G20 steps back from currency brink, heat off Japan


MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Group of 20 nations declared on Saturday there would be no currency war and deferred plans to set new debt-cutting targets, underlining broad concern about the fragile state of the world economy.


Japan's expansive policies, which have driven down the yen, escaped direct criticism in a statement thrashed out in Moscow by policymakers from the G20, which spans developed and emerging markets and accounts for 90 percent of the world economy.


Analysts said the yen, which has dropped 20 percent as a result of aggressive monetary and fiscal policies to reflate the Japanese economy, may now continue to fall.


"The market will take the G20 statement as an approval for what it has been doing -- selling of the yen," said Neil Mellor, currency strategist at Bank of New York Mellon in London. "No censure of Japan means they will be off to the money printing presses."


After late-night talks, finance ministers and central bankers agreed on wording closer than expected to a joint statement issued last Tuesday by the Group of Seven rich nations backing market-determined exchange rates.


A draft communiqué on Friday had steered clear of the G7's call for economic policy not to be targeted at exchange rates. But the final version included a G20 commitment to refrain from competitive devaluations and stated monetary policy would be directed only at price stability and growth.


"The mood quite clearly early on was that we needed desperately to avoid protectionist measures ... that mood permeated quite quickly," Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told reporters, adding that the wording of the G20 statement had been hardened up by the ministers.


As a result, it reflected a substantial, but not complete, endorsement of Tuesday's proclamation by the G7 nations - the United States, Japan, Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Italy.


As with the G7 intervention, Tokyo said it gave it a green light to pursue its policies unchecked.


"I have explained that (Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe's administration is doing its utmost to escape from deflation and we have gained a certain understanding," Finance Minister Taro Aso told reporters.


"We're confident that if Japan revives its own economy that would certainly affect the world economy as well. We gained understanding on this point."


Flaherty admitted it would be difficult to gauge if domestic policies were aimed at weakening currencies or not.


NO FISCAL TARGETS


The G20 also made a commitment to a credible medium-term fiscal strategy, but stopped short of setting specific goals as most delegations felt any economic recovery was too fragile.


The communiqué said risks to the world economy had receded but growth remained too weak and unemployment too high.


"A sustained effort is required to continue building a stronger economic and monetary union in the euro area and to resolve uncertainties related to the fiscal situation in the United States and Japan, as well as to boost domestic sources of growth in surplus economies," it said.


A debt-cutting pact struck in Toronto in 2010 will expire this year if leaders fail to agree to extend it at a G20 summit of leaders in St Petersburg in September.


The United States says it is on track to meet its Toronto pledge but argues that the pace of future fiscal consolidation must not snuff out demand. Germany and others are pressing for another round of binding debt targets.


"We had a broad consensus in the G20 that we will stick to the commitment to fulfill the Toronto goals," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said. "We do not have any interest in U.S.-bashing ... In St. Petersburg follow-up-goals will be decided."


The G20 put together a huge financial backstop to halt a market meltdown in 2009 but has failed to reach those heights since. At successive meetings, Germany has pressed the United States and others to do more to tackle their debts. Washington in turn has urged Berlin to do more to increase demand.


Backing in the communiqué for the use of domestic monetary policy to support economic recovery reflected the U.S. Federal Reserve's commitment to monetary stimulus through quantitative easing, or QE, to promote recovery and jobs.


QE entails large-scale bond buying -- $85 billion a month in the Fed's case -- that helps economic growth but has also unleashed destabilising capital flows into emerging markets.


A commitment to minimize such "negative spillovers" was an offsetting point in the text that China, fearful of asset bubbles and lost export competitiveness, highlighted.


"Major developed nations (should) pay attention to their monetary policy spillover," Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao was quoted by state news agency Xinhua as saying in Moscow.


Russia, this year's chair of the G20, admitted the group had failed to reach agreement on medium-term budget deficit levels and expressed concern about ultra-loose policies that it and other emerging economies say could store up trouble for later.


On currencies, the G20 text reiterated its commitment last November, "to move more rapidly toward mores market-determined exchange rate systems and exchange rate flexibility to reflect underlying fundamentals, and avoid persistent exchange rate misalignments".


It said disorderly exchange rate movements and excess volatility in financial flows could harm economic and financial stability.


(Additional reporting by Gernot Heller, Lesley Wroughton, Maya Dyakina, Tetsushi Kajimoto, Jan Strupczewski, Lidia Kelly, Katya Golubkova, Jason Bush, Anirban Nag and Michael Martina. Writing by Douglas Busvine. Editing by Timothy Heritage/Mike Peacock)



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Pistorius' family strongly denies murder charge


PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius is "numb with shock as well as grief" after the shooting death of his model girlfriend at his home in South Africa, the runner's uncle said Saturday, as his family strongly denied prosecutors' claims that he murdered her.


Arnold Pistorius spoke with The Associated Press and two other South African journalists about his nephew's arrest in the killing of Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot four times on the morning of Valentine's Day. Arnold Pistorius spoke to reporters from the garden of his three-story home in the eastern suburbs of South Africa's capital, Pretoria.


The statement, the first on camera and directly made in person by Pistorius' family, also came out strongly against prosecutors seeking to upgrade the charge against Pistorius to one of premeditated murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison.


"After consulting with legal representatives, we deeply regret the allegation of premeditated murder," Arnold Pistorius said. "We have no doubt there is no substance to the allegation and that the state's own case, including its own forensic evidence, strongly refutes any possibility of a premeditated murder or murder as such."


He said the family was "battling to come to terms with Oscar being charged with murder."


The track star's arrest in the killing of 29-year-old Steenkamp shocked South Africa, where Pistorius was a national hero and icon dubbed the Blade Runner for his high-tech carbon fiber running blades and revered for overcoming his disability to compete at the London Olympics. She was discovered in a pool of blood before dawn Thursday by police called to Pistorius' upscale home in a gated community. Authorities said she had been shot four times, and a 9 mm pistol was recovered at the home.


Pistorius remains held at a police station pending a bail hearing Tuesday. Police have already said they'll oppose Pistorius being released before trial. A premeditated murder charge also makes it more difficult for his defense team to get bail.


On Saturday afternoon, Pistorius' lawyers visited the Brooklyn police station in Pretoria, where the athlete is being held. His younger sister Aimee, who stood alongside Arnold Pistorius when he made his statement, also was at the police station later.


There will be a variety of hearings before Pistorius, 26, could go on trial. In South Africa, there are no juries, so a judge ultimately would decide Pistorius' guilt or innocence, sometimes with the help of two advisers. At an initial hearing Friday, Pistorius sobbed and held his head in his hands at times. He has yet to enter a plea in the case.


The family denial that Pistorius committed murder doesn't necessarily mean that they say he didn't shoot her, as murder is a legal term. Initial speculation immediately after the shooting Thursday suggested that it could have been accidental, though police say they are not currently considering that.


Arnold Pistorius did not discuss the circumstances of the shooting, but said that his nephew and Steenkamp had become very close since they started dating in November.


"They had plans together and Oscar was happier in his private life than he had been for a long time," the uncle said.


As Arnold Pistorius read his statement, Pistorius' sister Aimee stood nearby and broke down in tears at one point. Her uncle stopped reading for a moment to put his right arm around her. Pistorius remains very close with his uncle, a man he once lived with as a teenager.


