Missing Air Algerie Flight AH5017 Crashes in Niger Due to Bad Weather: 116 people died



Reuters – An Air Algerie flight that went missing en route from Burkina Faso to Algiers has crashed, an Algerian aviation official told Reuters on Thursday.

“I can confirm that it has crashed,” the official said, declining to give details of where the plane was or what caused the accident.

After Google, another US Web firm cuts back in China

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Two days after Google halted censorship in China, another leading US Internet company, Go Daddy, said it was cutting back on its activities there because of Chinese regulations.

Go Daddy, the largest Web domain name registrar in the world, is no longer registering names in China because of “chilling” new requirements imposed by the Chinese authorities, executive vice president Christine Jones said on Wednesday.

Jones also told a hearing of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China that Go Daddy was one of the companies hit by Chinese-based cyberattacks in December that contributed to Google’s decision to stop self-censorship there.

Representative Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, praised Google and Go Daddy at the hearing here for “doing the right thing in China” and urged other US companies, specifically Microsoft, to follow their lead.

Related article: Foreign firms ponder China future

“Google fired a shot heard ’round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people,” Smith said.

Google announced Monday it had effectively closed its Chinese-language search engine in China, Google.cn, and begun redirecting mainland Chinese users to an uncensored site in Hong Kong.

Chronology: Google’s operations in China

Alan Davidson, Google’s director of public policy, told the hearing the Hong Kong site is already being censored.

“We are well aware that the Chinese government can, at any time, block access to our services — indeed we have already seen intermittent censorship of certain search queries on both Google.com.hk and Google.com,” he said.

Davidson also echoed a call made by Google co-founder Sergey Brin for new rules to govern trade in the online world.

Brin said in an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian that Chinese regulations that prevent companies from being competitive in China should be considered a “trade barrier.”

“Since services and information are our most successful exports, if regulations in China effectively prevent us from being competitive, then they are a trade barrier,” Brin said.

Davidson said governments “need to develop a full set of new trade rules to address new trade barriers.

“We should continue to look for effective ways to address unfair foreign trade barriers in the online world: to use trade agreements, trade tools, and trade diplomacy to promote the free flow of information on the Internet.”

Brin and Davidson’s comments came after TOM Online, the Internet company owned by Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, severed ties with Google.

TOM, which runs online and mobile Internet services in mainland China, said that “as a Chinese company, we adhere to rules and regulations in China where we operate our businesses.”

TOM’s move sparked concerns other companies may also pull away from the Web giant. On Thursday the Financial Times reported that China Unicom, the country’s second largest mobile phone operator, will jettison Google’s search function from new handsets.

The move is the first concrete result of Google’s decision to shut down its Chinese search engine on Monday.

“We are willing to work with any company that abides by Chinese law…. We don’t have any cooperation with Google currently,” the Financial Times quoted China Unicom president Lu Yimin as saying.

China has attacked Google for stopping censorship but said there should be no broader fall-out in Sino-US ties provided the issue is not politicized in the United States.

Go Daddy’s Jones said the company has been authorized since April 2005 by the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) to offer registration services for .cn domain names.

The .cn suffix is a Top Level Domain for China like .com and individuals or companies seeking to create a Web address are required to go through a registrar such as Go Daddy, which has 40 million domain names under management.

Jones said Go Daddy collects contact information of individuals or companies registering a domain name including their full name, address, telephone number and email address.

Four months ago, however, CNNIC required registrants of new .cn names to provide color headshot photos, a Chinese business registration number and signed registration forms, she said.

She said Go Daddy is “concerned for the security of the individuals affected by CNNIC’s new requirements, as well as for the chilling effect we believe the requirements will have on new .cn domain name registrations.

“For these reasons, we have decided to discontinue offering new .cn domain names at this time,” Jones said. “We didn’t want to act as an agent of the Chinese government.”

Jones also said that Go Daddy was one of more than 30 companies hit by the cyberattacks in December that Google said originated in China. “We’ve had a couple of dozen since the first of the year as well,” she said.

“The Google attack was aimed at infiltrating email accounts,” she said. “The attack on our system is designed to disable websites somebody doesn’t like.”

Bin Laden issues fresh threat to U.S.

Exiled al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, threatened in a new audio recording released on Thursday to kill any captured Americans if the U.S. executes the self-professed mastermind of the September 11 attacks or any other al-Qaeda suspects.

The U.S. is still considering whether to put Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four of his fellow plotters on military tribunal for their role in the September 11 attacks. The Obama administration is also looking into recommendations for civilian trials, and is expected to announce a decision soon.

In a brief 74-second audio tape aired on Al-Jazeera television, bin Laden said if the U.S. decides to execute any al-Qaeda suspects in its custody — and explicitly mentioned Mohammed — his terror network would kill American captives.

The terror leader said such a decision “would mean the U.S. has issued a death sentence against whoever of you becomes a prisoner in our hands.”

It was not immediately clear whether al-Qaeda currently has any U.S. captives, but the Haqqani group – the Pakistan-based Taliban faction closest to al-Qaeda — is holding an American soldier it captured in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009. It released a video of him in December.

Bin Laden said U.S. President Barack Obama is following in the footsteps of his predecessor George W. Bush by escalating the war in Afghanistan, being “unjust” to al-Qaeda prisoners and supporting Israel in its occupation of Palestinian land.

In a veiled threat, bin Laden said Americans had previously thought their homeland was beyond the reach of his group until the 9/11 attack.

Mohammed, who was captured in Pakistan in 2003, is the most senior al-Qaeda operative in U.S. custody, and is currently in detention at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In 2008, the U.S. charged him with murder and war crimes in connection with the September 11 attacks. Pentagon officials have said they’ll seek the death penalty.

