1,200 Ukrainian Soldiers Dead in Slaviansk Special Op – People’s Mayor

A burnt BMP-2 on the outskirts of the town of Rubezhnoye

A burnt BMP-2 on the outskirts of the town of Rubezhnoye

© RIA Novosti. Evgeny Biyatov

16:56 29/05/2014

RIGA, May 29 (RIA Novosti) – About 1,200 Ukrainian army soldiers have been killed during a special operation in Slaviansk, and eight helicopters and 15 armored vehicles were destroyed, Slaviansk people’s mayor Vyacheslav Ponomaryov said Thursday.

“According to our information, the Ukrainian army has the following losses and damages: 1,200-1,300 people were killed, eight helicopters, 15 armored transport vehicles, and three [artillery] weapons destroyed. They are suffering huge losses. I’m speaking only about Slaviansk,” Ponomaryov said in an interview with the Latvian radio station Baltkom.

Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov confirmed Thursday the downing of a military helicopter had killed 14 Ukrainian servicemen, including a general. Soon after that, the Ukrainian National Guard clarified that 12, not 14 people were killed in the Mi-8 helicopter crash near Slaviansk. Continue reading “1,200 Ukrainian Soldiers Dead in Slaviansk Special Op – People’s Mayor”

Guilty Plea in Falsifying U.S. Background Checks


WASHINGTON (CN) – A former government contractor faces prison time after pleading guilty Thursday to falsifying background checks on various applicants, including those seeking classified work.

Brian Rapier, 34, is the 18th background investigator to be convicted on charges of making false representations in federal background checks. Two record checkers have also been convicted, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.


Seal of the U.S. government's Office of Person...

Continue reading “Guilty Plea in Falsifying U.S. Background Checks”

Hotel Selling Cooked Human Meat Found In Onitsha As Police Arrests 11 With Fresh Human Heads

EEV: Requested Re-Post ( will hold for next 60 min then re-file )

Sunday, 4 August 2013

On Thursday Onitsha police arrested 11 people after they discovered 2 fresh human heads in a hotel (name withheld) very close to the popular Ose-Okwodu market in Anambra state.2 AK47 rifles & other weapons were also discovered in the hotel.

The arrest followed tip-offs from area residents on Thursday morning.

The hotel owner, 6 women and 4 men were arrested.

After police got access to the hotel, they made a startling discovery of two human heads wrapped in a cellophane bag, two AK47 rifles, two army caps, 40 rounds of live ammunition and so many cell phones.

“Each time I came to market, because the hotel is very close to the market, I always noticed funny movements in and out of the hotel; dirty people with dirty characters always come into the hotel. So, I was not surprised when the police made this discovery in the early hours of yesterday,” said a vegetable seller in the area. Continue reading “Hotel Selling Cooked Human Meat Found In Onitsha As Police Arrests 11 With Fresh Human Heads”

Student’s Rights Not Violated by ban on shirts bearing the American flag

Thursday, February 27, 2014Last Update: 7:30 AM PT


(CN) – A high school administrator’s Cinco de Mayo ban on shirts bearing the American flag did not violate the civil rights of his students, the 9th Circuit ruled Thursday.

Miguel Rodriguez, an assistant principal at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, Calif., told at least two students to turn their flag-bearing shirts inside out or remove them on Cinco de Mayo 2010. Rodriguez explained to the students that it was for their own safety, as he had received reports that day of possible “race-related violence.” Continue reading “Student’s Rights Not Violated by ban on shirts bearing the American flag”

China’s first stealth combat drone takes maiden flight – reports

Published time: November 22, 2013 01:40                                                                             
Screenshot from YouTube user JDUS2020 Screenshot from YouTube user JDUS2020

The first Chinese stealth unmanned combat drone conducted a successful maiden flight Thursday, according to accounts by Chinese media and photos taken from a popular Chinese military website.

Lijian, or “sharp sword” in English, aced its first test  flight in southwest China, making the People’s Republic of China  the fourth nation to successfully fly a stealth unmanned aerial  vehicle.

The test flight lasted nearly 20 minutes, according to accounts  on cjdby.net, a Chinese military forum, and later picked up by  the People’s Daily, Xinhua News Agency and the South China  Morning Post.

Continue reading “China’s first stealth combat drone takes maiden flight – reports”

Revealed: Obamacare plans will cost MORE ‘in many cases’ even with government subsidies, officials admit for the first time

By  David Martosko, U.s. Political Editor

PUBLISHED: 16:18 EST, 14  November 2013 |  UPDATED: 17:04 EST, 14 November 2013

The Obama administration has directly  conceded for the first time that ‘in many cases,’ health insurance plans offered  through government exchanges are more expensive than plans consumers bought  before the Affordable Care Act became law – even when government subsidies are  figured in.

In a letter to state insurance commissioners,  Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight director Gary Cohen  wrote on Thursday that one reason for the new Obamacare measures the president  announced Thursday is that millions of consumers receiving cancellation letters  from their insurers are learning the Affordable Care Act options are in fact  less affordable.

‘Although affected individuals and small  businesses may access quality health insurance coverage through the new Health  Insurance Marketplaces,’ Cohen wrote, ‘in many cases with federal subsidies,  some of them are finding that such coverage would be more expensive than their  current coverage, and thus they may [be] dissuaded from immediately  transitioning to such coverage.’

His written statement contradicts President  Obama’s campaign promises that the Affordable Care Act would lower costs for  Americans.

In October of that year he said during a  campaign rally in Columbus, Ohio that ‘we are going to work with you to lower  your premiums by $2,500. We will not wait 20 years from now to do it, or 10  years from now to do it. We will do it by the end of my first term as  president.’

While Obama announced changes to his signature health care overhaul law on Thursday, his chief insurance oversight deputy told state officials that Obamacare costs will often by higher than consumers are used to 

While Obama announced changes to his signature health  care overhaul law on Thursday, his chief insurance oversight deputy was telling  state officials that costs on the Obamacare website will often by higher than  consumers are used to

Smoking gun: The Obama administration has admitted that 'in many cases,' insurance policies offered through Obamacare cost more than consumers' previous plans, even when they get federal government subsidies 

Smoking gun: The Obama administration has admitted that  ‘in many cases,’ insurance policies offered through Obamacare cost more than  consumers’ previous plans, even when they get federal government subsidies

Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight director Gary Cohen let the cat out of the bag, writing that for 'many' consumers, Obamacare plans 'would be more expensive than their current coverage' 

Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight  director Gary Cohen let the cat out of the bag, writing that for ‘many’  consumers, Obamacare plans ‘would be more expensive than their current  coverage’





Cohen’s letter also goes further than the  words Obama used Thursday to hedge his bets while he outlined a new strategy to  allow Americans to keep policies that their insurers have already  canceled.

‘My working assumption was that the majority  of those folks would find better policies at lower cost or the same cost in the  marketplaces,’ he said.

‘We will continue to make the case, even to  folks who choose to keep their own plans,’ Obama promised minutes later, ‘that  they should shop around in the new marketplace because there’s a good chance  that they’ll be able to buy better insurance at lower cost.’

That ‘good chance’ of cost savings is a  weaker standard than the White House has employed before with messaging that  promised no insurance price hikes to ‘most people.’


On Nov. 4 the president told a partisan crowd  of Obamacare supporters in Washington, D.C. that ‘because of the competition  between insurers’ buily into the Affordable Care Act, ‘and the new health care  tax credits, most people will be able to buy better plans for the same price or  even cheaper than what they’ve gotten before.

Cohen’s office is a subagency of the Centers  for Medicare and Medicaid Services,  the Health and Human Services Department  agency in charge of  implementing the failed healthcare.gov website that has  made Obamacare’s rollout a cringe-inducing national embarrassment.

His letter also sets the terms of Obama’s new  policy shifts, outlining a rule that would only apply to insurance policies in  place by October 1.

Savings THIS big: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been Obama's most visible public Obamacare defender, but she will face new questions about consumer choice and insurance price tags 

Savings THIS big: Health and Human Services Secretary  Kathleen Sebelius, a former Kansas governor and insurance commissioner, has been  Obama’s most visible public Obamacare defender, but she will face new questions  about consumer choice and insurance price tags


Timeframe: If you like your plan, you can keep it, unless you bought it since October 1, 2013Timeframe: If you like your plan, you can keep it,  unless you bought it since October 1, 2013



‘The transitional relief afforded in this  document is not applicable to newly obtained health insurance coverage,’ he  wrote.

‘It applies only with respect to individuals  and small businesses with coverage that was in effect on October 1,  2013.’

Insurers may balk at the president’s latest  set of requirements. His new ‘fix’ to Obamacare would require companies to write  to each cancelled policyholder, outlining their options including the new  exchanges.

An insurance industry executive who requested  anonymity told MailOnline that the cost of complying will reach tens of millions  of dollars.

