Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Millions of people from Maine to the Carolinas awoke Tuesday without electricity, and an eerily quiet New York City was all but closed off by car, train and air as superstorm Sandy steamed inland, still delivering punishing wind and rain. The U.S. death toll climbed to 38, many of the victims killed by falling trees.

The full extent of the damage in New Jersey, where the storm roared ashore Monday night with hurricane-force winds of 80 mph, was unclear. Police and fire officials, some with their own departments flooded, fanned out to rescue hundreds.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Consolidated Edison says power will be restored everywhere in Manhattan and Brooklyn within four days, but it could be at least a week for other boroughs and Westchester County because power is delivered to those areas largely using overhead lines.

 Repairing those lines is more labor intensive.

 On Tuesday morning, ConEd said that 337,000 customers were without power in the two boroughs. There were 442,000 without power in the boroughs of Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx and Westchester County following Hurricane Sandy.

 ConEd cut power to some neighborhoods served by underground lines as the advancing storm surge from Hurricane Sandy threatened to flood substations. Floodwaters later led to explosions that disabled a substation in Lower Manhattan, cutting power tens of thousands of customers south of 39th Street.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

For anyone who really wants to green their life, really wants to, I think there are 5 basic requirements… or, to make them sound nicer, we’ll call them ingredients.
Can you live a ‘green’ life without one of these? Well, yeah, but maybe not THE Green Life. Think of it like this: you need some basic ingredients to make a pizza — pizza dough, tomato sauce, and cheese (note that you can use non-dairy cheese, of course). Without one of these ingredients, you can call what you make a pizza, but is it really a pizza?
So, what are the 5 ingredients for The Green Life?

The Big 3

The first three involve things you do every day. Everyday activities have a profoundly stronger impact than once-in-awhile activities. That may be obvious, but it seems like we spend a lot of time talking about once-in-awhile things (clothes, furniture, kitchenware, laundry detergent) when talking about going green.
If you look at the top 3 contributors to global warming and climate change, they are undoubtedly transportation, electricity, and food (though, the order varies based on the assumptions and the location).

earth global warming
One of the biggest issues facing us right now is global warming. Its effects on animals and on agriculture are indeed frightening, and the effects on the human population are even scarier. The facts about global warming are often debated in politics and the media, but, unfortunately, even if we disagree about the causes, global warming effects are real, global, and measurable. The causes are mainly from us, the human race, and the effects on us will be severe.

Global Warming Effects and Causes: A Top 10 List

global warming causes
1. Global Warming Cause: Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning power plants
Our ever increasing addiction to electricity from coal burning power plants releases enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 40% of U.S. CO2 emissions come from electricity production, and burning coal accounts for 93% of emissions from the electric utility industry [EPA, pg. 10].

If you weren’t aware, today is National Bike to Work Day in the U.S. That means that even if it is the only day of the year you do so, you should bike to work today!
Of course, biking is such a pleasant experience (for most people) if you get out there and try it out for transportation purposes, you’ll probably find that you love it & want to do it more.
I was wondering what to write about for bike to work day, and have just decided to write on the top 10 reasons you should bike, while including a lot of cool, bicycling pictures. So, here we go:
Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company would increase secrecy of the products in its pipeline, a speech that occurred on the same day alleged designs of the iPhone 5 were leaked online. Speaking at the D10: All Things Digital conference, Cook said: “We’re going to double down on secrecy on products.” Meanwhile, online photos of what appear to be parts of the next-generation iPhone were published by 9To5Mac.

Could it be a coincidence that Cook gave his speech on the same day the photos were leaked? Absolutely. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time we have seen alleged parts of a future iPhone that turn out to be wildly off-base when the real product arrives.

It’s just that the photos of the purported iPhone 5 casings obtained by 9To5Mac match many of the tipped changes for the next-generation Apple smartphone, expected later this year. They show a greatly reduced dock connector at the bottom, redesigned speaker grills and the headphone jack relocated to the bottom left of the phone -- a first for Apple’s phones.

An additional opening between the camera lens and the LED flash can be observed, which 9To5Mac speculates could be where the secondary microphone (used for noise reduction since the iPhone 4) was moved in order to allow for better audio capture during voice recordings.

