Saturday, December 31, 2011

Syrian troops fire on protesters in fresh violence

? Russia's Foreign Ministry said an initial assessment by Arab League observers in Syria was "reassuring," even as activists reported that Syrian security forces fired on demonstrators after Friday prayers and that an ambush by government troops killed four people.

Moscow is one of Syria's few remaining allies following more than nine months of violence stemming from a massive protest movement. The United Nations says some 5,000 people have been killed in the government crackdown on dissent.

"Moscow appraises with satisfaction the real beginning of the Arab League activities in Syria," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The ministry noted that the Sudanese general who heads the mission visited the restive city of Homs.

"The situation there is reassuring, clashes have not been recorded," the statement said.

There is broad concern about whether Arab League member states, with some of the world's poorest human rights records, were fit for the mission to monitor compliance with a plan to end to the crackdown on political opponents by security forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.

On Friday, activists said security forces fired on protesters in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, the southern city of Daraa and elsewhere.

At least four people were reported killed in the town of Talkalakh, near the border with Lebanon, in an ambush by government troops. It was not immediately clear why they were killed as the victims were not believed to be protesting at the time, activists said.

The presence of Arab League monitors in Syria has re-energized the anti-government protest movement, with tens of thousands turning out this week in cities and neighborhoods where the observers are expected to visit.

The huge rallies have been met by lethal gunfire from security forces, apparently worried about multiple mass sit-ins modeled after Cairo's Tahrir Square.

The Local Coordination Committees, an activist coalition, said at least 130 people, including six children, have been killed in Syria since the Arab observers began their one-month mission on Tuesday.

The nearly 100 Arab League monitors are the first Syria has allowed in during the nine-month anti-government uprising. They are supposed to ensure the regime complies with terms of the League plan to end President Bashar Assad's crackdown on dissent.

The plan, which Syria agreed to on Dec. 19, demands that the government remove its security forces and heavy weapons from cities, start talks with the opposition and allow human rights workers and journalists into the country. It also calls for the release of all political prisoners.

State-run TV said observers have reached Idlib province, which borders Turkey; Homs and the Damascus suburbs of Harasta and Douma. Activists said the army had either withdrawn or hid tanks in the mountains in Idlib.

On Thursday, security forces killed at least 26 people, four of them shot dead in the Damascus suburb of Douma during a protest by tens of thousands. The crowd had gathered at the mosque near to a municipal building where cars of the monitors had been spotted outside.


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Look Whos Going to Africa for New Years Eve

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';; x.document.close(); } } function clearRating(){ for(i=1;i 1){ if(cookieArr.inArray(contentId)){ $.post("",{"ratingVal": getratingVal}, function(data){ $("#mainRating").html(data); }); } }else{ if(cookieVal == contentId){ $.post("",{"ratingVal": getratingVal}, function(data){ //alert(data); $("#mainRating").html(data); }); } } } } Array.prototype.inArray = function (value){ var i; for (i=0; i Recently, we told you about some of the hottest year-end escapades that celebs usually resort to. But this time, we found a few more that are opting for unlikely destinations. Mukesh Ambani and the family may be headed for Africa we hear. Though there could well be some last-minute changes.

The Akerkars, for instance, are planning on an "escape to Alibaug" where Rahul says, he and his friends will simply sit under a tree and while their time. And if that sounds incredible, Sangita Kathiwada is already in Australia, at her good friend Pavan Sukhdev's estate, in the heart of an ancient rainforest. "It's like standing still in the lap of luxurious nature," she gushed.

Sounding definitely upbeat, Queenie told us that she just got back from New York, where she had spent Christmas, and is headed to Goa in a couple of days to usher in the New Year. Meanwhile, wild horses may not be able to pull Riyhad Kundanmal away from his cosy abode in Mundhwa, where he has been cocooned for the longest time.

Beach babe Natasha Poonawala has taken off on a chartered flight to Phuket with her gaggle of merry friends, while Sidhartha Mallya is already in London. Among the legal eagles, both Zia Mody and Mahesh Jethmalani say they have no plans of getting out of the city.

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Video: Rare images of endangered Javan rhinos

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mobireview: Sony Ericsson trademark hints at new handset

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Video: Elaborate farewell for Kim Jong Il

>>> we begin with this morning's funeral ceremonies for north korean leader kim jong -il. adrian mong is watching the event from seoul , south korea .

>> reporter: good morning. at the last minute the north koreans kept everyone in the dark for the funeral. in the end pyongyang made sure the whole world could watch the proceedings which by the way fateeured some classic american cars . under heavy snowfall the funeral procession for the man the north koreans called their dear leader made its way through the capital, pyongyang. leading the way, kim jong -un, working beside the hers. thousands of men and women in military uniform or civilian clothing lined the streets to pay their last respects. the sound of their wailing clearly broadcast along with music. a stark contrast to the mood among north koreas living south of the border . "the only thing he did was starve 3 million people to death." she now works in seoul with eight other defectors running an independent radio station that broadcasts daily supports back into their homeland. "at first i thought wow, we can go home" says the radio station 's founder. he escaped north korea 11 years ago but he said there's no hope of change. no hope, because of this man, kim jong -un, not much is known about him or his ability to rule, but one thing is clear. "he's inherited his father's dictatorship" says the radio station manager. now we just want to remind everyone that those images of the funeral procession today were only available direct from north korean state television so it hasn't been possible to verify how much of that, if possibly all of it was staged, including the mourning.

>> adrienne mongn seoul , south korea , thank you.


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Friday, December 30, 2011

PamSahota: I'm at Boston Sports Club (361 Newbury St., Boston)

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U.K. Charity Preps $25-$35 PCs For Early 2012 Launch (NewsFactor)

A high-tech charity based in the United Kingdom is prepping two models of a credit-card-sized PC that will be available for purchase early next year for $25 and $35, respectively.

Among other things, the cheap price and lower power requirements of the new devices from the Raspberry Pi organization promise to make it less worrisome for parents everywhere to permit their children to tinker with the innards of a fully capable computing machine.

One major organization goal is to provide developing countries with an affordable means of deploying inexpensive computing devices in areas where the cost, power and hardware requirements of traditional desktop machines are prohibitive obstacles.

"We want to see cheap, accessible, programmable computers everywhere," the Raspberry Pi development team said.

