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  Nation World  


 

Privacy concerns as eight in 10 tots have pictures online

MELBOURNE (AFP) - Eight out of ten children under the age of two have their pictures online via sites like Facebook, raising privacy and even paedophilia concerns, an Internet security company said.
A study by Melbourne-based AVG found an average of 81 percent of toddlers in 10 western countries have a digital presence; 92 percent in America, followed by 91 percent in New Zealand and 84 percent in Australia and Canada.
A third of children are online at just a few weeks of age, while a quarter appear on the Web before they are even born in the form of ante-natal scans, the company said.
“It’s a sobering thought,” said managing director Peter Cameron. “The vast majority of children today have online presence by the time they are two years old - a presence that will be built on throughout their whole lives.”
“It reinforces the need for parents to be aware of the privacy settings they have set on their social network profiles. Otherwise, you may be sharing your baby’s picture not only with your friends and family but with the whole online world.”
The company said parents should keep tight privacy settings to guard against identity theft or unauthorised use of the pictures which could dog the child as it grows up.
“They’ve got to have (settings) so they are only sharing with family and close friends and it’s kept within close confines, otherwise it can be picked up and used anywhere,” said spokesman Lloyd Borrett.
“Stranger danger applies online just as much as it does in the real world.”
AVG, which has software to protect against identity theft, surveyed 2,200 mothers with Web access and children under two in Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
Facebook was getting kudos for giving members better control of their information but dinged for letting people be thrown into “groups” without their permission.
A day after Facebook began letting users form cozy cliques at the website the Internet was abuzz with grumblings by people who found themselves added to groups without being asked.
Well-known technology entrepreneur and blogger Jason Calcanis posted at his website a copy of an email that he sent to Facebook after being “force-joined” to a group called the “North American Man/Boy Love Association” (NAMBLA).

 
China media slam Nobel Peace Prize for dissident
BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese state media yesterday slammed the Nobel committee’s decision to award the prestigious peace prize to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo, saying the move was unwise, arrogant and prejudiced.
An editorial published in the English-language Global Times newspaper said the Nobel committee had “disgraced itself” and suggested the peace prize had been “degraded to a political tool that serves an anti-China purpose.”
“The Nobel committee once again displayed its arrogance and prejudice against a country that has made the most remarkable economic and social progress in the past three decades,” the editorial said, referring to the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader who won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize.
“Neither of the two are among those who made contributions to China’s peace and growth in recent decades.”
News that Liu - who Beijing has repeatedly branded a criminal following his December 2009 jailing for 11 years on subversion charges - had been awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize was reported in Chinese-language state media, but only through the government’s angry reaction to the decision.
Internet searches using the key words “Nobel Peace Prize” and “Liu Xiaobo” brought up no results on Chinese web portals Sina and Sohu while similar searches on Weibo, a Twitter-like service, also drew a blank.
A search on Chinese search engine Baidu produced the government’s reaction to the peace prize and previous reports on the 54-year-old writer’s sentencing.
Friday’s evening news on China Central Television made no mention of Liu, opening instead with a story about flooding on the southern island of Hainan while broadcasts on Liu by international television networks CNN and French TV5 were blocked by government censors.
Text messages sent containing the full name of Liu Xiaobo appeared to be blocked, according to several tests carried out by AFP correspondents.
The Global Times editorial sounded a defiant note, saying China would resist attempts to “impose Western values” on the country.
“Obviously, the Nobel Peace Prize this year is meant to irritate China, but it will not succeed. On the contrary, the committee disgraced itself.
“The Nobel committee made an unwise choice, but it and the political force it represents cannot dictate China’s future growth.”
 
