TOKYO – Asian stock markets advanced Thursday after Spain’s deficit reduction plan eased worries about Europe’s debt mountain and good economic news sent U.S. stocks sharply higher.Japan’s benchmark Nikkei
225 stock average rose 1.6 percent to 10,556.78. Solid corporate earnings results also boosted sentiment in Tokyo.South Korea’s Kospi gained 1.4 percent to 1,686.28 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.4 percent to 20,289.18. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index was up 1.2 percent at 4,625.40 and benchmarks in mainland China, Singapore and Taiwan also climbed.The Asian rally followed a big day on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones industrial average climbed 148.65 points, or 1.4 percent, to 10,896.91 — the highest level since May 4.Spain announced a plan Wednesday to cut its big deficit, and analysts say the market’s rebound from last week’s drop reflects growing confidence that Europe’s debt problems are contained for now. Economic reports from the U.S. and Europe also helped reassure markets that the global recovery is intact.Investors moved into tech stocks ahead of earnings from network gear maker Cisco Systems Inc. and following upbeat forecasts from Intel Corp. and IBM Corp.The tech buying extended to Asia, boosting shares of South Korean chip makers. Samsung Electronics Co. jumped 2.4 percent, while Hynix Semiconductor Inc. surged 3.5 percent. Advantest Corp., a Japanese maker of memory chip testers, shot up 3.2 percent.Sony Corp. added nearly 3 percent ahead of its annual earnings release later Thursday. The Japanese electronics and entertainment company is expected to book a far smaller net loss for last fiscal year through March 31.The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 1.4 percent to 1,171.67 on Wednesday while the Nasdaq rose 2.1 percent to 2,425.02.Benchmark crude for June delivery was down 7 cents at $75.58 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, extending the previous day’s big drop after the International Energy Agency said global oil demand is expected to rise less than previously expected in 2010.In currencies, the dollar fell to 93.16 yen from 93.21 yen. The euro edged up to $1.2650 from $1.2628 late Wednesday.
7 children killed at China school in latest attack By ALEXA OLESEN, Associated Press
HANZHONG, China – A man charged into a kindergarten in northwestern China with a cleaver Wednesday and hacked to death seven children and two adults — the fifth such rampage in less than two months. The attacker then went home and killed himself.The assault, which left 11 other children hospitalized, occurred despite heightened security countrywide, with gates and cameras installed at some schools and additional police and guards posted at entrances.It was not clear if security had been increased at the school on the outskirts of Hanzhong, a relatively poor area in the heart of China. Images taken from local TV and posted online showed the school, which only had about 20 students, in a tumble-down, two-story farmhouse.Sociologists say the recent attacks that have left 17 dead and scores wounded reflect the tragic consequences of ignoring mental illness and rising stress resulting from huge social inequalities in China’s fast-changing society.”The perpetrators have contracted a ‘social psychological infectious disease’ that shows itself in a desire to take revenge on society,” said Zhou Xiaozheng of Beijing’s Renmin University.”They pick children as targets because they are the weakest and most vulnerable,” Zhou said.Wednesday’s carnage started as class was beginning at 8:20 a.m. at the private Shengshui Temple Kindergarten, the local government said.The assailant, identified as 48-year-old Wu Huanming, entered the kindergarten and killed school administrator Wu Hongying and a student on the spot, then began hacking at the 18 others, according to the city government’s statement.Six students and Wu Hongying’s 80-year-old mother died later in the hospital of their wounds, it said. None of the 11 hospitalized survivors was in immediate danger.Wu is a common Chinese surname, and it wasn’t clear if the assailant and administrator were related.Citing the police, the official Xinhua News Agency said Wu Huanming had rented his house to Wu Hongying for the kindergarten without government approval. He then demanded the property back, but Wu Hongying had asked to hold onto it until the children went on summer vacation.The ages of the children killed were not disclosed, but kindergarten students would typically be 5 or younger. Xinhua said they were five boys and two girls.The recent attacks are classic „copycat crimes,” the effects of which may be amplified by media coverage, Zhou said.Boosting security at schools would provide only a temporary solution unless the root problems of social injustice and economic inequality are addressed, he said.It’s also difficult to protect so many places.About 500 kindergartens, primary and high schools in Beijing have hired more than 2,000 professional security guards to increase safety, said He Gang, a police officer at the Beijing Public Security Bureau. Thousands more guards are needed for the city’s remaining 4,500 kindergartens, primary and high schools, He said.Early reports on Wednesday’s attack were removed from Chinese websites or moved to less prominent pages. There was no mention of it on state television’s national evening news report — which instead announced an urgent directive from the education and public security ministries to further protect schools.State media have steered clear of examining what might be motivating school attackers, preferring to focus on security. The government has sought to show it has the problem under control, mindful especially of worries among middle-class families who, limited in most cases to one child due to population control policies, invest huge amounts of money and effort to raise their offspring. Recent scandals in which children have been the main victims have sparked public anger and occasional protests, such as when at least 3,000 children across China were found to have lead poisoning from polluting factories built too close to villages, and more than 300,000 infants were sickened by tainted baby milk powder. The Hanzhong city government vowed to „leave no stone unturned, learn from the mistakes, and strictly ensure nothing happens like this again.” The city government said about 2,000 police officers and security guards had been assigned to patrol public schools, kindergartens and surrounding areas beginning last week. The city has a population of nearly 4 million. Parents and grandparents waiting to pick up children at schools in Beijing and Shanghai said they were reassured by the increased security.”When we hear about those