Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sarah Palin is extending her trip abroad with a planned stop in Israel.

She is scheduled to deliver a keynote address Saturday night during the India Today Conclave in New Delhi and says she plans to travel to Israel on her way back to the United States.

In a statement, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and former Alaska governor says she looks forward to meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss "key issues" facing his country.

It wasn't immediately clear how long she planned to stay in Israel.
There is a lot of talk on the web regarding Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and how, if you just do this one thing, you will be at the top of Google. If only it were that easy! In fact, I believe there are seven distinct skills that a search engine optimiser needs to possess. Most people possess one or maybe two of these skills, very rarely do people posses all seven. In truth, to get to all seven, people who are good at two of these need to actively develop the other skills. This takes time and effort and, if you are running your own business, do you really have the time to do this?

The seven skills that I believe are necessary for SEO work are:

Web Design – producing a visually attractive page

HTML coding - developing Search Engine friendly coding that sits behind the web design

Copy writing – producing the actual readable text on the page

Marketing – what are the actual searches that are being used, what key words actually get more business for your company?

An eye for detail - even the smallest errors can stop spiderbots visiting your site.

Patience - there is a time lag on any change you make, waiting is a virtue.

IT skills - an appreciation of how search engine programs and the algorithms they use actually work

Latest developments in the unrest sweeping the Arab world from North Africa to the Persian Gulf:


Libyan rebels shoot down at least two fighter planes from the regime of Moammar Gadhafi that attacked the airport in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. But Gadhafi's forces remain entrenched around the strategic, rebel-held cities of Misrata and Ajdabia, where clashes continue.

The administration of President Barack Obama and other supporters of action against Gadhafi push for a vote on a draft U.N. Security Council resolution to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. Russia and China, permanent council members with veto power, express reservations about foreign intervention.


Bahrain's Sunni monarchy detains at least seven prominent opposition activists, and Iran recalls its ambassador to protest martial law-style rule to suppress the Shiite protests that have riled the strategic island nation.

Lara Spencer is leaving television's "The Insider" to return to ABC News.

The network said Thursday that Spencer will be the new "lifestyle anchor" on "Good Morning America."

ABC News President Ben Sherwood said Spencer will focus on family and health issues, along with entertainment and celebrity coverage. Spencer will also appear on other ABC News broadcasts, like "Nightline."

Spencer worked at "Good Morning America" as a national correspondent from 1999 to 2003, before leaving to join the syndicated entertainment news show. She'll be moving back to New York from Los Angeles for her new job.
Pakistan's army chief has condemned a U.S. drone attack that killed more than three dozen people, saying the missiles struck a peaceful meeting of tribal elders.

Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani called Thursday's strike "unjustified and intolerable" and said it was a violation of human rights.

Pakistani intelligence officials initially said the 38 people killed in a compound in the North Waziristan tribal area were militants meeting to discuss the war in Afghanistan.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

Civilian casualties from drone strikes are a main source of friction between the Pakistani and U.S. governments.

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

MIR ALI, Pakistan (AP) - U.S. drone aircraft fired four missiles at a building in a militant sanctuary in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday, killing 38 people in an unusually deadly strike, Pakistani officials said.

A senior Pakistani intelligence official said the dead were militants meeting to discuss plans to send fighters to Afghanistan; the local governor said they were innocent tribal elders and police.

A "blood money" deal to free a CIA contractor who killed two Pakistani men removes a major thorn in relations between the United States and Pakistan, but bruising from the incident and disagreements over Afghanistan mean the alliance will likely remain stormy.

The already weak Pakistani government has also seen its standing among the country's 180 million people further diminished, though it remains to be seen whether right wing and Islamist parties are able to organize large-scale protests to destabilize it further.

Raymond Allen Davis was released Wednesday after heirs of his victims were given $2.34 million in exchange for a pardon in a closed-door court session. He shot and killed the men on Jan. 27 in the eastern city of Lahore, allegedly in self-defense.

The deal was a way out of a toxic situation for the U.S. and Pakistani governments, which were able to say it was the families and Pakistan's legal system - not them - that made the release happen. As such, they were sheltered from the full force of public anger in Pakistan.

Pakistan and the United States are locked in a complex relationship that is increasingly strained due to disagreements over strategic interests in Afghanistan. Many analysts said the crisis generated by the Davis affair was largely a reflection of these tensions.