More strikingly, the back of the pictured phone has a large metal plate that could be made of Liquidmetal, a material Apple purchased exclusive rights to and is already using for the SIM ejector tool. The antenna band seems to be molded into the metal backplates and the top and bottom of the device still appear covered in glass, probably to allow for better signal reception. The original iPhone had a metal back, but subsequent iterations used plastic and then glass.

What about that bigger screen? Well, the photos don’t reveal much about that, if they actually depict an iPhone 5 prototype casing. It appears the parts have the same width as the current iPhone 4S, but it’s taller, which is in keeping with recent reports that Apple is looking to increase the phone’s height in order to accommodate a 4-inch screen and 4G LTE connectivity (along with a bigger battery).
A senior Iranian military official says Iran's oil industry was briefly affected by a powerful computer virus that has unprecedented data-snatching capabilities and can eavesdrop on computer users.

Gholam Reza Jalali, who heads an Iranian military unit in charge of fighting sabotage, said Wednesday that Iranian experts had found and defeated the "Flame" virus.

Jalali told state radio Wednesday that the oil industry was the only governmental body affected and all problems had been resolved.

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

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- A senior Iranian official claims Tehran has defeated a powerful computer virus that has unprecedented data-snatching capabilities and can eavesdrop on computer users.

Ali Hakim Javadi, who is Iran's deputy Minister of Communications and Information Technology, is quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying Wednesday that Iranian experts have already produced an anti-virus capable of identifying and removing "Flame" from computers.

Iran's government-run Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center has said the Flame virus was focused on expionage.

Javadi did not say whether any Iranian government bodies or industries were affected by the virus.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Vernella says sorry to TOP while 'Express' confirms...

By Ria Taitt and Elizabeth Williams Story Created: Mar 19, 2012 at 11:56 PM ECT (Story Updated: Mar 19, 2012 at 11:56 PM ECT)

 The Government-issued credit card of Tobago Development Minister Vernella Alleyne-Toppin has been cancelled.

 And yesterday the Minister apologised to her party, the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), for her misuse of the Government-issued credit card.

 TOP had "categorically condemned" her misuse of the card and had called on her to make a "full and unconditional apology to her constituents and the people of Trinidad and Tobago".

 In a letter addressed to chairman of TOP, Stanley Beard, Alleyne-Toppin stated she "unreservedly apologises for the issues that arose surrounding the use of the State-issued credit card". She further stated that: 

1) All balances drawn on the account have been repaid in full

 2) Use of the card has been discontinued 

3) The actual card has been returned to First Citizens.

 Sources confirmed to the Express the card was cancelled by the bank.

 Yesterday, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, who made the revelations about the misuse of the card in the debate on the no-confidence motion in the House of Representatives two weeks ago, called for her resignation.

 "The Minister is playing games with her feigned apology. She resolutely refuses to accept that she did anything wrong. The apology is only for the embarrassment and not for the act," he said.

 Rowley said Alleyne-Toppin had not come clean on the nature and extent of the "abuse" of the card and the role which the Ministry of Finance played in treating with her "abuse". 

"After her bombastic response and her childish attempts to gain sympathy and steer the public away from viewing her unacceptable conduct, which includes breach of trust in dealing with public money, she cannot simply excuse herself by continuing to attempt to mislead the public," Rowley stated.

 Alleyne-Toppin's credit card had a balance as of December 2011, of $68,048.16. 

Former head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas welcomed the apology but noted it should have come sooner.

 "I hope Minister Alleyne-Toppin exercises due vigilance in her ministerial functions in the future," Dumas said.

 However, he stressed, the question now should be asked, how was the $68,048.16 sourced, and the fact the monies were already paid back, proves the government was aware of the matter in the first instance.

 "Such a large amount of funds used in such a short period of time, I am hopeful this does not reoccur. This kind of behaviour is not expected of a Cabinet minister," Dumas said.

 Dumas insisted Alleyne-Toppin should not be blamed for the use of the card since she claims she did not know how it should be used, but she should be held accountable for the fact the card was not properly used by her

. Alleyne-Toppin's apology comes on the heels of a more comprehensive and unsolicited apology which was given by her colleague, Health Minister Fuad Khan.

 Alleyne-Toppin stated in her letter to Beard she had also taken steps to personally review and address any areas of breakdown in the administrative process in the Ministry of Tobago Development to ensure matters of this nature do not occur in the future in keeping with her commitment to transparency, integrity and accountability in all operations.