attacks on children, all parents worry. We don’t let the child walk home alone,” said Guo Xiumei, 52, waiting to pick up her 7-year-old grandson at Beijing’s Yonganli Elementary School. Two police officers and a pair of security guards flanked the downtown school’s tall metal gate.In Shanghai, a father waiting in his car outside the Aiguo Elementary School, where a single uniformed policeman stood watch at the gate, said he would adjust his work schedule to drop off and pick up his daughter.”Who knows how those people think? They shouldn’t take out their dissatisfaction with society on innocent children. It’s not fair,” said the man, who gave only his surname, Su.The string of assaults began with an attack on a primary school in March in the city of Nanping, where eight children were slashed to death by a former doctor with a history of mental health problems.The man convicted for that crime was executed April 28, the same day a 33-year-old former teacher broke into a primary school in the southern city of Leizhou and wounded 15 students and a teacher with a knife.The following day, in the city of Taixing, a 47-year-old unemployed man with a knife wounded 29 kindergarten students — five seriously — plus two teachers and a security guard.Hours later, a farmer hit five elementary students with a hammer in the eastern city of Weifang before burning himself to death.Associated Press writer Gillian Wong, Christopher Bodeen and researcher Xi Yue in Beijing and researcher Ji Chen in Shanghai contributed to this report.
9 indicted on charges of accessing Obama records By MICHAEL J. CRUMB, Associated Press
DES MOINES, Iowa – Nine people were indicted Wednesday on federal charges of accessing President Barack Obama‘s student loan records while they were employed for a Department of Education contractor in Iowa.The U.S. attorney’s office said a grand jury returned the indictments in U.S. District Court in Davenport.All nine are charged with exceeding authorized computer access. They are accused of gaining access to a computer at a Coralville office where they worked between July 2007 and March 2009, and accessing Obama’s student loan records while he was either a candidate for president, president-elect or president.U.S. attorney spokesman Mike Bladel referred questions to online copies of the indictments.Each of eight indictments posted by Wednesday night were brief, saying the charged individual „intentionally exceeded authorized access to a computer and thereby obtained information from a department and agency of the United States” and „intentionally accessed student loan records” of Obama without authorization.Those charged are Andrew J. Lage, 54, Patrick E. Roan, 51, Sandra Teague, 54 and Mercedes Costoyas, 53, all of Iowa City; Gary N. Grenell, 58, and Lisa Torney, 49, of Coralville; Anna C. Rhodes, 32, of Ainsworth; Julie L. Kline, 38, of West Branch; and John P. Phommivong, 29, for whom no hometown was listed.Lage told The Associated Press on Wednesday evening he did not know about the indictment and declined comment.Messages were left for Teague, Torney and Costoyas. A telephone listing for Kline rang unanswered and a listing for Rhodes was disconnected. No telephone numbers were immediately found for Phommivong, Roan or Grenell.Six of them are accused of accessing Obama’s records when he was a candidate, according to the indictments online. One is accused of accessing the records when he was president-elect. An indictment for the ninth defendant was not immediately available online.Court records did not name the contractor that employed the defendants.Arraignments are scheduled for May 24. The charge is punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.Associated Press Writer Nigel Duara in Iowa City contributed to this report.
Former Astronauts unhappy with Obama space plan By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press
WASHINGTON – The first man to walk on the moon said Wednesday that President Barack Obama‘s plans to revamp the human space program would cede America’s longtime leadership in space to other nations.Neil Armstrong and Eugene Cernan, the last astronaut on the moon, told a Senate Commerce Committee hearing that the Obama plan was short on ambition, including the decision to alter the Bush administration‘s goal of establishing a permanent presence on the moon.Cernan said in his written testimony that he, Armstrong and Apollo 13 Commander James Lovell agreed that the administration’s budget for human space exploration „presents no challenges, has no focus, and in fact is a blueprint for a mission to ‘nowhere.'” Lovell, while not present at the hearing, issued a statement opposing Obama’s NASA budget.Last month, Obama told NASA workers in Cape Canaveral that he was committed to manned space flight and foresaw sending astronauts to an asteroid and, by the mid-2030s, sending humans to orbit Mars.Speaking in the administration’s defense, John Holdren, head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, cited a blue-ribbon report that found that President George W. Bush’s Constellation program was unexecutable because of budgetary constraints. The administration „is steadfast in its commitment to space exploration,” he said.Buzz Aldrin, who partnered with Armstrong in the Apollo 11 moonwalking mission in 1969, has supported the president’s plan.The Bush plan called for termination of the International Space Station, development of a new rocket that would support lunar missions, and establishing a permanent station on the moon that could be the jump-off spot for future trips to Mars.Obama would extend the life of the space station until at least 2020, promote privately built craft to fly to the space station as the shuttle ends its service, make a decision no later than 2015 on a heavy lift rocket and plan for a trip to an asteroid by 2025 and then on to Mars.Armstrong acknowledged that the Bush space blueprint had not been adequately funded. But he said waiting for the private aerospace industry to develop low-earth-orbit spacecraft would result in limiting the United States to buying passage to the space station from Russia.He said the Obama plan was „contrived by a very small group in secret” who persuaded the president that this was the way to put his stamp on the space program. „I believe the president was poorly advised.”Cernan was even harsher in his criticisms, predicting it will take as long as a decade for the private sector to access low earth orbit safely. Obama’s space budget projects either show extreme naivete or a willingness to accept a „plan to dismantle America’s leadership in the world of human space exploration.”Armstrong and Cernan last month joined other astronauts and space officials in writing a letter protesting the canceling of the moon program.
