Is Michele Bachmann the new Sarah Palin? Republicans warm to woman they once saw as a joke

By Alex Spillius, Washington

Until last week Michele Bachmann was considered something of a joke by members of Washington's Republican establishment. But after announcing that she was almost certainly running for US president, their smiles quickly vanished.

A Tea Party favourite, Mrs Bachmann is a former tax lawyer who many moderates in the party think could prove its biggest liability in the forthcoming primary for the 2012 nomination.

Her gift of the gaffe is such that a leading Republican consultant recently said that she made Sarah Palin look like Count Metternich.

That was after Bachmann mistakenly placed Lexington and Concord, scenes of the first battles in the American War of Independence, in the state of New Hampshire, where she was speaking at the time. They are in fact in Massachusetts, as every US schoolchild knows.

Rarely shy of a conspiracy theory, she has suggested that Democrats wanted to do away with the dollar, and during the Iraq war claimed to have knowledge of a plot to annex part of the country to Iran.
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Libyan Rebels Retake Key City as Coalition Steps Up Attacks

By Alaa Shahine

March 26 (Bloomberg) -- Libyan rebels moved into the central city of Ajdabiya, near the strategic oil port of Ras Lanuf, and recaptured Brega in the east after U.S. and allied warplanes stepped up their bombardment of Muammar Qaddafi’s tanks, artillery and soldiers.

Opposition fighters, who have struggled to move west from their eastern stronghold of Benghazi in the past week, retook Ajdabiya today after entering the suburbs overnight, Al Jazeera television and the Benghazi-based Breniq newspaper reported. The advance came after the U.S. military yesterday said coalition warplanes nearly doubled the number of strike sorties against Qaddafi’s forces in a seventh day of bombing.

The Libyan rebellion has evolved from the kind of popular uprising seen in Egypt and Tunisia into a civil war, sending oil prices up about 25 percent since it began last month, amid heightened concerns about Middle East crude supplies. Crude oil for May delivery fell 20 cents to settle at $105.40 a barrel yesterday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Syrian President Bashar Al- Assad’s security forces engaged in deadly clashes with protesters in several cities as promises of new freedoms and pay increases failed to quiet dissent. Assad may reshuffle his Cabinet soon, Al Arabiya television reported today, citing people it didn’t identify.

Prisoners Freed

Syrian authorities have released 260 political prisoners, mostly Islamists, according to Al Arabiya, which cited unnamed human-rights activists. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a local group, said on its website that the authorities have freed more than 200 prisoners.

Homes were burned and heavy gunfire was reported in the coastal Syrian city of Latikia, where two people were killed by snipers, Al Arabiya reported, citing eyewitnesses and a government official. In Daraa, the scene of deadly anti- government rallies earlier this month, security forces used tear gas against demonstrators, it said.

In Yemen, Al Arabiya reported that President Ali Abdullah Saleh said no compromise was reached with Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, who said earlier that he’d hoped to reach an agreement today on Saleh’s departure following months of anti- government demonstrations and the defection of ministers, army generals and diplomats from his regime.

Battle for Misrata

The U.S. and allies such as France and the U.K. are enforcing a United Nations mandate to protect Libyan civilians. Leaders have also called for Qaddafi’s ouster and the coalition has been seeking to push back his forces from cities such as Ajdabiya and Misrata, a rebel-held town in western Libya.

Sadoon al-Misrati, a member of the 17 February Revolution, told Al Jazeera that rebels repelled efforts by fighters loyal to Qaddafi to enter Misrata, Libya’s third-biggest city, from two directions. Rebels also said they had recaptured Brega in eastern Libya, Al Jazeera reported.

Libyan state-run television accused the U.S.-led allied forces of causing a “massacre” among civilians in Ajdabiya as their warplanes sought to provide air cover to the rebels.

Footage on Al Jazeera showed abandoned tanks, some charred, on the eastern entrance of Ajdabiya. A group of rebels was shown celebrating, waving victory signs and one of them brandishing an automatic rifle.

‘Scores of Prisoners’

“There are scores of prisoners,” Yassin El-Bregi, a spokesman for the rebel’s ruling council, told Al Arabiya in a live interview from Cairo.

The White House announced yesterday that President Barack Obama will address the nation on March 28 about the U.S. and allied military action in Libya. The U.S. is shifting many of its flight activities to allies, U.S. Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, said yesterday at a briefing at the Pentagon.

Two Arab countries, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, have both confirmed that they are sending fighter jets to help enforce the no-fly zone.

The 28-nation North Atlantic Treaty Organization agreed on March 24 to take command of no-fly zone operations while continuing to discuss conditions for also commanding the attacks on Qaddafi’s ground forces, the so-called no-drive zone for the loyalist military that is considered part of the civilian defense measures authorized by the UN Security Council.

“Without prejudging the deliberations, we would expect a decision to take over all operations in the next few days,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu told reporters yesterday in Brussels.

--With assistance from Kaitlin Brower in New York, Zaid Sabah Abd Alhamid and Nadeem Hamid in Washington. Editors: Jennifer M. Freedman, Digby Lidstone
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Sullinger: ‘I’m coming back next year’

By Blake Williams
After falling short of the team goal of a national championship with a loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday, the Ohio State men's basketball team received some positive news: Freshman forward Jared Sullinger confirmed his plans to return for his sophomore season.

"I'm coming back next year because I have to work on — a lot of things — and I don't like the taste that I just had," the freshman said to reporters after the loss. "I don't appreciate losing. I never appreciate losing and I'm going to come back to win."

Sullinger led the Buckeyes in points and rebounds per game with 17.1 and 10, respectively. The Freshman of the Year award winner is also one of four finalists for the Naismith Award, handed out to the best basketball player in the country.

Accolades aside, Sullinger's motivation to return was simple.

"The love of this basketball team makes me want to come back," he said. "These guys are my brothers."

OSU coach Thad Matta was not surprised by his freshman's vow to return.

"He told me from day one he'd be back for two years," he said. "I think all the things he learned this year, with a great offseason, I have no doubt he'll be the best player in college basketball (next year)."

Sullinger tallied 21 points and 16 rebounds in the team's loss to the Wildcats on Friday. The double-double was the forward's 18th in 37 games.

It was not those numbers or the team's 34 wins that made Sullinger's choice an easy one, but rather the loss to the Wildcats. The freshman plans on getting right back to work.

"I know I am going to be back in the gym as soon as we get back," he said.

Despite being widely projected as a top-five pick, Sullinger was adamant that he would not be swayed by the NBA.

"I'll be in an Ohio State jersey next year," he said. "It's my personal choice and I want to come back and serve this basketball team and play for Matta."

Sullinger has until April 24 to submit his name to the NBA draft, but said he is not interested in even testing the waters.

OSU junior guard William Buford said he plans to return, but might look into the NBA by entering his name. If he does, he will have until May 8 to withdraw it and retain his college eligibility. Buford, however, doesn't think he is ready to play professionally.

"I'll be back," he said. "I just want to get better so when I do go, I'll be prepared to make an impact and not just go to be a player in the league."

If both players return, OSU will retain its top two scorers and top rebounder from the 2010–11 season, along with the team leader in assists, freshman point guard Aaron Craft.

Though he was emotional after the team's tough loss, Sullinger said he did not take the decision lightly and was clear that he would not renege on his choice.

"I'm a man of my word," he said. "I won't change my mind for anybody. This is what I want. This is where I'm happy. I'm happy being an Ohio State Buckeye and playing for coach Matta."
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Elizabeth Taylor dies at 79

By Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY

Elizabeth Taylor died Wednesday at the age of 79. The Academy Award-winning actress was as famous for being famous as she was for her acting career. Her philanthropic and charity work, particularly in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, kept her in the spotlight long after her acting career had all but ended.
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Britney Spears Rocks Leather Bodysuit at Surprise Show

Brit's Back!

In a sexy leather bodysuit, Britney Spears thrilled more than a thousand fans with a surprise mini-concert at the Rain Nightclub in the Palms Las Vegas Friday night.

PHOTOS: Brit through the years

With back-up dancers clad in army fatigues, Spears, 29, debuted songs from her upcoming Femme Fatale album including "Hold it Against Me," "Till the World Ends," and "Big Fat Bass." It was the first live show for the mother of two since her 2009 Circus Tour.

PHOTOS: Britney and her boys

"We are extremely excited to have one of the most iconic artists of all time back at the Palms," owner George Maloof told in statement. "Britney's performances were unbelievable and her fans will never forget this night."