 She thanked her constituents, the TOP, the People's Partnership and the national community for their continued support and reaffirmed her pledge to the service of the people of Tobago and Trinidad and Tobago.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

OTTAWA — Canada is warning gay and lesbian travellers bound for Russia's historic St. Petersburg to be wary after the city enacted a new law banning what it calls homosexual propaganda.

 Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has told the House of Commons he is deeply concerned by the legislation, which he says runs counter to core Canadian values of freedom of speech, human rights and the rule of law.

 The warning comes after the governor of St. Petersburg signed a law that makes it a criminal offence to publicize acts of sodomy, bisexualism or lesbianism.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird stands in the House of Commons during Question Period, Friday March 16, 2012 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
 The city says the law, which comes into effect Saturday, is designed to protect children. But gay rights groups see it as part of a backlash led by some politicians and the Russian Orthodox Church.

 St. Petersburg is the fourth Russian city to be enact such a law.

 Baird said Canada has lodged an official protest, as well as warning travellers.

 "Canada's ambassador has written to the Russian government to express our deep concern and, yes, we have at his request, put a travel advisory on our website," Baird said.

 Scenic, historic and cosmopolitan, St. Petersburg is one of Russia's -- if not one of the world's -- top travel destinations.

 Canada's new travel advisory has been amended to read: "Homosexuality is legal, though some still strongly disapprove of it. Canadians are advised to avoid displaying affection in public, as homosexuals can be targets of violence.

" The advisory states that the new law prohibits "propagandizing homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality and transsexuality among minors, and prohibiting public actions propagandizing pedophilia.

" Among other things, the advisory warns travellers against "displays or conspicuous behaviour," which could lead to arrest or a fine.

 Baird said he will consider amending travel advisories to other destinations to deal with specific threats to gay and lesbian travellers.

 "We'll certainly look at that," said Baird. "Obviously one of the core responsibilities I have as Canada's foreign minister is to promote Canadian values around the world, and I will continue to do this." 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

—Reuters Photo

 PESHAWAR: A suicide attack on Thursday killed a senior Pakistani police officer and wounded his bodyguard in the northwestern city of Peshawar, troubled by a new wave of violence, police said.

“Police Superintendent Kalam Khan died in the blast and his driver and a guard were injured,” police officer Tahir Ayub said.

 “The bomber came on foot and detonated explosives strapped to his body near Khan’s jeep,” bomb disposal squad chief Hukum Khan said.

 “We have found the bomber’s head,” he added.

 The incident took place on a road under construction in Peshawar’s Pishta Khara neighbourhood that meant Khan’s car had to drive slowly, police said.

 Khan had been on his way to work in the suburban town of Badaber, where a suicide attack killed 15 people at a funeral on Sunday.

 It lies close to Bara town, a stronghold of local warlord Mangal Bagh, who is linked to Islamist militants.

 Peshawar has a population of 2.5 million people and has long been on the frontline of violence blamed on an insurgency led by Taliban militants opposed to Islamabad’s alliance with the United States.

 Islamist militants have killed more than 4,900 people across Pakistan since government troops raided an extremist mosque in Islamabad in July 2007.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

BREAKING - Facebook has announced a host of new changes to its design and new plan – charging users! 

Mark Zuckerberg announced a host of new changes to Facebook. He did not, however, comment on the fact that he was closing Facebook down next year.

 WWN’s J.B. Smitts broke the story that Facebook was shutting down on March 15th, 2012. Maybe this helped Zuckerberg come up with his new plan?

 Pressure from angry users has been too much and Facebook is looking at an alternative, something that will persuade Mark Zuckerberg to keep the site alive: his social media platform is going to start charging users! 

According to sources outside the company, Facebook is planning a subscription-based service with monthly fees starting at $0.99 for a basic “friendship” which allows for the posting of text and just one profile picture. This fee will increase, depending on the number of friends you have, the messages posted and sent, and the pictures/videos/ games put on a user’s page. The monthly fee will be capped at $50.00 per month at the high-end.

 Bottom line: the more you will pay.

