilty to charges including grand larceny.

The judge also barred those involved from talking to reporters about the case.

Prosecutors say Haggerty got the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent mayor to give $1.1 million to the state Independence Party for a 2009 partywide poll-watching effort. Bloomberg was running for re-election at the time.

The party paid Haggerty $750,000. It's not charged with any crime.

Prosecutors say Haggerty used the money to buy a house and pay personal expenses instead of mounting the anti-election-fraud project.

His lawyers say he did his job.

Moammar Gadhafi's military blasted rebels with airstrikes and bombardment from warships, tanks and artillery in an overwhelming display of firepower Tuesday, trying for the first time to take back a city in the opposition's heartland of eastern Libya. Rebel fighters rushed to the front as mosques in the city broadcast pleas for help defending the city.

Rebels flocked to the entrances of Ajdabiya to fight after the pro-Gadhafi forces surprised them with attacks on two sides of the city. But the opposition was suffering from a lack of weapons.

"They don't have the arms, but they have the will to fight," Lt. Col. Mohammed Saber, an army officer who defected to the uprising, said by telephone, with explosions and gunfire audible in the background.

The assault on Ajdabiya in the east came after Gadhafi forces took back the last rebel town west of Tripoli. With the victory in Zwara, a seaside town about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the Tunisian border, the regime has largely consolidated its control in the west, where only weeks earlier his rule seemed to be crumbling. The only other opposition-held city in the western half was under a punishing blockade, its population running out of supplies.

The dramatic turn in Gadhafi's fortunes has outpaced French and British efforts to build support for a no-fly zone, which seemed to fall apart on Tuesday in the face of German opposition and U.S. reluctance.

China became the first government to organize a mass evacuation of its citizens from Japan's northeast on Tuesday, while other foreigners left the country following radiation leaks at an earthquake-damaged nuclear power plant.

Austria said it is moving its embassy from Tokyo to Osaka, 250 miles (400 kilometers) away, due to radiation concerns. France recommended that its citizens leave the Japanese capital, while the U.S. government advised Americans to avoid travel to Japan.

China's announcement came as Japan's nuclear crisis took a dramatic turn for the worse following an explosion and a fire at reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex. Japanese authorities said the fire caused radiation to spew into the air and told people living nearby to stay indoors.

The Chinese Embassy in Tokyo said on its website that it was preparing to send buses to remove its nationals from Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki and Iwate prefectures, the hardest-hit provinces.

A 13-year-old Ohio boy has launched his own line of scented candles meant for men, with fragrances that include bacon, New York-style pizza, sawdust and the smell of a fresh leather baseball mitt.

Hart Main of Marysville in central Ohio says he got the idea for his "Mancans" when he was making fun of his sister for selling candles with girly scents for a school fundraiser. Columbus station WCMH-TV reports he launched his company last Thanksgiving, making the candles using scores of empty cans from soup he donated to a soup kitchen.

Hart says so far he has sold 500 candles for $5 each, both online and at local stores. He says he's made enough profit to buy himself a nice bicycle.

A mail bomb addressed to a moderate Muslim leader exploded in Indonesia's capital Tuesday as police were trying to defuse it, wounding four people.

The bungled attempt by officers was captured on video and widely aired on local television stations.

The explosive, delivered to the offices of the Islamic Liberal Network, was placed in a hole carved into a heavy book titled "They should be killed for their sins against Islam and the Muslims."

Witnesses told TVOne station that the book arrived with a note addressed to Ulil Abshar Abdalla, a prominent member of the U.S.-funded group, asking him to name those who should top the "hit list."

He was not in the office when the parcel arrived.

"This is clearly a terror attack," said Anton Bachrul Alam, spokesman for the national police. "We are still investigating and don't want to speculate at the moment as to who may have been behind this."

What exactly is an "Ide" anyway? Well, if you were an ancient Roman, an Ide referred to the appearance of a full moon.

But, on March 15, 44 B.C., Julius Caesar was assassinated and the " Ides of March" became more than just planetary observations.