Space center abuzz over Atlantis’ last launch By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA is getting hit up for extra launch passes, and mission stickers and pins are flying off the shelf. Another Twittering crowd is descending on the space center. Even science fiction writers want in on the action.Welcome to space shuttle Atlantis’ 32nd and final voyage.When Atlantis blasts off — show time is 2:20 p.m. Friday — only two more missions will remain before the shuttle program ends.Besides equipment for the International Space Station, Atlantis holds two big tool bins that are crammed full of shuttle and station memorabilia: flags, medallions, bookmarks and the like.Three miles from the pad, the firing room where launch controllers will give one final „go” is decorated with photos of Atlantis launching, flying in space and landing over the past 25 years. The collage includes patches from each mission, including the last, which depicts Atlantis sailing into the sunset.Perhaps the only people in town who refuse to fuss over Atlantis’ last flight are the six astronauts who will ride the rocketship into the history books. That’s because NASA’s future is fuzzy. Hope persists that Atlantis will ride yet again, launch director Mike Leinbach noted Wednesday.”The six of us are calling this the first last flight of Atlantis and I think that’s appropriate because we really don’t know what she’s going to do next,” explained commander Kenneth Ham.Shuttle managers prefer calling it Atlantis’ „last planned flight.”What they mean is that when Atlantis returns from its 12-day trip, it won’t be dismantled and head off to a museum. Instead, NASA will prep the shuttle as usual for a possible rescue mission for the very last flight, Endeavour’s in November.Assuming no rescue mission is needed — and none has yet — just about everybody at NASA would like to launch Atlantis anyway with a load of supplies. After all, it will be primed to fly with a fuel tank and a set of boosters. NASA’s top officials would like a heads-up from the White House by the end of June.”One last hurrah,” is how longtime astronaut Jerry Ross puts it.Ross, now a NASA manager, is one of only two people to fly in space seven times — five on Atlantis.At a news conference last week, Ross rattled down the list of Atlantis-by-the-numbers: 31 flights, 282 days in orbit, 116 million miles, 4,462 orbits of Earth, 185 crew members.The upcoming mission will tack on 12 days, 186 orbits, 4 million miles and four astronauts.Atlantis made its debut in 1985 as the fourth in NASA’s vaulted space shuttle series, and went on to launch NASA’s Venus-bound Magellan, Jupiter-bound Galileo and Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. It flew seven times to Russia’s old Mir space station and 10 times to the International Space Station. It carried out the final Hubble Space Telescope repair mission last May.”This is never going to be routine, and it’s something I’m really going to miss seeing,” Ross said.Nonetheless, Ross said it’s time the space shuttles stop flying. Like everyone else at NASA, he wishes there wasn’t such a big gap between the last shuttle mission and the first manned flight of the next program, whatever and whenever that proves to be.President Barack Obama wants private companies to take over carrying astronauts to the space station so NASA can focus on getting astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars by 2035. President George Bush, in 2004, had set NASA’s sights on the moon. Obama axed that program — which had fallen behind schedule — earlier this year. Adding to the Atlantis fanfare, NASA invited 150 people to take part in a launch-day tweet-up at Kennedy Space Center. It’s only the second such affair; the first was in November. NASA expects the group to reach nearly 200,000 people via Twitter updates as they witness Atlantis’ grand finale. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, meanwhile, scheduled its Nebula Awards conference in nearby Cocoa Beach to coincide with the launch. Flight director Mike Sarafin expects the mission to be conducted with „a little bit of reverence.” Other than that, there will be no difference in how it’s managed, he noted. The Atlantis crew will perform three spacewalks to replace batteries and install spare parts at the space station, which NASA plans to keep running until 2020.”Whether it’s the last, last flight, time will tell,” said astronaut Michael Good, who will ayperform two of the spacewalks. „But I don’t think it’s going to hit us until sometime after we land, to realize, hey, that was it.”
NASA clears Atlantis for final liftoff on Frid By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Space shuttle Atlantis has been cleared for liftoff.Mission managers on Wednesday gave the go-ahead for the countdown to proceed toward Friday afternoon’s planned launch. It will be the 32nd and final flight for Atlantis.Everything is looking good for an on-time launch at 2:20 p.m. Managers are tracking no technical troubles, and forecasters say there’s a 70 percent chance the weather will cooperate.Atlantis will carry up spare parts for the International Space Station.Only two shuttle missions remain after this one. NASA is retiring its three shuttles to focus on new technologies and rockets that could one day get astronauts to asteroids and Mars.
