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Friday 31 January 2014

Obama on Olympics: ‘Sochi is safe,’ but...

Invoking the Boston Marathon bombing, President Obama told CNN in an exclusive interview to be broadcast Friday that he can’t “discount” the possibility that a terrorist might target the Winter Olympics Games in Sochi, Russia. Obama also told the news network’s Jake Tapper that he prefers it when American authorities have “full control” over security measures.
Tapper asked the president in an interview conducted Thursday what he would tell close friends who might be thinking of attending the competition.
“I'd tell them that I believe that Sochi is safe and that there are always some risks in these large international gatherings,” Obama replied.
“What I would say is is that if you want to go to the Olympics, you should go to the Olympics,” the president added. “And, you know, we're not discouraging, in any way, Americans from participating in what is just always an amazing, wonderful event.”
Still, the president said he feels more confident about major public events inside the United States “because then we have full control over what happens.”
“But the Russian authorities understand the stakes here. They understand that there are potential threats that are out there,” Obama said. “We are coordinating with them. We've looked at their plans. I think we have a good sense of the security that they're putting in place to protect not only the athletes themselves, but also visitors there.”
The United States and Britain have cautioned athletes bound for the games not to make a big show of advertising their country of origin on the sidelines of the Olympics, which will run Feb 7-23.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has put nearly 40,000 security personnel on combat alert for the games in the aftermath of suicide bombings last month that killed 34 people in Volgograd, some 400 miles northeast of Sochi.
“In these large settings like this, there are always some risk involved. And I don't want to completely discount those,” Obama said. “But as we've seen here in the United States and, you know, at the Boston Marathon, there were some risks if you have lone wolfs, or small cells of folks who are trying to do some damage.”
Americans looking to travel to Sochi should follow the State Department’s advice to let U.S. authorities know of their plans and should take “prudent measures,” Obama said.

Breaking News: Amanda Knox retrial: Raffaele Sollecito stopped near Italian border.

Italian authorities stopped Raffaele Sollecito -- convicted with ex-girlfriend Amanda Knox of the murder of Meredith Kercher -- near the border with Austria and Slovenia, Italian police told CNN on Friday. 
Sollecito, who is not allowed to leave Italy while the legal process continues, was halted in the northern Italian town of Udine, police said. The Slovenian border is less than 20 miles east of Udine, and the border with Austria lies about 55 miles to the north.

 An appeals court in the Italian city of Florence convicted Sollecito and Knox, who remains in the United States, on Thursday night after a retrial. Prosecutors said the couple killed Kercher, a British student, in November 2007. Sollecito was sentenced to 25 years in prison and Knox, also convicted of slander, was sentenced in absentia to 28½ years in prison. Both deny murder and can still appeal. Kercher, 21, was found partially nude in a pool of blood in the house she shared with Knox in the picturesque town of Perugia, where both women were exchange students. But despite years of courtroom battles over her death, many aspects of the crime still remain unexplained.

 'Journey to the truth'

 On Friday morning, Kercher's siblings spoke in Florence about their family's long ordeal. Her sister, Stephanie Kercher, said the family might never know exactly what happened on the night of her death. "I think we are still on the journey to the truth," she said. "I think it may be the fact that we don't ever really know what happened that night, which is obviously something we will have to come to terms with." Lyle Kercher, Meredith's brother, said the family may have to wait until spring 2015 for a final resolution, since the verdicts reached Thursday can still be appealed at Italy's Supreme Court. "Nothing is going to bring Meredith back, nothing will take away the horror of what happened to her," he said. "The best we can hope for is finally bringing this whole case to a conclusion, having a conviction, and everyone can move on with their lives." If the Supreme Court upholds the murder conviction, he expects to see Italian authorities make an extradition request to the United States so that Knox serves her sentence in Italy, he said. Stephanie Kercher said that she had been told of a letter written by Knox to the Kercher family but that she had not seen it. She also appeared to rule out meeting with Knox in the future, despite the American's overtures to the family and whatever the final outcome of the case. 