"Words cannot adequately describe our feelings," his uncle said. "The lives of our entire family have been turned upside down forever by this unimaginable human tragedy and Reeva's family have suffered a terrible loss. As a family we are trying to be strong and supportive to Oscar as any close family would be in these dreadful circumstances."


The entire family was "devastated," Pistorius' uncle said, and was "grieving for Reeva, her family and her friends."


Since news of the killing, shock waves have rippled across South Africa, a nation of 50 million where nearly 50 people are killed each day, one of the world's highest murder rates. U.N. statistics say the nation has the second highest rate of shooting deaths in the world, behind only Colombia. Others have focused their attention on Pistorius and his fascination with fast cars, cage fighting and firearms.


Steenkamp, who graduated from law school, is known in South Africa for appearing in commercials and as a bikini-clad model in men's magazines. On Saturday, South Africa's state broadcaster SABC planned to air a reality TV show featuring the model. Another portion of the show released earlier Saturday included a clip of her swimming with two dolphins, which tap her on the cheek with their snouts.


"I think the way that you go out, not just your journey in life, but the way that you go out and the way you make your exit is so important," the blonde-haired Steenkamp says in the video. "You either made an impact in a positive or a negative way, but just maintain integrity and maintain class and just remain true to yourself.


"I'm going to miss you all so much and I love you very, very much."


___


Jon Gambrell reported from Johannesburg.


___


Gerald Imray can be reached at www.twitter.com/geraldimrayAP . Jon Gambrell can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP .


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Pope's resignation 'shows leadership'











By Roland Martin, CNN Contributor


February 16, 2013 -- Updated 1649 GMT (0049 HKT)




















Longest-reigning popes


Longest-reigning popes


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Longest-reigning popes


Longest-reigning popes


Longest-reigning popes


Longest-reigning popes


Longest-reigning popes


Longest-reigning popes


Longest-reigning popes








STORY HIGHLIGHTS


  • Pope Benedict stuns world by announcing he will resign

  • Roland Martin says it's a wise decision for a leader to step down when his powers fail

  • He says a mark of a good leader is the care he takes about the institution he is leaving

  • Martin: Too many in power try to hang on after they are no longer capable




Editor's note: Roland Martin is a syndicated columnist and author of "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House." He is a commentator for the TV One cable network and host/managing editor of its Sunday morning news show, "Washington Watch with Roland Martin."


(CNN) -- When Thurgood Marshall retired from the U.S. Supreme Court in June 1991, a reporter asked him what were the medical reasons that contributed to his leaving the bench -- and its lifetime appointment -- after serving for nearly 25 years. He was his usual blunt self.



"What's wrong with me?" Marshall said at the packed news conference. "I'm old. I'm getting old and falling apart."



When the news broke this week that Pope Benedict XVI was stepping down as the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics because of his concerns about being able to do the job, many began to speculate that there were other reasons for the decision.




Roland Martin

Roland Martin



We have become accustomed to a pope dying in office. That's not a surprise. It has been nearly 600 years since the last pope, Gregory XII, quit in 1415.



Even though the job of pope is a lifetime appointment, frankly, it is selfish of any individual to hold on to the job for dear life, knowing full well they don't have the capacity to do the job.




"Strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me," according to a statement from Pope Benedict released by the Vatican.



Whether we want to be honest or not, it was sad to watch the decline of Pope John Paul II. He was a vibrant figure when he became pope in 1978, traveling the world and spreading the gospel to anyone who would listen. But toward the end of his life in 2005, he was barely able to move or talk, clearly worn down by significant health challenges.



Any leader who respects the organization they serve should have the common sense to know when it's time to say goodbye. We've seen countless examples of CEOs, pastors, politicians and others hang on and on to a position of power, hurting the very people they were elected or chosen to serve.



It takes considerable courage for anyone to step away from the power bestowed upon them by a position, as well as the trappings that come with it.



I'll leave it to others to try to figure out other reasons behind the resignation. But we should at least acknowledge the value of an ego-less decision that reflects humility and concern about the very institution the pope pledged his life to.



All leaders should be concerned about their institution continuing to grow and thrive once their days are no more. That's why a proper succession plan is vitally important.


Too often we have assessed great leaders by what they did in their positions. But their final legacy really is defined by how they left a place.



Pope Benedict XVI knows full well the Catholic Church cannot grow and prosper if its leader is limited in traveling and attending to his flock. There comes a time when one chapter must end and another begins. He has more days behind him than in front of him. He should enjoy his last years in peace and tranquility, without having to worry about trying to do the work designed for a younger man.


Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.


Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.


The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Roland S. Martin.











Part of complete coverage on







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Off-duty Chicago police officer dies in SUV rollover on Skyway




















Chicago Tribune reporter Peter Nickeas recaps Friday night's breaking news, involving two traffic accidents and one homicide. (Posted Feb. 16th, 2013).




















































A 31-year-old off-duty Chicago police officer who died when the SUV she was driving rolled over on the Chicago Skyway late Friday was on her way to celebrate a new position with the department, according to her family.


Shaunda Bond, 31, was pronounced dead at 1:15 a.m. at the Cook County medical examiner's office. She lived in the 4100 block of South Michigan Avenue in the Bronzeville neighborhood.


The officer's older sister works in the section of the Chicago Police Department that investigates fatal accidents and answered the phone when officers on the Skyway called to notify them of the wreck, police said.








Bond was on her way to meet her cousin Daphne Flores and three other friends at a restaurant to celebrate the woman getting a spot on a tactical response unit, said Flores. Police could not immediately confirm the information.


Bond joined the police department in December 2009 and was assigned to the South Chicago District, which covers the area from 75th Street south to 138th, between roughly Woodlawn Avenue and the state line.


"She loved helping people, she was always able to help somebody," said Flores. "She just had a warm heart."


After college, Bond worked at a rental car company until a spot opened up at the police department, Flores said. She said Bond either always wanted to become a police officer or a teacher. She had two sisters and grew up on the South Side, graduating from Longwood Academy high school.


"She liked working with people, she loved public service work," Flores said.


The crash happened about 10:40 p.m. near 81st Street on the Skyway when the 2003 Land Rover SUV Bond was driving flipped over.


Bond was the lone occupant in the SUV, which was the only vehicle involved in the crash.


According to a witness interviewed by police, her SUV was seen traveling at a high rate of speed before it hit a concrete barrier and rolled.


pnickeas@tribune.com
Twitter: @peternickeas


csadovi@tribune.com






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Bomb kills 64 in Pakistan's Quetta


QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Sixty-four people including school children died on Saturday in a bomb attack carried out by extremists from Pakistan's Sunni Muslim majority, police said.


A spokesman for Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni group, claimed responsibility for the bomb in Quetta, which caused casualties in the town's main bazaar, a school and a computer center. Police said most of the victims were Shi'ites.


Burned school bags and books were strewn around.


"The explosion was caused by an improvised explosive device fitted to a motorcycle," said Wazir Khan Nasir, deputy inspector general of police in Quetta.


"This is a continuation of terrorism against Shi'ites."


"I saw many bodies of women and children," said an eyewitness at a hospital. "At least a dozen people were burned to death by the blast."


Most Western intelligence agencies have regarded the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda as the gravest threat to nuclear-armed Pakistan, a strategic U.S. ally.


