Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Investors kick off 2012 with defensive stance: Reuters polls (Reuters)

LONDON (Reuters) ? Investors have begun 2012 in a cautious mood, with U.S. and Japanese asset managers worried about the euro zone debt crisis cutting exposure to stocks and boosting bonds, while European accounts added risky assets, Reuters polls show.

The surveys of 55 leading investment houses in the United States, continental Europe, Britain and Japan released on Tuesday showed a typical balanced portfolio held 50.5 percent of its assets in equities this month, the lowest since October.

Allocation to bonds, which include government and corporate debt, rose to 36.2 percent of the portfolio, the highest in at least a year. The increase was driven by Japanese investors who raised their average bond allocation to a record high.

Cash dropped to 6.0 percent from 6.6 percent, showing investors are willing to put their money to work.

The poll results show a divide in investor morale between Europe and elsewhere.

Asset managers outside Europe are worried about the long-term effects on the economy of the sovereign debt crisis.

"Europe is seeking to accomplish the very far-reaching and difficult task of fiscal integration and markets will not welcome piecemeal steps. So if the market is disappointed by policy, there will be a sharp fall in share prices," said Akio Yoshino, chief economist at Amundi Japan.

In Europe, EU leaders' pledge on deeper economic integration and the European Central Bank's offer of cheap long-term cash in December have encouraged investors to take on risk.

"With the euro summit from December 9 and the decisive actions undertaken by the ECB to provide substantial liquidity to European banks, the risks of an imminent euro zone implosion have faded significantly," said Manuel Wildhaber, asset allocation strategist at UBS Global Asset Management.

In equities, North America and Japan gained in popularity, while allocation to Britain and euro zone fell.

World stocks, measured by MSCI (.MIWD00000PUS), are up more than 6 percent since the start of the year, after a volatile 2011 that saw losses of over 9 percent.

In their fixed income portfolios, investors increased exposure to government debt to 53.6 percent while they cut allocation to high yield bonds to 10.8 percent.

Sixteen out of 25 respondents who answered an extra question said their confidence in growth prospects for the euro zone had increased since the start of the year. The ECB's unprecedented three-year loans and a decline in peripheral bond yields were cited as the main reason for the rise in confidence.


U.S. asset managers cut equity allocation to 63.0 percent, pushing euro zone exposure to just 10.7 percent - the lowest in at least a year. With optimism on the U.S. economy rising, allocation to North American stocks jumped to 65.2 percent.

Their bonds weighting rose to 30.6 percent, driven by higher investment grade debt holdings. Cash rose to 2.3 percent from 1.8 percent.

Continental European funds increased their equity holdings to the highest level since July, while cutting bonds and cash, after the ECB's injection of almost half-a-trillion euros of three-year funds in December boosted investor sentiment.

The survey of 17 funds showed a typical balanced portfolio held 45.8 percent of its assets in equities - the highest level in six months - up from 44.0 percent in December.

Allocation to bonds fell for a fifth straight month to 38.7 percent, a level last seen in April. Cash fell to 9.0 percent from 10.5 percent last month.

Japanese fund managers raised their average bond allocation to a record high while cutting their stock weighting.

The average bond weighting in the poll of 12 Japan-based institutional investors jumped to a record high of 50.2 percent from 47.0 percent in December. Their stock weighting dropped to 43.2 percent from 45.6 percent in December.

Yield-seeking British investors began to return to riskier assets such as stocks, cutting cash, while worries about the impact of Europe's still-unresolved debt crisis encouraged them to increase their bond weighting.

In a survey of 14 investment managers, the average exposure to cash in balanced portfolios dropped sharply to 8.9 percent having reached a multi-year high of 10.4 percent in December.

Allocations to equities increased by a percentage point to 49.9 percent on average. Bond allocations also increased slightly to 25.2 percent from 24.6 percent a month earlier.

- Reuters also issued two similar polls from China and Italy, neither of which was included in the global calculations.

Italy's portfolio managers raised allocations to equities slightly as well as bonds, and cut cash.

Equity holdings edged up to 43 percent in a global balanced portfolio from 42.6 percent in December. Bonds, both government and corporate, reached 44 percent from 43.3 percent, according to a survey of 13 Italy-based asset management firms.

Chinese fund managers boosted their suggested equity weightings on expectations that China has averted a hard-landing and the government will provide further policy support for the struggling stock market.

The average recommended stock weighting over the next three months rose to 83 percent from last month's 80.6 percent, with interest in financial and machinery stocks rising, according to the poll of eight China-based fund managers.

Fund managers also raised their suggested exposure to bonds to 10.1 percent from 8.1 percent a month earlier, but slashed recommended cash allocation to 6.9 percent from 11.3 percent.

(Additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo, Chris Vellacott and Alessandra Prenticein London, Samuel Shen and Kazunori Takada in Shanghai, Maria Pia Quaglia in Milan, and Bangalore Polling Unit; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Source: http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/eurobiz/*http%3A//news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20120131/bs_nm/us_fund_assets

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These Guys Built a Crowd Investing Platform Even Though It's Not ...

Adrianne Jeffries

It is illegal to invest $100 in a startup in exchange for equity or options unless you?re an accredited investor.

Still, a website for crowd investing launched today: WeFunder.com. Even though the law that would make it legal is still being debated in the Senate, TechStars alumni and Startup Workaway co-founders Nicholas Tommarello and Nick Plante went ahead and built WeFunder and wrote a business plan anyway.

?We?ve built out the crowd-investing platform in advance of the law passing, and have put in a lot of thought into how to best protect small investors,? Mr. Tommarello wrote in an email.

A disclaimer on the site reads:

Wefunder is a crowd-investing platform for startups. Until the current law is changed (hopefully soon!), our invite-only beta is only open to accredited investors.

?We?re only going to choose one startup a week to feature; artificial scarcity will drive up quality,? Mr. Tommarello said. ?And we will only choose startups with at least one accredited investor ? the idea is that angels perform due diligence and professional mentorship, the crowd can throw in up to $1 million afterwards. That delays the date an A round is needed, enhancing founder control.?

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Source: http://thedailyattack.com/2012/01/30/these-guys-built-a-crowd-investing-platform-even-though-its-not-legal-yet/

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Abbas: Israel to blame for failure of latest talks (AP)

RAMALLAH, West Bank ? The Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Sunday blamed each other for the impasse in newly launched peace efforts, raising doubts about whether the dialogue would continue just weeks after it began.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of spoiling the low-level talks, saying it failed to present detailed proposals for borders and security requested by international mediators. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Palestinians "refused to even discuss" Israeli security needs.

For the past month, the sides have held Jordanian-mediated exploratory talks at the urging of the Quartet of international Mideast mediators ? the U.S., the U.N., the E.U. and Russia. The goal of the talks has been to find a formula to resume formal peace negotiations, with the aim of forging an agreement this year.