"We've asked to have our wishes respected in that we would like to be together as a family to remember Meredith," she said. "A lot has happened over this length of time. It would be very difficult to meet someone having had all that happen." Read more: Six things to know about Amanda Knox retrial verdict 'Frightened and saddened' Knox and Sollecito were first convicted in 2009, but those charges were overturned on appeal in 2011 and the pair were freed, having spent four years in prison. In March of last year, Italy's Supreme Court overturned the pair's acquittals, leading to the retrial that resulted Thursday night in their convictions for murder being reinstated by a Florence appeals court. Knox's lawyer said his client would appeal the conviction at Italy's Supreme Court. Knox, who remained at home in Seattle, Washington, while the retrial was held, said her conviction would bring no consolation to the Kercher family. "I am frightened and saddened by this unjust verdict," the 26-year-old said in written remarks. "Having been found innocent before, I expected better from the Italian justice system. 

The evidence and accusatory theory do not justify a verdict of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. ...There has always been a marked lack of evidence." Presiding Judge Alessandro Nencini has 90 days to write his arguments behind the jury's ruling. Once that is out, lawyers have 90 days to appeal. Knox's attorney, Ted Simon, said there will certainly be an appeal and cautioned that extradition shouldn't yet be a part of the conversation about the case. "It's really not in play right now, because first of all, she has another appeal to the Supreme Court of Italy," he told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360." "In Italy, under their system, you're still actually presumed innocent until that third, final stage.

" Simon said that if extradition does become an issue, Knox has "very substantial defenses" that can be used. "But I think we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves," he told CNN. "The bottom line is, there is no evidence. There was no evidence, and there never will be any evidence, and that's why this is such a gross miscarriage of justice." Source:CNN

Boy who died saving relatives from fire laid to rest as 'firefighter'

Friends and relatives Wednesday paid their respects to Tyler Doohan, the 8-year-old upstate New York boy who helped rescue six relatives from a fire but then perished while trying to save his grandfather. In a Mass at St. John of Rochester Catholic Church, Tyler was honored with a firefighter's funeral. The funerals of two other relatives who also died in the fire were held at the same time. The church was filled with mourners, including basketball players from Wisconsin Silver Lake College, who were so moved by his story that they traveled to New York to be pallbearers. In addition, firefighters from multiple jurisdictions stood at attention in Class A dress uniforms as bagpipers played traditional music, as is customary when a firefighter is laid to rest. Penfield Fire Chief Chris Ebmeyer declared Tyler an honorary firefighter and presented his family with a special fire helmet inscribed with the boy's name. "This is a helmet we give to the family to symbolize that Tyler is indeed a part of the brotherhood of firefighters, as an honorary firefighter in Penfield," Ebmeyer said. Tyler's mother, Crystal Vrooman, spoke of her son. "You're a hero, baby," she said through tears. "You did it huge. I know you're watching this go on, and you should be so proud of yourself." Tyler's fourth-grade teacher, Denise Alfieri, also spoke at the service, "Monday January 20th was the day that changed our lives forever," she said, reflecting on the loss felt in her classroom the day the boy perished. "There is an emptiness and a void that now fills Room 240." Tyler, an East Rochester resident, was staying at the home of relatives in Penfield on January 19 when he noticed a fire in the singlewide trailer, officials said. As firefighters and sheriff's deputies responded to a 4:45 a.m. emergency call, Tyler was able to wake six other people in the small trailer, including two more children, ages 4 and 6, the fire officials said. Then Tyler went back into the blaze to help his grandfather, who was disabled and would have been unable to get out of the home on his own. "By that time, the fire had traveled to the back of the trailer," Ebmeyer said at the time. "Unfortunately, they both succumbed to heat and smoke." The pair were found together on a bed in the back room. It appeared that the boy was trying to lift his grandfather from the bed when he was overcome by the smoke and fire, fire officials said.