The Ides became a warning to future leaders, Charles McNelis, an assistant professor of classics at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., explained to National Geographic .

Octavian, Caesar's heir who was also known as Imperator Caesar Augustus, "seems to have been aware of the problems of presenting himself as Caesar had. … The Ides became a lesson in political self-presentation," McNelis said to National Geographic
Historians say Julius Caesar's desire to be a dictator for life and to be worshiped as a deity did not sit well with many in Rome.

The Roman government during his day was run by a mix of a long-established republican government headed by two consuls with joint powers. There also were praetors, consuls and a body of citizens forming the Senate who proposed legislation. General people's assemblies approved legislation by vote.

A dictator was simply a temporary office established for use only during times of extreme civil unrest.
Julius Caesar had gone too far with his hunger for power, which lead to his death.
After three explosions and a fire in four days, the situation at Japan's earthquake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant grew more serious Tuesday, chasing all but a handful of workers from the site and raising fears of a far more dangerous radiation threat.

The latest incidents, an explosion Tuesday at the plant's No. 2 reactor and a fire in a cooling pond used for nuclear fuel at the No. 4 reactor, briefly pushed radiation levels at the plant to about 167 times the average annual dose of radiation, according to details released by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

That dose would quickly dissipate with distance from the plant, and radiation levels quickly fell back to levels where they would be no immediate public health threat, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said.

But the deteriorating situation at the plant and concerns about a potential shift in winds that could loft radiation toward populated areas nevertheless prompted authorities to warn people as far as 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) away from the plant to stay inside.

"There is still a very high risk of further radioactive material coming out," Prime Minister Naoto Kan said, asking people to remain calm.

About 200,000 people within a 20-kilometer (12.4 mile) radius of the plant had been previously evacuated.

A longtime member of Howard Stern's on-air crew has been appointed to the parks advisory board of an affluent Connecticut town.

The man known as Baba Booey to fans won approval to the board at a town meeting Monday in Greenwich. The 119-64 vote ended two months of contentious debate on the issue.

Those opposed to the appointment have cited Stern's low-brow, often misogynistic brand of humor.

Baba Booey's real name is Gary Dell'Abate. He's the producer of Stern's Sirius Satellite Radio show. Dell'Abate's supporters separated his professional life from his personal life, saying he is a family man and 16-year resident who coached local youth sports.

The Greenwich Time newspaper reports that the 50-year-old Dell'Abate thanked the community for its support.

The board oversees beaches and playing fields.

Germany will shut down all seven of its nuclear power plants that began operation before 1980 and it is unclear whether they will start up again, the government said on Tuesday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the closures under a nuclear policy moratorium imposed following Japan's crisis, and said they would be carried out by government decree as no agreement with the plants' operators had been reached.

"Power plants that went into operation before the end of 1980 will ... be shut down for the period of the moratorium," Merkel told a news conference. The nuclear issue should be addressed at an EU summit on March 24-25, she added.

Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said it was not clear if all nuclear power plants shut down during the three-month moratorium would remain closed or be reconnected to the grid afterwards.

Merkel astonished German politicians on Monday by suspending an unpopular coalition decision taken only last autumn, under which the life of Germany's 17 nuclear power plants would be extended by years.

She drew accusations on Tuesday of transparent trickery for the move, with the opposition and media saying she was trying to avoid a regional election disaster later this month.

There's a silly rumor exploding on the Internet this weekend, alleging that Facebook is shutting down on March 15 because CEO Mark Zuckerberg "wants his old life back," and desires to "put an end to all the madness."

We have official confirmation from Facebook Director of Corporate Communications Larry Yu that the rumor is false.

We asked him via e-mail if Facebook was shutting down on March 15, to which he responded, "The answer is no, so please help us put an end to this silliness."

He added, "We didn't get the memo about shutting down and there's lots to do, so we'll just keep cranking away like always."

Let's think about this for a minute. Would Facebook decide to shut down the company just a few days after announcing a round of funding, consisting of $450 million from Goldman Sachs and $50 million from Russian investment firm Digital Sky Technologies, on a valuation of $50 billion?