‘If we cancelled a half-million [people],’  the executive said,’ now we have to spent money researching every policy to see  what to do, then send a half-million letters in the mail? Good lord.’

The president of the health insurance  industry’s largest trade group warned Thursday that Obama’s new plan ‘could  destabilize the market and result in higher  premiums for consumers.’

‘Premiums have already been set for next year  based on an assumption of when  consumers will be transitioning to the new  marketplace,” according to  Karen Ignagni, the president of America’s Health  Insurance Plans.

‘If now fewer younger and healthier people  choose to purchase coverage in  the exchange, premiums will increase and there  will be fewer choices for consumers.’


CMS  letter on Obamacare Nov-14-2013.pdf

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2507489/Obamacare-plans-cost-cases-WITH-government-subsidies-Obama-administration-admits-time.html#ixzz2kjQ1t0Js Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

AT&T gets paid $10 million/ year by the CIA to give up user data and customers phone logs

Published time: November 07, 2013 16:57                                                                            

AFP Photo/Etienne FranchiAFP Photo/Etienne Franchi

The second-largest telecom country in the United States has been on the Central Intelligence Agency’s payroll to the tune of $10 million a year in exchange for voluntarily handing over troves of phone logs, the New York Times reported Thursday.

Citing federal officials with knowledge of the program, The  Times’ Charlie Savage wrote that telecommunication giant AT&T  has been routinely collaborating in CIA investigations by  surrendering phone records to the agency and even scouring vast  archives of dated logs on their behalf since at least 2010,  adding yet another scandalous chapter in the sordid story of the  telecom’s long-lasting and often elusive relationship with the  government.

The exchange has not been codified into any official program or  covered under a specific law, Savage said, but is rather done  through a voluntary contract in which AT&T is awarded  millions of dollars annually in exchange for searching its  databases for the CIA in instances where the agency provides the  phone number of an overseas terrorism suspect whose contacts are  then called into question.

AT&T will scour these databases to search for information on  foreign targets, Savage wrote, collecting in the process  collateral intelligence about American persons who may have been  in contact with the overseas suspect at any time in the past.

Representatives for both the CIA and AT&T declined to confirm  the existence of the program to the Times, with the intelligence  agency acknowledging that it is forbidden from “acquiring  information concerning the domestic activities of US  persons.” According to Savage, however, AT&T has indeed  handed over information pertaining to American citizens, the  likes of which are supposedly subject to privacy safeguards —   that could then be bypassed by other US agencies.

Most of the call logs provided by AT&T involve  foreign-to-foreign calls, but when the company produces records  of international calls with one end in the United States, it does  not disclose the identity of the Americans and ‘masks’ several  digits of their phone numbers,” Savage said officials told  him.

At that point, he added, the CIA could contact the Federal Bureau  of Investigation and ask for an administrative subpoena  compelling AT&T to provide information about the American  subject.

The bureau handles any domestic investigation, but sometimes  shares with the CIA the information about the American  participant in those calls,” Savage again said his sources  informed him.

Speaking on behalf of the CIA, spokesman Dean Boyd told the Times  that the agency “protects the nation and upholds privacy  rights of Americans by ensuring that its intelligence collection  activities are focused on acquiring foreign intelligence and  counterintelligence in accordance with US laws.”

We value our customers’ privacy and work hard to protect it  by ensuring compliance with the law in all respects. We do not  comment on questions concerning national security,” AT&T  spokesman Mark Siegel added.

Should Savage’s claim hold true, however, the conduct of the  telephone company could fall directly counter to promises made on  its website, particularly one sentence on a page that lists   “Our privacy commitments.”

We will not sell your personal information to anyone, for any  purpose. Period,” AT&T assures its customers.

A caveat says that AT&T will indeed share  personal information, however, to “Comply with court orders,  subpoenas, lawful discovery requests and other legal or  regulatory requirements, and to enforce our legal rights or  defend against legal claims.” Another says information could  be shared with “a responsible governmental entity in emergency  or exigent circumstances or in situations involving immediate  danger of death or serious physical injury.”

According to Savage’s sources, however, no court order is  necessary for the sort of specific collaboration cited in the  Times, and the exchange of millions of dollars annually suggests  that the relationship is one that involves legitimate business  transactions — with one party being the intelligence arm of the  United States.

But as Savage and others were quick to point out, the CIA’s  conduct in this case all too much emulates the behavior of  another major intelligence community player: the National  Security Agency. The NSA has maintained an alliance with AT&T  that has been highly documented for years, raising additional  questions about the immense scope — and cost — of the federal  government’s efforts to infiltrate the telecom industry.

In 2007, former AT&T technician Mark Klein blew the whistle  on a program that involved the NSA tapping all Internet data  traveling into one of the company’s major California data hubs.  Then just this year, intelligence contractor-turned-leaker Edward  Snowden revealed that the NSA was collecting millions of call  records from multiple telecoms on a regular basis while also  working hand-in-hand with certain Internet services to eavesdrop  on online communications. According to one document released by Snowden, the NSA has paid  those companies millions of dollars in order to cover the cost of  maintaining that Internet surveillance program, code-named PRISM.

Elsewhere in their Privacy Policy, AT&T acknowledges, “We  share your Personal Information with companies that perform  services for us” and adds “we cannot guarantee that your  Personal Information will never be disclosed in a manner  inconsistent with this Policy.”



Europe Furious Over US Spying Allegations ” Worse than Orwell’s 1984 ” Emergency meeting Called

‘Out of Hand’

The newest allegations of US spying have unleashed a torrent of criticism and concern in Europe. If suspicions unearthed by SPIEGEL that the US tapped Chancellor Merkel’s cell phone turn out to be true, the ramifications for trans-Atlantic ties could be immense.

Leading politicians and media commentators in Germany expressed serious concern on Thursday following allegations that US intelligence agencies had tapped Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone. Merkel’s spokesman confirmed that she placed an angry call Wednesday night to United States President Barack Obama to discuss the suspicions, which arose from an inquiry by SPIEGEL.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle took the unusual step Thursday morning of summoning the US ambassador, John B. Emerson, who was set to meet with the minister in the afternoon. A source at the Foreign Ministry told SPIEGEL ONLINE on Thursday that Westerwelle will meet with the ambassador “in person.”

The news agency Reuters reported that representatives of both Merkel and French President François Hollande said the two would have a one-on-one meeting on the US spying issue Thursday afternoon before the start of a two-day EU summit in Brussels.

And the German Federal Prosecutor’s office in Karlsruhe is also looking into the new allegations of US spying, setting up a so-called “monitoring process,” and requiring the appropriate federal agencies to supply them with relevant reliable information. The agency started a similar process at the end of June to look into possible activities by the NSA in Germany. That process is still ongoing, a spokesman said.

Worse than Orwell’s 1984

Claudia Roth, the outgoing co-leader of the German Green Party, told SPIEGEL ONLINE that the alleged bugging of Angela Merkel’s cell phone is a “terrible, terrible scandal” that will lead to a “meltdown” in German-US relations.

“It is impossible to negotiate when the other side of the table knows all the strategy,” she said, adding that the allegations, if proven, are a more extreme invasion of privacy than those imagined in George Orwell’s 1984.

Sharp criticism also came from German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière. “If what we are now hearing is true, that would be really bad,” he told broadcaster ARD. “The Americans are and remain our closest friends, but this is completely unacceptable.”

De Maizière went on to say that he had assumed for years his own phone had been tapped. “However, I did not expect the Americans,” he added. Asked about possible effects on US-German and US-European relations, de Maizière said: “We can’t simply return to business as usual. There are allegations in France, too.” Diplomatic relations between France and the US have been strained following reports that millions of French calls had been monitored by US intelligence agencies.

‘Our Fears Have Been Confirmed’

“The allegation shows once again that our fears have been confirmed,” said Thomas Oppermann, chairman of the Parliamentary Control Panel, which is responsible for monitoring Germany’s federal intelligence services. “The NSA’s monitoring activities have gotten completely out of hand and evidently take place beyond all democratic controls,” continued the center-left Social Democrat, who called an emergency meeting of the Control Panel for 2 p.m. on Thursday.

Oppermann said the allegations of US spying would be an issue during the talks surrounding the building of a governing coalition with Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU). “The protection of citizens in the digital age will be one of the important topics,” Oppermann said Thursday in Berlin. If the allegations are true, he said, it would be a “clear violation of German interests.”

German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has called for Merkel’s government to suspend the SWIFT deal between the EU and US, which governs the transfer of some bank data from the EU to anti-terror authorities in the United States. “The new suspicion exceeds all bounds. The NSA affair is not over,” she said, calling for EU bodies to “decide quickly” on the matter.