Thursday 30 January 2014

Breaking News: The White House Now Has to Respond to the Petition to Deport Justin Bieber

Yesterday we reported that a petition urging President Obama to deport Canadian pop star-turned-bad-boy Justin Bieber had racked up more than 70,000 signatures. Today it surpassed the 100,000 mark, which means the White House is required to issue an official response. “We would like to see the dangerous, reckless, destructive, and drug abusing, Justin Bieber deported and his green card revoked,” the petition says. “He is not only threatening the safety of our people but he is also a terrible influence on our nations youth. We the people would like to remove Justin Bieber from our society.” The singer was arrested last week on various charges including driving under the influence, which was apparently the straw that broke the outraged, Bieber-hating camel’s back. Stay tuned to see how the White House chooses to respond to the petition to revoke the Biebs’ green card. We’ve got our fingers crossed that the response will weave in some Bieber lyrics. Come on, it could happen. Never say never!

Breaking News: Doctors start Schumacher 'waking up process'

He has been in a medically induced coma for over a month, but former Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher's sedation is being reduced to start up the "waking up process," his agent said Thursday. Schumacher suffered severe head trauma in a skiing accident at the French Alps resort of Meribel on December 29. "Michael's sedation is being reduced in order to allow the start of the waking up process which may take long time," said Schumacher's agent Sabine Kehm in a statement. "For the protection of the family, it was originally agreed by the interested parties to communicate this information only once this process was consolidated. "Please note that no further updates will be given." Kehm went on to repeat previous requests for the media to respect the privacy of Schumacher's family. "The family of Michael Schumacher is again requesting to respect its privacy and the medical secret, and to not disturb the doctors treating Michael in their work. At the same time, the family wishes to express sincere appreciation for the worldwide sympathy." Source:CNN.

Breaking News: Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych on sick leave following an “acute respiratory disease, fever," amid protests.

Ukraine's embattled president Viktor Yanukovych is taking sick leave as the country's political crisis continues with no sign of resolution. A statement on the presidential website on Thursday said Yanukovych is on sick leave due to an acute respiratory illness and high fever. There was no indication of how long he might be on leave or whether he would be able to do any work. Yanukovych is under pressure after two months of major protests seeking his resignation, early elections and other demands. In one of a series of moves aimed at resolving the crisis, Ukraine's parliament approved a law on Wednesday that would grant an amnesty to arrested protesters but – to the opposition's fury – depended on the demonstrators vacating all occupied government buildings. After 12 hours of negotiations the amnesty law was passed amid applause from the ruling party and angry shouts of "shame!" from the opposition. Protesters are holding three administrative buildings in Kiev, including the building housing the city administration. Yuri Miroshnychenko, Yanukovych's representative in parliament, said the protesters would now have to leave the buildings. But he insisted the opposition headquarters in Trade Union House, as well as Independence Square and Khreschatyk Street, where the protest camp is located, would not be touched. The offer was quickly greeted with contempt by opposition protesters. Vitali Klitschko, leader of the opposition UDAR party, said the law "will only increase the temperature in society", while Andriy Parubiy of the Batkivshchyna party called the demands unacceptable. "No one will comply with them," he said. Source: theguardian.com

Sports News: FIFA reveals $3.7 billion spent on transfers in 2013.