But Pakistani law enforcement officials say Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has become a formidable force.


TENSIONS


Last month the group said it carried out a bombing in Quetta that killed nearly 100 people, one of Pakistan's worst sectarian attacks. Thousands of Shi'ites protested in several cities after that attack.


Pakistani intelligence officials say extremist groups, led by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, have escalated their bombings and shootings of Shi'ites to trigger violence that would pave the way for a Sunni theocracy in U.S.-allied Pakistan.


More than 400 Shi'ites were killed in Pakistan last year, many by hitmen or bombs, and the perpetrators are almost never caught. Some hardline Shi'ite groups have hit back by killing Sunni clerics.


The growing sectarian violence has hurt the credibility of the government, which has already faced criticism ahead of elections due in May for its inability to tackle corruption and economic stagnation.


The schism between Sunnis and Shi'ites developed after the Prophet Muhammad died in 632 when his followers could not agree on a successor.


Emotions over the issue are highly potent even today, pushing some countries, including Iraq five years ago, to the brink of civil war.


Pakistan is nowhere near that stage but officials worry that Sunni extremist groups have succeeded in dramatically ratcheting up tensions and provoking revenge attacks in their bid to destabilize the country.


(Reporting by Jibran Ahmed; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Stephen Powell)



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Wall Street declines with slide in Wal-Mart shares

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor, writer and comedian Steve Martin has become a dad for the first time at age 67 - and managed to keep it secret from the media for more than a month. Martin and his second wife, Anne Stringfield, 41, "are new parents and recently welcomed a child," a spokeswoman for the actor said on Wednesday. The spokeswoman gave no details, including the sex of the child or the date of birth. But the New York Post cited unidentified sources as saying the baby arrived in December. ...
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Weeping Pistorius faces life in prison in shooting


PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius wept in court Friday as prosecutors said they'll pursue a charge of premeditated murder against him in the killing of his model girlfriend, meaning the man who once inspired the world could spend the rest of his life in prison.


Pistorius' family and London-based management issued a statement disputing the murder charge he now faces for the slaying of Reeva Steenkamp. The athlete himself initially appeared solemn and collected in his first court appearance, but later sobbed loud enough for his cries to be heard over the more than 100 spectators gathered for the hearing.


His tears even drew the attention of Chief Magistrate Desmond Nasir, who at one point simply said: "Take it easy."


The double-amputee athlete's arrest stunned South Africa, which awoke the morning of Valentine's Day to hear that Steenkamp had been shot to death at Pistorius' home in a gated community in an eastern suburb of South Africa's capital, Pretoria. Police said investigators recovered a 9 mm pistol from the home.


In Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Friday, throngs of photographers, videographers and journalists besieged the brick-walled Courtroom C, where Pistorius appeared. Nasir's first ruling in the matter focused on the press: He dismissed requests from a private television station and the state broadcaster to air the hearing live.


Nasir also ordered that no photographs be taken while court was in session. That left kneeling photographers less than a meter (three feet) from Pistorius to simply stare at a man some previously photographed sprinting on his famous carbon-fiber blades as he cried uncontrollably. Pistorius' brother, Carl, and his father, Henke, reached out at separate times to comfort him as he sat in the dock.


Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said in court he would pursue a charge of premeditated murder against Pistorius for allegedly killing Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model known for her vamping, bikini pictures in men's magazines and appearances in cosmetics commercials. Police have said Steenkamp is 30. The discrepancy has not been explained.


Police said Friday that investigators conducted an autopsy on Steenkamp's body. Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale said the results of the autopsy would not be published.


Pistorius entered no plea at the hearing and his family left quickly, without speaking to journalists who followed them outside. In a statement later Friday, his family and management questioned the criminal charge the 26-year-old athlete faces.


"The alleged murder is disputed in the strongest terms," the statement read, without elaborating.


The statement also said Pistorius wanted to "send his deepest sympathies to the family of Reeva."


"He would also like to express his thanks through us today for all the messages of support he has received — but as stated our thoughts and prayers today should be for Reeva and her family — regardless of the circumstances of this terrible, terrible tragedy," the statement read.


South Africa continues to question itself over what to think about the shooting, with local newspaper headlines veering from the lurid to "Blade gunner?" on Friday morning, playing on Pistorius' nickname given for his running blades. The nation of 50 million has one of the world's highest rates of shooting deaths, behind only Colombia. South Africa as a whole recently recoiled at the brutal gang rape and attack that killed a 17-year-old girl and many wore black Friday to demonstrate against the high levels of violence against women in the country.


Others focused their attention on Pistorius, who is fascinated by fast cars, cage fighting and firearms. He crashed a speedboat in February 2009, breaking his nose, jaw and several ribs and damaging an eye socket. He later required 180 stitches to his face. Witnesses said he had been drinking, and officers found alcoholic beverages in the wreckage, though they did not do a blood test on Pistorius.


His love life, the fodder of gossip columns in the country, also saw turmoil. In November, Pistorius was involved in an altercation over a woman with a local coal mining millionaire, South African media reported.


Gianni Merlo, who co-authored the 2009 biography "Blade Runner" with Pistorius, told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday from Italy that Pistorius once drove out in the middle of the night to see his first love after a fight. Pistorius crashed his car when he fell asleep behind the wheel, though Merlo said it showed his devotion.


However, he said Pistorius once threw a friend's girlfriend out of his house, prompting police to investigate and take him in for questioning.


"He explained that this was a kind of (plot) against him, planned against him," Merlo said.


At the defense's request, the chief magistrate delayed Pistorius' bail hearing until Tuesday and Wednesday. Prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed to keep Pistorius in a police holding cell, rather than transfer him to prison like most normal suspects. While Nasir acknowledged that could give them impression that the athlete was getting "preferential treatment," he agreed to it. Police have said they oppose Pistorius being freed on bail.


In saying they'll seek a premeditated murder charge against Pistorius, prosecutors likely are claiming they have evidence that the athlete planned the killing ahead of time, said William Booth, a prominent defense lawyer from Cape Town. The charge, which carries a sentence of life in prison, also makes it more difficult for Pistorius to successfully apply for bail, Booth said, though it could be a challenge to get a conviction.


"It's quite difficult to prove that in a situation where there isn't a witness," the defense lawyer said. "If I just plan it in my mind and I arrive at somebody's house and there's no witnesses and I shoot the person, it's really tough for the prosecution to show that planning."


On call-in radio shows and in private conversations Friday, some in South Africa compared Pistorius' case to that of O.J. Simpson, a former football star accused of the slayings of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. That case, drawing international media attention, saw Simpson acquitted by a jury in 1995. However, in South Africa, there is no jury system, leaving Pistorius face largely to the judge who will oversee his possible trial.


Pistorius made history at the London Olympics last year when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete at any games. He didn't win a medal but did make the semifinals of the 400 meters and the final of the 4X400 relay, propelling the world's best-known Paralympian to the level of an international track star and one of the world's best-known sportsmen.


But police hinted at a troubled lifestyle away from public scrutiny for the runner Thursday when they said there had previously been domestic incidents at Pistorius' home.


___


AP Sports Writer Gerald Imray reported from Johannesburg. Associated Press writer Michelle Faul in Johannesburg contributed to this report.


___


Jon Gambrell can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP . Gerald Imray can be reached at www.twitter.com/geraldimrayAP .