PHOTOS: Pics from the Circus Tour

The show wasn't a complete surprise. After rumors began circulating yesterday, the singer wrote on her Twitter page: "Looks like my little secret isn't a secret anymore... You're all invited. Be there or be square b****!"
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Some builders, mortgage lenders offer home buyers a deal: free job-loss insurance

By Kenneth R. Harney, Friday, March 25, 1:42 PM

Homebuilders are offering it to new buyers, and some of the country’s largest banks and mortgage lenders think it’s a win-win idea for shaky economic times: insurance programs that make borrowers’ mortgage payments for up to six months if they lose their jobs during an initial one-year to two-year coverage period.
Better yet, the bank, builder or other sponsor of the plan typically provides it with no direct, out-of-pocket cost to the consumer, as part of its marketing package. Most programs come with specific dollar ceilings on coverage, often ranging from $2,000 to $2,500 a month. Some limit the amount they will pay to principal and interest only. Others cover principal, interest, property taxes and hazard insurance up to a specific amount.

Although there are no hard statistics on the number of such plans now in the marketplace, Teri Cooper, executive vice president of Mortgage Payment Protection of Heathrow, Fla., one of the largest providers of “involuntary unemployment” policies, estimates that as many as 200,000 buyers are covered by her firm’s “Mortgage Guardian” programs alone.
Bank of America, which operates a “borrower protection plan” that it funds itself, says it has covered thousands of new mortgages — limited to those with initial principal balances under $500,000. According to bank spokesman Terry H. Francisco, the plan has covered $110 million in monthly payments for unemployed borrowers during the past two years. Last year, the bank provided 156,000 purchasers with its protection program; as of December, mortgages covered by the plan totaled $36 billion in loan balances.

In the Seattle-Puget Sound market, Quadrant Homes, a subsidiary of Weyerhaeuser Real Estate, recently began offering a 24-month, $2,000 to $2,500 insurance plan as a way to reassure buyers that they would be able to withstand an unexpected job loss.

With unemployment figures scarily high, said Quadrant President Ken Krivanec, “we wanted to give our buyers a little of the confidence they might need” to move ahead with a purchase.

Even though virtually all involuntary unemployment programs charge borrowers nothing for the coverage directly, there often is plenty of fine print that limits payouts. Here’s a quick look at some of the features that buyers and borrowers should focus on when they’re offered free job-loss mortgage insurance.
lObviously nothing is truly “free.” The lender or builder typically is paying a wholesale insurance premium to obtain the coverage, and rolls that expense into the deal somewhere. In the case of Mortgage Guardian’s programs, premiums range from $200 to $300 or more per policy, depending on the expected volume of insurance, the length of the coverage and the size of the insured monthly payment.

lNot all unemployment events are equal. Under most plans, you need to be eligible under state law for unemployment benefits, and you need to successfully apply for them. Also, the layoff or plant closing or other event cannot have been known to you in advance of the mortgage closing. Firings and dismissals for cause are not covered.

lNot all employment is equal, either. For example, if you are self-employed or a temporary or seasonal worker, you probably won’t be eligible for benefits.

lOnce you’ve gone to closing and the insurance policy clock begins ticking, there’s a 60-day “vesting” period in the Mortgage Guardian program. Then insurance payments can’t flow until 30 days after the actual unemployment begins.

l“Free” turns into not-free or maybe not even available. For virtually all programs, once the initial period of coverage is up, homeowners are expected to pay premiums on their own or to look elsewhere for insurance. Bank of America’s plan, for instance, is free for the first year, but after that, extended coverage is available at the rate of 7.5 percent of the monthly principal and interest due, according to Francisco. In Quadrant’s program, “coverage ends 24 months after the closing date and cannot be extended by the buyer or Quadrant Homes.”

Another key fact to keep in mind about job loss insurance for mortgages: It is generally not available direct to the consumer. Cooper says her firm works only through participating lenders, builders, mortgage insurers and some state housing agencies that can create the volume of business needed to make the insurance risk-pooling feasible.

Bottom line: If you understand the limitations, and read the fine print, job-loss coverage can be a “why not?” proposition. The builder or lender offering it is paying premiums at rates unavailable to individual consumers, and the coverage — if you qualify — is for real if you suddenly find yourself without employment.
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Streamline Mortgage Refinancing for a New Homeowner Loan

Posted by Jeff Jankowski
Interest rates continue to be on a downward trend since the year has started and for consumers, this is the best time to take advantage; enabling them to settle for any loan refinancing. Nevertheless, experts advise homeowners to opt for streamline mortgage when refinancing.

Generally, streamline mortgage refinancing is used by homeowners to determine their qualifications for a specific loan. What many homeowners do not know is that, this kind of refinancing could also be a good option of cutting costs for new mortgage amount.

Using streamline mortgage when refinancing offers homeowners with VA or FHA loans, refinancing options without any credit card check involvement. Refinancing through streamline mortgage does not also involve income verification and fees for property appraisals.

Homeowners who would like to avail such refinancing should at least have the refinanced loan lower than the current interest rate paid on a current mortgage. In addition, using streamline loan do not allow homeowners to take equity out of his home. Late payments are also not allowed within twelve months, starting from the date of application. Other requirements under streamline refinancing include; FHA insured mortgage and the mortgage to be refinanced should be current.

By and large, streamline refinancing primarily focuses on the bulk of documentation and insurance support executed by lenders, thus, may apply specific transactional charges. The positive outcome of this is that, streamline refinancing could allow homeowners to shift to a fixed home loan with a minimal document processing or transition fee.
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800 priceless Egypt artefacts still missing

CAIRO, March 25, 2011 (AFP) - Egyptian officials said on Friday that 800 priceless artefacts were still missing after armed robbers raided a warehouse near the canal city of Ismailiya in the unrest following a popular revolt.

"An inventory of the East Qantara warehouse which houses antiquities from the provinces on the Suez Canal and Sinai has revealed the theft and damage of a large number of artefacts," said Mohamed Abdel Maqsood, an official with Supreme Council of Antiquities for north east Egypt.

"We found that 800 antiquities-- which go back to the Pharaonic, Roman and Islamic periods-- are still missing from the warehouse after 293 items were recovered," he said.

Abdel Maqsood said the survey also revealed that "several" artefacts unearthed by French, American and Polish archaeological teams had also been stolen.

Robbers raided several warehouses around the country, including the one in Cairo's world renowned Egyptian Museum, after an uprising that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak gave way to looting and insecurity.

On Tuesday, the United Nations cultural body UNESCO voiced growing concern for Egypt's archaeological sites and museums.
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Elizabeth Taylor's fortune may approach $1B

(CBS News)

Elizabeth Taylor left more than her historic Hollywood legacy when she died Wednesday at 79.

It's believed she was worth between $600 million and $1 billion, most of it, according to Bloomberg Businessweek Senior Editor Diane Brady, from the side of her few fans realized had grown so big - Liz Taylor, businesswoman.

Brady says Taylor was actually "one of the first people out there basically branding her personality."

On "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," Brady told co-anchor Rebecca Jarvis estimates of the size of Taylor's fortune fall in a "pretty broad range. You are hearing a billion. You're hearing $600 million. I think $600 million seems to be what most people are settling on.

Special Section: Elizabeth Taylor's Remarkable Career, Life

"But, you know, clearly, they're auctioning off her jewelry collection. They think that's going to be about $150 million. She had real estate that was worth at least $130 million.

"But a lot of the money she made was actually in her perfume business. She had costume jewelry.

"This was an entrepreneur. So it wasn't just an actress who amassed a fortune. She was one of the first people out there basically branding her personality."

Brady noted that Taylor "came to Hollywood during a very interesting time. She used to call herself 'MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the major movie studio) chattel' because, right up to 1961, she was basically under studio contract. Then she started to make big money in Hollywood.
"But the perfume business was where she made a lot of her money - even last year, $77 million in sales. A lot of that was White Diamonds (the perfume). ... She was somebody who understood the power of her celebrity and started leveraging it more than 20 years ago."

White Diamonds, Brady says, "is, I think, the best-selling perfume brand of any celebrity. Right now, it's ubiquitous. ... You cannot be a celebrity without having a fragrance attached to you. But she was one of the first to do that, and she was one of the first to get into costume jewelry. She really was a pioneer in that area. She did make money, obviously made a lot of money in the movies. She was the first woman to get $1 million for a movie. But, the reality is, she made most of her money as an entrepreneur."

So what happens to that money now?

"That's a very good question. You've heard, 'Will it go to the dog?' 'Will it go to the manager?' 'Will it go to the kids?' There is a sense a lot of her money will go toward AIDS. That was obviously something that was a big cause of hers. She raised more than $270 million for that through her foundation. Four children, I'm sure she'll give some of it to them. But realistically, I think that a lot of it will go toward the research that she felt was very important."

And Taylor isn't finished hauling in big bucks, Brady pointed out.

"Michael Jackson made a lot of money last year. That's why they have the dead celebrities list -- I hate to say it but, Elizabeth Arden has already come out and said, 'We're going to continue selling this fragrance, these perfumes.' They will be very popular. The family can obviously make money off licensing (Taylor's) image. I think we'll see a lot of money made for and from Liz Taylor for years to come."