Obama names new national security advisor
WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Barack Obama named hard-charging aide Tom Donilon as his new national security advisor, in the first shuffle of a wartime foreign policy team beset by multiple global crises.
Donilon will succeed his boss, James Jones, who is retiring after two years in the crucial role managing the White House national security apparatus, during which he was seen as an outsider, remote from Obama’s inner circle.
Donilon is close to Vice President Joe Biden, and was seen as a fellow skeptic of military arguments for a full-scale counter-insurgency in Afghanistan, before Obama decided last year to send 30,000 more troops to war.
He will take over with Washington facing multiple crises abroad, including the Iranian nuclear showdown, Middle East peace talks which are on the verge of collapse and the elusive search for progress in the war in Afghanistan.
Donilon has a close working relationship with Obama. He is known as a workaholic and was also intimately involved in last year’s Afghan strategy review.
“Over the last two years, there’s not a single critical national security issue that has not crossed Tom’s desk,” Obama said.
 
End to trapped miners’ 65-day ordeal in sight
SAN JOSE MINE, Chile (AFP) - After a record two months trapped underground in a collapsed Chile mine, 33 miners Friday appeared just days from a miraculous rescue with a deep drill shaft set to reach them within hours.
Government ministers said the shaft could break through to the men within the next 24 hours, with one raising hopes that the first miners could be pulled up to the surface early next week.
“Tuesday, Tuesday,” Health Minister Jaime Manalich told reporters outside the remote San Jose Mine in northern Chile after being asked when the operation to bring the men to the top could begin.
The shaft would break through to the miners “within 24 hours overnight or around dawn on Saturday, we cannot be certain about the exact timing,” Mines Minister Laurence Golborne said later.
He cautioned though that depending on how engineers decided to shore up the shaft it would still take “three to eight days” before they could start bringing the miners to the surface.
And a senior engineer said that, in what could be a risky operation, the miners would have to set off explosives to widen the bottom of the mine so the rescue cage will fit.
“It’s an explosion and that means taking precautions. We have to clear the area so that the shock wave doesn’t reach anyone,” said Andre Sougarret, the engineer in charge.
Excitement was building Friday with journalists and camera crews from around the world gathering hoping to capture the first images of the men emerging from the mine. More than 1,000 reporters are expected to have arrived by the weekend.
“God be willing, in a few days the whole country will be weeping with joy... when we see these miners emerge from the depths of the mountain to embrace their wives, children, mothers and fathers” said President Sebastian Pinera.
Pinera may even witness the first dramatic rescues -- which engineers had initially predicted would not be until Christmas.
Trapped more than 700 meters (2,300 feet) down since the mine operated by the San Esteban Mining company caved in on August 5, the men have survived longer than any trapped underground before.
 
Gunmen torch 29 Nato tankers in new attack

QUETTA (AFP) - Gunmen yesterday torched at least 29 oil tankers in southwest Pakistan, the sixth attack in just over a week as Islamist militants continue to target a Nato supply route into Afghanistan.
Two police officers were hurt in the attack in remote Mitri area, 180 km southeast of Quetta, the capital of oil and gas rich Baluchistan province, which borders Iran and Afghanistan.
“Some 30 gunmen attacked the tankers, which were parked outside a roadside hotel and opened fire early Saturday morning, injuring two local police officials,” Abdul Mateen, a senior administration official in Mitri, said. He said the fire engulfed 29 tankers, adding the local administration have called firefighters from the nearby Sibbi town to extinguish the fire.
“We will be able to have a precise idea about the losses only after the fire is brought under control.”
Mateen said the tankers, which were on their way to Afghanistan had stopped in Mitri overnight.
Baluchistan’s home secretary Akbar Durrani confirmed the incident and said the fire gutted all 29 tankers.
Abdul Qadir, an employee at the roadside hotel said: “I was fast asleep and got up with sound of intense firing.
“When I came out, I saw a group of armed men warning other employees and vehicle drivers to stay away. The gunfire was so intense that it triggered massive fire engulfing all tankers that were parked in front of the hotel,” Qadir said.
Nobody has so far claimed responsibility for the latest attack, which came three days after militants torched over 40 Nato oil tankers and containers in the northwestern city of Nowshera and in southwestern Quetta.
Taliban militants have launched five attacks on Nato supply vehicles in Pakistan in the past week to avenge a new wave of US drone strikes targeting Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in the country’s northwest.