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How Carnival can clean up PR mess






STORY HIGHLIGHTS


  • David Bartlett: For Carnival, impact of 'cruise from hell' potentially devastating.

  • Passenger video, media puts Carnival increasingly on the defensive, he says

  • He says it must show real concern, lay out plan, go a long way to make amends

  • Don't try to justify or explain, he says, but get proactive now about fixing problem




Editor's note: David Bartlett is a senior vice president of Levick, a crisis and issues management and strategic communications firm based in Washington. He is the author of "Making Your Point" (St. Martin's Press), a guide to communication strategy and tactics.


(CNN) -- As three tugboats towed the disabled Carnival cruise ship Triumph back to port in Mobile, Alabama, things went from bad to worse.


The fire that caused the ship to lose power and drift aimlessly on rough Gulf of Mexico swells was just the beginning. Raw sewage seeped into corridors and cabin ways. Food had to be rationed. There were fears of looting. Not surprisingly, passengers were furious and emotional. Some were reported to be "acting like savages."


For Carnival and the rest of the cruise line industry, the implications are potentially devastating. The deadly capsizing in January 2012 of the Costa Concordia ship off the coast of Italy still lingers in the public's mind. About a month later, the Costa Allegra liner suffered a similar engine fire, lost power, and was set adrift in pirate-infested waters in the Indian Ocean. Carnival owns Costa Cruises, and now a third high-profile crisis for Carnival in just over a year threatens to cement the perception among vacationers that cruising might not be worth the risk.


Five things we've learned about cruises



David Bartlett

David Bartlett




In the age of social and digital media, the problems faced by cruise lines are compounded. Using mobile phones, passengers aboard the Triumph have been providing concerned family members with constant updates. Those enraged family members have immediately passed the horror stories along to the eager media. The public is getting the full play-by-play in virtual real time, leaving Carnival playing catchup from an increasingly defensive posture.


But as bad as the potential damage to Carnival's image may be, the company, as well as the rest of the cruise line industry, has an opportunity to blunt the impact, if it acts quickly and wisely.


It seems counterintuitive, but while the gruesome stories of the "cruise from hell" are still fresh, the crisis offers an opportunity for the cruise line to make a compelling statement about the industry's commitment to its passengers. (Statements from Carnival.)


Crisis management experts know that customers and the general public are more likely to judge an organization by how it handles a problem than how it got into the problem in the first place. That means Carnival has to go much further than mere reimbursements and vouchers for onward travel.


The challenge to Carnival's reputation is three-fold.


First the company must articulate real concern for passengers and clearly communicate what it is doing to make things right for customers. This will require financial sacrifices, of course. But Carnival has little choice but to pay now and win some badly needed goodwill -- or pay later in the courtroom, in the court of public opinion, and, of course, at the cash register when bookings decline.


Second, the company must clearly communicate what it is doing to fix the problem and prevent anything like it from ever happening again. How did an engine fire, serious as that might be, so quickly develop into a disaster of this magnitude?


My celebration trip on the Carnival Triumph: From joy to misery


How could it have been allowed to happen? Why was the widely reported chaos and disorder allowed to develop? Why did Carnival not have emergency response plans in place? What is the industry doing to prepare for what would seem to be a manageable situation? The public will demand answers to these basic questions before it will begin to trust again. Uncertainty breathes life into a crisis. Accurate and timely information smothers it.




Third, Carnival must aggressively and clearly deliver these messages now, and for as long as it takes to restore the public's trust.


So far, the story has been about the unthinkable conditions the passengers have been forced to endure. Carnival must move aggressively to reshape that narrative to reflect all that it is doing to rectify the situation.


After a bad cruise, can you cruise into court?


Carnival has to resist the temptation to explain, minimize, or justify what happened and position itself instead as part of the solution to the problems that caused the disaster. That is what the public will focus on and remember, but only if Carnival is able to communicate it fast and effectively.


Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.


Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.


The opinions in this commentary are solely those of David Bartlett.






Read More..

More than 1,000 injured when meteor explodes over Russia









CHELYABINSK, Russia—





A meteorite streaked across the sky and exploded over central Russia on Friday, raining fireballs over a vast area and causing a shock wave that smashed windows, damaged buildings and injured 1,200 people.

People heading to work in Chelyabinsk heard what sounded like an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt the shock wave, according to a Reuters correspondent in the industrial city 1,500 km (950 miles) east of Moscow.






The fireball, travelling at a speed of 30 km (19 miles) per second according to Russian space agency Roscosmos, had blazed across the horizon, leaving a long white trail that could be seen as far as 200 km (125 miles) away.

Car alarms went off, thousands of windows shattered and mobile phone networks were disrupted. The Interior Ministry said the meteorite explosion, a very rare spectacle, also unleashed a sonic boom.

"I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it were day," said Viktor Prokofiev, 36, a resident of Yekaterinburg in the Urals Mountains.

"I felt like I was blinded by headlights."

The meteorite, which weighed about 10 tonnes and may have been made of iron, entered Earth's atmosphere and broke apart 30-50 km (19-31 miles) above ground, according to Russia's Academy of Sciences.

The energy released when it entered the Earth's atmosphere was equivalent to a few kilotonnes, the academy said, the power of a small atomic weapon exploding.

No deaths were reported but the Emergencies Ministry said 20,000 rescue and clean-up workers were sent to the region after President Vladimir Putin told Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov to ease the disruption and help the victims.

The Interior Ministry said about 1,200 people had been injured, at least 200 of them children, and most from shards of glass.

WINDOWS BLOWN OUT

The early-morning blast and ensuing shock wave blew out windows on Chelyabinsk's central Lenin Street, buckled some shop fronts, rattled apartment buildings in the city centre and blew out windows.

"I was standing at a bus stop, seeing off my girlfriend," said Andrei, a local resident who did not give his second name. "Then there was a flash and I saw a trail of smoke across the sky and felt a shock wave that smashed windows."

A wall and roof were badly damaged at the Chelyabinsk Zinc Plant but a spokeswoman said no environmental threat resulted.

One piece of meteorite broke through the ice the Cherbakul Lake near Chelyabinsk, leaving a hole several metres (yards) wide.

The region has long been a hub for the Russian military and defence industry, and it is often the site where artillery shells are decommissioned.

A local Emergencies Ministry official said meteorite storms were extremely rare and Friday's incident may have been connected with an asteroid the size of an Olympic swimming pool that was due to pass Earth.

But an astronomer at Russia's Academy of Sciences, Sergei Barabanov, cast doubt on that report and the European Space Agency said its experts had confirmed there was no link.

The regional governor in Chelyabinsk said the meteorite shower had caused more than $30 million in damage, and the Emergencies Ministry said 300 buildings had been affected.

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Meteorite explodes over Russia, more than 1,000 injured


CHELYABINSK, Russia (Reuters) - A meteorite streaked across the sky and exploded over central Russia on Friday, raining fireballs over a vast area and causing a shock wave that smashed windows, damaged buildings and injured 1,200 people.


People heading to work in Chelyabinsk heard what sounded like an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt the shock wave, according to a Reuters correspondent in the industrial city 1,500 km (950 miles) east of Moscow.


The fireball, travelling at a speed of 30 km (19 miles) per second according to Russian space agency Roscosmos, had blazed across the horizon, leaving a long white trail that could be seen as far as 200 km (125 miles) away.


