India and Pakistan restart formal talks process
India and Pakistan have begun their first formal talks since the devastating attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay) at the end of 2008.
The BBC Thursday, 25 February 2010
On the eve of the talks in Delhi, the two states exchanged terse allegations over the disputed territory of Kashmir.
Indian border guards in Kashmir said they came under fire from Pakistan on Wednesday, a claim denied by Islamabad.
The conflicting claims coincided with the arrival of the Pakistani foreign secretary in Delhi for the talks.
Thursday’s meetings are the first between the two nuclear-armed neighbours since the Mumbai attacks 15 months ago.
India says those attacks were carried out by Pakistan-based militants. Pakistan has admitted they were partly planned on its soil.
BRINGING BACK MARS LIFE
PM by Alan Boyle
Fifty years after NASA began grappling with the idea of life beyond our planet, it’s in the midst of planning missions to bring potential traces of Martian life back to Earth … again.
NASA’s goal of looking for extraterrestrial life is almost as old as the space agency itself: In 1960, a bioscience advisory committee recommended that NASA should get involved in exobiology as well as space medicine, and in that same year the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was authorized to start figuring out what kind of spacecraft would be needed to search for life on Mars.
In the 1970s, NASA’s Viking missions to Mars included experiments that scientists thought would reveal whether life exists there – but the results were inconclusive at best. NASA researchers also found evidence of bacteria-like “nanofossils” in meteorites that were blasted away from the Red Planet and fell to Antarctica. Those findings are still under debate as well.
Democrats looking beyond health-care summit to final talks within party
By Shailagh Murray and Lori Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Congressional Democrats are already looking beyond the White House health-care summit, reckoning that Thursday’s session will amount to little more than political theater and focusing instead on a final round of intraparty negotiations that are likely to determine the fate of President Obama’s top domestic priority.
Although Obama is billing the White House gathering as an opportunity for Republicans to air their ideas for reform, Democrats do not expect it to reveal much common ground and are showing little willingness to abandon the basic outline of legislation that the House and Senate have approved.
GM’s sale of Hummer falls through
The automaker says it’s unable to complete a deal to sell its SUV brand to a Chinese industrial company. It plans to wind down Hummer operations, which would affect about 3,000 workers.
By Jerry Hirsch
February 25, 2010
The hulking Hummer SUV brand looks to be headed for extinction.
General Motors Co. said Wednesday that it was unable to complete a deal to sell its Hummer line to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co., a Chinese industrial company.
Now Hummer is expected to follow GM’s Saturn and Pontiac nameplates into oblivion. GM shed those brands as part of its bankruptcy restructuring last year so that it could focus on its more successful Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac brands.
Google guilty of privacy crime in web test case
Three executives convicted in Italy after school bullying video was uploaded
By Michael Day in milan and Robert Verkaik Thursday, 25 February 2010
Three Google executives were convicted yesterday in a landmark privacy case that critics said could severely curtail internet freedom.
In what privacy experts described as a “chilling ruling”, a judge in Milan imposed suspended prison sentences on the men who he said were criminally liable for allowing the posting of a clip on Google’s video service which featured the bullying of an autistic child.
Google’s senior vice-president and chief legal officer, David Drummond, the former Google Italy board member George De Los Reyes and global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, were all found guilty of violating the boy’s privacy.
Environmental disaster feared as oil slick flows down Italy’s longest river
Environmental campaigners have warned of impending disaster after saboteurs attacked a disused refinery, resulting in a massive oil slick on Italy’s Po River.
Published: 7:00AM GMT 25 Feb 2010
Oil moved downstream along the Lambro river, passing three barriers placed to block and absorb the slick, and flowed into the Po near the northern city of Piacenza, officials said.
Prosecutors in the town of Monza, near Milan, have begun an investigation into the spill, while the president of Monza province, Dario Allevi, called the incident “a true act of environmental terrorism”.
Monia Maccarini, a spokeswoman for the Lombardy region’s environmental protection agency (ARPA), said the spill involved at least 260,000 gallons of oil, and probably much more.