The spurious report was started by a site to which we refuse to link, known for its reports of impending attacks of alien spaceships and false reports of a Michelle Obama pregnancy.

Bloomberg is reporting that Microsoft will cease development of its family of Zune-branded music players due to weak demand and a desire to focus on its smartphone platform.

Zune will live on as a software and services platform, according to Bloomberg's source. Windows Phone 7 embeds the Zune player for media playback on the phone, uses the Zune Marketplace for online music sales, and the Zune PC software for media syncing and firmware updates.

These uses will be unhindered by the cancellation of the standalone Zune hardware.

Since their introduction in 2006, the Zune players always played second fiddle -- if that -- to Apple's iPod line.

The 2009 Zune HD model was a well-received, well-designed, and supremely elegant device, but it was a case of too little, too late. It was competing against Apple's iPod touch, with its enormous App Store advantage.

Microsoft also did little to promote the Zune brand beyond US borders; the original models were also available in Canada, but until recently, the Zune HD was US-only.

As a result, Microsoft failed to threaten Apple's dominance, leaving Cupertino to take 77% of the digital music player market last year.

Ars Technica: Zune marketplace going to Europe, Down Under

Over the past couple of months, rumors have been swirling around that Zune would either be killed off or rebranded, and Microsoft has yet to officially confirm the hardware's demise.

The apparent decision to cancel the standalone hardware may be the fact behind the rumors, or this could be the first step in a complete overhaul and rebranding of the platform, possibly codenamed "Ventura."

The decision to end Zune hardware production also means that it's unlikely that Microsoft will ever mimic Apple and produce an iPod touch equivalent for Windows Phone 7 -- the phone platform without the phone part.

AT&T broadband users will soon face a cap on the amount of internet data they can download a month.
Traditional DSL users will be capped at 150 GB per month, while subscribers to the fiber-backed UVerse system have a 250-GB limit. Usage over that will be charged at $10/month for 50 GB, the company says.

The company says that currently only a small percentage of users -- around 2% -- use this much data a month. If that's the case, it's not clear why the company is bothering to install the caps.

It is, however, the same rationale (and the same usage stat) that the company relied upon to explain why it would be capping iPhone data plans last summer, which had hitherto been "unlimited."

WIRED: Congressman wants to ban download caps

DSL and UVerse connect fairly directly to a hub -- unlike cable connections where users share a local loop that can become congested. Bulk-bandwidth costs for an ISP are a tiny portion of its business costs, and those prices continue to fall even as users consume more and more data.

So, how could a user end up hitting these caps? Streaming video such as HD movies from Netflix, using bittorrent to download movies and heavy gaming with services like Steam can easily eat up lots of data, especially in households with multiple heavy internet users.

AT&T isn't the first large broadband provider to impose caps. Comcast imposed a 250-GB cap shortly after the company was caught throttling bittorrent downloads.

Time Warner Cable tried going further with trials of a service that imposed very low limits for users, which led to a furor among users and lawmakers.

There's little data to demonstrate whether large ISPs actually are experiencing real issues with congestion. Skeptics see the limits as ways to discourage cable video customers from "cutting the cord" and getting their video online, or as a way to pocket profits instead of re-investing in bulking up their infrastructure.

You can't turn on the news these days without hearing about our budget crisis. We've also been told, over and over, that it's a problem with spending -- we're doing too much of it.

There's truth in that. Even if taxes were to be raised, it's nearly impossible that we can begin to tackle the deficit without addressing the spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Together, they total well over a trillion dollars in spending.

Whenever "entitlement" reform surfaces, however, politicians quickly coalesce around the idea that Social Security can't be touched. It also seems like Medicare is off the table, since the Republicans made it clear that cuts to Medicare to help fund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act were a bad idea.

This leaves Medicaid.

As states try to tackle their shortfalls, Medicaid has become a target. All over the country, governors are attempting to reduce coverage, benefits and spending. This is a pity, because Medicaid is already underfunded. That's right -- we don't spend too much --we spend too little.