Car alarms went off, thousands of windows shattered and mobile phone networks were disrupted. The Interior Ministry said the meteorite explosion, a very rare spectacle, also unleashed a sonic boom.


"I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it were day," said Viktor Prokofiev, 36, a resident of Yekaterinburg in the Urals Mountains.


"I felt like I was blinded by headlights."


The meteorite, which weighed about 10 metric tons and may have been made of iron, entered Earth's atmosphere and broke apart 30-50 km (19-31 miles) above ground, according to Russia's Academy of Sciences.


The energy released when it entered the Earth's atmosphere was equivalent to a few kilotonnes, the academy said, the power of a small atomic weapon exploding.


No deaths were reported but the Emergencies Ministry said 20,000 rescue and clean-up workers were sent to the region after President Vladimir Putin told Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov to ease the disruption and help the victims.


The Interior Ministry said about 1,200 people had been injured, at least 200 of them children, and most from shards of glass.


WINDOWS BLOWN OUT


The early-morning blast and ensuing shock wave blew out windows on Chelyabinsk's central Lenin Street, buckled some shop fronts, rattled apartment buildings in the city center and blew out windows.


"I was standing at a bus stop, seeing off my girlfriend," said Andrei, a local resident who did not give his second name. "Then there was a flash and I saw a trail of smoke across the sky and felt a shock wave that smashed windows."


A wall and roof were badly damaged at the Chelyabinsk Zinc Plant but a spokeswoman said no environmental threat resulted.


One piece of meteorite broke through the ice the Cherbakul Lake near Chelyabinsk, leaving a hole several meters (yards) wide.


The region has long been a hub for the Russian military and defense industry, and it is often the site where artillery shells are decommissioned.


A local Emergencies Ministry official said meteorite storms were extremely rare and Friday's incident may have been connected with an asteroid the size of an Olympic swimming pool that was due to pass Earth.


But an astronomer at Russia's Academy of Sciences, Sergei Barabanov, cast doubt on that report and the European Space Agency said its experts had confirmed there was no link.


The regional governor in Chelyabinsk said the meteorite shower had caused more than $30 million in damage, and the Emergencies Ministry said 300 buildings had been affected.


Despite warnings not to approach any unidentified objects, some enterprising locals were hoping to cash in.


"Selling meteorite that fell on Chelyabinsk!" one prospective seller, Vladimir, said on a popular Russian auction website. He attached a picture of a black piece of stone that on Friday afternoon was priced at 1,488 roubles ($49.46).


RARE EVENT


The Emergencies Ministry described Friday's events as a "meteorite shower in the form of fireballs" and said background radiation levels were normal. It urged residents not to panic.


The first footage was shot by car dashboard video cameras and soon went viral.


Russians also quickly made fun at the event on the Internet. A photo montage showed Putin riding the meteorite and Nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovksy said in jest it was really a new weapon being tested by the United States.


Experts drew comparisons with an incident in 1908, when a meteorite is thought to have devastated an area of more than 2,000 sq km (1,250 miles) in Siberia, breaking windows as far as 200 km (125 miles) from the point of impact.


Simon Goodwin, an astrophysics expert from Britain's University of Sheffield, said that roughly 1,000 to 10,000 metric tons of material rained down from space towards the earth every day, but most burned up in the atmosphere.


"While events this big are rare, an impact that could cause damage and death could happen every century or so. Unfortunately there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop impacts."


The meteorite struck just as an asteroid known as 2012 DA14, about 46 m in diameter, was due to pass closer to Earth - at a distance of 27,520 km (17,100 miles) - than any other known object of its size since scientists began routinely monitoring asteroids about 15 years ago.


($1 = 30.0877 Russian roubles)


(Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska in Moscow; Writing by Timothy Heritage and Thomas Grove; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Michael Roddy)



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S&P 500 ends up slightly for third day

DEAR ABBY: My daughters are attractive young women, both doing well in their professional careers. "Melanie," who is 27, is married to "Sam," an extremely attractive and successful man.My 30-year-old daughter, "Alicia," has been divorced for a year. Her marriage failed two years ago because she and her husband had an appetite for sex outside their marriage. While I was disturbed about that, I was horrified to learn that Melanie allows her sister to occasionally have sex with Sam.Melanie's argument is that Sam is less likely to cheat given this situation. ...
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Olympian Oscar Pistorius charged with murder


PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Paralympic superstar Oscar Pistorius was charged Thursday with the murder of his girlfriend who was shot inside his home in South Africa, a stunning development in the life of a national hero known as the Blade Runner for his high-tech artificial legs.


Reeva Steenkamp, a model who spoke out on Twitter against rape and abuse of women, was shot four times in the predawn hours in the house, in a gated community in the capital, Pretoria, police said.


Hours later after undergoing police questioning, Pistorius left a police station accompanied by officers. He looked down as photographers snapped pictures, the hood on his gray workout jacket pulled up, covering most of his face. His court hearing was originally scheduled for Thursday afternoon but has been postponed until Friday to give forensic investigators time to carry out their work, said Medupe Simasiku, a spokesman for the prosecution.


South Africans were shocked at the killing. But while Pistorius captured the nation's attention with his Olympic quest, police said there was a recent history of problems involving him. Police spokeswoman Brigadier Denise Beukes said the incidents included "allegations of a domestic nature."


"I'm not going to elaborate on it but there have been incidents (at Pistorius' home)," Beukes said. Police in South Africa do not name suspects in crimes until they have appeared in court but Beukes said that the 26-year-old Pistorius was at his home at the time of the death of Steenkamp and "there is no other suspect involved."


Pistorius' father, Henke, declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press, only saying "we all pray for guidance and strength for Oscar and the lady's parents."


Neither Pistorius' agent Peet van Zyl nor coach Ampie Louw could be reached while Pistorius' own cellphone went straight to voicemail.


Pistorius' former coach, Andrea Giannini, said he hopes it was "just a tragic accident." Giannini said he believed that Pistorius had been dating Steenkamp for "a few months."


"No matter how bad the situation was, Oscar always stayed calm and positive," Giannini told the AP in Italy. "Whenever he was tired or nervous he was still extremely nice to people. I never saw him violent."


Yet Pistorius had troubles in his personal life. In February 2009, he crashed a speed boat he was piloting on South Africa's Vaal River. Witnesses said he had been drinking before the crash and officers found alcoholic beverages in the wreckage, though they acknowledged at the time they hadn't conducted a blood test on the athlete. Pistorius broke his nose, jaw and several ribs in the crash, as well as damaged his eye socket and required some 180 stitches to his face.


In November, Pistorius also found himself in an altercation with a local coal mining millionaire over a woman, South African media reported. Eventually, the two men involved the South African Police Service's elite Hawks investigative unit before settling the matter.


Pistorius owned firearms and posted a photograph of himself at a shooting range in November 2011 to the social media website Twitter, bragging about his score.


"Had a 96% headshot over 300m from 50shots! Bam!" he tweeted.


Police said that earlier reports that Steenkamp may have been mistaken for a burglar by Pistorius did not come from the police. Several local media outlets initially reported that the shooting may have been accidental.


Capacity Relations, a talent management firm, earlier named model Steenkamp as the victim of the shooting. Police spokeswoman Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale told the AP that officers received a call around 3 a.m. after the shooting.