"This was a bump along the road," said Samina Ahmed of the International Crisis Group, an international think tank.

"The bigger issue, which still remains, is that of Afghanistan."

A French judge filed preliminary manslaughter charges Thursday against Airbus over the 2009 crash of an Air France jet - opening a rare criminal investigation against a corporate powerhouse.

The order from Judge Sylvie Zimmerman targeting the European planemaker centers on the June 2009 crash into the Atlantic of an Airbus A330 bound for Paris from Rio de Janeiro, killing all 228 people on board.

Airbus chief Thomas Enders, speaking to reporters afterward, said the company disagreed with the judge's "premature" decision - especially in light of the still-unsolved mystery about the crash.

The preliminary charges, which allow for further investigation, came after Airbus lawyers met with the judge on Thursday. Enders said Airbus will continue to cooperate with the probe.

Charges against Airbus, the world's top planemaker by orders in 2010 and a rival of Chicago-based Boeing Co., are unusual but not unprecedented. Airbus employees have been charged in France in previous crashes.

Air France flight 447 went down June 1, 2009, amid an intense, high-altitude thunderstorm. Automatic messages sent by the plane's computers show it was receiving false air speed readings from sensors known as pitot tubes. Investigators have said the crash was likely caused by a series of problems, and not just sensor error.

President Barack Obama found out years ago he had an Irish ancestor who fled the potato famine in 1850. He can now claim 28 living relatives who also descended from that Irishman, including a Vietnam veteran, a school nurse and a displeased Arizona Republican.

The president's newly identified relatives are revealed in a study released to The Associated Press by, whose genealogists also traced descendants of 23 other Irish passengers on the ship that brought Falmouth Kearney, Obama's great-great-great-grandfather, to the United States when he was 19.

The survey allowed genealogists to further trace branches in Obama's family tree and others who arrived on the ship, known as the Marmion, on March 20, 1850.

According to the survey, the passengers' descendants live in Canada, Syria and throughout the United States. Among Obama's newly identified relatives is 83-year-old Dorma Lee Reese, of Tucson, Ariz.

"I'm not a Democrat, so I can't say I clapped," said Reese, a retired brain-imaging technologist. "I don't appreciate what he's done by any means, but I do appreciate that he holds that office."

Kearney arrived with his brother-in-law William and his wife, Margaret Cleary. They were destined for Ohio, where Kearney's relative had left property in his name. Kearney married, had 10 children and later settled in Indiana, where he worked as a farmer.

Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, was a descendant of one of Kearney's daughters, Mary Ann Kearney, and Jacob William Dunham. The White House didn't immediately return a message Wednesday seeking comment on the president's Irish heritage.

When the 903-ton Marmion arrived after a 3,000-mile voyage to New York Harbor from Liverpool, England, carrying 289 passengers, it was following a well-worn route used by masses of Irish immigrants.

Among the carpenters, bricklayers and shoemakers arriving that day was Kearney, listed in records only as a laborer.

Concerns over clashes in Bahrain between Shiite protesters and security forces from Sunni Arab states spilled over into Iraq on Thursday, as thousands of Shiite protesters converged on holy shrines to show support for their brethren in Bahrain.

The Shiite-led uprising in Bahrain has galvanized Iraq's Shiite population. The decision by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states to send forces into Bahrain also threatens to worsen relations between Baghdad and Riyadh, which already views Iraq's Shiite-dominated government as a pawn of Iran.

About 3,000 people in Karbala, 55 miles (90 kilometers) south of Baghdad, gathered between the city's two main Shiite mosques in a demonstration that local councilman Hussein Shadhan al-Aboudi predicted will be dwarfed by much larger crowds after prayers on Friday. About 200 people took to the streets in downtown Baghdad, many of them spontaneously joining the demonstration in a busy shopping area.

"I saw the demo and decided to ... march with the demonstrators in solidarity with our brothers in Bahrain, with whom we are linked in religion and Arab ethnicity," said Amir al-Asaadi, 35, a businessman from Basra.

Parliament discussed sending $5 million in aid to Shiites in Bahrain and demanded that the Arab League and the United Nations immediately intervene.

Seventeen whimpering Great Dane puppies born by Cesarean section are keeping their mother, another dog and their breeder constantly busy trying to feed the unusually large litter.

The eight male and nine female pedigree puppies were born Monday at a veterinary clinic near Warsaw, after their breeder Gabriela Kubalska decided to spare the mother, 4-year-old Hania, a long labor.