 
Microsoft boss upbeat on new mobile phone operating system
MADRID (AFP) - Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer said he was confident the company’s new mobile phone operating system would help it claw back market share from rivals, days after Goldman Sachs downgraded its assessment of the firm’s stock.
The world’s largest software company will launch Windows Phone 7 in New York tomorrow, trying to recover ground lost to Apple’s iPhone, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry and Google’s Android mobile platform.
“We are excited to be able to launch Windows Phone 7. We think we have pretty unique ideas and a unique perspective,” he told a business conference in Madrid when asked if he thought the new operating system would help the firm make up for lost ground.
“I think our products will stand out compared to any others. We would not be launching the product if we did not feel good about its chances to do well.”
Investment bank Goldman Sachs on Monday downgraded its rating on Microsoft shares to ‘neutral’ from “buy,” saying revenues would remain under pressure until the company gained a firmer foothold in smartphone and iPad-style computer tablets.
Ballmer said Windows-based tablets would be on the market as soon as they are ready.
“You will see us to continue to push Windows into new formats and when there is news on the topic we will report it,” he said.
Technology website Neowin.net said sources close to Microsoft had hinted the company would use the launch of its new mobile phone operating system on Monday to outline plans for a series of tablet-like devices running the Windows operating system.
According to market research firm Gartner, Microsoft’s share of the worldwide mobile operating system market will fall to 4.7 percent this year from 8.7 percent last year.
In June, Microsoft killed the ‘Kin,’ a line of mobile telephones aimed at young people it had unveiled just two months earlier.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Microsoft would on Monday offer three Windows Phone 7 smartphones with handsets made by South Korea’s Samsung and LG Electronics and Taiwan’s HTC.
 
Stricken chemical tanker being towed to French port

BREST, France (AFP) - A deepwater tug was towing a stricken chemical tanker to a French port yesterday after a collision with a freighter forced its crew to abandon ship, maritime officials said.
The badly listing 120-metre Maltese-flagged Uranus, laden with 6,000 tonnes of solvents, was being towed to the port of Brest in France’s northwest after a salvage team boarded the ship Friday.
The ship’s 13-member crew took to the life rafts shortly before dawn Friday and were winched to safety by rescue helicopter within hours, the coastguard headquarters in the Brittany city of Brest said.
But that left the vessels adrift off France’s Atlantic coast and it was reportedly “taking on large amounts of water” after having collided with a bulk carrier 50 nautical miles southwest of the island of Ouessant.
The coastguard later said there was no pollution visible as they started to pump water out of the ship.
“The salvage team onboard are confident that, while the vessel has a 12-degree list to port, there is no immediate danger,” the ship’s Glasgow-based operator V Ships said.
The Uranus was no longer sinking, it added.
“As long as the authorities are happy about the ship’s safety it should be in Brest at 8:00 or 9:00 pm this evening (1600 or 1700 GMT),” a V Ships spokeswoman told AFP. French authorities said the ship was expected later in the night.
The crew are Russian, Bulgarian, Latvian and Filipino, she said. The Russian captain has been interviewed by French maritime police.
The ship is carrying “heavy pygas”, V Ships said in a statement, an industrial gasoline used to make products including paint.
“We’re in more of a favourable situation than an unfavourable one,” maritime authority spokesman Marc Gander told journalists in Brest.
The Uranus was built in 2008 and is compartmentalised with a double hull, reducing the risk of the solvents leaking into the sea, Gander said.
The tanker was en route from Porto Marghera in Italy to Amsterdam when it collided with the Hanjin Richzad, a 191-metre Panama-flagged freighter travelling from Las Palmas in Spain to Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
One was apparently overtaking the other, Gander said.
The transport ministry said that the collision happened at around 0315 GMT, after which the cargo ship waited to provide help if necessary to the tanker.
The Hanjin Richzad was allowed to continue its voyage after being inspected and French maritime police said they would interview the Panamanian vessel’s captain at a later date.
Weather at the time of the accident was clement, with a 1.5 metre swell, the coastguard said.
The French Regional Operational Centre for Monitoring and Rescue (CROSS) dispatched a navy frigate and the tug to the area.
The Brittany coast is at the western entrance to the Channel, one of the world’s busiest waterways, and has in the past been hit by several environmental disasters linked to shipping.
In 1978, the sinking of Liberian-flagged supertanker the Amoco Cadiz devastated around 320 kilometres (200 miles) of pristine shoreline with 230,000 tonnes of crude oil.
In 1999, the Erika tanker carrying 30,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil broke in two and sank off Brittany, polluting a large stretch of coastline and killing tens of thousands of seabirds.
The French oil company Total was found guilty of failing to address maintenance problems when it chartered the rusty 25-year-old Erika.
French beach resorts were deserted, fishing was halted and shellfish banned from consumption in the aftermath of the oil spill, leaving the local economy on its knees for years.