What's more, the new Raspberry Pi machines will provide children as well as adult hobbyists with a platform for compiling and running home-grown software apps without risking the family's significantly more expensive machines.

At the outset, the tiny machine will run the ArchLinux, Debian and Fedora distributions of ARM GNU/Linux, which users will be able to purchase on preloaded SD cards sold separately.

"We want owning a truly personal computer to be normal for children," the Raspberry Pi development team said. "We think that 2012 is going to be a very exciting year."

A Multimedia Powerhouse

Don't be fooled by the device's tiny footprint and low cost. Raspberry Pi is fully capable of rendering Blu-ray-quality, 1080p video playback. What's more, the machine integrates the requisite hardware-accelerated graphics capabilities for supporting imaging, a camcorder, streaming media and 3D gaming.

At the heart of the diminutive device is Broadcom's BCM2835 system on a chip, which features a standard ARM v6 core running at 700MHz. Also aboard is Broadcom's dual-core Videocore IV multimedia co-processor and Videocore graphics processor unit. Additionally, the tiny PC board integrates a RAM chip as well as an SD card slot.

With respect to connecting to peripherals, Raspberry Pi sports composite video and HDMI outputs that will enable experimenters to use either a digital or analog television as a display. Moreover, a USB port supplies the connection for a hub to which users can attach a USB keyboard, mouse and other peripherals.

Though a Wi-Fi radio is not aboard the device itself, users will be able to add wireless capabilities by plugging in a USB dongle. Additionally, the $35 model includes a standard 10/100 wired Ethernet port.

The Raspberry Pi will initially ship without a case, though the U.K. charity expects to offer one later on. The 5-volt power supply, which connects to the board via the USB port, will be sold separately.

An Opportunity For Hobbyists

The Raspberry Pi is also expected to provide adult hobbyists with a basic platform for experimentation even as ARM chip architectures make forays over time through the sheer weight of the diversity of the chip ecosystems being designed today, noted Al Hilwa, director of applications software at IDC.

"As systems trend towards further miniaturization, they will inevitably grow lower in cost," Hilwa said. "It is not inconceivable to have PC functionality shift to phone CPUs as these chips ramp up in cores and gigahertz, but this scenario is at least five years away from mainstreaming."

In the meantime, Hilwa believes there will likely be a renaissance for Linux systems such as the ArchLinux, Debian and Fedora distributions of ARM GNU/Linux that will be supplied for the Raspberry Pi at the outset.

This will especially be the case "for hobbyists who will be increasingly cut out of mainstream platforms because of their tight control through app stores and restricted programming models," Hilwa said.


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Paul gets front-runner's welcome in Iowa

Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas speaks during a campaign stop at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas speaks during a campaign stop at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, waits to be introduced during a campaign stop at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop at Homer's Deli and Bakery in Clinton, Iowa, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

(AP) ? Texas Rep. Ron Paul received a welcome befitting a man with a suddenly serious chance to win next week's Iowa Republican presidential caucuses as he arrived in the state Wednesday for a final burst of campaigning.

His rivals attacked him, one by one.

If the 76-year-old libertarian-leaning conservative was bothered, he didn't let it show. He unleashed a television commercial that hit Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. In his remarks, he lumped all his rivals into one unappealing category.

"There's a lot of status quo politicians out there," Paul told a crowd of a few dozen potential caucus-goers who turned out to hear him on the grounds of the Iowa Speedway. "If you pick another status quo politician nothing's going to change."

The audience applauded, but by day's end, it appeared that yet another contender might be rising.

According to public and private polls, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is gaining ground in the final days of the race, yet another unpredictable turn in a fast-changing caucus campaign. "We have the momentum," he proclaimed.

The politicking was unending.

Paul got a welcome surprise ? and rival Michele Bachmann an embarrassing one ? when the state chairman of the Bachmann campaign announced Wednesday night that he was throwing his support to Paul. The endorsement came just hours after he had appeared with the Minnesota congresswoman.

Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson said he was switching from Bachmann to Paul because the Texas congressman was the most conservative of the top-tier candidates, an assessment sure to encourage those who want Bachmann to drop out of the race and free up her supporters for a conservative candidate with stronger backing.

Two politically active pastors in Iowa's robust evangelical conservative movement were already pushing that idea. They disclosed an effort to persuade either Santorum or Bachmann to quit the race and endorse the other.

"Otherwise, like-minded people will be divided and water down their impact," said Rev. Cary Gordon, a Sioux City minister and a leader among Iowa's social conservatives.

There was no sign either contender was interested.

For months, Romney has remained near or at the top of public opinion surveys in Iowa, as Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, businessman Herman Cain and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich rose briefly to challenge him.

Romney has bent without breaking in the face of each challenge, benefiting from his own well-funded campaign, attack advertisements funded by deep-pocketed allies and the missteps of his challengers.

Paul's surge represents the latest threat, and in some respects, the unlikeliest, coming from a man whose views on abortion, the war in Iraq, Iran and other issues are at odds with those of most Republicans.

At the same time, his anti-government appeal appears to tap into the desire of a frustrated electorate for profound change in an era of high unemployment and an economy that has only slowly recovered from the recession.

"In the last couple of weeks I fell into Ron Paul's camp," said Bob Colby, of Newton, who spent 21 years in the military and is a former employee at a now-shuttered Maytag plant in town.

"I threw my hands up" in frustration, said Colby, who added that he supported Romney in the 2008 caucuses and chose Sen. John McCain over Barack Obama that fall.

In his remarks, Paul drew applause when he said, "I want to cut $1 trillion out of the budget the first year," and eliminate deficits in three.

"The debt is unsustainable once it reaches a certain point," he said. "My whole effort is to face up to it."

Paul strongly suggested the United States withdraw its troops from Asia, and drew laughter from the audience when he noted Obama's recent announcement that Marines would be deployed to Australia.

"How long do we have to stay in Korea? We've been there since I was in high school," he said, making no mention of the recent death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and the resulting uncertainty about the nuclear-armed nation.

Nor did Paul refer in his remarks to his recent statement in a campaign debate that he would not consider pre-emptive military action to block Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

His campaign released an ad that showed pictures of Romney and Gingrich as the narrator said "serial hypocrites and flip-floppers can't clear up the mess" in Washington. "Paul's the one we've been looking for."

