środa, 22 września 2010

Official: CIA-trained force targeting militants in Pakistan

According to the official the paramilitary force is targeting Taliban fighters such as these, pictured earlier this year.

Washington -- The CIA created and controls a paramilitary force of 3,000 Afghans that conducts clandestine missions targeting al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in Pakistan, a U.S. official told CNN on Wednesday.

The official described the force as "well-trained" and "effective."

"You're talking about one of the finest Afghan fighting forces, which has made major contributions to security and stability," the official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the topic.

The Counter terrorism Pursuit Teams were first revealed in a new book by Bob Woodward, associate editor at the Washington Post. "Obama's Wars," which lays out deep divisions in the Obama administration over Afghanistan strategy, will be released Monday.

According to that book, by the end of a 2009 strategy review, Obama concluded that the task in Afghanistan could not succeed without wiping out al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban havens operating with impunity in the border tribal areas of Pakistan, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

"We need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan," Obama is quoted as saying in Woodward's book, the Post said.

A CIA spokesman would not comment on the paramilitary force.

But Pakistani officials refuted the claims that CIA-controlled forces are operating within Pakistan.

"Pakistan will never allow boots on its soil," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said, referring to foreign troops. "This is one of our red lines."

A senior Pakistani military official added that there are 954 checkpoints along the border that are manned by Pakistani security forces. He said it would be "next to impossible for a group of people to enter Pakistan to chase al Qaeda and Taliban militants."

The official did not want to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

Al Qaeda in Pakistan remains a lethal enemy for the United States, a counter terrorism official said this week.

But with the help of allies, the United States has been able to score "lots of successes" against the group, said the official, who also requested anonymity.

That includes the success of U.S. unmanned predator strikes in Pakistani regions along the border with Afghanistan. Since the Obama administration took office at the beginning of 2009, missile attacks on suspected terrorists in Pakistan have increased dramatically.

The United States has "cut into their ability to plot, plan and train, but they remain very dangerous, and they are still the hub to all spokes, the heart of al Qaeda," the U.S. official said.

"No one's even close to saying it's over in Pakistan. Not at all. In fact, we not only have to keep up the pressure there, we have to spread it to al Qaeda's nodes and affiliates elsewhere."

Source: CNN

poniedziałek, 20 września 2010

Paris Hilton to avoid jail with Las Vegas plea deal

Paris Hilton was arrested in Las Vegas, Nevada, last month and charged with cocaine possession.
Paris Hilton will face a Las Vegas, Nevada, judge Monday morning to accept a plea deal in her cocaine possession case, the prosecutor and a source close to the defense said.

As first reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Hilton will avoid jail for last month's cocaine arrest on the Las Vegas strip.

The socialite-actress will enter guilty pleas on two misdemeanor counts, instead of a felony drug charge, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Clark County, Nevada, District Attorney David Roger and a defense source, who asked not to be identified, both confirmed the agreement to CNN on Sunday.

Hilton, 29, will get two six-month jail terms, which would be suspended, according to the agreement, the paper reported. She would serve one year on probation, it said.

The newspaper quoted Roger saying the plea deal "would give us complete control over her future."

"If she does not toe the line and stay out of trouble, she will do one year in the Clark County Detention Center," Roger told the paper.

Hilton was arrested after a traffic stop on the Las Vegas strip on August 27. A motorcycle officer reported smelling the odor of marijuana coming from the Cadillac Escalade driven by her boyfriend, Cy Waits.

A small plastic bag of cocaine fell out of a purse she was holding and into the hand of a police lieutenant while Hilton was being questioned, according to the police report.

The original felony charge of cocaine possession will be dropped, but Hilton will plead guilty to misdemeanor drug possession and obstructing an officer, according to the report.

Source: CNN

4 dead in Germany fire, shooting

Police and fire brigade vehicles park in front of the St. Elisabethen hospital in Loerrach, Germany, on Sunday
Berlin, Germany  -- Authorities in southwest Germany were looking for a motive Monday in an apartment building fire and a hospital shooting that, together, killed four people and are believed to be linked.

Two bodies -- one of a man and another of a 5-year-old boy -- were found inside a burning building in the city of Loerrach, police said Sunday evening.

As authorities responded to the fire, they saw a woman -- armed with weapons -- run from the building toward a hospital.

On the way, the woman -- later identified as a 41-year-old lawyer -- shot two passers-by, severely wounding them, police said.

At the St. Elisabethen hospital, the woman stabbed and shot a male nurse, killing him before police fatally shot her, authorities said.

A police officer was also seriously injured in the attack at the hospital.

Police later said the bodies in the apartment belonged to the woman's ex-husband and their son. Residents heard gunshots in the building shortly before it went up in flames, authorities said.

Firefighters evacuated 19 people from the building. Seventeen suffered mild injuries, officials said.

Source: CNN

British troops hand Afghan district to Americans

Kabul, Afghanistan  -- British forces in southern Afghanistan have handed responsibility for security in Sangin district to American troops, the British and American militaries said Monday.

British forces have been in Sangin since 2006.

The transfer of authority was first announced by the British defense secretary in July.

It follows heavy British losses in the area, a Taliban stronghold.

British Defence Secretary Liam Fox acknowledged that "the level of sacrifice has been high" in praising the British mission in "one of the most challenging areas of Afghanistan."

NATO's International Security Assistance Force said the handover was possible because of the increase in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

British Royal Marines handed control of Sangin to the U.S. Marines, both sides said.

The switch of command in Sangin is not a defeat for British troops, but simply works well militarily, said Michael Clarke, director of the Royal United Services Institute, an independent defense and security think tank in London.

"It never made much military sense to put troops into the northern areas of Sangin, Musa Qala and Kajacki in the first place," Clarke said in July when Fox announced the plan.

"But in 2006 they were sent there at the insistence of [Afghan] President [Hamid] Karzai, and once established, any pullback would have represented a victory for the Taliban."

With the arrival of some 18,000 U.S. Marines in the region by the end of August, it makes sense for the British troops to reorganize themselves and reinforce their numbers in central Helmand, Clarke said.

It will make the British force more effective and safer, he said.

The political fallout of the move, however, is unpredictable, Clarke said.

When the Brits ended operations in the southern Iraqi city of Basra last year, it was under similar circumstances, but still appeared as a "furtive retreat," he said.

"The image at home that Britain was giving up a job it could no longer handle was impossible to shake off," Clarke said. "The same may attach to Sangin. This war is as much about image and perception as it is about who controls the ground in Afghanistan."

