|Privacy concerns as
eight in 10 tots have pictures online
(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
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
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
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”
|China media slam Nobel Peace Prize for
|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
“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
“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
|Obama names new national security
|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,”
|End to trapped miners’ 65-day ordeal
|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
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
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
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
|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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
The ship is carrying “heavy pygas”, V Ships said in a
statement, an industrial gasoline used to make products
“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
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
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
The French oil company Total was found guilty of failing to
address maintenance problems when it chartered the rusty
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
|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
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
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
|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’
|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
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
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
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
But the development of IVF techniques has raised many
scientific questions and ethical dilemmas surrounding “test
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
“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
“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
“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
|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,”
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
1.5m copies of Bush memoir to
|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
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.