As football's January transfer window prepares to shut on Friday, clubs, players and agents are involved in a complicated game of roulette -- just who will blink first? For clubs, be they at the top or the bottom of the table, the window offers a final chance to either push them forward to title success or European Champions League qualification, or potentially rescue their top-flight status. There is an awful lot of money at stake as well as league position. In 2013, world governing body FIFA's Transfer Matching System handled 12,309 international player moves -- an increase of 4% on 2012 -- which were worth $3.7 billion, up a whopping 41%. Thanks to a bumper television deal worth $4.7 billion that is shared between the 20 Premier League clubs, England spent more than any other country on transfers in 2013 -- $913 million -- an increase of 51% over the previous year. That $913 million represents 25% of the global transfer spend. In the current 2013-2014 season English Premier League clubs have already spent over $1.3 billion on players, more than double the sum teams in Spain, Italy and France are investing in strengthening their squads, according to the authoritative Transfermarkt website. "Intermediaries" Traditionally January is viewed as a bad time to invest in players, given selling clubs always demand a premium. But that hasn't stopped champions Manchester United, struggling to qualify for next season's Champions League, signing Spain international Juan Mata for a club record $61 million from Chelsea. While English clubs spent lavishly, Brazil once again had the most number of transfers -- 1,402 -- for both incoming and outgoing players, testament to the 2014 World Cup host's knack for developing players. Often key to any transfer deal is the role played by what FIFA terms "intermediaries," be they agents, lawyers or even parents. Last week Spanish club Barcelona revealed the deal to sign Brazil international Neymar cost $118 million, including a $66 million "compensation fee" paid to a company owned by the player's parents. According to FIFA, although there was an increase of 30% in club intermediary commissions paid in 2013, there was a decrease in the actual number of transfers involving such "middle men" -- only 14% compared to 17% in 2012. Last year's biggest transfer was Real Madrid's purchase of Wales international Gareth Bale from English club Tottenham. The BBC reported it was a world-record move worth $132 million that was greater than the $124 million fee Real Madrid produced to lure Cristiano Ronaldo away from Manchester United in 2009.

ICT News: Microsoft is about to take Windows XP off life support.

On April 8, Windows XP's life is coming to an end. On that day, Microsoft will stop issuing security updates to the 12-year-old operating system, and it will end nearly all technical support as well.

You wouldn't think that killing off an operating system that debuted in the first year of the Bush administration would ruffle too many feathers. But an amazing 29% of computers across the globe are still running Windows XP, according to NetMarketShare. That makes it the world's second most widely used operating system, just behind Windows 7.

Microsoft's (MSFT, Fortune 500) plan to end support for XP doesn't mean that a third of the world's PCs will just stop functioning on April 8. But there are some very real consequences of continuing to use the operating system.

After April 8, Windows XP computers will be more susceptible to malware and viruses beginning, since Microsoft will no longer address major holes in the software. Although antivirus software will continue to fend off some malicious attacks, Microsoft's security updates provide an essential line of defense.

Related: 5 things we want for Windows 9

For Windows XP users, the best course of action is to bite the bullet and buy a copy of Windows 8. The problem is that most older computers won't be able to upgrade to Windows 8. Many of those consumers will have to buy a new PC. Microsoft has an upgrade assistant that allows people to determine whether their computers are compatible with the latest version of Windows.

For those who are able to upgrade but aren't ready to make the jump to the fully redesigned Windows 8, Windows 7 is an option. It's still on sale, offers a more familiar PC experience and will be supported until 2020.

The Windows XP impact will be felt more by companies than by consumers. Forrester Research estimates that 20% of North American and European corporate computers are still running Windows XP. But that will soon change: Forrester forecasts that only 6% of those companies' PCs will be running Windows XP by April.

That remaining 6% will predominately be small and medium-sized companies and government agencies, where budget restraints may pose a problem, according to Scott Dowling, a Microsoft software consultant for En Pointe Technologies. The vast majority of large Western businesses have already upgraded to Windows 7 or Windows 8, but small businesses have been slower at catching up.

Related: Microsoft sales soar 14%

In China, however, XP-related problems will likely be much more pronounced. About three-quarters of Chinese PCs are running XP, according to NetMarketShare.

Thousands of ATMs will also potentially be exposed after Microsoft ends Windows XP's life support. A recent Bloomberg Businessweek story revealed that 95% of ATMs in the US are still running Windows XP, and only about 15% of them will be upgraded before April 8.

ATMs have already proven vulnerable to malware attacks, and without Microsoft around to patch things up, it's going to be a slow, costly endeavor for ATM companies to get their machines updated or replaced. (It's worth noting that Microsoft has been warning them of this deadline for years.)

So why is Microsoft killing off Windows XP? The operating system has lasted far longer than Windows versions of the past, and patching the ancient-by-tech-standards OS is exhausting valuable Microsoft resources. Microsoft has pushed back XP's death date for several years after initially planning to kill it off by 2010.