Source: CNN

piątek, 17 września 2010

YouTube testing live streaming

YouTube testing live streaming

Live-streaming video on YouTube, until now a rare novelty, may be getting a lot more common.

The video sharing site on Monday began working with a handful of partners to test a new platform that will let users post live chats and other events on their YouTube channels.

The limited-time trial will run two days and will only feature live video from four partners.

"Based on the results of this initial test, we'll evaluate rolling out the platform more broadly to our partners worldwide," YouTube said in a blog post.

If successful, the new platform would let YouTube -- already the hands-down leader in video sharing -- move in on live-streaming sites like UStream and Livestream. Until now, YouTube has relied on third-party platforms to stream occasional live events.

Howcast, one of the four partners that will be posting live content over the next two days, plans a live tutorial on filmmaking, a magician teaching magic tricks and a cooking session with a New York chef.

The setup will allow viewers to post comments and questions as the presentation is happening.

"Any time you can create a sense of urgency for people to come and consume your content, it's a good thing," said Jason Liebman, co-founder and CEO of Howcast, which has been using YouTube to post how-to videos.

"There's no question that more live video is being consumed on the web. We just want to be out there and get a better understanding of how to use live video to improve our business."

YouTube has experimented with a handful of live-streaming events in the past.

Last October, U2 used the site to broadcast a concert from the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles, California, live in 16 countries.

The E3 video game expo was broadcast live in June, and President Obama held a live question-and-answer session on YouTube in February.

The other partners for the live-streaming test Monday and Tuesday are Next New Networks, Rocketboom and Young Hollywood.

Young Hollywood, which does an online celebrity interview show, kicked off Monday with a segment featuring pro skater Tony Hawk. Other planned segments included comedian Dane Cook and "Jackass" star Steve-O.

Founder and CEO R.J. Williams said staffers would be monitoring viewer comments and questions during the show and relaying them to the interviewer and guests.

"Now, it becomes really a two-way conversation," he said while preparing for Monday's show. "The audience can chime in and ask questions and give feedback. That makes the interviews that much more compelling."

Source: CNN

Poland arrests Chechen separatist leader

Police in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday arrested a Chechen separatist leader wanted in Russia on terrorism charges, the Polish Press Agency reported.

The Polish prosecutor's office warned that Akhmed Zakayev would be arrested on an international warrant if he arrived in Poland to attend the third World Congress of the Chechen People that was being held in the town of Pultusk through Saturday.

Russia previously said it would request Zakayev's extradition if he were apprehended.

"Due to the detention of Akhmed Zakayev in Poland and in accordance with the European convention on extradition, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office is currently preparing material with a Polish translation, which will be sent to the Polish authorities for (Zakayev's) extradition to Russia," the prosecutor's office said Friday.

Zakayev was a brigade general of the Chechen rebel forces during the 1995-1996 war. He later served as culture minister, foreign minister, and deputy prime minister in Chechnya's separatist government in the three years when it enjoyed independence from Russia between 1996 and 1999.

After Russia crushed rebel rule during a second war with Chechnya that started in 1999, Zakayev emigrated to Europe, where has been the head of the Chechen rebel government in exile.

Russia issued an international warrant for Zakayev's arrest in October 2001.

A year later, he was detained in Denmark but the Danish Justice Ministry rejected Russia's demand for Zakayev's extradition.

Then in December 2002 he moved to the United Kingdom, where another Russian extradition request was turned down. Political asylum was granted to Zakayev in November 2003 and he has been living in London ever since.

Source: CNN

The pope's trip to Britain is worth the money

If you invited a friend to dinner would you escort them to the door at the end of the evening and present them with a bill for steak, cake and a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape?

I didn't think so. And neither, it's fair to say, would most British people. But that is precisely what objectors to the pope's state visit to Britain are asking Her Majesty's Government to do.

They want Benedict XVI to foot the full bill of the papal visit -- an estimated £20 million ($31 million) -- even though he was invited to the country on behalf of the British people by the queen and two prime ministers.

You might not know that if you got your news from Protest the Pope, the group co-ordinating opposition to the trip. You might have the impression that Benedict XVI phoned David Cameron last month, told him he was coming and gave him a Mariah Carey-style rider demanding silk bed sheets in Vatican colors and a fridge packed with ice-cold Fanta (the Pontiff's favorite beverage.)

In fact, the pope has insisted that the visit costs the taxpayer as little as possible. Pope Benedict understands that Britons are about to face the harshest austerity measures in a generation and doesn't want their money wasted on traditional head of state courtesies such as the horse-drawn carriage ride with the queen. That is why the church is paying more than half the bill. But, again, you wouldn't know that if you listened only to the protestors.

A good number of British taxpayers happen to be Catholic. Some five million Britons -- about one in 12 of the population -- are baptized Catholics. Many of them object to their tax money being spent on abortion and nuclear weapons, but they accept that living in a modern democratic society means that their taxes are spent on some things they find abhorrent. If only opponents if the state visit were as accepting of the give and take of liberal democracy.

And that is one of the Pope's key messages during this visit: Believers are not a threat to Britain's tolerant, pluralistic society. They are, rather, an essential component of it.

Note that I say "believers" rather than "Catholics," because the pope is not making this point just for the benefit of his followers but for every British person who draws strength from their faith: Anglicans, Baptists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs -- you name it.

Too many people see the relationship between believers and non-believers as a zero-sum game: If one group gains something then it must be at the expense of the other. If the state is not strictly secular, then it must be a theocracy.

Benedict XVI is offering an alternative to this crude way of thinking. He is appealing to the old British instinct for tolerance and fair play. He argues that it is undemocratic to limit public life only to the adherents of atheistic humanism. I suspect that most British people would agree heartily with him.

This does not mean that the pope is seeking to vanquish atheism and deprive those who reject Catholic moral norms of their freedom. He simply wants a truly plural pluralism in which believer and non-believer alike can take a seat in the public square.

The Catholic Church has well thought-out positions on the pressing issues of our time: Immigration, poverty, war, inter-religious relations, sexual responsibility, care of the elderly and the environment. It is not seeking a privileged position from which to proclaim its teaching. It is asking only to be one voice that is heard among many as Britain confronts the moral challenges of the new century.

If the pope's trip enlarges the British public square even a fraction then it will surely have been worth the price of a state visit.

Source: Luke Coppen, Special to CNN

czwartek, 16 września 2010

France faces showdown on Roma at European Union summit

A row over France's crackdown on Roma (Gypsy) migrants from Romania and Bulgaria looks set to dominate a summit of EU leaders in Brussels.

President Nicolas Sarkozy was furious after an EU official compared France's removal of Roma with the deportation of gypsies during World War II.