Three crew killed in medical chopper crash in US

A medical helicopter crashed in a field in Tennessee early Thursday and state officials confirmed three crew members were killed.

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jeremy Heidt, in Nashville said the medical flight crashed into a field near Brownsville during a rainstorm shortly after 6 a.m.

Mr. Heidt said the helicopter had flown a patient from Parsons to a Jackson hospital and was returning to its base in Brownsville when it went down only a few miles from its destination. All those aboard were crew members.

Hospital Wing, the company that flies the medical airlifts, didn’t immediately respond to telephone and e—mail messages seeking more details.

The company’s Web site says it flies the Eurocopter Astar AS350B3 model, which is capable of carrying a three—person crew and one patient.

The crash scene is near a highway and about 55 miles (90 kilometers) northeast of Memphis.

World’s tallest tower to ‘go dark’ for Earth Hour

Burj Khalifa , the world’s tallest building during the official opening ceremony in Dubai

Burj Khalifa, the tallest man-made structure, will join tens of thousands of iconic buildings and landmarks from across the world for the Earth Hour on March 27.

To mark the occasion, the golden glow that cascades down the 828-metre tower will be turned off.

Other local landmarks such as Burj Al Arab, Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai Chamber of Commerce, Abu Dhabi Tower of Commerce and Hyatt Regency will also embrace darkness to express solidarity.

Expressing appreciation for the record number of participants this year, Earth Hour, in a statement, said Burj Khalifa was the epitome of global cooperation and unwavering determination and, hence, perfectly reflected the campaign’s ideals.

Earth Hour Executive Director Andy Ridley said growing number of participants symbolised the campaign’s popularity and the world’s resolve to save the planet.

Ridley has seen the campaign grow from a one-city affair in 2007 to more than 4,000 cities in 2009.

“Earth Hour demonstrates the determination of the world’s citizens for a better and healthier world. It is an opportunity for the global community to speak in one voice on the issue of climate change.”

When contacted, Burj Khalifa representatives were unavailable for comment.

Apart from man-made structures, some of the world’s best known natural landmarks, including the Table Mountain and the Victoria Falls, will also join the campaign this year.

6.0-magnitude earthquake hits west of Manila

A 6.0—magnitude earthquake struck west of Manila on Thursday, the seismology institute reported, causing buildings in the Philippine capital to shake and sending frightened workers out of their offices.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, and no tsunami alert was issued. Buildings in Manila shook for about 30 seconds.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology initially reported the tremor had a magnitude of 6.2, but lowered it to 6.0 after receiving more field data, said its director, Renato Solidum.

“Essentially, this would not trigger significant damage,” Mr. Solidum said.

Editha Vargaz of the Land Bank of Philippine’s risk management group said she and dozens of other colleagues climbed down the stairs to the street from the bank’s headquarters on the 31st floor of the 34—storey building.

“We were very calm,” she said, citing training from regular earthquake and fire evacuation drills.

However, there was panic among some employees in offices at the nearby 14—storey Ramon Magsaysay Centre, said Ralph Balmaceda, who works for a travel agency on the seventh floor.

While he and other staff hurried down the stairs, “most others were panicking and some even tried to shove others” to reach the street more quickly.

“It was scary because of the previous incidents in other countries,” said Balmaceda’s office mate Beth Rodriguez. “We thought it would be the same here also.”

Mr. Solidum said the quake was centred off Lubang Island in Mindoro Occidental province, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) southwest of Manila, six miles (10 kilometers) under the seabed.

The U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude at 6.1 and depth at 21 miles (33 kilometers).

Lubang Island is near the southern end of the Manila Trench, a fault line about 560 miles (900 kilometers) long on the ocean floor under the South China Sea along the western flank of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon.

The Philippine archipelago lies in the so—called Pacific Ring of Fire where earthquakes are common. It is flanked by the Pacific Ocean to the east and the South China Sea to the west with undersea trenches – potential quake triggers – running alongside its coast on both sides.

The last major quake registered a magnitude 7.7 in 1990 and killed nearly 2,000 people on the main northern island of Luzon.

A 7.1—magnitude earthquake set off by a local fault near Lubang whipped up a tsunami that killed 78 people on Mindoro in 1994.

Saudi Arabia arrests over 100 terror suspects

Saudi Arabia says it has arrested 101 people suspected of planning terrorist attacks on the country’s oil installations.

An Interior Ministry statement says security forces foiled several such attacks.

In the last major attempt, suicide bombers tried but failed to attack an oil facility at the Abqaiq oil complex in eastern Saudi Arabia in February 2006. The complex is the world’s largest oil processing facility.

Wednesday’s ministry statement did not say when the arrests were made. It said the suspects are 47 Saudis, 51 Yemenis, a Somali, an Eritrean and a Bengali.

Irish bishop resigns, apologises to abuse victims

This is an undated file photo of Irish Bishop John Magee. The Vatican said Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Bishop John Magee in the country’s sex abuse scandal

Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation on Wednesday of Bishop John Magee, a former papal aide who stands accused of endangering children by failing to follow the Irish church’s own rules on reporting suspected paedophile priests to the police.

Bishop Magee apologized to victims of any paedophile priests who were kept in parish posts since he took charge of the southwest Irish diocese of Cloyne in 1987.

“To those whom I have failed in any way, or through any omission of mine have made suffer, I beg forgiveness and pardon,” the 73—year—old Magee said in a statement.

The Pope on Saturday published an unprecedented letter to the Irish church criticizing some of its bishops for mishandling child—abuse cases. It accepted no Vatican responsibility for the decades of cover—up.

Pope Benedict also has yet to accept resignation offers from three other Irish bishops who were linked to cover—ups of child—abuse cases in the Dublin Archdiocese, the subject of a major government—ordered investigation that published its findings four months ago.