 Reports are that all existing content has been “grandfathered” and will not be disrupted – though Facebook has decided to share this data with government agencies, including the FBI , the CIA and Michael Moore. 

Goldman Sachs, which had been planning to raise $1.5 billion in financing before they learned that Mark Zuckerberg wanted to shutter the site, is thrilled at the prospect of Facebook converting to a pay service. 

“The addition of this substantial revenue windfall makes Facebook all that more attractive as an investment,” said Tom Wotozowski, Senior Vice President of Goldman Sachs. “This will make it the largest corporation on the planet, in the history of the planet.

” Industry watchers estimate that the new fee-based program will generate well in excess of $20 billion in new revenue for the company – based on the most conservative assumptions of usage and the proposed tiered fee structure.

 These estimates, of course, account for the fact that millions of users may quit Facebook in response to the imposition of fees. “I’m not going to pay for Facebook! It’s like paying for air. It’s not right,” said longtime Facebook junkie, Jessica Samsille. “Screw them, I’m going back to MySpace,” said Bo Chan.

 No matter. Facebook executives are excited at the prospect of charging users. “We’re going to make money hand over fist,” said Facebook CEO Cindy Shooman. “I think converting to a pay service is something that will make Mark want to keep the site going. And I’ll finally get to buy an island in the Mediterranean.”

 March 15th, 2012 is Facebook Day. The site will either shut down, or start charging users for its service.

Beware the ides of March…

 [Reporting by Floyd Collins on WWN's Financial News desk] use Facebook, the more you will pay.
After decades of failed attempts by a string of Democratic presidents and a year of bitter partisan combat, President Obama signed legislation on March 23, 2010 to overhaul the nation’s health care system and guarantee access to medical insurance for tens of millions of Americans.

 The health care law seeks to extend insurance to more than 30 million people, primarily by expanding Medicaid and providing federal subsidies to help lower- and middle-income Americans buy private coverage. It will create insurance exchanges for those buying individual policies and prohibit insurers from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions. To reduce the soaring cost of Medicare, it creates a panel of experts to limit government reimbursement to only those treatments shown to be effective, and creates incentives for providers to “bundle’' services rather than charge by individual procedure

. The law will cost the government about $938 billion over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which has also estimated that it will reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion over a decade.

 It was the largest single legislative achievement of Mr. Obama’s first two years in office, and the most controversial. Not a single Republican voted for the final version, and Republicans across the country campaigned on a promise to repeal the bill. In January 2011, shortly after they took control of the House, Republicans voted 245 to 189 in favor of repeal, in what both sides agreed was largely a symbolic act, given Democratic control of the Senate and White House.

Monday, March 12, 2012

LONDON (AP) -- Say goodbye to the party prince; say hello to the queen's secret weapon.

That's how royal watchers have seen Prince Harry's first major diplomatic tour - a 10-day jaunt to the Caribbean and South America to represent his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II as part of celebrations marking her Diamond Jubilee.

The trip offered Harry, 27, a first step onto the international stage in a role that will become increasingly common as a younger generation of royals step to the fore.

The official part of the trip, which also included a business-boosting visit to Brazil, ended Sunday with a charity polo match after which Harry gave an exuberant thumbs up after he was kissed on the cheek by a brunette model. On Monday, he set out for Brazil's interior to study its ecosystems as part of a private project conducted by the charitable foundation he runs with his brother, Prince William.

Press reports emphasized that Harry had been a hit with locals and made good on his vow to make his grandmother proud.

Robert Lacey, author of several books about the queen, said Harry's successful trip reflects his new maturity.

"He's grown into this role in the last few years, in part because of his military career," Lacey said "There were concerns because of some mishaps over the years that Harry would be the troublesome one in the family, but he's really doing remarkably well."

As a younger man and teenager, Harry raised eyebrows with his fondness for partying and - most notoriously - when he wore Nazi gear to a costume party and was photographed wearing a swastika armband.

Lacey said Harry's British military training, and that of his elder brother, Prince William, has greatly impressed the public.

"People can see that Harry's not getting special treatment, that he has to pass helicopter exams and work really hard," said Lacey. "The same is true for William. It's extraordinarily important to how people see the young princes."

Throughout Harry's trip, the British press was filled with photos of him playing beach volleyball and rugby in Rio, sprinting with Olympics hero Usain Bolt in Jamaica and dancing in the streets with locals in Belize, even enjoying a shot of local rum at the festivities.