The Palestinians say a three-month period set by the Quartet for the exploratory talks ended last week, counting from the day the mediators issued their marching orders last October.

But Abbas, deeply skeptical about the hardline Netanyahu, is under intense international pressure to stay at the table and would risk being blamed for the failure of the latest Mideast peace efforts.

Walking away would be a risky strategy at a time when he seeks global recognition of a state of Palestine ahead of a possible border deal with Israel. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon is expected in the region this week to help keep the talks alive.

Abbas said Israel's efforts so far have fallen short.

"By not presenting a clear vision on the issues of borders and security, as the Quartet demanded, Israel foiled the exploratory talks in Amman," Abbas said in remarks published late Saturday by the Palestinian news agency Wafa.

Israel has said it wants to keep talking and is serious about reaching a deal by year's end. It says the exploratory talks should continue for another two months, starting its countdown of the Quartet's three-month period from the beginning of meetings in early January.

Addressing his Cabinet on Sunday, Netanyahu said the dialogue had gotten off to a rocky start, but held out hope the talks would continue.

"Until this moment, according to what happened in recent days, the Palestinians refused to even discuss with us the needs of Israel's security," he said. "The signs are not very good, but I hope they will come to their senses and we'll continue the talks so we can reach real negotiations."

The Quartet had asked both sides to present detailed proposals on borders and security arrangements between Israel and a future Palestinian state, in hopes the exploratory talks would evolve into full negotiations.

The Palestinians said they presented four-page proposals on each subject, but refused to elaborate. Earlier this week, Israel presented its principles for drawing a border with a future state of Palestine ? the first-ever indication by Netanyahu on how much war-won land he would be willing to relinquish.

Abbas said he remains committed to serious negotiations that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, with east Jerusalem as its capital.

The Palestinians want to establish their state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians, who regained control of Gaza in 2005, have said they are willing to swap some land to enable Israel to keep some of the largest of dozens of settlements it has built on occupied lands. In talks with Netanyahu's predecessor, the Palestinians suggested swapping 1.9 percent of the West Bank, while Israel proposed 6.5 percent.

Two Palestinian officials said last week that Israel proposed keeping control of east Jerusalem and essentially turning its West Bank separation barrier into the border. That would place attach roughly 10 percent of the West Bank to Israel.

Israeli officials have declined comment.

However, it is unlikely Abbas would accept any deal that leaves east Jerusalem under Israeli control and gives him only 90 percent of the West Bank.

Abbas consulted Sunday with his Fatah movement and was to talk Monday with top officials in the Palestine Liberation Organization. Abbas said he would make his final decision after briefing the Arab League at the end of the week.

In a statement after the Fatah meeting late Sunday, Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdeneh said a return to direct talks requires, among other things, a halt in Israeli settlement construction, but that a final decision on resuming exploratory talks would come only after more consultations.

Western diplomats said Quartet envoy Tony Blair will try in coming days to persuade Netanyahu to agree to incentives to salvage the talks, including the release of veteran Palestinian prisoners.

Mahmoud Aloul, a senior Fatah official, said Sunday that Fatah would likely urge Abbas to end the talks.

"There is no hope ... that these talks or any talks with this right-wing Israeli government would lead to any progress," Aloul said.

Source: http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/mideast/*http%3A//news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20120129/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_israel_palestinians

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Steam mobile app beta invites now rolling out; we go hands-on

Android Central

As we reported on Thursday, Valve Software recently took the wraps off the Steam mobile app for Android (and iOS), as part of a limited beta. Steam users could register their interest by downloading the app and entering their details, and over the past day or so, the first beta invites have started to roll out.

Steam is a big deal in the world of PC and Mac gaming, which makes the launch of an official mobile app a big deal for Android. As such, we decided to take this initial beta version of the Steam Android app for a spin. We've got more words and pictures for you after the break.

read more

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/androidcentral/~3/BkaSmJ-EfNc/story01.htm

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Hazanavicius wins at Directors Guild for 'Artist'

Director Michel Hazanavicius arrives at the 64th Annual Directors Guild of America Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Dan Steinberg)

Director Michel Hazanavicius arrives at the 64th Annual Directors Guild of America Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Dan Steinberg)

Director Michel Hazanavicius, right, and Berenice Bejo arrive at the 64th Annual Directors Guild of America Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Dan Steinberg)

LOS ANGELES (AP) ? The Directors Guild of America Awards are the latest Hollywood film honors to go silent.

Hollywood's top filmmakers group presented its feature-film honor Saturday to Michel Hazanavicius for his silent film "The Artist," giving him the inside track for the best-director prize at the Academy Awards.

"I really love directors. I really have respect for directors. So this is really very moving and touching for me," said Hazanavicius, whose black-and-white silent charmer has cleaned up at earlier Hollywood honors and could emerge as the best-picture favorite at the Feb. 26 Oscars.

The Directors Guild honors are one of the most-accurate forecasts for who might go on to take home an Oscar. Only six times in the 63-year history of the guild awards has the winner failed to win the Oscar for best director. And more often than not, whichever film earns the directing Oscar also wins best picture.

French filmmaker Hazanavicius, whose credits include the spy spoofs "OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies" and "OSS 117: Lost in Rio," had been a virtual unknown in Hollywood until "The Artist." His throwback to early cinema centers on a silent-era star whose career crumbles when talking pictures take over in the late 1920s.

First-time nominee Hazanavicius won over a field of guild heavyweights that included past winners Martin Scorsese for "Hugo" and Woody Allen for "Midnight in Paris." Past nominees David Fincher for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and Alexander Payne for "The Descendants" also were in the running.

Accepting his nomination plaque earlier in the ceremony from his stars in "The Artist," Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, Hazanavicius recalled his childhood education in great cinema, including Hollywood classics such as "Red River" and "Rio Bravo."

Hazanavicius said he felt he was being welcomed by the Directors Guild for a language they had in common: cinema.

"Maybe you noticed, but I'm French. I have an accent. I have a name that is very difficult to pronounce," Hazanavicius said. "I'm not American, and I'm not French, actually. I'm a filmmaker. ... I feel like I'm being accepted by you not as Americans but as filmmakers."

James Marsh won the film documentary prize for "Project Nim," his chronicle of the triumphs and trials of a chimpanzee that was raised like a human child. It was the latest major Hollywood prize for Marsh, who earned the documentary Academy Award for 2008's "Man on Wire."

Scorsese went zero-for-two at the guild awards. He also had been nominated for the documentary award for "George Harrison: Living in the Material World."

Robert B. Weide won the TV comedy directing award for an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," while Patty Jenkins earned the TV drama prize for the pilot of "The Killing."