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding also threatened legal action against France.

The EU leaders will also discuss ways to prevent a new financial crisis.

And they will seek to co-ordinate their approach towards emerging powers like China and India.

'Heat of the moment'

This was not meant to be a summit about the Roma, but Mr Sarkozy seems determined to go on the offensive in Brussels to defend France's reputation as the home of human rights.

He is said to be scandalised by Ms Reding's criticism, mockingly suggesting the Roma should go to her country, Luxembourg.

With tension rising to an unprecedented level, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso distanced himself from Ms Reding's comparison with World War II deportations.

"One or other of the expressions used in the heat of the moment may have given rise to misunderstandings," Mr Barroso said.

"Vice-President Reding did not want to establish any parallelism between what happened in the Second World War and the present."

Mr Barroso called for more dialogue.

Romania and Bulgaria will want their say, and so will Italy and other nations that have expelled Roma less publicly than France.

Right and irreproachable

What seems to have angered France most is Ms Reding's apparent comparison between the persecution of Jews and gypsies in Nazi-occupied France, and the current wave of expulsions of the Roma.

"This is a situation I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War," she said.

France's Europe Minister Pierre Lellouche responded that a plane ticket back to Romania or Bulgaria is not the same thing as death trains and gas chambers.

Mr Sarkozy meanwhile insists his policy is right and irreproachable.

Source: CNN

Taliban commander found hiding in oven

Kabul, Afghanistan  -- For the second time in less than a month, security forces hunting for Taliban commanders found one hiding inside an oven, officials said Thursday.

In the latest incident Tuesday, a sub-commander allegedly responsible for attacks in three districts was found hiding in a floor oven of a compound when Afghan and coalition forces raided the location in Logar province in eastern Afghanistan.

On August 31, NATO-led troops found another sub-commander hiding in an oven, breathing through a tube, the International Security Assistance Force said. The militant had allegedly returned from Pakistan recently where he trained new recruits to make bombs.

He was caught after a raid on a compound in Ghazni province in southeastern Afghanistan.

"Whether they hide in a cave or an oven, we're going to find the enemies of Afghanistan and secure peace for this country," U.S. Army Col. Rafael Torres said.

Source: CNN

środa, 15 września 2010

Pope aide pulls out of trip after 'Third World' jibe

A senior Papal adviser has pulled out of the Pope's UK visit after saying arriving at Heathrow airport was like landing in a "Third World" country.

Cardinal Walter Kasper reportedly told a German magazine the UK was marked by "a new and aggressive atheism".

The Vatican said the 77-year-old cardinal had not intended "any kind of slight", and was referring to the UK's multicultural society.

It added that he had simply pulled out of the Pope's visit due to illness.

The German-born cardinal was quoted as saying to the country's Focus magazine that "when you land at Heathrow you think at times you have landed in a Third World country".

He also criticised British Airways (BA), saying that when you wear a cross on the airline "you are discriminated against".

In 2006 a BA employee was told to stop wearing a cross at work. She took the case to an employment tribunal claiming religious discrimination, but lost, also losing her subsequent appeal.

BA changed its uniform rules in 2007, allowing staff to display a faith or charity symbol.

Vatican sources said Cardinal Kasper - who stepped down in July as the head of the department that deals with other Christian denominations - was suffering from gout and had been advised by his doctors not to travel to the UK.

Not all of the cardinal's comments in the interview were critical of the UK.

He also said: "Everyone who knows England knows that there is also a great Christian tradition there."

'Talking nonsense'

The Pope is spending four days in Scotland and England, starting on Thursday.
The BBC's correspondent in Rome, David Willey, said the cardinal's reported comments were "a slightly clumsy thing to have done on the eve of the visit".

However, he added that he did not think it would have much effect on the Pope's trip to the UK.

Clifford Longley, from Catholic newspaper The Tablet, said the cardinal was "obviously talking nonsense".

"I don't think he believes Britain is in the grip of secular atheism, and he shouldn't have said so," said Mr Longley.

"They are saying it is ill health [that has forced the cardinal to drop out of the visit], but I wonder if that is the fact. I wonder if he has been dropped because he is an embarrassment."

British Airways said the cardinal had been "seriously misinformed" in his claims about the airline.

"It is completely untrue that we discriminate against Christians or members of any faith," it said in a statement.

Source: BBC

European Commission blasts France's deportation of Roma

France's deportation of more than 8,000 ethnic Roma, commonly referred to as gypsies, "is a disgrace" that could trigger legal action, a senior European Commission official said Tuesday.

"I personally have been appalled by a situation which gave the impression that people are being removed from a member state of the European Union just because they belong to a certain ethnic minority," said Viviane Reding, vice president for justice of the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union.

"Let me be very clear: Discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin or race has no place in Europe," she added.

Authorities in France conducted raids recently at camps in Lyon and other cities that forced out a total of 8,300 Romanian and Bulgarian nationals of Roma origin. Close to 10,000 Roma were expelled in 2009. Officials said the raids were part of a broader crackdown on illegal immigration.

The expulsions also followed proposals from President Nicolas Sarkozy officially aimed at fighting crime. The proposals include stripping French citizenship from immigrants convicted of certain crimes.

Reding's comments triggered a prompt reaction from Bernard Valero, a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry.

"We are astonished by Viviane Reding's declaration, which seems excessive and out of context," he said. "This is an extremely serious topic and we must not get wrapped up in a useless polemic."

The expulsion of Roma without identity papers has drawn international criticism, with some comparing it to the deportation of Jews during World War II.

"This is a situation I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War," Reding said Tuesday.

The French government called the comparison absurd, since those being expelled were being sent back to their homelands with financial compensation of 300 euros ($381) per adult and 100 euros ($127) per child, according to France's immigration ministry.

Roma are a group of people who live mainly in southern and eastern Europe, often in poverty. They tend to live in camps, caravans, or informal settlements and have been the target of persecution throughout history.

Reding said she has "made crystal clear my doubts about the legality of the French measures."

The European Commission found after an initial analysis that France "would be in violation of EU law" if it took steps that targeted a group on the basis of its nationality, race or ethnic origin, she said.

Reding said she is "personally convinced" that the European Commission "will have no choice but to" take legal action against France as a result of the expulsions.

Source: CNN

LEGO brick not a trademark, court rules

oy manufacturer LEGO, famous for its small plastic stackable bricks, is not allowed to register one of them as its trademark, the European Court of Justice has ruled.

The Danish company was granted a trademark for a three-dimensional image of a red eight-stud brick in 1999, for use throughout the European Union.