Mystery over Dubai killing of Hamas official deepens
Fifteen new suspects and six more UK passports faked, with Britons stunned at having identities stolen
Ian Black and Rory McCarthy
The web of intrigue surrounding the death of a senior Hamas official became more tangled today after Dubai police identified a further 15 members of an alleged Mossad squad who carried out the assassination, including another six who used apparently fake British passports.
The announcement brings to 26 the total number of people, six of them women, suspected of involvement in Mahmoud al-Mabhouh’s assassination, which is widely believed to have been the work of Israel’s secret service, the Mossad. Israel has flatly refused to comment.
The six new British names are Mark Daniel Sklar, Roy Allan Cannon, Daniel Marc Schnur, Philip Carr, Stephen Keith Drake and Gabriella Barney.
Son of Hamas founder spied for Israel to stop bombers
From The Times
February 25, 2010
James Hider in Jerusalem
The son of one of Hamas’s founding members was a spy in the service of Israel for more than a decade, helping to prevent dozens of Islamist suicide bombers from finding their targets, it emerged yesterday.
Codenamed the “Green Prince” by Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of the Hamas co-founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef, supplied key intelligence almost daily from 1996. He tracked down suicide bombers and their handlers from his father’s organisation, the Haaretz newspaper said.
Nato admits that deaths of 8 boys were a mistake
From The Times
February 25, 2010
Jerome Starkey, Kabul
A night-time raid in eastern Afghanistan in which eight schoolboys from one family were killed was carried out on the basis of faulty intelligence and should never have been authorised, a Times investigation has found.
Ten children and teenagers died when troops stormed a remote mountain compound near the border with Pakistan in December.
At the time, Nato claimed that the assault force was targeting a “known insurgent group responsible for a series of violent attacks”.
Obscure Chinese painter Qi Baishi is third top earning artist
A Chinese painter who is little-known to Western art lovers has become the world’s third best-selling artist.
Published: 7:00AM GMT 25 Feb 2010
Qi Baishi, who was born to peasants and has received no formal artistic training, made $70m in sales in 2009.
The only artists to earn more were Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, whose works raised more than $220 million (£143 million) in sales between them, the Times reports.
While still relatively unknown outside China, Qi is a household name in his home country.
The artist, who died in 1957, is so well loved because his work is original and striking, and – because he was so prolific – it is in plentiful supply.
He is best known for his pictures of mice, birds and shrimps.
His ranking on the Art Price list, which is compiled from 6,000 auction houses around the globe, reflects the changing landscape of the art market.
Nigeria’s ailing leader flies back under cover of darkness
Doubts remain about whether he is well enough to resume power amid fears of a power struggle with deputy
By Daniel Howden, Africa Correspondent Thursday, 25 February 2010
Nigeria is facing a new period of uncertainty after the sudden and secretive return of its seriously ill President cast doubt over who is charge of Africa’s most populous country.
With the ink barely dry on the temporary handover of power to the Vice -President, Goodluck Jonathan, Omaru Yar’Adua has been rushed back to Nigeria amid concerns in his inner circle that he was in danger of being permanently ousted.
He arrived in the early hours of yesterday morning and was whisked to the presidential villa in Abuja by ambulance amid tight security and without any official government reception.
UN: Latin America undermining drug war by decriminalizing drugs
The UN, in its annual report released today, said Latin America is undermining the drug war by decriminalizing small amounts of drugs.
By Sara Miller Llana Staff writer / February 24, 2010
Latin America, being asked to stop decriminalizing drugs, received a harsh slap on the wrist by a United Nations body today for the burgeoning movement in various countries to decriminalize small amounts of drugs.Drug reform activists have hailed the moves as a new approach that refocuses resources on big-time traffickers and views drug abuse as a health problem instead of a police problem. (How Mexico quietly decriminalized drug use.)
But the Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), in its annual report released today, stated its concern over Latin America’s “growing movement to decriminalize the possession of controlled drugs, in particular cannabis.”
After decades of hewing to the US’s tough stance, some Latin American nations in recent months have moved toward more leniency for personal possession, particularly of marijuana. (How Latin America is breaking ranks with the US.)