Space shuttle Atlantis gears up for final launch by Jean-Louis Santini AFP
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The space shuttle Atlantis blasts off Friday on the last mission of its 25-year career, taking astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) one last time before becoming a museum piece.The 32nd and final voyage for Atlantis, which first launched in 1985, will take six astronauts to the orbiting space research facility, delivering an integrated cargo carrier and a Russian-built mini research module.Lift-off is scheduled for 1820 GMT from Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral in Florida, weather-permitting.A poignant moment for NASA as the US space agency counts down towards the end of an era in human spaceflight, Atlantis will be retired on its safe return home.”The vehicle is in great shape… and from a Space Shuttle Program and ISS Program standpoint, we’re ready to launch Atlantis and get this mission under way,” NASA launch manager Mike Moses said Wednesday.His team gave Atlantis a unanimous „go” for liftoff on mission STS-132 and weather forecasts were 70 percent favorable, reflecting some concern over possible low cloud.During a mission of almost 13 days, most of which will be spent moored to the ISS, Atlantis and the crew will deliver more than 12 tonnes of equipment, including power storage batteries, a communications antenna and a radiator.The biggest single element being transported is the five-ton Rassver research module, or MRM-1, which will provide additional storage space and a new docking port for Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft.The Rassver — dawn in Russian — which will be permanently attached to the bottom of the space station’s Zarya module, carries important hardware on its exterior including a radiator, airlock and a European robotic arm.Three spacewalks of six-and-a-half hours each are scheduled during the mission, notably to instal new batteries and a communications antenna on the space station.When the mission is complete, only two more shuttle launches remain — one each for Discovery and Endeavour — before the aging fleet is mothballed at the end of the year.NASA late last month pushed back to November the launch of the shuttle Endeavour to modify an experiment module that is to be attached to the orbiting outpost.It had been scheduled to lift off July 29 but will now launch „no earlier than mid-November 2010” so that scientists can upgrade a magnet in the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer program to a longer-lasting device.The rescheduling did not affect the launch of Atlantis but the move means Endeavour now replaces Discovery — set for a September 16 mission — as the last ever shuttle launch.Once the three shuttles are retired, the United States will rely on Russia to take astronauts to the station aboard three-seater Soyuz spacecraft until a new fleet of commercial space taxis is operational.President Barack Obama effectively abandoned in February plans laid down by his predecessor George W. Bush to send astronauts back to the moon by 2020 and perhaps on to Mars with a new generation of rocket and spacecraft.Constrained by soaring deficits, Obama submitted a budget to Congress that encouraged NASA to focus instead on developing commercial transport alternatives to ferry astronauts to the ISS after the shuttle program ends.Nonetheless, Obama set a bold new course in April for the future of US space travel, laying out a vision to send American astronauts into Mars orbit within the next three decades. He envisaged the design of a new spacecraft by 2025 for human travel deep into space and said he believed missions to asteroids and to orbit Mars by the mid-1930s were achievable. By the time the final three missions are complete, the space shuttles — characterized by NASA as the most advanced machines ever built — will have flown 134 missions into orbit. The ISS, a joint project involving 16 countries, has cost around 100 billion dollars, mostly funded by the United States.
Neil Armstrong: Obama’s New Space Plan ‘Poorly Advised’ By Tariq Malik SPACE.com
This story was updated at 5:38 p.m. EDT.Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, blasted NASA’s new plans for future space exploration Wednesday, adding that President Barack Obama was poorly advised when he canceled the space agency’s previous course for U.S. human spaceflight earlier this year.Armstrong, who commanded the historic Apollo 11 moon landing mission in July 1969, criticized what he billed as an air of secrecy that preceded Obama’s February announcement which cancelled NASA’s Constellation program aiming for the moon. That plan, he told a Senate subcommittee, was a surprise to many among NASA, academia and the military.”A plan that was invisible to so many was likely contrived by a very small group in secret who persuaded the President that this was a unique opportunity to put his stamp on a new and innovative program,” Armstrong, 79, said in a statement to a Senate subcommittee reviewing NASA’s new space plan. „I believe the President was poorly advised.”The United States is risking losing its role as a leader in space exploration with its new plan, Armstrong said, adding that he was concerned with the looming gap in American human spaceflight.”Other nations will surely step in where we have faltered,” Armstrong said.NASA’s future at stake-In February, President Obama announced his intent to cancel NASA’s Constellation program in charge of building the new Orion spaceships and their Ares rockets. Those new spacecraft were envisioned to replace NASA’s retiring space shuttles and return astronauts to the moon by 2020 under a space vision laid out in 2004 by former President George W. Bush. A White House-appointed panel found that the Constellation program suffered from severe underfunding and was not sustainable to push U.S. human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit in the near future.White House science adviser John Holdren said President Obama’s space plan decision „was not hasty.””The president heard from a lot of people in this process,” Holdren told the Senate Committee of Commerce, Science and Transportation Wednesday, adding that the list included himself, NASA chief Charles Bolden and lawmakers, among others. „He got to the best and most balanced program for NASA, including its human spaceflight dimension, that the country can afford.”The Constellation