Can Taylor surpass Jackson in post-death earnings?

"There's a catalog there (for Jackson). There's music. So, it's a different business model. But clearly, she is a name that resonated long after she was in the movies. So I think you'll expect, for probably a generation to come, we'll be seeing Liz Taylor out there, and there will be money to be made from that."
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Elizabeth Taylor: a look back

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Budget 2011: Was it really good news for charities?

A major anomaly in Gift Aid regulations was resolved. Hitherto, charities could claim back the income tax on donations only if they knew the name and address of the tax-paying donor. Thanks to generous George they can now claim Gift Aid on the first five thousand pounds of 'orphan' or anonymous gifts as well: for the first time, tax can now be reclaimed on the contents of collection boxes, saucers or (if you're lucky) buckets - plus gifts from mysterious, anonymous benefactors.

That's bright and helpful. With the basic rate income tax at 20% the measure is worth up to £1,000 to every registered charity, whether they be Guide Dogs (income around £50 million) or the local allotments charity - assuming their income from donations, rather than from renting allotments, is as much as £5,000 in the first place. If every one of Britain's 170,000 charities claimed their £1,000 that would bring an extra £170 million into the coffers. But it won't happen. Lots of charities - especially amongst the 75% that Francis Maude keeps telling us won't suffer from Government cuts - don't have an annual income of £5,000 from donations: remember that trading income, subscriptions and gifts from known taxpayers are excluded from the calculation.

So smaller charities are less likely to claim the maximum help, bigger ones are less likely to need that extra grand. For charities that do gain from Osborne's openhandedness, there's a very big catch. Three years ago Labour delighted the pre-crisis nation by reducing basic rate income tax from 21p in the pound to 20p. All right for some, but not for charities as Gift Aid is related to that basic rate. So three years of protection was introduced for Gift Aid, meaning that for every pound charities received from known taxpayers the Treasury would continue to add 28p rather than the 25p that the new tax rate merited. (Note for Maths 101 students: £1.25 less 20% is £1, £1.28 less 21% is also £1).

That three years of protection runs out in April 2011, next week. It is estimated that charities will loose £100 million a year from that day and I bet my bottom dollar that this figure is higher than the new income the orphan gift measure will actually generate. Even if every charity did claim its grand, that income would be about a fifth of that which currently goes unclaimed through the Gift Aid claim process, according to the Charities Aid Foundation. The Government appears to be taking Giving seriously and a useful discussion was generated by a recent Green Paper. But another Budget measure the Government introduced is slightly weird, to say the least.

The Inheritance Tax threshold is £325,000. If you die tomorrow leaving an estate worth, say, £400,000 and bequeath £100,000 to charity, then instead of paying 40% tax on the balance you would get ten per cent of your tax back from the Chancellor (ie you would pay 36% tax on it). That's more money that goes to… well, to me, even though I'm dead. The charity may not see a penny of that 4% but they will see the value of Gift Aid on that £100,000 fall for the reasons explained above.

The measure requires a tenth of the estate to be donated as a minimum, so if you leave a £375,000 estate with £20,000 of inheritance tax payable and bequeath £37,500 to a charity then your inheritance tax liability will be reduced by £2,000 - from 2012. If this measure does work as an incentive to give more it will apply to precious few estates.

The Budget said nothing about living legacies, whereby the value of an asset such as a property or a work of art is transferred to a charity during my lifetime but the asset itself only upon my death. Living legacies have broad support and this is a missed opportunity. Come on, George, admit it: this was a giving with one hand, taking with the other Budget for charities as it was for so many others.

Tom Levitt is a freelance consultant on cross-sector partnerships. He established Sector 4 Focus in 2010 to specialise in bringing together businesses and charities to focus on the 'triple bottom line' of social responsibility in mutually beneficial ways. He was Labour MP for High Peak from 1997 to 2010.

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Budget 2011: Oil industry tax grab will lead to job cuts

By Louisa Peacock
Mike Tholen, economics director at trade body Oil and Gas UK, said jobs and production would be lost at a time when activity in the industry was already slowing.

According to Fitch, the biggest producers, including BP, BG Group, Shell and Chevron, are likely to see higher tax bils of £120m to £250m per year as a result of the Chancellor's shock increase in the tax rate on profits.

The shock move was announced by George Osborne in his second Budget to pay for a £1.9bn "fair fuel stabiliser", which will reduce fuel duty by 1p a litre, instead of the 5pc rise scheduled under Labour's fuel duty escalator.

But oil companies have warned the move will lead to less domestic oil production, with more reliance on Middle East imports.

Mr Tholen told the BBC: "What you see is the UK's reputation as a global player in oil and gas industry falter because of this. Many companies from abroad are looking at whether to invest in the UK, to help us get the new oil and gas reserves out of our waters. What we see is that image yet again shattered because of the tax change."
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Rebels seize key Libyan town, Kadhafi forces take flight

By Marc Burleigh, AFP

BENGHAZI, Libya (AFP) - Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi were in retreat on Saturday after rebels re-captured the key eastern town of Ajdabiya in their first significant victory since the launch of the Western-led air strikes a week ago.

US President Barack Obama said the international mission had saved countless innocents from a "bloodbath" threatened by Kadhafi and the rebels thanked France for its role in the military blitz but said "outside forces" could now leave the country.

However, Russia's top general called the air strikes unsuccessful and said a ground operation would likely be needed to topple the Libyan strongman.

Ajdabiya was "100 percent in the hands of our forces, and we are pursuing Kadhafi's forces on the road to Brega," 80 kilometres (50 miles) further west, a rebel spokesman, Shamsiddin Abdulmollah, told reporters in the stronghold of Benghazi.

"Who is on the back foot are Kadhafi's forces because they no longer have air power and heavy weaponry available" after a week of bombing by coalition warplanes, he said.

Another spokesman, Ahmed Khalifa, said the rebels had taken at least 13 Kadhafi fighters who were being treating as prisoners of war.

The rebels, backed by the Western barrage, had poured into Ajdabiya, where destroyed tanks and military vehicles littered the road, AFP correspondents at the scene reported.

The bodies of at least two pro-Kadhafi fighters lay on the ground, surrounded by onlookers taking photos, while a mosque and many houses bore the scars of heavy shelling as the rebels celebrated, firing shots into the air and shouting "God is greater."

Outside the town, the bodies of 21 loyalist soldiers had been collected, a medic told AFP on Saturday.

Osama al-Qasy from Benghazi's Hawari hospital said the bodies were found 10 kilometres (six miles) west of Ajdabiyan. Other charred corpses remained in the desert, covered by blankets.

Regime loyalists had dug in at Ajdabiya after being forced back from the road to Benghazi by the first coalition air strikes. They were accused by residents of brutalising the population.

Resident Ibrahim Saleh, 34, told AFP: "The tanks were firing on the houses non-stop. I couldn't move from my house for days. There was no water or fuel or communications, and when people went out even to get fuel they were fired on.

"The coalition air strikes were yesterday and the day before. They attacked from the skies and the revolutionaries came in afterwards and freed the city," he said.

Ajdabiya, which straddles the key road to Benghazi, is the first town to fall back into rebel hands since a coalition of Western forces launched UN-backed air strikes on March 19 to stop forces loyal to Kadhafi attacking civilians.

But in Libya's west, where the capital Tripoli and most of Kadhafi's support is located, the port city of Misrata was in dire need of outside help from coalition jets and humanitarian groups because of attacks by Kadhafi forces, the rebels said.

"Please, do something about Misrata," one member of the rebellion, Mustafa Gheriani, pleaded.

"People there are willing to take casualties. They need intervention," he said. "Please, they need a floating hospital."

Abdulmollah said he believed a floating hospital organised by non-governmental organisations was on its way to Misrata under NATO escort from Malta.

Elsewhere, huge explosions shook a military site in an eastern suburb of Tripoli early Saturday as Western forces piled pressure on the regime with an aerial barrage.

The blasts left a radar facility in flames in Tajura, home to several military bases, a witness told AFP.

"The district was shaken by three explosions in succession," the resident said, adding that the explosions had shattered windows.

"The raid targeted a military radar site which is still on fire," the resident, who lives close by, added.

Under pressure to explain his strategy to Americans, President Obama gave his most detailed review of the conflict so far, and insisted national interests were behind his decision to order US forces into UN-mandated combat.

"Make no mistake, because we acted quickly, a humanitarian catastrophe has been avoided and the lives of countless civilians -- innocent men, women and children -- have been saved," Obama said in his weekly radio and online address.

The president said a week into the operation that when innocent people were brutalized, by a leader like Kadhafi threatening a "bloodbath" and when nations were prepared to respond together "it's in our national interest to act."

"And it's our responsibility. This is one of those times," Obama said.