 
Indonesia launches hunt for Playboy editor
JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesia launched a manhunt for a former editor of the local edition of Playboy magazine, who has been sentenced to jail for indecency even though the publication did not contain nudity.
An arrest warrant was issued after Erwin Arnada ignored three orders to surrender to prosecutors and serve a two-year jail sentence ordered in August by the Supreme Court, prosecutors said.
“We issued an order to prosecutors across the country to arrest him after he failed to answer three summons,” South Jakarta chief prosecutor Mohammed Yusuf said.
The case has highlighted the growing power of Islamist extremists who launched violent protests against the magazine when it appeared in 2006, and pushed the Supreme Court to overturn the editor’s earlier acquittal.
“We are being forced to act by the FPI (Islamic Defenders Front) as the plaintiff in this case,” Yusuf said, referring to a violent Islamist vigilante group that enjoys the support of top police officers.
The FPI -- known for its armed attacks on minorities and moderates -- has condemned Arnada as a “moral terrorist” and ordered its militants to track him down.
The magazine published only a handful of issues, none of which contained nudity, before hardliners forced it to close in 2006.
The editor’s lawyers say the Supreme Court’s decision contravenes press freedoms established after the fall of military strongman Suharto in 1998.
Human rights activists accuse President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s coalition government of using harsh penalties under the criminal code to intimidate critical media outlets and whistle-blowers in the mainly Muslim country.
Lawmakers passed a controversial anti-pornography law in 2008 and the communications minister has started censoring the Internet, although hardcore pornography is widely available.
Indonesia’s judiciary is notoriously corrupt and inconsistent -- even the president admits there is a “legal mafia” running the country’s court system in favour of the rich and powerful.
Local rock star Nazril Ariel Irham is behind bars awaiting trial under the anti-pornography law for allegedly circulating a homemade sex tape online in June but the sellers of pirated porn DVDs go largely unpunished by police.
 

 

BEAUTY QUEENS STEP OUT...

Miss Universe 2010, Mexican Ximena Navarrete, right, and Miss Indonesia 2009 Cory Sandriova,left, pose for photographers after a press conference in Jakarta

 
 