program’s cancellation has sparked much criticism from lawmakers concerned over a gap in U.S. spaceflight capability and expertise.”Our 40-year legacy of leadership in space is on the line,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), who represents the home state of NASA’s Mission Control. „And we need to have a credible plan to take the next step forward.”NASA’s new space plan is aimed at developing new technologies, spacecraft and rockets that would allow the United States to launch astronauts on the first crewed mission to an asteroid by 2025.A manned mission to Mars would follow in the 2030s, President Obama said during an April 15 speech at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Obama has proposed a $19 billion budget for NASA in 2011 and added another $6 billion over five years onto that in his April speech.To that end, NASA will retire its three aging shuttles after three more missions (the shuttle Atlantis’ final flight is set for Friday) and rely on Russian Soyuz vehicles to send astronauts to the International Space Station — which would be extended to at least 2020 under the new plan — until commercial U.S. spacecraft became available.The design for a new heavy-lift rocket, vital for launching huge payloads on missions to Mars or an asteroid, would be selected by 2015, Obama said.While Obama scrapped the Constellation program as part of his 2011 budget request for NASA, he revived the Orion crew capsule to launch unmanned missions and serve as an emergency escape ship for the space station.Armstrong on Constellation-Armstrong said that while the Constellation program had the benefit of flexibility, it was also going to be costly. At the time of its proposed cancellation, NASA had already spent more than $9 billion on the program.But the new goal of an asteroid mission and Mars is a stark departure, Armstrong said.”These are vastly different plans and choosing the proper path is vital to America’s continued space leadership,” Armstrong said in his statement.Armstrong and fellow Apollo astronauts Jim Lovell (Apollo 13 commander) and Eugene Cernan, who commanded Apollo 17 and was the last man to walk on the moon, have publicly denounced NASA’s new space exploration plan. They called it „devastating” in a statement sent to the media last month.Cernan also spoke before the Senate subcommittee.”We (Armstrong, Lovell and myself) have come to the unanimous conclusion that this budget proposal presents no challenges, has no focus, and in fact is a blueprint for a mission to ‘nowhere,'” Cernan said in a statement.Armstrong said he supported the idea of new players in the spaceflight arena, but was skeptical of commercial companies would be able to meet NASA’s needs in a timely and cost-efficient manner.”I support the encouragement of the newcomers toward their goal of lower cost access to space,” Armstrong said. „But having cut my teeth in rockets more than 50 years ago, I am not confident.”
Space Images, DNA Data Help Track Rare Dolphins Brett Israel LiveScience
A vulnerable coastal dolphin species has nowhere to hide from scientists, who are using DNA and satellites to track and learn more about the rare animal. Conservationists are using these tools to gain new insights into the world of a poorly known coastal dolphin species of eastern South America called franciscana, or the La Plata dolphin.The study looked at DNA samples taken from dolphins that had been stranded, entangled in fishing gear, or captured and released in six locations along coastal Argentina and data from NASA‘s SeaWiFS and MODIS satellites, which monitor ocean conditions. Researchers found at least two genetically distinct populations of franciscanas in Argentina’s coastal waters and learned that environmental differences – temperature, turbidity of the water, and chlorophyll levels in the ocean – are probably involved in creating those distinct populations, the researchers suggest. How these factors influence franciscanas populations is unclear, Martin Mendez of Columbia University told LiveScience. One possibility is that all three are physical attributes of the environment that dolphins are able to sense and then use to make decisions. For example, chlorophyll levels are an indicator of ocean productivity (such as different kinds of ocean plants, as well as the fish and other animals that eat them), and so can indicate the amount of food resources available in an area for the dolphins. However, by measuring these variables the research team showed that even geographically close environments are actually distinct and inhabited by genetically distinct populations of La Plata dolphins. Their findings are detailed May 4 in the online edition of journal Molecular Ecology.”The availability of both genetic and environmental data provided us with a rare opportunity to examine how ecological factors affect population structure in a marine species,” said Mendez. „In this instance, the study subject is possibly the most endangered cetacean in South America, so delineating populations and the factors that create them certainly plays an important role in conservation measures.”Cetaceans are the group of marine mammals that include whales, dolphins and porpoises.In comparing the DNA and satellite data, researchers were surprised to discover that dolphins in closely located sites in the northern portion of the study area, near the La Plata River estuary, were most genetically different. In particular, two groups of dolphins only about 22 miles (35 kilometers) apart were the most genetically dissimilar, a finding that coincided with environmental differences between the two populations. In contrast, two sites separated by hundreds of miles to the south were found to be the most similar. As a result of the study, the researchers recommend that the genetically distinct population of franciscanas to the north of Buenos Aires should be protected as part of a larger effort to save the species.Franciscana, one of the world’s smallest cetaceans, averaging between 5 and 6 feet in length (1.5 to 1.8 meters) and around 80 to 90 pounds in weight (36.2 to 40.8 kilograms), are found along the Atlantic coastal waters of South America, from southern Brazil to Península Valdes in Argentina. The species is listed as „Vulnerable” by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), which is one step below „Endangered.” The dolphins are threatened by accidental capture in gill nets and other fishing gear.