Canadian toy manufacturer Mega Brands, which makes similar plastic bricks, argued that LEGO violated trademark legislation, and the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled in favor of Mega Brands on Tuesday.

"This was the court of final instance, and we have no option but to note the court's ruling," said Peter Kjaer, the head of LEGO's Intellectual Property Section.

The ruling cannot be appealed.

The issue was whether the famous LEGO brick served a technical function. European law says companies can trademark graphic images like words, designs, the shape of their goods and packaging -- but trademarking a product's shape, if that shape is "necessary to obtain a technical result," is not allowed, the court said.

LEGO argued that did not apply to its brick, because "bricks with virtually the same function can have other appearances," Kjaer said.

In making its decision, the court referred to an earlier case involving the electronics makers Philips and Remington over the shape of an electric razor.

"Patents can protect technical solutions, such as the means to interconnect toy bricks, but patent protection is limited in time and LEGO's patents for the basic brick have long expired," Mega Brands said in a statement after the ruling. "Put simply, a trademark registration cannot be used to confer a potentially everlasting monopoly on a useful product configuration."

Kjaer said the decision will confuse LEGO customers.

"It is naturally a matter of concern to us that use of the brick by others can dilute the trademark," he said. "But the worst aspect is that consumers will be misled. Analyses show that 40-60 percent of shoppers believe they are buying a LEGO product when in fact they are purchasing a different product. Shoppers can see there is a different name on the box, but they believe it is a product line or company owned by us."

Tea Party favorites win GOP primaries in Delaware, New York

Tea Party favorites won two primary elections over more mainstream Republicans on Tuesday, demonstrating again the clout of the conservative political movement on the political right.

Now the question is whether the right-wing candidates can also defeat Democratic rivals in November's congressional elections, when the stakes are higher and the full electorate is deciding.

The results in Delaware and New York highlighted the last major day of primary voting before the upcoming election in just under seven weeks.

Voting in seven states and the District of Columbia included embattled veteran U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel's victory in his New York Democratic primary despite allegations of ethics violations, and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty's bid to hold off a major primary challenger.

In addition, former Gov. Robert Ehrlich won the Republican gubernatorial primary in Maryland to set up a rematch against Martin O'Malley, the Democrat who ousted him in 2006.

In Delaware, conservative political commentator Christine O'Donnell easily defeated nine-time U.S. Rep. Mike Castle in the Republican U.S. Senate primary, giving the Tea Party movement another major victory over a candidate backed by the national GOP.

"We the people will have our voice heard in Washington, D.C., once again," a beaming O'Donnell told exuberant supporters at her victory party in Dover.

O'Donnell won more than 53 percent of the vote in the bitter campaign that displayed internal Republican warfare between conservative Tea Party supporters and the more moderate party structures.

Castle was backed by the national Republican Party, while O'Donnell received the endorsement of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as well as $150,000 in late funding from the Tea Party Express.

O'Donnell, running as a Washington outsider, insisted the Republican establishment was trying to drive her out of the race and hand victory to Castle, whom she refers to as "the anointed one."

In response, conservative stalwart Bill Kristol, who fears O'Donnell is incapable of winning the Senate seat in November, said: "I know Sarah Palin. I respect Sarah Palin. And with all due respect -- Christine O'Donnell is no Sarah Palin."

In her victory speech, O'Donnell made a plea unity, saying: "If those same people who fought against me work just as hard for me, we will win."

Later, she told CNN that she can win without the support of the national Republican Party.

"They don't have a winning track record," O'Donnell said of the national party. "If they're too lazy to put in the effort that we need to win, then, so be it."

The National Republican Senatorial Committee offered its congratulations to O'Donnell immediately after the result was determined.

"We congratulate Christine O'Donnell for her nomination this evening after a hard-fought primary campaign in Delaware," said a statement by Rob Jesmer, the NRSC executive director.

However, a top Republican official told CNN on Tuesday night that O'Donnell will have to show she can generate viable support before the national party will give her money.

"It is now incumbent on Sarah Palin, (U.S. Sen.) Jim DeMint and the Tea Party Express to help support her," the official said on condition of not being identified by name. "They got her here. Now make it happen."

O'Donnell will face Democrat Christopher Coons, the New Castle County Executive, in November for the seat formerly held by Vice President Joe Biden.

In New York, conservative Carl Paladino defeated Rick Lazio in the Republican gubernatorial primary to set up a November showdown with Democrat Andrew Cuomo, the son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo. Paladino received Tea Party support in defeating Lazio, who also was supported by some conservative groups.

The New York governor's post has proven hazardous in recent years. Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned amid a prostitution scandal, and his successor, David Paterson, decided against running for another term due to allegations of wrongdoing involving World Series tickets and a domestic abuse case involving an aide.

In New Hampshire, conservative candidate Ovide Lamontagne saw an early lead vanish in his bid to upset former state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, the candidate favored by establishment Republicans. The winner will run in November to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Judd Gregg.

Ayotte gave up her state post to run for the Senate nomination with encouragement from national Republicans. Considered the favorite in the seven-candidate contest for months, Ayotte instead found herself with a razor-thin lead with Lamontagne, a Manchester attorney and the 1996 Republican nominee for governor, with 52 percent of the returns accounted, according to AP figures.

Local Tea Party groups, the conservative New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper and DeMint, the influential conservative senator from South Carolina, all backed Lamontagne.

Unlike O'Donnell in Delaware, though, Lamontagne didn't get Palin's endorsement. Instead, Palin backed Ayotte, calling her a "Granite Grizzly" and "the true conservative running for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire."

However, Palin's endorsement and Ayotte's support from many national Republicans may have backfired in fiercely independent New Hampshire.

Victories by O'Donnell and Paladino, and the possibility of a triumph by Lamontagne in New Hampshire, showed the strength of the Tea Party within the political right, after similar results ousted GOP incumbents or insiders in Idaho and Alaska.

However, the Republican infighting also raised questions about GOP unity heading into November.

Rangel, meanwhile, received help from former President Bill Clinton in defeating five challengers in the Democratic primary for the House seat he has held for 40 years.

Despite allegations by the House ethics committee that Rangel committed financial wrongdoing and harmed the credibility of Congress, he raised more money than his opponents and easily won the vote in his Harlem district.

The situation was reversed in Washington, where Fenty swept into office in 2006 promising to fix the District of Columbia's struggling schools. However, the AP figures showed he trailed City Council Chairman Vincent Gray with 28 percent of the votes counted, in part because of union opposition to his education reform efforts.