His rivals weren't nearly as reticent about discussing a nuclear Iran.

"You don't have to vote for a candidate who will allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth. Because America will be next. I mean, I'm here to say: You have a choice," Perry told an early morning audience near Des Moines.

"I'm very uncomfortable with the idea that the commander in chief would think it was irrelevant to have an Iranian nuclear weapon," said Gingrich.

The former speaker has said he could not support Paul in a general election campaign, a position that Romney and Santorum disagreed with during the day.

Even so, Romney also took a poke at Paul. "One of the people running for president thinks it's OK for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. I don't," he said in response to a question from a potential caucus-goer in Muscatine.

Santorum attacked from a different angle.

Acknowledging widespread voter anger in an age of high unemployment, he said: "If you want to stick it to the man, don't vote for Ron Paul. That's not sticking it to anybody but the Republican Party."

In a campaign that began months ago, Santorum stands out as the only contender who has not experienced a surge in the statewide public opinion polls. There was a hint during the day in a CNN survey as well as private polls that he might be peaking at exactly the right moment.

"We're very, very happy with the new numbers," he told reporters in Dubuque. "We're seeing our numbers go up in a lot of polls."

He's told his recent audiences that he faces the challenge of persuading Iowa Republicans that he has a chance to win.

Santorum has campaigned extensively in the state, spending parts of more than 250 days and stopping in each of Iowa's 99 counties.

Yet he has been low on funds, and while Romney, Perry and Paul have been advertising on television for weeks, Santorum began only recently.


Associated Press writers Thomas Beaumont, Brian Bakst, Philip Elliott, Beth Fouhy, Mike Glover, Kasie Hunt and Shannon McCaffrey contributed to this report.

Associated Press


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Rose Parade float may set a record

Construction on the Natural Balance Pet Foods 'Surf's Up' Tournament of Roses parade float at Fiesta Parade Floats in Irwindale Wednesday, December 28, 2011. (Hans Gutknecht / Staff Photographer)

Belinda Onate, Arcadia, works on the Natural Balance Pet Foods 'Surf's Up' Tournament of Roses parade float at Fiesta Parade Floats in Irwindale Wednesday, December 28, 2011. (Hans Gutknecht / Staff Photographer)

It's as long as a tennis court, weighs as much as 10 African elephants and carries a tropical paradise where seven dogs surfboard on 65-foot-long waves.

And when the "Surf's Up" float travels Monday along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, it is expected to break world records as both the longest and the heaviest float in Tournament of Roses Parade history.

"Nothing like it has ever been done before," said Joey Herrick, founder and president of Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Pet Foods, which is sponsoring the float. "It's a monstrosity."

Just shy of 120 feet, "Surf's Up" is about three times longer than the typical float and seven feet longer than the record-setting float Natural Balance sponsored in 2010.

And on Friday, when the California Highway Patrol brings its commercial scales to the Irwindale warehouse where the float is being assembled, designers expect its official weight will top 100,000 pounds. That's about 8 tons more than the record set by last year's Natural Balance entry and would earn the company another listing in Guinness World Records.

Like the previous Natural Balance floats that featured company mascot Tillman the bulldog on a skateboard, a snowboard and jumping off a dock into a pool, Herrick got the idea for "Surf's Up" while commuting.

Herrick wanted Tillman and his canine companions to really surf - to give spectators an eye-popping experience and, perhaps, break the world records.


took his vision to Tim Estes, president of renowned Fiesta Parade Floats.

Estes loved Herrick's idea, but conceded the logistics of the design initially gave him "a moment's pause." Because floats are built on a single chassis, the extra weight and length of "Surf's Up" will make it even more difficult for the float's pilot to navigate turns on the 12-mile trek from Irwindale to Pasadena. Using the experience of nearly 35 years of float-making, Estes created an engineering marvel.

Tillman and six other specially trained dogs will be placed on surfboards for the one-minute ride down the Plexiglass-lined wave channel.

"It's a year's timeframe come to life," said Estes.



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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Head coach: Texans won't rest starters in week 17

By Brian Murphy, Wednesday, December 28, 2011 3:41:36 PM CST

The Houston Texans are locked into the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs, and have seen numerous stars -- Matt Schaub, Mario Williams, Andre Johnson -- felled by injury. But according to head coach Gary Kubiak, the Texans are treating Sunday's home game as a must-win.
"We'll go play this game just like any other one," Kubiak said Wednesday, "We've got to go out there and get better as we move forward into the next week. So we'll keep our fingers crossed from a health standpoint, but we've got to go play and find a way to correct some mistakes."
Specifically, Kubiak said that he would "love to have [Andre Johnson] go out and play 15-20 plays" this week before the playoffs arrive.

Fantasy Analysis:

Johnson practiced today, so he's on track to be active against the Titans. But if 15-20 plays is all that Kubiak is counting on, then Johnson needs to stay on your bench. For the other notable players (read: Arian Foster), these are some very interesting remarks. However, know that Kubiak is a Mike Shanahan disciple and has a history of saying one thing and doing another. We'll keep following any Texans news throughout the week but right now, even with Kubiak's words, it's really hard for me to trust Foster in week 17, even against Tennessee's below-average run defense. For today, I still think Ben Tate is the runner you want to play here.

The Tennessean

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While I grew up in California, my favorite football team has always been the New York Giants.


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"Nothing frightening" seen in Syria protest hotbed: monitor (Reuters)

BEIRUT (Reuters) ? Arab League monitors aiming to verify whether Syria is ending a military crackdown on protesters said they saw "nothing frightening" in an initial visit to the protest hotbed of Homs although a long investigation would be needed.

Given the brief and limited nature of the monitors' tour on Tuesday, the comments by the chief monitor could heighten the concern of opposition activists that the observer mission could be used as a cloak of respectability by Damascus, issuing assessments whitewashing President Bashar al-Assad's record.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based activist group, said security forces killed 15 people across the country Tuesday, six of them in Homs, coinciding with the monitors' visit. Activists said 34 had been killed Monday.

"Some places looked a bit of a mess but there was nothing frightening," Sudanese General Mustafa Dabi, the chief of the monitoring contingent, told Reuters by telephone from Damascus.