They are Hania's very first litter, Kubalska said Thursday.

Hania, looking tired, her puppies and another female Great Dane helping to nurse the litter, occupy most of the ground floor at Kubalska's house in a Warsaw suburb. The tiny pups nursed and slept by their mother on Thursday.

A Rhodesian Ridgeback in Germany made headlines in September when she gave birth to 17 puppies.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that a U.N. no-fly zone over Libya would require bombing targets inside the country to reduce the threat posed by Moammar Gadhafi's forces.

Her assessment made clear the risk of possible military intervention as world powers consider broader steps to protect civilians and pressure the Libyan leader.

"A no-fly zone requires certain actions taken to protect the planes and the pilots, including bombing targets like the Libyan defense systems," Clinton said as she neared the end of a Middle East trip dominated by worries about Libya, where a rebel offensive is apparently flagging.

Clinton said discussions are going beyond specific actions toward broader authorization so countries can enforce any U.N. measures. No ground intervention is being considered, she said.

Visiting Tunisia for the first time since protesters toppled their long-time autocratic ruler, Clinton spoke about the bloodshed in neighboring Libya and cited the U.N. negotiations in New York.

"The United States stood with Tunisia during your independence and now we will stand with you as you make the transition to democracy, prosperity and a better future," Clinton said following a meeting with the country's new foreign minister.

She said the U.S. and Tunisia are discussing an aid package similar to one being offered to Egypt that includes investment credits, loan guarantees, insurance as well as public private partnerships in the fields of education, technology and science. She did not offer specifics.

A pageant organizer who stripped a Texas beauty queen of her title says photos of the 17-year-old in a bikini were unusable despite attempts to airbrush them.

Linda Woods testified Thursday that Domonique Ramirez is "not fat by any stretch of the imagination."

But Woods says the teenager was named 2011 Miss San Antonio because of her strength in the bikini portion of the competition and she was no longer in that shape.

Woods is president of the Miss Bexar County organization. Ramirez is suing to re-claim her crown and compete in the Miss Texas pageant, a run-up to the Miss America contest.

Woods also told jurors Ramirez refused help from vocal coaches and didn't write thank-you notes. She says the "irresponsible" behavior led to Ramirez's ouster.

President Barack Obama chose St. Patrick's Day to announce that he's adding Ireland to the itinerary for his trip to Europe in May.

Obama made the announcement as he welcomed new Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny to the White House for an annual ceremony of Irish-American solidarity.

He joked that Vice President Joe Biden was "envious because he wants to go first."

Obama and Biden, both in green ties, spoke about the strong bonds between the two countries.

The president said Ireland is "bouncing back" from its economic crisis and that Kenny had shared his economic recovery plans with Obama.

Kenny said Ireland was "open for business" and that Obama's plans to visit represent "a significant statement of confidence" in the country.

Obama already had announced plans to make a state visit to Britain from May 24-26, just ahead of the G-8 summit in France.

Diet Coke has topped rival Pepsi-Cola for the first time to become the second-most popular soft drink in the country behind Coca-Cola.

It marks a victory for Coca-Cola Co. as its sodas now hold the top two rankings, beating out its rival PepsiCo Inc.

A study by Beverage Digest released Thursday found that Coca-Cola sold nearly 927 million cases of the diet soda in 2010. PepsiCo sold roughly 892 million cases of Pepsi.

Sales of soft drinks in the U.S. have fallen for six straight years as consumers cut back on spending and switched to healthier alternatives. While both Diet Coke and Pepsi's sold less soda, Pepsi's fell more.
Oil prices climbed back above $100 per barrel Thursday after a crackdown on protesters in Bahrain increased concerns that unrest there threatens to spread to OPEC heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Prices are also rising as Japan is expected to boost fuel imports as it recovers from its earthquake and tsunami disaster. And the world's largest oil consumer, the U.S., reported Thursday that unemployment claims dropped to the lowest level since July 2008, raising hopes that oil and gasoline demand will soon increase.

Benchmark crude added $2.82 at $100.80 per barrel in afternoon trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude rose $3.34 to $113.78 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Oil prices have been pushed and pulled in recent weeks by various international crises that could have major impacts on world oil supplies and demand.

A rebellion in Libya has forced the country to halt oil shipments of about 1.5 million barrels per day. Libya produced about 2 percent of the world's oil. Saudi Arabia and other OPEC nations have said they will increase production to cover shortfalls of Libyan oil, which goes mostly to Europe.