German media commentators also reacted angrily on Thursday. “A greater affront by a friendly country is hardly conceivable,” wrote the prominent center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung in a front-page commentary that criticized Merkel’s government for initially downplaying the US spying scandal. “But the new allegations also cast a new light on Obama and the US intelligence community. During his visit to Germany, the US president grandly promised a trustful cooperation. But even Merkel now seems to have lost her belief in that. It’s hard to even imagine how Obama’s intelligence services deal with hostile states when one sees how they behave toward their closest allies.”

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung cautioned readers that nothing had yet been proven regarding the chancellor’s mobile phone, but it also emphasized the extent to which the US spying scandal has already damaged diplomatic relations. “As Obama’s cool reaction shows, the government in Washington has apparently not yet understood the level of damage that continues to be caused by the activities of American intelligence agencies in Europe. They have diminished the trans-Atlantic relationship — even to a major degree.”

Outrage Ahead of EU Summit

Elsewhere in Europe, other editorialists also reacted with outrage to the latest spying allegations. Conservative Paris daily Le Figaro called the news “a warning shot in the direction of the US and a call for a resolute response from the EU. Europe is not discovering the NSA wiretapping scandal now. But with a personal accusation from Angela Merkel, the matter takes on a spectacular new scale.”

Even if the cell-phone allegation turns out to be false, writes right-leaning Milan daily Corriere della Sera, “it doesn’t change anything of the substance. … The real central issue is that a threshold has already been crossed. No one can and must be indignant that a global power like the US has such an efficient information-gathering service. But, in the sensitive area of security, the monstrous possibilities offered by modern technologies oblige states to work alongside friendly and allied countries with the maximum degree of coordination, with respect to the limits and rules that should govern such activities.”

“With each leak, American soft power hemorrhages, and hard power threatens to seep away with it,” wrote Britain’s left-wing Guardian newspaper on Wednesday evening. The commentary went on to question what it means “to be an American ally in the 21st century.”

The revelations are likely to overshadow the other issues on the agenda at an EU summit due to take place Thursday afternoon in Brussels. The summit was originally meant to address Europe’s economic recovery and immigration, as well as the EU’s digital economy and innovation. Now, however, it’s quite likely American spying in Europe will steal much of the spotlight.

— Charly Wilder with wires. With reporting by Rupert Neate.


EU court holds Estonian website responsible for offensive user comments


Published time: October 11, 2013 16:47


Court, EU, Human rights, Internet

User comments on European websites may face tougher scrutiny after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that an Estonian news portal was responsible for offensive anonymous posts.

On Thursday, the Strasbourg-based court rejected a plea from Delfi, one of Estonia’s leading news sites, against a fine it received after readers posted angry replies to one of its articles.

Delfi appealed to the European court in 2010 after Estonia’s Supreme Court ruled that the website was responsible for the comments, not the people who made them.

The judges in Strasbourg have backed that stance, ruling that the Estonia court had not violated Article 10 on freedom of expression of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In January 2006, Delfi published an article about a decision by ferry company Leedo to change its routes, which led to a delay in the opening of cheaper routes to some Estonian islands.

The move outraged many of the website’s readers, who posted anonymous comments containing threats and insults aimed at the ferry operator and its owner.

Leedo sued Delfi over the comments and won symbolic compensation of 320 euros from a lower court in April 2006.

The website has argued that it was “impossible” to manage the users’ comments and that the fine violated EU freedom-of-expression laws.

However, Estonian judges ruled that Article 10 allowed freedom of expression to be overruled by national courts to protect an individual’s or company’s reputation – if the interference is proportionate to the circumstances.

The Strasbourg court decided that the interference was “justified and proportionate”, as Delfi should have been prepared to receive angry comments, given the nature of its article. In its ruling Friday, the court said Delfi had “failed to prevent [the comments] from becoming public [and] profited from their existence, but allowed their authors to remain anonymous.”

Delfi had also put too much faith an automated word-filtering system, which the users found ways around, the EU court said.

Although Delfi had a disclaimer on the article’s webpage, warning that threats and insults were forbidden and that users would be held responsible for their comments, finding the perpetrators had been nearly impossible as the people were allowed access to the comment section without registration, the Strasbourg court said.

The website now has three months to file an appeal against the Strasbourg court’s decision.

Ahead of Friday’s ruling, Delfi’s editor-in-chief, Urmo Soonvald, protected the principle of anonymous comments in an interview last month with Postimees website.

“Why should we punish hundreds of thousands of people and deprive them of the opportunity to participate in an open discussion because of 10 or 100 idiots out there?” Soonvald said. “Our mission is to fight for the purity of the comments, but I don’t think that shutting off the spigot in the only option.”

However, Soonwald admitted that “anonymous commentators who don’t know how to behave and deliberate provocateurs” were a problem.

A recent survey by Estonia’s Avatud Eesti foundation found that comments on online articles are posted only by a small, marginal minority of the country’s Internet users.

There are about a half million people who regularly browse through comments in Estonia, but only 0.3 per cent of them sharing their opinions online, the survey found.

In a similar case against Delfi earlier this year, two site users received suspended sentences from an Estonian court after insulting a senior judge, while the news website escaped responsibility.



Halliburton pleads guilty to destroying Gulf spill evidence

Thursday Sep 19, 2013   |   Reuters

Aerial photograph shows continuing preparations to drill a relief well at the Macondo oil spill site in the Gulf of Mexico

Credit: Staff Photographer / Reuters/Reuters
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – Halliburton Co pleaded guilty on Thursday to federal charges of destroying evidence, stemming from its role in the 2010 BP oil disaster that killed 11 men and sent more than 4 million barrels of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.A former Halliburton cementing technology director in Texas also was charged on Thursday with destroying evidence.

U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo in New Orleans accepted the company’s guilty plea from Halliburton legal counsel Marc Mukasey, imposed the agreed-upon maximum fine of $200,000 and placed the company on a three-year probation term.

Mukasey did not make a statement on the company’s behalf.

The Macondo disaster, the worst-ever offshore oil spill in U.S. history, so far has cost BP about $42.4 billion in charges on its balance sheet from payouts, cleanup and restoration costs and ongoing litigation.

The plea deal with Halliburton was first announced by the company and the U.S. Department of Justice on July 25. The U.S. Justice Department revealed the single count of destroying evidence filed against the former Halliburton manager, Anthony Badalamenti, of Katy, Texas, on Thursday.

In its plea, Halliburton admitted to the misdemeanor charge of “intentionally causing damage without authorization to a protected computer.”

Halliburton provided cementing services for BP at the ill-fated Macondo drilling operation. Those services included placing “centralizers,” or huge plugs, at various points in piping as it was placed inside the drilled well. Centralizers help ensure cement properly seals a well.

Halliburton had recommended BP use 21 centralizers in the Macondo well, and BP chose to use six. Halliburton later claimed that if BP had followed its recommendation to use more, the well would have been more stable.

According to court documents, the government alleged that in May 2010, as part of Halliburton’s review of the disaster, Badalamenti directed another manager to run computer simulations comparing performance of 21 centralizers with that of six. In June that year, Badalamenti allegedly directed a second manager to run a similar comparison.

Both times, the simulations indicated there was little difference between use of 21 centralizers as opposed to six. Prosecutors allege that both times, Badalamenti ordered the managers to delete the simulation results from their computers, and both complied.

The judge noted that a company executive had directed employees to preserve material related to Macondo.

In an ongoing, multi-phase civil trial over the cause of the well explosion in federal court in New Orleans, both the government and BP contend that faulty cement work by Halliburton contributed to the disaster.

BP also contends that Halliburton destroyed computer evidence that would have shown those errors.

Hacker Barnaby Jack dies in San Francisco aged 35 – He was due to present his findings on the security vulnerabilities of implanted medical devices Aug 1st

Jack, who became famous after demonstrating an ATM hack, died on Thursday – but coroners did not give details

Barnaby Jack

Jack was due to speak at the Black Hat conference, which starts Saturday in Las Vegas. Photograph: Isaac Brekken/AP

Barnaby Jack, a hacker who was due to present his findings on the security vulnerabilities of implanted medical devices, has died.

The San Francisco medical examiner’s office said Jack, 35, died in the city on Thursday – but did not provide details on the circumstances surrounding his death.

Jack had exposed a security flaw in insulin pumps that could be made to dispense a fatal dose by a hacker 300ft away, pushing some medical companies to review the security of these devices.

He was also a popular and respected figure in the information security scene. Within that small scene, reverse engineers are especially close, said Matthieu Suiche, a friend of Jack’s and chief scientist at CloudVolumes Inc in an email. “We pretty much all know each other, or have lots of common friends,” Suiche said. “It’s almost like we all grew up together.”

He added: “There isn’t much to say except that Barnaby was one of the rare people in InfoSec who was a brilliant researcher but also a good friend to many of us.”