Congress Renews Satellite TV Authorization By CQ Politics
Satellite television viewers can rest easy. They won’t see a cutoff of their favorite broadcast programming anytime soon.The House cleared a bill Wednesday that would reauthorize laws governing satellite television providers, just over two weeks before the current law expires at the end of the month. By voice vote, lawmakers sent President Obama legislation that would extend through Dec. 31, 2014, compulsory license programs that satellite providers use to carry broadcast television signals without having to negotiate with individual providers. It also would update the law to account for the digital television transition.The bill would „assure the continued satellite delivery of network television programming to rural homes that cannot receive that programming by means of an outdoor antenna or rabbit ears from a local television station,” said Rick Boucher, D-Va., who chairs the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.”This bill is the single most important copyright bill to be considered by this Congress to date,” said Lamar Smith, R-Texas.Smith said he hopes this is the last reauthorization of what was envisioned to be a temporary license.Current law allows satellite providers to compete with cable operators by permitting them to transmit local broadcast station signals to satellite subscribers in the same local market and by reducing copyright rates for certain network signals.The legislation passed Wednesday includes provisions that would waive an injunction against the DISH Network that has put the company at a disadvantage to DirecTV in some markets by preventing it from selling distant signals out-of-market to certain subscribers. DISH Network would in turn be required to expand local broadcasting to specific rural markets that are not currently served.In an effort to increase access to public television stations, the bill would permit satellite providers to carry non-commercial educational stations from within a certain state if the station is part of a statewide network, even if the station is licensed to a community in a different local market.
Cannes focuses on emerging filmmakers JENNY BARCHFIELD, Associated Press
CANNES, France – Tim Burton knows what it’s like to be judged. The Cannes Film Festival jury president said he’s going into the world’s premier cinema showcase with an open mind and empathy for the directors in the high profile competition.There are fewer household names among the filmmakers at this year’s festival, where the pared-down roster of 19 movies in competition is dominated by emerging filmmakers from Asia, Eastern Europe and elsewhere.Still, the French Riviera‘s 12-day film extravaganza got off to a glamorous start as Hollywood supernovas Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett came out for the premiere of their action tale „Robin Hood,” a muscular adaptation directed by Ridley Scott. Like most of the other A-list films scheduled to be shown at Cannes, „Robin Hood” is playing out competition.Burton played down the relative lack of big names at Cannes, saying he and his fellow jurors – including British actress Kate Beckinsale and Puerto Rico’s Benicio del Toro – were going into the competition without preconceptions.”We don’t want to have a certain kind of thing we’re looking for,” Burton, his eyes obscured by dark shades and his hair a halo of frizz, told reporters at a news conference. „The point is to just feel the films and then discuss them and just be open.””We’ve all been judged, so I think we’re going into it with a certain kind of spirit of openness and hopefully compassion for any filmmaker,” said the director of „Alice in Wonderland” and „Edward Scissorhands.”Key names are among the 19 films competing for the Palme d’Or, the festival’s top prize, including new movies by „Amores Perros” director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Cannes best film laureates Ken Loach and Abbas Kiarostami, as well as Japan’s Takeshi Kitano.Ahead of the premiere of „Robin Hood,” fans were staking out a spot near the festival headquarters in hope of catching a glimpse of Crowe and Blanchett as they walked the newly laid red carpet later Wednesday.The media blitz comes at a convenient time for the action-packed film, which will go head-to-head with the reigning blockbuster „Iron Man 2” when it opens in parts of Europe and the U.S. this week.Other big-name movies in this, Cannes’ 63rd edition, to be shown out of competition include Michael Douglas and Oliver Stone‘s „Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” – the follow up to their 1987 hit „Wall Street” – and Woody Allen’s ensemble romance, „You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,” starring Naomi Watts, Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins and Freida Pinto.Only one U.S. film will be in the running for Cannes’ top prize: director Doug Liman‘s „Fair Game,” starring Watts as CIA covert operative Valerie Plame, whose identity was leaked by officials in the Bush administration. In years past, there were as many as five American films in competition at Cannes.Early contenders for the Palme d’Or include „Biutiful,” by Mexican critical darling Gonzalez Inarritu. Set in Barcelona, „Biutiful” stars Spanish hunk Javier Bardem as a father struggling to protect his children.With „Certified Copy,” top Iranian director Kiarostami leaves his native country, serving up an Italian-set romance starring Juliette Binoche.British directors Mike Leigh and Loach, both Cannes laureates, are in the running for a second Palme d’Or – Leigh with his relationship drama „Another Year,” and Loach with „Route Irish,” which is set in Iraq.This year’s selection also includes a strong Asian contingent, with two films from both South Korea and China, as well as one entry each from Japan and Thailand.The Cannes film festival runs through May 23.
