Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Prince Harry: My Family Is Quite Funny - Behind Closed Doors

He may be a prince, but Harry prides himself as a royal jester.

During his four-country tour, which just wrapped up in Brazil this weekend, Harry says he was overwhelmed with emotion at seeing the love for his grandmother.

But what people may not realize, he says, is what a good sense of humor the Queen has, something she picked up from husband Prince Philip.

"They are very funny together. My family is the same as any other family when it comes to humor behind closed doors," he says, then adds, "though I'd like think I was funnier than my grandmother."

14th century castle gutted in blaze sparked by two young boys

An historic 14th Century castle was gutted in a fire sparked by children trying their first cigarette.
Police say two boys set fire to some tinder dry grass at the foot of the imposing Krasna Horka in eastern Slovakia after sneaking in to the castle grounds to experiment with smoking.
Jana Mesarova, police spokesman for the eastern Slovak region of Kosice, said: ‘A unit sent to the site found that two local boys aged 11 and 12 were trying to light up a cigarette and because of careless use of safety matches, they set grass at the castle hill on fire.'
Children under the age of 15 cannot be prosecuted in Slovakia.
More than 80 firefighters were called to tackle the ensuing inferno which tore through the ancient hill-top building within minutes.
The castle's fraught caretakers rushed throughout the sprawling corridors and rooms trying to rescue some of the priceless antiques and works of art.

The Slovak National Museum wrote on its Facebook page that damage to the castle was extensive but about 90 percent of historical collections were saved.
A collection of contemporary photographs of the furnished castle premises, from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as oil paintings and various ornaments were brought out unscathed.

The museum said: 'The castle’s roof burned down completely, as well as the new exhibition in the gothic palace and the bell tower. Three bells melted.'
The castle is near the UNESCO-protected Domica Cave.
During 2010 and 2011, the castle underwent a major renovation and was re-opened to public in April, last year.


Monday, 12 March 2012

Vietnam to send Buddhist monks to Spratly Islands

Vietnam is sending six Buddhist monks to re-establish abandoned temples on islands that are the subject of a bitter territorial dispute with China.
The temples were last inhabited in 1975, but were recently renovated as part of efforts to assert Vietnamese sovereignty over the Spratly Islands.

China, Vietnam and four other nations claim parts of the sparsely populated islands in the South China Sea.
The area is believed to hold vast oil and gas reserves.
The monks' delegation is being organised by the local authorities in the southern province of Khanh Hoa, which exercises administrative responsibility for the islands on behalf of Vietnam.
It has also paid for the refurbishment of the island shrines. They include three larger temples and several smaller ones.
The monks have been appointed abbots of the island temples for a six-month period.
Their duties will include taking care of the shrines and attending to the spiritual needs of the islands' small population.

The islands have no indigenous population and just a smattering of military and industrial settlements.
One of the monks, Thich Giac Nghia, told the BBC's Vietnamese Service he had volunteered to go to the Spratlys
He said he had been inspired to do so while officiating at services commemorating the deaths of three Vietnamese sailors killed in a 1988 naval skirmish with China near the islands.
Thich Giac Nghia said he would pray for "anyone of the Vietnamese race" lost at sea in defence of Vietnam's claim to the archipelago.
"I will offer prayers for them to empower their souls to reach peace and relieve their sufferings."
Along with China and Vietnam, parts of the islands are claimed by the the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Imam dies in mosque arson attack in Belgian capital

An imam has been killed in a fire at a Shia mosque in the Brussels suburb of Anderlecht, in what is believed to have been a deliberate attack.
The mayor of Anderlecht was quoted by local media as saying the suspect had thrown a petrol bomb at the mosque on Monday evening.
Initial reports say the imam, 47, died of smoke inhalation and that one other person was injured.
Officials were quoted as saying a man was detained at the mosque.
"A suspect was taken into custody at the scene," police spokeswoman Marie Verbeke told AFP news agency.

"A dozen worshippers were waiting to pray when someone entered with a bag," eyewitness Azzedine Laghmish told national broadcaster RTBF.
"Inside there was a container full of petrol which he threw into the centre of the room", Mr Laghmish said.
"The fire took hold very quickly. The imam tried to put it out but he found himself stuck in a room", he added.
Local media reports say dozens of local people have gathered near the mosque.
Belgian Interior Minister Joelle Milquet said she was "very shocked by the events that have occurred."