"We've got an uphill battle because we made tough decisions," Fenty said before the vote. "We'll continue to make those tough decisions because they're right for the people. But we're not naive. We know this has cost us a little political popularity that we came into the polls with."

The race is being closely watched far beyond the District of Columbia because the outcome could carry significant implications for the national debate over education reform.

Fenty brought in Michelle Rhee as chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, and she has since become famous for changes that that have become a model of education reform advocated by the Obama administration.

Rhee shut down two dozen schools, fired hundred of educators -- including more than 100 teachers this summer -- for poor performance, and overhauled the teacher evaluation system to include, for the first time, student performance as a measure of success. Local and national teachers unions have fought her efforts.

Source: CNN

poniedziałek, 13 września 2010

Turkey's Erdogan hails constitutional referendum win

Istanbul, Turkey - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed the passage of a wide-ranging package of constitutional amendments as a "milestone for democracy" after voters approved the measures in a Sunday referendum.

In a resounding victory for Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), voters approved the 26 amendments by a wide margin Sunday. The country's current constitution was enacted after a military coup that took place on September 12, 1980, 30 years to the day before Sunday's vote.

"Our nation has said from now on, we go forward," Erdogan told supporters Sunday night. "Yes to freedom. Yes to rule of law. No to the law of the rulers. The tutelage of the coup regime is over."

But with more than 96 percent of the votes counted, 58 percent of voters favored the referendum, while 42 percent were opposed, Turkey's electoral board reported.

The proposed amendments include articles that would allow collective bargaining for public sector workers and affirmative action measures for women. But when asked what was the most important achievement of the reform package, a senior Erdogan adviser made it clear that the main goal was to overhaul the country's judiciary.

The proposed reforms include amendments to the judicial system, curbs on the power of military courts and an article abolishing the immunity currently enjoyed by the leaders of the 1980 coup. Other measures would guarantee gender equality and put in place measures to protect children, the elderly and the disabled.

One of the amendments increases the number of judges on Turkey's highest court from 11 to 17. It also grants the parliament, which is controlled by Erdogan's party, the power to appoint several judges. The senior Erdogan adviser, who who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak with the media, told CNN the package would "break the caste system of the judiciary."

In his victory speech, Erdogan apologized to political rivals he insulted during a bruising and divisive campaign in the run-up to Sunday's vote. But to thunderous applause, he announced, "We are going to free the judiciary from an ideological abyss."

Opponents argued that the amendments would further undermine the secular foundations on which modern Turkey was established in 1923, giving the prime minister too much power over the judiciary and making him a "modern-day sultan." Berhan Simsek, head of the main opposition CHP's Istanbul branch, told CNN that by packaging the judicial changes with less controversial proposals, the AKP had "coated a poisonous pill with chocolate."

"This will put all the branches of government into one man's hand," Simsek said. "It will be one-man rule, like Saddam Hussein, or the Fuhrer."

And Hasan Gerceker, the head of Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals, this week warned that the changes would politicize the judiciary. But Erdogan said the amendments would bring greater freedom and democracy.

"Can there be anything wiser and more meaningful than going from a coup constitution to the constitution of the people?" Erdogan told CNN last week.

Turkish lawmakers approved the package earlier this year, but not by the two-thirds majority necessary for the government to press ahead without a referendum. The measures have also been ratified by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Erdogan's AKP ally.

"People have voted for amendments that signal a desire for change to an outdated system of government," said Asli Aydintasbas, a columnist with Turkey's Milliyet newspaper. "Erdogan clearly has come out of this with a solid mandate. But I do hope he now abandons the harsh rhetoric he has been using during the electoral process and reach out to secularists and the Kurds."

Sunday's vote is the latest confrontation in a power struggle between Erdogan's Islamist-rooted party and Turkey's secularist establishment, which have repeatedly clashed since AKP swept to power eight years ago.

The AKP narrowly avoided being banned from politics in 2008 when it was fined by the country's constitutional court -- one of the last bastions of secular opposition -- for alleged anti-secular activities. The court has also blocked legislation to lift a ban on Islamic headscarves at public universities.

"It started out as a referendum on constitutional reform package but it quickly developed into a confrontation between the government and the opposition. So it's really become a vote of confidence in the government," Istanbul-based journalist Andrew Finkel told CNN.

Turkey's main Kurdish political party, the BDP, called on its supporters to boycott the vote altogether, saying their struggle for greater autonomy will continue whatever the result.

"Regardless of who wins, it won't stop the war," Mustafa Avci, the Istanbul co-chairman of the BDP, told CNN. "The referendum does not recognize the rights of Kurds."

Tensions boiled over in downtown Istanbul on Friday when Kurdish activists attacked buses and police vehicles with stones, wounding at least one bystander.

Erdogan insists he will do more to defuse the decades-old simmering conflict which has claimed thousands of lives -- but only after winning the referendum.

Source: CNN

UN: 24 dead, 70,000 homeless in Chad flooding

Some 70,000 people have been left homeless by flooding triggered by heavy rains in the central African nation of Chad, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Sunday.

Twenty-four people have been killed and 29 others injured, said Ute Kollies, head of the office's branch in Chad. Forty-six others have died from cholera that broke out in the wake of the floods. Some 700 people are suffering from cholera, she said.

Overall, nearly 145,000 people in Chad have been affected by the flooding, and that number is rising, she said.

"Today is the worst, and it's getting more and more out of hand," she said. "This is the crisis point, at the moment."

Flooding has affected more than half of Chad's regions, she said. The same regions were hit by extreme drought last year. About 31,500 hectares (77,000 acres) of crops have been destroyed.

About 6,000 people have been displaced, Kollies said. They have moved in with family or sought shelter in schools and open areas.

Most roads are closed in the affected areas, meaning aid has to be airlifted, Kollies said.

Chad's rainy season typically stretches from June through the end of September, but it began earlier than usual this year. Rains were very heavy from the beginning, she said.

Source: CNN

100 tons of diesel spill into Nile as barge sinks

One hundred tons of diesel leaked into the Nile River after a barge sank in southern Egypt, but an official said the spill posed no danger to people or marine life.

The accident happened Saturday near the city of Aswan, 600 miles from the nation's capital of Cairo.

"All necessary measures have been taken to keep the situation under control," said Mostafa El-Saed, Aswan's governor.

He said the spill posed no danger to people or marine life, because the diesel was not poisonous, would not dissolve in the water and has a high rate of evaporation. He also noted that the river currents are higher this time of year.

The vessel, owned by the Nile Company for River Transportation, was carrying 240 tons of diesel -- 140 tons of which were safely transferred to another ship.

Authorities are testing the water every half hour, and the investigation of the accident is ongoing, El-Saed said.