Boy, 8, survives as 103 killed in Libya plane crash by Imed Lamloum AFP
TRIPOLI (AFP) – A Libyan airliner arriving from South Africa disintegrated on landing at Tripoli airport Wednesday, killing 103 people but leaving an eight-year-old boy as the sole miracle survivor, officials said.Libyan Transport Minister Mohammed Ali Zidan said the dead included nationals of nine countries but that a full 61 came from the Netherlands, which ordered flags on government buildings flown at half-mast as a mark of respect.Zidan said the boy who survived was also Dutch but the foreign ministry in The Hague was unable to confirm his nationality definitively.Some nine hours after the 6 am (0400 GMT) crash, the child underwent surgery at a Tripoli hospital where medical staff said his condition was not life-threatening.”The boy suffered broken legs and was injured in the head,” a hospital official told reporters after the child came out of the operating theatre.Dutch broadcaster NOS, which interrupted normal programming to follow the crash developments, showed footage of the survivor with facial bruises in his hospital bed.The Dutch daily Telegraaf said the child had been travelling with his parents and an 11-year-old sibling.EU parliament president Jerzy Buzek described the boy’s survival as „truly a miracle.”Last June, a 12-year-old girl was the sole survivor of a Yemeni plane crash off the Comoros.The Libyan transport minister said the rest of the dead included two Germans as well as passengers from Britain, France, Finland, the Philippines, South Africa and Zimbabwe, although he could not give a breakdown of their numbers.He said the 11-strong crew were all Libyan.In London, the Foreign Office confirmed that at least one Briton had been on board the fated flight, while in Dublin, Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said an Irishwoman was among the dead. It was unclear if she was a dual national.The South African Press Agency reported that four nationals were killed. They included the brother of opposition Democratic Alliance member of parliament Anchen Dreyer, the party said.Zidan said an inquiry was under way into what caused the Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A330 to break up massively as it was landing, but he ruled out terrorism.He said that both black boxes had been recovered and that four investigators from Airbus and three from France were on their way to Tripoli to join the inquiry.Witnesses spoke of the aircraft inexplicably breaking up as it came in to land in clear weather.”It exploded on landing and totally disintegrated,” one security official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. Another official said the plane had burst into flames just before landing.Libyan television showed teams of emergency workers wearing face masks sifting through the wreckage, which was scattered in a wide arc across the landing area. Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said it was just possible that fewer than 61 nationals died as that figure was based on booking lists provided by travel agencies not on a manifest of those who actually boarded. A plane with Dutch forensic experts and consular staff would depart for Tripoli on Wednesday night to help identify the dead and provide support on the ground, Verhagen added. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende reacted with „shock” to the loss of life while Queen Beatrix’s press office said she was „horrified.”The Libyan transport minister said that the crash plane was new and had only been acquired by the airline last September.He said it had received its last mechanical check from German airline Lufthansa in Milan on March 5 and had since flown only 1,586 hours.Wednesday’s crash was the deadliest air accident in Libya since December 22, 1992 when a Libyan Arab Airlines plane crashed near Tripoli airport killing 157 people.Twenty-two people were killed in an oil company plane crash in January 2000.In other major accidents, 79 people were killed when a Korean Air plane crashed in Tripoli in July 1989. And 59 people died in a Balkan Bulgarian Airlines crash near Benghazi in December 1977.Afriqiyah started operations with five leased aircraft and signed a contract with Airbus at an exhibition in Paris in 2007 for the purchase of 11 new planes.It was founded in April 2001 and at first fully owned by the Libyan state. The company?s capital was later divided into shares to be managed by the Libya-Africa Investment Portfolio.
Child only survivor in Libyan jet crash By Ali Shuaib REUTERS
TRIPOLI (Reuters) – A Libyan Airbus jet crashed early on Wednesday as it tried to land at Tripoli airport, killing 103 people on board and leaving a young Dutch boy the sole survivor, Libyan officials said.The Airbus A330-200, which had been in service only since September, was flying from Johannesburg to the Libyan capital when it crashed just short of the runway around 6 a.m. (0400 GMT), the airline and planemaker said.The aircraft is the same type as Air France Flight 447, which crashed in the Atlantic on June 1 last year. The cause of that crash has not been firmly identified.Saleh Ali Saleh, an executive with Libya’s Afriqiyah Airways told Reuters 62 Dutch nationals had been among the passengers and crew on board the plane which crashed on Wednesday.”Everybody is dead, except for one child,” said Libyan Transport Minister Mohamed Zidan. The plane was carrying 93 passengers and 11 crew, Libyan officials and executives from the airline said.The minister said the survivor was 10 years old. Other Libyan officials said the child was a boy and was in a stable condition after surgery on leg fractures in a Tripoli hospital.A manifest of those on board was not released but officials in Libya and in the passengers’ countries of origin said besides the Dutch contingent they included small numbers of nationals from Britain, Germany, the Philippines, South Africa and Zimbabwe.The transport minister told a news conference 13 Libyan passengers and crew had been on the aircraft. He said there were also citizens of France and Finland on board, though he did not say how many.The minister said investigators were working out what went wrong with Afriqiyah Airways Flight 8U771. He ruled out terrorism as the cause. He said arrangements were being made to help victims’ family members come to Tripoli.The Dutch Foreign Ministry said its diplomats were trying to see the surviving child.Mohamed Rashid, a doctor at Tripoli‘s al-Khadra hospital, said the child was doing well after surgery.”The operation was successful and he is under our care,” he told reporters, adding that some of the medical staff spoke Dutch and were able to communicate with the patient.BANDAGED HEAD-Footage broadcast on Libyan state television showed the child in a hospital bed, conscious and wearing a breathing mask. The only visible sign of any injury was a bandage around the top of the child’s head.Saleh, the Afriqiyah Airways executive, told Reuters that the plane’s black boxes had been recovered from the crash site.”The deaths were probably due to the impact as I did not hear any report of a fire. The plane was traveling fast as it was still short of the runway when it crashed,” Saleh said.Reuters pictures from the crash site showed the ground carpeted with small pieces of debris, including a Dutch-language guide book to South Africa. Only the aircraft’s tail fin was more or less intact, standing upright but leaning at an angle.Libyan newspaper Quryna reported that shortly before the crash the pilot had contacted the control tower to ask them to alert emergency services because there was a problem with the plane. There was no official confirmation of that report. Afriqiyah Airways, which is owned by the Libyan state and was established in 2001, has never before had a crash. European aviation safety officials told Reuters that Afriqiyah’s aircraft — including the plane in Wednesday’s crash — had been subject to regular inspections and no significant problems had been reported.