"Our military mission in Libya is clear and focused," he added, noting the no-fly zone was mandated by the UN Security Council and that an international coalition was protecting Libyans to prevent "further atrocities."

"We're succeeding in our mission. We've taken out Libya's air defenses. Kadhafi's forces are no longer advancing across Libya."

The Libyan opposition's interim national council leader Mahmoud Jibril said his people no longer needed outside help, in a letter addressed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, published by the daily Le Figaro.

"In the middle of the night, your planes destroyed tanks that were set to crush Benghazi. ... The Libyan people see you as liberators. Its recognition will be eternal," he wrote.

However, Jibril added: "We do not want outside forces. We won't need them. We will win the first battle thanks to you. We will win the next battle through our own means."

Chief of staff of Russia's armed forces, General Nikolai Makarov, told the Interfax news agency in Moscow."Air (strikes) as I see it have not given them results.

"If their aim was to topple the regime of Kadhafi, then probably they will not manage without a ground phase," he was quoted as saying. "I would not rule it out."

He reaffirmed Russia's position that it would not take part in the international operation, saying that "there is not even any thought of this."
source AFP
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Liz Taylor buried near beloved Jackson

By Michael Thurston, AFP
Film icon Elizabeth Taylor was laid to rest Thursday in the same celebrity cemetery as her long-time friend Michael Jackson -- and demonstrated a keen sense of humor to the end.

The legendary actress, who died Wednesday aged 79, was sent off with an hour-long private ceremony at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, where generations of Hollywood stars are buried.

But her last wishes were respected, and announced after the service had finished.

"The service was scheduled to begin at 2:00 pm, but at Miss Taylor's request started late," said a statement by her publicist.

"Miss Taylor had left instructions that it was to begin at least 15 minutes later than publicly scheduled, with the announcement: 'She even wanted to be late for her own funeral,'" it added.

The film legend and violet-eyed beauty, famed as much for her stormy love life as her five-decade Oscar-winning film career, died early Wednesday from congestive heart failure at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai hospital.

Tributes poured in from Hollywood and beyond for the actress, who won two Oscars -- including for the 1966 classic "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" -- and was arguably the last great star of cinema's golden era.

But Thursday's funeral was reserved for a few dozen family and friends, brought in a fleet of black stretch limos to the verdant cemetery, where stars including Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, and Jean Harlow are also interred.

Irish actor Colin Farrell -- a "close friend" -- gave a recital of the Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem "The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo," while other readings were done by her children and grandchildren, said her publicist.

Taylor's grandson Rhys Tivey performed a trumpet solo of "Amazing Grace," while Rabbi Jerry Cutler officiated at a "multi-denominational" service. Taylor converted to Judaism when she was in her 20s.

Forest Lawn is where Jackson was buried following his death in June 2009 aged 50, from an overdose of the powerful sedative propofol. Taylor attended that private ceremony.

During their lives, the pop icon and Hollywood legend were at times inseparable, with homes near each other in the plush Bel Air and Beverly Hills neighborhoods west of Hollywood.

"I don't think anyone knew how much we loved each other," Taylor said after his death. "I loved Michael with all my soul and I can't imagine life without him. We had so much in common and we had such loving fun together."

The TMZ celebrity news website published a copy of Taylor's death certificate, which gave Forest Lawn as the burial location.

The certificate listed her causes of death as: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which it said she had for 10 years; congestive heart failure, which she had for five years; and cardiopulmonary arrest, against which was noted five minutes.

In tribute to Taylor, the association representing New York's Broadway theaters said they will dim their lights Friday in remembrance of the Hollywood goddess, whose long career included spells on the stage.

At the same time it emerged that ailing actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, 94, had been rushed to hospital after hearing the news of Taylor's death.

"She was watching the news yesterday morning, she was inconsolable. She said to her husband: 'Celebrities always go in threes, we've had Jane Russell, now it's Elizabeth, I'm next,'" said her spokesman.
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Video footage of a massive sandstorm as it moves across the Gulf

By Yahoo! Maktoob
A massive sandstorm is working its way across the Gulf region. It has already hit Kuwait as these staggering videos on YouTube, that were captured by members of the public show.

It is understood the vast cloud of sand is gradually moving eastwards and is likely to cross Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. All people are advised to stay indoors if the storm passes, especially those with respiratory conditions.

Experts warn that as well as the obvious dangers, sandstorms can also carry airborne diseases. These videos were apparently shot on March 25, 2011. The storm is expected to move east over the next few days.
via :
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Japan says must review nuclear power policy as crisis persists

(Reuters) - Japan will have to review its nuclear power policy, its top government spokesman said on Thursday as radiation from a damaged nuclear complex briefly made Tokyo's tap water unsafe for babies and led to people emptying supermarket shelves of bottled water.

Engineers are trying to stabilize the six-reactor nuclear plant in Fukushima, 250 km (150 miles) north of the capital, nearly two weeks after an earthquake and tsunami battered the plant and devastated northeastern Japan, leaving nearly 26,000 people dead or missing.

"It is certain that public confidence in nuclear power plants has greatly changed," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yuki Edano told Reuters.

"In light of that, we must first end this situation and then study from a zero base."

Before last week, Japan's 55 nuclear reactors had provided about 30 percent of the nation's electric power. The percentage had been expected to rise to 50 percent by 2030, among the highest in the world.

There were no fresh incidents of smoke or steam at the plant on Thursday, but four of the plant's reactors are still considered volatile, although on the way to stability.

"It's still a bit early to make an exact time prognosis, but my guess is in a couple of weeks the reactors will be cool enough to say the crisis is over," said Peter Hosemann, a nuclear expert at the University of California, Berkeley.

"It will still be important to supply sufficient cooling to the reactors and the spent fuel pools for a longer period of time. But as long as this is ensured and we don't see any additional large amount of radioactivity released, I am confident the situation is under control."

Tokyo's 13 million residents were told not to give tap water to babies under 1 year old after contamination hit twice the safety level this week. But it dropped back to allowable amounts on Thursday.

Despite government appeals against panic, many supermarkets and stores sold out of bottled water.

"Customers ask us for water. But there's nothing we can do," said Masayoshi Kasahara, a store clerk at a supermarket in a residential area of eastern Tokyo. "We are asking for more deliveries but we don't know when the next shipment will come."

Radiation above safety levels has also been found in milk and vegetables from Fukushima and the Kyodo news agency said radioactive cesium 1.8 times higher than the standard level was found in a leafy vegetable grown in a Tokyo research facility.

Singapore said it had found radioactive contaminants in four samples of vegetables from Japan.

Earlier, it and Australia joined the United States and Hong Kong in restricting food and milk imports from the zone, while Canada became the latest of many nations to tighten screening after the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

A shipping industry official, meanwhile, said some merchant vessels may be avoiding Tokyo port due to concern that crew members may be exposed to radiation.
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Jackson Browne on songwriting, his upcoming tour and 'Friday'

Left unguided, an interview with Jackson Browne can veer in many directions, reflecting the singer-songwriter's manifold interests.

Ask him what he's reading, and he'll give you a list (Garbage Land by Elizabeth Royte, among many), after which, he'll deftly leap from a question about the Kindle (he has one, but prefers actual books) to how downloading music just isn't as much fun if you can't hold the album and read the liner notes. Follow that up with an esoteric account of the intangibles of songwriting, and the man who gave us "Lawyers in Love," "Somebody's Baby," "Take It Easy" (which was turned into a massive hit by his friends in The Eagles) and "Doctor My Eyes" then talks about current Internet meme "Friday" (by Rebecca Black), wondering at what we can read into it as an artifact of the now.

His upcoming cross-Canada tour has him completely alone with guitar, and a backlog of songs both deeply personal (e.g., "Song for Adam") and political ("World in Motion"), although none of it is set in stone. He appears to be revising as he goes along, enjoying rearranging and rediscovering songs he hasn't listened to in years.

"The focus for this tour is more on the songwriting, which is exhilarating for me," Browne says. "The joke was, my friends were saying, 'Oh, you're going out and doing a solo acoustic show. Who's playing with you?'

"Even I immediately thought of going out with (friend and longtime multi-instrumentalist side man) David Lindley, because it never occurred for me to do it alone, but the guy who thought of the idea said, 'That's what people want to hear: you.' It produces a heightened relief of the songwriting, because it puts the songs in high relief. You see how they're made, you see what's really in them. It's been very inspiring for me, because I get to hear them that way, as well; I get to hear them at their most potent."

Browne continued to chat with Postmedia News' Tom Murray.

Q: The other side of it is that you have to be on top of your guitar-playing; you don't have Lindley to hide behind.

A: Well, it's coming along. In an email I sent to a drummer friend of mine, I said, "Y'know, it's the last frontier, staying in tune and playing in time." Drummers have always been my big brothers, the guys who have been the most helpful, but also biting and intolerant of my timekeeping skills. Some of these songs I've written (are) in time signatures that, when I sing them, well, shall I say the time is a little more elastic? That's the euphemism I prefer.