Suiche met Jack at the Black Hat conference a few years ago and said they had been really good friends since. He said he had drinks with Jack and his girlfriend in San Francisco just over a week ago.

He called his friend “brilliant”, and said Jack’s latest research on medical devices could help save the lives of many people. “In this world full of people fearfully complying and worrying, very few people are crazy enough to challenge the rules, to approach life in an unconventional paradigm and to speak up to contribute to change this world,” Suiche said.

Jack was due to speak at the Black Hat conference, which starts Saturday in Las Vegas. His presentation, “Implantable medical devices: hacking humans,” would have explained how these devices could be compromised and would have suggested ways to improve device security.

Black Hat said the room his discussion was meant to take place will instead be used as a place for his friends and colleagues to gather and remember him on 1 August, when the session was set to take place.

Black Hat said in a statement:

We have lost a member of our family. Everyone would agree that the life and work of Barnaby Jack are legendary and irreplaceable. Barnaby had the ability to take complex technology and intricate research and make it tangible and accessible for everyone to learn and grow from. Beyond his work in our industry, Barnaby was an incredibly warm hearted and welcoming individual with a passion for celebrating life. We all have a hilarious and upbeat story about Barnaby. He is truly a shining example of what we love about this community.

Black Hat will not be replacing Barnaby’s talk on Thursday, Aug. 1. No one could possibly replace him, nor would we want them to. The community needs time to process this loss. The hour will be left vacant as a time to commemorate his life and work, and we welcome our attendees to come and share in what we hope to be a celebration of his life. Barnaby Jack meant so much to so many people, and we hope this forum will offer an opportunity for us all to recognize the legacy that he leaves behind.

Our deepest sympathies go out to Barnaby Jack’s family and loved ones. Words cannot adequately describe how much he will be missed, but it is certain that Barnaby will NEVER be forgotten.

At the time of his death, Jack was director of embedded security research at security firm IOActive. On Twitter, the company said: “Lost but never forgotten our beloved pirate, Barnaby Jack has passed. He was a master hacker and dear friend. Here’s to you Barnes!”


China says GlaxoSmithKline execs confess to bribery and tax crimes

Source: Reuters – Thu, 11 Jul 2013 04:32 PM

Author: Reuters

* Biggest graft case involving foreign firm for years

* GSK says it is cooperating fully with authorities

* Lawyer says too early to say what punishment might be

By Michael Martina and Adam Jourdan

BEIJING/LONDON, July 11 (Reuters) – GlaxoSmithKline executives in China have confessed to bribery and tax violations, the country’s security ministry said on Thursday, during one of a string of investigations into foreign firms in the world’s second-biggest economy.

The ministry said the case against Britain’s biggest drugmaker involved a large number of staff and a huge sum of money over an extended period of time, with bribes offered to Chinese government officials, medical associations, hospitals and doctors to boost sales and prices.

GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK) executives also used fake receipts in unspecified tax law violations, it added.

China has targeted foreign firms on multiple fronts in recent months, including alleged price-fixing, quality controls and consumer rights, forcing companies to defend their reputations in a country where international brands often have a valuable edge over local competitors in terms of public trust.

Last week, European food groups Nestle and Danone said they would cut the price of infant formula milk in China after Beijing launched an investigation into the industry.

China is an increasingly important country for international drugmakers such as GSK, which are relying on growth in emerging markets to offset slower sales in Western markets where many former top-selling medicines have lost patent protection.

IMS Health, which tracks pharmaceutical industry trends, expects China to overtake Japan as the world’s second biggest drugs market behind the United States by 2016.

“We take all allegations of bribery and corruption seriously,” GSK said in a statement.

“We continuously monitor our businesses to ensure they meet our strict compliance procedures – we have done this in China and found no evidence of bribery or corruption of doctors or government officials,” it added, saying it would cooperate with the authorities.

The charges of bribery make the GSK case the highest profile probe in China since four executives of mining giant Rio Tinto Plc  were jailed in March 2010 for taking bribes and stealing commercial secrets.

The four – one a China-born Australian citizen and three Chinese nationals – received jail terms of between seven and 14 years after being found guilty of getting information from confidential strategy meetings of the body representing China’s steel industry in negotiations with iron ore suppliers.

Under China’s legal system, the GSK executives will be formally charged after the completion of the preliminary investigations.

The security ministry did not give details on the number of executives questioned, their identities, nor when the questioning took place.


It is still too early in the process to know the extent of potential punishments, said Jerry Ling, a Shanghai-based partner for law firm Jones Day who specialises in U.S. and Chinese anti-bribery law.

However, according to guidance set by China’s top court last December, there are a number of factors about the case that could increase any fine or punishment, including the involvement of bribes to government officials and the sensitivity of medicine prices.

“The fact that the Ministry of Public Security is running this investigation means that the exposure is more serious,” added Ling.

In smaller bribery cases, China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce tends to take the lead. While these cases could lead to fines, they rarely results in criminal sentences.

A full confession – which China says the executives have given – could mean GSK benefits from leniency measures linked to voluntary disclosure.

A Britain-based analyst, who covers GSK and who declined to be named, said the company had worked hard to eradicate malpractice. It pleaded guilty to misdemeanour charges in the United States and paid a $3 billion fine a year ago.

“Given the past experience they’ve had with depression drugs in the U.S., they would be ultra cautious on anything to do with corrupt practices,” the analyst said.

However, the analyst noted that China was an under-developed market where it would be difficult to monitor all sales practices and, in addition, authorities were likely to take a hard line with foreign firms.

GSK shares closed down 0.6 percent on Thursday, compared with a 0.6 percent rise in the wider FTSE 100 index.

GSK has had problems in China before.

It said on Monday it was investigating separate allegations that its staff had used improper tactics to market the cosmetic treatment Botox in China, but had so far found no evidence of bribery or corruption.

GSK, Merck & Co Inc and other foreign and domestic drugmakers are also being investigated by China’s top economic planning agency on cost and pricing issues.


N.J. Superior Court Judge Suspended After and charged with hindering police who were trying to arrest an armed robbery suspect, her boyfriend,





WOODBRIDGE, N.J. (CN) – A recently appointed Superior Court judge was suspended without pay after being arrested and charged with hindering police who were trying to arrest an armed robbery suspect, her boyfriend, the Newark Star-Ledger and the New Jersey Supreme Court said Wednesday.

Carlia Brady, who was appointed to the Middlesex County Superior Court bench in February, interfered with police who were trying to arrest a man she had been dating, The Star-Ledger reported on its website, nj.com.

It attributed the information to “three law enforcement sources familiar with the case,” and the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Brady, the first Filipina-American Superior Court judge in New Jersey, was immediately suspended without pay from her job, which pays $165,000 a year.

“She will perform no judicial functions until further notice,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said in a statement reported by the Star-Ledger.

The robbery suspect, Jason Prontnicki, 41, was arrested at the judge’s house or as he was leaving it, according to nj.com. He is charged with robbing a pharmacy on April 29, wielding a crowbar and demanding drugs.

Judge Brady knew he was wanted but did not notify police, according to the newspaper.

A spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie, who appointed Brady, told nj.com: “If the accusations about a sitting Superior Court judge are true, then the conduct is deplorable and frankly, stupid.”

The websites of the New Jersey Supreme Court and Middlesex Superior Court had no information about the allegations this morning (Thursday).


Cyprus bank controls to last a month, minister says

EEV: Real News from Cyprus has become difficult to obtain. Search engines seem to have been re-prioritized for unknown reasons.

* For those looking for accurate news from Cyprus, I recommend http://www.cyprus-mail.com/



An employee opens a safe inside a Bank of Cyprus branch before it opened in Nicosia March 28, 2013. REUTERS-Yannis Behrakis

. Customers queue up outside a branch of Laiki Bank as they wait for the reopening of the bank in Nicosia March 28, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Yorgos Karahalis

By Karolina Tagaris and Michele Kambas

NICOSIA |          Thu Mar 28, 2013 1:19pm EDT

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cyprus conceded on Thursday that tight capital controls would remain in force longer than expected as the island’s banks reopened for the first time after the government was forced to accept a tough EU rescue package to avoid bankruptcy.

Cypriots lined up calmly to withdraw limited amounts of cash, but there was no sign of a run on deposits, as had been feared.

Banks were shut for nearly two weeks while the government negotiated a 10 billion euro ($13 billion) international bailout, the first in Europe’s single currency zone to impose losses on bank depositors.

Curbs on money movements imposed after the bailout would be phased out over about a month, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said.

“A number of restrictions will be lifted and gradually, probably over a period of about a month according to the estimates of the central bank, the restrictions will be fully lifted,” he told reporters.

The government initially said the controls would remain in place for a week, subject to review. Economists say they will prove hard to lift as long as the economy is in crisis.