Protests in Bahrain led by Shi'ite Muslims have raised concerns further about the stability of the Middle East. The tiny country doesn't have much oil of its own, but Bahrain is just 15 miles from the Saudi Arabia border and the violence could deepen sectarian divisions between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims in the region.

More than 10,000 anti-government protesters have rallied in Armenia's capital.

Opponents of President Serzh Sargsyan have several demands, including the release of their incarcerated colleagues and snap elections.

Their leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, says revolts in the Arab world have inspired the protest movement, but is vowing any change in government will be peaceful.

That represents a change of tactics for the combative Ter-Petrosian, who in earlier protests warned of a forceful overthrow.

Thursday's rally in Yerevan is the latest in a wave of demonstrations that began in February on the third anniversary of the 2008 violent suppression of a protest after a disputed presidential election.

Hamas police in Gaza detained a Palestinian protester and two Palestinian cameramen on Thursday while breaking up a rally calling for political reconciliation, and 16 other protesters holed themselves up in a U.N. school.

The event took place a day after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas offered to go to the Gaza Strip for talks with his Hamas rivals.

About 40 activists gathered in front of a U.N. school, waving flags and chanting slogans for unity between the rival Hamas and Fatah factions. When Hamas police approached the group, it dispersed, and police detained the three Palestinians.

The 16 other Palestinians rushed into the U.N. school compound, where Hamas police are prevented from operating. Protester Nuha Wajeh told reporters by text message that the group vows not to leave the school until representatives from the dueling Palestinian parties, Hamas and Fatah, meet with them and pledge to end their bitter rivalry.

Chris Gunness, spokesman of UNRWA, which aids refugees, said his agency appealed to authorities in Gaza to "allow these 16 people safe passage from the UNRWA compound and to guarantee their safety."

Emergency workers frantic to regain control of Japan's dangerously overheated nuclear complex turned to increasingly elaborate methods Thursday to cool nuclear fuel rods at risk of spraying out more radiation.

They tried with police water cannons, heavy-duty firetrucks and military helicopters dropping bucket after enormous bucket of water onto the stricken system.

By nightfall, it wasn't clear if anything had worked, amid sharp warnings that the situation was deteriorating.

U.S. and Japanese officials gave differing assessments of what was happening at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, 140 miles (220 kilometers) north of Tokyo. The top U.S. nuclear regulatory official warned of possible high emissions of radiation while the U.S. ambassador urged Americans within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of the plant on the tsunami-savaged northeastern coast to leave the area or at least remain indoors.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., which owns the plant, said it believed workers were making headway in staving off a catastrophe both with the spraying and, especially, with efforts to complete an emergency power line to restart the plant's own electric cooling systems.

The producers of "Fat Pig" say the Broadway production has been postponed from April until next season.

Producers said Thursday that the delay is the result of a "last-minute fallout of a key investment."

The production was to star Dane Cook, Josh Hamilton, Julia Stiles and Heather Jane Rolff. Neil LaBute was set to direct.

The producers say they hope to keep intact the cast and creative team.

"Fat Pig" had been slotted for Broadway's Belasco Theatre beginning April 12.

Egypt's dreaded State Security agency has been dissolved, but many doubt the power of the secret police has really been broken after decades of using torture, intimidation and spying to intervene in almost all aspects of life. Egyptians fear some of its 100,000 members are still working underground to derail the country's bumpy transition to democracy.

Under Hosni Mubarak's nearly 30-year rule, State Security was above the law. It spied on anyone suspected of dissident opinions, oversaw media, disrupted political activity and had the final say on who filled posts from government ministers to university professors.

It was notorious for torturing dissidents and for involvement in rigging elections, including working with ruling party members to gather bands of thugs who were used during elections to attack people suspected of voting for regime opponents.

Getting rid of the State Security Investigations agency was a key demand by the youth groups behind the 18-day uprising that forced Mubarak to step down on Feb. 11. On Tuesday, Interior Minister Mansour el-Essawy abolished the agency, saying he would replace it by a new one in charge of national security and combatting terrorism.

But that doesn't mean its members are gone.

"There is a consensus that it is dangerous to leave former members of the State Security unemployed," prominent rights activist Hossam Bahgat told The Associated Press. "The agency was the backbone of the regime and there is credible fear that its former members could easily spoil or even derail the shift to democracy."

