Archive for March 30, 2013

Today’s Editorials

Cyprus finally got a revised bailout plan last week. It taxes big, uninsured bank depositors to pay part of the cost of restructuring the country’s two biggest banks while leaving the savings of smaller, insured depositors untouched. But just days before, Cyprus, with the blessings of the smartest bankers and smartest finance ministers in Europe, came within a whisker of adopting a truly reckless plan that would have taxed small savers, undermined deposit insurance and risked sparking disastrous bank runs elsewhere, notably Italy and Spain, the euro zone’s third- and fourth-largest economies.

How could sophisticated European finance ministers — along with senior officials of the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — have signed off on such a counterproductive rescue plan? And if they could agree to that, what other damaging schemes might they grab for in some future crisis?

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Message of hope: Sydney's Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence.

Message of hope: Sydney’s Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence.

As Christian priests deliver their Easter messages to their congregations this weekend, religious and community leaders of other faiths have been taking the opportunity to deliver messages of their own.

In 2013, interfaith activities have been focusing on talking about the similarities, rather than the differences, in some of the world’s major religions, and the need to respect each other even if there are fundamentally different viewpoints.

Catholics from the Archdiocese of Sydney joined Muslims, Greek Orthodox, Buddhists and Sikhs at a Passover dinner organised by the Jewish Board of Deputies outreach program at the University of NSW to promote better understanding about the Jewish festival. (more…)

Steve Alford

Steve Alford led New Mexico to three appearances in the NCAA tournament.

Steve Alford has been hired as UCLA’s basketball coach, the university announced Saturday morning.

Alford, 48, spent the last six seasons at New Mexico, compiling a 155-52 record. He replaces Ben Howland, who was fired after going 25-10 and winning the Pac-12 Conference regular-season championship.

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Egypt’s public prosecutor on Saturday ordered the arrest of a popular television satirist on charges that included insulting President Mohamed Morsi and denigrating Islam, a state news agency reported, a move that amplified criticisms that the Islamist government is moving aggressively to silence its critics and stifle freedom of expression.

The satirist, Bassem Youssef, who hosts a widely watched show modeled on “The Daily Show,” has been the subject of numerous legal complaints filed by Islamist lawyers and citizens who took umbrage at Mr. Youssef’s skewering of Egypt’s political class, including Mr. Morsi, his loyalists and the opposition.

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HARRISBURG, N.C. –  Authorities say a man suspected of killing two of his neighbors in North Carolina approached one of the men in his backyard just before he started shooting.

Cabarrus County deputies say 50-year-old Anthony Hardy killed himself after hiding in his home for several hours after the shooting Friday afternoon.

Investigators say Hardy fired on 64-year old Gary Stocks and 42-year old Daniel Kirchner in Kirchner’s backyard. The two victims lived on each side of Hardy’s house on a cul-de-sac. The subdivision of dozens of homes is about a mile from Interstate 485 in Harrisburg.

Deputies negotiated with Hardy for hours before he killed himself.

Investigators say it appeared Hardy had some kind of dispute with his neighbors, and they are still trying to determine why he was angry.

Phil Ramone

Phil Ramone

Phil Ramone, the Grammy Award-winning engineer and producer whose platinum touch included recordings with Ray Charles, Billy Joel and Paul Simon, has died at 72.

Ramone’s son, Matt Ramone, confirmed the death. The family did not immediately release details of the death, but Matt Ramone says his father was “very loving and will be missed.” (more…)

George Sanders

PHOENIX — There was no doubt 86-year-old George Sanders killed his ailing wife. Yet everyone in the small Arizona courtroom – the prosecutor, the judge and even the couple’s family members – agreed it was a time for compassion, not punishment.

“My grandfather lived to love my grandmother, to serve and to make her feel as happy as he could every moment of their life,” Sanders’ grandson, Grant, told the judge, describing the couple’s life together as “a beautiful love story.”

“I truly believe that the pain had become too much for my grandmother to bear,” he said, while Sanders looked on during the sentencing hearing Friday and occasionally wiped his eyes with a tissue as relatives pleaded tearfully for mercy.

Sanders was arrested last fall after he says his wife, Virginia, 81, begged him to kill her. He was initially charged with first-degree murder, but pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a deal with prosecutors. Still, he faced a sentence of up to 12 years.