Yahoo sues Facebook over 10 disputed patents in the US

Yahoo has filed an intellectual property lawsuit against Facebook.
Yahoo claims the social network has infringed 10 of its patents including systems and methods for advertising on the web. Facebook denies the allegation.
The move comes ahead of Facebook's planned flotation later this year.
Patent litigation has become common between the smartphone makers, but this marks a new front in the battles between the tech giants.

A statement from Yahoo suggested the web portal believed it has a strong case.
"Yahoo's patents relate to cutting edge innovations in online products, including in messaging, news feed generation, social commenting, advertising display, preventing click fraud and privacy controls," its suit said.
"Facebook's entire social network model, which allows users to create profiles and connect with, among other things, persons and businesses, is based on Yahoo's patented social networking technology.
The social network signalled that it believed that Yahoo had not tried hard to settle the matter without involving the courts. It described Yahoo's action as "puzzling".
"We're disappointed that Yahoo, a longtime business partner of Facebook and a company that has substantially benefited from its association with Facebook, has decided to resort to litigation," it added.
History repeating The case has echoes of Yahoo's decision to sue Google ahead of its flotation in 2004. That dispute centred over patents that Yahoo had acquired the previous year as part of its takeover of pay-per-position specialist Overture.
Google ultimately settled the case by issuing 2.7 million shares to its rival.
"It's reasonable that Yahoo would want to try this tactic again as it worked in the past," BGC Partner's New York-based technology analyst Colin Gillis told the BBC.
"But there's an air of desperation about this - it's unlikely that they will get easy money from Facebook. This isn't going to derail the IPO."
Yahoo recently overhauled its board appointing Scott Thompson as its chief executive in January. The former Paypal executive replaced Carol Bartz who had been ousted in September.
Yahoo's co-founder, Jerry Yang, also resigned from the board in January. The firm's chairman and three other board members announced their decision to step down shortly afterwards.
The Wall Street Journal had reported that many Yahoo employees expected fresh job cuts following consecutive quarters of revenue declines.
Test case Mr Thompson's decision to sue may secure fresh funds or other assets if the courts rule in his favour.
"This is particularly interesting as it is one of the first patent cases concerning social media," said Andrea Matwyshyn, assistant professor of legal studies at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
"The patentability of computer code is uncertain and recently several groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Computer and Communications Industry Association have asked the US Supreme Court to examine the state of the law and accept a case to clarify when computer code can be protected through patent.
"This may be a case that advances past the district court and at least reaches the appellate court level - one notch below the Supreme Court - if the two parties do not settle first."
The latest suit was filed in the US district court for the northern district of California.

No rush for Afghan exit after killings, says Obama

US President Barack Obama has promised that international forces will not "rush for the exits" in Afghanistan, after an American soldier was accused of murdering 16 civilians.
Mr Obama said foreign troops must be withdrawn in a responsible way.
The killings in Kandahar province have strained relations between Afghans and foreign forces.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta says the suspect could face the death penalty, if found guilty.
Mr Panetta said that the intention was to try the case in a US military court.
Asked whether the soldier, who gave himself up, had confessed to the alleged crimes, the US defence secretary said: "I suspect that that was the case."
'More determined'
Mr Obama told local CBS station KDKA that the shooting was "absolutely heartbreaking and tragic".
When asked if the incident had made him think that the troop withdrawal should be quickened up, he said: "It makes me more determined to make sure we're getting our troops home."
He added: "What we don't want to do is to do it in a way that is just a rush for the exits."
Mr Obama said that international forces had to make sure the Afghans could secure their borders and stop al-Qaeda from getting back into the country.
Afghan MPs passed a motion earlier saying Afghans had run out of patience.
The Taliban has promised revenge attacks. But a tribal elder told the BBC that he would not be calling for protests.
Anti-US sentiment is already high after soldiers burned some copies of the Koran at a Nato base in Kabul last month, sparking deadly riots across the country.
'Turned himself in' Details about the shootings are still unclear, but the American soldier left his base in the southern province of Kandahar in the early hours of Sunday and went on a rampage in nearby villages.
Locals told reporters how they cowered in fear as the man made his way from door to door, trying to get into their houses.
"I saw a man, he dragged a woman by her hair and banged her head repeatedly against the wall. She didn't say a word," one witness said.
He broke into three houses and killed 16 people, most of them women and children. He then burned their bodies, according to reports.
The US defence secretary gave this account of events:
"He went out in the early morning and went to these homes and fired on these families. And then at some point after that, came back to the forward operating base and basically turned himself in, told individuals what had happened."
Pentagon officials said they would not release his name while the investigation was going on.
Reports said the soldier was in his 30s with three children.
He had been deployed to Afghanistan in December for his first tour of duty there after serving three times in Iraq.