Iran claims country is ‘stronger’ after sanctions
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Iran is stronger after a host of international sanctions, the country’s finance minister Shamseddin Hosseini asserted in Washington.
“After these sanctions we are a much stronger country,” said Hosseini, striking a resolute tone amid international curbs on trade with Islamic Republic and sanctions against firms and individuals linked to the country’s controversial nuclear program.
He acknowledged that the sanctions “cause some kind of problem for us.” But he said, “When people solve problems, they get stronger. Today, we are much stronger,” he said.
Hosseini was speaking in the US capital on the fringes of a meeting of the International Monetary Fund’s 187 members.
His visit comes just over a week after President Barack Obama ordered sanctions against eight senior Iranian officials for alleged human rights abuses during the crackdown against those protesting the 2009 elections.
Regardless, Hosseini claimed there was no difficulty in trading or securing hard currency to trade with.
“The world is big and the people who are trading (with us) find ways to transfer money.”
Questioned about how Iran finds dollars on open markets, he responded: “There is no substantive obstacle regarding that.”
Yet despite Hosseini’s claims, evidence in Iran suggests sanctions are taking a toll.
Most banks in the United Arab Emirates, Iran’s main trading partner, have stopped money transfers there since August after similar decisions by the United States and the European Union over Tehran’s nuclear program.
Iranian banks have gradually refused to sell individuals hard currency in recent weeks without explanation or any government announcement.
 

Nobel award sparks anger among top Catholics

ROME (AFP) - The Nobel award for the pioneer of in vitro fertilisation, Robert Edwards, drew strong condemnation from leading Catholics, who accused the scientist of devaluing embryonic human life.
“The decision to give the prize to Edwards was a populist one” that does not take into account the ethics of the issue, Lucio Romano, head of the Science and Life Association, a Rome-based Catholic organisation, told AFP.
The Vatican press office also released a statement by the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC) which said it was “dismayed” by the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Medicine on Monday.
The Vatican’s top medical ethics official, Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, already criticised the decision in comments on Monday that blamed Edwards for creating a market in embryos and failing to protect human life.
“Although IVF has brought happiness to the many couples who have conceived through this process, it has done so at an enormous cost. That cost is the undermining of the dignity of the human person,” the FIAMC federation said.
Referring to the use of embryos, it said: “Not only were these human beings being used as experimental animals destined for destruction... but this use has led to a culture where they are regarded as commodities.”
Avvenire, the newspaper of the influential Italian Bishops Conference, also said in an editorial that the Nobel award was a “lost opportunity.”
The award “acknowledged the value of research into techniques that involve the death of human embryos” rather than less “front page” research into disorders such as Down’s Syndrome, it said.
Edwards’ research revolutionised parenthood and led to innovations such as embryonic stem cell research and surrogate motherhood.
But the development of IVF techniques has raised many scientific questions and ethical dilemmas surrounding “test tube babies.”
Critics say in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and related techniques are immoral because of the eventual destruction of many frozen human embryos.
The Vatican is firmly opposed to IVF but in 2008 it modified its stance on other medical procedures associated with infertility.
“Techniques which assist procreation are not to be rejected on the grounds that they are artificial,” it said in a key document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by Pope Benedict XVI.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has stressed the importance of human dignity and said that “technologies that assist the couple’s marital union in giving rise to a child respect this special dignity of the human person.”
On Monday the Vatican dismissed the Nobel award for Edwards as misguided.
“Without Edwards, there would not be a market on which millions of ovocytes are sold, and there would not be a large number of freezers filled with embryos in the world,” said Carrasco, head of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
 