A 9 mm pistol was recovered and a murder case opened against Pistorius.


Pistorius enjoyed target shooting with his pistol and an online advertisement featuring him for Nike read: "I am a bullet in the chamber." An article in January 2012 in The New York Times Magazine described him talking about how he pulled a pistol to search his home when his alarm went off the night before an interview. At Pistorius' suggestion, he and the journalist went to a nearby target range where they fired at targets with a 9 mm pistol. At one point, Pistorius told the writer: "If you practiced, I think you could be pretty deadly."


Asked how often he went target shooting, Pistorius replied: "Just sometimes when I can't sleep."


Police have still not released the name of the woman, but the publicist for Steenkamp confirmed in a statement that the model was dead.


"We can confirm that Reeva Steenkamp has passed away," Steenkamp's publicist Sarit Tomlinson said. "Our thoughts and prayers go to the Steenkamp family, who have asked to have their privacy respected during this difficult time, everyone is simply devastated. She was the kindest, sweetest human being; an angel on earth and will be sorely missed."


Tomlinson said Steenkamp, known simply as Reeva, was one of FHM's (formerly For Him Magazine) 100 Sexiest Women in the World for two years running, appeared in countless international and national advertisements and was one of the celebrity contestants on the reality show "Tropika Island of Treasure," filmed in Jamaica.


She and Pistorius were first seen publicly together in November at an awards ceremony in Johannesburg. Later, she began mentioning the athlete in public messages on Twitter.


She also tweeted messages urging women to stand up against rape as well as her excitement about Valentine's Day. "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow?" she tweeted. "It should be a day of love for everyone."


Pistorius made history in London last year when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete in the Olympic Games, propelling him to the status of an athletics superstar.


Having had both his legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday because of a congenital condition, he campaigned for years to be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes. Having initially been banned because of his carbon fiber blades — which critics said gave him an unfair advantage — he was cleared by sport's highest court in 2008 and allowed to run at the top events.


He competed in the 400 meters and on South Africa's 4x400 relay team at the London Games, making history when his selection for South Africa's team was confirmed at the very last minute. He also retained his Paralympic title in the 400 meters in London.


South Africa's Sports Confederation and Olympic committee released a statement on Thursday saying they had been "inundated" with requests for comment but were not in a position to give out any details of the shooting. The International Paralympic Committee also said it wouldn't comment in detail apart from offering its condolences to the victim's family.


South Africa has some of the world's highest murder rates, with nearly 50 people killed each day in the nation of 50 million. It also has high rates of rape, other assaults, robbery and carjackings.


U.N. statistics show South Africa has the second highest rate of shooting deaths in the world, second only to Colombia.


"The question is: Why does this story make the news? Yes, because they are both celebrities, but this is happening on every single day in South Africa," said Adele Kirsten, a member of Gun Free South Africa. "We have thousands of people killed annually by gun violence in our country. So the anger is about that it is preventable."


___


Imray reported from Cape Town, South Africa. Associated Press writer Michelle Faul contributed to this report from Johannesburg.


Read More..

How safe are nanoparticles in food?







STORY HIGHLIGHTS


  • Andy Behar: Some foods contain tiny, engineered particles called nanomaterials

  • Behar: Nanoparticles might pose health risks, since they have adversely affected mice

  • He says not enough studies have adequately demonstrated the safety of nanoparticles

  • Behar: With an emerging technology such as this, companies have to be careful




Editor's note: Andy Behar is the chief executive of As You Sow, a nonprofit organization that promotes corporate accountability.


(CNN) -- Some foods sold in supermarkets across America contain tiny, engineered particles called nanomaterials. Our organization decided to test doughnuts after learning that the titanium dioxide used as a coloring in the powdered sugar coating likely contained nano-sized particles.


The tests, conducted by an independent laboratory, found that both Dunkin' Donuts Powdered Cake Donuts and Hostess Donettes did indeed contain titanium dioxide nanoparticles. In response, a spokeswoman for Dunkin Donuts said the company was looking into the matter.


You must be wondering: What are nanomaterials? They are microscopic in size. "If a nanoparticle were the size of a football, a red blood cell would be the size of the field." Nanoparticles have been heralded as having the potential to revolutionize the food industry -- from enabling the production of creamy liquids that contain no fat, to enhancing flavors, improving supplement delivery, providing brighter colors, keeping food fresh longer, or indicating when it spoils.



Andy Behar

Andy Behar



But there are a few problems.


One is that no one knows how many and which food products have them. Companies are not being forthcoming about whether they are using nanoparticles. To further complicate the issue, some companies may not even be aware that they are selling products containing them.


Many companies are reluctant or uninterested in discussing the issue, and concrete information has been difficult to obtain. The majority of food companies are not responsive in providing information about their specific uses, plans and policies toward nanoparticles. There is also no law in the United States that requires disclosure. In contrast, companies in the European Union are required to label foods containing nanoparticles.


The bigger issue with nanoparticles is that they might pose health risks, as they have been found to in tests on mice.


There are not nearly enough studies that can adequately demonstrate the safety of nanoparticles in food additives or packaging. Scientists are still investigating how the broad range of nanoparticles, with their myriad potential uses, would react in the body.


When ingested, nano-sized particles can pass into the blood and lymph, where they circulate through the body and reach in potentially sensitive sites such as bone marrow, lymph nodes, the spleen, the brain, the liver and the heart.


Our knowledge about how nanomaterial food additives react in the body and their health impact is still in its infancy. While efforts are under way to understand them better, much deeper scientific inquiry should occur before nanoparticles are sold in food and food-related products.


More companies and consumers need to be aware of the use of engineered nanomaterials in foods and the potential unknown risks of this technology. More food products like M&M's and Pop-Tarts should be tested as recent studies have identified them as likely to contain nanomaterials as well.


Fortunately, a few companies have become willing to take a public position on nanoparticles.


McDonald stated that it "does not currently support the use by suppliers of nano-engineered materials in the production of any of our food, packaging, and toys." Similarly, Kraft Foods said that it was not using nanotechnology.


Some of the largest food companies in the world, including YUM! Brands, PepsiCo, and Whole Foods, need to know more about nanomaterials and check with their supplies to see if they are using them.


Americans are becoming increasingly interested in what is in the food they're eating. No longer content with label information on daily allowances of vitamins and minerals, U.S. consumers are following the lead of their counterparts in many other countries by demanding more disclosure about where and how their food is grown and whether it is safe.


Even though communicating risks to consumers can be challenging, the public's perception of safety will be paramount in determining the acceptance of nanomaterials. This is especially true for an emerging food-products technology the safety of which even the FDA has acknowledged a lack of understanding.



Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.


Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.


The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Andy Behar.






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'Blade Runner' Olympian charged with girlfriend's murder









JOHANNESBURG—





South African "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee who became one of the biggest names in world athletics, was charged on Thursday with shooting dead his girlfriend at his upscale home in Pretoria.

Police said they opened a murder case after a 30-year-old woman was found dead at the Paralympic and Olympic star's house in the Silverlakes gated complex on the capital's outskirts.






Pistorius, 26, and his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, had been the only people in the house at the time of the shooting, police brigadier Denise Beukes told reporters, adding witnesses had been interviewed about the early morning incident.