The award for TV movie or miniseries went to Jon Cassar for "The Kennedys."

Other television winners were:

? Reality programming: Neil P. DeGroot, "The Biggest Loser."

? Musical variety: Glenn Weiss, "The 65th Annual Tony Awards."

? Daytime serials: William Ludel, "General Hospital."

? Children's programs: Amy Schatz, "A Child's Garden of Poetry."

? Commercials: Noam Murro.

At the start of the ceremony, Guild President Taylor Hackford led the crowd in a toast to one of his predecessors, Gil Cates, the veteran producer of the Oscar broadcast who died last year.

The Directors Guild awards were the first of two major Hollywood honors this weekend. The Screen Actors Guild hands out its prizes Sunday.




Associated Press

Source: http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/4e67281c3f754d0696fbfdee0f3f1469/Article_2012-01-29-Directors%20Awards/id-07aa80af981745cfa6c80645e30ff8ff

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

AP Exclusive: Vatican rewrites money launder law (AP)

VATICAN CITY ? The Vatican has rewritten its 2010 anti-money laundering law after European inspectors found that it didn't fully meet their tough standards to combat the financing of terrorism.

The new law, a copy of which was obtained Friday by The Associated Press, requires the Vatican to create a list of terror organizations based on the one issued by the United Nations and requires the Vatican to enter into agreements with other countries to exchange financial information.

The Holy See has been working for years to comply with European Union norms on money-laundering and terror financing in a bid to shed its image as a secrecy-obsessed tax haven and join the so-called "white list" of countries that share tax information to crack down on tax cheats.

Source: http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/terrorism/*http%3A//news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20120127/ap_on_re_eu/eu_vatican_bank

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The Love Box is an analog video mixer, house of mirrors for your iPhone (video)

There's something romantic about hacking the iPhone, especially when it means finding ways to personalize the massively popular handset. Apps like Instagram may help you realize artistic talent, but software just doesn't get those creative juices flowing like an old-fashioned piece of hardware can. Despite its taboo-sounding name, The Love Box isn't an adult toy in the traditional sense, instead serving as an analog video (and stills) mixer for your iPhone 4 or 4S. Consisting of a wooden box and an angled sliding mirror, the homegrown contraption lets you simultaneously capture the action in front of and behind you in a single image. It was originally designed in Barcelona to capture two people conversing for a documentary called "The Love Box Conversations," hence the name. The "lowest-tech accessory for the highest-tech phone" is available now as part of a very limited initial run of 100 units, and can be yours for €57.63 (about $77.50) if you hit up the source link below.

Continue reading The Love Box is an analog video mixer, house of mirrors for your iPhone (video)

The Love Box is an analog video mixer, house of mirrors for your iPhone (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 27 Jan 2012 13:39:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Source: http://feeds.engadget.com/~r/weblogsinc/engadget/~3/0IUjK8a_28E/

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Altria 4Q profit falls 9 pct, CEO to retire (AP)

RICHMOND, Va. ? Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc. said Friday its fourth-quarter profit fell about 9 percent on lease and restructuring charges even as higher prices and gains from its smokeless tobacco products helped bolster its sales.

The owner of the nation's biggest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA, also announced that CEO Michael E. Szymanczyk will retire in May following the company's annual shareholder meeting. Altria's board has selected Martin J. Barrington to replace him as CEO and chairman, and David R. Beran will serve as president and chief operating officer.

The company also disclosed that it has entered into an agreement with an affiliate of Fertin Pharma A/S to develop non-combustible nicotine-containing products.

Its shares rose 28 cents to $28.94 in premarket trading.

Richmond, Va.-based Altria reported net income of $836 million, or 41 cents per share, for the three-month period ended Dec. 31, down from $919 million, or 44 cents a share, last year. On an adjusted basis, the company earned 50 cents per share, a penny above Wall Street expectations.

Revenue, excluding excise taxes, increased 5 percent to $4.34 billion. Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting $4.23 billion.

Cigarettes volumes were flat at 33.7 billion cigarettes compared with a year ago as an increase of nearly 20 percent in its discount cigarette brands offset declines in its premium brands like Marlboro. Cigarette revenue excluding excise taxes rose 4 percent to $3.63 billion during the quarter on higher prices.

Altria said its top-selling Marlboro brand lost 0.7 points of market share to end up with 41.6 percent of the U.S. market. Marlboro volumes declined less than 1 percent. Its other brands, including Virginia Slims, Parliament and Basic, also lost market share.

The company has introduced several new products with the Marlboro brand, often with lower promotional pricing. They include special blends of both menthol and non-menthol cigarettes to try to keep the brand growing and steal smokers from its competitors.

Altria still faces pressure in the current economy from less-expensive brands such as like Pall Mall from Reynolds American Inc. and Maverick from Lorillard Inc.

Like other tobacco companies, Altria is focusing on cigarette alternatives ? such as cigars, snuff and chewing tobacco ? for future sales growth because the decline in cigarette smoking is expected to continue.

Volumes of its smokeless tobacco brands such as Copenhagen and Skoal increased about 10 percent. Excluding excise taxes, revenue from its smokeless tobacco business grew nearly 7 percent to $391 million on higher prices.

For the quarter, the company's smokeless tobacco brands had 55.5 percent of the market, which is tiny compared with cigarettes.

Volume for its Black & Mild cigars fell about 6 percent during the period. But revenue excluding excise taxes rose 26 percent to $90 million as it raised prices and spent less money promoting the brand.

Altria also owns a wine business and holds a voting stake in brewer SABMiller.

Altria has been forced to cut costs as tax hikes, smoking bans, health concerns and social stigma make the cigarette business tougher. During the third quarter, the company said it completed a multi-year cost savings program, exceeding its goal of reducing costs by $1.5 billion between 2007 and 2011 compared with 2006.

Last quarter the company rolled out a plan to cut $400 million in "cigarette-related infrastructure costs" by the end of 2013 in advance of anticipated cigarette volume declines. Altria said the restructuring charges in connection with the program totaled 7 cents per share in the fourth quarter.

For the full year, the company said it earned $3.39 billion, or $1.64 per share, in 2011 compared with $3.9 billion, or $1.87 per share, in the previous year. It said its adjusted earnings for the year were $2.05 per share.

Altria also said it forecast 2012 full-year adjusted earnings between $2.17 and $2.23 per share.


Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum.

Source: http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/earnings/*http%3A//news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20120127/ap_on_bi_ge/us_earns_altria_group

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Breach of new EU online data rules to carry high fines (Reuters)

BRUSSELS (Reuters) ? Europe proposed strict new data privacy rules on Wednesday, putting greater responsibility on companies such as Facebook to protect users' information, and threatening those who breach the code with hefty fines.