The tone of the coverage was swooning - set by a British TV reporter who said she couldn't believe that Harry was still single.

But it wasn't all sand and surf. Harry also met with Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller - a sensitive visit given her vocal opposition to maintaining the queen's traditional role as Jamaica's head of state - and in the middle of his tour the prince had to deal publicly with the death of six fellow British servicemen in Afghanistan.

Harry defused potential tension with the prime minister with a warm hug, and canceled plans to abseil a building in Jamaica out of respect for the fallen soldiers.

Other senior royals, including William and his wife, the former Kate Middleton, plan similar overseas trips to mark the queen's Jubilee.

The 85-year-old queen and her husband, Prince Philip, 90, will tour the United Kingdom for Jubilee festivities but do not plan to travel overseas.
IBANDA, Uganda (AP) -- A military instructor clad in fatigues and boots who barks out orders to men half her age has become the unlikely star of a European Union program to train thousands of Somali troops.

Nearly 98 percent of the trainees in the six-month class being held in a remote Ugandan village are men, but it is 40-year-old Fatuma Hassan Noor, who returned for advanced training, who often gets mentioned in discussions of what the program can be proud of after its mandate expires in December.

Western governments are injecting millions of dollars into a program that they hope will contribute to the stabilization of Somalia, and officials stationed here hope dedicated students like Noor, when they finally return home, can prove that the money was not wasted.

Col. Michael Beary, an Irish officer who is in charge of the training mission, said he is not sending soldiers back to Somalia to defeat the militant group al-Shabab. Beary said he is instead trying to create disciplined soldiers who will return home with "a different attitude."

The 608 Somali soldiers in the current class are being trained on good citizenship, women's rights and how to stop gender-based violence, as well as weapons training, first aid, mine detection and communication during battle.

The 60 trainers in the village of Ibanda come from 12 European countries. The program has already trained 1,800 Somalis since 2010. The trainers say the mission is a small but vital contribution toward the creation of a professional army.

Friday, March 9, 2012

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) -- A Washington state corrections officer has been charged with bigamy after Facebook discovered two women were connected to him and suggested they might want to "friend."

Prosecutors in Pierce County say Alan L. O'Neill married a woman in 2001, moved out in 2009, changed his name and remarried without divorcing wife No. 1.

Wife No. 1 found out about Wife No. 2 when Facebook detected their connection to O'Neill and suggested the friendship connection.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Bank of America is providing mortgage relief to about 200,000 homeowners.

Homeowners that qualify are those whose home values have fallen below what they owe on their mortgages. Bank of America will reduce the amount owed by the homeowners by as much as $100,000 in some cases.

The move will help the bank reduce the amount of penalties it owes to the government's Housing & Urban Development agency by $850 million.

The penalties were part of a broader $25 billion settlement announced Feb. 9 by federal and state attorneys general and the largest mortgage lenders in the country to resolve investigations into abusive home lending and fraudulent foreclosure practices.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- An Israeli airstrike killed a top Palestinian militant commander and a second militant in Gaza on Friday in the highest profile attack against the coastal strip in months.

The Israeli military confirmed the strike, saying the slain commander Zuhair al-Qaissi was plotting an infiltration attack into Israel similar to one his group carried out in August that killed eight people. In a statement, the military warned Gaza's Hamas rulers against any retaliation for the strike.

Palestinian witnesses said Israeli drones were seen hovering above just moments before a vehicle exploded into flames, just outside of Gaza City.

Al-Qaissi was the top commander of the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committee, a large militant group aligned with Hamas. The group's spokesman confirmed his death. He identified the second casualty as Mahmoud Hanini, who hails from the West Bank and was released from an Israeli prison five years and deported to Gaza.

"The coward Zionists have committed an ugly crime and they know the price that they are going to pay," said the spokesman, who goes by the pseudonym Abu Mujahid.

Israel often targets Gaza militants it says are preparing attacks, but tensions have been relatively calm in recent months with Israel mostly targeting smuggling tunnels from Egypt and refraining from targeting individuals. Al-Qaissi, 55, who is also known as Abu Ibrahim, is the highest profile casualty in Gaza in months.