Q: Until the last few decades, we had plenty of singer-songwriters who were notorious for having "elastic" time. How many blues men played extra beats or measures beyond the standard twelve bar?

A: Yeah, like Lightnin' Hopkins, who would sometimes do bars of six, or whatever. The way we've listened to music has morphed, because the tempos are perfectly uniform, or the pitch completely corrected.

Collectively, our ears have changed. There's a heightened standard and yet, at the same time, there's a lot of stuff that doesn't adhere at all to the standards of my generation. Like, what you say in a song, for instance. Listen, have you heard that song "Friday" on YouTube?

Q: By Rebecca Black? Yeah.

A: It's shocking when you find out that it's 12 million people, or whatever the number is, watching, and it's like uber-bubble gum. But that's always been going on. Kids have every right to sing about what matters to them. (Laughs) "Which seat will I take?" That's great. It's a very happy little song. The (fake) Dylan version actually starts getting to you: "front seat, back seat, which seat will I take?" and then, all of these YouTube comments saying, "I remember this was the pivotal song of the civil-rights movement." Front of the bus, back of the bus, which side am I on? (Browne laughs raucously.) When people listen to music, more than half of what's happening is happening in their heads. In that way, music is wonderful and mysterious, like an oracle or a Rorschach (test).

Canadian dates include: Victoria March 25, Vancouver March 26, Edmonton March 28, Calgary March 29, Saskatoon March 31, Winnipeg April 2, Toronto April 5, Montreal April 9, Halifax April 12, St. John's April 14, Ottawa April 17.
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Libya: What do the military operation names mean?

Operation ELLAMY is the name given to UK military action in Libya, while the US, Canada and France all have their own monikers. But what do they mean?

With a coalition of international Allies, backed by Nato, carrying out air strikes to enforce a no-fly zone and other objectives in Libya, the eyes of the world are on them - and their operation names.

The Americans are using Operation Odyssey Dawn, while the French have gone for Operation Harmattan. The British have opted for Operation ELLAMY and it's Operation MOBILE in Canada. The latter countries are using capital letters.

Both the UK and US military say the names they have chosen are meaningless.

Canada has chosen a name that begins with "M" because the operation is being conducted in part in the Mediterranean. The name also has to work in English and French, as it's a bilingual country.

Harmattan, selected by the French, is the name for a dry and dusty West African wind.

A UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokeswoman says ELLAMY has been randomly generated by a computer programme. It's how all military operations are named and it's done this way so the name doesn't relate in any way to the action.
"That is so you cannot gain any insight into what is going on or being planned," says Tim Ripley, defence and security analyst with Jane's Defence Weekly.

Operations are named for quick and easy identification and communication. For example, to repeatedly refer to Operation ELLAMY as "the operation to prevent government forces in Libya from carrying out air attacks" would be "wordy and cumbersome", says the MoD spokeswoman.

A name also helps create a "audit trail" which is important when it comes to budgets and costs, says Ripley.

The US uses a similar computerised system. It was reportedly created in 1975 after names selected randomly by commanders, such as Operation Killer during the Korean War and Vietnam's Operation Masher, sparked criticism.

It gives each command within the Defense Department a series of two-letter groupings they use to come up with names. The US Africa Command, in charge of the current operation, is allocated letters JF-JZ, NS-NZ and OA-OF, said military spokesman Eric Elliott in a recent interview with the Washington Post.

West African winds

Commanders then consult a pre-approved list of about 60 code names to make the final decision. Once Odyssey was agreed on, commanders then "brainstormed for a random word that went well with it," he added.

"The goal is to create a name that has absolutely nothing to do with the activity of the region, so you could walk down the street in Washington during the planning stages and ensure that nobody knows it's about Libya," Elliott told the newspaper.

So anyone linking Odyssey Dawn to Homer's epic about the journey of Odysseus - which may have taken in the Libyan coast - is wrong.

The US has strict guidelines. The names should not "express a degree of hostility" or be "offensive to good taste or derogatory to a particular group, sect, or creed". Commercial trademarks, as well as "exotic" or "trite" choices are also banned.
But not all US operational names are neutral. Some have been chosen to convey a message, like Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

The Canadian military have their own system of naming operations. It has to relate to the region in which the action is being conducted.

"In this case since the region is the Mediterranean, the name MOBILE was chosen - M for Mediterranean," says Lieutenant Jenn Jackson, from the Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces.

"For a single country contribution one word is used, and since this refers to Canada's contribution, one word MOBILE is used. Additionally, because Canada is a bilingual country, the word chosen must work in both official languages. MOBILE is spelled the same in both English and French."

The use of capital letters is just a custom and not significant, she adds.

The French have not said why they chose Harmattan as the name for their military operation, but the word means a dry and dusty West African wind. It's thought to derive from the Twi language, which is spoken in the region.

Forces from Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain and Qatar are also involved in the military action, but they have not given their operations a name. They haven't said why.

Greece is also giving "supportive assistance" and it has not given its operation a name either.
source bbc
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Rebecca Black Friday Cover by Fake Bob Dylan Spawns YouTube Storytelling

Musical prankster Mike Bauer recorded a hilarious cover of Rebecca Black‘s infamous pop song, “Friday.” He turned the fluffy lyrics into a bit of rock music history, calling his version “a lost recording from Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes.” The fake Dylan version is embedded above.

The video has since earned over a million views, spawning a small fiction-writing workshop in the comments section as other pranksters share memories of listening to the fake song in Vietnam, in prison, and other strange places. We’ve collected a few of our favorite comments below. What do you think about this new genre of Internet fiction–YouTube storytelling?

TheNewguitarlessons wrote: “I was a rehabilitation officer at the San Quentin Penitentiary in the summer of 1972. Bob Dylan was detained overnight following an arrest for cocaine possession. He was in bad shape. Teary-eyed, he looked at me through the holding cell bars and begged me to bring him his guitar from the property locker. Knowing he had hit rock bottom, I obliged. He then played this song with the kind of emotion one rarely sees from artists these days. In that moment, we all forgot where we were — we were happy.”

wolverineblue18 wrote: “I was there when he wrote this! My friend Chet and I were driving 2 Woodstock in August of 69 and we started smoking a little early. That was Friday morning and we got lost on a dirt road right off of Highway 212, we tried to turn around in the yard of this huge house, and ran into the mailbox outside! The house was totally Dylan’s! He was too cool about it, we shared our stuff with him and he wrote this song about how he felt declining to play Woodstock that weekend. Powerful Stuff.”

Dobermite wrote: “I completely agree that this is ‘quintessential Dylan.’ I believe that ‘Friday’ symbolizes enlightenment that everyone is ‘so excited’ about, and that ‘partying’ is a metaphor for universal spiritual connection. Dylan describes the dilemma we face between forward-thinking enlightenment and backward-thinking prejudice in the powerful metaphor about ‘front seat’ and ‘back seat’ and his indecision in the question ‘Which seat should I take?’ Definitely Dylan’s.”

fodsaks wrote: “I think a lot of this confusion comes from the fact that Dylan never actually intended to record this himself and it’s widely rumoured that the version you’re hearing was little more than a demo. It was actually a song for Jimi Hendrix, who sadly never got to record it. After Hendrix’s death, Dylan couldn’t bring himself to re-record it, but still wanted the song to stand as a tribute to his late friend. So, this demo was pressed and released. Does that clear up the confusion now?”
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French missile destroys Libyan army plane on ground

(Reuters) - A French warplane destroyed a Libyan military aircraft with an air-to-ground missile as it was landing at Misrata air base in western Libya on Thursday, France's armed forces said on Thursday.

An armed forces spokesman said a patrol of Rafale fighters -- part of the Western coalition force carrying out a U.N.-mandated intervention to protect civilians caught in a counter-offensive by Muammar Gaddafi's troops against rebels -- spotted the Libyan plane breaching a no-fly order.

"The French patrol carried out an air-to-ground strike with an AASM weapon just after the plane had landed at the Misrata air base," the spokesman said, reading from an armed forces statement.

Western warplanes struck deeper inside Libya on Thursday after Gaddafi's tanks re-entered the town of Misrata overnight and besieged its main hospital.

Earlier on Thursday, France's armed forces said French planes had struck a central Libyan air base in the early hours of the morning in a fifth night of bombardments by Western powers against Gaddafi's military.

Around 15 French planes had been deployed on Wednesday and a dozen overnight, leading to missile strikes on an air base some 155 miles inland from Libya's Mediterranean coast.

Foreign Minister Alain Juppe early defended the pace of the coalition air operation, which has been spearheaded by France.