"The situation seemed reassuring so far," he said on Wednesday after his team's short visit to the city of one million people, Syria's third largest and epicenter of nine months of anti-Assad unrest.

"Yesterday was quiet and there were no clashes. We did not see tanks but we did see some armored vehicles. But remember this was only the first day and it will need investigation. We have 20 people who will be there for a long time."

Activists say about a third of the estimated 5,000 people killed in unrest in Syria since the crackdown began in March died at the hands of security forces in Homs. Dozens have been reported killed in the past week.

The first group of monitors including Dabi were escorted by Syrian authorities into Homs Tuesday and shown destruction in the restive district of Baba Amr, where Syrian tanks were filmed firing into residential areas the day before, according to amateur video recorded by activists.

Video reports, which cannot be independently verified, have shown parts of Homs looking like a war zone. Constant machinegun and sniper fire is audible and corpses are mangled by blasts. Tanks have been filmed shelling anti-Assad targets in Baba Amr.

The very choice of the Sudanese general to head the League mission has alarmed activists, who say Sudan's own defiance of a war crimes tribunal means the monitors are unlikely to recommend strong action against Assad.


The Arab League says Dabi brings vital military and diplomatic expertise to its unprecedented intervention in the internal crisis of a member state.

But international human rights activists critical of Khartoum say it is all but impossible to imagine a Sudanese general involved in the Darfur conflict ever recommending strong outside intervention, much less an international tribunal, to respond to human rights abuses in a fellow Arab country.

Dabi has held senior Sudanese military and government posts, including in the Darfur region where, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court says, Sudan's army committed war crimes and the United Nations says 300,000 people may have died.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been indicted by the Hague-based ICC for genocide and crimes against humanity. Khartoum says the accusations are baseless and politically motivated, and puts the Darfur death toll at 10,000.


The State Department condemned what spokesman Mark Toner called an escalation of violence in Homs before the monitors' deployment.

"We have seen horrific pictures of indiscriminate fire, including by heavy tank guns, and heard reports of dozens of deaths, thousands of arrests, as well as beatings of peaceful protesters," Toner said.

"The monitors should have unfettered access to protesters and to areas most severely affected by the regime's crackdown. They bear a heavy responsibility in trying to protect Syrian civilians from the depredations of a murderous regime.

"If the Syrian regime continues to resist and disregard Arab League efforts, the international community will consider other means to protect Syrian civilians," added Toner.


Emboldened by the monitors' first visit, about 70,000 Homs protesters marched toward the city center Tuesday where security forces fired shots and teargas at them, activists said.

The military withdrew some tanks shortly before the monitors arrived, in what the activists called a ploy to persuade the monitors that the city was calm. Video on the Internet showed monitors confronted by residents imploring them to venture further into Baba Amr as gunfire crackled around them.

Some fearful residents shouted "We want international protection" at the monitors in a video posted on YouTube.

The monitors were due to make a second tour of Homs on Wednesday. Crowds have pleaded for them to get a thorough look at the most violent neighborhoods. Tens of thousands of protesters gathered Tuesday in the Khalidiya district - one of those yet to be visited by monitors.

One activist held up a sign that read: "We are afraid (that)when the monitors leave, they will kill and bury us."

The observers' visit is the first international intervention on the ground in Syria since the uprising began and protesters hope what they witness will prompt world powers to take more decisive action against Assad.

The Syrian leader says he is fighting an insurgency by armed terrorists, and that most of the violence has been aimed at the security forces who have lost some 2,000 men.

International journalists are mostly barred from Syria, making it difficult to confirm accounts from conflict zones.

Activist reports just before the monitors arrived Tuesday said up to a dozen tanks were seen leaving Baba Amr and others were being hidden to fashion an impression of relative normality in the city while observers were around.

Armed insurgency is eclipsing civilian protest in Syria. Many fear a slide to sectarian war between the Sunni Muslim majority, the driving force of the protest movement, and minorities that have mostly stayed loyal to the government, particularly the Alawite sect to which Assad belongs.

Analysts say the Arab League is anxious to avoid civil war. Western powers have shown no desire to intervene militarily in a volatile region of Middle East conflict. The U.N. Security Council is split, with Russia - a major arms supplier to Assad - and China opposed to any hint of military intervention.

Assad's opponents appear divided on aims and tactics. He still has strong support in important areas, including Damascus and the second city Aleppo, and maintains an anti-Israel alliance with Iran.

(Additional reporting by Ayman Samir; Editing by Mark Heinrich)


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MCX crude oil weighs down resistance at Rs.5320 5350:Angel

We expect MCX crude oil prices to trade higher today taking cues from positive sentiments in the markets on expectations that US economy will continue to improve further.

MCX Crude Jan?12 Rs/bbl support:5272.0/5240.0 resistance:5320.0/5350.0

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Unscratchable gold is harder than steel

  • Sex, booze and strange animal tricks: You had to know the 2011 Weird Science Awards would hit on those themes. After all, past award winners have included scientists' successful quest to reattach rabbit penises, a 2,700-year-old marijuana stash and glow-in-the-dark kitties. This year, users were asked to select the weirdest stories from a list of 30 nominees. Click ahead to count down the top 10 selections, plus some bonus picks.

    ? Alan Boyle, science editor

  • 10. Oops! Maya doomsday date corrected

    Are we having doomsday yet? Some folks say the ancient Maya calendar's "Long Count" runs out on Dec. 21, 2012, and that a world-changing crisis will occur at that time. Other folks, including the modern-day Maya, say that's just a load of llama crap ... and that 12/22/2012 will merely mark the start of a new calendar cycle.

    And then there's Gerardo Aldana, a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, who says they're all probably wrong.

    Aldana contends that the calculations we've used to match up the Maya calendar to our modern reckoning could be off by as much as 50 to 100 years, and that the Long Count may have already ended. If Aldana is right, the timetable for the apocalypse may already be up. Which might explain why "Apocalypto" director Mel Gibson's been acting so weird lately.

  • 9. Why it's OK for birds to be gay

    Scientists have found more than 130 bird species that engage in some sort of same-sex hanky-panky ? and the males in some of those species, such as penguins and greylag geese, occasionally form long-term sexual relationships with each other.

    That's presented a puzzle for some evolutionary biologists, because same-sex relationships would seem to reduce the birds' chances of reproductive success. Believe it or not, gay birds are quite a research topic ... not that there's anything wrong with that.