Another Gazan was seriously wounded in the attack. His identity remains unclear.

The Israeli military said that al-Qaida was also in charge of transfering funds from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to other militant groups in Gaza.
ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Pakistan named a new head of intelligence on Friday, propelling a former deputy spy chief to the head of an agency crucial to American hopes of negotiating a peace deal with the Afghan Taliban and keeping the pressure on al-Qaida.

Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam replaces Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, who had been in the post since 2008 and was due to retire on March 18th. The scion of a military family who is currently army commander in the city of Karachi, Islam was considered a likely man for the job.

As head of the Inter-Services Intelligence, he will be a major player in any Pakistani efforts to get the Afghan Taliban to enter peace negotiations to the end the war. ISI agents helped build up the Afghan Taliban in the 1990s, and its leaders are based in Pakistan. The ISI is believed to have some influence over them.

The ISI also works closely with the CIA in tracking and capturing members of al-Qaida, which retain a global command and training center close to the Afghan border. Many of the terrorist plots targeting the West over the last 10 years have originated from the region.

Islam is not expected to immediately, or significantly, change Pakistani policy in those areas.

The ISI falls under the control of the army, which sets policy in consultation with the elected government.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wholesale businesses increased their stockpiles in January although sales fell for the first time in eight months.

Inventories at the wholesale level increased 0.4 percent in January following an even larger 1.1 percent gain in December, the Commerce Department said Friday. Sales dipped a slight 0.1 percent, the first drop since a 0.3 percent fall last May. Sales had risen a solid 1.4 percent in December.

The inventory gain pushed stockpiles to $475.5 billion in January, up 24 percent from a low hit in September 2009.

Business rebuilding of inventories has been a major driver in economic growth so far in the recovery. But economists believe inventory rebuilding will slow in the January-March quarter, a development expected to temporarily dampen growth.

Because of that anticipated slowdown, these economists expect the economy will see slower growth of around 2 percent in the first quarter. For the entire year, economists at JPMorgan are forecasting growth of 2.3 percent, which would be a modest improvement from the 1.7 percent growth turned in during 2011.

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- The Fitch ratings agency has downgraded Greece to "restricted default" after the country secured a strong majority of private creditors to participate in a bond swap deal that will wipe off about euro105 billion from its national debt.

Friday's move was expected, with ratings agencies having said they considered the bond swap deal to be a default. The two other major ratings agencies, Moody's and Standard & Poor's, have already downgraded Greece to default level.

Following weeks of intense discussions, the Greek government said Friday that 83.5 percent of private investors holding its government bonds were participating in a bond swap. Of the investors holding the euro177 billion ($234 billion) in bonds governed by Greek law, 85.8 percent joined.

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

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Greece has cleared a major hurdle in its race to avoid bankruptcy by persuading the vast majority of its private creditors to sign up to the biggest national debt writedown in history, paving the way for a second massive bailout.

Following weeks of intense discussions, the Greek government said Friday that 83.5 percent of private investors holding its government bonds were participating in a bond swap. Of the investors holding the euro177 billion ($234 billion) in bonds governed by Greek law, 85.8 percent joined.

STANLEY, Falkland Islands (AP) -- The William-and-Kate refrigerator magnets in the gift shops are about as close as most people here have come to spotting the future king of England, who has only strolled through town once so far during his six-week tour of duty in the Falklands.

But islanders are trying to follow his every move nonetheless, proud to have royalty around as the anniversary of the April 2, 1982, Argentine invasion nears. Sharing gossip by cellphone and Facebook, they excitedly update each other on the latest sightings. Word of his gift-shop penguin purchase spread quickly, and when helicopters approach town, heads pop outside to see if it's one of the Royal Air Force's familiar yellow search-and-rescue birds, the sort that might have William at the controls.

"The ladies of Stanley have suddenly become experts on helicopters," laughed Gavin Short, the local cable guy who doubles as a legislative assembly member for the Falkland Islands Government. "They can spot a yellow helicopter now at five miles."

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez recently said William should have come in a diplomat's suit and not the "uniform of a conquistador" to the "Islas Malvinas," which is the name Argentines apply to islands they consider to be an integral part of their nation held illegally by Britain since 1833.

"Absolute rubbish," says Short.