Bank staff turned up for work early on Thursday as cash was delivered by armored trucks, and queues of a dozen or more people formed at bank branches in the capital, with uniformed security guards on duty.

Doors opened at noon (6:00 a.m. EDT) and closed at 6 p.m., but there was no visible run on deposits.

A lot of money had already left electronically. Figures published by the Central Bank of Cyprus showed that savers from other euro zone countries withdrew 18 percent of their deposits from the stricken island in February, as talk of a tax on bank accounts gained ground. Overall private sector bank deposits in Cyprus fell by 2.2 percent to 46.4 billion euros last month, after a similar drop in January.

To help the Cyprus banks weather the crisis, the European Central Bank flew in 5 billion euros ($6.4 billion) in cash overnight from Frankfurt, a German newspaper reported.

The government said it had appointed a panel to investigate the banking meltdown and look into claims of junior bondholders.

“It will have a broad mandate,” said Constantinos Petrides, under-secretary to the Cypriot president. “It will investigate criminal, civil and political responsibilities.”

The capital controls decree was taped to the windows of bank branches and staff handed out copies to customers. In Nicosia, there was relief, but some apprehension about what might happen.

“You’ve no idea how much I’ve been waiting for this,” said 64-year-old pensioner Froso Kokikou, waiting in line at a branch of Cyprus Popular Bank, also known as Laiki.

“I feel a sense of fear and disappointment having to queue up like this; it feels like a Third World country, but what can you do?” Kokikou said. “This is what they imposed on us and we have to live with it.”


Kostas Nikolaou, a 60-year-old pensioner, said the uncertainty of the past two weeks had been “like a slow death”.

He added: “How can they tell you that you can’t access your own money in the bank? It’s our money, we are entitled to it.”

Many of those waiting in line were elderly people, who said they had run out of cash because they did not have bank cards.

President Nicos Anastasiades praised the “maturity and responsibility” shown by Cypriots in the face of the crisis.

“We have shown that not only do we want to drag our country out of this difficult position, but that we will do it,” a statement from the presidency said.

Anastasiades has taken a 25 percent pay cut, while cabinet ministers’ pay will go down by 20 percent, an official said.

The stock exchange said it would remain closed on Thursday.

On international markets, German 10-year bond yields fell to their lowest level since August on fears of spillover from the Cyprus crisis to other struggling euro zone members. Yields fell 2 basis points to 1.256 percent. Traders cited the risk that depositors in other countries could take fright at any signs of a run on deposits in Cyprus.


A Finance Ministry decree limited cash withdrawals to no more than 300 euros per day and banned the cashing of cheques.

The island’s central bank will review all commercial transactions over 5,000 euros and scrutinize transactions over 200,000 euros on an individual basis. People leaving Cyprus may take only 1,000 euros with them.

A police source told Reuters that passengers leaving Cypriot airports were subject to extra searches. Notices at Larnaka airport warned travelers of the new restrictions and officers had orders to confiscate cash above the 1,000 euro limit.

With just 860,000 people, Cyprus has about 68 billion euros in its banks – a vastly outsized financial system that attracted deposits from abroad, especially Russia, as an offshore haven but foundered when investments in neighboring Greece went sour.

The European Union and International Monetary Fund concluded that Cyprus could not afford a rescue unless it imposed losses on depositors, seen as anathema in previous euro zone bailouts.

Foreign minister Kasoulides reflected the anger of many Cypriots when he told French newspaper Les Echos: “Europe is pretending to help us but the price to pay is too high: nothing less than the brutal destruction of our economic model.”


Cyprus’s difficulties have sent jitters around the fragile single European currency zone. Yields on Slovenia’s two-year bonds surged to nearly 7 percent on Thursday in a sign that investors are pricing in a high risk of default, despite denials by the new government that it needs a bailout.

The imposition of capital controls has led economists to warn that a second-class “Cyprus euro” could emerge, with funds trapped on the island worth less than euros that can be freely spent abroad.

Reflecting fears of a spillover, ratings agency Moody’s said it kept euro zone strugglers Ireland and Portugal on negative outlook, citing the Cyprus bailout as an extra risk.

The European Commission said the capital controls were legal and justified under EU law provided they were strictly temporary and proportionate. The EU executive said it would monitor “the need to extend the validity of or revise the measures”.

The bailout, agreed in Brussels on Monday, looks set to push Cyprus deeper into an economic slump, shrink the banking sector and cost thousands of jobs.

Cyprus Popular Bank, the country’s second biggest, will be closed and its guaranteed deposits of up to 100,000 euros transferred to the largest bank, Bank of Cyprus.

Deposits of more than 100,000 euros at both banks, too big to enjoy a state guarantee, will be frozen, and some of those funds will be exchanged for shares issued by the banks to recapitalize them.

While big depositors will lose money, the authorities say deposits up to 100,000 euros will be protected.

($1 = 0.7824 euros)

(Additional reporting by Laura Noonan and Costas Pitas; Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Giles Elgood and Paul Taylor)


Eurozone business activity suffers surprise drop

21 February, 15:40


(ANSAmed) – ROME, FEBRUARY 21 – Hopes that the eurozone might be on the road to recovery suffered a setback on Thursday when the area’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI), based on surveys of business activity, suffered a surprise drop.

The preliminary euro-zone PMI for services and manufacturing for February fell to a two-month low of 47.3, compared to 48.6 in January.     Some economists had hoped the index might go up.     A reading of less than 50 signals a contraction in business activity.(ANSAmed).



Eurozone recession deepens in fourth quarter

14    Feb   2013

The recession in the 17-nation eurozone recession deepened sharply in the fourth quarter of 2012, with the economy shrinking by 0.6 percent from output in the three months to September when it dropped 0.1 percent, official data showed on Thursday.

In the second quarter of 2012, the eurozone economy had contracted 0.2 percent on a sequential basis, meaning the recession has now lasted three quarters as the debt crisis has sapped growth and sent unemployment soaring.

Compared with output in the fourth quarter of 2011, the eurozone economy contracted 0.9 percent, according to Eurostat agency figures.

For the wider 27-member European Union, output fell 0.5 percent compared with third quarter 2012 when the bloc had eked out growth of just 0.1 percent to narrowly avoid being in recession, as defined as two consecutive quarterly negative figures.

Compared with fourth quarter 2011, the EU economy shrank 0.6 percent.

Eurostat said that for 2012 as a whole, the eurozone economy contracted 0.5 percent and the EU 0.3 percent.


Spain’s jobless figures hit record high


Spain’s unemployment rate has climbed to its highest level ever, the Spanish government said Thursday, as a painful recession takes a toll on the debt-stricken nation.

The latest official figures show 26.02% of the population without jobs in the last quarter of 2012, with just over 55% of those aged 16 to 24 unemployed.

The unemployment rate is the highest in the country’s history, according to the Spanish National Statistics Institute, with the total number of jobless people at 5.97 million.

In 2007, before the global economic crisis hit, Spain had 1.9 million people unemployed — 8.6% of the active population. By this time last year, the number had climbed to 5.2 million.

In the eurozone, only Greece, which is facing a sixth year of recession, has a greater proportion of young people out of work.

Spain, the fourth-largest economy in the eurozone, is suffering its second recession in three years, and its ailing banking industry has had to draw on the eurozone’s bailout fund to stay afloat.

But it has stopped short of following in the footsteps of Greece, Ireland and Portugal in requesting a full-blown sovereign bailout.

Successive rounds of austerity measures have prompted angry public protests on Spain’s streets.

J&J, FDA leaders take heat for ‘phantom’ recall : Removed Evidence in Secret, of defective infants Tylenol

2010 Event Reposted for Filing

By MATTHEW PERRONE, AP Health Writer Matthew Perrone, Ap Health Writer Thu Sep 30, 5:58 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Johnson & Johnson executives and the Food and Drug Administration both shouldered the blame Thursday for a secret recall in which hired contractors quietly bought up defective painkillers to clear them from store shelves.

J&J Chief Executive William Weldon told House lawmakers the company “made a mistake” in conducting the so-called “phantom recall,” which is one of a string of problems that have drawn congressional scrutiny

In the same committee hearing, the FDA’s deputy commissioner, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, said his agency should have acted sooner to halt J&J’s plan. At the same time, though, he stressed that regulators were not aware of the deceptive nature of the recall.

Sharfstein and Weldon testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which held its second hearing on J&J’s unprecedented spate of recalls. The largest, involving more than 135 million bottles of infants’ and children’s Tylenol and other medicines, triggered the committee’s investigation.

“We recognize that we need to do better, and we will work hard to restore the public’s trust and faith in Johnson & Johnson,” Weldon told lawmakers.

Democrats and Republicans pressed Weldon on its “phantom” recall involving 88,000 packets of Motrin, which Weldon acknowledged as “not one of our finer moments.”