    Geoff MacFarlane, a biologist at the University of Newcastle in Australia, and colleagues reviewed studies of 93 bird species and suggested that there was a relationship between the rearing of young and same-sex mating. Male homosexual behavior would be likelier if the females of the species took care of the chicks. "Homosexual behavior is more likely to be maintained and not be selected against than if you are a sex that cares a lot for offspring and only has one or few reproductive partners," MacFarlane said.

    Are you still curious? Find out why some scientists think mercury pollution may spark bird homosexuality, and learn more about the bizarre study of a homosexual necrophiliac duck.

  • 8. The race to create A.I. as smart as a cat

    Puss-Bob is not amused: He's heard the reports claiming that Pentagon-funded scientists are trying to create an artificial brain as intelligent as a cat, of course, but he realizes this is a grossly oversimplified description of the SyNAPSE project.

    He knows the real point of the research is to build electronic networks that mimic biological brains, using new types of devices known as memristors. Such networks could "learn" by taking in additional information from the environment and adapting accordingly.

    The technology could produce smarter robotic scout vehicles for the U.S. military, IEEE Spectrum reports. But Puss-Bob highly doubts that memristor-based neural networks will ever match the intelligence of cats. Dogs, maybe ... but not cats.

  • 7: 'Da Vinci code' in Mona Lisa's eyes?

    The Mona Lisa is one of the great masterpieces of the art world, but it's also a great generator of weird science. In past years, researchers have said that they've tracked down the inspiration for Leonardo da Vinci's portrait, found a nude version of the painting and figured out what Mona Lisa's voice sounded like.

    In 2010, Italy's national committee for cultural heritage claimed that Leonardo painted tiny, almost invisible letters in Mona Lisa's eyes. The committee's president, Silvano Vinceti, said the lines in one eye appear to form the initials "LV," perhaps standing for the artist's name. The other eye seems to contain the letters "CE" or perhaps "B." And still more letters and numbers were spotted in other areas of the painting.

    But are they really there? Several experts have said the committee is probably reading too much into the painting's patterns of tiny cracks. Among art historians, at least, this "Da Vinci Code" is no best-seller.

  • 6. Which came first, chicken or egg?

    Which came first? The chicken or the egg? The question is really more of a philosophical conundrum, like the old "immovable object vs. irresistible force" conflict. But in 2010, British research into the process of eggshell formation was heralded as providing a scientific answer to the riddle.

    Biologists from Sheffield and Warwick universities reported that ovocleidin-17, a protein found in a chicken's ovaries, played an essential role in building eggshells from calcium carbonate crystals. That led some chicken-or-egg philosophers to claim that the first chicken egg could exist only if it was created inside a chicken.

    Actually, it all depends on your definitions: We know that dinosaurs laid eggs, for example, so eggs clearly predate chickens. And if a prehistoric not-quite-chicken laid an egg that contained the first honest-to-goodness chicken, based on its genetic coding, do you count that as a chicken, or a chicken egg? Try using that one if you're ever captured by "Star Trek" androids.

  • 5. Giant storks may have fed on hobbits

    "The storks! The storks! They're eating Frodo!" J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" saga might have had a horror-movie ending if it reflected the fossil evidence found on the Indonesian island of Flores.

    Flores is known as the site where scientists discovered the remains of a species of hominids known as Homo floresiensis. The creatures, which apparently went extinct about 12,000 years ago, have been nicknamed "hobbits" because of their short stature.

    Now paleontologists say they've unearthed wing and leg bones from carnivorous storks in the same cave where the Homo floresiensis bones were discovered. The storks, which apparently stood nearly 6 feet tall, could have fed on other birds as well as fishes and lizards ? "and possibly in principle even small, juvenile hobbits, although we have no evidence for that," the Smithsonian Institution's Hanneke Meijer told LiveScience.

    What sound do giant storks make when they're swallowing? Gollum! Gollum!

  • 4. Cricket's testicles set world record

    Now here's a bug with balls: The tuberous bushcricket's testicles account for 14 percent of its body weight, according to researchers at the University of Derby in England. That means the cricket's cojones are the largest in the animal world, based on proportion to total body mass.

    To put the cricket's statistics in perspective, the testicles of a man weighing 200 pounds (91 kilograms) with that ball-to-body ratio would weigh 28 pounds (12.7 kilograms). Or basically the weight of two bowling balls.

    Why would a cricket need testes that big? The researchers suggest that the large size lets male crickets capitalize quickly on breeding opportunities with multiple mates. But size is always relative, and often deceiving. Turns out that the runner-up in the ball-to-body competition is the humble fruit fly, with testes that make up more than 10 percent of body weight.

  • 3. Better transit design through ... slime mold?

    It's hard to imagine a scientific specialty that's weirder than slime mold, but researchers from Hokkaido University in Japan has been able to make the weird life form do some wonderful things.

    First, the scientists used slime mold's food-finding prowess to solve labyrinth puzzles. This year, they published research showing how the mold's growth patterns could reflect the optimal routes for mass transit links ... on a map where bits of food stood in for train stations. Those dubious achievements earned them not just one, but two Ig Nobel Prizes for silly science.

    The Hokkaido team isn't the only one working with the humble organism: British scientists say they've constructed a rudimentary slime-mold computer nicknamed the Plasmobot. So where does America stand in the race to harness slime mold? And what are we going to do about the slime gap?

  • 2. How beer sparked civilization

    Some people might say the invention of fire sparked the rise of civilization. But Brian Hayden, an archaeologist at Simon Fraser University, suggests that another innovation may have played a crucial role: beer.

    The age of agriculture dawned about 11,500 years ago when Neolithic peoples began domesticating wild grains such as barley and rice. Hayden is among a number of archaeologists who say the motivation for domesticating those cereals might have been to brew alcoholic drinks for ceremonial use. "It's not that drinking and brewing by itself helped start cultivation, it's this context of feasts that links beer and the emergence of complex societies," Hayden says.

    The earliest chemical evidence for beer comes from residues inside a jar excavated in Iran that is dated to between 3400 and 3100 B.C. Other evidence suggests that beer gave ancient Africans a healthy dose of antibiotics, and that women took on the primary role for brewing beer in ancient Peru. For still more, check out our interactive gallery of ancient drinks.