Source: CNN

Mexico arrests suspected drug kingpin

The Mexican authorities say they have arrested one of the country's most wanted drugs traffickers.

Sergio Villarreal - known as "El Grande" - was detained by navy marines in the city of Puebla, east of Mexico City.

He is alleged to be a top lieutenant in the powerful Beltran Leyva cartel.

His arrest comes two weeks after the capture of another drug kingpin, Edgar Valdez, known as "Barbie", who led a rival faction of the same cartel.

The navy said Mr Villarreal was arrested "without a shot being fired" following an intelligence operation.

Two other people who were with him were also detained.

A reward of around $2.3m (£1.5m) had been offered for information leading to his arrest.

His capture will provide a boost for President Felipe Calderon, who has faced growing criticism in recent months from opponents who think his military-led campaign against the cartels is not working.

Power struggle

A former policeman, Mr Villarreal is alleged to have worked for a number of criminal organizations before joining the drugs cartel led by Arturo Beltran Leyva.

Mr Beltran Leyva was shot and killed by the navy last December, sparking a brutal fight for control of the cartel.

Sergio Villarreal is thought to have remained loyal to Mr Beltran Leyva's brother, Hector, while Edgar Valdez, who was arrested on 30 August, led a rival faction.

Drugs-related violence has left some 28,000 people dead in Mexico since President Calderon took office in 2006.

Source: BBC

poniedziałek, 6 września 2010

Kidnapped girl reveals new details of her life as a 'domestic slave'

London, England -- Natascha Kampusch, the Austrian woman who was held prisoner for eight years in a basement, has revealed new details of her ordeal in an autobiography.

In the book, entitled "3,096 Days," Kampusch, who was abducted aged 10 in 1998 while walking to school, describes the relationship she fostered with her abductor Wolfgang Priklopil in order to ensure her survival and the bizarre routines she endured at his hands.

The serialization in the UK's Daily Mail newspaper details how Kampusch was locked inside a "hermetically sealed" concrete jail, beaten up to 200 times a week until she heard her own spine "snap" and was manacled to Priklopil while they slept together in his bed.

Kampusch escaped in August 2006 aged 18 and now lives in Vienna, Austria. Priklopil, 44, an engineer, committed suicide shortly after her escape.

Penguin, the British publishers of the English version, released a statement on behalf of Kampusch: "I now feel strong enough to tell the full story of my abduction for the first time."

Describing her captor, Kampusch writes: "At 35, he had soft features and neatly parted brown hair. It was only when you observed him for a longer period that you noticed the traces of madness lurking beneath his conservative exterior."

During her captivity she was held in a subterranean bunker which was initially equipped with just a bed, toilet and sink.

She also recalls her first night in captivity. "I asked him to put me to bed properly and tell me a goodnight story," she writes. "I even asked him for a goodnight kiss. Anything to preserve the illusion of normality. And he played along."

Kampusch, now 22, goes on to describe how Priklopil would threaten her, saying: "If you're not good, then I'll have to tie you up."

"He told me my parents had refused to pay a ransom, 'Your parents don't love you at all... They don't want you back... They're happy to be rid of you.'"

She also describes the psychological games Priklopil played with her. "In all his visits he talked about the people who'd supposedly 'ordered" my kidnapping and would come and take pictures of me 'and do other things as well'. I lived in constant fear that at any moment a horde of evil men would come into my dungeon and attack me.

"And of course my fear of the 'true kidnappers' made the man who had abducted me seem caring and friendly by contrast."

Some psychologists have described this relationship as Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological condition when the victim of an abduction identifies with the kidnapper and becomes attached to him or her.

Kampusch recounts how Priklopil ordered her to call him "Maestro" or "My Lord" and to kneel in front of him. He also forced her to shave off her hair and work half-naked as a domestic slave, driving her to repeated suicide attempts.

Since her release Kampusch has become a media personality, appearing on television shows around the world. She worked for a while as a television presenter in Austria in 2007.

A spokesman for Penguin told CNN: "This is her first autobiography and the most detailed account of her life during captivity."

The English version of the autobiography is published on September 13 in the UK.

Source: CNN

Long-dormant Indonesian volcano erupts again

Jakarta, Indonesia  -- A long-dormant volcano erupted again Tuesday in northern Sumatra, triggering strong tremors and sending bursts of hot ash into the air for the second time in a week.

"Residents heard loud rumbles and a strong quake for around four minutes" when Sinabung volcano erupted about 12:24 a.m. Tuesday, according to the website of Karo province, where the volcano is.

"This was the biggest eruption to date," said Jonson Tarigan, spokesman for the province.

Two deaths were reported on August 30 in connection with the volcano's eruptions.

"The two people died because of heart attack and respiratory complication," said Priyadi Kardono of the National Disaster Coordination Agency.

On a visit to the region Monday, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono pledged 3 billion rupiah ($337,000) to the local government for recovery efforts. With other aid announced by government agencies, parliament and the private sector, the total aid pledged so far is nearing 5 billion rupiah ($556,000), the province's website said.

"The president also asked for the villagers to be patient while living at the shelters," Tarigan added. "He also appealed to the local officials to ensure health and logistics services to the 23,000 displaced people."

The Sinabung volcano erupted for the first time in four centuries on August 29, forcing the evacuation of villagers who live within 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) of the volcano's crater.

Source: CNN

Tropical storm Hermine threatens Mexico, Texas

Tropical storm Hermine has formed in the Gulf of Mexico and warnings have been issued from Tampico, Mexico to the Baffin Bay on the south Texas coast, the National Hurricane Center said on Monday.

Hermine, the eighth tropical storm of the season, carried maximum sustained winds of 40 mph was located about 190 miles east-southeast of Tampico, Mexico. it was moving north at 8 mph.

U.S. forecasters said it was expected to turn toward the northwest and increase in speed on Monday.

"The center of Hermine is expected to approach the coast of northeastern Mexico or extreme southern Texas in the warning area early Tuesday morning," the Miami-based hurricane center said.

The storm was expected to produce rainfall of 4 to 8 inches over northeastern Mexico and into south Texas, with a maximum of 12 inches possible in some areas.

The Mexican government on Sunday issued a tropical storm warning for the Gulf coast from Tampico to the border with Texas.

In its last advisory on Sunday, the hurricane center said Tropical Storm Gaston looked very likely to strengthen again as a tropical cyclone in the Atlantic and could threaten the Caribbean's Leeward Islands in coming days on a westward track.