But lawmakers also pressed the FDA on when and what it knew about the activity. New Brunswick, N.J.-based J&J has repeatedly claimed it alerted the agency’s officials in Puerto Rico, where the defective Motrin was originally manufactured.

Sharfstein said J&J informed the FDA of its plan to repurchase the pills – which did not dissolve correctly – in April 2009.

“From this point, it took until July for the FDA to tell the company that a recall should be conducted,” Sharfstein said in his testimony. “In my opinion that message should have been given sooner.”

But Sharfstein stressed that the FDA did not know J&J had instructed contractors to pose as regular customers while buying the product and to not alert store employees to their activity.

“Based on the documents I reviewed, I don’t see any indication that the FDA was aware of the surreptitious, lying nature of the recall,” he said.

Republican lawmakers criticized a “too cozy” relationship between FDA and J&J employees, citing months-long e-mail exchanges between the two before regulators took action. But Sharfstein said ultimate blame lies with J&J, pointing out that the FDA does not have the authority to order when and how companies conduct recalls.

“I think fundamentally the responsibility is with the company to handle their quality problems in a much different way,” Sharfstein said.

Companies are advised to work with the FDA on recalls, although that isn’t a legal requirement.

Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., has introduced a bill that would give the agency the power to order recalls.

The maker of trusted brands like Tylenol and Benadryl, J&J has announced nine recalls of drugs for children and adults since last September with problems ranging from too much active ingredient to tiny shards of metal.

In May, J&J closed its Fort Washington, Pa., facility, the largest manufacturing site for children’s medications. J&J announced Thursday it would begin shipping its grape-flavored Children’s Tylenol next week, the first of its children’s formulas to return to the market.

Weldon said the company plans to invest $100 million across the company to improve facilities, equipment and operations around the world.

Weldon, who has been CEO since 2002, missed the committee’s last hearing because of back surgery.

Testifying beside him Thursday was J&J executive Colleen Goggins, who oversaw the consumer division of the company’s McNeil Healthcare unit during the recalls.

At the May hearing, Goggins told lawmakers she had no knowledge of instructions to contractors involved in the phantom recall to not tell store employees what they were doing. In her testimony Thursday, Goggins acknowledged that the company wrote those instructions.

“Based on what I have learned since May, I believe that McNeil should have handled things differently,” Goggins said.

Goggins will retire in March, Johnson & Johnson announced this month.

Ralph’s Note – If all the product did was not dissolve correctly….Then why the incredible secrecy, and deception? I’m sorry.. First the FDA and J&J admit being dishonest….Then they issue this weak press release. Yes the FDA may not of had the authoity to issue a recall…BUT IT IS THEIR JOB TO AT LEAST INFORM THE PUBLIC.. Now that all the recalled tablets have been secretly REMOVED AS EVIDENCE….How will we ever know the TRUTH. Whatever Tablets remain, need to go to an independent testing facility…. WHY are no lot numbers mentioned in this article? They are probably still sitting in medicine cabinets across the country….

Sex for tuition fees anyone? Students being offered up to £15,000 a year to cover cost of studies, in exchange for having sex with strangers

Undercover investigation reveals shocking ‘sponsorship’ deals being offered to cash-strapped students

Charlotte Philby, Jonathan Brown

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Students are being offered up to £15,000 a year to cover their university studies in exchange for having sex with a stranger, an undercover investigation by The Independent has revealed.

The website SponsorAScholar.co.uk claims to have arranged for 1,400 women aged between 17 and 24 to be funded through their studies by wealthy businessmen seeking “discreet adventures”.

But in a secretly filmed encounter with an Independent reporter posing as a student, a male “assessor” from the website asked that she undertake a “practical assessment” with him at a nearby flat to prove “the level of intimacy” she was prepared to give before being permitted to find a sponsor online.

He said this was required for “quality control”. He told her that the more she was prepared to do, the more money she would get.

The website’s claims to have a roster of hundreds of students could not be verified. The reporter asked for evidence that scholarships had been awarded and was told that she would have to come back to the flat with the man.

But the requirement for potential “scholars” to submit to a “practical assessment” raises fears that young women students may have been exploited.

The elaborately constructed site gives the appearance of operating in the grey area in Britain’s sex laws which allow escort agencies to function legitimately by offering introductions between clients and sex workers.

Young women facing financial hardship brought on by the rise in the cost of studying were urged tonight not to be tempted into using the website.

Rachel Griffin, director of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which promotes personal safety, said: “Meeting a complete stranger in private could be highly dangerous at any time but when it is in connection with a scheme like this, the risks are sky-high.” The National Union of Students accused those behind the website of seeking to “capitalise on the poverty and financial hardship of women students”.

SponsorAScholar.co.uk offers young women “up to 100% of your Tuition Fees” in return for two-hour sessions with men in hotel rooms or private flats up to four times per term.

“Because of the considerable sums of money our sponsors are offering in scholarship, they tell us that they have expectations of a high level of sexual intimacy with their chosen student,” the website says.

During the meeting between the “assessor” and our reporter – which our reporter insisted must begin in a public place, choosing a fast food restaurant in south London – the man said: “The more you’re prepared to do, the more interest you’re going to get, obviously the more sponsorship amount you’re going to get for that.”

SponsorAScholar.co.uk uses a false company and VAT number belonging to the legitimate dating site Match.com. A spokesman for the company said: “The website is not affiliated with Match.com in any way and we are in the process of contacting them to legally require that all references to Match.com are removed immediately.”

SponsorAScholar.co.uk purports to be registered at the former address of a senior academic from a leading British university, and the man claiming to be the assessor used the lecturer’s name in the encounter with the reporter – as well as in email correspondence and on his answerphone message.

The academic, approached by The Independent last Friday, said he had no idea that the website had been registered to his name and former address. He did not recognise the man in our undercover footage. Yesterday he added that he had now contacted the police to report the matter.

The meeting took place at the Powis Street branch of McDonalds in Woolwich, south London, last Thursday at 6.45pm.

As other diners tucked into burgers, the “assessor”, who said he lived near Leicester, bought the reporter coffee and sought to reassure her that the prospective “sponsors” had been vetted and were safe to meet.

Our reporter asked the “assessor” whether the “sponsors” have health checks. He answered: “We do invite them to do that, not all of them choose to do that but you can choose to have protection or not have protection on that basis.”

He described the need for her to first of all have the “practical assessment” with him as like “quality control for us”, adding: “Whatever you put on your sheet what level of intimacy you’re prepared to go into, you and I will go through that today. We’ve got a questionnaire we’ll go through, your likes and dislikes and the kind of thing you’re comfortable doing.”

He added: “We have to do that, to make sure when we put you in front of your sponsor you’re confident in doing the things you said you would do.”

The man added: “You see what you’re trying to do is attract a certain level of sponsorship, you don’t want to go up there saying you know you’re not even going to hold hands type of thing… cause you’re not going to attract any interest at all.”

After the initial 10-minute meeting – which our reporter ended by saying that she would like to reconsider his proposal rather than immediately follow him to the nearby flat for the “practical” – the man walked back to a large block of flats around the corner where he said he was staying on the fifth floor.

SponsorAScholar.co.uk claims to have been operating since 2006, but the website was registered earlier this year.

The site claims to charge “sponsors” a £100 fee and to take three per cent commission from the final “scholarship” total.

When a male reporter approached the site as a potential sponsor, however, he was told there was a “waiting list” and would be contacted in the new year. By contrast the meeting with the woman reporter posing as the female student was immediately arranged.

The “assessor” said our reporter’s decision not to go back to the flat with him was “ok”, adding: “I’ve got other candidates I need to see this evening”, before asking again if she wanted to “do the questionnaire or stop now”.

After being told stop, he suggested meeting on 13 December in Stratford, south-east London: “If we don’t do it tonight I can’t fit you in until then.”

Attempts to confirm the true identity of the “assessor” have since proved unsuccessful.

The man was today no longer returning repeated telephone calls, emails or text messages from The Independent.

Kelley Temple, NUS Women’s Officer, said: “It appears to be… exploiting the fact that women students are in dire financial situations in pursuit of an education.”

SponsorAScholar.co.uk had been changed  tonight to say simply: “Sorry website unavailable for maintenance”.

If you have information relating to this story that you wish to pass on, please contact investigations@independent.co.uk.

Anatomy of a meeting: Extracts from the video


Reporter: I just want to sort of check, I want to be clear about what I’m doing … meeting a complete stranger I just, you know, want to be clear about what I’m doing.

Assessor: For the first meeting we take the money off the sponsor to make sure they’ve got the money then when we’ve heard back from both of you that it’s gone fine we basically release that and that’s kind of your first payment for your first term… Then the payments generally happen around the start of term.

R: Do you write down like the type of things I’d be expected to do?