"What kind of threat is he in a search and rescue helicopter? He's driving a machine that rescues people. It's one of the least warlike things you'll find out here," Short said.

William's bunkhouse, at least, can be seen from a distance as tourists land by air in this remote corner of the British Empire, 8,000 miles (nearly 13,000 kilometers) south of London and 300 miles (500 kilometers) off the South American coast. The Mount Pleasant airport is inside a military garrison about 1,200-strong about 35 miles (55 kilometers) from town that was built by Britain's defense ministry to take in large planes after Argentina's failed takeover.

SOKOTO, Nigeria (AP) -- An attempted rescue by British special forces and Nigerian troops of a British and an Italian hostage ended with a blood-splattered house and a dispute between two European nations.

Military forces punched through on Thursday to a house where the two hostages were held but by the time they arrived the two men were dead. Details of how and when they died were unclear, said British Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman Steve Field. But Field said "early indications were that both men were murdered by their captors before they could be rescued."

Gunfire echoed throughout the Mabera neighborhood in the northwestern city of Sokoto during Thursday's nine-hour operation, said residents. Nigeria's military also used an armored personnel carrier to attempt to storm the building.

British military and intelligence officers had been working within Nigeria for several months ahead of the operation, before a contingent of special forces - drawn from the elite Special Boat Service - were deployed in recent weeks, officials familiar with details said.

The house where Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara were found was splattered with blood on Friday. Calm had returned to the streets. McManus and Lamolinara had been working on a bank construction project in the city before they were kidnapped last May. The kidnappers claimed ties to al-Qaida.

Prescription drugs, including penicillin, anti-malarial tablets and other toiletries, were scattered on the floor of the house, suggesting the men had been there for some time.

GENEVA (AP) -- The Syrian government will allow the United Nations to assess the basic medical needs of Syrians in four areas where opposition forces have clashed with government troops and to also carry out a preliminary humanitarian needs assessment, officials said Friday.

But the rare access to strife-torn areas of Syria gained by two U.N. agencies for health and population needs depends on the cooperation of local medical students, Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid workers and other non-government organizations to conduct the survey.

A third U.N. agency, for humanitarian needs, announced Friday it had gained access for its own preliminary assessment.

For the past year, Syria's government has engaged in a bloody crackdown on a popular uprising inspired by the Arab Spring movements in other countries in the region. The U.N. says more than 7,500 people have been killed. Activists put the death toll at more than 8,000.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A solar storm shook the Earth's magnetic field early Friday, but scientists said they had no reports of any problems with electrical systems.

After reports Thursday of the storm fizzling out, a surge of activity prompted space weather forecasters to issue alerts about changes in the magnetic field.

"We really haven't had any reports from power system operators yet," Rob Steenburgh, a space weather forecaster at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo., said early Friday. "But sometimes they don't come in until after the storm."

He said the storm reached a moderate level late Thursday, before going to a strong level early Friday. For most of Thursday, it was rated as minor.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) -- More scientists are getting closer in the search for the "God particle" of physics that would help explain the fundamentals of the universe, but they haven't found it yet.

In the hunt for the Higgs boson, which is key to understanding why matter has mass, two teams of physicists using results from a now-closed American accelerator have come up with similar findings to those announced late last year by researchers at the more powerful Large Hadron Collider in Europe. While the scientists using the two accelerators have not found the elusive subatomic particle, they both have narrowed the area where it can be found, if it exists. And they know where it isn't.

Work done in the Tevatron collider at the Fermi National Lab near Chicago provides important independent confirmation of the getting-closer announcement last year by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research near Geneva, researchers said. The results from work by more than 800 scientists were to be announced in Italy on Wednesday.

"Globally the world is starting to see a consistent picture," said Fermi physicist Rob Roser, a spokesman for one team. "I don't think there's any place for the Higgs to hide. We'll know the answer one way or another by the end of 2012."

Roser said just because they have seen hints of the Higgs, it's not enough. "I'm not even willing to bet your house on it, let alone mine," he said Tuesday.

SYDNEY (AP) -- Five-time gold medalist Ian Thorpe expects to fail in his attempt to make the Australian Olympic team for London 2012, saying he may have made his return to competitive swimming too late.

A week before the Australian trials that will determine whether he qualifies for London, Thorpe told Australia's Network Ten that he doesn't have high expectations of making the team after modest results in lead-up events.