But the move, which legislators say is designed to better defend children against predators, has rattled major technology and Internet-based companies, with executives concerned the legislation will be almost impossible to implement in full or will do serious damage to their business models.

The proposals, which are expected to become law by the end of 2013 if approved by all 27 EU member states and the European Parliament, were drawn up after a two-year examination of shifting Internet use and the behavior of consumers using sites such as Yahoo!, Google and Facebook.

Viviane Reding, the European commissioner in charge of data privacy, said the proposed laws were necessary if consumers' data and privacy were to be better protected in the modern age.

A breach of the rules could mean fines of up to two percent of a company's annual turnover, which in the case of Google could mean up to $800 million.

"The protection of personal data is a fundamental right for all Europeans, but citizens do not always feel in full control of their personal data," Reding told reporters.

"A strong, clear and uniform legal framework at EU level will help to unleash the potential of the digital single market and foster economic growth, innovation and job creation."

But companies are wary of critical parts of the legislation, including what Reding calls "the right to be forgotten" - effectively the right for an individual to request that their data be withdrawn from websites and online databases.

Access to a certain amount of personal information - and the digital trace that people leave after using the Internet for any length of time - is a critical element in the business model of companies from Amazon to Groupon.

Lawyers say the EU risks setting up a legislative landscape at sharp variance with that of the United States, where federal law puts less of the burden of responsibility on companies.

Some warn that the proposed new rules in their current form will be too complicated and expensive to implement.

"This is a missed opportunity," said Mark Watts, data protection partner at technology law firm Bristows.

"The Commission had the opportunity to write a law that both protects consumers and which recognizes the reality of global data sharing and new technologies, such as social networking and cloud computing."

"Setting businesses an unachievable goal, whether they are European or the US technology giants that the Commission unfairly seems to be seeking to curb, is unhelpful in terms of compliance and frankly bad for consumers."

At the same time, the Commission, which has responsibility for drafting laws for the EU's 500 million citizens, is under pressure to protect consumers.

"The Commission is caught between a rock and a hard place as it seeks to level the playing field for business and better protect consumers," said Jane Finlayson-Brown, a partner at Allen & Overy, a law firm.

"There are real and significant concerns with the form of the regulation."


While Google is one of the biggest companies that could be affected, it offered a cautiously positive reaction.

"We support simplifying privacy rules in Europe to both protect consumers online and stimulate economic growth," said Al Verney, the company's spokesman in Brussels.

"It is possible to have simple rules that do both. We look forward to debating the proposals over the coming months."

That is a line backed by others, with many officials recognizing that the shape of the law could change between now and once it is finally approved and comes into force.

As well as corporate concern, arguments against the "right to be forgotten" have come from historians and U.S. authorities, who have argued that valuable information that forms part of the historical record could be lost under the legislation.

The International Chamber of Commerce said the proposed new rules raised immediate concerns about compliance costs and long-term worries about how innovative companies can be.

"In protecting individual privacy, we must be careful not to undermine what is now a key driver of competition, growth and innovation," Stephen Pattison, the UK CEO of the ICC said.

As well as the right to be forgotten, some companies are also concerned about guidelines on user consent, which would require companies to secure a user's formal approval to hold their data rather than default authority to do so.

ETNO, a Brussels-based lobbying group for telecoms companies and internet providers said the stipulation would cripple businesses that retain their customers' attention by providing content based on their browsing history.

"Repeatedly requiring explicit consent during an online experience undermines the goal of enabling consumers to make informed decisions in an environment that is not overly intrusive," said Luigi Gambardella, ETNO's chairman.

Michal Fertik, founder and chief executive of Reputation.com, disagreed, saying most of the objections came from large incumbent Internet companies with vested interests.

"The devil's going to be in the detail ... but as a matter of principle I think the right to be forgotten is important," said Fertik, whose company helps its clients manage their online reputation and defend their privacy.

"It's an unlevel playing field. If you run an Internet media business, it's impossible to care deeply about privacy because commercially the only thing you've got to sell is users' data," he said.

"It's an accident of the Internet that the Internet is basically an advertising business right now," said Fertik. "The policy might be bad for one of the big Internet media companies today but it will be good for 1,000 new companies tomorrow."

(Additional reporting by Georgina Prodhan in London; editing by Luke Baker and Helen Massy-Beresford)

Source: http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/internet/*http%3A//news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20120125/wr_nm/us_eu_dataprivacy

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bunchball Says Games Turn Twentysomethings Into Better Workers

office dwightBunchball has been touting the benefits of its gamification tools for years, and many of its recent efforts are focused on enterprise customers. Now the company has published a white paper arguing that that gamification is a key way to motivate "Generation Y." As evidence, the paper points to a recent study by MTV saying that millennials (the Bunchball report uses both terms interchangeably) understand their lives through a "game-like metaphor" ? in fact, half of the survey respondents said "people my age see real life as a video game." How does that apply in the workplace?

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/XRkiAIKImcQ/

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Okla. hospital must pay $1M to Garth Brooks

Country singer Garth Brooks leaves a courtroom during a civil trial at the Rogers County Courthouse in Claremore, Okla. on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012. Brooks says an Oklahoma hospital pledged to name a women's center for his late mother in return for $500,000, but a deposition unveiled Monday showed that, after filing a lawsuit, the country singer couldn't remember what he had been promised. (AP Photo/Tulsa World, Matt Barnard)

Country singer Garth Brooks leaves a courtroom during a civil trial at the Rogers County Courthouse in Claremore, Okla. on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012. Brooks says an Oklahoma hospital pledged to name a women's center for his late mother in return for $500,000, but a deposition unveiled Monday showed that, after filing a lawsuit, the country singer couldn't remember what he had been promised. (AP Photo/Tulsa World, Matt Barnard)

(AP) ? An Oklahoma hospital that failed to build a women's health center in honor of Garth Brooks' late mother must pay the country singer $1 million, a jury has ruled.

Jurors on Tuesday evening ruled that the hospital must return Brooks' $500,000 donation plus pay him $500,000 in punitive damages. The decision came in Brooks' breach-of-contract lawsuit against Integris Canadian Valley Regional Hospital in Yukon. Brooks said he thought he'd reached a deal in 2005 with the hospital's president, James Moore, but sued after learning the hospital wanted to use the money for other construction projects.

Jury member Beverly Lacy said she voted in favor of Brooks because she thought the hospital went back on its word. As far as the punitive damages, she said: "We wanted to show them not to do that anymore to anyone else."

The hospital argued that Brooks gave it unrestricted access to the $500,000 donation and only later asked that it build a women's center and name it after his mother, Colleen Brooks, who died of cancer in 1999.

"Obviously we are disappointed, particularly with the jury's decision to award damages above and beyond the $500,000," Integris spokesman Hardy Watkins said. "We're just glad to see the case come to a resolution."