Al Qaeda views West ‘terror alert fears as victory’
PARIS (AFP) - The US warning that stirred public panic in Europe over a possible Al Qaeda attack at tourist hotspots has given a sense of victory to Islamist extremist networks, intelligence experts said.
Even though the threat of terror strikes should not be underestimated -- it is a real, ongoing threat -- warnings such as the recent US travel advisory of a high risk of an attack in Europe make for frightening headlines and television news broadcasts.
As ominous images of soldiers in combat gear in Paris patrolling at the foot of the Eiffel Tower flickered across TV screens around the world, experts said it must have delighted the jihadist leaders to see the West gripped with fear.
“All this free publicity is like manna from heaven for Al-Qaeda,” said Alain Chouet, former head of security information at the French DGSE intelligence agency.
Chouet noted that one of the suspected sources of the recent terror alert was a German prisoner of Afghan origin being held at the US military base in Bagram, Afghanistan.
“Al Qaeda does not even have to do anything, all it needs is a prisoner somewhere” to stir things up, he said.
“You cannot verify what he (prisoner) says, and if someone puts a grenade in a garbage bin somewhere in Europe, he can always say: ‘See, I warned you’,” Chouet said.
Another expert, Richard Barrett, head of the team monitoring Al-Qaeda and Taliban activities at the United Nations, also questioned the reliability of such sources.
“If this guy in Afghanistan is talking, there is not any way they can verify what he is saying and he may be telling them what they want to hear,” said Barrett.
“They want to hear that they stopped something serious.
“For Al Qaeda, it’s a very effective thing to have this story go around,” added Barrett, who was formerly in charge of counter-terrorism at Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency.
“They got the world’s attention, that’s what they want. Their business is terrorizing, not killing. They are not stupid. They can achieve a lot with nothing.”
The two former spy chiefs said that you had to be on guard against manipulation when dealing with such extremist groups -- and that could take many forms.
Some jihad extremist networks for example, knowing Western spys are listening to their phone conversations, would deliberately steer investigations in false directions.
Or fake information might be given to European would-be jihadists at training camps in Pakistan: so if they got captured back in France or Germany they would reveal stories of devastating, though false, plans of attacks.
 

Top marks for President Aquino

MANILA (AFP) - Philippine business leaders gave ‘high marks’ to President Benigno Aquino for his first 100 days in office welcoming his early moves to curb corruption, slash red tape and boost the economy.
Aquino deserves credit for his campaign against graft, bureaucracy and for efforts to improve the business climate, said Francis Chua, head of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the country’s main business group.
“The Chamber gives the president a high mark for his performance,” Chua told a press conference.
Business confidence in Aquino is surging, according to Chamber vice-president Samie Lim, citing the stock market hitting record highs this week and the rise of the peso to two-year highs against the dollar.
Lim, whose specialty is in tourism, expressed confidence that tourist arrivals could double from 3.5 million last year to seven million by the end of Aquino’s six-year term.
“The president has planted very good seeds. There are very positive signs in terms of confidence of business,” he said.
Aquino has shown his popularity with the public by weathering the storm over the botched hostage incident in August that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead, said Donald Dee, vice-chairman of the chamber.
“Clearly the charisma of the president has deeply embedded itself in society. Despite the problems... his support has held,” remarked Dee.
He cited a recent survey showing a 71 percent approval rating for Aquino despite the apparent bungling of the hostage situation in Manila on August 23.
“He is carrying the ball and has the support (of the people.) He has the opportunity to make dramatic changes,” remarked Chua.
The business group said it would formally propose to Aquino next week a road map on tackling the country’s most pressing problems, including high power rates, environmental protection, and population growth.
Aquino, son of the revered late democracy heroine, former president Corazon Aquino, won the May presidential election by a landslide, running on an anti-corruption platform.
In a speech on Thursday, President Aquino said his 100 day-old campaign against graft had restored business confidence, yielding tens of thousands of new jobs and better economic growth prospects.
However critics have said it is too early to tell if Aquino will deliver on his promises and have scored his handling of the hostage crisis that cooled relations with China and Hong Kong.
 

1.5m copies of Bush memoir to hit shelves

NEW YORK (AFP) -
One and a half million copies of George W Bush’s memoir hit the shelves next month, along with an e-book version containing a video message from the former president and his home movies, Crown publishers said.
“Decision Points” goes on sale in the United States and Canada on November 9, a week after mid-term congressional elections are predicted to see heavy gains for Bush’s Republican Party.
The huge print run is equivalent to that for former Democratic president Bill Clinton’s book, ‘My Life,’ which was a runaway hit.
Bush left office in 2009 with rock bottom popularity due to the US economic crisis and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But Crown, part of Random House, said in a statement that Bush’s book, priced at 35 dollars, would be “news-making” and would “bring history alive for readers.”
Innovations include an interactive e-book with the president’s most memorable speeches, a video introduction by Bush, “intimate Bush family movies” and hand-written letters from his correspondence collection.