"We are talking about neighbours and people that heard things earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place," Beukes said outside the heavily guarded residential complex.

Police said a 9mm pistol had been found at the scene.

Beukes said police were aware of previous incidents at the Pistorius house. "I can confirm that there has previously been incidents at the home of Mr Oscar Pistorious, of allegations of a domestic nature," she said.

Pistorius, who uses carbon fibre prosthetic blades to run, is due to appear in a Pretoria court on Friday.

"He is doing well but very emotional," his lawyer Kenny Oldwage told SABC TV, but gave no further comment.

A sports icon for triumphing over disability to compete with able-bodied athletes at the Olympics, his sponsorship deals, including one with sports apparel group Nike, are thought to be worth $2 million a year.

South Africa's M-Net cable TV channel said it was pulling adverts featuring Pistorius off air immediately after blanket coverage of the arrest in a country more used to honouring Pistorius as a national hero.

"WE ARE ALL DEVASTATED"

Steenkamp's colleagues in the modelling world were distraught. "We are all devastated. Her family is in shock," her agent, Sarita Tomlinson, tearfully told Reuters. "They did have a good relationship. Nobody actually knows what happened."

Pistorius, who was born without a fibula in both legs, was the first double amputee to run in the Olympics and reached the 400-metre semi-finals in London 2012.

In last year's Paralympics he suffered his first loss over 200 metres in nine years. After the race he questioned the legitimacy of Brazilian winner Alan Oliveira's prosthetic blades, though he was quick to express regret for the comments.

South Africa has some of the world's highest rates of violent crime, and many home owners have weapons to defend themselves against intruders, although Pistorius's complex is surrounded by a three-metre high wall and electric fence.

In 2004, Springbok rugby player Rudi Visagie shot dead his 19-year-old daughter after he mistakenly thought she was a robber trying to steal his car in the middle of the night.

Before the murder charge was announced, Johannesburg's Talk Radio 702 said the athlete may have mistaken Steenkamp for a burglar.

Pistorius was arrested in 2009 for assault after slamming a door on a woman and spent a night in police custody. Family and friends said it was just an accident and charges were dropped.

OLYMPIAN UNDERGOES POLICE TESTS

Read More..

"Blade Runner" Pistorius charged with murdering girlfriend


JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee who became one of the biggest names in world athletics, was charged on Thursday with shooting dead his girlfriend at his upscale home in Pretoria.


Police said they opened a murder case after a 30-year-old woman was found dead at the Paralympic and Olympic star's house in the Silverlakes gated complex on the capital's outskirts.


Pistorius, 26, and his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, had been the only people in the house at the time of the shooting, police brigadier Denise Beukes told reporters, adding witnesses had been interviewed about the early morning incident.


"We are talking about neighbors and people that heard things earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place," Beukes said outside the heavily guarded residential complex.


Police said a 9mm pistol had been found at the scene.


Beukes said police were aware of previous incidents at the Pistorius house. "I can confirm that there has previously been incidents at the home of Mr Oscar Pistorious, of allegations of a domestic nature," she said.


Pistorius, who uses carbon fiber prosthetic blades to run, is due to appear in a Pretoria court on Friday.


"He is doing well but very emotional," his lawyer Kenny Oldwage told SABC TV, but gave no further comment.


A sports icon for triumphing over disability to compete with able-bodied athletes at the Olympics, his sponsorship deals, including one with sports apparel group Nike, are thought to be worth $2 million a year.


South Africa's M-Net cable TV channel said it was pulling adverts featuring Pistorius off air immediately after blanket coverage of the arrest in a country more used to honoring Pistorius as a national hero.


"WE ARE ALL DEVASTATED"


Steenkamp's colleagues in the modeling world were distraught. "We are all devastated. Her family is in shock," her agent, Sarita Tomlinson, tearfully told Reuters. "They did have a good relationship. Nobody actually knows what happened."


Pistorius, who was born without a fibula in both legs, was the first double amputee to run in the Olympics and reached the 400-metre semi-finals in London 2012.


In last year's Paralympics he suffered his first loss over 200 meters in nine years. After the race he questioned the legitimacy of Brazilian winner Alan Oliveira's prosthetic blades, though he was quick to express regret for the comments.


South Africa has some of the world's highest rates of violent crime, and many home owners have weapons to defend themselves against intruders, although Pistorius's complex is surrounded by a three-meter high wall and electric fence.


In 2004, Springbok rugby player Rudi Visagie shot dead his 19-year-old daughter after he mistakenly thought she was a robber trying to steal his car in the middle of the night.


Before the murder charge was announced, Johannesburg's Talk Radio 702 said the athlete may have mistaken Steenkamp for a burglar.


Pistorius was arrested in 2009 for assault after slamming a door on a woman and spent a night in police custody. Family and friends said it was just an accident and charges were dropped.


OLYMPIAN UNDERGOES POLICE TESTS


Steenkamp, a regular on the South African social scene, was reported to have been dating Pistorius for several months.


In the social pages of last weekend's Sunday Independent she described him as having "impeccable" taste. "His gifts are always thoughtful," she was quoted as saying.


Some of her last Twitter postings indicated she was looking forward to Valentine's Day on Thursday. "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow???" she posted.


Pistorius was on Thursday being processed through the police system. "At this stage he is on his way to a district surgeon for medical examination," the police brigadier said.


"When a person has been accused of a crime like murder they look at things like testing under the finger nails, taking a blood alcohol sample and all kinds of other test that are done. They are standard medical tests," Beukes said.


Pistorius is also sponsored by British telecoms firm BT, sunglasses maker Oakley and French designer Thierry Mugler.


"We are shocked by this terrible, tragic news. We await the outcome of the South African police investigation," a BT spokeswoman said before Pistorius was charged.


A Nike spokesman in London said before hearing of the murder charge that the company was "saddened by the news, but we have no further comment to make at this stage".


Pistorius also has a sponsorship deal with Icelandic prosthetics manufacturer Ossur.


"I can only say that our thoughts and prayers are with Oscar and the families involved in the tragedy," Ossur CEO Jon Sigurdsson told Reuters. "It is completely premature to discuss or speculate on our business relationship with him."


Neighbors expressed shock at the arrest of a "good guy".


"It is difficult to imagine an intruder entering this community, but we live in a country where intruders can get in wherever they want to," said one Silverlakes resident, who did not want to be named.


"Oscar is a good guy, an upstanding neighbor, and if he is innocent I feel for this guy deeply," he said.


(Additional reporting by Sherilee Lakmidas, David Dolan, Ed Cropley, Jon Herskovitz, Keith Weir and Kate Holton; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Will Waterman)



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Wall Street rally stalls, S&P 500 skims November 2007 high

DEAR ABBY: My daughters are attractive young women, both doing well in their professional careers. "Melanie," who is 27, is married to "Sam," an extremely attractive and successful man.My 30-year-old daughter, "Alicia," has been divorced for a year. Her marriage failed two years ago because she and her husband had an appetite for sex outside their marriage. While I was disturbed about that, I was horrified to learn that Melanie allows her sister to occasionally have sex with Sam.Melanie's argument is that Sam is less likely to cheat given this situation. ...
Read More..

Rivera plans to announce if this is final season


TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera said he's reached a decision on whether this will be his final season and plans to announce it before opening day.