Bishop Magee, however, had been expected to resign ever since a Catholic Church—commissioned investigation into the mishandling of child—abuse reports in Cloyne ruled two years ago that Bishop Magee and his senior diocesan aides failed to tell police quickly about two 1990s cases.

The church and government suppressed publication of that report’s findings until December 2008, when Bishop Magee faced immediate calls to quit from victims’ rights activists and some parishioners. They accused him of ignoring an Irish church policy enacted in 1996 requiring all abuse cases to be reported to the police.

Bishop Magee remained Cloyne bishop in name but handed over day—to—day responsibilities to his superior, Archbishop Dermot Clifford, in March 2009.

“I wish him all God’s blessings in his retirement,” Archbishop Clifford said of Bishop Magee. “I ask for the continued prayers and support of the lay faithful, priests and religious of the diocese of Cloyne for all those who have suffered abuse.”

Separately, the state investigators who reported on the Dublin cover—ups have turned their sole attention to Cloyne and are expected to report their own conclusions later this year. Bishop Magee said he would remain available to answer their questions.

The church’s Cloyne report found that Bishop Magee and his diocesan deputies fielded a range of complaints from parishioners about two priests from 1995 onwards – but told the police nothing until 2003 and little thereafter. The report said Cloyne church authorities appeared to be solely concerned about helping the two priests, not protecting children of the diocese.

One priest, who was accused of molesting a younger priest when he was just a boy, was encouraged by Bishop Magee to resign. But the investigation found that the bishop shielded the abuser’s identity from the police – and considered such concealment “the normal practice” for the church.

The other priest, a career guidance counsellor in a convent school, was accused by several teenage girls and grown women of molesting or raping them since 1995. One complaint came from a woman who had a consensual sexual relationship with the priest for a year – then saw him develop an intimate relationship with her teenage son.

The church has declined to identify the two priests publicly by name. Neither has faced any criminal charges.

Bishop Magee, who was born in the Northern Ireland border town of Newry, served as a private secretary to three successive popes – Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II – from 1969 to 1982. He then served as the pope’s master of ceremonies until 1987.

Polluted water kills more people than war: UN

A rag picker collecting waste polythenes from polluted waters of Yamuna River in New Delhi. Polluted water is a major health hazard to millions.

Polluted drinking water claim more lives than all forms of violence, including war, a UN report has said, highlighting the need for clean water.

The report, released on the occasion of World Water Day by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on Monday, said one child under the age of five dies every 20 seconds from water-related diseases.

According to the report titled ‘Sick Water’, the sheer scale of dirty water means more people now die from contaminated and polluted water than from all forms of violence including wars.

“These deaths are an affront to our common humanity, and undermine the efforts of many countries to achieve their development potential,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message marking Word Water Day.

“Day after day, we pour millions of tons of untreated sewage and industrial and agricultural wastes into the world’s water systems. And the poor continue to suffer first and most from pollution, water shortages and the lack of adequate sanitation.”

The report said that some two million tons of waste is being discharged daily into rivers and seas causing the spread of disease and damage of ecosystems.

The report has described wastewater as a “cocktail of fertilizer run-off and sewage disposal alongside animal, industrial, agricultural and other wastes”.

“If the world is to thrive, let alone to survive on a planet of six billion people heading to over nine billion by 2050, we need to get collectively smarter and more intelligent about how we manage waste including waste waters,” said Achim Steiner, the head of the UNEP.

“The facts and figures are stark – pollution from wastewater is quite literally killing people, indeed at least 1.8 million children die annually as a result of contaminated water,” he added.

Notably, the UN has declared 2005-2015 as the International Decade for Action “Water for Life.”

U.S. Congress approves historic healthcare Bill

President Barack Obama, with Vice-President Joseph Biden at his side, makes a statement on Sunday night following the final vote in the House of Representatives for comprehensive healthcare legislation, in the East Room of the White House in Washington

The U.S. Congress extended healthcare to tens of millions of uninsured Americans with a historic vote that capped a century-long quest for near universal coverage and handed a massive triumph to Barack Obama’s young presidency.

The stakes could not have been higher for Mr. Obama. Opposition Republicans hoped that by blocking the legislation, they would be able to thwart the president’s ambitious domestic agenda, including immigration reform and climate change legislation.

The healthcare issue is likely to shape the November congressional election, when Republicans try to capture control of both chambers. Democrats will campaign on having overhauled a system that has made both healthcare and insurance unaffordable for tens of millions of Americans. Republicans will say Democrats pushed through a Bill that had little public support and will ultimately increase taxes and damage the quality of healthcare.

Widely viewed as dead two months ago, the Senate-passed Bill cleared the House on Sunday night on a 219-212 vote, with Republicans unanimous in opposition.

Congressional officials said they expected Mr. Obama to sign the Bill as early as Tuesday.

Mr. Obama watched the vote in the White House’s Roosevelt Room with Vice-President Joe Biden and about 40 staff aides. When the long sought 216th vote came in — the magic number needed for passage — the room burst into applause and hugs. An exultant President exchanged a high-five with his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

“We proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things,” the President said a short while later in televised remarks. “We proved that this government — a government of the people and by the people — still works for the people.”

While national healthcare has been a goal of presidents stretching back decades, it has proved elusive, in part because self-reliance and suspicion of a strong central government remain strong in the America.

After more than a year of political combat — certain to persist into the election campaign for control of the Congress — debate on the House floor fell along predictable lines.

Immediately following the vote, Democrats turned back a Republican move to undo the Bill by a vote of 219-212. Republicans argued the legislation would permit the use of federal money to pay for abortions.

“We will be joining those who established Social Security, Medicare and now, tonight, healthcare for all Americans,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi before the vote, referring the government’s pension programme and health insurance for the elderly established nearly 50 years ago.