Let's start with some basic facts. Medicaid is a state based program that is paid for by both states and the federal government. And, contrary to what many people think, Medicaid doesn't cover everyone who is poor.

Medicaid has to cover poor kids, poor pregnant women and people who receive Supplemental Security Income. It also has to cover parents up to 1996 welfare levels. But that's it as far as the federal requirements go. Some states do cover "optional" populations and services under Medicaid. Many do not.

Any plans to build a nuclear power plant in an area of the United States prone to earthquakes should be reconsidered in light of the damage to Japanese reactors by last week's earthquake and tsunami, Democratic Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts told CNN on Monday.

"We just have to call a time out and examine whether or not those safety features necessary in the future are built into new nuclear power plants in our country," said Markey, who sits on the House committee overseeing nuclear power.

In response, the chairman of the independent Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which regulates U.S. reactors, said the plants were built to withstand earthquakes and other natural disasters.

"All our plants are designed to withstand significant natural phenomena, like earthquakes, tornadoes, and tsunamis," NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said at the White House.

Jaczko was invited to brief reporters by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. He also said there is little chance of radiation from the troubled Japanese reactors affecting the United States.

The design of the Japanese reactors and the nature of the problems there made it "a very low probability that there's any possibility of harmful radiation levels in the United States or in Hawaii or any other U.S. territories" from Japan, he said.

The leaking of radiation from Japan's damaged reactors raised questions about the safety of the 104 non-military U.S. nuclear reactors, which provide 20 percent of the nation's power supply.

On Sunday, a Senate proponent of nuclear energy also called for a temporary halt in building nuclear power plants in the United States until the situation in Japan can be examined.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut who sits with the Democratic caucus, said on the CBS program "Face the Nation" that the United States should "put the brakes on right now until we understand the ramifications of what's happening in Japan."

France expects a U.N. resolution this week offering support for Libyan rebels, the French foreign minister said Tuesday, though world powers failed to agree on military action against Moammar Gadhafi's forces.

Top diplomats from the Group of Eight prominent world economies warned Gadhafi of "dire consequences" if he does not "respect the legitimate claim of the Libyan people to fundamental rights, freedom of expression, and a representative form of government," according to a final statement from a foreign ministers' meeting in Paris.

Alain Juppe defended France's move to recognize Libya's opposition last week, even though Gadhafi's forces have since regained ground from the rebels.

The G-9 ministers agreed that more action within the U.N. Security Council is needed to pressure Gadhafi to leave - possibly through new sanctions, but not military action, diplomats said.

Juppe said he expected a U.N. resolution helping the rebels "this week." He did not elaborate on details of the resolution, which is still being discussed.

He acknowledged that French and British efforts for a no-fly zone or targeted air strikes on Moammar Gadhafi's forces have failed to win broader diplomatic support.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his country is waiting for more details from the Arab League about its proposals for Libya before approving any military intervention.

Germany's envoy said his country was "very skeptical" about military action against Moammar Gadhafi's forces.

Remember the Cola Wars? Get ready for the Bottle Wars.

PepsiCo Inc. on Tuesday unveiled a bottle made entirely of plant material, which it says bests the technology of competitor Coca-Cola and reduces its potential carbon footprint.

The bottle is made from switch grass, pine bark, corn husks and other materials. Ultimately, Pepsi plans to also use orange peels, oat hulls, potato scraps and other leftovers from its food business.

The new bottle looks, feels and protects the drink inside exactly the same as its current bottles, said Rocco Papalia, senior vice president of advanced research at PepsiCo. "It's indistinguishable."

PepsiCo says it is the world's first bottle of a common type of plastic called PET made entirely of plant-based materials. Coca-Cola Co. currently produces a bottle using 30 percent plant-based materials and recently estimated it would be several years before it has a 100 percent plant bottle that's commercially viable.

"We've cracked the code," said Papalia.

The discovery potentially changes the industry standard for plastic packaging. Traditional plastic, called PET, is used in beverage bottles, food pouches, coatings and other common products.