Wayne Rooney double fires manchester united to top spot

Manchester United 2 West Bromwich Albion 0: When it came to guessing which of the Manchester clubs would blink first it was always worth remembering that Sir Alex Ferguson's sides could outstare a cobra.
Before an ultimately one-sided contest began the Manchester United manager announced he wanted to "ignite the chemistry that exists between ourselves and the supporters. It is a potent formula."
The match itself did not produce the heat of an average Bunsen burner but, when the news came through that Swansea had found the net against Manchester City, the excitement rolled around Old Trafford with the sound of an Atlantic breaker. They were standing up for the champions.
No scanning of the fixture list in June can predict when the season's decisive moment will come. Arsenal blew two title challenges at Bolton in 2003 and Birmingham five years later and this had a similar feel of a tipping point.
Two seasons ago, Wayne Rooney found the net 34 times, which did not impede Chelsea's relentless march to the Double at all. This time, he has 26 and it is now more than likely that it will be rewarded with significant silverware.
This, however, was a more difficult fixture than it looked. Last season, West Bromwich Albion were the only team to take points from Manchester United at Old Trafford and they came into this match on the back of two victories, against Wolverhampton and Chelsea, that resulted in their opponents' managers being fired.
West Bromwich resisted reasonably well until Rooney broke through from nowhere. Once Jonas Olsson's second yellow card had reduced them to 10 men with nearly half an hour remaining, Roy Hodgson's main thought had been to get his team on to the southbound M6 without a hammering. In this he succeeded. "There are not many teams of our ilk who come here and put Manchester United under enormous pressure," he said. "If you do get a result here, you do it with a tin hat on."
What differentiates the great sportsmen is their ability to see a ball or an opportunity fractionally before their opponent. When Paul Scholes delivered a lovely chip over the top to Javier Hernandez, the Mexican unleashed what may have been a cross but could have been a shot. It was either going into the advertising boards or the keeper's gloves. Instead, Rooney anticipated its flight and met it just before the goalkeeper. It was extraordinarily good, so much so that Ferguson thought his forward must have been offside.
In Europe, Manchester United have seemed horribly fragile – Basle, Ajax and Athletic Bilbao, good teams but not part of Europe's elite, have scored eight times in three matches here. However, in the Premier League at least, the old aura has returned.
"I don't think we have had the credit we deserved over the last few months," Rooney said. "Europe has been disappointing, fair enough, but we have played well against the big teams recently and, though we have not always been at our best, we are where we want to be." This may have been the decisive day but the decisive results had come in London, at Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham – games that at Eastlands they might have expected United to lose.
Here, much of Manchester United's real creativity came from the boots of Ashley Young but whenever Rooney intervened, West Bromwich suddenly and significantly looked threatened.
Immediately after Peter Odemwingie had made a bid for the most flagrant dive of the season – although Hodgson thought Patrice Evra had fouled his forward – Rooney broke away lethally. He fed Hernandez, who drove a shot hard against Ben Foster's post in front of the Stretford End.
Then another long, teasing ball from Scholes evaded both Hernandez and Foster and found Danny Welbeck facing goal at a tight but not impossible angle. However, the shot was pushed wide and Ferguson ran his hands through steel-grey hair. "It was worrying," he reflected afterwards. "If you don't score the second to take the pressure off, then you start to think all kinds of things will happen."
His anxiety would have shifted up a level when Lee Probert, having dismissed Olsson, rejected two penalty appeals for a tackle on Welbeck and a handball. Eventually, Keith Andrews bundled over Young and United got their penalty.
Rooney sent Foster the wrong way for goal 26. This game was over; the only question was how the one in Wales would end and the roar that crashed around Old Trafford told its own story.

Rogue US soldier kills at least 16 Afghan civilians

KANDAHAR: A US soldier went on a shooting rampage in southern Afghanistan on Sunday, bursting into the homes of civilians in villages near his base in the middle of the night and killing up to 16 people, an Afghan minister told reporters.