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Alexis Wright appears with her attorney, Sarah Churchill, Friday, March 29, 2013 in Cumberland County Court, in Portland, Maine. Wright, a dance instructor accused of using her Zumba fitness studio as a front for prostitution pleaded guilty Friday to 20 counts in a scandal that captivated a quiet seaside town. Photo: Portland Press Herald, John Ewing, Pool

Alexis Wright appears with her attorney, Sarah Churchill, Friday, March 29, 2013 in Cumberland County Court, in Portland, Maine. Wright, a dance instructor accused of using her Zumba fitness studio as a front for prostitution pleaded guilty Friday to 20 counts in a scandal that captivated a quiet seaside town. Photo: Portland Press Herald, John Ewing, Pool

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The dance instructor who used her Zumba fitness studio as a front for prostitution faces jail time after pleading guilty in a case that captivated a quiet seaside town known for its beaches and picturesque homes.

The plea agreement, which calls for a 10-month sentence, spares Alexis Wright from the prospect of a high-profile trial featuring sex videos, exhibitionism and pornography. She’s scheduled to be sentenced on May 31.

Wright quietly answered “guilty” 20 times on Friday when the judge read the counts, which include engaging in prostitution, promotion of prostitution, conspiracy, tax evasion and theft by deception.

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North Korea issues more threats, the Vatican defends the pope’s feet-washing, and more in our round-up of stories that are making news and driving opinion….

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1. NORTH KOREA DECLARES STATE OF WAR WITH SOUTH KOREA
North Korea has said it is entering a “state of war” with South Korea in its latest escalation of rhetoric against its southern neighbour and the U.S. A statement promised “stern physical actions” against “any provocative act.” North Korea has threatened attacks almost daily after it was sanctioned for a third nuclear test in February. It has also reacted angrily to annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises. The U.S. has condemned the North’s “bellicose rhetoric”, while China and Russia have called for an easing of tensions. North and South Korea have technically been at war since the armed conflict between them ended in 1953, because an armistice was never turned into a peace treaty. [BBC]

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2. VATICAN DEFENDS POPE’S ACTIONS ON GOOD FRIDAY
On Good Friday, the Vatican dismissed criticism of Pope Francis’ decision to wash the feet of two women during a Maundy Thursday Mass at a Rome youth prison. The move came under fire from Catholic traditionalists who say that the rite is a re-enactment of Jesus washing the feet of the 12 apostles before his death, and thus should be limited only to men. Traditionally, popes have washed the feet of 12 priests during a solemn Mass in Rome’s St. John Lateran Basilica. A 1988 letter from the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship states that only “chosen men” can be admitted to the foot-washing ceremony, but including women in the rite is a widespread practice in the United States and elsewhere. This is Pope Francis’ first Easter celebrations as pontiff. [Washington Post]
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3. U.S. BUSINESS GROUPS NEAR IMMIGRANT LABOUR DEAL
The nation’s top business and labor groups are nearing agreement on a guest worker program for low-skilled immigrants, according to officials involved in the talks. An agreement between the labor and business communities would clear one of the last hurdles for an overall deal on immigration legislation in the Senate, which the bipartisan group hopes to introduce early next month. The United States Chamber of Commerce and the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the nation’s main federation of labor unions, have been in discussions parallel to those of the Senate group, and have reached a tentative agreement about the size and scope of a temporary guest worker program, which would grant up to 200,000 new visas annually for low-skilled workers. [New York Times]
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4. RESCUES CONTINUE AFTER TANZANIAN BUILDING COLLAPSE
Rescuers in Tanzania’s capital, Dar es Salaam, continued to search for survivors under a mountain of concrete and twisted metal Friday night following the collapse of a high-rise building. At least four people were dead and 60 missing after the 16-story building under construction collapsed, government and emergency officials said. Five children are believed to be among the missing. In addition to the deaths, at least 17 people were injured, said Suleiman Kova, a regional police commander. The Tanzanian Red Cross said rescue efforts would continue through the night. But the group also expressed relief, saying that casualty figures could have been far higher, but the streets were relatively empty of vendors and shoppers due to a holiday. [CNN]