"The most realistic outcome of this is that I will most likely fail," he said in the television interview.

The 29-year-old Thorpe, who retired in November 2006 after setting 13 world records and winning 11 world championships gold medals, announced a comeback to competitive swimming nearly a year ago.

NEW DELHI (AP) -- Police arrested an Indian journalist in connection with last month's bombing of an Israeli diplomatic vehicle in New Delhi, authorities said Wednesday, the first apparent breakthrough in an attack that Israel accused Iran of orchestrating.

Though Indian authorities have not implicated Iran in the bombing, any leads that point in that direction could complicate India's delicate efforts to ward off growing Western pressure and maintain its strong economic ties with Tehran.

Energy-starved India remains a large market for Iranian oil, and those purchases could blunt the effect of intensified sanctions being imposed by the U.S. and E.U. to force Iran to roll back its nuclear ambitions.

Police arrested Syed Mohammed Kazmi on Tuesday after investigations showed he had been in touch with a suspect they believe may have stuck a magnetic bomb on an Israeli diplomat's car, police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

CHICAGO (AP) -- Mike and Laura Park thought their credit record was spotless. The Texas couple wanted to take advantage of low interest rates, so they put their house on the market and talked to a lender about a mortgage on a bigger home in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs.

Their credit report contained a shocker: A $200 medical bill had been sent to a collection agency. Although since paid, it still lowered their credit scores by about 100 points, and it means they'll have to pay a discount point to get the best interest rate. Cost to them: $2,500.

A growing number of Americans could encounter similar landmines when they refinance or take out a loan. The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that sponsors health care research, estimates that 22 million Americans were contacted by collection agencies for unpaid medical bills in 2005. That increased to 30 million Americans in 2010.

Surprisingly, even after the bills have been paid off, the record of the collection action can stay on a credit report for up to seven years, dragging down credit scores and driving up the cost of financing a home. An estimated 3.4 million Americans have paid-off medical debt lingering on their credit reports, according to the Access Project, a research group funded by health care foundations and advocates of tougher laws on medical debt collectors.

CHICAGO (AP) -- Morphine and similar powerful painkillers are sometimes prescribed to recent war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress along with physical pain, and the consequences can be tragic, a government study suggests.

These vets are at high risk for drug and alcohol abuse, but they're two times more likely to get prescriptions for addictive painkillers than vets with only physical pain, according to the study, billed as the first national examination of the problem. Iraq and Afghanistan vets with PTSD who already had substance abuse problems were four times more likely to get these drugs than vets without mental health problems, according to the study.

Subsequent suicides, other self-inflicted injuries, and drug and alcohol overdoses were all more common in vets with PTSD who got these drugs. These consequences were rare but still troubling, the study authors said.

The results underscore the challenge of treating veterans with devastating physical injuries and haunting memories of the horrors of war. But the findings also suggest that physicians treating these veterans should offer less risky treatment, including therapies other than drugs, the study authors and other experts say.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Garth Brooks' induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame caps one of the most astounding and important music careers in American history. At 50, though, Brooks isn't done yet.

He's one of the hall's youngest living inductees and might be a few short years from launching the second phase of a career that forced country music into the national consciousness and sold more albums than Michael Jackson.

He joins singer Connie Smith and keyboard player Hargus "Pig" Robbins as this year's inductees. A formal ceremony is planned later this year.

Brooks has been in semi-retirement, raising his children in his home state of Oklahoma with his wife, Trisha Yearwood. He started a string of shows in Las Vegas a few years ago, and talked openly Tuesday about what will happen after his nest empties.

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- Ralph McQuarrie, the artist who developed the look of the first "Star Wars" trilogy's signature characters, sets and spaceships, has died. He was 82.

McQuarrie's death Saturday at his Berkeley home was announced on his official website and Facebook page. John Scoleri, co-author of a book on McQuarrie's art, told the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/Af82v3 ) that McQuarrie had suffered from Parkinson's disease.

In a statement on the official "Star Wars" website, George Lucas said McQuarrie was the first person he hired to help him envision what would become some of the top-grossing movies of all time.

"His genial contribution, in the form of unequaled production paintings, propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original Star Wars trilogy," Lucas said. "When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph's fabulous illustrations."