“This is the civil rights act of the 21st century,” added Representative Jim Clyburn, the top-ranking African-American member of the House.

Republicans readily agreed the Bill would affect everyone in America, but warned repeatedly of the burden imposed by more than $900 billion in tax increases and Medicare cuts combined.

“We have failed to listen to America,” said Representative John Boehner, leader of a party that has vowed to carry the fight into November’s midterm elections for control of the Congress.

Earlier in the day, the House argued its way through a thicket of Republican objections toward an evening vote on the Bill to extend coverage to 32 million Americans who lack it, ban insurers from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions and cut deficits by an estimated $138 billion over a decade.

A shouting band of protesters outside the Capitol dramatised their opposition, and one man stood up in the House visitor’s gallery shouting, “Kill the bill” before he was ushered out — evidence of the passions the yearlong debate over health care has stirred.

Mr. Obama lobbied by phone from the White House, then took the crucial step of issuing an executive order that satisfied a small group of Democrats who demanded that no federal funds be used for elective abortions.

Over and over, Democrats stressed the historic nature of the day. The measure represents the biggest expansion of the social safety net since Medicare and Medicaid were enacted in 1965 during President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration to provide government-funded health care coverage to the elderly and poor.

“Health care isn’t only a civil right, it’s a moral issue,” said Democratic Representative Patrick Kennedy. He said his late father, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, had worked his entire career for nationwide health care, and President John F. Kennedy before him.

Mr. Obama has said often that presidents of both parties have tried without success to achieve national health insurance, beginning with Theodore Roosevelt early in the 20th century.

The 44th President’s quest to succeed where others have failed seemed at a dead end two months ago, when Republicans won a special election to fill Edward Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat, and with it, enough votes to prevent a final vote.

But the White House, Ms. Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid soon came up with a rescue plan that required the House to approve the Senate-passed measure despite opposition to many of its provisions, then have both chambers pass a fix-it measure incorporating numerous changes.

That smaller measure making the fixes cleared the House shortly before midnight and was sent to the Senate, where Democratic leaders said they had the votes necessary to pass it quickly. The vote was 220-211.

Under the legislation, most Americans would be required to purchase insurance, and face penalties if they refused. Much of the money in the Bill would be devoted to subsidies to help families at incomes of up to $88,000 a year pay their premiums.

The legislation would also usher in a significant expansion of Medicaid, the Federal-State healthcare programme for the poor.

The insurance industry would come under new federal regulation. They would be forbidden from placing lifetime dollar limits on policies, from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions and from cancelling policies when a policyholder becomes ill.

Parents would be able to keep older children on their coverage up to age 26. A new high-risk pool would offer coverage to uninsured people with medical problems until 2014, when the coverage expansion goes into high gear.

Once enacted, the two bills would create a series of so-called “insurance exchanges” beginning in 2014 where self-employed people and small businesses could pool together to shop for healthcare coverage.

To pay for the changes, the legislation includes more than $400 billion in higher taxes over a decade, roughly half of it from a new Medicare payroll tax on individuals with incomes over $200,000 and couples over $250,000.

Shock as Reality Show Invites Contestants to Kill

The other night, a French network aired something called “Le Jeu de la Mort” or “Game of Death,” a documentary on how far some people would go if invested with absolute power and in order to achieve fame. Under the pretense of shooting a pilot for a new reality show, producers wanted to see how people would react in what could only be described as extraordinary circumstances, the Independent says.

So, they came up with the idea of a fake competition: in order to win it, contestants had to push a button that delivered electrical shocks to a man on a chair. Motivated by the desire to win, 64 of the contestants (an overwhelming 80 percent) pushed the button and “killed” the man, no matter how hard he screamed, pled or cried. What the people on the show did not know was that the man was an actor, there was no electrical current in his chair and they had just been tested to see how low they’d scoop for a shot at fame and, presumably, a prize in cash.

As expected, the documentary did not fail to cause a storm. “Critics, however, lambasted the documentary for using precisely the same brainwashing and televisual distorting techniques it claimed to expose. The experiment, they pointed out, was based on an approach first used by the American social psychologist Stanley Milgram in 1963. In an attempt to comprehend the behavior of genocidal Nazi death camp guards, Mr. Milgram created a bogus authority which ordered volunteers to administer electric shocks of increasing severity to an unseen person who answered questions wrongly. Two thirds of the volunteers obeyed orders to deliver the potentially fatal doses,” the Independent writes.

“Critics said that last night’s documentary – although it conceded its debt to the Mr. Milgram experiments – suggested that television was somehow uniquely capable of brainwashing people into committing murder. The original experiments, which are often replicated, suggested that the real problem was something deeply rooted in the human psyche: the incapacity of a large majority of people to resist authority or to refuse to follow a crowd or mob. The program, shown on the France 2, the main state-owned channel, was made by Christophe Nick, a celebrated French filmmaker of shock or investigative TV documentaries. The narrator made it clear that the principal target was mass television culture,” the publication further informs.

The conclusion of the documentary was that television had been using humiliation and violence as a means to attract audiences for many years, so perhaps concluding that it won’t be long until we have murder in prime time is not that far-fetched. Critics, as also noted above, strongly disagree.


 Other NEWS relating this :

Fake TV Game Show ‘Tortures’ Man, Shocks France

France is reeling from a documentary about a psychological experiment disguised as a game show. Researchers staged a fictitious reality show to see how far people would go in obeying authority, especially if television reinforces that authority.

The documentary Game of Death, broadcast Wednesday in France, shows participants in a game show obeying orders to deliver increasingly powerful electric shocks to a man until he appears to die. The reality show was actually a fiction and the man an actor (Laurent Le Doyen), but the contestants and audience didn’t know

The disturbing results have alarmed the French.