Israel FM: Iran, Syria, NKorea new ‘axis of evil’ By MALCOLM FOSTER, Associated Press
TOKYO – Israel’s foreign minister on Wednesday declared North Korea, Syria and Iran the new „axis of evil,” claiming that North Korean weapons seized in Bangkok in December were bound for Middle Eastern militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah.Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said during a visit to Japan that the three countries are cooperating and pose the biggest threat to world security because they are building and spreading weapons of mass destruction.”This axis of evil that includes North Korea, Syria and Iran, it’s the biggest threat to the entire world,” he told journalists in Tokyo.”We saw this kind of cooperation only two or maybe three months ago with the North Korean plane in Bangkok with huge numbers of different weapons with the intention to smuggle these weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah,” Lieberman said without elaborating.”Axis of evil” originated in then-President George W. Bush’s first State of the Union address in 2002, where he named North Korea, Iran and Iraq as threats to the United States.Acting on a tip from the United States, Thai authorities on Dec. 12 seized an Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang when it landed in Bangkok. It was carrying 35 tons of weapons — a violation of U.N. sanctions against North Korea.Flight documents indicated the plane’s cargo — listed as oil drilling equipment — was headed for the Iranian capital Tehran. Iranian officials denied they were importing weapons.Analysts have said that while the aircraft may have been heading for Iran, the weapons could actually have been earmarked for radical Middle Eastern groups like Hamas and Hezbollah which Iran has bankrolled and supplied with weapons in the past.The five-man crew — four from Kazakhstan and one from Belarus — claimed they were ignorant of what they were carrying. The crew was deported in February after prosecutors dropped all charges against them.Thai authorities say the weapons on board included explosives, rocket-propelled grenades and components for surface-to-air missiles.The U.N. imposed sanctions banning North Korea from exporting any arms after the communist regime conducted a nuclear test and test-fired missiles. Impoverished North Korea is believed to earn hundreds of millions of dollars every year by selling missiles, missile parts and other weapons to countries such as Iran, Syria and Myanmar.Lieberman, who heads an ultranationalist party that is a junior partner in Israel’s coaltion government, also claimed that „missile programs” in Iran and Syria were receiving crucial assistance from the North Korean side. He gave no evidence.Israel has long accused Syria of aiding the Jewish state’s bitterest enemies. Syria harbors the exiled leadership of Hamas and other anti-Israel Palestinian groups. Israel also says Syria funnels Iranian arms to Hezbollah, the Lebanese guerrilla group that battled Israel to a stalemate in a one-month war in 2006.In recent weeks, Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, has accused Syria of providing Scud missiles to Hezbollah, potentially upsetting the balance of power in the region, and claimed that North Korea is a „duty free shop” for weapons that reach Iran, Lebanon and Syria.Lieberman, who met with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama during his visit, also said that the Israeli government is ready to start direct peace talks without preconditions with the Palestinians.The two sides completed the first round of U.S.-brokered, indirect peace talks over the weekend, resuming negotiations after a 17-month hiatus.”It’s not necessary to speak about conditions to open or to restart the direct talks,” Lieberman said. „We have our experience, and we signed two peace agreements with our neighbors — with Jordan and Egypt — as a result of direct talks, not proximity talks.Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will not hold direct talks until Israel stops all settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the sector of the city Palestinians claim as a future capital. Israel has only agreed to a temporary slowdown in the West Bank, but not in east Jerusalem.Lieberman, heads an ultranationalist party that is Netanyahu‘s junior partner in the coalition also called for tough sanctions on Iran by the U.N. Security Council over its refusal to stop uranium enrichment.The United States and its allies fear Tehran will use the process to build a nuclear weapon. Iran denies any intention to do so, saying its nuclear program aims only to generate electricity.Associated Press Writer Eric Talmadge in Tokyo and Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.