Columnists in Egyptian newspapers and youth activists who led the protest wave accuse State Security agents of fomenting Muslim-Christian riots that erupted last week and killed more than a dozen people in an attempt to stir up instability. Others say the agents are fueling a crime wave that has hit the country since Mubarak's fall by releasing criminals from prison or even propagating labor strikes that have raged around the country the past month.

So far, no direct proof of a State Security hand has emerged. But Egypt's new political leaders have suggested they share the suspicions.

California authorities say Mel Gibson was booked and released on a misdemeanor battery charge as part of the criminal case involving his former girlfriend.

Jail records show the actor-director turned himself in Wednesday to the El Segundo Police Department.

He was fingerprinted and his mug shot was taken, a requirement of a plea deal that resulted in him being on probation for three years and attending a year of domestic violence counseling.

The 55-year-old Oscar winner was accused of striking his then-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva (gree-GOR'-yeh-vuh) during a January 2010 fight, but his no contest plea on Friday did not include an admission of guilt.

Gibson opted to turn himself in on the same night his film "The Beaver" premiered at the South by Southwest film festival in Austin, Texas.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that a U.N. no-fly zone over Libya would require bombing targets inside the country to reduce the threat posed by Moammar Gadhafi's forces.

Her assessment made clear the risk of possible military intervention as world powers consider broader steps to protect civilians and pressure the Libyan leader.

"A no-fly zone requires certain actions taken to protect the planes and the pilots, including bombing targets like the Libyan defense systems," Clinton said as she neared the end of a Middle East trip dominated by worries about Libya, where a rebel offensive is apparently flagging.

Clinton said discussions are going beyond specific actions toward broader authorization so countries can enforce any U.N. measures. No ground intervention is being considered, she said.

Visiting Tunisia for the first time since protesters toppled their long-time autocratic ruler, Clinton spoke about the bloodshed in neighboring Libya and cited the U.N. negotiations in New York.

Clinton urged Tunisia to deliver jobs and development to people hungry for economic opportunity. She said the U.S. would support U.N. actions that gain a "broad base of participation, including from Arab nations."

Military action might be needed, she also said.

Haiti's Jean-Bertrand Aristide is leaving exile in South Africa in just a few hours, despite President Barack Obama's bid to keep the hugely popular but controversial figure away from his homeland until it holds presidential election this weekend, officials said Thursday.

"We can't hold him hostage if he wants to go," South African Cabinet Minister Collins Chabane said Thursday, noting Haiti's government had delivered Aristide's diplomatic passport last month.

South African officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to make the official announcement, said Aristide would leave immediately after addressing reporters Thursday evening at a small airport on the northern outskirts of Johannesburg.

The former slum priest was twice president of Haiti and remains wildly popular among the Caribbean nation's majority poor. He was unable to serve full terms, having been ousted the first time in a coup before being restored to power in a U.S. military intervention in 1994. After handing power to his successor he was re-elected years later, only to flee a rebellion in 2004 aboard a U.S. plane. Aristide claimed he was kidnapped, a charge the U.S. denied.

Obama was concerned enough to call South African President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday and discuss the matter, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told The Associated Press. A Zuma spokesman had no comment, saying he was unaware of the call.

"The United States, along with others in the international community, has deep concerns that President Aristide's return to Haiti in the closing days of the election could be destabilizing," Vietor said. "President Obama reiterated ... his belief that the Haitian people deserve the chance to choose their government through peaceful, free, and fair elections March 20."

Aides say Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected president, fears the winner might reverse the long-awaited decision to allow his return. In the past, both have been opposed to Aristide. Now, both Michel Martelly and Mirlande Manigat stress his right to return as a Haitian citizen under the constitution.

Manigat, a university administrator and former first lady, even said: "President Aristide is welcome to come back and help me with education."

American actor Danny Glover arrived Thursday in South Africa and plans to escort Aristide, his wife, Mildred, and their two daughters home. Glover, the chair of TransAfrica social justice forum, asked why former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier could return to Haiti unhindered and not Aristide.

"People of good conscience cannot be idle while a former dictator is able to return unhindered while a democratic leader who peacefully handed over power to another elected president is restricted from returning to his country by external forces," Glover wrote on the TransAfrica Forum website.

Prominent lawyers and law professors criticized U.S. government "interference" in Aristide's "constitutional and human right to return from forced exile to Haiti."