The fictitious game show had all the trappings of a real TV quiz show, including a beautiful and well-known hostess, and a raucous audience. A group of contestants posed questions to a man sitting inside a box in front of them in an electric chair.

The hostess and a chanting audience urged the players — who had levers in front of them — to send jolts of electricity into the man in the box when he gave an incorrect answer.

Even when the player screamed out in pain for them to stop, 80 percent of the contestants kept zapping him. In reality, the man in the electric chair was an actor who wasn’t really being shocked — but the players and the audience did not know that.

The documentary makers say reality television relies increasingly on violent, humiliating and cruel acts to boost ratings. They say they simply wanted to see if we would go so far as to kill someone for entertainment.

Christophe Nick produced the documentary, The Game of Death, with a group of scientists and researchers.

“Most of us think we have free thinking and so we are responsible for our acts,” Nick says. “This experience shows that in certain circumstances, a power — the TV in this case — is able to make you do something you don’t want to do.”

The idea that something deeply rooted in the human psyche makes most of us unable to resist authority is not new. The French documentary was based on an American experiment carried out in the 1960s by psychologist Stanley Milgram.

Milgram had participants delivering what they believed were electric shocks to a man every time he answered a question incorrectly. In that experiment, 60 percent of participants obeyed the sadistic orders until the end.

The French documentary, which was broadcast in France on Wednesday night, included footage of the Milgram experiment.

Sociologist Jean Claude Kaufmann says the French version combines Milgram’s use of authority with the power of live television. He says the result in the French experiment — a higher percentage of participants willing to shock the subject — shows that the manipulative power of television further increases people’s willingness to obey.

Television talk shows ruminated over the documentary Thursday. Comparisons are being drawn to the manipulation of the masses in Nazi Germany. One of the game show participants, Jerome Pasanau, said in an interview that he was still haunted by the experience.

“I wanted to stop the whole time, but I just couldn’t. I didn’t have the will to do it. And that goes against my nature,” he said. “I haven’t really figured out why I did it.”

Pasanau told the TV host that he felt intimidated and isolated on the fictitious game show set, and that the crowd was overbearing. The host countered by pulling up footage of Pasanau pumping 460 volts of electricity until the actor pretending to be electrocuted seems to keel over dead.

In the footage, the game show hostess yells: “And you’ve won!”

Video : More about ‘The Game of Death’

New counter-terror laws enter Australian parliament

Police would be allowed to enter a building without a warrant to prevent a terrorist attack under new laws introduced in parliament on Thursday.

The change is part of a package of bills that would extend authorities’ counter-terror powers in some areas and limit them in others. No timetable has been set for parliament to pass the laws.

Police would be able to enter premises without a warrant “in emergency circumstances relating to a terrorism offense where there is material that may pose a risk to the health or safety of the public,” Attorney General Robert McClelland, told parliament.

But police would still need a search warrant issued by a court if they intended to use material found in the premises as evidence in a prosecution.

The laws would also limit the time a terror suspect can be held without charge to seven days.

Currently, police are limited to interviewing a terror suspect for 24 hours. But that interview can be stretched indefinitely with breaks for sleep, meals and further investigation.

An Indian doctor wrongly linked to attack plots in Britain, Mohamad Haneef, was held for 12 days without charge in 2007 while being questioned for 24 hours.

Australian Council for Civil Liberties spokesman David Bernie, questioned whether the new police power to act without a warrant was necessary since police already had common law powers to enter buildings in emergencies.

He welcomed a cap on terrorist suspects’ detention, but said it should be 48 hours.

“It’s a mixed bag, but what it does overall do is make the law clearer in a lot of areas,” Mr. Bernie said of the legislative package.

Osama, deputy hiding in Pak: CIA

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) believes Osama bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are inside Pakistan though it does not know precisely where.

The agency officials believe the two are hiding, “either in the northern tribal areas or in North Waziristan, or somewhere in that vicinity,” CIA Director Leon Panetta told The Washington Post in an interview published on Thursday.

While there have been no confirmed sightings of either man since 2003, the continued pressure on Al Qaeda increases the opportunities for catching one or both, he said.

Relentless attacks against Al Qaeda in the Pakistan tribal region appear to have driven bin Laden and other top leaders deeper into hiding, leaving the organization rudderless and less capable of planning sophisticated operations, Panetta told the Post.

So profound is Al Qaeda’s disarray that one of its lieutenants, in a recently intercepted message, pleaded to bin Laden to come to the group’s rescue and provide some leadership, Panetta claimed.

In what the post called a near-acknowledgement of the CIA’s war against extremists in Pakistan, Panetta credited an increasingly aggressive campaign against Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies, including more frequent strikes and better coordination with Pakistan.

Calling it “the most aggressive operation that CIA has been involved in in our history,” he said, “Those operations are seriously disrupting Al Qaeda.”

“It’s pretty clear from all the intelligence we are getting that they are having a very difficult time putting together any kind of command and control, that they are scrambling. And that we really do have them on the run.”

Panetta also cited recent arrests of top Taliban figures-mostly notably Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, captured in Karachi on Feb 8, as tangible evidence of improving ties with Pakistan’s intelligence service. He told the Post Pakistan had given the CIA access to Baradar since his capture, and added, “we’re getting intelligence” from the interrogation.

Panetta acknowledged that Al Qaeda was continuing to look for ways to kill Americans and was specifically seeking to recruit people who lacked criminal records or known ties to terrorist groups to carry out missions.

Still, the CIA under the Obama administration is “without question putting tremendous pressure on their operation,” Panetta said.

“The president gave us the mission to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda and their military allies and I think that’s what we are trying to do.”

Toyota faces criminal charges in Canada

Toyota may be slapped with criminal charges in Canada for hiding accelerator problems from motorists even as it was trying to fix it.