He said five days was not long enough to have achieved the mission's goal of protecting civilians from being snared in attacks by Gaddafi's troops. He said it could take days or weeks, but certainly not months, to crush Gaddafi's military.

(Reporting by Daniel Flynn; writing by Catherine Bremer; editing by Mark Heinrich)
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Gates Visits Israel After Egypt Stop

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Israel Thursday to discuss regional issues, but also trying to push the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

His visit follows a bomb attack in Jerusalem that killed one person and wounded dozens of others near the city's central bus station. Gates said the bombing was "a horrific terrorist attack."

The U.S. defense chief is due to meet later Thursday with Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak and President Shimon Peres.

On Friday, Gates will talk with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, just returning from a trip to Russia, and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Gates is then scheduled to travel to Jordan.

Before leaving Cairo Thursday, Gates pledged to Egyptian officials that U.S. aid will continue flowing, as it has since the mass protests that forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down last month. In all, the U.S. provides roughly $1.5 billion in assistance to Egypt each year.

Gates also talked about Libya with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the chief of Egypt's ruling military council. Their discussions included the no-fly zone over Libya enforced by the United States and other Western nations and supported by Arab League members.
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Saudi polls, aid sweeteners not enough: activists

By Omar Hasan, AFP
KUWAIT CITY (AFP) - The announcement of municipal polls, hot on the heels of a huge economic aid package, may not be enough to spare Saudi Arabia from the upheavals sweeping the Arab world, activists said on Wednesday.

They said the ultra-conservative Gulf state still needed to embark on real political reforms, including an elected parliament with legislative powers, public freedoms and true independence for the judiciary.

Riyadh announced late on Tuesday that it will hold its second municipal elections next month, after a two-year delay. In landmark first polls held in 2005, Saudi men elected half the members of 178 municipal councils.

"If the municipal polls are going to be held in the same way like seven years ago, then it will be of very little significance," said Ibrahim al-Mugaiteeb, head of the Human Rights First Society.

"At least all members must be elected, women should be allowed to take part as well as men, and the voting age should be lowered to 18 from 21," said Mugaiteeb, whose group is based in the oil-rich state.

It was the second major measure taken by the kingdom in less than a week in apparent reaction to democratic uprisings in several Arab countries and increased calls from Saudi activists for true political reforms.

On Friday, King Abdullah announced unprecedented economic benefits worth nearly $100 billion, on top of $36 billion ordered in February, mostly catering to solve chronic unemployment and housing shortages.

The 86-year-old Saudi monarch also ordered the establishment of a state authority to fight corruption, almost four years after the cabinet approved such a body.

"Excluding the corruption combating body, I really don't see any signal for political reform yet... Peoples do not live with food only," Mugaiteeb said.

Anwar al-Rasheed, coordinator of the Gulf Civil Society Forum, a pan-Gulf group of liberal intellectuals, said the spending packages do not amount to "true economic reform."

"These are simply distributing surplus funds to buy political favours... Most of it cannot be called real economic reforms like the two-month bonus to employees and the 60,000 security jobs," Rasheed told AFP.

"The support to the security and religious establishments ordered by the king were particularly frustrating and disappointing," he said.

Despite repeated appeals by activists for a parliamentary election, public freedoms and for women's rights, including the right to drive, the Saudi dynasty has remained unmoved and at times cracked down on reformists.

With pro-democracy revolutions sweeping Arab countries, Saudi activists have submitted petitions urging the king to undertake democratic changes, including the establishment of a "constitutional monarchy."

Cyber activists have urged Saudis to demonstrate twice in March to press for political reforms, but their calls have gone unheeded, at least in part because of a massive deployment of security forces.

Protests have still been held in Saudi Arabia's largely Shiite Eastern Province, calling for the release of prisoners and expressing solidarity with Shiite demonstrators in neighbouring Bahrain.

Reforms have been very slow and almost negligible, despite warnings by King Abdullah's half-brother, Prince Talal, that "anything could happen" in the kingdom unless it speeded up reforms.

Earlier this month, the National Society for Human Rights, a body close to the government, called for political reforms including the partial election of the consultative Shura Council and more independence for the judiciary.

Abdullah bin Bajjad al-Oteibi, a columnist in the Saudi newspaper Okaz, on Monday defended the government's policy and said activists have drastically raised the ceiling of their demands.

"Some thought the (Arab) scene will transfer to the kingdom and raised their demands to an irrational level," said Oteibi, who however acknowledged that some of the demands were legitimate.

Rasheed of the Gulf Civil Society Forum, however, said the Saudi authorities may have "misunderstood" why ordinary Saudis appear to have shunned calls on the Internet to go out on the street and demonstrate.

"If the Gulf dynasties, including the Saudi ruling family, do not respond to changes in the region, they will certainly be at risk. Those who think they can maintain the status quo are definitely mistaken," Rasheed said.
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Ten things Kate can't do once she marries Wills

By Emma Kemp, Yahoo!
Just one generation ago someone like Kate Middleton would have been tasered for getting too close to the British Royal family.

So when Clarence House relaxed their stun guns and let their future king propose to a 'commoner', Britain awoke in a postmodern-like daze where realities became relative and class boundaries blurred.

The only problem with such superb forward thinking is that the Royal Family is still very much backward and old fashioned when it comes to some matters, namely rules and etiquette.

And as the first normal woman to enter the Windsor fold, Kate will feel the changes to her life on a higher level than many past princesses.

Here are ten things the bride-to-be will no longer be allowed to do once she walks down the Green Mile – ahem, aisle – in Westminster:

1. Be referred to as 'Kate'

When Kate Middleton joins the House of Windsor this year, her official title will become ‘Her Royal Highness the Princess William of Wales’.

She can be addressed as 'Catherine' or 'Ma'am' (pronounced like 'ham'). But 'Kate' isn't going to cut it anymore by Royal standards.

Clarence House officials will probably wine and dine London's Royal correspondents and then ask them to please refer to Kate as 'Catherine' in the future. But we think they will refuse to do this. Something to do with search engine keywords.

2. Vote

Technically, the Queen and other members of her family are allowed to vote, but they do not do so because in practice it would be considered unconstitutional and not in accordance with the need for neutrality.

This is in keeping with the Royal Family's public role, which is based on identifying with every section of society, including minorities and special interest groups.

3. Run for political office

For the reasons stated above, this is also a no no.

4. Escape the scrutiny

As arguably Britain's most dysfunctional family, the Monarchy provides the British public with a generous source of voyeuristic entertainment, and an opportunity for heartless slander.

Having already been under the media spotlight for the best part of nine years, Kate has copped her fair share of criticism from the media over the most mundane and insignificant of things.

She's a commoner. She's an outrageous social climber. She's not outgoing enough. Her mum is an air hostess who uses the word 'toilet'.

The public watchdog will be onto Kate 24/7, so when she slips on that tiara come 29 April she will damn well have to make sure it’s a pretty one. But not too pretty. That would be exhibitionist.

This scrutiny will grow existentially and extend to all aspects of her life. Did you know the Middleton family can only trace their roots back to the mid 1500s? So what were they up to in 1483 then? They must be hiding something.

5. Play Monopoly

In 2008, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, said that the Royal Family was not allowed to play Monopoly at home "because it gets too vicious". No member of the family has yet revealed what they play in its place during the Christmas holidays.

6. Say or do anything controversial

This includes accepting large amounts of money from 'businessmen' for access to your husband and getting your toes sucked in public by your financial adviser. You know who you are, Fergs.

But it also encompasses Kate's expression of her preferred political position, social position, sexual position – basically anything within the realms of personality.

So far she has succeeded seamlessly in this, not putting a foot wrong in any situation. Granted though, the world has only heard her speak once after her and William's engagement and that was a heavily rehearsed affair.

7. Eat shellfish

British Royals are apparently never served shellfish, because of a fear of food poisoning. So if Kate can't live without crustaceans, she will have to seek them out in her own time.

8. Work

It is well known that Royals and careers don't mix well. As proven when Prince Charles' plan to work part time in a factory failed and Countess Sophie Wessex was forced to abandon her PR firm.

In Kate's case though, the whole unemployment scenario shouldn't be too difficult to handle. At 29 years of age she is the oldest spinster ever to marry a future king, and though she has a History of Art degree and years of life experience, Kate has spurned work wherever possible.

This is unless you count seven months as a casual accessories buyer for clothing chain Jigsaw and a short time working for the family company, Party Pieces.

Pinned by some as the unemployed woman marrying into a welfare family, we're reckoning the guys at Buckingham will keep her busy by sending her to lots of boat launches and pancake flipping gigs.

9. Sign anything unofficial

As a potential future counsellor of state if William becomes king, Kate might at some stage have to sign government papers and brings legislation into force in her husband's place.

People in this position are strictly not supposed to sign anything that could lead to their signature being copied and forged.
Last year Prince Harry was in hot water when he flouted this rule by signing the plaster cast of a girl who had fractured her arm, a media report said.