To soften the blow for its corporate and ATM customers, Microsoft will sell custom support that will allow companies to receive additional security patches. But Dowling have heard reports from customers that the cost of custom support is prohibitive. 

Breaking News: Late Pope's Stolen Blood, Police use Sniffer Dogs to search

Dozens of police with sniffer dogs searched the area around the church of San Pietro della Ienca in the central mountainous Abbruzzo region of Italy for a stolen relic containing a fragment of cloth stained with the blood of the late Pope John Paul II.
The relic is believed to have been stolen Saturday night from the small stone church together with a small simple cross, according to police.
Pasquale Corriere, president of the Cultural Center that takes care of the sanctuary, said he believed this was a "commissioned theft." He was alerted to the theft by his daughter, who saw the rails protecting the church sawed on Sunday morning and noticed that the relic was no longer in its place.
"Whoever broke in came for the relic, that is clear, all the rest was left untouched including the offering box," Corriere said.
The small church is in the Gran Sasso mountains near the city of l'Aquila was dear to Pope John Paul II, who visited the area more than 100 times during his papacy, where he would walk and meditate and was even known to have skied down the slopes as a young pope. The area has become a place of pilgrimage for people in search of peace or wishing to pray.
The relic is a small piece of cloth soaked in blood the pope lost during the 1980 attempt on his life in St. Peter's Square and is only one of three of its kind. This one was given to the people of L'Aquila in 2011, after the devastating earthquake that struck the area, by the pope's personal secretary, now cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz. The cardinal has visited the church a number of times since the late pope's death in 2005 and donated a bell in the pope's memory. In 2011, the church was given Sanctuary status and dedicated to Pope John Paul II.
Some experts are even suggesting that this theft could be linked to a satanic cult. Objects like this relic, with a special symbolic value, are particularly sought after by the flourishing trade in religious objects.
"This area is not known for this sort of thing and nothing like this has ever happened…I don't know what to think," said Corriere. A criminal investigation has been opened by the local prosecutor's office.
The Vatican has announced that Pope John Paul II will be made a saint on April 27, along with Pope John XXIII, and Rome is planning for millions of faithful to come for the ceremony.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

State of Emergency in Atlanta: Winter weather storm leaves thousands stranded Atlanta.

As of 6 a.m. here was the latest from GDOT: Numerous roads throughout the state have at times been temporarily unpassable, including Interstate Highway 75/85 (The Atlanta Downtown Connector) southbound at I-20, at University Avenue and at Fulton Street, Interstate Highway 20 westbound at the Connector, Interstate Highway 85 southbound in Gwinnett County at Hamilton Mill Road, numerous Interstate 75 entrance and exit ramps in Cobb County, north and southbound I-75 in Bartow County at State Route 20, Interstate Highway 575 northbound in Cherokee County at Cumming Highway, Interstate Highway 985 southbound in Hall County at State Route 129, Interstate 75 NB beginning in Monroe County at mile marker 181, Interstate 75 SB between mile markers 199 and 201 in Butts and Lamar Counties, SR 155 at SR 42 in Henry County, Interstate 75 NB near Rumble Road in Monroe County, Interstate Highway 20 westbound in Richmond County, State Route 16 at the Spalding/Coweta counties line, US 78/State Route 10 in Gwinnett County, State Route 141 north and southbound in Gwinnett, State Route 9 north and southbound in Forsyth County, State Route 164 east and westbound in Banks County, State Route 120 eastbound in Haralson County, State Route 61 in Carroll County, State Route 36 near Nelson Drive in Upson County, State Route 49 at State Route 42 in Peach County, State Route 156 east and west bound in Gordon County, portions of State Routes 14, 38 and 92 in Fulton County. • Very hazardous conditions also are reported in Gwinnett County at US 78/SR 10 West Park Place into Hugh Howell in DeKalb County and I-85 Collector Distributor ramps, Pleasant Hill Road (Exit 105) to Old Peachtree Road (Exit 109). • Crews are working at all locations but black ice accumulations often result in a corridor having to be temporarily closed multiple times. The only roads officially closed for the duration at this time are the customary winter weather closings of State Route 180 Spur in Towns County and a portion of State Route 348 in White County. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal says this winter storm was "unexpected". In a late night news conference Tuesday, Gov. Deal, along with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and other state officials, discussed the level of preparedness for the storm and its aftermath. Deal said Tuesday's storm "came unexpectedly," which caught the area off guard when it came to the amount of traffic stranded on the roads. Deal said he was calling on the Georgia National Guard to help with the storm's aftermath. Reed said he and his administration would "take responsibility" for what happened, saying that part of the problem was due to everyone leaving work and school at once. The entire state of Georgia along with five other Southeastern states are under states of emergency after snow and ice hammered the region Tuesday. As of 6 a.m. Georgia Power reported 1,600 customers in the dark statewide. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared the state of emergency late Tuesday afternoon, and was quickly joined by governors in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina making similar declarations. As of 9 p.m., the Georgia State Patrol says they have been called out to investigate some 940 crashes since 10 a.m. Tuesday morning. The crashes have resulted in 104 injuries and one fatality. That wreck happened just after 1 p.m. on Ga. Highway 85 at Seavy Streett in Senoia. A 1997 Ford Explorer being driven by 60 year-old Yvonne Nash of Griffin was traveling southbound on Georgia 85 when the vehicle lost control and overturned into a ditch. Nash was pulled from the vehicle and transported to Piedmont Fayette Hospital where she later died from her injuries.