The Japanese automaker recalled more than 2.3 million vehicles in the US and Canada in January to fix accelerator pedals that get stuck. Toyota executives appeared before a Canadian parliamentary panel on Tuesday to explain the lapse.

According to Transport Minister John Baird, the government will ponder initiate criminal proceedings against the car giant after studying the testimony. He said action against the auto giant will be determined under the country’s Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

“I can’t direct the department to conduct a criminal investigation and lay criminal charges,” minister said, adding that “if we have to raise the bar and make the law tougher with respect to disclosure, that’s something we’re prepared to do.”

Toyota executives reportedly admitted before the MPs that the company didn’t alert vehicles users and the government about the sticky accelerator pedal as it was working to fix it.

The MPs blasted the Toyota executives for not being prompt in alerting car users about the problem.

“You’ve got a serious safety problem, you’re already talking to your supplier about redesigning a faulty gas pedal and no one told Transport Canada … until after a recall was issued. It was all occurring but you were telling nobody about it,” said a ruling Conservative Party MP.

Apologising for the ‘anxiety and inconvenience’ caused to car users, Yoshi Inaba, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor North America, said, “Nothing is more important to Toyota than the safety and reliability” of its vehicles.

Canadians are also upset that Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda personally didn’t come here to apologize as he did before Americans and Chinese.

When tweets can make you a jailbird

In this file photo, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Scoville displays part of the Facebook page, and an enlarged profile photo, of fugitive Maxi Sopo in Seattle

 Maxi Sopo was having so much fun “living in paradise” in Mexico that he posted about it on Facebook so all his friends could follow his adventures. Others were watching, too: A federal prosecutor in Seattle, where Sopo was wanted on bank fraud charges.

Tracking Sopo through his public “friends” list, the prosecutor found his address and had Mexican authorities arrest him. Instead of sipping pina coladas, Sopo is awaiting extradition to the U.S.

Sopo learned the hard way: The Feds are on Facebook. And MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter, too.

Law enforcement agents are following the rest of the Internet world into popular social-networking services, even going undercover with false online profiles to communicate with suspects and gather private information, according to an internal Justice Department document that surfaced in a lawsuit.

The document shows that U.S. agents are logging on surreptitiously to exchange messages with suspects, identify a target’s friends or relatives and browse private information such as postings, personal photographs and video clips.

Among the purposes: Investigators can check suspects’ alibis by comparing stories told to police with tweets sent at the same time about their whereabouts. Online photos from a suspicious spending spree – people posing with jewelry, guns or fancy cars – can link suspects or their friends to crime.

The Justice document also reminds government attorneys taking cases to trial that the public sections of social networks are a “valuable source” of information on defense witnesses. “Knowledge is power,” says the paper. “Research all witnesses on social networking sites.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties group, obtained the 33-page document when it sued the Justice Department and five other agencies in federal court.

A decade ago, agents kept watch over AOL and MSN chat rooms to nab sexual predators. But those text-only chat services are old-school compared with today’s social media, which contain a potential treasure trove of evidence.

The document, part of a presentation given in August by cybercrime officials, describes the value of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn and other services to investigators. It does not describe in detail the boundaries for using them.

“It doesn’t really discuss any mechanisms for accountability or ensuring that government agents use those tools responsibly,” said Marcia Hoffman, a senior attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which sued to force the government to disclose its policies for using social networking.

The foundation also obtained an Internal Revenue Service document that states IRS employees cannot use deception or create fake accounts to get information.

Sopo’s case did not require undercover work; his carelessness provided the clues. But covert investigations on social-networking services are legal and governed by internal rules, according to Justice Officials. They would not, however, say what those rules are.

The document addresses a social-media bullying case in which U.S. prosecutors charged a Missouri woman with computer fraud for creating a fake MySpace account – effectively the same activity that undercover agents are doing, although for different purposes.

The woman, Lori Drew, posed as a teen boy and flirted with a 13-year-old neighborhood girl. The girl hanged herself in October 2006, in a St. Louis suburb, after she received a message saying the world would be better without her. Drew was convicted of three misdemeanours for violating MySpace’s rules against creating fake accounts. But last year a judge overturned the verdicts, citing the vagueness of the law.

“If agents violate terms of service, is that ‘otherwise illegal activity’?” the document asks. It doesn’t provide an answer.

Facebook’s rules, for example, specify that users “will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.” Twitter’s rules prohibit users from sending deceptive or false information. MySpace requires that information for accounts be “truthful and accurate.”

A former U.S. cybersecurity prosecutor, Marc Zwillinger, said investigators should be able to go undercover in the online world the same way they do in the real world, even if such conduct is barred by a company’s rules. But there have to be limits, he said.

“This new situation presents a need for careful oversight so that law enforcement does not use social networking to intrude on some of our most personal relationships,” said Zwillinger, whose firm does legal work for Yahoo and MySpace.

The Justice document describes how Facebook, MySpace and Twitter have interacted with federal investigators: Facebook is “often cooperative with emergency requests,” the government said. MySpace preserves information about its users indefinitely and even stores data from deleted accounts for one year. But Twitter’s lawyers tell prosecutors they need a warrant or subpoena before the company turns over customer information, the document says.

“Will not preserve data without legal process,” the document says under the heading, “Getting Info From Twitter … the bad news.”

The chief security officer for MySpace, Hemanshu Nigam, said MySpace doesn’t want to stand in the way of an investigation. “That said, we also want to make sure that our users’ privacy is protected and any data that’s disclosed is done under proper legal process,” Nigam said.

MySpace requires a search warrant for private messages less than six months old, according to the company.

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said the company has put together a handbook to help law enforcement officials understand “the proper ways to request information from Facebook to aid investigations.”