The 17-year-old from Leicestershire was so excited she said her cast would be "going in a glass box", which the Queen might not have been too happy about.

10 Finish her dinner

If she is a slower eater than her grandmother-in-law, Kate could go hungry. In Britain, when the Queen stops eating, you stop as well, fork in hand.
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US fighter jet crashes in Libya

A US F-15 fighter jet has crashed in Libya, reportedly due to a technical fault, during a raid against anti-aircraft defences in the northeast of the country.

The US Africa command said on Tuesday that both its two-man crew ejected safely.

"Two crew members ejected from their US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle when the aircraft experienced equipment malfunction over northeast Libya, March 21, 2011 at approximately 10:30 pm CET," the command, based in the western German city of Stuttgart, said in a statement.

"Both crew members ejected and are safe ... the cause of the incident is under investigation."

Nicole Dalrymple, a command spokeswoman, told AFP news agency that the crew had sustained minor injuries. She said the crash was not a result of hostile action.

Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons, onboard the USS Kearsarge, a US Navy vessel stationed off Libya's coast, which was involved in the recovery of the crew, said two aircraft were involved in the rescue operation.

"The two pilots are in good condition. They are expected to be heading possibly to this ship which has excellent medical facilities on board.

"They were flying over northeast Libya on mission. It is not known exactly what they were engaged in."

Majdi Mohammed Abdul Jalil, 31, a worker on a farm near where the crash occured, said he had seen the plane come down.

"We saw a plane falling at about 11:45pm," he told AFP. "Then we heard an explosion about a minute later when it crashed.

"We were standing outside, we saw it falling and we followed it," he said.

"We saw one pilot who landed far away, and then we saw a helicopter which came and took him away ... We tried to talk to him and he tried to talk to us, but we couldn't understand each other."
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U.S. jet crashes in Libya, pilots survive, as Gaddafi’s forces dig in

For the rebel forces, Monday began with an abundance of hope and confidence. A day after the allied airstrikes, the highway from Benghazi to Ajdabiya was a graveyard for Gaddafi’s forces. Charred tanks, some still burning, and shattered armored personnel carriers littered the road beside the bodies of Gaddafi’s soldiers.
But near Ajdabiya there was anxiety brewing. Rebel commanders said they were unable to reach their allies inside the city to mount a two-pronged offensive against Gaddafi’s forces positioned at the eastern entrance. Cellphones had been shut down, and the rebels had no satellite phones.

“Why doesn’t our leadership give us better communications?” said Mraibi, the rebel fighter. “We are cut off from our forces inside Ajdabiya.”

Like other fighters, he said he was expecting an allied airstrike on Gaddafi’s tanks and rocket launchers on the perimeter of the city. Adil al-Hasi, a rebel commander, said he was given orders not to send his men into battle until allied jets had struck Gaddafi’s forces.

“Gaddafi’s forces are like birds,” said Fathi Bin Saoud, 54, a fighter. “They can fly anywhere, but the international community can shoot them down. Our role in this war is to walk in and pluck their feathers.”

So when the rebels saw the coalition jets, there was a sense of relief and euphoria. Fighters pointed at the sky and cheered. “The French are here,” yelled one, referring to French warplanes leading the allied air assault.

After the retreat, rebel forces were in disarray. Within minutes, the front line had been pushed back five miles. “We made a mistake,” mumbled Kareem Ali, 55, another fighter, as he looked toward Ajdabiya.

Several rebels had been killed, including four in a pickup truck that was covered with blood. Rebel commanders tried to regroup their men, but they failed to bring order. Some fighters proposed taking a back route through the desert to attack Gaddafi’s forces. Others inexplicably began to fire heavy machine guns into the sky, which raised concerns that the allied jets might strike them instead.
U.S. jet crashes in Libya, pilots survive, as Gaddafi’s forces dig in

Gallery: Conflict and chaos in Libya: As forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi continued attacks on rebels and international strikes began, thousands of Libyans fled the fighting.

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For the rebel forces, Monday began with an abundance of hope and confidence. A day after the allied airstrikes, the highway from Benghazi to Ajdabiya was a graveyard for Gaddafi’s forces. Charred tanks, some still burning, and shattered armored personnel carriers littered the road beside the bodies of Gaddafi’s soldiers.

With Operation Odyssey Dawn in full effect, CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports from the Pentagon that the two pilots who were flying a jet that crashed have been recovered and are in U.S. hands with minimal injuries.

Video: With Operation Odyssey Dawn in full effect, CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports from the Pentagon that the two pilots who were flying a jet that crashed have been recovered and are in U.S. hands with minimal injuries.

Coalition forces focused their actions Monday on extending the no-fly zone south and west from Benghazi.

Graphic: Coalition forces focused their actions Monday on extending the no-fly zone south and west from Benghazi.

But near Ajdabiya there was anxiety brewing. Rebel commanders said they were unable to reach their allies inside the city to mount a two-pronged offensive against Gaddafi’s forces positioned at the eastern entrance. Cellphones had been shut down, and the rebels had no satellite phones.

“Why doesn’t our leadership give us better communications?” said Mraibi, the rebel fighter. “We are cut off from our forces inside Ajdabiya.”

Like other fighters, he said he was expecting an allied airstrike on Gaddafi’s tanks and rocket launchers on the perimeter of the city. Adil al-Hasi, a rebel commander, said he was given orders not to send his men into battle until allied jets had struck Gaddafi’s forces.

“Gaddafi’s forces are like birds,” said Fathi Bin Saoud, 54, a fighter. “They can fly anywhere, but the international community can shoot them down. Our role in this war is to walk in and pluck their feathers.”

So when the rebels saw the coalition jets, there was a sense of relief and euphoria. Fighters pointed at the sky and cheered. “The French are here,” yelled one, referring to French warplanes leading the allied air assault.

After the retreat, rebel forces were in disarray. Within minutes, the front line had been pushed back five miles. “We made a mistake,” mumbled Kareem Ali, 55, another fighter, as he looked toward Ajdabiya.

Several rebels had been killed, including four in a pickup truck that was covered with blood. Rebel commanders tried to regroup their men, but they failed to bring order. Some fighters proposed taking a back route through the desert to attack Gaddafi’s forces. Others inexplicably began to fire heavy machine guns into the sky, which raised concerns that the allied jets might strike them instead.

“Every one of us has his own plan,” a fighter named Abu Ahmed, clutching a ragged pair of binoculars, shouted at a comrade.

In the end, though, almost every commander and fighter reached the same conclusion: Don’t push forward. Let the allied warplanes destroy Gaddafi’s forces. Some hoped that their foes, fearing the airstrikes, would leave on their own.

“We are waiting,” said Hasi, the commander. “Maybe they will surrender.”

Correspondent Liz Sly in Tripoli and staff writers Greg Jaffe and Debbi Wilgoren in Washington contributed to this report.
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Nate Dogg's funeral set for Saturday

Rapper Nate Dogg will be remembered this weekend in several Southern California events, and everyone is invited.

The rapper died March 15 of complications from multiple strokes, lawyer Mark Geragos tells AP. Dogg, whose real name was Nathaniel Dwayne Hale, was 41.

A funeral service is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Long Beach Cruise Terminal and will be open to the public, said his sister Pamela Hale-Burns, a reporter for the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

Viewing for the singer will be Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at New Hope Baptist Church, 1160 New York St., also in Long Beach. No cameras will be allowed at either event.

MTV reports that on Sunday, producer DJ Quik is tentatively scheduled to host a memorial benefit at the Los Angeles Convention Center in honor of the rapper.
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Warren G: "Nate Dogg's Death Was A Crushing Blow"

Warren G has broken his silence over the death of close friend Nate Dogg, revealing his passing has been "a crushing blow" to himself and other artists of the hip-hop world.

As we previously reported, the West Coast singer passed away last week after a series of complications he suffered from having strokes in both 2007 and 2008. He was just 41-years old.

Speaking to our US Team about Nate Dogg's death, Warren G - who collaborated with the late star on hit tune Regulate - recalled the moment he heard that Dogg had died.

Warren explained: "We had got the word from his family on what was going on, and it was just a crushing blow for us,"

"Just from going to see him and lifting his spirits up when he was in therapy, and stuff like that, it's just crazy for that to happen. And I still don't believe it, you know what I'm saying?"

The rapper, who performed a touching Nate Dogg tribute with Snoop Dogg and P Diddy at last weekend's SXSW festival, also claimed he was "touched" by the support he received at the show.
He continued: "It means a lot, you know, because this is something that's being done for a person that we really love. It's deeper than music, that's a brother to us, to me and Kurupt and Snoop and Daz... it's really deeper than that,"

Warren G added: "I mean, like, I'm not a psychic or a genie or a gypsy or anything, but I know deep down in my heart he's around us, he's with us... he's with us in spirit. Everything we do, he's a part of it."