Minister of border and tribal affairs Asadullah Khalid, who is investigating the incident, said the soldier entered three homes, killing 11 people in the first one.

Other Afghan officials said at least seven people died. The incident came just weeks after US soldiers burned copies of large numbers of Qurans at a NATO base, triggering widespread anti-Western protests, and plunging already strained ties between Kabul and Washington to a new low.

The soldier has been detained and an investigation is underway, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition said.

Civilian casualties have been a major source of friction between president Hamid Karzai's Western-backed government and US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.

"I cannot explain the motivation behind such callous acts, but they were in no way part of authorized ISAF military activity," ISAF deputy commander Lt Gen Adrian Bradshaw said in a statement.

Egyptian Military Court Acquits Doctor in 'Virginity Test' Case

An Egyptian military court has acquitted a doctor of forcing a “virginity test” on a female protester detained last year. Rights activists are condemning the verdict.

The judge at the military tribunal said conflicting testimony led him to find the accused doctor, Ahmed Adel, not guilty of “public indecency” and “disobeying military orders.”

Protester Samira Ibrahim brought the case against Adel after being detained during protests last March. She was among seven women who gave accounts they had been forced to undergo what are called virginity tests, a practice denounced by human rights groups and the military itself.

Protesters outside the military courtroom Sunday reacted angrily, chanting for the downfall of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Ibrahim briefly collapsed after the verdict was passed.
The case was seen as a key test of reform in post-revolution Egypt. Human rights groups that followed the case said military leaders last year acknowledged that virginity tests had been carried out to protect soldiers from allegations of rape, but had vowed to ban their future use. In December, a civilian court ruled that the tests be outlawed.

But the military tribunal which heard Ibrahim's complaint said it could not establish the tests had been used.

Heba Morayef of Human Rights Watch says she was very disappointed, but not surprised.

“Today was Samira's chance for justice, to see somebody punished for sexually assaulting her, because this is what the virginity test in detention amounts to, and to have her dignity restored in the eyes of the public. And, instead, she has had the opposite. The Egyptian justice system, the military justice system has failed her - as expected perhaps - but the repercussions of this are great.”

Many of Ibrahim's supporters said that with the military still running the country, they, too, had not expected a conviction. They noted the case had already been downplayed, with the court dropping Ibrahim's charge of rape. In comments carried by Egyptian state media, the judge said he had not come under any pressure in making his decision.

Ibrahim was among a larger group of women detained by the military during continuing protests after the Egyptian uprising last year. According to testimony given to human rights groups by several of those involved, married and unmarried women were separated, and the unmarried women were subjected to the tests.

Rights groups have lauded Ibrahim for going public with her account.

Human Rights Watch researcher Morayef:

"This was extremely brave, not only because at the time the military was directly involved in torture and the excessive use of force against the demonstrations and seemed to have absolute power, but also because Samira knew very well the risks she was running in terms of the potential reputation backlash, because of the nature of the crime she has experienced.”

Morayef notes that Egyptian women very rarely come forward because of the social stigma many in the country attach to victims of sexual crimes.

The so-called virginity tests are an inaccurate way some governments and individuals use to see if a woman has had sexual relations. Doctors often examine whether the hymen has torn, something that can happen for a variety of reasons unrelated to sex. Rights activists also describe the test as humiliating and a gross violation of privacy.

Bomb kills 13 in northwest Pakistan ‎

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A suicide bomber attacked a funeral attended by an anti-Taliban politician in northwest Pakistan on Sunday, killing at least 13 mourners and wounding 30 others, police said.

The politician, Khush Dil Khan, escaped unhurt in the blast on the outskirts of Peshawar, the main city in the northwest.

Islamist militants are fighting a vicious war against Pakistani security forces in and around Peshawar, which lies close to border regions with Afghanistan where extremists hold sway. Many hundreds have been killed over the last few years.

Police officer Abid Rehman said the attacker managed to get inside the compound where funeral prayers were being held in Badhber village. He said several of the wounded people were in critical condition.

"We are devastated," said Zahir Khan, 32, weeping while lying in a hospital bed. His elder brother died in the attack. He said they were chatting when the bomb went off. "I never knew I was going to lose my brother forever."

Khan, the politician, comes from the secular-leaning Awami National Party that holds power in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. He expressed his party's resolve to continue the struggle against militancy. "It is a fight for the country's survival," he said.