Thai protesters to pour own blood at PM’s house

Thai police officers stand next to a sea of blood after protesters and supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, poured it on the ground at the ruling Democrat Party building on Tuesday in Bangkok

Thai protesters seeking a change of government planned more shock tactics on Wednesday, saying they would pour containers of their own blood at the prime minister’s house in the capital.

Police in riot gear, however, blocked all approaches to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s residence in the Sukhumvit Road area, home to many wealthy Thais and expatriates.

The standoff followed similar “blood sacrifices” on Tuesday at Mr. Abhisit’s office and the headquarters of his Democrat Party. The dramatic acts grabbed attention but put the “Red Shirt” protest movement no closer to its goal of forcing new elections.

The protesters’ march and police cordons halted traffic in one direction on Sukhumvit Road, a major thoroughfare, paralyzing parts of the neighbourhood. Restaurants closed their doors and residents of luxury condos were prevented from driving out of the area of Mr. Abhisit’s house.

Mr. Abhisit himself has been sleeping at an army headquarters and taking trips out of the city since the demonstrations began.

“We heard they were coming so I stayed in. Sure enough we’re blocked in now,” said John Bujnosh, a Texas oil driller who lives on the same street as Mr. Abhisit.

More than 100,000 demonstrators from all over the country gathered in Bangkok on Sunday, vowing to continue their protest until victory. But Mr. Abhisit has rejected their demands to dissolve Parliament, saying only that he will listen to the protesters’ point of view and leaving the situation in a stalemate.

Reporters asked one of the protest leaders, Veera Musikapong, what their next move would be, and he replied, “I want to know that myself.” He said the group maps strategy on a day—by—day basis.

The protesters consist of supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a 2006 military coup for alleged corruption, and pro—democracy activists who opposed the army takeover. They believe Mr. Abhisit came to power illegitimately with the connivance of the military and other parts of the traditional ruling class who were alarmed by Mr. Thaksin’s popularity, particularly among the poor.

Thailand has been in political turmoil since early 2006, when anti—Thaksin demonstrations began. In 2008, when Mr. Thaksin’s political allies came back to power for a year, his “Yellow Shirt” opponents occupied the prime minister’s office compound for three months and seized Bangkok’s two airports for a week.

On Tuesday, thousands of Red Shirts formed long lines to have their blood drawn by nurses to spill at Government House, the prime minister’s office. Leaders claimed to have collected 300,000 cubic centimeters (80 gallons).

A few teaspoons of blood were drawn from each volunteer and then transferred into dozens of large plastic water jugs that were passed overhead through the crowd of cheering protesters before being delivered to Government House.

The Red Shirts say that if the people are willing to sacrifice their blood, Mr. Abhisit should show similar spirit by relinquishing power.

Riot police allowed protest leaders to approach the front gate and pour out the blood, which oozed under the gate as national television broadcast the images live. A purported Brahmin priest in ceremonial robes performed an unorthodox black magic ritual on the Red Shirts’ behalf.

“The blood of the common people is mixing together to fight for democracy,” another Red Shirt leader, Natthawut Saikua, told cheering supporters. “When Abhisit works in his office, he will be reminded that he is sitting on the people’s blood.” Mr. Abhisit has not entered his office at Government House since preliminary protests started on Friday.

Minutes afterward, a government medical cleanup team in white coats, face masks and rubber gloves hosed down the site. Health authorities had warned that the protest risked spreading disease if infected blood splashed bystanders.

Hundreds of protesters then marched and rode pickup trucks and motorcycles to the nearby ruling Democrat Party headquarters and splashed several more jugs of blood on the pavement outside.

Police Gen. Wichai Sangprapai, said the number of demonstrators had dropped from about 100,000 Sunday to about 90,000.

Surat Horachaikul, a political scientist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, said he believed the protest organizers lacked plans for their next step and that the protests might end in a few days.

“If nothing comes out of this rally, the government is likely going to become more stable,” he said. “Their movement will continue to put some pressure on the government, but Mr. Abhisit’s administration will be able to stay in power in the next 8—12 months.”

Despite continued anxiety over possible violence, the Stock Exchange of Thailand and Thai baht currency have remained stable.

Many Bangkok residents, even those sympathetic to the Red Shirt cause, say they are simply tired of the years of turmoil that have hurt the economy.

“I’m not fed up with Thai politics. I still read the newspaper every day, but I want the protest to stop as soon as possible. My business would be better, I hope,” said Suwan Pana—ngham, a downtown food vendor.

Dozens killed in bus accident in Afghan mountains

At least 30 people are dead after a bus plunged off a road near the Salang Pass, a major route through the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan.

Dr. Sanim Rasouli, health director in Baghlan province, says the bus picked up speed, struck other vehicles and then plunged off the road about 70 miles (115 kilometers) north of the capital, Kabul.

He says dozens of people – some of them children – burned to death when the bus caught fire.

The Afghan Interior Ministry reports that 35 people died in the accident just north of the 12,700—foot (3,800—meter) —high Salang Pass, the site of an avalanche earlier this year that killed more than 170 people.

Fiji cyclone damage overwhelming, leader says

SUVA, Fiji — The South Pacific island nation of Fiji has suffered overwhelming damage from a powerful cyclone that battered its shores for more than three days, the prime minister said Wednesday as relief operations were launched in the country’s northern regions.

Fiji sent naval patrol boats laden with supplies and support staff sailing for the northern islands that bore the full brunt of the storm, while Australian and New Zealand air force planes began airlifting emergency supplies to the island group and carrying out surveillance over affected northern areas.

Only one death has been reported, but the full extent of the damage has yet to be determined because communications to the hardest hit areas were cut off for days.