The National Hurricane Center gave Gaston, which weakened to a remnant low-pressure area on Thursday soon after becoming a tropical cyclone, an 80 percent chance of redeveloping over the next 48 hours.

Meteorologist Jeff Masters of private forecaster Weather Underground predicted Gaston would pass over or just to the northeast of the Lesser Antilles Islands early on Tuesday.

"Gaston may threaten Puerto Rico on Wednesday, the Dominican Republic on Thursday, and Haiti, Jamaica and/or the Turks and Caicos Islands by Friday, depending upon the storm's interaction with a trough of low pressure expected to move off the U.S. East Coast later this week," Masters wrote in a blog posted on Sunday.

Energy traders keep a close eye on potentially violent storms approaching the Gulf because it is home to about 30 percent of U.S. oil production, 11 percent of natural gas production and more than 43 percent of U.S. refinery capacity.

The hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30 and is currently in its peak period.

Source: Reuters

Plan C for Chile mine rescue: Use oil drill

Capiapo, Chile  -- Hedging their bets, officials in Chile said on Sunday they will set up an oil drill as a third option to rescue the 33 miners trapped underground since August 5.

The idea, which is Plan C, could be the fastest of the three options currently underway. However, the drill needs to be transported first from Iquique, a city in northern Chile, and then installed.

The drill is expected to be up and running around the middle of September, Chilean government officials said in an electronic presentation given to CNN.

Still, the estimated time it will take to rescue the workers has not changed, they said. Depending on ground conditions and the technology used, officials guess the workers will not be hauled above ground until November, or early December.

The 33 miners have been stuck inside the Chilean mine since August. They were found alive -- safe in a shelter some 2,300 feet (701 meters) underground -- nearly three weeks after a cave-in.

Meanwhile, rescue workers are moving forward with their first two plans. All three can happen at the same time as they approach the mine from different directions.

On Friday, a new drill arrived that engineers hope could reach the miners in as little as two months. The drill, which is normally used to bore water holes, is part of Plan B. It is untried technology in a mine rescue.

The first plan, Plan A, involves using a drill placed directly above the shelter where the miners are hold up. Engineers say the drill would need to reach a distance of some 701 meters. They have estimated this plan would take between three and four months to complete.

Plan B would drill at a roughly 80 degree angle into an area of mine shaft that is used as a mechanical workshop. That distance, engineers estimate, is around 620 meters. Plan C would need to drill some 600 meters, they said.

Source: CNN

wtorek, 31 sierpnia 2010

Chile begins drilling mine rescue shaft

Engineers in Chile have begun drilling the rescue shaft through which they hope to eventually free the 33 men trapped in a collapsed gold mine.

The miners have been stuck 700m (2,300ft) underground for the past three weeks.

Officials say it could take up to four months for the tunnel to be completed and the men to be winched out.

Some of the miners have developed fungal infections and body sores in the hot conditions underground.

A huge Australian-made "Strata 950" excavator began work late on Monday.

The machine dug a narrow test hole, and will now drill down to the men, before widening the shaft to about 60cm.

The miners will have to clear thousands of tonnes of falling debris in round-the-clock shifts, although officials say the men are in no danger of being hit.

The rescue shaft is likely to take 90 to 120 days to complete. Then a capsule can be lowered down to retrieve the miners one by one.

Mining Minister Laurence Golborne had said up to 10 options were being considered in the efforts to rescue the men.

But he dismissed suggestions that the men could be out within a month, saying: "Up to now there is no alternative... that would allow us to get them out in 30 days."

At present, rescue workers are using three narrow shafts to send essential supplies to the trapped men, and ensure they have adequate ventilation.


On Sunday, the miners were each able to speak to family members for one minute by telephone.

The supply line which is proving vital to the Chilean miners

Alicia Campos said she broke down as she said goodbye to her son, Daniel Herrero, promising him she would see him again.

"His voice is the same. He's not good, but not so bad either," she said.

Jessica Chille said speaking to her husband, Dario Segovia, had been "a balm to my heart".

The men are trapped in a refuge chamber of the mine, where they managed to take shelter after a rock collapse on 5 August.

One of the men has some medical training and has been able to give his colleagues vaccinations against tetanus. They will be sent flu vaccinations later this week.

Quick-dry clothing has also been sent down, after some of the miners said they were suffering from skin conditions in the hot, wet conditions. Others have been sent mats to sleep on to protect them from the damp ground.

They have also been sent mp3 players to listen to music and a small screen, so they can watch football matches.

'Well organised'

Four experts from Nasa are due to arrive at the mine this week at the request of the Chilean authorities, to advise the miners and rescuers on how to cope with their situation.

The team includes a doctor, nutritionist, and engineer and a psychologist.

Nasa deputy chief medical officer Michael Duncan said that while the environment was different to that experienced by astronauts, "the human response in "physiology, behaviour, responses to emergencies is quite similar".

"We think that some of the things we learned in research and operation can be adaptable to the miners who are trapped under the ground," he said.

Mr Duncan praised the responses of the miners and officials, saying they appeared to be well organised.

"They have done a lot for the miners, and in fact the miners have done a lot for themselves underground," he said.

Families of the men have set up a temporary encampment at the head of the mine, which they have called Camp Hope.

The BBC's James Reynolds at the mine, about 800km (500 miles) north of Santiago, says a shrine has been built for each of the miners, covered in photographs, messages and football shirts.

Source: BBC

Officials to update on stalled effort to kill oil well

Thad Allen, the government's point man on the BP oil disaster, and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser will meet Tuesday before briefing the public on the cleanup effort.

The effort to permanently kill the ruptured oil well deep in the Gulf of Mexico has stalled because of turbulent seas.

Officials had planned to detach a device called a blowout preventer from the well and replace it with a new one, a procedure aimed at paving the way for a permanent fix for the well.

BP annouced the postponement of the procedure on its Twitter page Monday.

"Operations will commence as soon as sea states reach acceptable levels," the company said.

Allen had warned Friday that changes in weather could result in a change in schedule. Last week, the operation was delayed as engineers tried to fish out pieces of drill pipe stuck inside the blowout preventer.

Officials have said the blowout preventer failed when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded April 20, killing 11 people and causing oil to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, leading to one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history.

Authorities from a Justice Department evidence recovery team will be on site during its removal, Allen said.

The well has been capped since July 15, and no new oil is flowing into the Gulf.

But still the impacts of the spill have been massive.

The effects of the oil spill on the region's travel industry could last up to three years and cost up to $22.7 billion, according to an analysis conducted by Oxford Economics for the U.S. Travel Association.

In preparing the research, Oxford Economics looked at current spending, government models predicting oil flow and the effect of 25 past crises on tourism to develop a model to gauge the Gulf disaster's impact.