The Pakistani Taliban have targeted several of its leaders in the past. The party has supported various Pakistani military operations against the militants.

On Saturday, security forces claimed to have killed 39 militants in fighting in Bara district in Khyber tribal region, which is close to Peshawar and is the current focus of anti-Taliban operations. Four security force members were also killed, according to a brief statement from the paramilitary Frontier Corps.

The police said it was not yet clear whether the bombing could be a reaction to the latest fighting.

Demonstration march in New York to mark Tibet uprising

New York: A 2,000-person strong demonstration marched on UN headquarters in New York to mark the anniversary of Tibet's failed revolt against Chinese rule.

The demonstration denouncing the treatment of Tibetans began at the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday before heading uptown to the United Nations headquarters.

Lhamo Tso, wife of the detained Tibetan documentary maker Dhondup Wangchen, addressed the crowd, as she blamed Chinese rule for a wave of self-immolations by protesters in her homeland.

Then the march wrapped up with a candlelight vigil at Union Square.

"We want the freedom of Tibet and the return of Dalai Lama," said Sonam Gyatso, vice president of the Tibetan Community of New York and New Jersey.

Tibet's government-in-exile in India earlier blamed China's "hardline" leaders for a string of Tibetan self-immolations as it marked the anniversary.

In the past year, more than 20 Tibetans, most of them monks, have set themselves ablaze to protest Beijing's rule, sparking international condemnation of what critics call religious and cultural repression.

Gyatso slammed China over the self-immolations, saying: "They cannot tolerate Chinese repression."

China blames the Dalai Lama of inciting the self-immolations in a bid to split Tibet from the rest of the nation.

Roman Catholic Church on Gay marriage

The Roman Catholic Church  in England and Wales is intensifying its campaign against the Government's plan to legalize same-sex marriage.
In letter being read in 2,500 parish churches,the Church's two most senior archbishops say the change  would reduce the significance of marriage.The letter says Roman Catholics have a duty to make sure it does not happen.
The government wants to introduce gay marriage by 2015, but says churches would not have to perform weddings.

Last week Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, said the "grotesque" plans would "shame the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world" if implemented.
And on Friday, in a speech to visiting US bishops, Pope Benedict XVI warned of "powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage", in the wake of the US states of Washington and Maryland legalising same-sex marriage.
Civil partnerships were introduced in 2005 to give same-sex couples similar legal rights to married couples, but the law does not allow such unions to be referred to as marriages.
The letter by Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, and Archbishop Peter Smith - the Archbishop of Southwark - tells Catholics that changing the nature of marriage would be a "profoundly radical step" that would reduce its effectiveness and significance.
In one passage the archbishops write: "There are many reasons why people get married. For most couples, there is an instinctive understanding that the stability of a marriage provides the best context for the flourishing of their relationship and for bringing up their children.
"Society recognises marriage as an important institution for these same reasons: to enhance stability in society and to respect and support parents in the crucial task of having children and bringing them up as well as possible."
They also add that changing the law would "gradually and inevitably transform society's understanding of the purpose of marriage.
"There would be no recognition of the complementarity of male and female or that marriage is intended for the procreation and education of children."
The letter ends by telling Catholics they have a "duty to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations".
Ben Summerskill, from the lesbian and gay charity Stonewall, said most people who heard the letter would ignore its contents.
"It's a shame Catholic church leaders are so deeply opposed to a 21st-century balance of rights that they're not reading out letters about serious issues such as the Aids crisis in Africa or the 2.5 million children who live in poverty in this country.
"We're sure most churchgoers will be as opposed to their leaders on this issue as they are on birth control," he said.
Mark Dowd, from the group Quest, which represents lesbian and gay Catholics, said the archbishops were out of touch as other countries had begun to make changes.
"Probably the Archbishop resembles King Canute standing on the shores with the waves coming in. It's really a question of the tide of history turning and there's very little that can be done about it."
Speaking at the Liberal Democrat spring conference, the party's leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg gave his support to gay marriage, saying the "freedom to love who you choose is a fundamental right in a liberal society".
Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone will launch a consultation later this month on how to make civil marriage available to same-sex couples. She has said she wants to challenge the view that the government does not have the right to change marriage traditions.
The Catholic journal The Tablet reports that the question of whether gay marriage should be allowed at all will be included in the consultation.
The Scottish government has held a consultation process north of the border and received more than 50,000 responses.