Brooks called the jurors "heroes" and said he felt vindicated by their verdict.

"I no longer feel like I'm crazy," he said.

During the trial, Brooks testified that he thought he had a solid agreement with Moore. Brooks said the hospital president initially suggested putting his mother's name on an intensive care unit, and when Brooks said that wouldn't fit her image, Moore suggested a women's center.

"I jumped all over it," Brooks told jurors in tearful testimony. "It's my mom. My mom was pregnant as a teenager. She had a rough start. She wanted to help every kid out there."

His attorney told the jury during closing arguments that Brooks kept his end of the agreement.

"This case is about promises: promises made and promises broken," lawyer John Hickey told jurors shortly before they started deliberating. "Mr. Brooks kept his promise. Integris never intended to keep their promise and never built a new women's center."

But hospital attorney Terry Thomas said Brooks' gift initially came in anonymously and unrestricted in 2005. He also noted that Brooks couldn't remember key details of negotiations with the hospital's president ? including what he'd been promised ? when questioned during a deposition after filing his lawsuit in 2009.

"At most, it was a misunderstanding between these two," Thomas told jurors during his closing argument. "Am I calling Mr. Brooks a liar? Absolutely not. It's perfectly understandable that he does not remember these events."

The jury began deliberating Tuesday afternoon in Rogers County District Court, and the judge told jurors she wanted them to work as late as midnight to come to a decision.

Before the verdict was read, Brooks said the day had been emotional. The country music star said he was simply trying to honor his mother.

"This little pistol, she deserves nothing but good," Brooks said.

Associated Press

Source: http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/386c25518f464186bf7a2ac026580ce7/Article_2012-01-25-People-Garth%20Brooks/id-19107cba6c4946d6bee262c9deafef8b

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Occupy movement gets help from its musical friends (Reuters)

NEW YORK (Reuters) ? Yoko Ono, Debbie Harry, Jackson Browne and Willie Nelson are among dozens of artists contributing to "Occupy This Album," to raise money for the Occupy Wall Street movement against economic inequality, a publicity firm said on Monday.

Workhouse public relations firm said that the album would be released in the spring "as a celebration that provides a musical voice and ultimately through record sales, financial support to fortify the movements continuation."

The album is being put together by Occupy Wall Street solidarity group "Music for Occupy." Other artists involved with the album are Third Eye Blind, Crosby and Nash, Tom Morello, Thievery Corporation, Warren Haynes, and Immortal Technique.

Inspired by the Arab Spring protests, Occupy Wall Street began when protesters set up camp in New York's Zuccotti Park on September 17, sparking demonstrations across the United States and elsewhere in the world.

But the eviction of protesters in New York and public spaces in other U.S. cities in November and December has made the protests less visible and organizers now face the challenge of how to maintain momentum without the physical camps.

Protesters are upset that billions of dollars in bailouts given to banks during the recession allowed a return to huge profits while average Americans had no relief from unemployment and a struggling economy. They also believe the richest 1 percent do not pay their fair share of taxes.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jill Serjeant)

Source: http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/music/*http%3A//news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20120123/music_nm/us_occupy_album

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Bloomberg blasts use of movie during NYPD training (AP)

NEW YORK ? Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday that New York police used "terrible judgment" in showing counterterrorism trainees a documentary-style film that says Muslim extremists are masquerading as moderates to destroy America from within.

Bloomberg said police have stopped showing officers "The Third Jihad," a 72-minute movie that has been branded inflammatory by some Muslim organizations and was produced by a conservative group called the Clarion Fund.

"Somebody exercised some terrible judgment," he said in Albany. "As soon as they found out about it, they stopped it."

The criticism was unusual for Bloomberg, who in recent months has vigorously defended the police department's counterterrorism efforts after an Associated Press investigation exposed a secret program to gather intelligence on Muslim neighborhoods.

Bloomberg said neither he nor Police Commissioner Ray Kelly knew about the film being shown.

"The Third Jihad" contains TV images of Hezbollah rocket attacks, children being held hostage by Muslim militants and a woman it says was arrested in Iran for wearing immodest clothing. It shows pictures it says were taken from Islamic videos and websites, including a doctored image of an Islamic flag flying over the White House.

It accuses Muslim extremists of posing as moderates and charges several Muslim organizations with being soft on terrorism. Speakers interviewed in the film say "Islamism is like cancer" and urge a "battle for our civilization."

The film is narrated by M. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Foundation for Democracy, based in Phoenix. Jasser rejected Bloomberg's criticism.

"I could not disagree more," Jasser said. "For him to say that without contradicting any of the facts that are presented in the movie is, I think, careless."

The New York-based Clarion Fund did not return calls for comment. Its website, Radicalislam.org, says Clarion was founded in 2006 by Raphael Shore. Shore is a former leader of Aish HaTorah, a chain of Jewish educational centers.

The movie was shown on a continuous loop while officers were signing in for counterterrorism training sessions from October to December 2010, according to police documents obtained by the Brennan Center for Justice, a think tank at New York University. As many as 1,489 officers who underwent training, including 68 lieutenants, may have seen it, the documents say.

Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said that the police brass did not approve the use of the movie and that the decision to play it was made by a sergeant, who has since been reprimanded.

"This was never used in training, period. It was never authorized for use in training, period," Browne said.

The screening of the film inside the 36,000-member police department has been known for months, but police previously said only a few officers had seen it. They stopped showing it after a trainee complained.

The film was used as "intermission filler" and to "provide information for students during breaks to keep their attention focused on counterterrorism issues," Assistant Chief George W. Anderson wrote in one of the documents obtained by the Brennan Center.

Anderson wrote that he believed the video was given to police by someone in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Homeland Security said it didn't authorize the distribution of the movie.

This is not the first time a law enforcement agency has come under fire over its counterterrorism training materials. The FBI was criticized last year for presentations used in a training session that painted a negative picture of Islam. The FBI and other federal agencies pledged to review all their training materials.

Muslim activists said films like "The Third Jihad" are one-sided and teach police cadets that all Muslims are suspect.

"It's clearly a propaganda, anti-Muslim film," said Linda Sarsour, a member of the Muslim-American Civil Liberties Coalition. "It's overly dramatic, piecing together things out of context and threading it together to make this very false narrative about Muslim Americans."

A recent AP series detailed efforts by the New York Police Department to infiltrate Muslim neighborhoods and mosques with aggressive programs designed by a CIA officer. Documents reviewed by the AP revealed that undercover officers known as "rakers" visited businesses such as Islamic bookstores and cafes, chatting up store owners to gauge their views. They also played cricket and eavesdropped in ethnic clubs.

The surveillance efforts have been credited with enabling police to thwart a 2004 plot to bomb the Herald Square subway station.