“It is evident that wherever (Cyclone) Tomas has struck, the damage has been overwhelming,” Commodore Frank Bainimarama, Fiji’s prime minister and military chief, said Wednesday as the first reports began to roll in.

Cyclone Tomas, packing winds of up to 130 mph (205 kph) at its center and gusts of up to 175 mph (280 kph), started hitting Fiji late Friday. It blasted through the northern Lau and Lomaiviti island groups and the northern coast of the second biggest island, Vanua Levu, before losing strength as it moved out to sea Wednesday, the nation’s weather office said.

Matt Boterhoven, senior forecaster at Fiji’s Tropical Cyclone Center, said “the good news is it’s accelerating away from Fiji … and weakening in the cooler waters.”

All storm and strong wind warnings for Fiji have been canceled, he said. Earlier, sea surges of up to 23 feet (7 meters) were reported in the Lau island group, which was hit head-on by the cyclone, he said.

A nationwide curfew was lifted Wednesday, but a state of emergency will remain in effect for 30 days in the country’s northern and eastern divisions.

On the northern island of Koro, seven of the 14 villages have been badly damaged, said Julian Hennings, a spokesman for the island’s Dere Bay Resort.

“Some of the houses have blown away. A lot of trees have been uprooted, some of the roads have been blocked off because the waves have picked up rocks and coral and have dumped it on the road,” he said. One of four landing jetties was also severely damaged.

Tiny Cikobia Island, home to about 400 people, suffered four days of hammering from the cyclone, which smashed houses, uprooted trees, washed away all local boats and scattered debris across the island, Fiji Broadcasting Corp. reported Wednesday.

It received a brief phone call from an unnamed man at Vuninuku village on the island who said damage was so massive that it would take two days to clear the way to the only school near the village.

Before it could get the villager’s name, the phone line to the island went dead again, the state-owned station said. A surveillance flight will check the island later Wednesday and a navy patrol boat is expected to reach there Thursday.

National Disaster Management Office spokesman Pajiliai Dobui said aerial surveillance was already under way over some northern islands “and we hope to tell from the air how serious the damage has been.”

Offshore islands remained out of all contact “so we have still not got any word about casualties,” he said.

Power, water, sewage and communications were still disrupted in many northern areas, but a key airport at Labasa in northern Vanua Levu had reopened for emergency supply flights.

Troops have been deployed to provide relief, including food, water and basic supplies.

Anthony Blake, relief coordinator at the Disaster Management Office, said shelter was top priority after preliminary reports indicated Tomas had caused “extensive damage” to the Lau group and the northern island of Cikobia.

“The people are living in caves at the moment,” he said.

A New Zealand air force Hercules airplane that surveyed some northern areas found that “quite a few villages look like they have been hit pretty hard,” Squadron Leader Kavae Tamariki told New Zealand’s Stuff news Web site.

Many homes had lost their roofs and some houses were destroyed, he said, adding that not many people were seen. “We think they have fled to safety inland,” Tamariki said.

Fiji’s commissioner for its northern region, Col. Inia Seruratu, who was on board the flight, said he was confident most people were safe since they had received plenty of warning.

——–Associated Press

U.S. Fed to hold rates low as economy slowly improves

A television indicates that the Fed will keep interest rates unchanged on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York on Tuesday

Interest rates will be held in the range of 0-0.25 per cent for an extended period in anticipation of “low rates of resource utilization, subdued inflation trends, and stable inflation expectations”, the United States Federal Reserve’s said

Interest rates will be held in the range of 0-0.25 per cent for an extended period in anticipation of “low rates of resource utilization, subdued inflation trends, and stable inflation expectations”, the United States Federal Reserve’s said today.

Following the Fed’s announcement, equity markets closed at an 18-month high and US Treasury yields declined, according to reports.

The Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee, which last met in January, hinted at improving conditions in the U.S. economy, pointing out that business spending on equipment and software rose “significantly” and household spending expanded moderately. However the latter remained constrained by high unemployment, modest income growth, lower housing wealth, and tight credit, the FOMC cautioned.

The FOMC added a note of explanation on its efforts to bolster the mortgage finance market through credit securities purchases. “To provide support to mortgage lending and housing markets and to improve overall conditions in private credit markets, the Federal Reserve has been purchasing $1.25 trillion of agency mortgage-backed securities and about $175 billion of agency debt,” it said.

Commenting on the overall macroeconomic picture the FOMC said that economic activity continued to strengthen and that “the labor market is stabilizing”. However, it added that employers remain reluctant to add to payrolls. With substantial resource slack continuing to restrain cost pressures and longer-term inflation expectations stable, inflation is likely to be subdued for some time.

Nine out of ten members of the FOMC voted for the FOMC to hold rates low. The one dissent vote came from Thomas M. Hoenig, who held that “continuing to express the expectation of exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period was no longer warranted because it could lead to the build-up of financial imbalances and increase risks to longer-run macroeconomic and financial stability.”

There was match-fixing: Pak panel

A parliamentary panel on Monday made a stunning disclosure that some Pakistani cricketers were involved in match-fixing during the recent tour of Australia but declined to name the players involved.

The three-member sub-committee of the Senate Committee on Sports made the revelation after a meeting with Pakistan Cricket Board officials, including its chairman Ejaz Butt, at the Gaddafi Stadium here.

“The sub-committee was briefed on the tour with documents, and there are verbal, video and solid proofs that one or more players were involved in match-fixing,” said Haroon Akhtar, a member of the sub-committee.

Recently PCB Chairman Ejaz Butt had denied about match-fixing reports in Australia, where Pakistan lost all the matches, after admitting the same in a press conference.

Changing his stand, after a furore was created, Mr. Butt had said that he referred to old players and not the current one.

The sub-committee is headed by Ghaffar Qureshi and its third member is Tahir Mashadi.