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5. UNEMPLOYMENT RATES FALL ACROSS U.S.
Unemployment rates fell in 22 U.S. states in February, a sign that hiring gains are benefiting many parts of the country. The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates rose in 12 states and were unchanged in 16. Nationally, the unemployment rate slid to a four-year low of 7.7 percent in February, down from 7.9 percent in January. Since November, employers across the country have added an average of 200,000 jobs a month, nearly double the average from last spring. States hit hardest during the recession, like Nevada and Florida, are showing improvement. One reason for the big drop is that people have stopped applying for jobs, but hiring accelerated, too. Overall, 42 states added jobs in February from January, and just eight lost jobs. The biggest monthly job gains came in Texas (up nearly 81,000) and California (up more than 41,000). [TIME]
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6. STUDY FINDS NO CONNECTION BETWEEN VACCINES AND AUTISM
A study just published in the Journal of Pediatrics found no correlation between autism and increasing antigen number through completion of the vaccine schedule up to age 2. The study, led by Frank DeStefano, was funded by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This topples one of the key pillars of  the “vaccines cause autism” argument, which is that the increase in the number of childhood vaccines over the years has increased autism prevalence. The twist in the study is that the children studied were born from 1994 to 1999, during a time when a single shot could contain more than 3,000 of the molecules that fire up the immune system. Today’s vaccine-related antigen exposure is considerably less. [Forbes]
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7. NAVY SEAL DIES IN PARACHUTE ACCIDENT
A Navy SEAL died following a parachute training accident, a Naval Special Warfare Command spokesman told ABC News on Friday evening. The SEAL, a senior chief, was participating in a routine free-fall training exercise at the USSOCOM Parachute Testing and Training Facility at Pinal Airpark in Arizona on Thursday when he, along with another SEAL, a petty first class officer, was injured, according to a Defense Department Official. The two men were evacuated to the University of Arizona Medical Center, where one of the SEALs died, according to the Naval Special Warfare Command spokesman. His family has been notified of the death. The second SEAL was in stable condition, a Department of Defense official said. The cause of the accident has not been officially determined, pending further investigation. [ABC News]
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8. JUDGE INDICTS PRINCIPAL IN SCHOOL CHEATING SCANDAL
A grand jury Friday indicted Beverly L. Hall, the former superintendent of the Atlanta School District, on racketeering and other charges, bringing a dramatic new chapter to one of the largest cheating scandals in the country. The grand jury also indicted 34 teachers and administrators in addition to Dr. Hall, who resigned in 2011 just before results of an investigation into the scandal was released. Hall could face up to 45 years in prison. Fulton County prosecutors painted a picture of a decade-long conspiracy that involved awarding bonuses connected to improving scores on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, the state’s main test of core academic subjects for elementary and middle schools, and a culture where, in some schools, cheating was an acceptable way to get them. [New York Times]

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9. FACEBOOK TO ANNOUNCE ANDROID PHONE
Facebook will reportedly introduce a modified version of Google’s Android operating system. This version of Android will reportedly put Facebook front and center and will debut on a handset made by HTC. “Imagine Facebook’s integration with iOS 6, but on steroids, and built by Facebook itself,” says TechCrunch‘s Josh Constine. “It could have a heavy reliance on Facebook’s native apps like Messenger, easy social sharing from anywhere on the phone, and more.” [NBC News]
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10. EPA REGULATIONS WILL TIGHTEN EMISSIONS REGULATIONS
The Obama administration proposed new regulations Friday to clean up gasoline and automobile emissions, claiming the new standards would provide $7 in health benefits from cleaner air for each dollar spent to implement them. The costs likely would be passed on to consumers in higher gasoline and automobile prices. The EPA said the new rule would reduce sulfur in gasoline and tighten automobile emission standards beginning in 2017, resulting in an increase in gas prices of less than a penny per gallon. The agency estimated it also would add $130 to the cost of a vehicle in 2025, but predicted it would yield billions of dollars in health benefits by slashing smog- and soot-forming pollution. The oil industry, Republicans, and some Democrats wanted EPA to delay the rule, citing higher costs. An oil industry study says it could increase gasoline prices by 6 to 9 cents a gallon. [TIME]

school attack:Principal killed, 4 hurt

Posted: March 30, 2013 by Ellion hossain in News
Tags: , , , , ,

KARACHI, Pakistan, March 30 (UPI) — The principal of a Karachi, Pakistan, school was killed and four children were wounded Saturday when a hand grenade was lobbed at the school, officials say.

The attack, which was followed by gunfire directed at the school, occurred during a prize distribution ceremony, Dawn News reported.

There were reports the principal, Abdur Rasheed, had received threats prior to the attack.

Some of the injured children were reported in critical condition.