Critics said the efforts amount to ethnic profiling and violate court guidelines on intelligence-gathering.


Read AP's previous stories and documents about the NYPD at: http://www.ap.org/nypd


Associated Press Writers Michael Gormley, Eileen Sullivan, Tom Hays and Deepti Hajela contributed to this report.

Source: http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/terrorism/*http%3A//news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20120124/ap_on_re_us/us_nypd_intelligence

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012


No, I'm just kidding. I am actually a purple dinosaur. Rawr.

Okay hi.. personally, I find this site quite confusing compared to all of the others I am involved in.

But I can't wait to understand it! I love how organized it is.

So yes, my name is Gabi, I have been roleplaying for 3 years.

I love romance and fantasy roleplays, of course. xD

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Source: http://feeds.feedburner.com/RolePlayGateway

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Seal Talks To Ellen About His Marriage

Singer-songwriter SEAL makes his first television appearance since the announcement of the separation from wife, Heidi Klum on ?The Ellen DeGeneres Show? on Tuesday, January 24th. Ellen talks with Seal about the separation and why he is still wearing his wedding ring. Seal on his split from wife, Heidi Klum? ELLEN: I think it?s a [...]

Source: http://www.celebritymound.com/seal-talks-to-ellen-about-his-marriage/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=seal-talks-to-ellen-about-his-marriage

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Equatorial Guinea gets $1M win over Libya

Co-host of African Cup of Nations earns bonus with 1-0 upset


updated 4:57 p.m. ET Jan. 21, 2012

BATA, Equatorial Guinea - Equatorial Guinea made a dramatic and rich debut in the African Cup of Nations with a stunning 1-0 win over Libya in the tournament opener on Saturday.

Equatorial Guinea qualified for the first time only because it's the co-host with Gabon, but it gave Africa's showpiece event a terrific start despite police having to tear gas some of the thousands of fans who overcame the security at Bata Stadium to force their way in.

In a game in which Equatorial Guinea deserved to win, it threatened the upset throughout and finally delivered when Javier-Angel Balboa scored after racing onto a throughball and slotting past Libya goalkeeper Samir Aboud into the top corner in the 87th minute.

"We played a good game. We had trained so little time, but the tactical dedication of our players was great," said Equatorial Guinea coach Gilson Paulo.

Paulo had only a few weeks to get to know his squad after replacing predecessor Henri Michel, who resigned just before the tournament.

This week, the team was promised a $1 million bonus from the son of the country's president if the team won the match.

"It's the famous $1 million," midfielder Juvenal Edjogo-Owono said a grin. "For us the money is not very important, the most important thing is to start the competition with a win.

"Now we will see the future more optimistically."

Edjogo-Owono missed a chance in the first half when his deflected shot rebounded off a post. Ivan Bolado put the rebound into the net, but the effort was disallowed for offside.

Despite injured captain Rodolfo Bodipo managing only a 15-minute substitute role, Equatorial Guinea belied its billing as the tournament's lowest-ranked team by matching Libya and creating opportunities.

Libya controlled possession early on, the first half-chance falling to Walid al-Katroushi, who was tackled at full stretch by Rui Da Gracia just before shooting in the opening minutes.

Unexpectedly, the co-host then took control of the match, forcing Libya goalkeeper Samir Aboud into some nervous fumbles.

The game continued its surprise pattern into the second half. Thierry Fidjeu tried an acrobatic finish but hooked his volley wide in the 53rd.

Meanwhile, Libya's players looked sluggish and hesitant - overawed perhaps by the expectations of a nation hoping to cap a year that included the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi with sporting success at the African Cup.

After the final whistle, the fans streamed outside blowing vuvuzelas and dancing with their hands in the air.

Libya coach Marcos Paqueta congratulated Equatorial Guinea.

"The conditions were very difficult facing the Equatorial Guinea team at home," he said.

"We started the game well, we kept the ball well, but the team started after that to get a bit nervous so we missed easy passes and lost control."

? 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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Source: http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/46084154/ns/sports-soccer/

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kenny G. Is Getting Divorced!

After 20 years of marriage, the musician's wife Lyndie Benson-Gorelick has filed for legal separation. See more celeb pairs who are back to going solo

Source: http://www.ivillage.com/gone-splitsville-celebrity-breakups/1-b-16462?dst=iv%3AiVillage%3Agone-splitsville-celebrity-breakups-16462

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Olympics no longer a given for US women


AP Sports Writer

Associated Press Sports

updated 4:42 p.m. ET Jan. 19, 2012

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - The U.S. women's soccer team got some help Thursday in its bid to qualify for the London Olympics.

Well, actually, "The Help."

Known to sing a rock `n' roll lyric or two to her players to get a message across, coach Pia Sundhage instead quoted from the critically acclaimed movie when she addressed the team ahead of Friday's opening game against the Dominican Republic. The Americans are in Vancouver for a tournament that will send two teams to London this summer.

"I'm a big fan of having a good start, so I want to surprise them," Sundhage said. "Sometimes we take things for granted, so I was standing there and my first words - I didn't sing - I look at them and I say: `You're kind. You're smart. You're important.' That's exactly what they are."

As the No. 1 ranked team in the world, it would seem the U.S. women wouldn't need help of any kind to earn one of the two Olympic berths available in the eight-team CONCACAF tournament over the next 11 days. Getting to the World Cup or an Olympics was always a given: Their combined record was once 25-0-1 in qualifying for the sport's two biggest events.

Until 2010, that is.

The Americans went to Cancun and blistered through the group phase of the World Cup qualifying tournament - winning three games by a combined score of 18-0 - before getting stunned by Mexico 2-1 in the semifinals. The U.S. had to win a backdoor playoff against Italy to earn a spot in Germany, a hurdle mostly forgotten as the team made a captivating run before losing to Japan in the World Cup final.

The format for this tournament is the same - except there's no backdoor playoff. The two teams that win the semifinals go to London; everyone else stays home.

"There's no Italy to back us up this year," midfielder Megan Rapinoe said.

That makes every game crucial, even the group matches against teams like the Dominican Republic (ranked No. 88) and Guatemala (No. 85), followed by the eagerly awaited rematch against Mexico (No. 21). One slip-up and the Americans might end up with a do-or-die semifinal game against No. 7 Canada, which is expected to win the other group.

"There's no better motivation than things not going as you planned," forward Abby Wambach said. "And definitely the last qualification didn't go as we planned. We thankfully had a second chance with playing the home-and-away series against Italy, and this time around we don't have that chance. All of us know that. It's not something that we even talk about.

"We're one of the best teams in the world, and we just can't show up for qualification and play and expect to win nowadays. Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, they're all really good teams, and they have a good chance of beating us on any given day."