A: We’ve got a questionnaire we’ll go through… that forms your profile… [it covers] the sort of things that you’re comfortable doing so there’s no awkwardness about ‘Well I thought you did this and you don’t do that,’ so that’s all kind of up-front. And then as long as you’re happy to go through with those things that you said you would do then that’s fine.


R: What sort of things [would I] have to do?

A: What you’re trying to do is attract a certain level of sponsorship, you don’t want to go up there saying you know you’re not even going to hold hands type of thing, ‘cause you’re not going to attract any interest at all so you’ve got to kind of… The more you’re prepared to do the more interest you’re going to get, obviously the more sponsorship amount you’re going to get for that, so you obviously don’t want to commit with more than you’re happy to do ‘cause then you’ll be anxious about it and the rest of it, but you don’t want to go back and say ‘I’ll wait and see about certain things’ ‘cause you might not get the opportunity to have those introductory meetings.


R: How many other girls are already doing it?

A: I think you’ve got about 400 [women] actively… searchable on site ready to go into… These guys are businessmen… they get a tax break for offering sponsorship to students but obviously they’re having a bit of fun you know in the bargain… genuinely nice guys, I’ve got some sort of sample profiles I’ve printed out.

R: Can I see them?

A: Yeah, I mean I’ve left them back at the [flat] but I can show them to you when you get up there.

R: What do we have to do in the interview?

A: We’ll go through the, err, questionnaire… and then we’ll go through whatever you put down as what you want to do … we go through in the practical assessment together to make sure that you’re comfortable to do that, to … get an idea of what your first meeting with the sponsor will be. We have to … make sure when we put you in front of your sponsor you’re confident in doing the things you said you would do.


R: So the guys, do they have health checks or anything?

A: We do invite them to do that, not all of them choose to do that but you can choose to have protection or not have protection on that basis.

R: I’ve never done anything like it and it just feels like a big step.

A: I mean that’s kind of… you don’t need to… we’re not attracting people who are used to this kind of lifestyle… that’s kind of what we’re into really…

R: Is it totally confidential?

A: Yes… [In the photos] we can obscure your face, we can cut from down here [mimes cutting off body] whenever you decide to leave us everything is securely erased, wiped, there is no record. Any sponsors that you take out an agreement with, they’ll only know you by your nickname on the site … so once you’ve signed out [of] the site your nickname is gone, there’s no way for them to contact you.

Q&A: Paying for sex – the law:

Q. Is it illegal to run a website where men or women appear to provide sex for money?

A. This is a grey area. Owners can be arrested for controlling prostitution if the police can show that sexual services are being given in exchange for cash. But this is often very difficult.

Operators can say the sex is a private contract between the client and the sex worker. On the SponsorAScholar.co.uk website the extensive terms and conditions describe an agreement which covers time and companionship together.

It says the “level of sexual intimacy” is privately agreed between student and sponsor whilst the owners of the website are not responsible for what occurs between consenting adults in a hotel room.

Q. Is it illegal to advertise sexual services on the internet?

A. Yes. That is why sex workers promote themselves as “escorts” or “models” in a variety of media including newspapers and on the internet. In reality sex is readily available online.

Q. Is it illegal to have sex for money?

A. No, nor is paying for sex. But loitering or soliciting in a public place for the purposes of offering services as a prostitute is and carries a maximum fine of £1,000. However, prostitutes must be cautioned twice, on two separate occasions, before being charged for the first time. It is also illegal to have sex for money with someone who has been trafficked or coerced into prostitution regardless of whether this information is known at the time. The offence carries a maximum sentence of six months in prison.

Q. Is kerb-crawling legal?

A. No. Clients caught kerb-crawling can be arrested on their first offence. They can be fined £1,000, disqualified from driving or have their car impounded. They can also be offered to undertake a rehabilitation course.



Morsi’s advisers resign to protest his constitutional declaration

Nov 24, 2012 08:58 Moscow Time

Morsi’s advisers resign to protest his constitutional declaration

Photo: EPA

Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi’s advisers are tendering their resignations to protest against his constitutional declaration.

One of them is Morsi’s assistant for democratic transition Samir Morcos.

President Morsi made public Thursday his constitutional declaration wherein he granted himself sweeping legislative powers, while depriving the judiciary of their supervisory functions with regard to the upper house of parliament and the commission drafting Egypt’s new constitution.

The country’s democratic forces have flatly rejected the declaration, describing it as a coup. Morsi’s opponents have launched an indefinite protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.


The new constitutional declaration of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is designed to complete the transition in the country and was adopted after discussions with all political forces, according to a statement released by the presidential administration’s spokesman Yasser Ali.

On Thursday evening, Morsi unveiled a new constitutional declaration that delegated exclusive legislative authority to the president and deprived the courts of many of their oversight functions.

The democratic forces of the country strongly rejected the declaration, calling the document a “coup.”

Opponents of Morsi announced plans to hold indefinite protests in Tahrir Square in Cairo.


On Friday several hundred football fans gathered in the central square of Cairo for a rally organized by liberal parties against a new constitutional declaration.

The young people who gathered were very aggressive with many of them wearing masks and some even wearing helmets to protect themselves from stones which might be thrown.

Police attempted to push back the protesters from Tahrir Square when clashes broke out injuring at least 20 people.

On Thursday, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi unveiled a new constitutional declaration, which has replaced the country’s basic laws.

In it he greatly expanded his own powers with many liberals calling the move a “coup”.

Voice of Russia, Russia-24, RIA



U.S. sees diabetes rates skyrocket

By Agence France-Presse Thursday, November 15, 2012 20:56 EST



The United States saw a dramatic rise in the number of adults suffering from diabetes between 1995 and 2010, according to official statistics released Thursday.

The prevalence of the disease increased by at least 50 percent in 42 of the country’s 50 states. In 18 of those, the rate at least doubled, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Regionally, we saw the largest increase in diagnosed diabetes prevalence in the South, followed by the West, Midwest, and Northeast,” said Linda Geiss, lead author of the report.

The states that saw the highest rise in cases included Oklahoma (226 percent), Kentucky (158 percent), Georgia (145 percent), Alabama (140 percent) and Washington (135 percent).

In 1995, only three states along with the District of Columbia — home of the nation’s capital, Washington — and Puerto Rico had a diagnosed diabetes prevalence of at least six percent.

But by 2010, all 50 US states recorded a prevalence of more than six percent, said Ann Albright, who heads the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation.

“These rates will continue to increase until effective interventions and policies are implemented to prevent both diabetes and obesity,” she said in a statement. More than a third of American adults are obese.

Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90-95 percent of all diabetes cases in the United States, could be prevented by making lifestyle changes, the statement said.

The CDC, together with its partners, is working on initiatives to prevent type 2 diabetes and minimize complications in those already diagnosed with the disease.

The study used data from an annual telephone survey of health behaviors and conditions of US adults aged 18 and older.



Argentines flood streets in anti-government protest

Fri, 9 Nov 2012 01:54 GMT


* Demonstrators say government restricting freedoms

* Critics see Fernandez as arrogant, inflexible

* President vows to stick to current policies

By Helen Popper

BUENOS AIRES, Nov 8 (Reuters) – Hundreds of thousands of Argentines flooded the streets of the country’s biggest cities on Thursday in a broad protest against President Cristina Fernandez’s interventionist policies and combative style.

The center-left leader won easy re-election a year ago but her approval ratings have slid since. Her government has virtually banned dollar purchases and it limited imports this year, worsening a steep economic slowdown.

High crime, inflation of roughly 25 percent a year, and a possible bid by government allies to reform the constitution to allow Fernandez to run for a third term are also stoking unrest, particularly among middle-class Argentines.

“We’ve taken to the streets because we’re sick of crime and having our pockets picked. Inflation is killing us, our pensions can’t keep up,” said Daniel Gonzalez, 70, a retired teacher.

Thursday’s pot-banging protests conjured memories of the demonstrations staged by angry savers, housewives and students during Argentina’s 2001-02 economic and political crisis.

Protesters in neighborhoods throughout Buenos Aires waved signs demanding freedom, transparency and an end to crime and corruption. A spokesman for the city’s Justice and Security Ministry estimated 700,000 people were rallying in the capital.

A similar, smaller protest was staged just two months ago. { ID:nL1E8KDOXB]

Local television showed rallies in other cities, including Rosario, Cordoba and Salta. The demonstrations were organized through social media and not by any one political party.

Some Argentines even took to the streets abroad with hundreds of demonstrators gathering outside the country’s consulates in Italy, Spain and the United States.

“We’re protesting against Cristina’s government so she listens to us. She’s not infallible like she wants to seem. With this arrogance we won’t get anywhere, we’re already quite isolated (in the world) because of her policies,” said Pedro Dominguez, a 56-year-old doctor protesting in Buenos Aires.

Fernandez’s government has angered trading partners with import curbs and it riled Madrid when it seized control of energy company YPF from Spain’s Repsol earlier this year. The country still has outstanding debts dating back to a financial meltdown a decade ago.