Breaking News: PDP Senators Defect to APC.

Eleven Senator under the People's Democratic Party (PDP) as written a letter to the Senate President Senator David Mark informing him formally about their defection to All Progressive Congress (APC), Senator David Mark is expected to read the letter at the floor of the house today.
We will keep you posted as the event unfold.

ICT NEWS: iPhone 6 may have a different kind of wireless charging.

Apple has been recently rumored to run a trial production of iPhone models that have sapphire glass displays, but there may be another reason the company is interested in such panels for future devices, aside from increasing the durability of the screen. At a time when the competition is offering wireless charging batteries and developing new means to make the technology more user-friendly, Apple may be working on a totally different kind of wireless battery charging for the next iPhones.
One analyst from Seeking Alpha believes he has found evidence that sapphire glass will actually include tiny solar panels that would help you charge iPhone batteries by simply using the power of the sun. Matt Margolis says the iPhone 6 and the 2014 iPod touch (if there will be one) may come with a display capable of increasing battery life.
Margolis’ extensive analysis of Apple’s recent actions shows that the company has a variety of patents on solar charging capabilities for computer and mobile devices that have been discovered last year, describing ways of charging a laptop, smartphone or tablet battery through solar cells. The analysts also reminds us that Apple has recently posted job ads looking for a Thin Films Engineer with solar experience (in September 2013), as well as Manufacturing Design Engineers (in January 2014) who may help with building mobile device components, a job that may also include responsibilities such as using lasers to add solar cells in sapphire glass. Both positions are related to Apple’s mobile business.
Furthermore, in early November 2013 the company revealed it signed a $578 million contract with GT Advanced Technologies for sapphire cover displays and announced later that month that it will spend $10.5 billion in capital during fiscal year 2014 for various technologies including cutting edge lasers that may be used to place those tiny solar cells in sapphire glass.
The company is also believed to have placed a $68 million order with German company Manz AG for solar cell coating equipment – the German company announced the order on January 15, identifying the buyer as a “leading smartphones manufacturer,” a hint that Apple may be involved in the purchase of “innovative vacuum coating systems” and “laser process technology,” which would be needed for producing solar-charging sapphire glass.
From a different point of view, Apple will use solar energy in its new headquarters in Cupertino, another piece of evidence that suggests the company is indeed exploring ways to make more use of solar power, including bringing the technology to some of its products.
Obviously, there isn’t any confirmation from Apple regarding any sapphire-related plans for the iPhone 6 at this time. In an interview last week, Tim Cook did confirm that the Arizona investment is related to sapphire glass without expanding on the matter.