  • 1. Stone Age carving may be ancient sex toy

    The top vote-getter in the 2010 Weird Science Award competition may not be totally suitable for work ... but hey, this is archaeology, right? Researchers suspect that a carved piece of antler bone, found at a Stone Age site in Sweden that goes back as far as 6000 B.C., might have been an ancient sex toy.

    The object is about 4 inches long and an inch wide, with a knobby end as well as a pointy end. The pointy end suggests that despite its phallic appearance, the bone could have been used for chipping flakes of flint. Sigmund Freud is said to have observed that "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar," and sometimes a Stone Age tool is just a Stone Age tool.

    Even if the antler bone is judged to be a sex toy, it's not the oldest of its type: A polished stone phallus found in Germany is thought to be about 28,000 years old, while a 35,000-year-old female figure with exaggerated breasts could be considered the world's oldest-known porn.

  • Weirdly honorable mentions

    Even though we offered up a long list of nominees for the Weird Science Awards, there are always some additional discoveries that deserve recognition. Here are four honorable mentions for 2010:

    • Mice with two dads: Researchers reprogrammed mouse cells and then used unconventional breeding tricks to produce some cute babies with genetic contributions from two male mice (but carried to term by mommy mice, of course). The experiment suggested a method by which same-sex human couples could eventually have genetic progeny.
    • Chimps with stick dolls: Female chimpanzees have been observed in the wild cuddling and playing with sticks and small logs, much like human children do. In contrast, such behavior has not yet been seen among male chimps, leading researchers to wonder whether gender differences in styles of play extend beyond humans to other species.
    • Mice that sing like birds: In the course of developing new breeds of genetically engineered mice, Japanese researchers happened upon a mouse that made tweeting noises like a bird. The tweeting trait could be passed along to the generations that followed, and the lab says it now has more than 100 "singing mice." Listen to the chirping mice on YouTube.
    • 8-year-olds publish scientific paper: One of the more unusual papers published in Biology Letters was illustrated with diagrams that looked as if they were scrawled by elementary-school students. That's because they were. The peer-reviewed report, written by 8- to 10-year-olds from Blackawton Primary School in Devon, England, represented a "genuine advance" in the study of bumblebee vision, the Royal Society said.

    For still more scientific strangeness, review the 2010 Weird Science Awards.

  • Source:

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    Wednesday, December 28, 2011

    Could a compound in fish oil cure leukemia?

    A compound produced from EPA -- Eicosapentaenoic Acid -- an Omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oils may help cure chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML. In their study, Penn State researchers found the compound delta-12-protaglandin J3, or D12-PGJ3 honed in on and killed CML stem cells in mice.

    Targeting stem cells as a cure for chronic myelogenous leukemia, which is one of four main types of blood and bone marrow cancer, is important because stem cells can divide to create more stem cells that in turn spread cancer.

    Sandeep Prabhu, associate professor of immunology and molecular toxicology in the Department of Veterinary and Medical Sciences at Penn State said, "Research in the past on fatty acids has shown the health benefits of fatty acids on cardiovascular system and brain development, particularly in infants, but we have shown that some metabolites of Omega-3 have the ability to selectively kill the leukemia-causing stem cells in mice. The important thing is that the mice were completely cured of leukemia with no relapse."

    Robert Paulson, associate professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences, who co-directed the research with professor Prabhu, explains drugs taken for leukemia don?t cure the disease, but instead suppress the number of leukemia cells. Eventually, patients develop resistance to the drugs, which must be taken continuously.

    According to the National Institutes of Health, the only known cure to date for CML is a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.

    Symptoms of leukemia include easy bruising, petechial rash, enlarged spleen that manifests as pressure or a feeling of fullness under the left rib cage, low grade fever, weakness and fatigue and excessive sweating.

    The disease has three stages ? chronic, accelerated and blast crisis. In the chronic phase, there are few symptoms. When leukemia accelerates, fever and other symptoms occur. During the blast crisis phase ? the most dangerous - that can occur if CML is left untreated, bleeding and infection can occur.

    In the study, mice given approximately 600 nanograms of the fish oil compound D12-PGJ3 daily, for a week, were completely cured of the disease. They did not experience relapse and spleen size and blood counts returned to normal.

    The researchers used the fish oil compound because it had few side effects. The next step is to see if the blast crisis stage of chronic myelogenous leukemia will respond to D12-PGJ3. The finding means there may be a cure for leukemia on the horizon, thanks to fish oil. The researchers are planning on testing the compound in humans.

    Image credit: Morguefile


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    Oil hovers above $101 amid rising Iran tensions (AP)

    SINGAPORE ? Oil prices hovered above $101 a barrel amid investor concern that rising Middle East tensions could disrupt crude supplies.

    Benchmark crude for February delivery fell 12 cents to $101.22 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.66 to settle at $101.34 in New York on Tuesday.

    In London, Brent crude was up 4 cents at $109.31 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

    Iran's official news agency IRNA reported Tuesday that Vice President Mohamed Reza Rahimi said his country will close the Strait of Hormuz, cutting off oil exports, if Western nations impose sanctions on Iran's oil shipments.

    The U.S., the U.K. and other nations are mulling more sanctions against Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil producer, over concern about its nuclear power program.

    The Strait of Hormuz, the choke point of the Persian Gulf, is one of the world's busiest routes for crude shipments with about a sixth of the world's oil production passing through.

    If tankers could not use the strait, they would have to take longer, more expensive routes to their destinations, which would likely boost prices.

    "We doubt political posturing will turn into action, but oil remains above $100 regardless," energy consultant and trader The Schork Group said in a report.

    Schork estimates crude would jump to above $140 if Iran closed the Strait of Hormuz.

    Signs the U.S. economy is improving also helped bolster crude. The New York-based Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence Index jumped almost 10 points from November, to 64.5, the highest since April.

    The National Retail Federation said it expects a 3.8 percent increase in Christmas holiday sales, up from its forecast of 2.8 percent in September.

    In other Nymex trading, heating oil fell 0.4 cent to $2.91 per gallon and gasoline futures slid 0.6 cent at $2.68 per gallon. Natural gas was down 0.7 cent to $3.11 per 1,000 cubic feet.