Nate Dogg's funeral is expected to take place this Saturday, with a ceremony preceding the event at the Long Beach Airport and according to a family friend, will be open to fans.

The following day, a memorial benefit is allegedly being planned at the Los Angeles Convention Centre hosted by DJ Quik.

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Five Things to Know About Late Rapper Nate Dogg

Any rap fan or child of the '90s worth their salt knows a thing or two about Nate Dogg.

But the late hip-hop star, who passed away yesterday due to complications from multiple strokes, is much more than the sum of his hits (of which, let it be known, there were plenty).

So, from his surprising past to his frequent collaborators to his time in uniform to his debilitating health problems, here are the five things you need to know about this mourned music master:

1. Everything He Touched Turned to Gold Platinum: Of this there can be no dispute: Nate Dogg had a knack for making hits, though you could be forgiven for not realizing it, as the four-time Grammy nominee was often overshadowed by his more famous collaborators. And while he certainly achieved solo success, it's his seminal collaborations that will be most remembered for their lasting influence on the West Coast rap scene: from his work on Dr. Dre's The Chronic, to 1995's now iconic G-funk anthem "Regulate" with Warren G, to Tupac's "All Eyez On Me," to Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's "The Next Episode," to Ludacris' "Area Codes" to Eminem's "Shake That," Nate was the industry's go-to rapper.

2. He Was One of the Few, One of the Proud: When he was just 16 years old, Nate, whose real name was Nathaniel Hale, dropped out of Long Beach Polytechnic High School and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He served for three years before returning to the LBC, where he hooked up with Snoop and Warren G to start the rap trio 213 (named in honor of their area code). They soon caught the ear of Dr. Dre (that he's Warren G's stepbrother couldn't have hurt) and the rest is history.

3. He Was Plagued by Health Problems: While the family confirmed to their local paper that Nate Dogg passed away, no exact cause of death was immediately announced. But this morning, his longtime attorney Mark Geragos said that the rapper died Tuesday from complications due to multiple strokes. He suffered debilitating strokes in 2007 and 2008; the former left him partially paralyzed and suffering partial memory loss (though he eventually cognitively recovered), and the latter left him temporarily on life support and with a feeding tube.

Over the weekend, Warren G. even tweeted an update on his pal, letting fans know that Nate was in therapy and thanked well-wishers for their support.

4. He Had His Problems With the Law: Back in 2006, one of Nate's ex-girlfriends brought a domestic violence complaint against him, accusing the rapper of aggravated trespass, battery, telephone harassment, violating a restraining order and dissuading a witness from reporting a crime after breaking into the Newport Beach home occupied by his former partner and her new beau. According to police reports of the incident, once inside, he punched the man in the face and left. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to aggravated trespass and battery and was sentenced to three years' informal probation.

In 2009, he was arrested on suspicion of felony stalking after his partner claimed he had threatened her life and chased her down the freeway. The rapper pleaded not guilty to the charges, and the case was ultimately dropped.

5. He's Already Deeply Missed: Shortly after news of his death broke, his friends, fans and collaborators began flooding Twitter with messages of remembrance. First out of the gate was Snoop, who lamented, "We lost a true legend n hip hop n rnb. One of my best friends n a brother to me since 1986 when I was a sophomore at poly high where we met…I love u buddy luv…RIP NATE DOGG."

His sentiments were echoed by Ludacris, Erykah Badu, The Game, Xzibit and more, while Warren G and Eminem were readying statements to release later this morning. Nate's brother Samuel even appeared on Los Angeles' KDAY FM early this morning and while he declined to discuss the specifics of his brother's death, he said he felt "numb" by the unexpected passing. RIP, Nate Dogg.


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Nate Dogg

 Nathaniel Dwayne Hale (August 19, 1969 – March 15, 2011), better known by his stage name Nate Dogg, was an American musician.

Life and career

Nate Dogg was born in Long Beach, California. He began singing as a child in the New Hope Baptist Church in Long Beach, and at Life Line Baptist Church in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where his father (Daniel Lee Hale) was a pastor. At the age of 16 he dropped out of high school in Long Beach, California and left home to join the United States Marine Corps, serving for three years.

He was the friend and partner in the rap game with rappers Snoop Dogg, Warren G, RBX, Daz Dillinger and was the cousin of Butch Cassidy and Lil' ½ Dead. Nate, Snoop Dogg and Warren G formed a rap trio called 213, which recorded its first demo in the back of the famed V.I.P record store in Long Beach. The demo was later heard by Dr. Dre at a house party, who was impressed with Nate's soulful voice.[citation needed]

Nate Dogg made his debut on The Chronic. Singing in what later become his trademark style, he was well-received by fans and critics alike, and would go on to sign with Death Row Records in 1993. Nate Dogg was also featured on Mista Grimm's "Indosmoke" with Warren G. Then in 1994 he produced his first hit single "Regulate" with Warren G. Nate Dogg was also featured in many Tupac releases, including his collaboration record Thug Life: Volume I. In 1998, after a tumultuous time at Death Row Records, he released another album. The double album was titled G-Funk Classics Vol. 1 & 2 and was followed up in late 2001 with Music & Me on Elektra Records. Music & Me peaked at number three on the Billboard hip-hop charts in 2001.

In 2002, Nate Dogg appeared on a celebrity episode of The Weakest Link, making it to the last three players before being eliminated by Xzibit and Young MC.

Nate Dogg was arrested in Arizona in April 2002 and was charged with firearms and drug offenses. He pleaded guilty in May 2002 and was subsequently sentenced to probation and community service. He was also ordered to attend drug counseling sessions.

As of 2004, Nate Dogg has featured in and contributed to over 40 chart singles.

After a number of delays and an original release date of April 2004, his self-titled album Nate Dogg was released on Affiliated Entertainment Group on June 3, 2008.

Stroke and health

On December 19, 2007, he suffered a stroke, according to a coordinator for his recently formed gospel choir, Innate Praise. Initial media reports suggested he had been admitted to Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center in Pomona, California after suffering a heart attack.

Erica Beckwith told MTV News that Nate Dogg had been released on December 26 after being treated for a stroke and had been admitted to a medical-rehab facility to assist him in his recovery. In January 2008, it was officially reported that the stroke had rendered the left side of his body paralyzed. Doctors believed there would be a full recovery, and his voice was not affected. In September 2008, Nate suffered a second stroke. Warren G later confirmed that since the second stroke, Nate was undergoing physical therapy in an attempt to return to some normality, but it was unclear whether Nate would be able to resume his singing career.

Nate Dogg died on March 15, 2011 in Long Beach, California of congestive heart failure along with complications related to his previous strokes. Tributes poured in from collaborators and friends such as Ludacris, The Game, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Daz Dillinger, Xzibit, Erykah Badu, Murs, Big Pooh, Big Syke, Fabolous, Shade Sheist, Knoc-Turn'al, Ice-T, Warren G, Eminem, Lupe Fiasco, Big Boi and DJ Premier. Game released a tribute song to Nate Dogg less then 48 hours after his passing, titled: "All Doggs Go to Heaven (R.I.P. Nate Dogg)" which samples Nate Dogg's vocals in "Area Codes" and "The Next Episode".
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Japan quake leaves 22,000 dead, missing

Tokyo – The confirmed death toll in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan rose to 8,649 people on Monday while another 12,877 are still missing.

Ten days after the magnitude-9.0 temblor on Japan's northeastern coast, the country's worst disaster since World War II, it is feared that the number of fatalities will rise because just in Miyagi prefecture the local police are saying that some 15,000 people lost their lives.

On Sunday, two people were found alive buried in the rubble of their house in Miyagi, a woman of 80 and her 16-year-old grandson, but with every hour that passes hopes diminish of finding more survivors.

Some 360,000 people have been evacuated from their homes and most of them are being housed in 2,200 temporary shelters, some of which do not have electricity or basic food items.

Among those people in shelters are 200,000 who were evacuated from within several miles of the Fukushima nuclear plant, where technicians and soldiers are working day and night to reduce the temperature of the reactor cores to prevent a massive leak of radioactive particles.

According to official figures, in Miyagi the official death toll currently stands at 5,053, in Iwate 2,650 people died and in Fukushima 691, but several thousand more people are missing in those three prefectures, which were the hardest hit by the quake and tsunami.

More than 600 aftershocks have shaken Japan after the original quake, but they have not caused serious damage so far although they are adding to the nervousness felt by the people in the region.

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Japan earthquake: CCTV video of tsunami wave hitting Sendai airport

Japan earthquake: CCTV video of tsunami wave hitting Sendai airport
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Japan Earthquake: Helicopter aerial view video of giant tsunami waves

Japan Earthquake: Helicopter aerial view video of giant tsunami waves

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