"Yes, I have," Rivera said Wednesday after the Yankees' first spring training workout for pitchers and catchers. "But again, I will tell you guys when I think it's the right moment."


Baseball's career saves leader had surgery June 12 to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, an injury that occurred while he was shagging fly balls during batting practice in Kansas City on May 3.


The 43-year-old right-hander expects to be ready for the regular season. He threw 25 pitches off a bullpen mound and said it felt good.


"It was wonderful to be out there again," Rivera said.


When asked on a scale of one to 10 how the knee currently is, Rivera said, "around nine, for sure."


He added: "The other point will be the running that I do here."


Rivera wore a small, light-weight brace during Wednesday's workout, which had him also take part in fielding drills, including covering first base. He is planning to use a brace in games this year.


Rivera will continue shagging fly balls in batting practice, an activity that has the approval of Yankees manager Joe Girardi.


"That's part of who he is," Girardi said. "So, I don't want to take it away from him."


Rivera will likely pitch his normal seven or eight innings in spring training games, but could throw additional batting practice sessions or simulated games.


"We really don't have a whole lot of restrictions on Mo," Girardi said. "We will watch him carefully to make sure that we don't think he's taxing it too much. We feel pretty good about where he's at."


NOTES: LHP Andy Pettitte decided not to pitch in the World Baseball Classic after talking with team officials that included Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman. "I wanted to play," Pettitte said. "Obviously, after having some conversations with the Yankees — (who were) not too excited about me playing in it — just decided against it. It was a tough decision. I've never had a chance to play for my country, but it was a real big deal to me. And was really, really, really considering do that. It was one of those deals where I felt like this was probably the best move that I could make for this organization and for our team."


Read More..

Obama speech 'relied on amnesia'






STORY HIGHLIGHTS


  • Matt Welch: State of the Union featured content-free calls to action for action's sake

  • He says governed might want to know what they've gotten in return for ballooning debt

  • Didn't we try repairing infrastructure with the stimulus package? he asks

  • Welch: Rand Paul spoke to those who think government should get out of way




Editor's note: Matt Welch is editor in chief of Reason and co-author of "The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America" (Public Affairs).


(CNN) -- The two most memorable lines of President Barack Obama's fourth State of the Union address were the ad-libbed: "Get it done" (which doesn't appear in the remarks as prepared), and the emotional "They deserve a vote," concerning victims of gun violence.


As exasperated appeals for an obstructionist Congress to get off its duff, the exhortations provided emotional catnip for Democrats. For the rest of us, however, they were sobering reminders of what governing liberalism has deteriorated into: content-free calls to take action for action's sake.


Consumers of national governance are within their rights to ask just what we've gotten in return for ballooning the cost of the stuff since 2000. The answer may lie in not just what the president said, but what he has assumed we've already forgotten.



Matt Welch

Matt Welch



"Let's cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years," said the president, who promised a "Recovery Through Retrofit" three years ago. "The American people deserve a tax code that ... lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that create jobs right here in America," said the man who before he took office vowed to, uh, give "tax breaks to companies that are investing here in the United States."


That "aging infrastructure badly in need of repair"? Well, what happened to the $50 billion from the stimulus package dedicated to precisely that task, or the $50 billion plan 18 months later? Making college "more affordable"? That has been the motivation for continuous ratcheting of government involvement in higher education, which has -- surprise! -- coincided with a several-decade increase in tuition costs and student loan debt.


Greene: In 2013, democracy talks back



Do-something politics works when Americans have amnesia, or are reacting to headline-making tragedies, or when they just want free stuff. But this irresistible force is butting up against the immovable object of a have-nothing U.S. Treasury. Debt service costs will soon overtake defense spending, and baby boomer entitlements are about to transform the federal government into a check-writing program for senior citizens.


Americans know by now that Obama can't possibly believe his own promises that his policies won't "increase our deficit by a single dime," not only because of his poor track record with that particular vow, but because he spends the rest of his time talking about all the various things the government needs to "invest" to create "broad-based growth." It's a conflict at the basic level of vision with those of us who think prosperity is mostly a private-sector affair that is on balance imperiled, not improved, by the exertions of a deficit-spending government.


Opinion: Obama dares Congress to get the job done








Thankfully, and quite unlike during the 2012 presidential campaign, the competing vision was voiced Tuesday night. Not necessarily by a dehydrated but game Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, who delivered the Republican response to the State of the Union address, but by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, who did the honors online for the tea party.


"The path we are on is not sustainable," Paul said, directly. "All that we are, all that we wish to be, is now threatened by the notion that you can have something for nothing, that you can have your cake and eat it, too, that you can spend a trillion dollars every year that you don't have."


Paul dinged Republicans as well as Democrats, targeted military spending as well as entitlements, and spent a good 30 seconds giving a more full-throated defense of wartime civil liberties than the allegedly anti-war candidate Obama ever did.


Most importantly, he laid out a truly alternative vision that speaks directly to the growing number of Americans who feel like the federal government has failed as the engine of economic growth, and needs urgently to take a back seat before it does more harm.


Rothkopf: This time, a president in full


"What America needs," Paul said, "is not Robin Hood, but Adam Smith." As Obamanomics continues underperforming through a second term, it will be fascinating to see whether Ron Paul's kid can get more people to agree.


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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Matt Welch.






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Cubs' plan for more night games in 2013 could be in trouble









The Chicago Cubs' push for more night games in the upcoming season could be in jeopardy, as Ald. Tom Tunney said he would not introduce legislation at today's City Council meeting.


The team has asked Tunney, whose 44th ward encompasses Wrigley Field, to ease limits on night games, late Friday afternoon games, concerts and other non-game events that are part of a neighborhood protection ordinance. The Cubs want more flexibility in scheduling games and events to increase revenues as the owners of the team seek to embark on a $300 million renovation of Wrigley Field.


The Cubs currently schedule 27 night games and can add up to three more for national television purposes. The exact number of new night games the club seeks is unclear, but the team is eager to have more night games as soon as the upcoming season. The timetable depends on getting city approval as soon as possible so that Major League Baseball can adjust the 2013 schedule, which already has been unveiled.








The team had asked Tunney to introduce a measure amending the neighborhood protection ordinance at Wednesday’s meeting. But the alderman wants the Cubs to address parking, traffic and security issues in the Wrigleyville neighborhood.


The lack of a proposal today suggests Tunney is in no rush to give the Cubs what they want. Additional night games are just one of the changes the Cubs seek that are tied to Wrigley renovations. The team also wants the city to lift landmark restrictions on the stadium to allow for more advertising and change zoning around Wrigley to allow for pre-game street festivals.


Both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Tunney said they wanted one comprehensive deal to rehab Wrigley and would not proceed first with just an ordinance to add more night games.


“It’s all of one piece,” the mayor said. “We’re going to do this comprehensively.”


He also suggested that a Major League Baseball deadline for scheduling night games provides pressure to seal a deal.


“The individual parties know there’s a deadline, because there is an actual one for them,” Emanuel said.


“But I will say one word to the parties,” he added. “There’s an agreement to be had. It’s right there. All you need is a little leadership and a little will. It’s right there at the table.”


A spokesman for the Ricketts family, the Cubs’ owners, said negotiations on several issues continue.


“Everybody has a sense of urgency,” said spokesman Dennis Culloton. “The team is still hoping to get things resolved by Opening Day at the latest.”





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