So where there used to be ho-hum, there's now drama. While it shows that American domination isn't what it used to be, it's good for women's soccer as a whole as the sport tries to expand its reach and command attention at times when there's not a World Cup or Olympics going on.

Any tournament is going to have its idiosyncrasies, and this one is no exception. After all, this is Canada in January, so the games are being played indoors at BC Place. Sundhage is trying to get the Americans to play a more possession-type game, which can be a little tricky when the ball is bouncing on artificial turf. Defender Heather Mitts tweeted a photo of a bloody knee after Thursday's practice with the comment: "meet the BC turf."

Ironically, soccer could've been played outdoors when Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics two years ago. The city that didn't see a flake during the 2010 Winter Games has snow on the ground and freezing temperatures this week as it hosts a sport from the summer version.

There's also the compact schedule. Three group matches in five days, then a short break before the all-important semifinals and the somewhat anticlimactic final. The U.S. has a deep, veteran team, so Sundhage is expected to spread the playing time around so that everyone is fresh for the one game that matters most.

"Right now we are in a wonderful situation, where you have the starting lineup, and as coaches we'll look at the bench - `Wow. There are some good players,"' Sundhage said. "Regardless of who we pick for the starting lineup, we'll have good players. Now the key is whether they play well together, so that's something we need to look into with the games we have in front of us."


Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

? 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Source: http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/46062756/ns/sports/

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cruise ship threatens marine paradise (AP)

PORTO ERCOLE, Italy ? Stone fortresses and watchtowers which centuries ago stood guard against against marauding pirates loom above pristine waters threatened by a new and modern peril: fuel trapped within the capsized Costa Concordia luxury liner.

A half-million gallons (2,400 tons) of black goo are in danger of leaking out and polluting some of the Mediterranean's most unspoiled sea, where dolphins are known to chase playfully after sailboats and fishermen's catches are so prized that wholesalers come from across Italy to scoop up cod, lobsters, scampi, swordfish and other delicacies.

"Compared to the Caribbean, we have nothing to be envious about," said Francesco Arpino, a scuba instructor in the chic port of Porto Ercole, marveling at how the sleek granite sea bottom helps keep visibility crystal clear even 40 meters (135 feet) down.

Divers in these transparent waters marvel at sea horses and red coral, while on the surface sperm whales cut through the sea.

But worry is clouding this paradise, which includes a stretch of Tuscan coastline that has been the holiday haunt of soccer and screen stars, politicians and European royals.

Rough seas hindering the difficult search for bodies by divers in the Concordia's submerged section have delayed the start of a pumping operation expected to last weeks to remove the fuel from the ship. Floating barriers aimed at containing any spillage now surround the vessel.

Concordia lies dangerously close to a drop-off point on the sea bottom. Should strong waves nudge the vessel from its precarious perch, it could plunge some 20-30 meters (65-90 feet), further complicating the pumping operation and possibly rupturing fuel tanks. Italy's environment minister has warned that if those tanks break, globs of fuel would block sunlight vital for marine life at the seabed.

A week after the Concordia struck a reef off the fishing and tourism island of Giglio, flipping on its side, its crippled 114,000-ton hull rests on seabed rich with an underwater prairie of sea grass vital to the ecosystem. The dead weight has likely already damaged a variety of marine life, including endangered sea sponges, and crustaceans and mollusks, even before a drop of any fuel leaks, environmentalists contend.

"The longer it stays there, the longer it impedes light from reaching the vegetation," said Francesco Cinelli, an ecology professor at the University of Pisa, in Tuscany. And the sheer weight of the Concordia will also crush sea life, he said.

The seabed where the Concordia lies is a flouishing home to Poseidon sea grass native to the Mediterranean, Cinelli told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

"Sea grass ... is to the sea what forests are to terra firma," Cinelli said: They produce oxygen and serve as a refuge for organisms to reproduce or hide from predators.

The Tuscan archipelago's seven islands are at the heart of Europe's largest marine park, extending over some 60,000 hectares (150,000 acres) of sea.

They include Elba, where Napoleon lived in exile, and the legendary island of Montecristo, a setting for Alexandre Dumas' novel "The Count of Monte Cristo" ? where rare Mediterranean monk seals have been spotted near the coast.

Montecristo has a two-year waiting list of people hoping to be among the 1,000 people annually escorted ashore by forest rangers to admire the uninhabited island. Navigation, bathing and fishing are strictly prohibited up to 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) from Montecristo's rocky, cove-dotted coast. A monastery, established on Montecristo in the 7th century, was abandoned nine centuries later after repeated pirate raids.

Come spring, Porto Ercole's slips will be full, with yachts dropping anchor just outside the port. It lies at the bottom of a steep hill, whose summit gives a panoramic view of a sprawling seaside villa, once a holiday retreat of Dutch royals, and of the crescent-shaped island of Giannutri, with its ancient Roman ruins.

Alberto Teodori, 49, who said he has been hired as a skipper for the yachts of Rome's VIPs for 30 years, noted that the area thrives on tourism in the spring and summer and survives on fishing in the offseason.

If the Concordia's fuel, "thick as tar," should pollute the sea, "Giglio will be dead for 10, 15 years," Teodori fretted, as workers nearby shellacked the hull of an aging fishing boat.

The international ocean-advocacy group, Oceana, on Thursday, described the national marine park as an "ecological diamond," favored by divers for its great variety of species.

"If the pollution gets into the water, we are ruined," said Raffaella Manno, who with her husband runs a portside counter selling fresh local fish in Porto Santo Stefano, a nearby town where ferries and hydrofoils depart for Giglio.

A wholesaler as well, she said fish from the archipelago's waters is prized throughout Italy for its quality and variety.

"The water is clean and the reefs are rich" for fish to feed, she said, as trucks carrying oil-removal equipment waited to board ferries Wednesday to Giglio. "The priciest markets in Italy come here to buy, from Milan, Turin, even Naples."

Concordia's captain, initially jailed and then put in house arrest in his hometown near Naples, is suspected of having deliberately deviated from the ship's route, miles off shore, to hug Giglio's reef-studded coastline in order to perform a kind of "salute" to amuse passengers and islanders.

The maneuver is apparently a common practice by cruise ships, environmentalists lament.

"These salutes are an established practice by the big cruise ships," said Francesco Emilio Borrelli, a Green party official from Naples. He said that the Greens have received reports of numerous such sightings by ships sailing by the Naples area islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida.

Even before the Concordia tragedy, environmentalists had railed against what they brand "sea monsters," virtually floating cities ? each pumping massive amounts of greenhouse gases ? sailing perilously close to the sea coast to thrill passengers aboard.

They even sail up to Venice, the lagoon city whose foundations are eroded by waves churned up by passing vessels. Venice port officials defend the practice, saying they're escorted by tugboats.