The plastic is the go-to because it's lightweight and shatter-resistant, its safety is well-researched and it doesn't affect flavors. It is not biodegradable or compostable. But it is fully recyclable, a characteristic both companies maintain in their new creations.

Traditional PET plastic is made using fossil fuels, like petroleum, a limited resource that's rising in price. By using plant material instead, companies reduce their environmental impact. Pepsi says the new plastic will cost about the same as traditional plastic.

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. said Tuesday its board has approved the expected spin-off of its shipbuilding business to stockholders, following nearly a year of mulling alternatives for the struggling unit.

Under terms approved by the board, Northrop Grumman stockholders will receive one share of the shipping business, Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc., for every six shares of Northrop Grumman stock they hold on March 30.

Shares of the shipbuilding business will begin trading under the symbol "HII" the next day.

The unit has struggled from a slowdown in Navy shipbuilding contracts and increased competition from rivals like General Dynamics. Northrop and other defense contractors have also been under pressure from the Pentagon to cut costs, forcing them to shrink.

When Northrop said in July it would explore strategic alternatives for the unit, it also announced the planned closure of its main Louisiana shipyard. The Avondale facility in Louisiana is slated to close by 2013.

Northrop is one of the Navy's main sources of nuclear powered submarines, aircraft carriers and other warships. Shipbuilding accounts for about one-fifth of Northrop's total revenue.

Gulf Arab stock markets slumped Tuesday and the cost of insuring Bahrain's debt surged, as investor unease with the political volatility in the tiny island nation appeared poised to grow with the declaration of a three-month state of emergency.

The declines, also fueled by fears of further trouble in earthquake and tsunami-battered Japan, reflected the continuing volatility in Mideast markets, where weeks of anti-regime protests that have swept through the Arab world are crafting daily a new political dynamic while unsettling investors.

"It's to be expected, given what's happening today in Bahrain," said John Sfakianakis, chief economist for the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Banque Saudi-Fransi. "The shock waves are felt throughout the region."

The latest cause for concern came after the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council deployed a Saudi-led force to prop up the monarchy in Bahrain. The nation's king declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, giving the military sweeping authority to confront the opposition movement. Also, a Saudi official said that a Saudi sergeant was shot and killed by a protester in Bahrain's capital.

Saudi Arabia's benchmark Tadawul All Shares Index closed down 3.5 percent at almost 6,012 points, while the Dubai Financial Markets index rebounded from steeper losses earlier in the day to close 1.9 percent lower. The losses affected companies in all sectors.

Investor unease with the situation in Bahrain was reflected in the cost of insuring its debt. The five-year credit default swap for Bahrain surged by 40.88 basis points, to 347.2 basis points, according to financial data provider CMA.

The NYPD says a man injected his wife with a poisonous liquid, then drank some himself and later died.

The 35-year-old woman, Erlendy Flores, is in a coma in critical condition.

Police tell the Wall Street Journal that the couple had argued on Sunday and the woman spent the night at her sister's apartment in the same Bronx building. The next day, police say, she returned to her apartment to collect her things while her brother waited outside for her.

Police say the husband, 41-year-old Flavio Godoy, stuck a syringe in Flores' buttocks while she was bent over packing her clothes. He then drank the same liquid from a cup.

The state Department of Environmental Protection will examine the liquid.

Two top Kurdish politicians resigned Tuesday from local government in northern Iraq in what appears to be a political maneuver to challenge Arabs for control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, one of the nation's most volatile fault lines.

The city is home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, who all have competing claims to it. Kurds are seeking to incorporate Kirkuk into their autonomous region in Iraq's north - and out from under control of the Arab-dominated central government in Baghdad.

It is one of Iraq's most explosive disputes, and Kirkuk's Arabs and Turkomen have long opposed the Kurds' goal.

On Tuesday, officials said resigning provincial Governor Abdul-Rahman Mustafa, a Kurd, would be replaced with a Turkoman, raising speculation that a deal was struck to strengthen ties between the two groups against the area's Arabs.