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    Tuesday, December 27, 2011

    Chile daily must pay readers for exploding churros

    SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) ? Chile's Supreme Court has ordered a newspaper to pay $125,000 to 13 people who suffered burns while trying out a published recipe for churros, a popular Latin American snack of dough fried in hot oil.

    The publisher of La Tercera must pay individual damages to 11 women and two men ranging from as little as $279 to $48,000 for one woman whose burns were particularly severe.

    The high court's ruling was announced Monday, seven years after the readers burned themselves while trying out the recipe.

    Judges determined that the newspaper failed to fully test it before publication, and that if readers followed the recipe exactly, the churros had a good chance of exploding once the oil reached the suggested temperature. Grupo Copesa, which publishes the paper, said it will abide by the ruling.

    Days after the recipe was published in the paper's "Woman" magazine in 2004, hospitals around the country began treating women for burns suffered when the dough boiling in oil suddenly shot out of kitchen pots.

    Associated Press


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    U.S. urges dialogue over Iraqi crisis (Reuters)

    BAGHDAD (Reuters) ? Vice President Joe Biden spoke by telephone on Sunday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki about violence in Baghdad and a political crisis that has erupted in the week since the last American troops left Iraq.

    U.S. officials, diplomats and Iraqi politicians have been in a flurry of talks to calm a crisis that threatens to push Iraq back in the kind of sectarian strife that took the OPEC oil producer to the edge of civil war only a few years ago.

    Just a week after the last U.S. troops left, the upheaval risks scuppering an uneasy power-sharing government that splits posts among the Shi'ite National Alliance coalition, the mostly Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc and Kurdish political movement.

    Iraqi lawmakers and politicians tried on Sunday to negotiate an end to the turmoil days after Maliki, who is a Shi'ite, sought his Sunni vice president's arrest on charges he ran an assassination squad, and tried to fire his own Sunni deputy.

    Biden, who also spoke to Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani, has played a diplomatic role during the U.S. military's departure, travelling to Iraq and discussing the signs of rising sectarian tension with Iraqi leaders.

    "The Vice President offered condolences on the recent violence in Baghdad, exchanged views with both leaders on the current political climate in Iraq and reiterated our support for ongoing efforts to convene a dialogue among Iraqi political leaders," the White House said in a statement.

    A string of bombings across Baghdad, including a suicide attack on a government building, killed 72 and wounded 200 on Thursday, underscoring Iraq's still vulnerable security situation as the political crisis gripped the country.

    Tuesday could be a key test for how Iraq's turmoil develops when the cabinet is scheduled to meet and Iraqiya government ministers will decide whether to attend or boycott the meeting. Iraqiya lawmakers have already temporarily suspended their participation in parliament, which is in recess.

    "There was a delegation from the National Alliance that met Iraqiya last night," said Haider al-Abadi, a senior Shi'ite lawmaker and Maliki ally.

    "If Iraqiya wants to participate in real talks, it has to go back to parliament and the government because a parliament boycott is not acceptable," he added.

    Nearly nine years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, sectarian tensions still run close to the surface in Iraq, where sustained violence between Sunni and Shi'ite communities killed thousands of people in 2006-07.

    Maliki last week sought the arrest of Sunni Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi, a key member of Iraqiya, on charges he ordered his bodyguards to carry out assassinations and bombings.

    The prime minister also asked parliament to fire his Sunni deputy, Saleh al-Mutlaq, another Iraqiya leader, after he branded Maliki a dictator.


    Hashemi, who denies the charges and says he is victim of a political vendetta, is now in Iraqi Kurdistan, where he is unlikely to face immediate arrest. He has asked for his case to be transferred there. Semi-autonomous Kurdistan has its own government and armed forces.

    "The political dimension of this is to get rid of all those who oppose Nuri al-Maliki, it is clear," Hashemi told Reuters in a weekend interview.

    Shi'ite political leaders say the Hashemi case is a criminal issue now with the courts and is not politically motivated.

    But Maliki's moves are fanning minority Sunni fears that they are being marginalized. Since Saddam's fall, Iraq's Shi'ite majority has risen and Sunnis say they feel they have been pushed out of decision-making.

    Iraq remains a sharply divided country with Kurds having their own northern enclave, Shi'ites mainly in the southern oil-producing region, and Sunni strongholds sitting in the west along the frontier with Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

    Iraqis in four cities in Sunni heartland provinces protested on Friday against the Hashemi arrest warrant and against what they see as Maliki's attempts to consolidate power at the expense of the Sunni minority.

    Elsewhere at the weekend, Iraqis demonstrated against Hashemi in the southern, mainly Shi'ite city of Hilla, and urged Maliki's government to bring him to justice.

    Upheaval in Iraq risks wider fallout in a region where a crisis in neighboring Syria is turning increasingly sectarian, and where Shi'ite Iran, Turkey and Sunni Arab Gulf states are vying for influence.

    (Additional reporting Laura MacInnis; writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Alistair Lyon)


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    Report: Phishing attack targets Apple customers

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    Dec. 27, 2011: Doubleheader Basketball; Women v William Woods; Men v Eureka College

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    Monday, December 26, 2011

    McCain says Twitter account not hacked

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) appears to be the recipient of a Christmas Eve twitter hacking.

    ?I just got up to 663 in n #DoodleJump!!! Beat that!bxbsjbxj,? said two tweets from McCain?s account on Saturday.

    The tweets linked to the Doodle Jump website, and to a picture of the four-legged, snozzle-nosed creature, ?The Doodler,? that is the game?s protagonist.

    Doodle Jump is a popular game on iPhones and Droids, where the player guides the Doodler up a series of platforms guarded by enemies and other obstacles.

    McCain?s tweets are usually policy-focused, although he occasionally uses Twitter to show support for Arizona?s sports teams.

    Update:?The mystery surrounding McCain's tweets was quickly resolved.

    "Inadvertent tweets - kids playing with my phone," he tweeted on Saturday.

    "Don't let kids play with your phone," McCain said in a follow-up.

    This story was updated at 12:41 p.m.


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    Red Cross encourages donors to ?Tech the Halls? with Apple iPad 2 giveaway

    The American Red Cross South Carolina Blood Services Region is encouraging donors to ?Tech the Halls? with an Apple iPad 2 giveaway. All presenting blood and platelet donors at the Columbia donation center Dec. 19, 2011 through Jan. 2, 2012 will automatically be entered for a chance to win a free Apple iPad 2.?