"These virtual cities," said Marevivo in a statement highlighting Cinelli's concerns, "put at risk the richness of biodiversity, which that we must never forget is at the foundation of our very survival on Earth."

Source: http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/science/*http%3A//news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20120120/ap_on_sc/eu_italy_paradise_in_peril

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PSU trustees hope to address alumni concerns

FILE - In this Oct. 15, 2011, file photo, Penn State head coach Joe Paterno watches warm ups before an NCAA college football game against Purdue in State College, Pa. In his first public comments since being fired two months ago, former Penn State coach Paterno told the Washington Post he "didn't know which way to go" after an assistant coach came to him in 2002 saying he had seen retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing a boy, the Post reported on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

FILE - In this Oct. 15, 2011, file photo, Penn State head coach Joe Paterno watches warm ups before an NCAA college football game against Purdue in State College, Pa. In his first public comments since being fired two months ago, former Penn State coach Paterno told the Washington Post he "didn't know which way to go" after an assistant coach came to him in 2002 saying he had seen retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing a boy, the Post reported on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

(AP) ? Penn State's embattled Board of Trustees meets Friday for the first time since the chaotic week in November when shocking child sex abuse allegations were brought against a retired assistant football coach.

In the frantic first few days after authorities charged Jerry Sandusky, trustees ousted Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno and school President Graham Spanier, and pledged to uncover the truth. Their actions have since left some anguished alumni and former players questioning the trustees themselves.

After remaining mostly silent the last two months, trustees this week began to divulge the reasons behind their actions, hoping to sway skeptics and critics seeking change.

Leadership positions will be up for election at Friday's meeting. Also listed on the agenda is an overview of athletic programs.

"We have lots of things that we need to do in terms of the board and how it operates, and I think you'll see some positive things come out of that," trustee Mark Dambly said Thursday.

Some critics of the trustees have called for wholesale changes in how the board operates in order to better promote transparency. Trustee Stephanie Deviney said governance and the administration are among the topics trustees plan to consider.

The issues have also drawn unprecedented interest among potential candidates for three alumni-elected seats on the board up for a vote this spring.

Typically, about six to 12 candidates express interest. But the group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship alone has received 30 applications seeking an endorsement. The group started in mid-November, growing out of what a spokeswoman said was a common frustration among members over a lack of due process at the school.

Comments this week by the trustees about why the board ousted Paterno on Nov. 9, four days after Sandusky was charged, failed to convince the alumni group, too.

Trustees interviewed Thursday by The Associated Press said they decided to force Paterno out in part because he didn't meet a moral obligation to do more to alert authorities about a child sex abuse allegation against Sandusky.

The trustees interviewed also cited statements from Paterno in the days and hours leading to his dismissal ? after nearly a half-century of leading the Nittany Lions ? that they felt challenged the trustees' authority. Board members saw that as inappropriate, particularly at a time of intense scrutiny over the Sandusky case.

Sandusky was charged with dozens of child sex abuse counts four days before Paterno was pushed out. The head coach had testified before a state grand jury about a 2002 allegation against Sandusky that was passed on to him by a graduate assistant.

A day after the graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, came to see him, Paterno relayed the accusations to his superiors, one of whom oversaw campus police. Board members didn't think that was enough.

"There's an obligation, a moral responsibility, for all adults to watch out for children, either your own or someone else," Dambly said. "It was in our opinion that Joe Paterno did not meet his moral obligation and for that reason ? me, personally for that reason, I felt he could no longer lead the university and it was unanimous."

But Dambly and three other trustees interviewed Thursday on the Penn State campus said they still intended to honor Paterno's accomplishments and contributions to the school. He won a Division I record 409 games over 46 seasons and the Paterno family has donated millions of dollars to the school.

"Obviously Joe Paterno is a worldwide icon and has done a tremendous amount for the university," trustee Joel Myers said. "We have sorrow and all kinds of emotions, empathy, sympathy for what has occurred. That's universal.

"But the university, this institution is greater than one person."

An attorney for Paterno on Thursday called the board's comments self-serving and unsupported by the facts. Paterno fully reported what he knew to the people responsible for campus investigations, lawyer Wick Sollers said.

"He did what he thought was right with the information he had at the time," Sollers said.

In a separate statement, Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship said the board's comments have "done nothing but raise additional questions."

"We can conclude, that consequently, their hasty and panicked damage control efforts in the first days of November, and the uncomfortable position they found themselves in, being caught flat-footed, instead of in a proactive leadership position, led to the unjust firing of Joe Paterno, without so much as a conversation, let alone complete due process," the group's statement said.

The trustees described the long deliberations in the days leading up to Paterno's ouster as emotional and nerve wracking, echoing the confusion and anguish also felt among students and alumni as the scandal unfolded. They were shocked by the lurid details that had emerged about the case that week, after having been given a short briefing about Sandusky months earlier by Spanier and general counsel Cynthia Baldwin. That session lasted roughly 7 minutes and provided few insights, trustees said.

Paterno was dismissed the same day Spanier also departed under pressure. The board initiated an internal investigation into the Sandusky case and the role of Penn State officials.

Since then, some alumni and former players have been questioning the actions of the trustees ? criticism that boiled over in three town hall-style meetings last week hosted for alumni by new school President Rodney Erickson.

According to Dambly, trustees had been advised not to speak because of the ongoing investigations but changed their minds following the town hall sessions.

They began a series of interviews this week with media outlets. Also sitting in Thursday's interview with the AP was Lanny Davis, a prominent Washington attorney who has been retained by Erickson and the trustees as an adviser.

"We determined as a group that the Board of Trustees needed to answer the questions of what we knew, when we knew it and why we made the decisions that we made," Dambly said.

The trustees on Thursday cited three reasons for Paterno's immediate removal as head coach. Besides the moral obligation to do more in conjunction with reporting the 2002 allegation and statements issued by Paterno they felt may have challenged trustees' authority, the trustees also said there was concern that Paterno would not be able to properly represent the school if allowed to stay on as head coach the rest of the 2011 season.

According to The Washington Post, trustees vice chair John Surma told Paterno, "In the best interests of the university, you are terminated." Paterno hung up and repeated the words to his wife, who redialed the number.

"After 61 years he deserved better," Sue Paterno said. "He deserved better." Then she hung up.

According to Davis on Thursday, Surma never got the chance to say two more things that night: that he regretted having to tell him the decision over the phone; and that the school was going to honor his contract and retirement package as if he had retired at the end of 2011.

Dambly insisted Paterno was not fired, although he never appeared as coach again. He remains a tenured faculty member.

Associated Press

Source: http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/347875155d53465d95cec892aeb06419/Article_2012-01-20-Penn%20State-Trustees/id-9f28f14525da4cbbb4e34467c86628e0

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