Critics say a government drive to break up the media empire run by Grupo Clarin is an assault on free speech. But supporters of the anti-monopoly law that is being enforced say officials are democratizing the airwaves.


Fernandez won 54 percent of votes in October 2011, largely due to an economic boom, job growth and expanded social programs. Her government spends heavily to stoke high economic growth and backs big wage hikes that tend to mirror inflation.

Several government officials have been dismissive of the protests and accused organizers of being on the far right.

Fernandez told supporters on Wednesday that Argentines enjoyed more freedom of speech than ever before.

“If there’s a sector that is demanding certain things, they have to stand up and say this clearly. Now, please, don’t anyone think that I’ll start contradicting my own policies,” she said.

The president’s approval rating edged up to 31.6 percent in October, up 1 percentage point from a month earlier, while her rejection rating dipped slightly to 59.3 percent, according to the latest poll by the Management & Fit consultancy.

Other polls have given her higher approval ratings but they also show a decline of 10 to 15 percentage points this year.

“The government and Cristina will emerge even weaker than they were (after the protests) but the opposition will show its impotence and its inability to channel these demands,” said Sergio Berensztein, director of the Poliarquia political consulting firm.

Under the constitution, Fernandez cannot run for a third consecutive term in 2015. Local media report her congressional allies may try to reform the country’s charter to change this, but the government has not confirmed any such plan.

For now, no opposition leader poses a real challenge to her and the ruling Peronist party still has strong support in the heavily populated working-class outskirts of Buenos Aires.

“Cristina won with 54 percent of votes and if there were an election today, she would win again because there are no opposition candidates,” said Cesar Pacheco, a 62-year-old shipbuilder protesting outside the presidential palace.  (Additional reporting by Jorge Otaola, Alejandro Lifschitz, Guido Nejamkis and Nicolas Misculin; Writing by Hilary Burke; Editing by Eric Walsh)



Added Video:

Spain regulator halts sale of some Novartis flu vaccines

Update #2 : France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Switzerland now imposing partial ban on the Novartis Flu Vaccine

Italy has banned them..Switzerland is now considering

Thu, 25 Oct 2012 16:57 GMT

Source: reuters

MADRID, Oct 25 (Reuters) – Spain joined other European countries in halting the sale of anti-influenza vaccines made by Swiss group Novartis, after small particles were found in some of the injections.

Spain will halt the sale of all the Chiromas and Chiroflu vaccines, produced by Novartis in Italy, the Spanish Medicines and Health Products Agency (AEMPS) said in a statement on Thursday.

Spain follows Italy, where the sale and use of four anti-flu vaccines produced by Novartis was banned on Wednesday pending tests for possible side effects after white floating material was discovered in some vaccines.

“Some of the affected batches have already been sold in Spain and other European countries, without any recorded increase in adverse reactions,” the AEMPS said in a statement.

“Nevertheless, as a precautionary measure and until there is a full report detailing the origin and extent of the problem, we have decided to halt all specimens of both vaccines.”

Switzerland has also taken precautionary measures, while Germany’s vaccination agency said on Thursday some Novartis vaccines should not be used and that the Swiss drugmaker had agreed to recall them.

Novartis Chief Executive Joseph Jimenez said on Thursday he was confident the vaccines are safe and added he did not expect other countries to take action.  (Reporting by Clare Kane; Editing by David Holmes)


Greek unemployment rate hits 25.1 percent in July as recession heads for sixth year

By Associated Press, Published: October 11

ATHENS, Greece — Unemployment in Greece hit a record high of 25.1 percent in July as the country’s financial crisis continues to exact its heavy toll, official figures showed Thursday.

All indications are that unemployment in Greece will continue to rise. The economy has shrunk by around a fifth since the recession started in 2008 and youth unemployment has pushed far above 50 percent. The economy is expected to enter a sixth year of recession next year.

“This is a very dramatic result of the recession,” said Angelos Tsakanikas, head of research at Greece’s IOBE economic research foundation.

The state statistics agency said Greece’s unemployment rate rose from 24.8 percent in June. According to European statisticians, that would be the same rate as Spain’s in August.

The two countries have the highest unemployment rates among the 17 that use the euro. In August, eurozone unemployment stood at an average 11.4 percent, itself the highest level since the single currency was launched in 1999.

Greece’s statistical authority said 1.26 million Greeks were out of work in July, with more than 1,000 jobs lost every day over the past year. In the worst-affected 15-24 age group, unemployment was 54.2 percent. In July 2008, a year before Greece’s acute financial crisis broke, there were only about 364,000 registered unemployed.

The country’s main GSEE labor union said real unemployment is above 30 percent and growing, which it blamed on “violent” government cutbacks.

After losing access to international money markets and nearly defaulting on its mountain of debt, Greece has survived on international bailouts since May 2010.

However, solvency comes at a harsh price: To secure and continue receiving the loans, Athens imposed tough austerity measures, slashing incomes and repeatedly increasing taxes, in an attempt to get its public finances in order.

The conservative-led government is currently in negotiations with the country’s creditors over another raft of austerity measures, worth €13.5 billion ($17.4 billion) over the next two years, so it can get the next batch of bailout funds. Greece has to satisfy certain periodic conditions in order to qualify for the handouts.

Without the money, Greece won’t be able to pay all its financial obligations and may end up defaulting on its debts and leaving the euro.

The cutbacks have triggered deep resentment among a population reeling under nearly three years of austerity. GSEE and other main unions have called a new general strike and demonstration next week.

“During a time when unemployment is strangling Greek society and the recession is at 7 percent, it is at least provocative that (bailout creditors are) focusing on further bleeding workers and pensioners,” GSEE said in a statement.

Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras was holding talks Thursday evening with representatives of the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank — the so-called troika. The government still hopes to have struck a deal before next week’s EU summit in Brussels, officials say.

The troika has to sign off the package for the release of the funds.

After the late-evening talks, a senior government official said it remained unclear whether agreement on the austerity package could be reached before the Oct. 18-19 meeting in Brussels of European heads of government.

The official said another sticking point was how to cover the cost of a Greek request to extend its fiscal adjustment program by two years to the end of 2016, with the price tag estimated at €12 billion ($15.5 billion).

The official asked not to be named because the negotiations are ongoing.

Some evidence emerged Thursday that the government’s strategy is working on one front, at least. Finance Ministry figures showed that the deficit-busting effort is on track despite lower-than-anticipated revenues.

The ministry said the January-September deficit was €12.64 billion, lower than the €13.5 billion target. Although revenues were €1.3 billion off target, spending was €2.2 billion less than budgeted.

All three parties in Greece’s governing coalition back the two-year extension, and IMF chief Christine Lagarde on Thursday said she also supports the idea.

“I said repeatedly that an additional two years was necessary for the country to actually face the Fiscal Consolidation Program that is considered,” Lagarde told reporters as the IMF and World Bank held annual meetings in Tokyo.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who in a visit to Athens on Tuesday praised Greek progress with reforms but stressed that much remains to be done, said the troika must deliver its report before any decision is made.

“I do not want to comment on every single statement of which we see many during a single day,” she said. “This is the base. I now wait for the troika report, then we will forge our position,” she said.


Associated Press writer Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed.

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

Study: Couples who share housework have a higher risk of divorce

By Agence France-Presse Thursday, September 27, 2012 15:29 EDT

Marriage via AFP

Couples who share housework duties run a higher risk of divorce than couples where the woman does most of the chores, a Norwegian study sure to get tongues wagging showed on Thursday.

The divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 percent higher than among those where the woman did most of the work.

“The more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate,” Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study entitled “Equality in the Home”, told AFP.

Researchers found no, or very little, cause-and-effect. Rather, they saw in the correlation a sign of “modern” attitudes.

“Modern couples are just that, both in the way they divide up the chores and in their perception of marriage” as being less sacred, Hansen said, stressing it was all about values.

“In these modern couples, women also have a high level of education and a well-paid job, which makes them less dependent on their spouse financially. They can manage much easier if they divorce,” he said.

There were only some marginal aspects where researchers said there may be cause-and-effect.

“Maybe it’s sometimes seen as a good thing to have very clear roles with lots of clarity … where one person is not stepping on the other’s toes,” Hansen suggested.

“There could be less quarrels, since you can easily get into squabbles if both have the same roles and one has the feeling that the other is not pulling his or her own weight,” he added,

In Norway, which has long tradition of gender equality, childrearing is generally shared equally between mothers and fathers (in seven out of 10 couples), said Hansen, speaking notably from a park where he was minding his children.

But when it comes to housework, women in Norway still account for most of it in seven out of 10 couples.

The study also pointed out however that those women were largely satisfied with the situation, and their overall happiness was very close to those women who lived in “modern” couples