    ?Columbia Donation Center

    2751 Bull St.

    Columbia, S.C. 29201


    Blood donation hours:
    Monday: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
    Tuesday: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
    Wednesday: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
    Thursday: 7 a.m. - 2 p.m.
    Friday: 7 a.m. - 2 p.m.
    Saturday: 7 a.m. - 2 p.m.


    Platelet donation hours:
    Sunday: 6 a.m. - 1 p.m. (open 6 a.m.-noon Christmas day)
    Monday: 6 a.m. - 6 p.m.
    Tuesday: 6 a.m. - 6 p.m.
    Wednesday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
    Thursday: 6 a.m. - 1 p.m.
    Friday: 6 a.m. - 1 p.m.
    Saturday: 6 a.m. - 1 p.m.


    For your chance to win, simply stop by your local South Carolina Blood Services Region Red Cross donation center from Dec. 19, 2011 through Jan. 2, 2012 to donate blood or platelets. One lucky presenting donor in the South Carolina Region will be selected at random to receive an iPad 2.


    The need for blood and platelets is constant and doesn?t pause for the holidays. By taking time to donate this winter, you can help the Red Cross ensure a stable supply for all patients who need blood products.


    All blood types are needed to help maintain a sufficient blood supply, especially type O negative. Type O negative blood, the universal blood type, is always in high demand because it can be transfused to patients with any blood type, especially in emergency situations.


    Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood. The American Red Cross South Carolina Blood Services Region provides lifesaving blood to patients in 54 hospitals. Approximately 500 people need to give blood or platelets each week day to meet hospital demand.


    Blood can be safely donated every 56 days. Most healthy people age 17 and older, or 16 with parental consent, who weigh at least 110 pounds, are eligible to donate blood and platelets. Donors who are 18 and younger must also meet specific height and weight requirements.


    For more information or to schedule an appointment to donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS (733-2767) or visit



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    Using Government Grants For Debt Relief

    When trying to pay off credit card debt, some of the ignored options many people have are government grants. Many individuals do not look into these grants as a result of they merely have no idea about them. Nonetheless, the federal government units apart billions each year only for this function, to present them away. If you?re one of the tens of millions of people who are affected by credit card debt, you positively wish to consider applying for a grant from the government.

    Authorities grants can be found, the secret?s finding them. If you are looking for debt relief, it is best to understand that there are ways to get out of this debt and it?s as much as you to hunt the show you how to want and deserve. All of us get into trouble at times with our financial state of affairs, nonetheless, if the assistance is out there, why not make the most of it.

    Why do these grants make extra sense relating to bank card debt elimination? Simply put, these grants are far simpler to obtain than conventional loans. Traditional loans might require some type of collateral or security deposit, grants do not require these because they?re supplied by the government.

    The key to grants is to be creative. The government is willing to jump-start the economic system by offering small business grants. If you apply for and obtain a grant for several thousand dollars, you possibly can eliminate your debt through the use of the money earned in your online business to pay them off.

    In order to get the grant the people accepting your application might want to evaluation your situation. In different words, they are going to be looking at many things. First, they are going to be taking a look at if you have the ability to pay the money you at the moment owe, then they?ll take a look at the money owed you at the moment have, and eventually your financial means to repay what you owe and nonetheless preserve your current debt. For those who can show that you simply cannot pay again this cash, the grant will doubtless be yours.

    Government grants can do many things for you. First, they?ll give you the money you want for debt aid with out having to provide safety or collateral. Second, these grants can prevent from having to file for bankruptcy. Third, no reimbursement is critical, this is sort of economic aid, and it cannot be taxed and doesn?t accrue any interest. Finally, it could actually immediately make you debt free, which cannot be stated about other varieties of debt reduction solutions.

    Overall, obtaining a authorities grant just is smart when you find yourself swimming in debt that you just can?t get out of.

    Paul Sarwana gives information about authorities grants for debt relief to assist debtors construct confidence in bettering their financial situation. He runs an informational website that provides recommendations on personal debt management.

    This post is written by Luis Garcia 9, he is a web enthusiast and ingenious blogger who loves to write about many different topics, such as logo jackets. His educational background in journalism and family science has given him a broad base from which to approach many topics, including embroidered polo shirts and many others. He enjoys experimenting with various techniques and topics like embroidered polo shirt, and has a love for creativity. He has a really strong passion for scouring the internet in search of ?inspiational topics.


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    Former South Korean first lady to go North to mark Kim's death (Reuters)

    SEOUL (Reuters) ? South Korea said on Saturday a former first lady and the chairwoman of the giant Hyundai business conglomerate will be permitted to cross into North Korea next week to join ceremonies marking the death the North's leader, Kim Jong-il.

    A spokesman for the South Korean Unification Ministry said Lee Hee-ho, the widow of late president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kim Dae-jung, will lead a 13-member delegation for a two-day trip from Monday. Kim died a week ago.

    The ministry also said Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, the wife of the business group's former chairman Chung Mong-hun, will lead another five-member delegation to Pyongyang.

    The South Korean government has said it will allow the two delegations to make the trip to the communist North because Pyongyang sent groups to Seoul to mark the deaths Kim Dae-jung and Chung.

    However the delegations will not attend Kim Jong-il's funeral, scheduled for Wednesday, and no government officials, politicians or other prominent figures will accompany them.

    Kim Dae-jung, who died in 2009, reopened ties while he was in office from 1998 to 2003, culminating in a historic meeting with Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang in 2000. He was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Chung was the fifth son of the Hyundai founder Chung Ju-yung, who established Hyundai Asan Corp. in 1999, a major investor in North Korea's Mt. Kumgang tourist resort business.

    The business has been suspended since the fatal shooting in 2008 of a South Korean tourist at the resort.

    Hyundai Asan is also involved in the Kaesong Industrial Park project in the North, one of the impoverished North's main sources of foreign cash.

    Seoul sent a message of sympathy to the North Korean people after Kim Jong-il's death, although the North denounced South Korea for not extending official condolences.

    North and South Korea are technically still at war, with the 1950-53 ending in a ceasefire rather than a formal armistice.

    (Reporting by Sung-won Shim; Editing by Paul Tait)


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