Case studies of past disasters -- including the SARS respiratory outbreak, Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Asian tsunami -- show that tourism often is affected beyond the disaster area and long after the resolution of the crisis.

Source: CNN

poniedziałek, 30 sierpnia 2010

6 dead, 14 wounded in Slovakia shooting


Six people were killed and 14 wounded in a shooting incident in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, Monday morning, the state news agency TASR reported, citing an emergency services representative.

The shooter is "reportedly" among the dead, TASR said without citing a source.

Police spokeswoman Petra Kraskova said the police were not releasing any information yet, the agency said.

The Ministry of the Interior and the police are due to hold a press conference at 2:30 local time (8:30 a.m. ET), the Interior Ministry told CNN.

Bus service has been disrupted as a result, the agency said, citing transport offical Peter Kavecky.

The dead included four women and two men, said Dominika Sulkova of the emergency services.

The shooting took place in the Bratislava neighborhood of Devinska Nova Ves, TASR reported.

Source: CNN  


niedziela, 29 sierpnia 2010

Long-dormant volcano erupts in Indonesia

Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN) -- A volcano that had been inactive for more than 400 years erupted in Indonesia early Sunday, causing thousands of people to flee their homes, officials said.

Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra province had been inactive since the 1600s, but spewed volcanic ash nearly a mile into the air Sunday, said Surono, head of the country's volcanology and geology agency.

"We don't know the character of this volcano because it's been dormant for so long," he said.

There were no reports of casualties or injuries.

"The situation is under control. Emergency response teams are already on the scene," said Priyadi Kardono of the National Disaster Management Agency.

Officials have evacuated 12,000 residents living in 14 villages near the volcano, which erupted just after 12:15 a.m. Sunday (1:15 p.m. ET Saturday), the official Antara news agency reported.

"We felt strong tremors last night. It was a volcanic quake," Indonesian Red Cross worker Muhammad Isral told the agency. "After that, the crater of Mount Sinabung spewed glowing lava. And trees in the mount slopes were burnt. It was followed by thick clouds that caused visibility to be only about five meters."

On Saturday, the Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation issued a warning and ordered evacuation of a 6 km (3.7 miles) radius around the volcano.

Surano said investigators are monitoring and studying the volcano. Based on the data they have now, he said, a large, destructive eruption is unlikely.

No hazardous gas had been detected after Sunday's eruption, he said.

sobota, 28 sierpnia 2010

Kim Jong Il has met with Chinese president Hu

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il may have met with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Friday, South Korea's official news agency reported.

An unnamed South Korean official said government intelligence indicated that Kim and Hu met on Friday in the northeastern Chinese city of Changchun, according to the Yonhap News Agency.

Reports from multiple news sources indicated that Kim arrived in China Thursday, though neither China nor North Korea have confirmed the trip.

Kim's visit coincided with former President Jimmy Carter's trip to North Korea, during which Carter secured the release of a U.S. citizen who had been sentenced to eight years of hard labor for crossing over the Chinese border into North Korea.

That man, Aijalon Mahli Gomes, arrived home Friday afternoon in Boston, Massachusetts with Carter.

Carter, who arrived in North Korea on Wednesday, did not make any comments about his trip, which was shrouded in speculation over whether he would meet with Kim.

"At the request of President Carter, and for humanitarian purposes, Mr. Gomes was granted amnesty by the chairman of the National Defense Commission, Kim Jong Il," said a statement from the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Korea Herald, citing television station YTN, said Kim might be visiting with top Chinese officials to discuss handing power to his youngest son, Jong-un.

Kim is accompanied by his son, YTN reported, quoting a South Korean government official.

Kim spent five days in China in May and had a summit with the Chinese president.

Cyber stalker crackdown 'thwarted' by service providers

Efforts to crack down on cyber stalking are being thwarted because internet service providers will not take action, according to victims' groups.

The Network for Surviving Stalking says the police, Home Office and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) are doing their best to tackle the problem.

It says service providers have a moral responsibility to help prevent the abuse but are doing little about it.

However, providers have said there is little more they can do.

Groups that support victims of online harassment say those targeted can suffer from anything from low level abusive messages to orchestrated campaigns.

There are few statistics but, anecdotally, they say cyber stalking is a widespread and growing problem.

One victim, who did not want to be named, told the BBC she was subjected to abuse, insults and death threats from a stranger online over a five-year period. She described receiving up to 30 messages every day.

Her work meant she had to be contactable online but she never replied to the messages and continually blocked the sender. However, her stalker simply changed their profile and continued to track, abuse and threaten the woman and her family.

Describing her experience, she told the BBC: "There were messages that they were going to hire a hit man to come and get me [and] they were going to cut my throat - really obscene messages.

"I constantly reported it to the police. I didn't feel I had the same support that someone would have if they were stalked offline. It was very much 'turn the computer off, change your name online'. I felt the support wasn't there and that was what was more upsetting because I felt very trapped and nobody could help me at all."

The police say every force does now have a dedicated point of contact for harassment issues and the government says it is taking action.

The Home Office, police and CPS are set to begin work with charities on an anti-stalking strategy in the autumn.

Jennifer Perry of E-Victims.org called on the government to "set the agenda so that online harassment will be taken seriously, the police take it seriously and business is forced to act".

But the Network for Surviving Stalking says internet service providers are the missing link as they are refusing to take part in the initiative.

It says they have a moral and corporate responsibility to take part.

'High' expectations

Alexis Bowater, of Network for Surviving Stalking, said: "We need the internet service providers to get on board they need to take moral and ethical and corporate responsibility for what is happening to the millions of customers that they make billions out of."

However, the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) says it is doing all it can about the abuse but it is not possible to police the internet in the way demanded by victims' groups.

James Blessing, of ISPA, says many people "assume that internet service providers can do more that they actually can", comparing expectations of them to "asking the police to put a speed camera on every stretch of road in the country".

He said: "Internet service providers are there to help charities and government to find solutions to this and we have been talking to them for many years. Unfortunately expectations from other parties seem to be a lot a higher than what is actually achievable in a technical and operational sense."

Paul Mutton, of online security firm Netcraft, told BBC Breakfast that computer users always have to be careful what personal details they make available on the internet.

"If you don't want people to find out information on you, don't put it on the internet," he said.

"ISPs can do a little bit to help out, by encouraging users to install anti-virus software, firewalls and such like, but ultimately if you put your information online you are relying on those websites to remain secure, and for their privacy settings not to expose that information to anyone.

"If in doubt, don't put the information online in the first place."