"I hope the man elected for this job will work for the best of Kirkuk, and keep friendly living conditions among all, and be representative of all people living in Kirkuk," Mustafa said in an interview.

He said he resigned for personal reasons after eight years on the job. He is being replaced by Najmuddin Karim, a doctor who has dual Iraqi-U.S. citizenship.

A Turkoman politician said was the move is hoped to "lead to a closer approach between Turkomen and Kurds." He said the minority Turkomen, which are believed to make up about 12 percent of Kirkuk, have long felt sidelined by the city's Kurds. He spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the delicate political situation.

The other resigning official is provincial council chairman Rizkar Aziz. Both stepped down during a public meeting in Kirkuk, said councilman Rebwar Talabani.

The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales says that about 900 members of the Church of England have taken the first step toward becoming Catholics.

The Catholic Communications Network said Tuesday that the converts participated last weekend in a Rite of Election, the first step toward confirmation.

They will be joining the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, established by Pope Benedict XVI to receive Anglicans.

The converts - many of them opposed to the ordination of female priests and the promotion of gay clergy - will be allowed to keep some Anglican liturgy and traditions.

Outnumbered and outgunned, Libyan rebels lost control of their last town west of Tripoli on Tuesday and struggled to stall or outrun Moammar Gadhafi's forces as they raced eastward. With a punishing blockade, airstrikes and long-range missiles, Gadhafi's forces neared opposition strongholds, apparently hoping either for outright victory or to force residents to turn against the rebels.

With the victory in Zwara, a seaside town about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the Tunisian border, and the west largely consolidated under Gadhafi, government troops and warplane raced eastward, outpacing French and British efforts to build support for a no-fly zone over Libya.

Opposition fighters were left without a major foothold in the country's west, where the Libyan leader's strength is greatest, and teetering control of some of the eastern cities that have been their support base and refuge.

Gadhafi's forces reached the outskirts of the rebel-stronghold of Ajdabiya on Tuesday afternoon, pounding the city entrance with long-range missiles, tank fire and airstrikes. One bomb destroyed a rebel camp, a panicked local activist told The Associated Press, and another wrecked a key rebel supply road.

"This isn't one or two planes. They are like a flock!" he said, as explosions went off in the background.

He said Gadhafi's forces had also pounded the crucial eastern road that linked the city to other rebel strongholds.

Oil prices slumped below $98 a barrel Tuesday as traders braced for the worst in Japan, where a third explosion in as many days at an earthquake-damaged nuclear plant triggered a radiation leak.

Stock markets, an indicator of investors' outlook on the global economy, fell sharply across the world, dragging energy prices with them.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for April delivery was down $3.37 at $97.82 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added 3 cents on Monday to settle at $101.19. In London, Brent crude was down $4.58 at $109.09 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange.

The 9.0-magnitude earthquake on Friday and ensuing tsunami have hit demand for oil by shutting down five Japanese refineries - two due to fire. The affected refineries have combined daily capacity of 1.4 million barrels of oil, according to Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tuesday that radiation that has spread from four reactors of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant was enough to "impact human health" and the risk of more leaks was "very high." The plant was initially damaged Friday.

Kan urged anyone within 19 miles (30 kilometers) of the plant, some 140,000 people, to stay indoors or risk getting radiation sickness.

Officials said Tuesday they have detected slightly higher-than-normal radiation levels in Tokyo but insisted there are no health dangers.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average plunged as much as 14 percent Tuesday before closing down 10.6 percent after a 6 percent drop Monday. Leading markets in Europe were down 3 to 5 percent.

"We're seeing a knee-jerk reaction due to this fresh explosion," said Victor Shum, an analyst with energy consultancy Purvin & Gertz in Singapore. "It's uncertain how much radiation is coming out or could affect Tokyo and that's caused this across-the-board market reaction."

The International Energy Agency's monthly report on the oil market slightly increased its forecast for global oil demand in 2011 - by a daily 90,000 barrels - to 89.4 million barrels a day.